White Japonica

Capturing white flowers with direct brush painting.

Bring to life White Japonica with a contrasting loose foliage background using a combination of wet on wet and wet on dry techniques.

You will need

Alizarin crimson
Cobalt blue
Indigo blue
Transparent or Cadmium yellow
Burnt Sienna

Size 6 or 8 round

Watercolour paper:
A4 size 140lb NOT (a slight texture)
Masking tape
B Pencil optional
clingfilm optional

Reference photo

Step 1

Tape the paper to a board.
Mix a very dilute wash of Cobalt blue with a tiny touch of Transparent yellow. Using the point of a size 6 or 8 round brush loosely suggest the shape of the flower heads.
Lightly sketch with a B pencil if you prefer to have an outline.
Mix a pool of a yellow – green: Transparent yellow with a hint of Cobalt blue.
Draw the brush from the centre outwards leaving gaps to suggest the filaments. Drop in a slightly stronger mix of the two colours.

Step 2

Prepare two pools of colour for the stamens: a warm orange mix for the anthers: Transparent yellow and Alizarin crimson and a purple mix of Alizarin crimson with a touch of Cobalt blue.
When the green base is nearly dry add the anthers with the orange mix and add a touch of the purple here and there.

Step 3

Mix 3 pools of colour: 1) Dilute transparent yellow, 2) Cobalt blue with a minute hint of yellow and 3) a mauve- grey made up of Cobalt blue with a hint of Burnt Sienna and Alizarin.

Apply a dilute wash of the yellow mix towards the centre wet on dry and drop in the second mix observing the shadows.

Step 4

Continue adding the second and third mix to differentiate between the petals. Keep washes pale and almost draw with the point of the brush around the shadowed edges under the petals. Strengthen the tones by adding further hints of stronger colour wet on dry.
Paint in a suggestion of the main branch using a mix of burnt sienna wet on dry. Soften the lower edge with water leaving a loose gap of white for the highlight on the top edge.To strengthen add a mix of mauve, (Alizarin Crimson plus Cobalt blue)
Add the yellow- green leaves wet on dry using a combination of Transparent yellow and indigo. Add a little burnt sienna whilst damp.


When painting white flowers leave plenty of white paper.

Step 5

Commence the background. Cut around the white flower shapes wet on dry with a mid shade of Transparent yellow and Indigo. Pull the colour away to form a suggestion of a leaf shape.

Step 6

Leave some leaves to dry and diffuse others which remain damp to create a background wash. Drop in stronger blue – green shades and let the paint merge.

Step 7

Using the stronger Alizarin crimson and Cobalt blue mix drop into the damp green base to create further depth.

Step 8

Work in sections so that the base remains wet enough to create the variegated washes. For extra texture try scrunching up a small section of cling film on the damp paint.


Final stage

Add the final touches. Perhaps a few more branches…..

Student Gallery

Here's some work completed by Julie's students based on this tutorial. 

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