top of page

Papillon: a new work and watercolour painting demo

This week I got a chance to complete a watercolour painting I had started a few weeks ago, actually I totally scrapped the original and tried this painting again, and voila it worked out for the better second time around!

I thought this particular work would be a great composition for one of my painting demos. In this post I am focusing on the “thought process” on how a painting is composed and the stages it goes through to completion, rather than of techniques. (I will do a post on watercolour techniques in a future post.)

Often people see an image that they want to paint and look at the big picture then get totally confused and disheartened with the images complexity. But by breaking the image down into sections and its stages of painting, you will get a clearer understanding of where and what to start painting first, and how to choose the next steps to complete a painting – this is called the “process” of making a painting.

1. Where do I start? This is a question every artist asks with each new work. I say the best place to start is the focal point. Figure out where in the image your eyes goes to first. If its a figurative work, you are likey to look at the face first. And to be honest, it always is best to start with the face. If the face aint working, you know there and then that the whole painting wont work, so you can then cut your loses and start again while you are ahead. In this step I put down a flesh coloured wash over the face, leaving the area of the sunglasses blank. This is because I want there to be a crisp line between the glasses and the skin, so I must wait for the skin to dry completly before I paint in the sunglasses. I also mark in shadows of the nose and cheek area while the paint is still wet with the same flesh colour so that the second layer of paint blends into the first layer smoothly creating a soft edge effect. By layering the same colour on top, this creates a darker tone of your original colour. Ive also painted in the hair at this stage, this is because I want the watercolours from the skin and the hair to slightly blend in together, or I could say “bleed in” together, to give the illusion of a soft hairline. This technique is called wet in wet.

2. While Im waiting for the skin and hair to dry, I paint in the black parts of the bow. As the hair is still a bit wet, I am able to “bleed” the bottom of the bow into the hairline. This gives a soft edge affect, similar to that of the hairline. I also lay a wash down of the flesh colour on the torso area.

3. As the lips are part of the focal point of the face, I’ve chosen to paint this area next, and continued with the nails as they use the same colour. The red is such a strong colour, so by painting it in first, I can then know how to balance the tone of the skin on face, torso and hands when I eventually paint more detail into these areas. I also paint the black areas of the bow and the butterfly.

4. Once the black areas of the bow and butterfly are dry, I then paint these areas with shades of orange. With the same orange, I then paint the sunglass frame. I then go ahead with detailing in the skin tones and shadows with the same flesh coloured paint. Again as mentioned before, by adding another layer on top of already dried paint in the same colour, a darker tone is achieved. Once the orange sunglasses are dry, I then wet the whole area of the sunglass lenses to be painted. I let the water soak in so that the paper is damp but not flooded with water. I then lay the black colour around the top of lenses then add in the purple colour into the black and blend to the bottom of the lenses. This wet in wet method created the ombre effect of the two colours.

5. The squares were the easiest part, just basic filling in with bold colour. Once all of the squares were finished, I was then able to stand back and take a look to see what areas needed further work or detail.

6. Almost finished! BUT, a couple of things I did before calling it quits. Firstly, I decided that the painting looked too “neat”. Watercolour is such a spontaneous medium to use, and I really wanted to get that fresh and watered out effect, so I then added more paint to the squares and splashed the paint out of the squares to “mess” the painting up and give it more character. The second thing I did, was take a photo of my painting with my iPhone and take a look at it on the screen. Why do this? Well, it gives you a different perspective of what you are seeing with your own eyes. Paintings often look better on a computer screen than what they do in real life. This is because a computer screen is illuminated, everything becomes more vibrant and intense. Contrasts and colours are often heightened. So, from seeing my painting on a computer screen and finding that it looked a bit more enchanted than what it did in real life, I then aimed to go in and repaint a few areas to make it look as good as it did on the computer screen. I darkened the blacks, I added a hint of orange paint to the red areas to brighten the red up, I pumped up the volume on the skin tones and coloured boxes, I also went in and intensified the contrast shadows. Once the real life painting looked as good as it did on the computer screen, I was then satisfied and let it bite the dust!

Thanks so much for hanging in there with me for this long explanation of the “process of a painting”. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did making it, and found it useful for your own work.

You can purchase prints of “Papillon” on my website here

Painted with love,

Rose xox

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page