Lily pads

It’s been ages since I did a full sheet watercolour. When you are used to working smaller, it’s hard to scale up. But yesterday was a really rainy day and I decided that it would be a good time to give it a go on a sheet of 300 lb Fabriano paper. My reference materials were photos and a sketch from a few weeks ago at the Botanical Gardens.

The first challenge when you work this large is to use brushes that are big enough. I have wide flats and big mops so that’s not a problem. The second challenge is to get those big brushes wet enough. My first attempt was actually too wet and drippy with not enough colour saturation, so I ditched it and started again. Yes, the paper is expensive when you ruin it, but the other night I watched a demo by the wonderful Canadian artist William Rogers who had something to say about paper. He said he buys stacks and stacks of watercolour paper and treats it like newsprint. If you’re too precious with it you’ll never make progress. I will remember that great advice.

The second time around I was more successful in balancing the pigment and the water. There are lots of drips but the colours are more intense than my first attempt, so I’m happy with that, and I hope to paint more of these big ones this summer.

30 Comments on “Lily pads”

  1. -N- says:

    I am in much agreement about the cost of paper – treating it like a rare item can really not make it worth buying if you do. Bulk buying helps. And using it. The issue a lot off people have is the cost – is it better to buy good 140# vs 300#? How about 200#?

    Anyway, this painting turned out really good! I like the color intensity and the wetness it conveys along with the reflections. At first I was surprised not to see any flowers amongst the lily pads, but now that I look at it again, their lack is quite refreshing!


    • Hi N.
      Buying in bulk does help. I wait for sales and then stock up.
      I always use good paper, either Fabriano or Arches, CP and Rough.
      I don’t use 300 lb for smaller than a full sheet. I save the thick paper for big paintings. Saves me from taping. I can just clip the paper to a board.
      But for quarter and half sheet paintings, 140 lb is perfect for me.
      Of course every painter has a different opinion. I am just saying what works for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Chris Rusk says:

    Love it !


  3. Chris Rusk says:

    Love it !


  4. Soni says:

    great advice as always, Shari – thank you

    Question: do you find painting on heavier paper like 300 lb requires really heavier pigment than 140 ? John Yardley said he had to adjust that way when he switched to 300 but I’m guessing he was working on Arches and you’re working with Fabriano


    • Hi Soni,
      Definitely more pigment for 300 lb paper. I agree with John Yardley! I find that 300 lb paper seems to soak up the colour more and that is why my first attempt was not successful. Lots of water but not enough fresh paint!


  5. Northern Traveller says:

    That’s fantastic Shari!
    It takes courage to paint BIG, especially in watercolour. And just as much to ditch the paper & not feel bad about it. Rogers’s advice is well taken 😊.


  6. Cindy says:

    So pretty! I love all the colors!


  7. Susan Hays says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! What is the blue you used? Thank you for the advice…
    it’s just paper.


  8. Becky Smith says:

    Brave and beautiful! Using fresh paint would really be beneficial working this large also. I’ve started adding more fresh pigment even to my small palettes and it makes a huge difference! I think I’ll try a half sheet before moving up to the whole. You are an inspiration


  9. Shari, I have a tip for a larger palette (that’s homemade). Hope this link works:


  10. Melissa Van Ness says:

    The final result is gorgeous! But I’m curious – is there a reason you didn’t just turn the paper over & paint on the “back” side?
    (And “hi” from steaming Anacortes!)


    • Hi Melissa,
      Thanks for asking! I will use the back of the paper for a practice sheet after this, but when I paint this wet, so of the paint seeps onto the other side at the bottom of the sheet, so I can’t use it for a fresh painting. But I will certainly use it for experiments and other things. Some papers have different textures on the back, but Fabriano is nice on both sides.


  11. Ginny O’Neill says:

    Absolutely in love with this!!! Love your work and the ease you show in your videos. Thanks for all of the advice and beautiful posts!


  12. deedster56 says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful, Shari. Those colours are stunning!!


  13. Gretta Benson says:

    I love your waterlillies. Just beautiful! I have to feel really brave even to paint on a sheet that is 9×12! Thanks for sharing.


  14. Karen says:

    Live the color is this. Really vibrant!


  15. Joan Tavolott says:

    Love the clusters of Lilly pads and your palette. I’m amazed to think that it is so big. Trying to catch up on some posts I missed while I am recuperating from my hip replacement. You would think that I would have more time to comment, but Blogger has just been giving me problems no matter what blog I want to post on. Today it seems to be working well, so I am making the most of it. Glad to see your workshops on Madeline Island are a go!!!


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