Lotus Overload

Lotus Overload

76.5 cm x 57 cm; watercolor on Arches 300-gm paper

Blog Post 39

I worked on this lotus painting for 5 days, painting 4-5 layers of paint on the birds and the lotus leaves and flowers.  Materials I used were a mix of those used in traditional Chinese brush painting and those used in modern western painting.

Notice the movements I suggested in the pond scene: folded leaf and petal margins; breeze-slanted stems of lotus and grasses; and sparrows with opened beaks and  perched with widespread legs.

Here’s the sequence of painting I followed, also a mix of Chinese and western methods of painting: 5 minute-soaking in water of the 300-gm watercolor paper; air drying of the paper; stretching of the paper on alligator board, using a 1-inch artist tape; using watercolor pencils for sketching lightly the pond scene; watercolor painting in layers; air drying between paintings; stretching the finished painting ; dry mounting; and lastly, framing.

Here are some more painting tips:

For the lotus flower:

  • Use water and carmine for the pink inner parts and alizarin red for the fuchsia outer parts.
  • Paint alternate petals. Let dry, then paint the other petals. This technique will show distinctly separate petals.
  • Paint the petals in 3-4 layers to make their colors pop out among the leaves.

For the lotus leaves:

  • Use sap green for the leaf under sides (shown by folded margins) and dark green (green + flower blue) for the leaf upper sides.
  • Paint the leaves in 3-4 layers to separate the color shades of overlapping leaves.

For the lotus stems:

  • Use sap green as the underpainting of the stems. Then for the second layer, use burnt Sienna. Dry.
  • Add dark ink dots on the stems to separate them from the overlapping leaves.

For the sparrow:

  • Align the bird-lotus positions to show the birds’ appreciation of the moonlit lotus in full bloom.
  • Use a detail brush to paint the beak, eye, tongue, and feet (3 front toes + 1 at the back).
  • Use a medium-size brush to paint the shades of brown of the feathers:  dark brown head, wings, and tail; and light brown body.
  • Use Chinese ink to emphasize the beak, eye, feet, and tips of wing and tail feathers.

For the moon:

  • Paint the moon last. Outline a round moon with yellow watercolor pencil. Wash with plain water, followed by yellow watercolor. Keep blending with a damp brush to create a soft moonshine background.

For the pond water:

  • Use light Payne’s gray for the river water and its darker shade for water reflections of lotus stems and leaves.
  • Use also a dark shade of Payne’s gray to paint Chinese grasses emerging from the pond water and floating weed leaves.

Painting a lotus pond scene is not easy. It needs a lot of preparations, in the first place. You have to foresee the sequence of painting the overlapping lotus leaves, stems, and flowers. And, more so, the overlapping lotus parts with all the other elements of the pond scene: birds, pond weeds, pond water, and the full moon and its light. But, the task can teach you a lot of things about the behavior of  watercolor as it sinks and get absorbed in paper. Ready for that plunge? Try it once and you’ll surely learn so much from the experience.

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