Friday, March 18, 2016

Bunnies and Daffodils - Spring is Here!

As I was working on the third lesson for my Intro to Watercolor class this week, I decided to do a step-by-step tutorial for the students to show them how to paint a still life from start to finish. As I cast about looking for subject matter, my eyes lit upon the cute little bunny salt and pepper shakers that I have on our kitchen table. With the addition of a couple of farm eggs from the refrigerator and a freshly picked daffodil, I had a simple still life with a spring/Easter theme.

7-1/4" x 5-1/4", watercolor, Strathmore Windpower sketchbook

I scanned this little painting after every step of the painting process to show my students how to logically approach a still life and what to tackle first. In this case, the order was as follows:
  • Pencil drawing
  • Background wash
  • Base wash on daffodil
  • Wet-in-wet base wash on eggs, dropping in darker shadow colors
  • Form shadows on bunnies
  • Cast shadows
  • Darker values on eggs and daffodil
  • Soften and correct highlights
  • Spatter on eggs and foreground
Would you have done it differently?

After the painting was finished and the lesson instructions were written, it was time to personalize this page in my sketchbook. I had saved room on the left side for some journaling. Because I'm so used to sketchbook journaling, a painting without lettering and a border just somehow feels incomplete to me, especially when it's done in a sketchbook. So, I did some watercolor lettering for the word "Spring", then added some text using a metallic gold gel pen (which gave me a lot of problems!) I'm still tempted to add some curlicues in the right-hand corners, but I think I'll leave it for now.

So, I had some fun with this lesson, and I hope my students will, too, tomorrow. They'll be learning all about painting shadows and how to handle highlights, plus we'll have fun with some extra techniques like spattering, lifting and scraping.

Teaching this series of classes has reminded me how challenging watercolor can be for someone just starting out, but I've seen my students already discovering the special joy that comes of watching colors combine and work their magic on paper. There's just nothing else like it. I hope they, and you, will persevere and believe that all it takes is time and practice to get to a point where you feel comfortable with the medium. Enjoy the process and try to appreciate the parts of your paintings that are successful, rather than focusing on what you don't like. It's worth the effort.


  1. What a great subject to paint. Lucky students.

  2. Beautiful page, Leslie. Love the subject matter and it is so skillfully painted - your students are lucky that you put so much effort into teaching your classes. Thanks for sharing your step-by-step process..


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