Sunday, July 17, 2011

Watercolor Flower Vignette

The week before last on, I focused on flowers and a few of the *elements and principles of design. Our sketching challenge was to sketch from reference photos I posted. I am doing a watercolor painting of one of the vignette compositions.

*A vignette is a drawing or painting that involves a group of overlapping shapes placed somewhere on the paper, that is also surrounded by varied shapes of blank space. The mostly mid value image area should be an interesting shape which should run off the sides of the paper, not corners, in at least one place, usually 3 or 4. It should not go off the paper directly opposite one another horizontally or vertically. The edge of this shape should be dominantly hard. 

I pre-mixed my colors in the little round palette here and set up to view my drawing and reference photo while working. Getting inspiration and the essence from the photo, I'm not slavishly copying every detail. I have outlined my loose, painterly, one wash approach below.

I traced the flower drawing onto 140lb. Arches Cold Press paper and first wet the back side thoroughly to allow for a longer period of wet-in-wet manipulation. The front was then wet thoroughly where the mid value will be, except the white flowers and white shapes which I avoided with the clear water. I never attach the paper to a board and paint on a non-porous surface. Freely stroking in various colors while the paper is wet with the biggest brush I can use, it was a 1" flat for this tiny 5.5 x 7.5" piece. I have deliberately softened some edges to avoid a stiff cut-out look. The edges are harder with more contrast where I want you to look and softer in less important spots.

After the wash was dry, I did go back with a darker value in a few areas and added some details with softened edges, like in the stem shapes here. This approach was then repeated with the pink flowers, completing the main washes in one step.

Although never fitting all of them into a painting, I try to remember the *Elements and Principles of Design during planning and execution. A successful painting should have a clear focal point, harmonious colors and good shapes with variations in size, texture and value.  Ideally my finished piece will entertain the viewer, evoke some emotion and invite them to connect to it for a few seconds or so.  

If you have any questions, comments or advice, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and keep those brushes wet!


  1. impressive and beautiful. very well thought out.

  2. Sandy, this is a most wonderful post. You have described everything so succinctly, and the vignette itself is an eye-catcher! Bravo!! I enjoy our "friendship from afar".


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