People often comment when they see my paintings that they “can’t believe it’s watercolor” when they see the intense colors and textures that I manage to achieve. I’ve just finished the above watercolor on a full sheet of paper of a rich red Double Hibiscus bloom that reached out and kissed me in Kauai. I had to zoom in on the photo I took of it and paint it big on a full sheet of watercolor paper for a super impact.
These paintings don’t just dash off the brush in one go but are achieved by building many layers of color glazes. Since this painting was to be a more monochromatic image I thought I’d experiment with a unique process by painting the values in purples first, then build up the reds on top causing the purple shadows to just disappear! I was introduced to this process in a book “Building Brilliant Watercolors” by Judy D. Treman and have my students try it out when painting colorful fruit. Below you can see some shots of this painting evolving.
I start with stretched watercolor paper, soaking it and stapling onto gator board. When dry I tape the border, draw my guidelines and use masking fluid to protect the whites or light colors from the bigger washes that might invade their spaces. On this flower I also loosely tinted in yellows first where they would glow through the reds, to ultimately harmonize with the masked popcorn-like anthers, before building the light and dark values in various purples. This was risky since yellow plus purple can produce grays, which I didn’t want.
Magically the purples do start to disappear as various reds are built up over them. Each layer of the textured areas is sprinkled with sea salt while wet which must sit on the surface undisturbed until dry. You can now see the masked areas clearly. They will be detailed in later after the petals are developed.
Notice the textures building in the salted areas contrasting nicely with smoother petals. Because of the transparency of watercolor, each textured layer will glow through the subsequent color glazes. The frustrating part of watercolor is that the paint dries much lighter than it appears while wet so it often takes about 4 or more passes over each area for me to build the intensity I want. Each layer refines and adds richness and depth so it does pay off in the end.
As each petal is painted, its neighbor calls out for adjustment, so round and round I go until they are all interacting happily in relationship with each other.
I always love the moment of removing the drafting tape to reveal the clean, sharp borders of the painting. What do you think? Overall, I love the outcome, but decided that I enjoy painting more when I mix the colors on the paper as I go along, from light to dark, instead of this more analytical process of painting the dark values first. I’ll happily add this to my collection of Floralscapes.
The painting at the top of the post is the final “kiss” and available as the original or as a custom sized giclee print on paper or canvas if you want to warm up your walls with love from the tropics.