How to Paint A Quick, Spontaneous, Wild Bouquet in Watercolor – Kate Osborne Tutorial

Wild Bouquet by Kate Osborne
Tutorial in Artists & Illustrators

Kate’s materials

  • Paints: Cadmium Yellow, Green Gold, Opera Rose and Perylene Green, all Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour; Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Ultramarine Blue and Cerulean Blue, all Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors; Raw Umber, Daler-Rowney Artists’ Watercolour; Green, St Petersburg White Nights watercolour; Permanent White, Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache
  • Brushes: Chinese brushes, various sizes; Daler-Rowney Graduate flat wash brushes, sizes 1/4”, 1/8” and 1”; ProArte Prolene Series 9A Medium Sword Liner, medium
  • Paper: Saunders Waterford 300lb Rough watercolour paper
  • Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks, various colours
  • Derwent Paint Pens, various colours

1. Start at the top


“I start the painting on the top left-hand side. I’m using Green Gold and Green, mixed into large puddles on the palette, with a large Chinese brush. I painted onto dry paper and sometimes used the side of the brush to create broken textures. I prefer to paint on rough paper; this technique works much better on it.”

2. Drop in pigment


“I moved across the page, working swiftly and keeping the leading edge wet, adding foliage (Green Gold and Green) and the yellow narcissi (Cadmium Yellow). While this initial layer was still wet, I started dropping in more pigment by touching a loaded brush to the wet areas where I want to add more tone, and clear water from a bottle with a fine nozzle where I want to lighten an area. I was aiming to get some tonal and textural variation into this early stage of the painting, as it creates a dynamic underlayer and will underpin the later stages.”

3. Work with the water


“I described the negative shape of the vase by painting the blue background with a mix of Ultramarine and Cerulean blues, using a 1” flat brush. I then soften the hard edge of the vase used a water sprayer – a hairdresser’s spray bottle works well for this. I’ve also added more Cadmium Yellow to the centre of the arrangement and, as the paint continued to dry out a little, I added more water and more (wet) pigment to the areas I want to lighten or darken.

“It’s important to make sure your pigment is mixed with water to make a moveable puddle, rich but not too dry, adding it to wet areas by touching your loaded brush to the surface.”

4. Get the wrong end of the stick


“I used the wrong end of a brush dipped in a puddle of Green to start drawing the stalks of the epimediums (you could use an Inktense block for a mark such as this). The long stamens of the epimedium flowers were then painted using the medium swordliner brush. You can see just how wet areas of the painting were at this point, and though it’s tempting to start mopping up and controlling things, it is better to resist the urge and let the paint and water work its magic.”


5. Take a break


“While the blue background was still damp, I painted the pattern on the vase using a Chinese brush and a swordliner brush with the same mix of Ultramarine and Cerulean blues. After this point I left the image to dry.

“It’s easy to keep going and to keep looking for more to do, for more “fixes”. With experience, however, you learn to recognise when you’re looking too hard for the next thing to do and when it’s a good time to call a halt and have a ponder or a break. I’d like to say that experience has taught me never to overwork any stage of a painting but sadly that’s not true. If you’re pushing things or exploring, a little or a lot, there will always be “failures”, but they are the kind we can learn from.

6. Be a bully!

Once the painting dried, the textures (such as the cauliflowers) and the varied tones became apparent and I had a nice dynamic first layer of the painting to work with.

Using a rich but still very wet mix of Green, I started finding the negative shapes of leaves and stalks. I also described the corolla (the circle of petals in the centre) of the narcissi with a gorgeous tomato-coloured mix of Cadmium Yellow and Transparent Pyrrol Orange. I also added Cadmium Yellow to the bud while the paint around it was still wet. I want the bud to stand out, and Cadmium Yellow acts as a bully, pushing other pigments away and creating more interesting textures.

7. Enrich the colours


“I continued to add a bit more detail to the open narcissi and started to find more negative shapes on the left of the painting. I used a very wet, richer mix of Green and Green Gold for the allium bud and its stalk, allowing the colours to blend on the page. I also added a rich mix of Cadmium Yellow to the small flower in the centre to make it “pop”.

8. Enjoy the fluidity


“I continued painting both positive and negative shapes, adding the darker tones with Perylene Preen where the stems disappeared into the neck of the vase, and dropping Cerulean Blue and Cadmium Yellow into these areas while they were still wet. I allowed the colours to mix on the page – one of watercolour’s many advantages is its great fluidity and unpredictability when used very dilute. I also added a wash of Opera Rose to the long allium bud on the right, and the more delicate flowers and stalks to the bottom left

9. Experiment with marks


The vase shape wasn’t quite working, so I drew it again, making it rounder and wider using the same mix of Ultramarine and Cerulean blues. I printed the painted pattern with my fingertip and added the curling stalks with the swordliner brush.

Using fingerprinting as a way of making marks works well alongside brushwork and adds another dimension to the picture; again it takes a little of the control away and adds something more unpredictable. The same is true of using your brush a little differently, whether using the side of the bristles or the handle to draw marks. It’s fun to experiment alongside more traditional brush work.

10. Balance the image


I felt the left side of the painting needed to balance better with the right, so I added a couple more leaves and a glimpse of another one behind the vase to help define its left edge. I also added a couple more of the buds and stalks, a little detail to the centre of the open narcissi, some definition to the top of the unopened narcissi bud, and final details and shadows to the allium bud and stalk on the left of the painting. Despite these touches, I was trying to avoid getting too fiddly or specific, so I stopped working on the greenery after this.

11. Find your focus


I still wasn’t quite happy with the vase; it felt a little busy, and distracted from my intended focus of the painting, which was the flower and foliage arrangement. To rectify this, I used Permanent White gouache, tinted with a (very) little Cadmium Yellow watercolour in order to match with the off-white paper, to block out areas of the pattern. Once this had dried, I added more depth to the background to distinguish it a little from the vase by painting a wash of Raw Umber across the area, and finally add more fine stalks with Inktense pencils and blocks.

12. Finishing touches