Painting Kuching in Watercolour


Posted on: 06/08/2017

I have hardly ever painted roses for the lack of ready live models! I did not have any in my garden because they are difficult to grow here in the tropics, and anyway the rose varieties available for purchase here disappointedly do not have any scent and seems to lack vigour. Why spend money on an expensive plant that will die in this heat sooner or later?

But here at last is a sweetly scented rose grown by my sister in law! It was given to her and we don’t know the rose’s name but it is a very vigorous cultivar. It withstands the tropical heat with strong upright stems, but the leaves and the thorns, though large, are of sparse growth. The scented flowers are up to 3 inches across, three on a stem, of a bright almost neon orange coral shade but the colour is easily bleached by the strong tropical sun. The petals are thick, almost leathery, and the blooms can last up to 4 or 5 days, the bright orange slowly fading to pale coral and white. The first bloom on the stem is always larger with more petals. My sister in law grows it in partial shade, where it only gets direct sun in the morning hours. Can anyone out there identify this wonderful rose? 

Painted with Holbein’s watercolours on the last of my Winsor & Newton cold pressed 140lb papers 14″x 20″.  I used Holbein’s Vermilion, a wonderful red orange and Opera. But with even these two bright colours, I could only approximate the actual rose colour!


The finished – hopefully – picture. I added the fine details like the waterdrops and scratches, fine fibres using tiny amounts of sepia. Titanium white was used for tiny highlights and small corrections to get a clean edge.  So now I will keep this painting out of sight for a bit and come back to it later. Only then will I decide if it needs further work or not! If not, the painting is finished and I will stamp and sign it.

Ornamental Banana 14″ x 20″ Fabiano Artistico Extra White paper, Holbein watercolours

As you can see I couldn’t get very much done over the Raya holidays! I am still painting in the shadows and deepening colours here and there. It’s an intuitive process so I cannot explain it more exactly.

I took a break from all those blue glazes and started layering on the pinks.  I am using Holbein’s Opera and Permanent Mauve. The tips of the bracts are a light green so I layered on Gamboge Nova and then Phthalo Blue. The white fruits are shaped with a very diluted wash of the same green mixture.

Now you are being to see the subject of my painting- it’s a kind of ornamental banana!

First a pencil drawing 

Then the yellow layers go on. I use a big brush to lay on broad washes of yellow. I may spent a few days painting only yellow shades from light to deep. The flowers are a bright pink so are left unpainted.  No yellow there.

Then I add the red layers. The red may be cool or warm depending on how dark the shadow areas will be.

Then I add the blues. Which makes the yellows and red turn green and brown!

From here on I will be spending days adding layers of blue. Again the shades would be either cool or warm and I will be using Phthalo Blue, Peacock Blue, Cobalt Blue and Ultramarine Deep. Also the brushes I am using get progressively finer as I refine the details.

Recently I was given this paphiopedilum orchid. It grows and flowers well in the Kuching heat. No idea of its name though, probably a variety of a paphiopedilum chamberlianum, judging from the leaves and the three flowers which open in succession over a period of several weeks.

It was fun to paint the rose pink pouch and the black hairs on the petals! Holbein paints and Fabriano Classico paper 14″by 20″.

I had been working on this and I think I have made it too complicated. Now I think I should split it into 3 bird portraits – papa bird, upside down feeding mama bird and baby bird surveying the world!

Painted with Holbein paints on Fabiano Studio paper which is not, luckily enough, the best quality paper in my possession, now that I have to redo things differently!


A rank amateur self-taught watercolour artist

June 2018
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