Artist Marie Boudon, author of DIY Watercolor Flowers, shares her tips for painting foliage in watercolour with a modern, fresh feel.
“I use leaves with simple shapes. I’m not attempting to reproduce the foliage to match a specific flower. This simplifies the creative process, letting me paint more freely and with greater spontaneity. What matters is having foliage in varied shapes to add interest to compositions.” Marie Boudon
Eucalyptus is a lot of fun to paint. Create the stem using a very diluted mix. Then paint the leaves at different angles, varying the color and size.
Use a fine brush to paint this leaf. Paint the central stem and then add the little leaves around, painting from the inner edge outwards.
Simple Round Leaf
I use this type of simple round leaf a lot. Paint the stem, using the tip of the brush and then press on the tuft, working outwards. A single brushstroke and the leaf appears! I love adding more concentrated pigments to the stem to create a color gradient.
Simple Pointed Leaf
For this leaf use the tip of the brush, this time working from the outer edge inwards and finishing with the stem. Press down hard when painting the body of the leaf. You can leave a carefully shaped white area to suggest light.
Putting Simple Leaves Together
You can assemble your individual leaves, whether round or pointed, into sets by means of little stems. Try not to make things symmetrical or too even, so that the leaves retain a natural look. Play with leaf size, especially for the smallest ones at the tip of the stem. Also try experimenting with colors and tonal values.
Large Round Leaf
I use the same brush technique as for the simple round leaf to paint this large leaf. Make sure that you load your brush with plenty of my mix if you want to paint larger shapes. A single brushstroke and the leaf appears! I love adding more concentrated pigments to the stem to create a color gradient. Because of their length, these leaves create a lovely contrast and can also lend a sense of movement
Little Clusters of Leaves with Color Gradient
I use these little leaves when I need to fill empty spaces or have overlapping layers as, on their own, they are less interesting. To paint them, use a heavily concentrated mix (e.g. No. 3 or 4) and paint round shapes quite close together. Paint stems and then rinse your brush well. Continue with round shapes, letting them touch to create lovely color gradients.
In my compositions I often add seed pods, round shapes at the end of a stem. Once again, try playing with color gradients by adding more concentrated pigments to a fairly light shape before it’s dry.
Flower Painting Skills
Marie Boudon’s book DIY Watercolor Flowers from which this tutorial is excerpted is an amazing reference for watercolour flower painting – in it you’ll find step-by-step tutorials for a whole bouquet of flowers, as well as information on all the materials and techniques you need to get started, and some fabulous ideas for displaying your work.