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Step-by-step Sunflowers

Ink and Watercolour

Watercolours can be exciting and truly rewarding – but they take a bit of getting used to if you are used to working in acrylics or oils. To ease yourselves into this challenging medium you can try combing them with acrylic inks which will do some of the groundwork for you, so you can then be free and expressive with the watercolour paint.

•  Watercolours – cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna or sepia, winsor violet (dioxazine).
• Brushes – watercolour brush, size 12 and half inch flat synthetic, synthetic size 6
• Daler Rowney FW acrylic ink, payes grey or black
• Uni pin fineline pen (0.5) 
• Plastic palette with deep wells for watercolour
• Plate or ceramic palette for the ink
• 2b pencil and rubber
• Paper towels/kitchen roll

1. Draw the sunflowers very lightly in pencil, then using a small amount of diluted ink, paint the darkest areas of the flowers. Try not to fill in any areas and leave plenty of white paper for the watercolour. Less is more at this stage and you can always add more ink later if necessary. Allow the ink to dry thoroughly.

2 Now you can go back over your pencil lines with a permanent ink pen. Try to really observe the petals, you will find that they are quite irregular and bunched together in places so don’t be tempted to tidy them up. You can also fix parts of your original drawing at this point. Rub out the original pencil lines.

3. Mix your watercolours in your palette so that they are ready to use. You will need a large puddle of lemon yellow, cadmium yellow with a touch of cadmium red and puddle of cobalt blue. If you are using pan watercolours make sure they are properly moistened so that you can mix a good sized puddle of each colour. 

Dampen the paper in patches all across the flowers, leaves, stems and the surrounding area. Then load your brush with lemon yellow and dab the colour in patches all over the flowers, leaves and stems. Remember to leave white gaps. Aim to only cover about 60% of the sunflowers. 

Do the same with the strongest yellow mix, followed by the cobalt blue. This time only work on the leaves and the stems. You can go beyond your drawing and be very free with the paint because the ink has done all the work for you. Add a few splashes of paint at this point as well if you wish to.

4. Now you need to add more detail and paint the centres of the sunflowers. Mix a puddle of brownish-purple using violet, ultra marine blue, cadmium red and cadmium yellow, as well as a puddle of an orange-yellow by adding cadmium red to lemon yellow. Wet the centres of the flowers in patches and drop in the brownish-purple in dots to depict the seeds. Leave patches of light areas as well. 

Next define the petals by painting the tips in a strong yellow then using a damp brush to dilute and soften the colour across the rest of the petal. Try to vary the intensity of colour on the petals so that they are not all the same. Make the petals even darker where they meet the centers of the sun flowers. 

Wet the leaves in patches and drop in washes of lemon yellow then add cobalt blue. Do the same for the stems and make them darkest where they come out from under the flowers. Remember to leave patches of white.

Sunflowers in Ink and Watercolour Step-by-Step