When looking at bell-shaped flowers, such as this fritillaria, you will notice that most of the light hits the top of the ‘bell’ and, of course, not as much light hits the interior so that will be in a darker shade. However, this is not always the case, as sometimes the light shines through the petals, illuminating the inside. It is good therefore to think about this existing contrast between the light and the darker shadier areas on each flower before you begin to paint.

EXERCISE 1 - Tone and colour

Trace out one of your flower heads four times on a piece of paper. Two tracings are for this exercise and the other two will be used for Exercise 2 (below).

1. On the first one, shade in pencil all the darker areas, varying the depth of shade. No two shaded petals will be the same.

2. Mix madder red dark and mineral violet and, starting with a wash using the No. 1 spotter, begin shading in the darker areas then the lighter ones. Remember to leave very pale areas (even white) where the light hits.

EXERCISE 2 - Look for the detail

1. Looking closely at the petals again, mark out in pencil the directional flow of the petals in lines, noticing the dips and curves. Do this twice; once for practice on the blank tracing left then again on the painted trace out remaining. For the purpose of this exercise I drew them very dark. You will want to draw them as faintly as you can whilst still being able to see them.

2. Now use these lines as a guide while you paint the dark parts of the checkerboard effect using the No. 0 spotter. As you start painting the pattern something to look out for is that it will appear very pale where the light hits and much darker in the shadier areas as well as where the pattern naturally occurs darker. Be careful not to paint over any drawn stamens that may be visible.

EXERCISE 3 - Accurate greens are essential

Making a green colour chart will be useful before beginning the painting. Sadly a beautiful piece of work can be ruined by lack of attention to the foliage, especially its colour. Although there is a wide variety of different greens on the market, a vast number of times you will find that these greens are not a colour that would appear in nature, let alone a good match for the leaf you have before you.

Begin by sorting out all the different greens, blues and yellows you have available. Now have some fun mixing each individual blue with each yellow, varying the intensity of colour. Keep a record of the make, colours and results.

EXERCISE 4 - More greens

For the next exercise, do the same with your ready-made greens, adding yellows and blues to each to see what you can mix. Each time you buy a new green, blue or yellow, add their mixes to your record. By doing this you will become ever more aware of the huge variety of greens available to you.

Once your chart is dry, pick a fritillaria leaf and hold it against your chart. You will be able to match it to the most lifelike colour. I found the mix of Winsor yellow and ultramarine deep to be the closest match.

Demonstration Fritillaria Meleagris

You will need:


  • Botanical Ultra-Smooth Hot-pressed 50% cotton watercolour paper (40.5x30cm)


  • Pro Arte Series 107 spotter Nos. 6, 1 & 0

Artists’ watercolour

  • Madder red dark
  • Perylene violet
  • Mineral violet
  • Winsor yellow
  • Ultramarine deep
  • Terre verte


  • Tracing paper
  • Pencils: H for tracing out and guidelines as its very faint and again H with a 4H and 7B for shading in on the exercise.

Step 1 - Flower heads

1. Begin by mixing your paint for the purple flower heads (see Exercise 1: madder red dark and mineral violet). You will need to mix up enough paint of a strong consistency so that you can dilute as needed for paler areas, but also use quite intensely where required.

2. Just as you did for Exercise 1 paint the shaded areas on the flower heads and let them dry thoroughly.

3. Very faintly draw your guidelines to the petal shapes and paint your pattern just as you did for Exercise 2.

Step 2 - Green and pink flower heads

1. I used the same paint mix as before for the pink, just diluted as necessary. For the green, I mixed ultramarine deep with a lot of Winsor yellow and again diluted it to make a pale shade. On these, first draw out your guidelines then paint in the pale green parts of the pattern.

2. Carefully avoid the green areas as you paint your shading then the rest of the pink pattern. Remember to alter the strength of colour for the light and shade.

3. Finally, add a darker green stripe to emphasise the green ‘seam’. Leave to dry before adding the stalks.

Step 3 - Stamen

Use a Winsor yellow and terre vert pale mix for the filament and just Winsor yellow for the anther. It is important to try to keep the detail here as crisp as possible so painting with the No. 0 spotter is a good idea.

Step 4 - Stalks

For the stalks you will need to mix together madder red dark and perylene violet to a pale consistency. Using the No.1 spotter start at the top of the stalks and paint all the way down. You may want to practise a few times before you do this. Painting long stalks like this works better if you move your arm along rather than your wrist as you can then achieve a longer stroke.

Once dry add a ‘top coat’ of the pale green mix in the same way.

Step 5 - Foliage

1. For the leaves use a mix of ultramarine deep and Winsor yellow, with more blue than before. First, using your No. 1, carefully paint the small sections where they meet the stalk, again like painting the stalks, try to paint outwards in a long fluid movement all the way to the tips. You will want to vary the depth of colour as they bend and the light hits them so work with a paler wash first then build up the darker areas.

2. Once these are dry, use your No. 0 to add fine lines where needed to define the edges.

3. Once all is dry, add touches of shade on the stalks where the leaves cross over and in the shaded side of the curves.

The finished painting

Fritillaria Meleagris, watercolour on botanical ultra-smooth watercolour paper, (40.5x30cm)

Catherine Harriyott

Catherine is a Sussex-based artist, who studied with the Society of Botanical Artists. She offers painting lessons to anyone who simply wants to have a go!

Email [email protected]

This demonstration is taken from the summer 2018 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase your copy to read Catherine's full article and follow more demonstrations from other artist tutors.