yellow coneflower

yellow coneflower watercolor painting


After struggling with last month’s painting, I longed for something simpler. I also wanted to remind myself of the basics of watercolor. After googling “endangered flowers,” I found the yellow coneflower in the article “10 endangered plants you can help save at home.” I found a nice reference photo and watched two videos, one from Shana Circe, the other from Deb Watson. I love wet-into-wet watercolor, but it’s difficult to do when I have to work at an easel. I’ll see what I can do. I also liked the way Watson left a white border around each object. Circe reminded me of the way one can add detail with a few blended strokes.

I am hoping to rediscover and communicate the beauty and joy of the medium.

Planned strategy: (we’ll see how helpful this step is…)

  • establish center with object trace.
  • yellow and blue wet on wet background with yellow and dark green details.
  • Yellow petals with scarlet wash details toward the center. Fade to center for scarlet points details.
  • Center of light and dark green and dark scarlet.


session 1 – I made thin pools of water in the background areas of lower part of the painting and put green and blue into them. I was pleased by the blending of the colors, even though it wasn’t truly wet into wet. I had to move the paint around with the brush more than horizontal dropping of color. Still, the paint was mixing itself. (Afterward I realized I’d forgotten to leave white areas and use yellow.) In between sessions, I worried that the petals would be too thin to leave white space around them. I thought about trying to regain some space by using a wet brush and removing paint. When I looked at the painting, I decided not to do anything. White edges will need to be narrow.

Session 2 – turned the paper upside down and used the same technique as before on what will be the upper areas of the painting. I did a little bit more painting of dark and light blues and greens, rather than dropping into wet. I tried to leave a little more white around the petal shapes to allow for edges. It will be interesting to compare.

Session 3 – I painted the flower petals. For the first petal, I flooded the area with water and then used yellow and orange for the darker tip. Then I dotted dark red close to the root where it comes from the flower center. I wasn’t happy with that so, for the next petal I used purple at the tip instead of orange. I like that better. I painted the rest of the petals using a combination of yellow, orange, and purple. In most, the red dots blended into the water.

Session 4 – I painted the flower center dotting in brown and red, with two small areas of green. I painted pointy spikes off the edge of the circle to indicate the spikes of the pistol. I also used water to remove some of the background green for the distant flowers shown in the photograph. I put darker green in the centers. On one flower, guided by the photo, I used a bit of yellow. I darkened a few areas of the background to push the flower or toward the foreground. This painting may be finished. I will look at it again in a few days and see if anything calls to me.

I decided it’s finished.

It bugs me that:

  • I didn’t leave space for half of the background flowers. The two in the upper right show up so much better than the two lower down.
  • I couldn’t make the pointy bits on the center of the flower be more pointy.
  • I am undecided about whether leaving the white margins around flower parts was a good idea.
  • This doesn’t match the reference photo, nor does it seem impressionistic.

I am happy about:

  • in general, I am pleased with this painting.
  • the process of painting the background.
  • The varieties of flower petals.
  • The texture of the flower center. (It made nice snippets!)


  • working with the modified wet into wet technique, I recaptured the joy of painting. I love to watch what happens without being in control. More of this!
  • I want to continue experimenting with the white border.
  • Watching videos was inspirational. It taught technique and put me in the right frame of mind.
  • Thinking through my strategy before painting was helpful.
  • I am grateful for flowers. Their beauty surprises and delights me. It also something I see in real life (not this exact flower, but flowers in general), unlike the animals I often paint.

Posted on

October 27, 2023


  1. Lee

    I love this painting! The depth and spikiness of the center really come through, and I love the flow of the background colors. I do like the way the white border makes the petals stand out—I’m curious to see your future experiments with this technique.
    Thank you for this beautiful reminder to appreciate flowers.

    • Kate

      thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you like the painting. I do too. Thanks for letting me know the white border is a good idea. I’m discovering that it exists some effort to remember to include it.


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