Working on Backgrounds

It doesn’t matter what medium you paint in, backgrounds are always the trickiest thing for the beginning artist.  I more or less have a grip on painting acrylic backgrounds, but watercolor is a challenge for me.  Have I told you how much I love youtube?  I love it because you can learn so much from established artists.  I found two videos that demonstrated two different ways of putting in a background.

Here is the reference photo from the watercolor class I attended earlier this year.


We were meant to choose a photo and paint the image as homework.  I never got around to doing it until now.  I chose it because of the colors and I thought these flowers would be easy to paint!  Right!  Here is the first one I painted.

Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4
Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4

I modified my sketch to show complete flowers.  In this painting, the whole paper was wet.  Then I painted in the colors of the flowers and leaves and let them run, and added other colors.  I tried to keep the color scheme similar to the photograph.  Then I added salt.  I love salt.  It makes very cool patterns and you have no control over it, which is totally against any control issues I may have.  After everything dried, much lighter of course, I was able to paint the flowers and leaves.  This was challenging for me as I had a hard time getting the tones  in the petals right, but I persevered.  I think it is OK.

Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4
Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4

For the next painting, I decided to just paint one large flower.  I liked the shape of this one.  The paper was made wet all around the flower only.  I used some bolder colors and added salt, particularly around the leaves to suggest that lacy shape that Anemone flowers have.  I painted the flower while the background was still wet, hence the white lines. When everything was dry, I finished off the petals and only touched up the background a little bit.  I am much happier with this than the first one.  I suppose it is because I had a bit more practice.  I am going to try the technique I used for the poppies, but with actual watercolors this time to see how it pans out.


4 thoughts on “Working on Backgrounds

  1. I especially love the 2nd one, maybe because the colors are so bold, saturated and juicy, wonderful! Oh my, and I have control issues too, heehee!

    1. Arlene

      Hi Deb, The background tutorials were very different and the first one did have a more subtle background because you were painting a wash over the flowers and leaves and letting them bleed into the background, but when it dried you could still see your flower to add the extra layers. I love the bold colors too!

      1. Your watercolors are so beautiful, unlike you, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the process. I’m learning so much from you, thank you.

      2. Arlene

        Thanks for the lovely comment Deb. I am still learning and still not sure if I really like painting with watercolors. I am more comfortable with acrylics, but I am persevering. There are so many wonderful techniques and colors!

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