I created this contemporary-looking bluebell with all levels in mind, but it is particularly good for beginners as it is a great way to create a relatively easy piece that you can admire and it's a wonderful confidence booster!

Reference photo

I always apply washes wet-on-dry as I find this the best way to have absolute control over your colours.

It is also important to blend the paint as you work through the study - to do this simply apply the paint to the paper exactly where you need it, but leaving a little room for blending into the paper.  

Once the paint has been applied, fairly quickly clean your brush and dab onto kitchen roll to make it damp but not wet (if it is wet it will push the pigment away from the paper) then, with a ‘wiggle’ motion, simply work into the paper. If you use a good quality watercolour paper this will be a breeze.

This is important as it gives the painting a realistic feel without any hard edges.


Step 1

A clear, accurate line drawing is important so no sketchy edges here!


Step 2

Mix Paynes grey and cobalt violet to a watery consistency and apply where you see the grey/purple tones toward the outside edge of the flower, namely the bud, stem and areas within the flower itself.


Step 3 

The green tone - for this mix sap green with transparent yellow to a watery consistency. Apply all over the stem.


Step 4

Now for the blues - mix French ultramarine to a weak consistency and firstly apply to the area where the flower meets the stem (note the underside of the stem is blue so you will need to apply a thin line of blue paint here too). Then add a little more pigment to the mix and apply this to the blue areas of the flower (this will not be dark enough yet, but we can build on this later), remembering to blend into the grey/purple colour as before to ensure that it looks natural and without hard lines.

With all the colours in place we can now build up colour and tone.


Step 5

Returning to the stem - mix a thicker wash of the same two colours (i.e. sap green and transparent yellow) and apply this to the left hand side only. Clean your brush quickly and blend this wash into the existing green colour - this will retain the paler green colour on the righthand outside edge.


Step 6 

When this is dry and with the same green wash on the palette - mix a little purple to the greens.  This will give the stem a deep green tone and is an excellent ‘trick’ for creating darker colours without adding black or too much of the same pigment, which often isn't enough.

This mix should be fairly thick but ‘moveable’ - you should be able to apply it to the existing washes with ease and it should not stick to the paper - if it sticks, it's too dry so add a little water.  This mix can then be added to the ‘veins’ to create form.


Step 7

Begin with a medium mix of French ultramarine and apply to the outside of the section of the little ‘bud’ near the stem and blend into itself. This will darken the area and create form and tone.  Then apply to the inside area of the stem itself, once more blending into the existing paint.  Next, add a little water to this mix to dilute the paint and apply over the entire flower except the white areas.


Step 8

The blue now needs enhancing, so mix a the blue to a thickish consistency and apply to the underside of the stem and blend again.  Use this mix to darken any areas you feel need deepening - I applied it to the small bud, the darker blues within the flower and also the dark areas of the stem.


Step 9 - Bringing it Together

Finished Painting, watercolour, (6 x 6 ins)

I applied a weak wash of purple over the entire flowerhead apart from the whiter parts.  When this was dry I mixed Paynes grey with purple to a thickish consistency and applied to the very dark areas, namely around the bud, and most importantly around the inside base of the stem where it meets the flower head.  Finally add this dark grey mix to form the shadow part of the flower - and blend.