45.5 cm x 38.5 cm; watercolour on rice paper; 2015

Blog Post 9

Here’s the flower to paint during the Christmas season–Poinsettias. Paint them on thick rice paper and then print them as Christmas  cards for your relatives and friends.

The sequence of painting a flowering branch of Poinsettias is as follows: center (small flowers); first layer of bracts (innermost); second layer of bracts; third layer of bracts; stem; leaves (young and old); black mosses on the old woody stems; and weeds. If you want, you can also add butterflies or bees as ‘leads’ to your focal flower.

As I painted Poinsettias, here are some things I learned which you can share with others, too:

-To paint the flowers:

  • Start by painting the centre or the cluster of small inconspicuous flowers.Wet a medium brush, load with yellow-green (more green than rattan yellow), then dip its tip with rouge. Paint a cluster of 5-10 big dots. When still damp, use dark rouge to dot the centre. Then encircle each flower with light ink.
  • Prepare a large white brush: Load it with vermillion and then dip its tip into carmine. Do not mix these 2 colours to paint 2-toned bracts.
  • Paint the first layer of showy bracts, the colourful part of the Poinsettia plant, and the ones usually mistaken as its ‘petals’.
  • Paint a set of 7-8 small bracts. Later, carefully fill in the gaps between bracts with the tip of the brush.
  • Each petal is made by 2 brush strokes (from inside or flower core to outside). Be sure to firmly press the brush on paper to make wide bracts. Then add the  pointed tip of the bract with a quick, light stroke. When still damp, add the rouge veins using a fine, hard brush. Remember: Venation should follow the different directions of bracts.
  • The second layer of bracts may not be completed. Do not show all the bracts to paint an angle of the top and side views of the flower. Start painting each bract thinly, beginning halfway from the base of the first layer of bracts.
  • The third layer bracts should be long and on the foreground only. As in representing the second layer of bracts, do not go around the layer; make the  bracts fall toward the central part of the flower. This should make a round-shape Poinsettia flower.

-To paint the stems:

  • Paint a young, soft stem holding the flower. Prepare a medium white brush: Load the brush with yellow-green and then dip its tip in rouge.
  • Be sure to align the flower stem directly with the core of the flower.
  • Paint old woody stems below and continuous to the young flower stems. Load a large bamboo brush (calligraphy brush) with umber, then dip its tip with dark ink.
  • Finish the old branches with moss ‘dots’, usually in groups of 3, with the middle one bigger than the ones at the sides.

-To paint the leaves (mature and young):

  • Start painting each leaf from its base. Be sure to make ‘stops’ (presses) to make leaf notches.
  • For mature leaves:  Mix more green than rattan yellow to make a light-green colour. Load a large bamboo brush with this mixture, then dip its tip into flower blue. When still damp, leaf veins should be done with dark ink.
  • For young leaves: Mix more rattan yellow than green to make a very light green colour. Load a medium brown brush with this mixture, then dip its tip in light rouge. When still damp, paint rouge veins.


  • Paint the thin weeds with a thin brown brush loaded  with amber, then dipped in  light ink.
  • Use the weeds to balance your composition and to fill in blank spots.
  • Paint attractive butterflies as ‘leads’ to the focal flowers. For example, the colour of butterflies for the vermillion-carmine Poinsettias shown here should be yellow and vermillion. This means load a medium white brush with yellow, then dipping its tip in vermillion.

So there, all the things I learned to make showy Poinsettias for your big paintings or Christmas cards. Just contact me if you want further instructions.



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