Watercolor Sunflowers for the CSK Group.

I’ve recently been meeting with designers and showing my portfolio around in the hopes of getting constructive criticism and jobs. After my interviews I always like to send a handwritten postcard of my own design as way to show my skills and stand out from the crowd.

I decided to do some technique building exercises as postcards to knock out two birds with one stone for two of the cards. The exercise was to help me learn how to mix my three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) to make all the other colors I needed. I’ve learned that by using only 3 colors to create the rest of your palette your final result tends to be a much more cohesive painting.

Two color wheels and a color bar

Showing the differences in blending warm and cool colors

I actually mixed up my reds on these wheels which makes makes them incorrect. I will make a new set eventually. The Color bar on top is a proper 12 color palette made from 3 cool color primaries.

Color bars in watercolor

Here we find color bars showing cool/warm reds blending with cool/warm yellows and blue.

Notice the way you can make many, MANY different shades of green by using a cool yellow mixed with a cool/warm blue.

Ink drawing of Texas with the Texas flag

Austin is from Texas so I had to show him some love.

I also added a quick pen drawing on the back of each of my cards just for kicks.

Ink drawing of an eggplant

An eggplant for Greta because why the hell not?

That’s a pretty sweet eggplant right?

I also sat down recently with Keith, Cristi, and Lori of the CSK Group for an interview about freelance design work so I made them a card as well.

Sunflowers from Google Image Search

This was my reference photograph.

The plan was to paint a field of sunflowers using CSK green as one of the main colors.

Sunflower Watercolor, initial sketch

Here’s the initial sketch I made after dividing the image into 4 quadrants.

My first task was dividing the image into a 4 equal rectangles and then sketching those onto the canvas to plan out my painting. I enjoy using a hard pencil to do these sketches to get nice light lines, something in the H4-5 range.

Sunflower Watercolor, first wash of color

First light wash of green to get started with color.

Once I was pleased with the sketch I mixed up a green and diluted it quite a bit to give myself a nice light green wash to put down on the paper. The green looks more brown/yellow here due to the warm light I have in my craft room.

Sunflower Watercolor, stems and leaves first color

Putting the first bit of CSK green down on paper.

At this point I’ve put the first yellow wash on the flower petals and have added the CSK green I mixed up to the stems and leaves of the plants.

Sunflower Watercolor second wash of yellow on the petals

Second wash of yellow on the petals

I then added a second wash of yellow on the petals and a darker green on the stems.

Sunflower Watercolor, petal shadows

A purple grey was mixed and added to the flowers to add a sense of depth.

I’ve learned that adding more of the same color does not result in deep shadows as one might expect. To do proper shadows a grey color made from the opposing color on the color wheel is often best. The sunflowers actually have a very light purple wash across them to create the shadows.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed wash

Adding a brown wash with a green center.

At this point in the painting I’m still very pleased with it. I honestly could have stopped right here and been perfectly content, but I opted to keep going for a more realistic flower, the results sadly are not to my liking. These things happen though and by making the mistakes now you learn not to make them later. Notice how I used a wet in wet wash on the center of the seed to give a grown to green flow without a hard edge.

Sunflower Watercolor, sky wash

Added the wash for the sky, and the shadows below

At this point the painting has taken on a much different feeling. I added the blue wash to the sky and added the light wash of dark green for the under shadows of the leaves(leafs). The paining is suddenly much cooler thanks to that under-shadow wash.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed texture

Seed texture with varied amounts of success.

I was nearing the end of the painting and it was time to add the final details. Details can make or break a painting, especially if it’s a botanical watercolor for documentation purposes. I added the seed detail with a varied level of success. You’ll notice varying levels of paint density on different flowers which unfortunately cause hell on the depth of the painting. Sometimes you have to know when to say enough is enough I suppose.

Sunflower Watercolor, darker shadows

Adding darker shadows

Looking at the reference photo I realized that my darks weren’t nearly dark enough and added a little more to bring it around. The biggest hurdle when painting is determining how much detail to add, this was the same hurdle.

Sunflower Watercolor, complete

Completed painting with a nice photo filter

Here’s the completed Painting after it had been posted to Path and filterized. All in all I’m pretty pleased with the way this painting turned out. I hope they enjoy it (and hire me for some freelance work soon).





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