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When I posted the above flowers a few weeks ago, many of you expressed an interest as to how I made them! So following is a quick tutorial (though, after several weeks of experimenting, I still haven’t been able to replicate the above flowers exactly… oh well! Just remember to have fun and not worry about the end product very much; because it is such a fast and loose process, you won’t be able to control it that much anyhow!)


• #140 hot-pressed (smooth) watercolor paper (or similar), cut or torn to any size
• watercolors (pan or tube, either is fine)
• white gesso (I use Golden brand, because it is a bit thicker than some of the other brands)
• one or two flat brushes (between 1/4″ – 3/4″)
• pencil (I use a cheap mechanical pencil)
• eraser (I prefer kneaded rubber erasers)


Step 1. Randomly “splotch” 3-6 different colors of watercolors onto your paper. This can be done in one step, and it’s okay if the colors overlap and run a bit. (I usually use a half-inch flat watercolor brush.) Leave some whites spaces. Let dry completely.

Step 2. Once your watercolors are dry, get out your white gesso. Using a DRY brush (or one that you’ve squeezed most of the water out of), start painting gesso circles around areas of the watercolor, as shown above. Once you paint a circle, immediately turn the brush around and “draw into” the gesso with the brush handle. Draw lines for petals, circle-y scribbles, etc.

Here it is at the next stopping point. Notice I covered the in-between areas with white gesso, too. (Also, the white “stars” above are made by putting a dollup of gesso in the middle of a color patch, and then turning the brush around and drawing into it.) Let gesso layer dry completely.

Step 3. Next, add pencil to pull out your flower shapes even more. Keep your hand as loose as possible.

Step 4. I went back in with gesso and added a few more star shapes, as it seemed a little bare after step 3.

Step 5. Fill in the areas between the flowers with a light layer of pencil. Vary your directions a bit, and then smear with your finger to soften.

Step 6. This is hard to see here, but this step involves lightly going back in with an eraser here and there. (This is an optional step; I just felt I was a little too heavy-handed with my pencil in Step 5, so I wanted to soften it a bit.)

Step 7. Finally, I gave the entire piece a VERY LIGHT layer of sepia brown watercolor to unify the piece. (Again, an optional step for you!)


These last few weeks I have been FLOWER CRAZY! As I got into trying to get this tutorial ready for you, things kind of exploded and I found I could approach the flowers in many different ways on many different surfaces, using all the layered painting techniques I’ve been sort of making up the last 15 years. (Gesso plus watercolor? Yes! And on wood? And collage, too? Yes and yes!)

Some of you have requested a longer, more in-depth online painting class, so I’m working to have FLOWER CRAZY! ready to start April 9, 2012 (we’ll finish up just in time for the “real” May flowers)!

Watch for details and registration info March 1st (or sign up for my newsletter to get a note in your in-box).

Thanks for visiting!