Bluebell Wood in Watercolour

with Sue Williams



SAA watercolour brushes

  • Gold sizes 20, 10, 8, 6
  • Rigger


  • Saunders Waterford High White, 425gsm


  • Water pot
  • Palette
  • Pencil 2B
  • Kitchen towel
  • Drawing board and clips

SAA Watercolours

  • Lemon Yellow
  • Indian Yellow
  • Permanent Rose
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Intense Violet
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Cobalt Blue
  • French Ultramarine
  • Prussian Blue
  • Cerulean Blue

Watercolour can do some of the painting for you, if you allow the colours to run into each other or mix together at the edges. Timing is all important with watercolour and also knowing how much paint to mix into the water, that is how thick or thin the mixes of colour need to be, especially when painting wet into wet. It is just a case of experimenting and practice, and a fingers crossed approach.


You can use any of the blues mixed with Quinacridone Magenta, Rose or Violet. Cobalt Blue with Violet or Quinacridone Magenta gives good Bluebell colour.

You can use any yellow and blue mix, however Ultramarine can make some greens muddy. You won't be able to mix a dark green using Cerulean. Lemon and Prussian gives a bright spring green.
Indian and Prussian gives sunny greens. You can add Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Red or Violet to Greens. You can make a transparent Dark Green from Lemon, Prussian and Burnt Sienna.

1 Draw an indication of the main shapes with a 2B pencil. There is a danger with this sort of composition of ‘stage curtains’ with trees either side and nothing in the middle – so double check before you start painting.

2 Mix some washes of Raw Sienna, Raw Sienna with a little Rose added and a Cerulean wash with a little rose added. Also mix some thicker washes of bluebell colours, Cobalt with Violet and Cerulean with Violet. You will also need some Lemon ready for the distant field. It can help to pre-wet the paper before you start with a little clean water. Leave the paper to absorb some of it for a minute or two, so that it is damp but not shiny. It can help to stand to paint the sky and place your board and paper just off horizontal, about 15 degrees. Using a Size 20 brush, start to paint the sky, starting at the top of the paper with Cerulean and Rose mix, allow this to merge into the Raw Sienna wash and then the Raw Sienna and Rose mix as you reach the horizon. There is no need to try to paint around the trees. Paint the distant field Lemon and wash your brush. With a clean brush, start to paint the bluebells using vertical brush strokes. Cerulean and Violet will make a dull bluebell colour, suitable for the distance. Cobalt and Violet will give a good bluebell colour and Quinacridone Magenta and Cobalt will make a brighter sunlit colour. Bluebells can be quite pink in the sun. Prussian and Violet or Magenta will be quite dark, and is useful for bluebell shadows.
Try to paint uneven shapes of bluebell colours, letting them blend and merge. Keep painting vertically. You can add a few patches of green mixed from Lemon and Prussian blue while it's all damp, if you wish. If the paper is still damp you can add the distant trees. Use a small brush and not much water. Try a very small area first. The paint will need to be a sticky mix, almost neat paint. For the far distant trees had some Violet into the mix, as they come nearer you could try mixes of Raw Sienna and Cobalt and Lemon and Prussian Blue to blend on the paper to make varied greens. Leave to dry.

3 For the main tree mix some colours with more pigment in the mixes to make darker colours, it needs to be wet enough to flow but also have enough colour in the mix. You could try Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt or Ultramarine. I used Raw Sienna on the right merging into Burnt Sienna and Burnt Sienna and Cobalt on the left. The tree has lumps and bumps so you can push the paint around while it's wet to avoid a striped appearance. You can add some bluebell colour to the base, as Bluebells can reflect colour up into the trunk. Trees often have green in their trunks, so you could add some into the top. Try to leave a ragged base to the tree, so that bluebells can later be painted in front and overlapping the trunk. Some other useful colours are Raw Sienna and Violet, or Burnt Sienna and Cerulean.

4 The dark growth was painted using two brushes - sizes 10 and 8.The colours were made from Lemon, Prussian Blue and Violet, and Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. Each brush had a different colour, so the colours could blend into each other on the paper.

5 Indian Yellow is a sunny colour and mixes with Cobalt or Prussian to give sunshine greens. Try not to use too much blue in the mixes. Lemon, Prussian and a little Burnt Sienna will give a different yellow green. Keep the paint wet, little beads of wet paint that flow into each other. Again using two brushes allows you to drop different greens onto the paper to mix wet in wet.

6 Next add more bluebells. You can re-wet the paper, as long as you do it gently with a soft brush and don't press on the brush. The colour will lift if you scrub. Allowing a variety of different Violet blues to flow into each other will feel more natural. Try to mix different blues with Violet or Magenta, so that you have a variety of violets. Only a very few Bluebells need to be described. Prussian blue and Violet gives a dark bluebell shadow colour. It can be useful to have a dark shadow in the foreground, so that you feel that you are walking into the sunlight.

7 Paint the fence posts with Raw Sienna and Violet, changing colour and tone from top to bottom to give variety then add the other trees. You could try using Raw Sienna and Violet, adding Burnt Sienna and Green to the trunks. The dark growth is mixes of Lemon, Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna, again wet in wet and mixing on the paper. You can use a pencil to drag wet paint away from the trunk to become twigs and small branches. A Rigger Brush is also ideal for painting twigs.
The leaves at the top are usually lighter in colour and using the previous mixes more diluted you can paint them using smaller brushes. You can add a little splatter, if you are feeling brave!

8 More bluebells and their leaves can be added along with grasses if necessary. I added a pale Lemon and Prussian Blue shadow to the front of the field. It can be a good idea to stop before you are really finished and leave the painting for a week or two, before deciding whether you do need to do any more to it.

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