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Updated: Feb 19, 2020

I have been wanting to paint a pretty pink Peony for a couple of years. I see them everywhere in the watercolor painting circles, so I know they can be mastered. However, each time I looked down on a peony with all those petals, I would lose heart and go on to another subject.

But last week I became determined. So in a time when I should be painting pumpkins, I began a no fear attitude and "dove in". FIRST of all, just to settle my questions, they are pronounced pee·uh·nee. This is the American pronunciation. According to the American Peony Society, there are over 6500 cultivars. Within all this variety, there are three common types of peonies: tree peonies, herbaceous peonies and Itoh peonies. The peony above is a tree peony.

There are two ways that I use to approach a watercolor painting. 1. Using brush strokes and specific gestures while holding the brush, each petal is stroked with differing tones of pigment to form the flower. 2. First by drawing out the subject to any degree of accuracy that pleases me, and then painting the subject using the graphic guide lines I've created.

I chose the second method. Now I had to consider how to DRAW a peony. Still it was mind boggling to get the petals placed with some accuracy. So, I chose (after many many false starts) the contour method of drawing. Starting at the center of the peony and working out. This requires a lot of erasing and patience, believe me. It took probably 3 days of hard work to acquire this drawing to my satisfaction.

I felt I had mastered the petals and the shape of the peony, and it probably took a day to bring this graphite drawing to my complete satisfaction. Next, since I was here anyway, I decided to add all the elements surrounding the central flower so that this would be a complete design with balance and composition. Eventually the twigs and berries were erased and more leaves were added. All in all the graphite drawing was probably a two day project.

Next comes the pen and ink drawing, though. For me, the best way to bring the design to watercolor paper (Arches 130) is to create a second image in pen and ink. This is done onto thick archival paper (Canson 140). The finished design can then be scanned, printed, or used in layout for cards, invitations, and other designs.

Once I had this pen and ink lightly traced onto Arches watercolor paper using a light table, I was ready to start painting. All of my original paintings are scanned into my computer, so the size needs to be kept to the same size as my scanner. With that in mind the painting was completed within a day, then scanned into my computer to be edited in Photoshop. As you can see, I left out the daisy, and shortened one of the green springs, but the rest of the completed painting was left as it was originally painted.

Then the scan was brought into Adobe Illustrator where the text was added. And just so you know, the layout for me can also be very time consuming. Getting the words placed "just so", so that the viewer's eye will flow down the page in a way to find the finished painting pleasing takes time.

This painting for me took a week to complete. Sigh. I am so satisfied with it, though. I am. And I hope you like it too. :)

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