15 Minute Florals: A Bite Sized Guide to Painting Watercolor Peonies | Caitlin Sheffer | Skillshare

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15 Minute Florals: A Bite Sized Guide to Painting Watercolor Peonies

teacher avatar Caitlin Sheffer, Watercolor Artist & Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Introduction


    • 2.

      Class Overview + Project


    • 3.

      Color Swatch


    • 4.

      Shapes: Part One


    • 5.

      Shapes: Part Two


    • 6.

      Leaves + Greenery


    • 7.

      Project: Peonies in Under 15 Minutes


    • 8.



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About This Class

In this class, we will learn how to confidently paint coral charm peonies with watercolors in 15 minutes! Working quickly forces you to trust your instincts and achieve more fluid, gestural paintings. We will create a color swatch, discuss and practice various floral shapes, and learn how to add greenery to complete our flowers. 

This course is intermediate level and assumes students have a basic understanding of watercolor principles. Instruction is fast-paced and ideal for those who are looking for bite-sized lessons. If you feel overwhelmed, simply pause the lesson and practice until you feel ready to move forward. No stress here! :)

Supplies Needed:

  • watercolor paper
  • watercolor paints
  • paint brush, round (I use size 12 in this class)
  • water / paper towel

Our final project will combine everything we have learned into one beautiful composition - with the goal of being able to paint from start to finish in under 15 minutes. Students will add a photo of their final project to the course gallery.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Caitlin Sheffer

Watercolor Artist & Designer



I'm Cate from Emerald Ivy Studios, and I'm just a little in love with flowers, watercolors, and Diet Dr. Pepper. I'm a mom by day, artist by night, and a proud Hallmark Channel movie enthusiast. This is my happy corner of the internet where I will share with you my latest tutorials, tips, and tricks. Follow along on Instagram (@EmeraldandIvyStudios) for glimpses into my process. 

Website: www.emeraldivystudios.com

Questions/Inquiries? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or by emailing: hello@emeraldivystudios.com

Based in Virginia, United States.

See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Class Introduction: Peonies are my favorite flower in the whole world. It's no surprise that they're also my favorite flower to paint. Hi, I'm Caitlin Sheffer, artist, designer, and Skillshare teacher. Today, we are going to learn how to paint peonies in 15 minutes or less, because sometimes it's just nice to have a bite-size class that you can fit into your busy schedule. 2. Class Overview + Project: In this course, we will go over three basic principles for painting our paintings. The first is color. In this section, we will do a quick color swatch activity in our sketchbooks or a scrap piece of paper to help us choose the perfect palette. I'll be providing some reference photos for you to look at. Second, our floral shapes. We will practice painting different shapes to help us paint the peonies from the side, the top and as a tight round bud. Third, and finally, we will cover greenery. We'll practice adding greenery by painting stems and a number of different types of leaves. You will need basic watercolor supplies such as paints, a brush, a sketchbook, or watercolor paper, as well as water. Our final class project, we'll combine everything we learn into a cohesive composition. Follow along with me as we paint the perfect peonies. This is a fast-paced course. If at any point the class feels overwhelming, feel free to pause and practice until you feel comfortable moving on. You can also slow down the playback speed using the controls below. Let's get started. 3. Color Swatch: Before we get started painting our coral charm peonies, we're going to do a quick color swatch exercise. You'll just need a scrap piece of paper, your paints, some water, and a brush. I'm providing a reference photo of a coral charm peony that you can look at to see the different shades and colors that are in this beautiful flower. I'm starting by getting my brush wet and dipping it into my quinacridone red, adding a little bit of water as I go so that I can see the transition from more opaque to transparent as I add more water. Now I'm testing out quinacridone pink, which is really similar, just a little more on the pink side. The more water you add, the more transparent your color will be. Next step is opera pink. This is a really vibrant, almost neon pink color. Once I get my brush clean, I'm going to go ahead and grab some cadmium orange. You can see in the center of the flower there's just a hint of orange right in the middle. Now I'm grabbing some lemon yellow deep. Because I want something in-between the orange and yellow, I'm going to mix my own. I'm mixing together the cadmium orange and the yellow to create my own in-between color. Now I'm going to test out my greens. This first green is sap green and one of my most used colors. Next, we have undersea green, which is my favorite green that comes straight out of the tube that I don't really have to mix other colors into to make it look more natural. It's just a really good straight out of the tube color. Now we have cascade green, which is a really nice bluish-green that granulates as it dries. Lastly, we have jaded genuine, which is my favorite, deep, bluish-green. I like to use this a lot when I'm painting my peony leaves. There we go. I've tested all the colors that I wanted to include in my painting so I can use this as a reference as I'm going along. 4. Shapes: Part One: Now that we've had a chance to explore our color palette, we're going to jump in the deep end, so to speak, and start tackling those tricky floral petal shapes. Peonies are really roughly, and I like to break them down into individual petals by creating C shapes like the one you see here. It's a gentle curve upwards in the shape of a C. You can do it the traditional way or you can flip it so that it's backwards. I like to go from side to side and then fill in the middle. I also like to start from the bottom and drag my brush upwards and fill in as I go. That creates a really nice organic petal shape. You can also start dragging from top to bottom, and you can see how they're just these really gentle C shapes. Do the edges and then fill in the centers as you go. For this next one, I'm going to add a little more paint so it's more pigmented, and I have a backwards C-shape, and I'm just creating a nice crescent. This would be ideal for the outside of the peony. Now that we've had a quick introduction into petal shapes and painting individual petals, I want you to look at this reference photo. It can be a little intimidating to see that many petals and we're going to really simplify it. I like to think of it as painting on a clock. Pick a number around the clock and start there and then work your way around the clock. I'm starting around 10 or 11, just creating a really gentle petal just like we did earlier, and then going to the right, going to the left, just creating these nice soft C-shaped petals. Start with the sides and then fill in the middle. You can add more paint as you go along. Because you're doing wet on wet, the colors will bleed really nicely into each other. As I reach the bottom, I'm creating a much bigger petal shape because it is in the foreground and you'll be able to see more of it. Now I'm going back to the top and creating the same petal shape with these nice C motions so that my whole circle is filled in. Now you can see how we've used the exact same method on every petal with just slight variations and it's turned into the most beautiful looking peony. As we go closer to the center, our petal shapes are going to get smaller and darker. We're just doing the same method, just smaller movements. As we get even closer to the center, use the tip of your brush to create very fine lines. I'm just going to spread out this paint just a little bit. It bled too much, I'm just spreading it around. But I want to show you a more up-close look at how I create the center lines. I just put barely any pressure on the tip of my brush to create these nice fine lines. Barely any pressure. If you push down with your brush, you'll get a thicker, more broad line just like this. But if you gently just barely touch the tip to the paper, you'll get a nice fine line, and that creates the illusion of the really, really tight petals towards the center of the flower. To finish it off, I'm going to add in some cadmium, orange, and yellow and just dab it in the center. You can see in the reference photo, there's just a hint of orange and yellow. I threw you in the deep end there. It's a little tricky. Just take your time, press "Pause" and practice this until you're ready to move on to part 2. 5. Shapes: Part Two: The last time I purchased peonies, I took a ton of photos, views from the side, from the bottom, from the top and all of the different variations in between. We've already tackled the most difficult perspective, which is the one we just completed in Part 1. Now we're going to simplify things a bit and just do a side view. I'm using these nice C shapes working my way outward towards the center, dragging my brush as I go along so I have a nice base layer. I'm getting more paint, so it's more pigmented. Doing these C shapes again, this time I'm only covering about half of the flower to create this nice 3D look. The darker petals in the front tell me there are in the foreground and the lighter petals in the back show me there are in the background. I like to leave the petals jagged so that it looks roughly. Now, I'm making a big C-shape, almost looks like a U. Going from top to bottom this time, just dragging my brush. This peony that I'm painting right now would be a more closed bud. It's not very open. You get the illusion that it's a peony just barely from the top where there's some ruffles showing, but it's really tight, it's not too open. Lastly, we're going to paint a really tight bud. Super easy. We're basically just painting a circle, but adding a few lines on the edges so that it's not a perfect circle. We want it to look organic and have a little bit of variation. To summarize, we're just making gentle C shapes just like this and then you can reverse the C-shapes so it's backwards. That is essentially the basic motion for painting peonies, top to bottom on the outsides, working my way towards the center. Once you've practiced this a few times, it becomes second nature. Now that we've got these really simple shapes under our belt, we're going to go back and practice the frontal side view that we did in Part 1. On the clock, picture your clock starting at 10:00 or 11:00, then working your way from side to side. I like to do a nice broad C stroke at the top, another one right next to it and that gives it a really beautiful curve. You can drag your paint as you go so that it doesn't dry too splotchy. I'm going back down to the bottom and creating my really large petals. These are the ones that are hanging down in the foreground. Nice big petals towards the bottom. Adding more paint as I go so that they're more vibrant. Then once I've filled in my clock or my circle, I start adding petals in the center and I get more and more fine lines as I get closer to the center. Just to review, the less you push on your brush, the finer your lines will be. So take a minute just to practice painting these fine lines in a nice circle just like I'm doing right now. It's a really good way to practice, getting those really nice sharp, fine lines. When you push down on your brush, you get this fatter, more broad line. Once you've mastered these principles, it becomes really easy to paint peonies. I used to be so intimidated by them, but now it's just second nature. Now I'm mixing up some orange and yellow to paint the center of my peony. Just a little hint of orange for my center. Then we are ready to move on to greenery. See, it's not that bad. If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's okay. Just pause and keep practicing. i think I'll add just a little bit more color. Needs a little pop towards the center. Just drag it around until you feel like it looks perfect. Good job. We're ready to move on. Let's hit greenery next. 6. Leaves + Greenery: Painting leaves and greenery is one of my very favorite things to paint. We're just going to dive right in. If you need a more advanced tutorial, check out my class on painting watercolor greenery. I'm mixing undersea green with a little bit of quinacridone pink. Adding pink or red makes it look more natural. I'm just going to create these nice simple stems by dragging my brush from bottom to top, creating a medium thickness. I'm using a round brush size 12. Just dragging from top to bottom, and then I'm going to just barely put any pressure and use the tip of my brush to create another stem, but this time it's going to be very thin, very skinny. Each one I do, I'm curving just a slightly different way. Now I'm pushing and putting a lot of pressure on my brush to create a very thick stem. This is a really good exercise in brush control. Just getting a little more undersea green, mixing in a little bit of pink before I start my next exercise, by dragging my brush upward creating a nice thin stem, and this time I'm going to add a little tiny leaf up towards the top. Just a little stem dragging from the center of the stem out, and adding these tiny little marks. These are those little leaves that you see on a stem. They're not the really big ones, they're just the little tiny ones. Now I'm going to add a bigger leaf, and I have a longer stem that branches off. Making a mark like we did with the petal shapes, dragging from the center outward, just creating these nice lines. Now peony leaves are usually grouped in sets of three or five. This leaf right now has three little leaf sections. I'm just going to dab in a tiny bit of a darker green towards the bottom. This creates more realistic shading. Dragging it and just dotting it in as I go along to give it some visual interests. Just barely touching my brush to create a fine line, and doing the same thing again, creating three distinct separations of my leaf, and then moving the paint around as it puddles, so that it doesn't get too splotchy. It helps to drag your brush just slightly along the edges so that it doesn't look too perfect. I'm mixing another green, and adding a little more pink, and I come down to this section of the paper, push down with my brush, and create a nice broad stroke. Using some Jadeite Genuine, get a nice rich dark green, fill in that space. Dragging my brush along the edge to create some ridges. Then creating this partition in a leaf and another one on the top. Coming over to the side of my paper, we're going to do it again with a nice fine line. Drop down the little curve. This leaf is from a different angle. Instead of it being head on, it's drooping to the side. We're just going to have the leaves drooping down, give it a nice change in perspective. Continue to spread the paint around so that it doesn't become too blotchy. I add a little bit here using the same method, pulling my brush from the center outward to create this nice feathered effect on the leaves. Adding a little bit more of the Jadeite Genuine to the third leaf, gives it the illusion that it's in the foreground. For our last example, we're going to work quickly. We're going to pull upward to create a nice stem, and create two branches off of the main stem. When I have these branches, I like to drop in some darker paint where the two stems meet, and then have one of those little tiny baby leaves shooting off from that section. There's usually like a little knob on the stem, where the branches meet. This gives it a nice effect. Then at the top of the stem, I'm creating some leaves that shoot downward, and this is where the peony will attach. I'm going to add one more, a little one right there. Come up and see if I can get one of these droopy leaves to help balance out the weight of this larger stem. Perfect. We are ready to get started on our final class project. Good job guys. You're doing awesome. 7. Project: Peonies in Under 15 Minutes: We've covered all of the instruction for this class and it's now time for our final project. Get your timers out. This is the portion of the class where we see if we can paint a beautiful composition in 15 minutes or less. I think I can do it, and I know you can too. I'm going to start with my greenery. I'm adding in three stems, one down the middle, one off to the right, and one off to the left. Once I get the thickness that I want, I'm going to go in and add a few small leaves, just like we practiced. Tiny little branch that hangs down and fans out just like so. Come over here to the right and do the same thing. This time I'll have it reaching upwards, and now I'll start to add the bigger leaves. The great thing about forcing yourself to work quickly is that it gives your work a really nice gestural fluid look and feel to it. When you give yourself a time limit and put yourself under a little bit of pressure, it prevents you from overworking a project. I'm just moving from piece to piece really quickly and letting the composition flow freely from my hands. I'm feeling really good about the greenery. I'm going to go in and add my pink flowers now. I've mixed up a really strong pink and I'm just adding a little bit of water so that it's a lighter shade of pink. Just like we've practiced, I'm going to use my little c-shape trick, work my way around the clock so to speak until I get the perfect peony shape. Using the tip of my brush to make those nice fine lines. Again, for the center flower, I'm going to do a really similar flower to the one I just did, but make it even bigger. Then finally I'm going to come over here and paint a more closed off peony. Not quite a bud, but it's not quite open either. You can see some ruffles towards the end. It's opening just a tiny bit, but definitely not as open as the other two flowers. We are just flying. The last thing is to add in more detail in the centers, the orange and yellow. Then we will be done and we are crushing it. We are definitely under the 15-minute mark. Now, if you take longer than 15 minutes, don't worry, keep practicing you'll get there. I'm so grateful I was able to paint this with you. Once you've finished, go ahead and take a picture of your project and go into the project section of the class and upload an image of your painting. You can then adjust the thumbnail, you can add a project title, and you can fill out a project description. Then hit "Publish" and I will be able to see your project and leave a comment. 8. Conclusion: Thank you so much for joining me today as we painted these beautiful coral term peonies. I hope that you find the confidence you need to paint these gorgeous flowers in 15 minutes or less. It doesn't have to be too complicated. Just in case you need a little reminder, you're amazing. You're an incredible artist and you've got this. Thanks and I'll see you next time.