One of the most popular subjects when painting with watercolors are plants. It is no coincidence that many artists have dedicated themselves entirely to this kind of paintings, which is generally called “Botanical Watercolor.” By doing a simple search by images, you come across an infinity of beautiful works and creations. The style is often reminiscent of old botany books when no photo method to show the various species of plants, but expert artists created accurate illustrations. Today I will offer you a particular lesson, where we will paint an oleander leaf together with watercolors.
Step by step painting a leaf with watercolors
Let’s start with the list of materials that we will use in this tutorial. As I told you, we will work with watercolors to have “equipment” really reduced to a minimum: colors, brushes, paper, and water. We will use Maimeri Blu Watercolors as colors, which we talked about in the article dedicated to the best professional watercolors. They are very bright and easy to apply watercolors, with an excellent yield. Perhaps less famous than other brands, but I assure you that they are no less from a qualitative point of view. A couple of years ago, the Maimeri Blu series was revised, updating the color card with new, even more precious pigments, the design, and packaging and thus offering a fresh and modern product.
Also read about cool drawings
Among the various brushes that have been used, I point out the curious Dartana by Da Vinci. It is also called an “arrowhead” brush, and in fact, the name Dartana derives from the English “dart.” In light synthetic hair, the long and stiff bristles allow absolute precision in brushstrokes without ever smudging!
We have chosen Canson Heritage fine-grained paper as a paper with a weight of 300. Canson produces the most used watercolor papers, and the one we have chosen is 100% pure cotton that is resistant and absorbent. We usually question if it is better Canson or the other famous French brand whose name we will not say. Instead, we will call it “Archi”: if you want to see a comparison, we discussed it in this article where we tried both.
The drawing of the leaf
We are finally ready to start:
- Remember to fix the sheet on the work surface to make sure it does not move while you paint and to give you more stability.
- Always use masking tape and be very careful when removing it not to damage the paper.
- We will start by drawing the subject, our Oleander leaves, in pencil directly on the watercolor sheet.
Keep a very light stroke and try to draw, in addition to the outline of the sheet and branches, also essential details. At the same time, you can also start preparing colors, a palette, brushes, and jars with water.
We spread the background-color
We will make the first draft of neutral color to create a sort of underpainting. The color is obtained by mixing the Yellow of Naples 104 with the Yellow Ocher 131, diluting the mixture. The result will be a very light color, as you can see in the photo. Then, using the Dartana Da Vinci brush, we will apply the first layer working wet on dry. Are you wondering what “wet on dry” means? It means that we will use the brush containing the color and water (and therefore wet) directly on the dry (and therefore dry) sheet. The mixture of pigment and water will expand following the fibers and grain of the paper and will dry very quickly: it is, therefore, possible that some areas will remain a little darker than others, i.e., where more color will stop, even without doing it on purpose.
We spread the second layer of color.
Once the bottom has dried, we can move on to the second layer of color. We prepare a mixture by combining Verde Vescica 358 with a tip of Terra D’Ombra Bruciata 492. Here too, the medicine must dilute enough to leave a thin and light layer. By merging with the first layer of color and working on the now dry paper, the leaves will already begin to have some character, with darker areas, some more towards green and others towards ocher.
We color each leaf and intensify the color.
Let it dry and move on to a more intense application of the color, this time spreading the color leaf by leaf. We use Verde Bladder 358 mixed with a hint of Natural Cuttlefish 486 and Verde Cupro Chiaro 322. We applied the color by concentrating on each leaf, always trying to obtain a result that is not too regular or flat. With the surface of the leaves still wet, we use another diluted Natural Sepia color to create darker spots. Although the holes will be tiny, we try to use the brush very quickly and in an irregular and unpredictable way. As can be seen from the photo, not all of the dark surfaces, but some light details of the leaf were not covered.
The painting is done!
The result is genuinely splendid. I hope you are also satisfied with your painting, indeed if you want to share it with us, why not publish it on our Facebook page or add it to your Instagram profile by tagging us in the photo? We are curious to see if this guide was helpful to you.