My Bee-utiful Friends

Get Closer

11.5 cm x 15.5 cm; watercolour on rice paper; 2016

Blog Post 5

I’ve been mesmerized by  this typical garden scene many times over: bees hovering over beautiful flowers. Here, I’ve frozen the interaction of brighly-colored Dahlias and honey bees. It’s a classic reminder that God’s creatures should live in  give-and-take, peaceful relationships.

I painted Dahlias with lined petals and unlined or freestyle buds, sepals, branches, and leaves. It’s a joy to paint Dahlias because they are large flowers which come in many colours–vermillion, red, pink, purple, white, or in-between shades of these colours. There are even varieties which are  multi-coloured in one flower; e. g.: yellow centre petals, and then yellow, white, and carmine outer petals. Use a thick mix of white poster on brown rice paper if you will paint white Dahlias.

Here’s the sequence I followed in painting My Bee-utiful Friends: flowers;  buds (tightly closed, slightly opened; and half-opened); sepals; branches; leaves; and bees. I hope the following tips can somehow guide your composition about  Dahlias:

Tips for painting the flowers:

  • Use a thin colour mix when painting on alum-treated rice paper.
  • All tightly closed buds point downward. As they open, they tend to point upward.
  • Centre petals are of 3 kinds: a collection of round structures; thread-like structures; or thin, columnar petals.
  • Make the centre petals glow with rattan yellow.
  • Load a thin, brown brush with medium ink to outline the  petals.
  • Start with a dot to draw a petal; then, drag this to paint the side of a petal. This will make the tip darker than the sides of the petal. Emphasize also the folds, lines, and layers of the petals.
  • The layer of petals right after the centre are cone-shaped ones.
  • To colour the cone-shaped petals: Load a medium white brush with watery white poster, then dip its tip into carmine. The inner area of the cone should be darker that the outer area.
  • The space between petals (or the ‘V’ areas) should be washed with rattan yellow to make the flower ‘glow’. Use a medium white brush for washing.
  • Paint the petal tips with a darker shade of the dominant colour.
  • After coloring, retrace the outlines with the dominant petal color (e. g., carmine) to make the petals ‘pop’ up (i. e., for the finishing touch ups).

Tips for painting the buds:

  • Draw bowed buds in freestyle method.
  • Load a medium white brush with yellow-green, then dip its tip into flower blue.
  • Paint the petals of the buds first, then paint its enveloping sepals.

Tips for painting the sepals:

  • Sepals are of two kinds: the upper wide sepals and the lower thin ones.
  • To paint two-toned sepals: Load a medium brown brush with yellow-green, then dip its tip with flower blue.

Tips for painting the branches:

  • Paint these in freestyle.
  • Load the brush with yellow-green tipped with flower blue.
  • Trace the connection of a flower and a branch from the center of the flower.

Tips for painting the leaves:

  • Use a large bamboo brush to paint the leaves in freestyle.
  • A leaf is composed of a set of 3 serrated leaflets–the big leaflet is at the end of the leaf while the 4 smaller ones grow out of the leaf laterally.
  • Create the ‘midrib’ of each ovate and pointed leaflet with two strokes only.
  • Leaves should still be damp when you paint the dark ink veins, so as to make them appear within the leaf tissue. Otherwise, veins will just seem to appear ‘on top’ of the leaf.
  • Use a small, brown brush to paint the veins. They should not be very thin.
  • Paint leaves alternately growing out of the sides of each branch.  Paint also leaves which cover parts of a branch. To do so, allot ‘spaces’ along the length of a branch, as these will be the spaces where leaves will be drawn .
  • Draw young, immature leaves near the flower; and mature ones far from the flower.
  • To paint immature leaves: Load a medium white brush with yellow-green (a mix of rattan yellow and green), then dip its tip into rouge.
  • To paint mature leaves: Load a large or medium bamboo brush with a darker shade of yellow-green, then dip its tip into flower blue.
  • To paint folded leaves: Paint one-half of the leaf first: start at the top (base) of the leaf, then go downward with in-to-out brush strokes. Then, paint the other half of the leaf starting from the top, going downward.

Tips for painting the bees:

  • To suggest a flower’s fragrance or attractive colour, draw a swarm of bees coming from different directions. Review: No straight lines should be formed by bees approaching the flowers.
  • See more tips about painting bees in Fragrant Refuse, an earlier composition about Wisteria flowers being visited by bees and flowers.

Tips for painting the grasses:

  • Load a white medium brush with yellow-green; then, dip its tip into umber.
  • Draw grasses to fill in white spaces or to balance the image of the composition.

Blog about your composition about Dahlias, too. It’s a great pleasure to learn from each other’s painting techniques.


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