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Painting a Pansy: Step-by-step

When painting small flowers like pansies, it’s often hard to recognize a good composition from a poor one. The immediate response is usually to clump the small flowers together and make a bouquet. I recommend, instead, treating the pansy as you would any other flower: Focus on shape, shadow and color—the elements that can transform these small wonders into a bold composition.

1. Mixing Naples and Indian yellow, I started with the lightest petals and worked one petal at a time, filling each petal with water and adding the color to the outside edge with a No. 14 brush. Applying the color only to the outside edge left enough area white so I could later place a complementary color and not have it mix with the yellow and turn muddy.

2. As the surface started to dry and become more matte in its finish, I mixed carbazole purple, French ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta to make a purple. Using a sweeping motion, I applied the purple with a No. 14 brush, starting at the center and moving toward the outside edge

3. As the surface started to dry and become more matte in its finish, I mixed carbazole purple, French ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta to make a purple. Using a sweeping motion, I applied the purple with a No. 14 brush, starting at the center and moving toward the outside edge.

4. To eliminate unwanted brushstrokes, I used a No. 20 brush to blend the areas already in place and to lay down color over larger areas quickly.

5. Leaving a few white areas along the lip of the petal helped separate the petals. I continued working all over the flower, adding layers of color in the center to make the area rich and dark.

6. After I’d added all the color and the petals were dry, I started working on the shadow. To create a neutral gray, I combined my earlier mixtures of purple and yellow. To make the shadows, I followed the same procedure: applying water first and then the color. It’s important to allow the water to carry the color

7. Once the petals and shadows were done, I began work on the background. I used sap green with a (Daniel Smith) Hansa yellow and a French Ultramarine blue to make a vivid dark.
8. To create an interesting gray for the shadows, I mixed the complementary colors already on my palette, yellow and purple, together. Another tactic would be to place complementary colors next to each other. I called this painting Little Pansy (above; watercolor, 15×10).

Pansy Palette

Naples and Hansa yellows

Indian yellow

carbazole violet (or violet dioxazine)

French ultramarine blue

quinacridone magenta

permanent sap green

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  1. Thank you for sharing this Birgit. You are very generous. is it ok if I share the link on the Bayview watercolour society blog?


  2. Sure Ona that would be great. I am planning on posting another one tomorrow. Best wishes Birgit

  3. Birgit I really enjoy watching demos and truthfully adore all the article you write in magazines and others. As Ona mentioned you are always so generous. Thank you for sharing and being there when ever we need help.

  4. Thank you for a super demonstration Birgit. I have shared with a friend in Indiana, who is teaching himself watercolours right now.

    You are the best!

  5. Thank you for all this information Birgit, much appreciated :D)


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