Here is Julia Trickey writing about the image chosen for the cover of her book Botanical Artistry, and giving a fantastic insight into how she develops and perfects her botanical watercolours. Her book contains some amazing botanical art, and beautifully showcases her work and her techniques.
The fading anemone flower painting on the cover of this book is used here to illustrate the stages and techniques that I favour when producing botanical watercolours.
I tend to draw the image on tracing or cheap paper initially. When I am happy with the drawing, I use transfer paper to transfer it onto watercolour paper.
At the outset I decide if any part of the image needs masking before I start painting. In this case I have applied masking fluid to the centre of the flower and the stamens so I can wash background colour over this area without having to work around these small shapes. Masking fluid is also used on the back of the petals and stem to create a hairy texture. I favour the more liquid masking fluid and use a ruling pen (shown here) or drawing nib to apply it.
To create the form of the petals I use my favourite watercolour technique: wet-in-wet. I wet each petal with clear water and, when it has just a surface sheen but no sitting water, dab in the colour and the shadows. I repeat this process on every petal, often needing to revisit each shape a second or third time to strengthen areas or add colour. The main rule is to leave each layer to dry completely before applying the next, and to retrace the shape carefully with the new wash of water.
At this stage I also wash a range of shadowy colours over the masked area in the centre of the flower to create depth behind the stamens.
Veining and shadows
To add detail such as the veins on the petals, small amounts of stronger paint are applied with the tip of the brush. I then run damp colour down the side of these veins to help them blend into the wet-in-wet layers. Similarly, I will use small amounts of damp colour to strengthen areas such as shadows. Getting a good range of tones from light to dark is one of my priorities, whatever I am painting.
Once I’m happy with the depth of colour behind the stamens, I remove the masking fluid. The shapes revealed in this way can look quite stark and might need refining.
To paint the stamens, I start by washing greys and beiges over the shapes then, with careful reference to the real flower, add detail to each shape. The centre of the flower is the area to which the eye is drawn so it needs to be painted with particular care.
Having worked up-close on the detail, stamens and the leafy collar, I take a step back to assess whether I need to adjust the balance of tones. Holding the picture up to a mirror is a good way to check this, or I will revisit it with a fresh eye a few days later.