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How I Painted The Aloe Polyphylla Succulent

Aloe Polyphylla Succulent Watercolor Painting by Kat Skinner

The third painting in my succulent series is of a Aloe Polyphylla. Similar to my first Succulent painting, this reference photo spoke to me; I adored the warm shadows and the geometric patterns. This is a post on all the steps that I took to make the Aloe Polyphylla Succulent painting, with lots of in-progress photos and descriptions.

I would also like to give credit to where credit is due. I found this awesome photo uploaded by Stephen Boisvert on Flickr. The photo is shared with a commercial copyright, though Stephen has requested attribution – I hope you like the painting I made from your photo! Thanks for sharing it.

The Tracing

Like most of my artworks, the first step is to make a solid drawing to paint from. I start with tracing the major components, adjusting the shapes if necessary in this step. I then move on to block in the next major shapes, such as cast shadows and important highlight areas. The final stage is to make sure any important details are also included in the final tracing, or sketch.

The Various Painting Stages

I usually start on the far left of a painting, allowing me to work towards the right, so that my hand doesn’t rest in wet paint.

I started by painting the details on the very tips of the plant leaves.

Details on Aloe Polypylla Succulent
Details on Aloe Polypylla Succulent

It’s quite an interesting to paint such small details; sitting so close to the paper all the time I notice these small details, but the majority of people won’t step close and search for them.

If you follow me on Instagram (@kat_skinner)  you will know that whilst painting I had a mishap with the Canson paper I was using; the paper constantly produced blooms. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the paper was student quality and not artist quality; that explains it. Not their fault, but mine.

First Stages of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla
First Stages of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla

I try hard to learn something new with every painting I make. It might be a new painting technique, using a new material or product or even something about the subject I am painting. In this painting I really wanted to practice a painting technique employed by Susan Harrison-Tustain. Her paintings are just absolutely gorgeous – a real inspiration. I wanted to make some of the soft effects that she has in her paintings.

One of the amazing aspects about Susan’s paintings is how they seem to glow. Inspired and drawn by this glow, I took most – if not all – of Susan’s DVD classes. She has an interesting technique of dropping in color – similar to painting wet-in-wet – and creating form through multiple thin layers. Susan even admits that some of her paintings can be up to 30 layers!

Second Stage of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla
Second Stage of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla

Susan’s technique was the approach I used for this painting. Unlike Susan I only have one yellow – where she uses a warm and cool yellow – so I would lay in various strengths of yellow paint as the underglaze. The blue you see in the above picture I put in advance to secure my highlights and not accidentally paint over them.

Third Stage of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla
Third Stage of Painting the Aloe Polyphylla

Layer upon layer of gorgeous greens were layered over the top of the yellows, gradually building up color. Depending upon the hue in the area of the reference picture I would adjust the paint to be more blue or more yellow as necessary.

The Final Painting

After a rather slow but pleasant process of layering paint onto of other layers to develop form and shape, I finished the painting. I was both happy and sad that I completed this project; happy that it produced something quite beautiful and sad that the fun for this project was now over.

You can see the completed Aloe Polypylla Succulent in my portfolio.

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