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Planning Retirement Online

Leisure Painter           August 2005


Each month presents a feature from either The Artist or its sister publication, Leisure Painter.

Leisure Painter inspires, guides and encourages beginners and improvers with step-by-step instruction, as well as general advice on ways to develop and progress. Experienced and popular tutors set projects, describe their own working methods and offer helpful tips and ideas



Let's Start with Art

This month:

A poppy in watercolours

by Jill Bays



Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolours

  • Permanent rose
  • Cerulean
  • Ultramarine
  • Winsor yellow


  • Nos. 4, 8, 12 (sable brushes if possible)


  • Bockingford Watercolour paper 140lb Not surface

2B pencil



I achieved the very light edge of the poppy petal by blotting the paint with a tissue.

The fine pleats in the petals were drawn with a pencil. The dark blotches on the petals were painted when the basic wash was still wet (using the wet-into-wet technique), which gives a soft edge.

Try out the delicate soft pink tint of the poppy on a spare piece of paper; it is easy to get it too dark.

Time taken

one-and-a-half hours


Painting flowers can be fun; you get to use all those lovely colours in your box! Take time to really get to know your subject, move around to view it from various angles or, if necessary, move it. Decide where the light is coming from and, if you find it difficult, make pencil studies first.
I have painted this poppy in three stages. Don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out quite like mine – it won’t. That’s the nice thing about painting; we are all individuals.

Figure 1

Step 1.

Start drawing the poppy in the top centre of your paper. Be aware that the poppy is a cup shape with one side lighter than the other. Use your 2B pencil and draw very lightly. Draw the seed heads, stalks and leaves.


Figure 1  

Step 2.

Paint the poppy with a very pale wash of permanent rose. To achieve the very pale petal at the front of the poppy I blotted some of the colour with a tissue. With a darker version of the original pink I painted the darker inside. Don’t worry if it runs and merges, this is wet-on-wet painting. I used my No. 12 brush for this step.



Figure 2

Step 1.

Mix a pale green using Winsor yellow and cerulean and, using your No. 8 brush, paint the seed heads and leaves. Change to the No. 4 brush to paint the stems, trying to keep a steady hand.

Step 2.

When this is dry, mix a darker green using the same colours; paint the darker tone on the seed heads.
stems and leaves. Don’t forget the centre of the poppy.



Figure 2


Figure 3

Step 1.

Using permanent rose and ultramarine, mix the shadow colour for the poppy. Use the No. 8 brush to paint the inside of the flower. This again should be a fairly delicate tint. Now, while the paint is still wet, mix a dark purple (using the same colours) and drop it in for those dark blotches. For the outer petal, damp it with clean water before putting the dark purple in. Your painting should be more or less finished now, but check the details. If you are not happy you can always start again!



Figure 3

Step 2.

With clean water damp the areas around the poppy and stalks, and with some pale blue ultramarine paint a sky wash. If it is damp enough it should give a diffused edge.


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