Watercolor Flower Painting : How To Paint Loose Watercolor Peonies | Alifya P. Tarwala | Skillshare

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Watercolor Flower Painting : How To Paint Loose Watercolor Peonies

teacher avatar Alifya P. Tarwala, Artist | Acrylics, Watercolors | Painter

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.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Exercise 1 - Techniques


    • 4.

      Exercise 2 - Layering


    • 5.

      Warmup 1 - Leaves


    • 6.

      Warmup 2 - Sketch


    • 7.

      Prep Paper


    • 8.

      Sketch Phase


    • 9.

      Painting Process 1 - Flower


    • 10.

      Painting Process 2 - Flower


    • 11.

      Painting Process 3 - Flower


    • 12.

      Painting Process 4 - Vase & Leaves


    • 13.

      Painting Process 5 - Background


    • 14.

      Final Touches


    • 15.

      Class Project


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About This Class

In this class, I will be teaching you how to paint Loose Watercolor Peonies using a reference photo but adding your own touch to it. I will show you basic watercolor techniques and will walk you through the painting process of painting these flowers. This class is great for all levels.

A former art teacher and now an independent full-time artist, I am so excited to be teaching on Skillshare and I truly hope you find this corner of your space comforting, inspiring, and encouraging! Can't wait to connect with you all!



  • Prepping your paper and materials – I will show you how to prep your paper before painting and all the brushes and paints you will need for this project.
  • Warm up exercises – I will go through 4 exercises and cover basic techniques, layering, how to paint leaves and how to sketch using a reference photo.  
  • Painting process and details – We will go through how to paint a peony step by step.
  • Final Touches – This step will teach you how you can add last minute details to finish off your piece.


MATERIALS I USED (but use whatever you have available.)

1) Paints:

2) Brushes: #2 round, #10 round - https://amzn.to/3azl0pM

3) Arteza Watercolor Paper 140 lb - https://bit.ly/3egWHzt

4) Masking tape - https://amzn.to/2XAtPuI

5) Bowl for water

6) Paper towel / rag

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, I will make a commission, if you click through and make a purchase. I only recommend products that I genuinely use on a regular basis!



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Meet Your Teacher

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Alifya P. Tarwala

Artist | Acrylics, Watercolors | Painter


Hello, I'm Alifya Plumber Tarwala, a Fine Artist from sunny California and founder of 'Alifya Lifestyle' where I create and sell my Originals, Art Prints & various Merchandise (phone cases, mugs and much more!) I also have an Etsy Shop to fit YOUR home! A former art teacher and now an independent full-time artist. My classes here will be focused over Loose Landscapes and Florals in Acrylics and Watercolors. I am so excited to be teaching on Skillshare and I truly hope you find this corner of your space comforting, inspiring, and encouraging! Can't wait to connect with you all!

To keep up with snippets of my artist life, follow along on Instagram or join my private Facebook Group, where you can connect with a community of other art lover's! I als... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hey everyone. My name is Olivia, and I'm an artist here in San Jose, California. Welcome to my Painting class where I'm going to be teaching you how to paint beautiful, dreamy watercolor paintings using a reference photo. In this class, I will go through all the materials that you will need. I will walk you through basic techniques and layering. I will also show you some basic standard leaves and how you can get them with simple brushstrokes. We will also be going through the sketch phase in depth, and I will show you some warm-up exercises on how you can break down your shapes to simplify it when you're using your reference photo. Then we will jump directly into today's class project, and we will go through the painting process together to finish off these watercolor flowers. This class is perfect for all levels, so beginner and beyond are welcome to try this. I will be leaving a class project at the very end, so make sure to complete the entire class, and then hop on over to the class project section. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. 2. Materials: All right, so for the materials, this is everything that I used. You will need some sort of paper towel or a rag and a bowl. I only used two kinds of brushes for the entire painting. Mainly this one right here. Again, I'm going to list everything in the description if you want to check that out. I used tape. Again, this is an artist tape. Then for the paints, I'm using Arteza palette set. Looks like this. I'm also using Arteza paper. It's 9 by 12, but I like to cut mine. I cut mine into a six by eight and it looks like this. It works pretty well. I'm going to list everything in the description. 3. Exercise 1 - Techniques: So before we start, I just wanted to go over some basics with you. I'm not going to overwhelm you with a lot of techniques and brushwork, but I'm going to cover the techniques that we will use in today's class, so that you can get a more practical approach for this. The two most common watercolor techniques are wet on wet, and wet on dry. For the wet on wet, paint is applied to wet paper. You can layer different colors on top of existing wet paint, which will create this blurred out expansion effect, where you will notice the color is bleeding into one another. The second technique is wet on dry, where paint is applied onto dry paper. It is as simple as that. So let's look at the effects that these gave us. So now the wet on wet gives us soft edges. It's more blurred out. This is great when you want more delicate, softer paintings, great use for backgrounds or far-away objects. You can also blend easily while getting an effective gradient and also create some misty effect. It is also unpredictable and hence, not so much in your control. The very opposite of the wet on wet is the wet on dry, which gives us sharper edges. You can definitely have more control, where you can get well defined shapes. The wet on dry also allows you to lay your paint as much as you want. We will go through layering in the next step. 4. Exercise 2 - Layering: Here I'm going to show you how you can layer your paint in watercolors. I'm going to show you three different washes here, each one with a little more pigment to show you the effects of layering. If you want well defined shapes when it comes to layering, you will have to work on this but on dry. I'm drying out my paper with a blow dryer to speed up the process before I begin to layer on my shapes. Once your painting has dried, layer your shapes little by little getting darker each time. But also wait for your paint to dry in-between each layer that you add. As you can see, the lighter your initial wash is the easier it is to build up on layering. Keep that in mind when you are painting. With watercolors you always have to work light to dark, unlike acrylics where you can get away with working from dark to light. I think watercolors as a medium does require you to be more patient 5. Warmup 1 - Leaves: So before we begin, I wanted to do a quick exercise on painting leaves. I'm going to show you a very basic shape here on how we can practice painting leaves by using just simple brush strokes. So holding your brush straight up, use the fine tip to make a thin line and press down more by using the belly of the brush to create the body of the leaf. Gently lift up your brush as you near the end, creating a little pointy tip. You can add more definition to your leaves and drop more paint in certain areas of the leaves you want to create a more loose feel. Keep practicing the shape and brushstroke over and over, until it comes more natural to you. Now let me show you what the shape would look like if we were to paint it on a stem. So again, make a short, thin stroke to begin using the tip of the brush and then press down gently using the belly, to form the body of the leaf, and then lift off gently towards the end. Feel free to pull color more in certain areas. So either added steep or added space, that's totally up to you. Also remembering to leave some white lines and spaces every now and then to create more interest. Another way to create this basic shape is also starting at the tip fast. So basically the opposite direction of the ones I just showed you. So here I'm starting at the tip of the leaf, I'm pressing downwards by curving slightly towards the base of the leaf and the stem. I then close off the shape from the other side, leaving a little white line in the middle. Here I'm simply making a slightly different variation of the leaf, by using a more warm color and making my leaves more longer and crooked at the edges to create more of a dried leaf outcome. There are tons and tons of leaf variations out there that will probably be a separate class by itself, but for the purpose of today's project, I'm only showing you one simple and easy leaf that you can practice yourself to get better at. 6. Warmup 2 - Sketch: Okay, so we have a reference pic over here that I wanted to go over and show you how to get the drawing in, and how to break up shapes using a reference pic. For example, this entire shape would be one shape. Now if you want to break this up, I would box this whole thing into one shape. I don't know if you can see but this whole thing is one shape, this thing will be considered another shape, and then we have this as another shape. This would be one, that would be another and that would be one shape, and then you have this whole middle part that will be considered one shape. We've got 1, 2, 3 and 4. All right, so let me now show you what this means and how you can translate this into a sketch. Let's start with shape number 1, so that is the shape that we boxed off in the reference photo, that big little oval kind of shape. Then you've got our next shapes, the petals that are falling off to the side. Again, I'm looking at my reference pic and exactly what I boxed off, I am just directly copying that over to my sketch. Now this is where it gets really fun because now that you have your shape broken down and simplified, you can now fill in those boxes to add the details of the flower so I'm looking at the reference pic and just drawing all the little curves that I see. I'm hoping that you can see how boxing off and breaking down the shapes can help you. It can really help you in the sketch and painting phase because now you have a guide as to where your shapes will fall and you know exactly where to place your drawing since you've already made your boxes. Now of course, I'm not going to be drawing all of this when I paint. But I just wanted to show you and demonstrate this for you, for the people who struggle with understanding how to break down shapes. This method can be applied to any sketch or painting that you do. It can be super-useful and handy. It's always just a good idea to keep a sketchbook handy wherever you go, and keep sketching. Keep sketching things that you see whether it's live or if it's a picture, anything that you see. You can use this method of breaking down and blocking off your shapes first and then you just have to fill in the gaps once you've just blocked off the shapes, it just makes everything a lot more easier. Now that we have our basic sketch, I went ahead and filled it lightly with some paint. I am using pink here and filling in my darks and lights wherever I see it in my reference pic. I like doing this little warm-up exercises sometimes before I begin my painting, just to get a little feel and sense of the colors and shapes. But mainly this was just to show you how you can use a reference pic to break down your shapes when it comes to painting. Now, in the next lesson, we will begin our class project and we'll go through how to paint a painting in depth. 7. Prep Paper: The first step is to tape your entire paper down. I'm doing this so that it can stay in place, and also because I will be tinting the entire page with a soft color at the end. This way, it will just leave a nice clean border. 8. Sketch Phase: I decided to place my peonies in a glass mason jar looking vase. So I am lightly sketching out the jar here. I know this isn't in the reference pic, but I usually stray away from the reference pic anyway and add my own touches to it. Do not feel like you always have to copy your reference pic exactly, add your own personal touches to it if you please. Here, I'm mapping out where I want my stems of the flowers to be, looking at the reference pic I'm roughly mapping out my peonies as well. I'm not going to be adding in too many details, just enough for me to understand my shapes and separate them to make it easier to paint. Feel free to go back to the drawing, sketch abruption example that I showed you earlier to help you understand how this is broken down and simplified if you are confused a little bit. I'm starting here with the big oval shape that we see of the main flower, and then those side falling petals, and then the middle central ball shape to close it off. All the details that you see in the center ball, you don't really have to draw all those things, you can just paint that directly. I'll show you how to simplify that shape when it comes to painting. Also, remember to draw this as light as you can because it does get hard to erase at the end, but as long as it's light, it should be fine. A good tip is to hold your pencil from the back if you want it to be light so that you don't put too much pressure on your paper. 9. Painting Process 1 - Flower: All right, so I'm just getting ready to create my palettes for my flowers. The first color will be a very light wash, so I'm mixing some orange and pink here to create this peachy color. My second pallet is just a plain pink and lastly some pink, orange and red for my brighter sections. My very first layer is a very light wash of this peachy tone just to add as a base layer. Be intentional of leaving white spaces to separate your shapes to avoid making your entire shape looking like a blob. These white spaces are very essential to not only add interest, but also for us to be able to separate the little shapes. Also, sorry for this little section being out-of-focus. It is sometimes really hard to film and paint at the same time that I corrected it as soon as I noticed. This is where the drawing section beforehand comes useful because now that we've drawn out our basic outline, we are able to just drop in the first layer of paint into the little sections that we drew out. For the center ball section, I am very loosely adding in some strokes, but again, leaving white spaces in between. You can also see it in the reference pic on how that central section has tons of little light pink bits. I'm still using the peachy color, but with a bit more pigment this time, and adding that in few places that I see. We are working on this wet on wet. Watercolors is all about layering, whether you work on it wet on wet or wet on dry. It is simply layering color on top of one another to intensify the color and build dimension to our shapes. Looking at the reference pic, I can see that the middle section has all these little squiggly wavy lines. Using the tip of my brush, I'm just gently painting those shapes loosely. Don't get caught up on every single detail that you see just get the impression of the overall shapes and add enough to make it look like a painting. Even if things are painted loose, we are well informed enough to understand shapes, even if they are not realistic looking. I think that is the beauty of painting loose is that you leave room for interpretation and allow for viewers to add in their input and perspective into things which I believe makes painting even more exciting to look at. Notice how I'm leaving the edges of my petals lighter, because that is what I see in the reference pic. To lift off paint, you can do that by simply dabbing your brush on your paper towel and then lifting off the paint on the section, you want lighter. Now I'm going in with the pink and adding that to my flower to bring out some of the more pink tones that we see. Looking at the reference pic, I see a lot of the bright pink nearly to the base of each petal, so that is what I'm adding. Also be careful to not paint over all the peachy tones that we already painted. Make sure to always have some of your original layer's peaking through. This will add more depth to your painting and will also create different values. Here I'm just lifting off some of that paint to slightly soften up the edges. 10. Painting Process 2 - Flower: Well let's take a tiny break from the first flower and move on to the second one. I am going to be doing the exact same things and following the same steps that we did for the first peony. So working on it wet on dry, we are taking that light peachy color to add as our base layer. Looking at the reference pic and also making use of the sketch that I already laid out, I'm almost using this step as mapping out my flower shape, remembering to leave a lot of fight spaces to separate the shapes. So I'm just sort my brush around for the middle section because that is what I see as far as the drawing is concerned. Just using very light pressure, using the tip of my brush and also make sure to hold your brush from the back of the handle to make it a little bit more loose, so that you're not too tight, and also so that you don't put too much pressure onto your paper. Here I'm intensifying the color a little bit and going in with a mixture of red and pink, and just dotting my way through it. I'm adding a bit of pink this time to bring out the color a little bit more. Still working on this wet on wet, I'm able to get a softer and more blendable effect. So adding some more pink to certain areas that I see, and then lifting off the edges of any excess paint. Again, you can do that by just simply dabbing your brush on your paper towel and then going back and forth to the section you want to lift off. Again, lifting off can only work if your paint is wet enough. So once it's dry, obviously you cannot lift off paint anymore. So just be careful of that. I'm taking a pause from the two main flowers and getting the little bud in the back. Painting buds are probably the most easiest when it comes to any kind of flowers. They can really be painted in only a few strokes. So think of making the alphabet C with your brush and then closing off the C in the opposite direction, leaving some wide gaps in between. I'm adding a little pink to the base and since it's still painted but on wet, you can get this really nice little soft gradient from the pink to the peaches. Here I'm just lifting off some of that paint at its tip to lighten that up. 11. Painting Process 3 - Flower: Coming back to the front peonies, I wanted to get some of those deep colors that we see, so I'm using a purplish pink tone and adding a few bits of those in places. I'm going in with some red to give my flowers some last pop of color. Here I'm adding in some of those dark tones I see in the pic using some dark gray and pink, almost making like a very dark plum or purplish color. I'm only adding it to 3-4 places by simply dotting my paper and then lifting the edges to blend the color. 12. Painting Process 4 - Vase & Leaves: Let's move right right the vase section, and I'm using some indigo and a bit of gray. I'm starting with a thin outline and then a very light wash to fill up the bottom half of the glass jar. While the paint is wet, I want to get the stems in so that it does blow out a little bit like it would under water. I'm using olive green here to paint the stems. Moving right along with the leaves, I'm just randomly placing these leaves wherever I think they look good and suit the composition best. Using the same olive green, I'm creating some loose leaves here. Make sure to reference back to the leaves warm up exercises that we went over earlier to help you with this action. Here, I'm just overlapping and layering some leaves, and then also adding in some more color to intensify it. Building on some of that color to the glass jar, but I'm also careful of not making it too dark because it is a glass jar, so I still want to keep it light overall. I switched to a fine detailed brush just to get in some little details on the glass jar using some black. 13. Painting Process 5 - Background: Using a very light wash of indigo blue, I am giving my background a flat wash, just a tiny little tint so that when I pull off the tape, it leaves a nice border. This part is totally optional. You don't have to do it if you prefer the white, but I wanted my painting to be a bit more softer and delicate and sometimes adding a light wash to the background adds to them. I'm going in with a little brighter green this time to add some highlights to my leaves. Then we'll also add a light wash of that color to the background to make all the colors flow together. Just giving my background some few expressive little marks and details. I'm going to sign off this painting and take off the tape before we add in any last minute final details. I find taking off the tape so satisfying. That sound is just amazing. 14. Final Touches: It's always good to step back every now and then and look at your piece just to gain a fresh perspective. For my final details, I am adding a little stem to their little flower in the back. Then I'm just going to go and add some few pops of darks and lights to finish off this piece and maybe add just a few little leaves in the background as well. I wanted to get some few splashes of pink to my flowers to add to that loose effect. But huge disclaimer, do not do this if you've taken off your tape because there is a high possibility that it can splash onto the vibe border. I just took a risk here but managed somehow. But just make sure to do the step when your tape is on to prevent any accidents. In watercolors, paint does dry almost a shade or two lighter depending on what paints you use, so you may need to touch up at the end in case you need some colors to stand out more. Just something to keep in mind when you paint with this medium. I just wanted some of those pinks and oranges to slightly pop a little bit more, so I'm just going back into my paintings and adding those. We are all done. I really hope you-all enjoyed today's loose watercolor painting flowers and make sure to move on to the next section where I will talk a little bit more on the class projects and how you can participate. Looking forward to seeing your results. 15. Class Project: Thank you so much for watching, and I really hope that you guys learn some fun techniques in painting watercolor flowers today. For today's class project, I would love for you to try these watercolor paintings. Just take it step-by-step, layer by layer. I'm going to leave the reference picture in the description or also in the class projects. Feel free to use that, print that out if you would like, and use that if you would want. You can also use your own pic if you've got one. If you are a beginner, then definitely go through the warm-up exercises that we went through, so learning how to paint your leaves using the simple brushstrokes. Then of course, learning how to use your reference picture, then translating that into your sketch base by breaking down and simplifying your shapes. I would actually honestly recommend all levels to try this, the warm-ups, because they're just a volley good practice session before you begin. Once you're done, I would love to see what you guys came up with. Do not be afraid of posting and showing off your results no matter the outcome. It's about the painting process and learning as we go. I would love to see how you guys paint this, it really does make my day. Thank you so much for everyone who has been participating in the last few classes as well. I can not wait to see how you guys paint these flowers. Again, of course, if you guys have any questions, feel free to post them in the discussion tab, and I will be sure to help out. Once again, thank you all so much for watching and for completing your class. Well done, and I hope to see you next time. Bye.