Red shape, green shape: a step-by-step bouquet

I had a bit of time today so thought I’d do a step-by-step post of a bouquet of flowers I had on my counter. There are no pencil lines in this, just brush shapes and colour on a pad of Fluid watercolour paper — a quick flower sketch for a grey day in Montreal.

The first washes you make on the white paper are the most satisfying, aren’t they? You haven’t overworked anything, or messed up any washes yet! With flowers I try to group the blooms into big masses of colour, and add variety in the washes. For these Alstroemeria flowers I used yellow, orange and red pigment, and let the washes flow together.


The next step is to add the green, again in one big shape. Since the foliage is lightest at the top of the bouquet, under my counter lights, I used more yellow and as I moved down to the foliage in the vase, I allowed the green to darken.

IMG_2641When those two washes are dry, the fun part starts. I go back into the flowers to define them a bit. At this stage I think about edges of petals, centres of blooms, etc. This is still fairly loose.


The next step is to pick out some of the leaves, figure out what is in front and what is behind, and also where the vase starts. That’s where the sharper darks come in too.

IMG_2643The last steps are the final details: a bit of spattering for the flowers, some tiny shapes of stems and the darkest darks. And even though you see 2 brushes in the photo, this was all done with a Winsor Newton #8 brush.


Here’s the final sketch, fully dry and scanned. If you are interested in these types of exercises, the paper in these Fluid Field Watercolor Journals is perfect. Colours retain their brightness, the paper is not too textured so you can use an ink line if you wish, and they are reasonably priced too. This was sketched on the 7″ x 10″.

69 Comments on “Red shape, green shape: a step-by-step bouquet”

  1. joreimer says:

    Very helpful, Shari. Thanks.


  2. gpb says:

    This is lovely and absolutely the kind of info that I have been looking for, to help me “loosen up” in my paintings. Thanks so much.


  3. Patricia Leffingwell says:

    Thank you for this lesson. It is fun to see how you start and finish a painting. I would love to see more of what you paint in a step by step lesson. I love the fresh and loose feel to your flowers.
    They’re beautiful.


  4. PJ Bennett says:

    This step-by-step is incredibly helpful. It takes the mystery out of “where do I begin?”
    Thank you!


  5. joantav says:

    What a beautiful bouquet to brighten my dismal, rainy, NY day! Love seeing your step by step process. I love the loose style.


  6. Helen C says:

    I, too, want to thank you for the lesson. I can’t wait for the next one!
    Have a wonderful evening.


  7. Jane Hannah says:

    Hi Shari — I will try this soon! Thank you -)


  8. Thanks so much, Shari! OK, so I’ve just finished my first attempt… and am wondering to myself how many of us pulled out our paint and #8 to give it a try! This is great… now I am going to attempt my own bouquet of Alstroemeria on the kitchen counter — my favourite cut flowers for lasting so long!


  9. Soni McFarland says:

    Thank you THANK you THANK YOU ~ I’ve always wanted you to do this & know it’s a lot of work to do it ; I’ll be working with this a lot


  10. Nice to see the steps and how you worked at the balance of colors and values.


  11. John E Harris says:

    Thanks for the lesson, especially the water line.


  12. Jodi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the steps to your magic!!!


  13. zuzala says:

    So fresh looking! Could you share the greens you used. Just what I am always trying to achieve.


    • Hi Zuzala. I used Sap Green but I always mix it with something. For the lighter greens I added some Hansa Yellow and for the darker greens I added Ultramarine. I don’t like Sap Green on its own but it’s always the same green and I prefer variety in greens.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. loisajay says:

    This was magical, Shari! Mine will look nothing like yours, but I cannot wait to try. The spattering adds so much to the painting. Oh, I cannot wait to give this a whirl. Thanks so much.


  15. Mary says:

    Awesome process! Even though you explained and photographed your process, frankly it all seemed rather miraculous in the end. I am wowed!


  16. Dee says:

    Thanks for the step by step…enjoyed it mucho!


  17. Thanks for this wonderful demo Shari!!


  18. I love your demos…Could you tell us the colors you used and also give us a photo of your source. It always helps to see how you translate what you see into a painting. Thanks.


  19. Katy Evans says:

    Really useful, thanks. It’s great to see the process.


  20. Ivana Bowes says:

    Thank you so much for this timely demo.My Art group project this month is to do something Spring like and I have been struggling to paint some daffodils in a vase. I will give it another go following your advice. You make it look so easy even though it isn’t!


    • I always have trouble with daffodils Ivana. I think it is because it’s hard to go dark with yellows. Last year I painted one vase of daffodils about six time until I was satisfied. I hope you have more luck than me.


  21. stacey says:

    wonderful painting. thank you for the demo. i learned something in reading it.


  22. Judy Sopher says:

    This is beautiful . Thanks for the demo. It helps so much to see the steps.


  23. singshoutpraisehome says:

    This is beautiful, and I loved to see your process! Thank you!


  24. Monique says:

    I am definitely going to try this svereal times Shari..thank you:)


  25. Liliane Partikian says:

    Loved the vibrancy and spontaneity of your sketch. Thanks for sharing your technique with this step by step demo.


  26. TCWriter says:

    Beautiful stuff! We still have snow on the ground, so I’m determined to paint something bright (my wife is a flower person). And after you mentioned Fluid paper in a comment to an earlier post, I tried it — and like it. The surface is great for pen and ink, though I haven’t found the Fluid 100 to be as tough as the Langton or Arches.


    • Hi TCWriter,
      I’m glad you tried the Fluid paper. You’re right about the texture. It’s not as tough as the other papers you mentioned but it is the only paper I have found that can take a good ink line and still retain colour vibrancy. If I want to do a bigger painting I will always go for a better paper but I find this perfect for sketching. I hope you painted some flowers.


  27. Alison says:

    Super post Shari! Thank you! Very inspiring, as the numerous comments attest. We can follow these steps, but to achieve a similar result one needs to hone our observation and drawing skills. Your skills are magical and masterful!


  28. Monique says:

    Shari..I bought daffodils yetserday..La Société du Cancer..when I came home..and put them in a glass milk bottle..your tutorial popped into my mind..I just did a quick quick one ..on a 6x 12 my STrathmore book..I never paint that size..I usually divide the page..anyways thank you.I loved this exercise..I can actually they they are a FORM of daffodils..the bottle and etc..? Well..not sure.Thanks:)


  29. susancooke says:

    Thank you Shari for the exercise… I found It so helpful!


  30. Romy says:

    Thank you so much, Shari. It means the world to see how an skilled artist like you works and be able to learn from these small samples. They are very helpful. Thanks again.


  31. romy2611 says:

    Thank you so much, Shari. It means the world to see how a skilled artist like you works. These small samples are very precious for those who are self-taught and have no other ways to learn more. It will be my practice for the weekend. I’m so happy!


  32. Denise Robotham says:

    Thanks for this Shari. Had a lovely time with my new Daniel Smith watercolours which made the whole thing so vibrant. Such a lovely lose exercise. I’m so pleased with it I have put it up on my Flickr account (Dee Robotham).


    • Hi Dee, I’m so glad to hear that this was useful to you as well as so many other people. I never know if anyone enjoys the step-by-step but I can see that it was very popular. I am really glad about that! Thanks for writing.


  33. Michele Bownes says:

    Love your work Shari, artist and art teacher, Michele Bownes in New York.


  34. Love this type of painting. I’m too controlled in my watercolor and need to loosen up. Thanks for the outline of how to get loose.


  35. Sunette says:

    Thank you. Will try it today. Best wishes.


  36. vvaidehi says:

    Great post. I have just started watercolors and I really needed something like this. It is amazing how the depth in the foliage was achieved – the leaves that are in front and some at the back. Will try but I doubt if I will be able to get that effect. Thanks for sharing.


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