A Step-By-Step Guide to Painting and Drawing Loose Flowers
In this article, I’ll share with you my style of loose floral drawing combined with abstract watercolour painting in a simple step-by-step tutorial. This is meant to help you enjoy the creative process and practice mindfulness, even if you’re a beginner at painting and drawing.
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I started sketching flowers and bouquets in 2019 after reading a few books on drawing techniques and taking online workshops. Then with lots of practice, I developed my style of painting and drawing over time. This style is “loose”, meaning that the flowers don’t necessarily look realistic or like specific flower types. It’s also “freehand” as I don’t use a reference photo to draw the final piece.
You don’t need a lot of supplies to get started with watercolour painting and floral drawing. I would recommend using what you have on hand if having to buy more supplies is going to be a hindrance to starting. If there’s one material that’s more important than the others, I would highly suggest using the right kind of paper. Regular copy paper is not going to be enjoyable to paint on, so try and use watercolour/water-friendly paper.
|Materials||What I Use|
|Watercolour paper or ink-friendly paper||Canson cold press or Tomoe River Paper|
|Watercolour paint (pans or tubes)||Beam Paints (Indigenous Canadian), Peppercon Arts (Australian), Windsor & Newton tubes|
|Paint brush||Size 4 round brush and others to play with|
|Fineliner||Tombow Mono Drawing Pen (02 or 03)|
** If you’re interested in trying the Tombow Mono Drawing Pen fineliners, you can save 15% at TombowUSA with the code CSALLIS15 (affiliate link).
This is a mindfulness practice because instead of focusing on drawing certain types of flowers, the key is to focus on breathing, being relaxed, and enjoying the process of painting and drawing. I want to set the expectation right up front that the final piece is not meant to look perfect; however, the process of putting paint and ink on paper should bring you joy.
Note that this style of painting and drawing should not take too much time. It’s about playing with paint and ink without focusing too much on the aesthetics of the final piece. As a mom, I found that I couldn’t commit to sitting down for hours to paint but with this style of freehand painting and drawing, I could complete a piece in less than 30 minutes and still have fun while feeling accomplished.
Just to be clear, I’m not a professionally trained painter or drawer. I’m a self-taught artist and creative hobbyist who likes to learn techniques and find my own style. I’m constantly trying new mediums and I love sharing what I try (you can see the latest on my Instagram feed @fromcarola).
That being said, here are some fundamental guidelines that I keep in mind for this style of abstract painting and drawing loose flowers:
- Rule of Thirds: place larger flowers along the left or right third of the paper so that the eye is drawn there.
- Rule of Odds: draw an odd number of flowers (if it’s a small piece) to make it more interesting
- Value: adding less/more water will let you play with lightness of colour. Less water will give you a higher value of pigment (a darker shade) while more water will give you a lower value of pigment (a lighter shade).
- Wet-on-Wet technique: Add paint on top of paint while the first layer is still wet. This allows you to mix colours on the paper.
- Colour mixing: you can mix colours together on the palette or paper. The outcome will differ, so play around with both!
- Composition: how the piece looks as a whole. Try to go for a more balanced look with flowers and colour distributed throughout the piece.
- Directional lines: drawing lines along the inside and outside of pedals and leaves will help guide the eye.
You don’t have to follow every guideline, but it may help you to stay focused if you keep some basic ideas in mind.
Steps to Abstract Watercolour Painting
- Start by wetting your paint. By using a wet paintbrush to swirl the paint, the pigment is being activated.
- Paint freely on the paper. Think of general floral outlines and leaves when painting. Remember it doesn’t have to look realistic or even close to a specific type of flower or leaf.
- While the paint is still wet, feel free to “drop in” other colours and watch them mix together freely. (It’s mezmerizing.)
- Keep an eye on composition as you paint. Try and make it look balanced in terms of colours and the amount of floral outlines throughout. I would place leaf outlines on the border but it’s up to you.
- Don’t get hung up on finessing the piece. It’s tempting to keep adding paint but know that it’s done when you feel it looks complete.
- Let the paint dry before you draw on top. You’re ready for the next phase!
Steps to Drawing Loose Flowers
- Using the fineliner, start drawing on the top left side of the paper (if you’re left handed, you probably want to start at the top right and work down and left to prevent ink smudging). Leaves are easiest to draw, so you can start with those if you’re feeling a bit nervous.
- Tackle one flower at a time and alternate the size and type of flowers you draw.
- Remember that natural flowers aren’t symmetrical, so draw pedals in different sizes and facing different directions. You can draw lines on the pedals to indicate directionality. Our eyes tend to fill in the rest.
- If you don’t feel comfortable yet drawing different types of pedals and leaves, you can just draw the same type over and over again to practice. This is your process – enjoy it.
- Keep drawing until you feel the piece is complete, you’ve run out of space and/or time. It’s done when you say it’s done.
That’s it! The whole process from start to finish shouldn’t have taken too much time and will get easier and more fun with practice. Commit to relaxed breathing and being present in the moment and it will become enjoyable (and less daunting). Play some calming music in the background if that soothes you.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention anything about using a pencil to sketch out the design. That’s because I don’t spend too much time thinking about what the final piece should look like – this is why it’s loose and a practice in going with the flow. That being said, if this is a hindrance to you starting, then feel free to use a pencil and practice sketching first before committing with paint and ink.
I hope this article inspires you to create your own floral piece by watercolour painting abstract outlines and drawing loose flowers. If you want to see more, let’s connect on Instagram (@fromcarola).
To help you get started, here’s my free guide with supplies, tips, and basic shapes to practice: Loose Floral Drawing & Watercolour Guide
You can watch me create this piece from beginning to end on YouTube: Beginner Tutorial: Freehand Watercolour Painting and Drawing Loose Flowers
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