Today I am going to share with you how to create these awesome handmade botanical paintings. Notice I didn’t call them a botanical print because even though they may look like a botanical print, they are actually done by hand and are the real deal.
Have you ever visited The Graphics Fairy? If not you are in for a treat! All kinds of great vintage art is available and essentially royalty free (just don’t use more than six images in any one project) and it is also a wonderful resource for inspiration.
I was looking at some awesome botanical prints on the Graphics Fairy, and thought that maybe I could use them with my cool frames. But the prints were limited to my printer size. And letter size paper was not big enough. Plus sometimes as a graphic designer and artist I tend to think I can do it myself.
So I started with a piece of watercolor paper and a few botanical prints for inspiration. I printed them out on my laser printer so I didn’t have to run to my computer every two seconds and grabbed a pencil and got to work.
Using my pencil I just roughed in the general layout and shape of my flowers. Don’t worry about perfection. Clearly I was not worried! Each step of the process will add more detail. No need to spend much time on this. It’s going to be erased later anyway.
At this point you are probably doubting that this can actually become the finished product. Baby steps my friend. For the next step we are going to refer to the botanical print and just draw outlines using a fine point Sharpie. Please if you only pay attention to one step, this one is it! Only use a permanent fine point pen. If you don’t it will bleed when you add the watercolor and all your hard work will be wasted! In this step don’t worry about shading. Just draw an outline. Remember this doesn’t have to be perfect. The shading in the next step will cover up any mistakes. Seriously this project looks intimidating but it comes together in the end.
Next comes what I think of as the fun part! The shading. This is what makes your project a piece of art. When you are done it will be so pretty you may not even want to add color! I almost didn’t. So for the shading we are going to use techniques called hatching and cross hatching. Basically you look at your inspiration photo and whatever is dark or a shadow you will make tiny lines on your paper. The darkest areas you will have lots of lines and even will make the lines go in two directions sort of like a series of XXXXXX’s which is called cross hatching. Lighter areas that are still shaded you will just do lines in one direction and the lighter the shadow is, the further apart your lines are. I like to squint my eyes and pick out the shapes that look darkest and start with those first. I go sort of light to start because you can always add more lines but using a permanent marker, there is no going back. You want to make sure that you have contrast, that dark areas are dark and then there are light areas that you keep light. Keep adding lines until you have your desired darks and lights. If you focus on what is dark and light on your inspiration photo and apply it to the drawing, you will end up with a finished sketch that you might not have believed you were capable of!
At this point you may be cross-eyed from all that crosshatching! If so take a break. You’ve already created something amazing. If you want to take it from a botanical sketch, to a painting then it’s time for the next step. First before doing any painting, take an eraser and get rid of all those pencil marks. You can erase over the pen lines, it will not hurt them. However if you put the watercolor over it, it will seal the pencil in and you will see it forever.
Next we have the watercolor. You can use whatever you have on hand, even your kid’s watercolors! I have these liquid watercolors from Windsor and Newton which I have had since college, so almost 20 years (that makes me feel super old!). They are already in liquid form and very concentrated which just makes it brighter. These are not required as a lot of botanical prints are more subdued in color so cake style watercolors will be just fine.
I just grabbed a disposable bowl and used it as a makeshift palette. Nothing but the best for me folks. Just kidding, this is anything but a professional setup. I am sure my college painting professor would give me some major stink eye were he to see this. Pretty sure the Sharpie would be frowned upon as well. Anyway, back to the topic. These watercolors are in little dropper bottles and seriously a little dab will do ya! I maybe used three drops in my bowl.
And because the styrofoam bowl was not cheap enough, I used the same bowl for all my colors. Just don’t tip it and you will be fine.
Now comes the fun part. It’s like doing a coloring book! Take your brush and get it wet before you dip it into your paint. Then you can start on a darker shaded area and kind of outline around the edge. Get your brush wet again and dab it on a paper towel. You want it wet but not dripping. Start in the darkest area and use your wet brush to drag the color out to the lighter areas. Keep repeating the process with the wet brush and dragging the color from dark to light. The water on your brush basically dilutes the paint and will make it lighter. That’s why we lay the paint down in the darkest area first. Keep repeating the process. I ended up using a little yellow in the green and a bit of orange in the red as an accent. And here is the finished product!
And after I did one I found it to be very addicting so I did a companion piece.
Don’t they look amazing?!? In my next post I will show you how I framed these puppies for really cheap!
Thanks so much for visiting. I would love to hear what you think of my botanical paintings! Have you ever made your own?