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How I Painted The Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

Finished Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

Another succulent. What can I say? They seem to capture my attention. There is a wonderful sense of order and symmetry, the colors are often vibrant and pleasing…

This is a post on all the steps that I took to paint the Queen Victoria Agave Succulent painting, with lots of in-progress photos and descriptions.

The Tracing

Almost all paintings this complex I make a tracing of digitally. I like this digital method as I can quickly resize artwork and print as many copies as necessary. This can take a couple days to produce depending upon complexity. From this “sketch” I can then trace the image onto the watercolor paper using the traditional methods of graphite paper or colouring in the back with a dark graphite pencil.

The Painting Process

Since the Aloe Polyphylla Succulent Watercolor Painting took longer than expected to paint, I decided to try a different technique of laying down washes. Rather than laying down a wet wash first and then dropping colors in to it – as Susan Harrison-Tustain teaches – I went for a straight wash approach. As you can see with the image below I varied the colors and intensity depending upon the leaf I was painting. This was just the first layer of paint, so I was trying to establish where the lights and darks would meet and blend together, forming the shapes of each leaf.

Abstract Queen Victora Agave Succulent Watercolor Painting by Kat Skinner
Abstract Queen Victora Agave Succulent Watercolor Painting by Kat Skinner

Unfortunately – or fortunately – at this point my husband saw the painting and fell in love with it. He requested one just like this. Considering I had only “just” started this painting, I decided I would give him this version as a present and start anew for the original concept painting. So this painting became dubbed “The Abstract Queen Victoria Succulent”.

Half Painted Queen Victoria Agave Succulent
Half Painted Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

By the time I took this photo I had already completed three layers of paint.

The first layer of paint was a simple graduation from clear water to an Ultramarine Blue;  just visible on the white veins of the leaves. I do wish I made some of these blue veins darker in areas. My reference photo showed them quite light, but darkening them up would have made the overall depths recess further.

The second layer of paint was just like that of The Abstract Queen Victoria Succulent painting that I gave to my husband, pictured above. These colors seem quite vibrant and yellow. It’s easier to dull down bright colors than it is to add that vibrancy, so I made sure that my under layers were more than enough. You’ll also notice that these yellow and green layers are painted painstakingly around the white veins of the leaves, with each leaf making about three washes and not a singular (and larger) wash. This was quite time-consuming.

On the third layer I began to add some depth and shaping to the leaves. It’s not all that clear in the leaves at this point, but I began to introduce some of the subtle dips and shapes that make up the shadows on each leaf. I also began to tone down the colors at this point as the overall painting was to be much bluer in hue.

Close Up of Queen Victoria Agave Succulent
Close Up of Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

By the fourth and fifth layers I had to paint an extra layer of Ultramarine Blue to add some more depth to the recess veins. Since my greens are primarily mixed from Ultramarine Blue this wasn’t a particular problem to just lay another wash over the top of earlier greens. I actually thought this gave such a unique effect at this point as the centre of the succulent appeared to be glowing – just like the bioluminescent plants in the movie Avatar.

Stage Four of Queen Victoria Agave Succulent
Stage Four of Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

I actually lost count of the several layers I had painted by this stage. I was no longer painting full covering washes, but laying paint down only in the areas needed. I just keep adding layer upon layer until I reached the final painting. Of course if you want to see the proper finished painting, check out The Queen Victoria Agave Succulent in my portfolio.

Finished Queen Victoria Agave Succulent
Finished Queen Victoria Agave Succulent

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