Illustrating Expressively with Natural Watercolors

painting Aug 26, 2021
How to paint with handmade watercolors

 In this tutorial, I will share with you my process of illustrating expressively using natural, handmade watercolors. What I love about painting is to create art with an organic sensibility. To be mindful of the materials I use and how they affect the world around me. Every day I continue to be inspired by the intensity and strength of the natural pigments and the beauty and wisdom of nature. 

The inspiration for this tutorial comes from a florist that I came across while running in the morning in my beautiful city of residence, Graz, Austria. 

So let’s gather our art supplies to make some marks, enjoy the creative process, and indulge in some expressive color play! 



These are recommended materials. Make the best of what you have!

  • Watercolor paper (cold press 200 gsm or heavier)
  • Handmade natural watercolors  (work with whatever you have): yellow ochre, orange ochre, red ochre, raw umber, genuine indigo, french green earth, ultramarine blue, logwood lake 
  • Pencil 
  • Watercolor brushes: small no.4 round and medium no. 8 round 
  • Jar of clean water 
  • Rag or paper towels 



Step 1: Sketch your subject 



Hold your pencil from the bottom end and make loose, expressive marks. Sketch without lifting your pencil and try not to think too much. Keep your sketch simple and light. I also sketched some guides for where the leaves are going to be. 



If you want to learn how to draw a toooon of plants and flowers, I've got books just for you!


Step 2: Add first wash to the pots



Let’s bring our sketch to life by adding some color! With your medium brush pick up red or yellow ochre paint and lay down the first wash on smaller pots. While doing so, make sure to vary your brush strokes and leave some white spaces in the pots. For the large pot in the middle, make a very diluted, neutral tint by mixing ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. I have not put any color in the pot with cactus as I want it to be in pencil. Add the darker value of paint to the side that is in shade and light value where the light is falling. 



Step 3: Paint the plants 



While you wait for the first layer to dry, paint some plants.  I have used green earth and a mix of yellow ochre with ultramarine blue and genuine indigo to obtain my greens. I have painted tulip leaves in two different colors to give some variation. For the plants in smaller pots, I have just painted a plant shape. For the tall pot on the far left corner, paint branches of pussy willow with a small brush using raw umber, burnt sienna and yellow ochre. In the red pot (second from left), paint some flower shapes with any color that you may like. I have used logwood violet lake. 



Step 4: Add second wash to the pots 



Lay down a second layer of respective paint color on the shaded side of all the pots. Blend and soften the hard edges by using a damp brush. For the pot in the middle, add darker values and a bit of orange ochre to give a rusty look. You can also splatter some watercolor to add texture and to keep it loose. 



Step 5: Add depth and flowers



Mix some darker value of greens and add depth to the leaves and the plants. Add tulip-shaped flowers to the middle pot. For smaller pots splatter some watercolor. Finally, add shadow color to the bottom of each pot. 

 Voila! All done! Cultivate a practice to let your creativity guide you and let go of perfectionism and inner critic. I hope you found this tutorial helpful, thank you for following along with me! Stay safe! 


Need some more watercolor inspo? Try painting a cute kingfisher bird or make a watercolor landscape collage, the options are endless.



My name is Jyotsna Pippal and I'm a scientist, pigment forager and a sustainable watercolor artist. My creative process is deeply rooted in an endless journey of discovery, respecting and deepening a connection with my local landscape. I love communicating science through arts, and I deeply enjoy the process of making watercolor paints from the found treasures of the earth. I always use my own handmade paints to capture the wonders of our natural world and our family travels! 

If you would like to learn more about How to Watercolor Expressively, then stop by my class on Skillshare.  

You can find more about my outdoorsy, pigment foraging, and artsy adventures on my Instagram account @jyotsnapippal.



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