Haiku Art with Watercolours

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - Dragonflies Hover Above the Waterlilies Hungry are the Fish
Dragonflies Hover
Above the Waterlilies
Hungry are the Fish
by Jenny James

Who knew I could write poetry? There's a first for everything! My watercolour painting skills are constantly improving too, proving that with practice one can achieve anything.

This is my Haiku Art Page created for Pam inside her book as part of the Australian Art Journal Swap group (click here to check them out). Today's blog post is more of a journey through how my painting was created rather than the usual step-by-step but it still includes helpful information and useful tips.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - sketchbook image of starting out initial ideas
In the beginning... it always starts with scribbling out ideas on scrap paper then nutting them out in my journal.
To make sure my elements didn't end up like cartoon characters, I used photographs I found on the 'net of fish, waterlilies, dragonflies and underwater views for inspiration and technical details.

Writing a poem with the correct number of syllables was interesting. Once I worked out what I wanted to paint or create (dragonflies and waterlilies) and realised it didn't have to rhyme, it was much easier.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - sketching out the design
It was planned to be a pair of koi (mine look more like giant goldfish) swimming with the dragonflies flying overhead, with the viewpoint being from underwater.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - water soluble pencils to start with
Less is more... so I started with water and pencils as I'm always heavy  handed when I use paint. I coloured in areas then used a very wet watercolour brush (with soft bristles) to dissolve all the colour.
I then waited an eon for it to dry. Well, maybe 10 minutes...

Haiku Artwork by Jenny James showing the Winsor & Newton Paint Sticks
Still trying to be "less is more" but pencils weren't giving me enough coverage, so dug out my Winsor & Newton watercolour paint sticks... I've included this closeup to show the amount of paint used, hardly any compared to how I usually work. I love the texture of pencils and paint sticks on rough paper!

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - waiting for paint to dry
I painted more water onto the page (dissolving the paint sticks) and let it dry again... the second fish decided it didn't want to join us, so that's where the quote is going.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - more layers of paint in blues and greens
"Trust the Mess" ... that's what we're told to do so many times with abstract art and other types of creativity, but its harder to do than waiting for paint to dry! lol :) Took a couple of hours this time.
This photo is showing what happens when you give up on micro layers and just go for it. Thank goodness its meant to look like water hey? At this point, I felt happy with the clouds and tiny forest in the background but the rest is such a mess!

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - photo of my workspace
This is my favourite palette! This pic was after adding pink gouache to the petals, brown to the stems and shadows in the water.
Things we take photos of when waiting (again) for paint to dry...!

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - work in progress
I really love painting with watercolours... especially when its working! Above is showing that messy page after it dried completely (lovely!) and includes the details added - lily pads, flower and leaf stems, bit more blue in the water and reflections under the waterlilies, forest and lily pads.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - Dragonflies Hover Above the Waterlilies Hungry are the Fish
The flowers are painted using the magenta paint and brown for the shaping and shadows.
All that's left to do are all the bubbles, the fish's details and other bits and pieces.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - adding details to the fish
Here fishy fishy... meet my giant goldfish eyeing off the dragonflies above. The bubbles have white paint pen highlights and brown paint underneath to make them appear round.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - finished picture of dragonflies hovering over waterlilies
Sorry, no progress pics for the dragonflies.... they weren't behaving! Thank goodness they turned out ok... especially after they'd dried. When the wings were still wet, they looked really dark but dried with a satisfying transparent finish.

To make the dragonflies, I used a sharp black water-soluble pencil to draw an oval for the abdomen, long super skinny tube shape for the body and long triangular ovalish shapes for wings. Add a bit of green to the body then using a fine wet paint brush and blend out the colours trying to keep the black to the outer edges.
Add fine wobbly lines for the wing veins and antennae using a very fine paint brush (or pen) in black. Eyes are spots using white paint pen.
I used more pencils and watercolours (using a dry paintbrush)  to add depth and shadow to everything.

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - finished picture of the hand lettering under the waterlilies
The lettering for the quote is drawn freehand with pale blue pencil then I went over it (sort of) with black pencil. Then using the blue pencil again, I added extra words to make the dodgy bits look like they were meant to be there (of course they were).

Haiku poems need to have a certain amount of syllables in each line... 1st is 5 syllables, 2nd is 7, 3rd is 5. Thankfully it doesn't need to rhyme but it should make a bit of sense and relate directly to the artwork. Definitely a challenge, but one I enjoyed :) You should have a go too!

Then the 3 little fishes with their teeny tiny bubbles were drawn in too, just because. The writing is all a bit crooked, but then again, it is underwater! lol :)

Haiku Watercolour Painting by Jenny James - finished artwork of dragonflies hovering over waterlilies with koi fish
So this is my finished artwork for the theme, Haiku Art Page.

Thanks so much for visiting and reading my blog post. Hope my instructions help and it inspires you to have a go. The main thing to remember with watercolour painting, is to let the layers dry completely before adding more colour. Unless you're trying to create marbled blends then that's a whole other way to play!

Have a happy creative day!


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