I'm halfway through painting 30 watercolor paintings of lotus flower studies in 30 days. I went through my list of lotus flower colors and decided it was time to paint a white lotus flower. Painting a white flower in watercolor traditionally means you use the white of the paper as the white color and do "negative painting" or paint around the white. Doing this against a white background adds another element to the puzzle. So, I decided to wait to paint a white lotus until I had a game plan.
I decided the best approach for the painting is the negative painting approach. For the colors, I used Winsor Newton Cobalt Violet mixed with a little Winsor Newton Permanent Rose and Daniel Smith Amethyst Genuine. Warmer colors are in the lighter areas of the shadows, and cooler colors are in the darker areas of the shadows. The darker areas of the white areas are a paler wash of cool violet leaving the paper as the warmer white. I always paint the stem last. The next time I paint a white flower, I will paint the stem first. The stem dictates the darkest value in the white flower. Painting it first allows the stem to act as a guide for painting the flower.
What made it tough for me to learn negative painting was the fact that I'm enamored with what's going on in the bright part of my paintings. The colors are super saturated, you can see all of the details, and the texture just pops. The shadows are subtle, often overlooked, and it takes a trained eye to see the nuance of colors.
However seductive the bright colors of the lighter areas are, it's the darker shadowy areas that are needed to balance them. Otherwise, they would be like a cookie that we waited for days or weeks or months to eat and are then allowed to eat as much as we want. It's great at first, but after a while, the tummy ache will set in if we don't stop. The shadows keep the proverbial "tummy aches" away by giving our eye somewhere to rest.