Poinsettias, because of their brilliant color, are highly regarded as Christmas decorations. In warmer climates, they grow wild, year round, and their distinctive spiky petals and leafs are a spark of color in many tropical landscapes. Learn how to paint red ones in watercolor. Ironically, the flower of the poinsettia are the yellow berries in the center of the blossom. The red and green are actually leafs. For the purpose of this tutorial, the red will be referred to as the flower, and the green, the leafs.
- Observe your subject to start. Either an artificial poinsettia plant or a live one will give you the information you need to paint it. Look for the general shape of the blossoms, how many petals come from the center of each flower, what size and color are the central berries, what shape are the leafs, do the blossoms lie flat or form an umbrella shape, are there layers of red petals and how are they configured?
- Position yourself with a sheet of 11 x 14″ watercolor paper with the subject in view. Draw it in pencil. Begin by plotting out large circles for each blossom. If you are aiming for a realistic look, place a small circle within the larger one, but not exactly in the center to create the illusion that the flowers are pointing in various directions as if they were growing. Place small stems under them as if they were standing up.
- Draw the petals coming from the center of each flower and having small stems, 1/2″ long, emerging from under the berries. There are six main petals, so arrange them evenly around the center, allow them to become elongated ovals, and end in a point. For the veins, draw a slightly curved line down the center of the petal to give them the illusion they are lifting and curving at random. Fill in between each petal with a secondary set of petals for a lush, full flower.
- Begin to draw leafs. They are a third layer of petals but will be distinguished as leafs by painting them green.
- Sketch in the vase or container. It can be a store wrapper around a pot, basket, or vase. If the container is a basket with a handle, let it go off the top of the page to give the viewer the feeling of being involved, not seeing the arrangement from a distance.
- Make your viewing vantage point be slightly above looking down at the flowers. The opening and bottom of the vessel, no matter what type, if it is round, will have curves at the lip and foot. They must be the same.
- Prepare your paints by squeezing from tubes, out two shades of red, yellow, two blues, two greens, and a light and dark brown.
- Paint the berries yellow and when dry, mask them out.
- Paint the red flowers by wetting each petal with water getting into all parts, including the tiny stem at the base. Put undiluted red paint on the tip of your brush and touch it to the petal. The water will carry the paint to all areas that are wet. Add a second dot of another shade of red, if desired.
- Scratch with an open paper clip, a sharp piece of a credit card, or a stylus, the vein down the center of the petal. If desired, do tributary veins off the main one. Alternatively, paint the veins with a liner or small brush, or use a combination of both techniques.
- Paint secondary layer of petals darker to have them recede slightly. Darken the red by adding a touch of blue or green to it.
- Paint the green leafs, varying them in hue and value. Have some greens lean toward the yellow, and some toward the blue. For the veins, do as you did for the petals.
- Allow the piece to dry, set it away from you and look for holes in the composition. Leaf shapes are good fillers within the flower arrangement. For the all over composition, if the base looks too simple, add twining ivy or holly.
- Draw, using a ruler, draw a line just below mid point to separate the table from the background. Wet the entire background, getting water carefully in around the flowers, using a soft wash brush. Make two juicy puddles on your palette of grey and tan. Just add water to the paint in the center of your palette and let the colors cancel one another out to make neutrals. Using a soft brush, paint grey on the top and tan for the table’s surface.
- Finish up!
- Photos are good as a reference if you don’t have actual flowers.
- If you prefer to do a stylized type of painting, have all the flowers facing forward, don’t worry about curving the petals and leafs and add, perhaps, a border of gold on each side.
- To remove masking fluid, rub with a piece of rubber mat, the type used for drawer liners or to keep throw rugs from slipping. Or, simply rub with your finger and pull it up.