Hydrangea Flowerlet

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Yesterday I painted an entire bunch of hydrangea flowerlets that make up a hydrangea bloom. I approached that composition from the ‘Grape and Mango’ lesson in Yuko Nagayama’s book You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons. I substituted the flowerlets  for the grapes and proceeded from there.

An individual grape is more or less a sphere, so painting one should be a simple matter. However, the flowerlet is more complicated. Today, I singled out one of these beauties to paint.

Photograph: Hydrangea Flowerlet

Hydrangea Flowerlet

I was surprised to see that the colors of the photograph above were different (more saturated) than the real live flower. I painted today’s study from life instead of the photograph.


I began with a pencil sketch, but this time I used a harder pencil than usual. I mostly use an HB or a 2B pencil. Today I used one with an ‘F’ hardness. The only reason I mention this is the lightness of the sketch eliminated pencil marks from being part of the original composition. One of the major visual features of the flower petals is their veined appearance. Most of the veins were lighter than the surrounding petal.

I painted the lighter areas with lemon yellow. As a base layer, I could easily accommodate the green and reddish orange tones of the flower. I made sure to leave white paper in the areas of lighter veining.

I used two different reds: carmine and cadmium red. Carmine is darker than cadmium. I found it to be a good match for the muted, darker red shading of the petals. I used the cadmium red in combination with the carmine for the brighter areas. In the darker shadows, I added a bit of lamp black.

The rust-colored burnt umber was perfect for the petal edges and the lighter shadows.

I used mineral violet for the stems at the center of the flower that culminated in whitish ‘pom poms’. I did use a number 6B pencil to outline these white areas to make them stand out.

Watercolor: Hydrangea Flowerlet

Hydrangea Flowerlet
11″x14″ 90# Cold Pressed Watercolor Pad


The center of the flower, as painted, did not stand out as much as it did in real life (or in the reference photograph). I would find a way to increase the contrast, should I repeat this exercise.

I should mention the scale of this drawing. It is much bigger than life size.

Watercolor: Hydrangea Flowerlet with Hand to Show Scale

Hydrangea Flowerlet – Scale

It would be an interesting exercise to paint each hydrangea flowerlet on this scale, cut them out and assemble a huge hydrangea collage!

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