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Watercolor Rhodies with Kay Barnes

Kay Barnes demonstrates her method for painting realistic Rhododendrons with Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

White Rhodies by Kay Barnes

"White Rhodies"
Watercolor on Paper
By Kay Barnes

initial line rendering

Printable Template for "White Rhodies"

Before starting your painting, do a simple line drawing. Stamens are saved with masking fluid - let it dry thoroughly.

An abundance of light and shadow creates a composition of warm and cool colors in Kay Barnes' painting "White Rhodies". Kay's spontaneous "dancing" brushwork and her use of color, wet-into-wet and dry brush techniques result in a realistic floral painting that remains loose and dynamic. Starting with a line drawing and a structural underpainting, Kay takes us step by step through the process of painting "White Rhodies".

Learn to capture light on flower petals, add variation and interest in the shadows and leaves as you follow along with Kay's watercolor demonstration.

Steps 1-7

If the paper loses its moist shine, take a dryish brush and blend or feather the paint edges where needed.

My Process
The underpainting is the structure - the skeleton of the painting that everything hangs on - the first layer. Think of it as an outline. When you add stronger colors on the top, the underpainting won't show, but a good underpainting helps prevent confusion in a complicated painting. In this initial stage, it is a road map. Establishing patterns of light with Aureolin, Raw Sienna, and a pale wash of French Ultramarine Blue (1) will remind you to keep background areas cool.

In floral painting, begin with Aureolin (cooler yellow) and Raw Sienna (warm and buttery yellow), it will give the flowers a warm glow. I add Quinacridone Rose (2) and various blues to create wet passages of lavender shadows.

For instance, using a large brush, make a large, loose T shape (3) with Raw Sienna. Add daps of French Ultramarine into other areas. (4) Do it fast and keep your paints fluid.

Using Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, French Ultramarine Blue and Sap Green, place in the leaf shapes (5). The colors will bleed. Paint these in the bare spots, not necessarily over pre-determined leaf shapes. Touch the edges with French Ultramarine.

By working on the leaves as the paper dries, you will get nice harder edges (6). To blend and connect the clear areas, add clear water - the wet paint will pull toward these areas. This works only if your paper is still shiny wet. Dance your paint...blue to green...light to dark...

Pull paint and soften the edge. Coax it gently with a slightly damp brush. Make sure some leaves come in from outside the picture plane (7) Don't have them all going out - it draws your eye away from the subject.

Steps 8-12

Even though the flowers are all pink, Quinacridone Rose, make them each unique by varying tones from pink to lavender to blue.

When a painting is still in the early stage, with a preliminary background - and it is completely dry - you can rewet the paper (mist it front and back) and put on a second layer of background for more soft details. (8) With this level of moisture, you can softly blend elements into the background. As long as you have lost the shine, you can lift - as in the light veins on the leaves (9), or to correct an area that is over-painted or too dark.

Quinacridone colors, transparent and ranging from moderate to strong staining, are great for flowers. Underpaint some petals with Quinacridone Rose, then touch in French Ultramarine Blue at the edges. (10) Add Aureolin in the center - all while wet so they run into each other.

Greens are good shadow colors when painting flowers. Consider underpainting purple shadows (11) and let them dry, then glaze yellow tones.

After establishing the light and mid values of the first three layers, tweak your painting by adding darks to key areas where you need emphasis. Focal areas pop when you play lightest lights against darkest darks and brights against neutrals.

Glazing washes of light to medium density colors can really warm (12) or cool areas to push or pull objects around. Consider lifting some areas and softening others. Now is a great time to let your painting dry and analyze its weak areas or over-painted ones. Adjust thoughtfully. This final step is the one that makes or breaks a painting. Err on the side of "less is more". Sometimes removing paint is all you need to do. Now, sign it, sell it, and go on to the next one.

Kay Barnes

About the Artist
Kay Barnes is a signature member of the California Watercolor Society, past President of the Eastside Association of Fine Arts, and a member of the Northwest Watercolor Society.

She has taught, lectured and exhibited widely, and her works hang in many corporate and private collections.

Kay Barnes Artist Series Watercolors

Every artist chooses a palette based on personal preferences, subject matter and need for a broad range of color mixing possibilities. Like a well-planned spice rack, every palette should include versatile staples. Although I have 32 wells for color on my palette, there are staple colors that I use most often (I seldom use more than 8 or 8 colors in a single painting).

I choose colors not only for hue, but also for the characteristics the paints offer. When choosing colors, remember that you can duplicate almost any hue, but not necessarily with the particular color characteristics you're seeking. Sometimes I want opaque and earthy qualities in paint. Other times, I want to contrast highly transparent color with colors that granulate and add interesting textural qualities to a painting.

New Gamboge

New Gamboge Mixes well with others, great for glazes -- a lovely warm yellow.


Aureolin - A cool cobalt yellow that lifts easily - I like to drop it into a violet shadow to add a glow of warmth.

Raw Sienna

Raw Sienna - I often use this in a pale wash to warm a cool sky - it doesn't turn blue to green -- or I float it into a n underpainting to remind me where the light is hitting the subject.

Quinacridone Gold

Quinacridone Gold - A lovely in-between yellow, strong, transparent and vibrant. Not as opaque as burnt sienna, not as pale as aureolin or new gamboge.

Quinacridone Burnt Orange

Quinacridone Burnt Orange - Richly transparent, it mixes well with sap green for foregrounds that glow.

Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna - Great earthy color indispensable for mixing grays.

Alizarin Crimson

Alizarin Crimson - Great for flesh tones, as a cool, dark shadow-tone on pink flowers, or as a warm, rich color in a sunrise sky. Also great for darks when added to sap or olive green.

Permanent Red

Permanent Red - Clear and bright staining color, wonderful for florals or to neutralize an acidic green.

Quinacridone Rose

Quinacridone Rose - Similar to permanent rose, a fabulous semi-staining pink! I love it for florals!

Quinacridone Violet

Quinacridone Violet - Semi-opaque and warm. I use it for shadow colors and flowers.

Quinacridone Magenta

Quinacridone Magenta - I think of it as a cool red and use it that way.

Cobalt Blue

Cobalt Blue - My most middle-of-the-road blue hue. Makes lovely gray skies. I prefer it mixed with other colors rather than alone.

Sap Green

Sap Green - Glorious, veratile, indispensable green! I warm it or cool it, add reds to dull it. An absolute staple.

Green Gold

Green Gold - Think early spring...new growth...sun kissed yellow green leaves. If your foreground dries dull, glaze it with this lovely hue.

Olive Green

Olive Green - Dull, warm and rather opaque -- but older leaves sometimes are, too! Play with this green off of cooler and warmer, richer and more transparent ones!

French Ultramarine Blue

French Ultramarine Blue - My favorite blue, it plays well with yellows for a good variety of greens and mixes with earth tones to offer a broad range of neutrals.

Cerulean Blue

Cerulean Blue - A lovely must-have blue. It doesn't turn green when you add raw sienna to a warm sky.

Phthalo Blue (RS)

Phthalo Blue (RS) - An intense warm blue with the greatest tinting strength of any color on my palette. I use it with other strong staining colors to create rich, transparent darks that I find far more effective than premixed colors.

Kay Barnes "Artist Series" Watercolor Set
We invite you to experiment with Kay's palette and explore it's broad range of color mixing possibilities!

Materials List