Poppy painting

What was supposed to be a quick experiment became a several hour long painting session.
I documented some of it and here’s a pretty detailed description of what I did.
Like a tutorial, but without video.

I’m afraid my camera is still really bad at catching light and colour the way they look in real life, but it is still better than having a painting description without any pictures at all, right?
I hope it’s all clear enough.

Some of these tips and explanations might seem super obvious, but they are all things that I’ve seen people struggle with. So don’t be bothered if something is obvious to you, because it isn’t for someone else. :)


Materials used:
– Paper (Magnani Italia 300gsm)
– Watercolours (Schmincke)
– Masking fluid (Pébéo)
– Pencil and brushes and white tape (unknown brands, very cheap ones)
– Spray bottle.

Oh, and a wooden board to tape the paper to, so I could move around with it.

Step 1.1
I started by sketching up the image, taping down my paper, and covered all the flowers, the tractor, and part of the bushes with masking fluid.

A tip: Masking fluid will mess up your brush, so don’t use your favourite. Hot water can help rinse it off, but won’t save your brush completely.


Step 1.2
Using the wet on wet technique (covering the whole paper in water and dabbing watercolour into it), I covered the whole paper with its first layer of paint, moving from dark brown to yellow on the field, yellow to blue on the sky, and a bit of yellow and green to the bushes.
As it dried, I kept adding strokes of brown and yellow to make straws. With different levels of wetness, some strokes floated out and some stayed sharp.

Step 2
After it had all dried (it took quite a while) I peeled off the masking fluid on the tractor, bushes, and the flowers that I wanted to look the most blurry. Then I sprayed on water, with the intention of washing out some of the hard edges where masking fluid had been.
It wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, because the paper I used soaked up the paint so much, it made impossible to change anything that had already dried.
I went over it all again with a load of water and yellow, brown and blue paint for the field and sky. Plus red, brown and green for the flowers and tractor.
And then waited for it to dry again.


Step 3.
From this point, I’m basically just repeating the previous step over and over. I peel off more masking fluid from the flowers that I want blurry, just not quite as blurry as the ones I painted last time.
I sprayed it with water.
While the paper was damp I added more brown and yellow to the field, green and yellow to the bushes, blue and yellow to the sky. And more red and some green/brown for flowers and tractor.
As it dried, I made some sharper strokes for more straws and flower stems.

Step 4.
Almost done now. This time when I peeled off the masking fluid I did not spray it with water, because these are the flowers that I want to stay sharp.
I coloured them in, and kept adding details around the painting. I darkened a lot of the straws and stems, details on the tractor and the bushes. Made a lot of parts on the flowers in the foreground darker.

Last tip: Local wet on wet technique. You don’t have to fill the whole paper with water. If I want a smooth transition from light to dark on each flower petal, Then I fill in a single petal with water, and dab the paint where it’s needed. Let it dry before repeating on the next petal.


Now it is pretty much finished. Some parts were very successful and some parts were not. I spent a long time figuring out the right order of doing things, and I spent even longer just waiting for paint to dry. I wish I had used another paper for better blurry results. And I wish I had looked at reference pictures for the poppies and tractor. I had a lot of fun with so much wet on wet.
I’ll probably use what I learned here on paintings in the future.


Here is a scan, for a more accurate image of what the painting actually look like.

If anyone follows these instructions and make your own poppy-painting, won’t you please show me how it went? By sending me a picture or tagging me in a post or something.
I’d love to see it.

Have a nice weekend!
/ Em

2 thoughts on “Poppy painting

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