Watercolor Gerbera Daisy Still Life

I was shopping the other day and I’m pretty sure this cute little Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) jumped into my cart all on its own. All of a sudden it was in there, I don’t know what happened. 

check out the photobomb at the top of the photo, haha. Hi Dash.

Such a happy little sunny friend, guess it just had to come live we me.

Once I got it home I potted it up in this small pot I had available at the moment. I hope to keep this little guy going and then move it to a bigger container on my front porch for the summer. 

happy in a new pot

I love fresh flowers. I buy myself some every few weeks in the winter, and pick my own bouquets weekly in the spring, summer and fall. During the holidays I make my own arrangements with fresh greens and switch the flowers out throughout the season. I just love having fresh flowers in the house all year. Nothing like it. 

I decided to try painting a little still life. Not a big fan of painting these usually. A little out of my comfort range, but thought what the heck.

pencil sketch

Started with pencil sketch, then traced in waterproof pen. 

traced in pen

Here is the first wash of color. 

first wash

Finished painting. I’m ok with it. Not my best work in my opinion, but I do like the composition and as a little bonus, the forced Paperwhites from a few weeks ago are in the background. Love that. 

final painting


Watercolor Sunset and Winter Trees

Tonight there was a beautiful sunset. Lots of orange and blue shades blended together. Today was a beautiful, sunny winter day and this afternoon was one of those warm, slanted light afternoons. I noticed today that the days are starting to get longer. A sign that spring is coming, slowly and awhile off… but we are over that shortest day of the year part of winter and coming out the other side. 

I took this shot of the sunset with winter trees across the street from my house. I liked the contrast here. I did a quick wash for the background. I used two different oranges and a deep shade of navy blue. Only three colors in this painting. 

I added some Spruces, which I actually have on the other side of the yard adjacent to this, but didn’t catch in the photo. I painted this from real life looking at the spruces, then studied and added the trees. I just took the photo to show the concept. 

Here is the whole painting. 

I also wanted to share a neat trick I learned. I took some adult watercolor classes a few years ago, and one of the things my teacher taught us was that you can take smaller snapshots within the actual painting. Sometimes these end of being even better than the painting as a whole. I took a number of snaps “within” this painting. I like them better.


this one is my favorite

Watercolor Rudbeckia

Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) is a native wildflower that grows to an impressive 7’ tall! The piece I created today is based on a photo I took of the Rudbeckia growing in one of our display gardens at work. I took the photo standing under them, and they were easily 2’ taller than me! 

Rudbeckia maxima

In late summer these impressive perennials zoom up quickly and make quite the statement in the garden. To learn more about them visit www.wildflower.org.

pencil sketch

As usual I start with a light pencil sketch. Just the general shapes of the flowers and clouds. I loved the simplicity of the original photo and wanted to be sure that I maintained that simplicity in the sketch and ultimately, the painting.

I had a lot of fun with the Ampersand Mt. painting I did recently that used the waterproof pen and watercolor technique. I thought it might be fun to try that again, this time with flowers.

waterproof pen

I lightly trace over the pencil with the waterproof pen. Then erase all the pencil marks.

Here is the final piece. I forgot to take photos along the way this time. I was really into it and realized when I was almost done that I never took any photos as it progressed. This took me about two hours start to finish. Usually when I paint I do a little bit, take a break, look at it, come back to do a little more…. With this one I sat beginning to end and just painted with no break. Didn’t mean to… just got really into it. 

Rudbeckia maxima

One thing I really like about this painting is that it only has four colors – blue, green, yellow, grey. By using fewer colors it visually makes each color pop and seem more important/bold. 


View From Ampersand Mountain, Watercolor and Pen

I created a mixed media piece today based on a photo I took during a hike in the Adirondacks. This is one of the views from Ampersand Mountain, which is located between Upper Saranac Lake and the actual town of Saranac Lake. The access to the trail is right across from Middle Saranac Lake.

Saranac Lake region

This is an easy and quick 2.7 mile hike, but it is the quick change in elevation that makes it challenging. In that 2.7 miles you gain 1,775 feet in elevation. As usual, the last third of the trail is the hardest part. The summit is 3,353 feet.

north west view of Upper and Middle Saranac Lakes

From the summit, the view looking north west over looks all the Saranac lakes and the view looking south east overlooks the high peaks. It was the view of the high peaks that I chose for this painting. It really is a tremendous view of the high peak region.

south east view of the high peak region

I always loved this photo because of the all the different shades of blue as the mountains recede. The farther away the mountains are, the lighter and lighter they become. The sky was amazing that day. Blue and clear with puffy white clouds. Perfect for seeing a long distance.

I don’t usually illustrate my paintings first, but this was pretty fun. I enjoyed the ability to add detail to the trees and clouds, then use the paints to create the shading.

I kept the pencil sketch real simple. Just enough to develop a simple line drawing with pen. I used a waterproof Micron so that the ink would not bleed and run when I started painting over it.

The pen sketch adds more detail than the pencil drawing. I love the way the Balsams get all scraggly on the top of the mountain. Life is pretty hard up there. The diversity of plant life, and how tough those plants are, amazes me every time.

I didn’t want to go very dark with this painting. By keeping it lighter I was able to keep the subtle changes in shades of blue and grey to represent the distance.

This was a fun experiment. I like the illustrated look of the pen and watercolor together. Definitely will try this again.


Succulent Study

I worked on a quick succulent study tonight. Succulents are as fun to draw as they are to grow. The symmetry of their form is fun to draw because usually they are the same shape radiating out from the center. The leaves gets larger the further you get away from the center. They make great black and white doodles. 

I love their bright hues too which are very tropical looking and often multicolored. The succulents I used for this study were green and yellow, blue and purple, green and red and varying shades of blue. 

Since this was a quick study I really wanted to keep things simple. Just a few plants clustered together. Fun, bright and easy. 


Watercolor Trillium

I have always loved walking in the woods in the spring looking for Trillium. I have many memories of walking up and down the east facing slopes of our land along the stream searching for these little symbols of spring. The excitement of coming across a patch is something I never grew out of.

I still like to walk the woods in the spring and look for all sorts of plants coming back to life. First the Trout Lilies, then the Trillium and later on the May Apples…. There is something special about that time of year, when you have had enough winter and the smell of freshly thawing earth lifts your spirit.

Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) are usually white and feature three leaves and three petals. There are a few other species you sometimes find, one red (Trillium erectum) and one white with a pink center, called Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum). By far the white are the most common in our part of New York.

Since we are in the long, cold stretch of winter where things feel pretty frozen, I decided to paint a little trillium scene.

it all starts with a sketch…

As usual, it all starts with a sketch. A simple line drawing to define the flowers, leaves and stones behind the clump.

first wash of color

Here is the first wash of color on the forest floor, stones and leaves of the Trillium. When you have an area in a watercolor that is going to be left white you have to be very careful not to get paint or water into those areas.

adding some shading and texture

Next I added some shadows under and behind the Trillium and start adding some definition to the stones. The painting is really quite nice as is here and could be left as is. But I decided I wanted the flowers to pop out of the painting a little more so I decided to darken things up.

all finished

Here is the finished painting. I really like how this one came together. Trillium are such a simple flower and I feel like I captured that. Their beauty lies in their simplicity.


Watercolor Allium, Part 1

I started a watercolor painting featuring one of my favorite summer bulbs, Allium. Alliums are essentially a flowering perennial onion and have a bulb that produces unique ball shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple and blue.

The photo that I used for inspiration was from a day trip to Cornell University in June 2018 with the New York State Nurseryman Association. We toured some of the campus gardens and heard the behind the scenes story of when they installed a native plant themed rain garden. I took some photos of Allium that day that are really striking. I like how the purple Allium balls float up above the other bedding plants. Those photos always stuck out to me. I knew I wanted to paint them at some point. I will share the photos from that day soon.

Painting is all about layers. Layers on layers on layers. One of the things I love about working with watercolor is that the layers dry so quickly. There is less wait time between each round, so you can complete something in a session or two.

It takes awhile to complete a painting like this. What I am showing here in part one took about 2 ½ hours. I still have that long to go at least. Maybe longer.

I have been painting for many years and I found it interesting to take photos as I went along to show the process. When you have been doing something for so long you kind of forget the steps. You just do it. It is like being on autopilot. I liked seeing how the painting progressed.

pencil sketch on watercolor paper

I start off with a sketch in pencil on watercolor paper. I draw really light so I do not have to erase much. The painting usually covers the pencil, but you can erase a little if the paper is dry.

building the background

The first layer is essentially a color wash. I use the most water in these first few steps. I use big, broad strokes that will become the background. In the first stage here I’m looking for only shades and tones.

creating the middle ground

The painting is created from the background towards the foreground. Now I start to color in the middle ground, the Allium buds.

building texture

Next I start to create some texture. So many layers. Even the layers have layers. I add some texture to the background plants, add the stems and start on the buds themselves.

adding stems

Slowly you build up definition and detail. Here I darken the stems. They naturally would be in shadow just underneath the buds.

a work in progress

End of round one with this one. I usually prefer not to complete a painting in one day because I like to look at it for a day or so and see what areas I want to improve on, and where I want to go with it.

I will share the upcoming stages of this painting soon. Thank you for following along! I hope you enjoyed seeing the process.