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Lines & Landmarks: Amsterdam Drawing Journals

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Black Watercolor Paper – Painting a Flower

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Black Watercolor Paper

This is what you should do. watercolor lesson, we’re going to take a look at painting on black watercolor paper. I’ll be honest, when I first heard about black watercolor paper, I was intrigued, but I was also confused because it goes against everything that I know about watercolor painting. In traditional watercolor painting, transparent or translucent watercolour is applied on a light surface. This is usually white watercolor paper. The white of the watercolor paper will affect the values in the painting, and more specifically the light values. Multiple layers are a great way to achieve dark values. What happens when we work on black paper? How can we achieve a full range in value? I can understand why some people bought black watercolor paper, tried to paint with traditional watercolors on the surface, and were frustrated by the result.

How can black watercolor paper be used to create a watercolour painting? In this lesson we’ll cover this and we’ll create a painting from start to finish on black watercolor paper.

For this lesson, I’ll use Stonehenge Black cold pressed watercolor paper, along with Winsor and Newton Designer’s gouache. We’ll sketch the subject using an HB graphite pencil.

The photo reference that is used is pictured below…

Sketching the Flower

I’ll start here with a light sketch using an HB graphite pencil. I’ll take my time and pay attention to the shapes that I see. You might find it helpful to mark areas where you see areas with contrast or where a dark color comes into contact with a lighter color. You may even create a drawing that’s more simple than the one that I’ve created here.

Pencil sketch of the flower on black paper

Painting the Underpainting

Once we’re happy with our pencil sketch, we can move on to applying the gouache to the surface. On my palette, I’m going to apply primary colors, yellow, blue, and red, a bit of white, and a bit of black. I’m going to start here by mixing a light purple and apply this color to the bulk of the petal shapes.

Creating an underpainting for the petals of the flower

Now that we have our shapes for the petals established, let’s go ahead and mix up a green and apply this color to the stem. Mix a little yellow with a little blue. To make it a little bit lighter, we’ll add just a touch of white. Here again, we just want to fill in the shape of color initially and later in the process we’ll adjust the values.

Painting the shapes for the stem and leaf

Adjusting the Values of the Petals of the Flower

Once we have established our basic shapes, we can now start pushing the boundaries. Value range. We’re going to start adding some of the shadows and the highlights, broadening the contrast within the painting. We’re going to do this gradually just as we did with the shapes of the petals where we were paying attention to the overall shape. We’re going to do the same thing now with different values. We’re just going to pay attention to the shapes of dark and light values that we see and paint these within the overall larger shapes, progressively working our way down to the smaller shapes.

Painting details and adding shadows to the petals of the flower

Add Warm Highlights

The light is an important factor in a scene. In this particular case, a dominant source of light comes from the left. This means our highlights will exist primarily to the right of each of the petals, and our shadows will exist primarily to the opposite. As we continue to push the value relationships, our flower will gradually begin to appear to have form. I add a little more yellow to the highlighted areas of the flower. This will contrast beautifully with the purple shadows, as yellow and purple are opposites each other on a color wheel. These are called Colours complementary.

One trick to use with gouache, is to load your brush with a little water after you have applied some color and then pull the color around. This will reactivate the colors beneath and allow you to blend, as well as make smooth transitions between color and value.

Adding warm highlights to the petals of the flower

Increasing contrast between the highlights and shadows

We’ll continue to push the contrast between the light and dark areas on each flower, paying attention to the shape. We’ll gradually push the shadows darker while making the highlights lighter.

Adding shadows to the petals

Pushing the values on the stem of the flower

Just as we did on the petals of the flower, we’ll now push the contrast and value range on the stem of the flower. We use a yellow-green lighter for the highlights, and a cooler blue-green in the shadows.

Adding highlights and shadows to the stem of the flower

Finishing touches to the Painting

Last but not least, we add the highlights with a light shade of purple to the top part of the stem. Once you are happy with the value relationships and shape, a kneaded eraser can be used.

Adding finishing touches to the flower painting on black watercolor paper

Painting on Black Watercolor Paper – Conclusion

Our gouache painting on black watercolor paper of a rose is now complete. Here’s a look at the finished painting…

Flower painting on black watercolor paper

If you use the right application techniques and media, black watercolor paper can be a great surface. I would recommend using gouache instead of traditional watercolors for watercolor painting. This surface can also be used for other art media such as colored pencilsYou can also find out more about the following: pastels.

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