Succulent Story

“Succulent” has been one of my favorite paintings to date, and many others agree. It won an honorable mention and sold after a month-long exhibit. The colors are what make this painting so special. To be more specific, the use of colors and flow of the watercolor paints makes it special.


My grandfather loved flowers. While in search of some to plant in his yard, my eyes were drawn to this succulent. The light was beaming in, displaying the vibrant gradients of the plant and leaving beautiful patterns in the shadows below. Its beauty captivated me and urged me to share.

I initially intended to include the edge of the planter and the decorative shadows around. I was torn in the decision to focus on the succulent itself. The battle waged for a day. The additional patterns and colors provided much more to see and experience while maintaining a balance in the composition. Yet there was so much beauty in the simplicity of the organic patterns the plant created, the cool colors it displayed. In the end, I decided to let the succulent shine.

Creating the Painting

Make no mistake, this painting took time. Most of the paper took on 3 to 6 layers of color, carefully and strategically used to build gradients and dimension.

Getting Started

After prepping my paper and sketching my image, I did a minimal amount of masking. This is mostly seen on the little spikes of the leaves. Outside of those tiny strokes, I aimed to leave the white of the paper without assistance of masking fluid.

I worked in sections and built up layers using 7 colors. By alternating sections (leaves) as I painted, I was able to use whatever amount of water necessary for that section without much risk of bleeding into another area. For instance, any areas of lighter colors required more water. I soaked the section I was working on and dropped in color. Much of the painting used this method for the base layers and lighter colors. Darker sections required less water and more paint.

Colors used:

  • Lemon Yellow Hue
  • Quinacridone Rose
  • Viridiain
  • Cerulean Blue Phthalo
  • Phthalo Blue
  • Violet
  • Ivory Black

The yellow was sparsely used. The center has a few highlights of the yellow, as well as the brightest greens.

Going Dark

As much as possible, I darkened the shadows with the darker colors and only added a little black in a few areas. Even where black was added, there was enough color to soften the black and create a more natural shadow. If you were to look closely, especially at the original, you can see in many of the shadows purple, blue, and even some green or rose.

Blending Colors

A common practice is to mix colors prior to applying them to the canvas (or paper). I learned early on that I prefer to blend paints on the surface, as I work. In the case of watercolors, it is more a practice of layering colors. To me, this method brings life to the painting.

When we look at something in natural light, if we pay attention, purple is not always straight purple. Depending on how the light is reflecting off of a surface, as we look closely, we may see some burgundy, crimson and navy within the area that, at a glance, appears purple. Highlights may include yellow and white, possibly a little blue or green tint, depending on the situation. By layering colors, or blending on the canvas for oils and acrylics, original colors are maintained while also creating new colors.

The Digital Color Palette

I have recently begun to look at artwork in a slightly new way. It is a part of my process to consider color, tone and value in creating artwork, though, admittedly, it is much tougher to create the darker values in watercolor while maintaining the look and feel of the media. I began to consider how the colors translate in the design world. So, if this color palette inspires you, feel free to incorporate it into any of your design work.

Hex #0c1832
Hex #362a6a
Hex #4150b7
Hex #488c73
Hex #65aed9
Hex #d7b3e1

succulent watercolor