Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Watercolor: Still Life

How to paint a watercolor pear
How to paint a watercolor pear

Ready to try a watercolor still life? This is a jump from my previous tutorials, but you only really learn to watercolor by actually painting something.  

It's hard for me to really explain how I paint.  A lot of it is intuitive.  Everyone develops their own methods and style as they learn to paint.  The best I can do is to break it down to show you the progression of my painting and explain what I did along the way.

So please don't get discouraged if your first attempt doesn't look like mine.  My first attempt looked nothing like this.  It's taken me LOTS of practice to get to this level and even then I still have mess-ups.

Pear Still Life Watercolor Painting Tutorial

Materials:
Pear or picture of a pear- you can use the one I have below.
Watercolor Paper
Watercolor Paints
Paint Brushes
Drawing Pencil
Water

green pear

Step 1:  Looking at an actual pear, or a pear picture, draw a light outline sketch of it on a sheet of watercolor paper. Personally, I find it easier working in small scale- so I drew mine on a 5x7 sheet of paper, but you can use any size you like.

Pear Drawing

Step 2:  Apply your first light wash of paint leaving white spaces for the brightest highlights of the pear. This pear is mostly green, but the lightest parts of it are actually yellow- so that's the color I started with.

Remember that you are working from the lightest parts to the darkest.  It's better to err on the side of using too little paint at the beginning  because you can always add more on later.  If you apply heavy dark paint from the beginning it's really hard to fix.

How to paint a watercolor pear

I've circled the parts I painted around to leave white space on my painting and the corresponding spots on the pear photo.  White space in watercolor painting is really important.  A watercolor with no white space comes off looking flat.  So don't be too hasty with the first layer- remember the white space!

How to paint a watercolor pear

Step 3:  After the first wash has dried (you need to allow drying time between each wash), apply a second light wash (I added a tiny bit of green to the yellow color I used on the previous wash).   Make sure to paint around the highlight spaces so they stay white and also paint around the next lightest spots.  This is hard to explain, but you are painting around the the light spots to build it gradually darker and darker.  It takes some time to get used to thinking and painting that way.  

How to paint a watercolor pear
How to paint a watercolor pear

Step 4:  Add a third wash of green, again leaving the highlights white and painting around the next lightest areas.  This time I added a hint of brown at the top of the pear and a couple of golden yellow spots where I saw yellow on the pear.

Your pear should be starting to look more three dimensional.  Leaving the highlights white and building in the darker shades gives it depth.

How to paint a watercolor pear

Step 5: With slightly more saturated green paint, apply another wash, leaving white space as before.  I really got the shadows built up more with this wash. I applied heavier paint on the left side and the very bottom of the pear where the darker shadows are.

How to paint a watercolor pear

Step 6:  Add more green to the shadows and fill in the stem of the pear with a light wash of brown.

How to paint a watercolor pear

Step 7:  This was my final wash, but depending on how dark your previous washes were, you made need additional washes to get more saturated hues for the shadows.

To finish off the look of the pear, I filled in the shadows of the brown stem and added some more texture to the body of the pear by dipping the end of my paintbrush in green paint and dotting it on the pear.  Real pears have visible dots on them, so this texture technique gives it more life.

How to paint a watercolor pear

That's it! We're all done!  Just let your masterpiece dry and don't forget to sign.

Do you have any questions for me? I've written this as clearly as I could so I hope it makes sense to you all. I'm doing a Question and Answer post in a few days, so feel free to ask me anything about this post or any other of my How To Watercolor Posts.

11 comments :

  1. Wow I love this. This is a fantastic tutorial.

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  2. Great instructions! Can't wait to try it~

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  3. That's beautiful and you make it sound so easy when I am sure it isn't. Maybe I will take a crack at it one of these days.

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  4. Gorgeous! I am loving this series so much! I would love if you came and linked up at The Makers link party on my blog.

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  5. It's a fantastic tuorial! Thank you for shareing it!
    Hugs, Marguerite

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  6. Very nice! I need help keeping cat fur out of paint when I use it...

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  7. So beautiful! And thanks for such a great how-to!

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  8. Lovely, Elise! I am going to try it out. Your instructions definitely made sense. After being an acrylic painter for so long, I always had to remember the lighter to darker rule! Thanks for sharing the instructions.

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