How to Paint Tulips in All Sorts of Ways

painting tulips step by step

Last week, my youngest sister mentioned to me it drives her crazy to have a tutorial where the step by step actions aren’t laid out. I can relate. When I take art classes, I like to go step by step with them. I learn by doing.

I created a tutorial on YouTube all about painting tulips, but I thought I would show you a step by step picture on how I often create these lovely flowers. I find painting tulips is an exercise in orderly creativity.

Tulips are rather elegant, especially for the spring. The season has such an exuberant, almost wild energy to it, full of a three-year old’s antics and giggles. But tulips, while quite welcoming and warm, are a bit more refined and conservative in their demeanor. There are a lot of shapes with tulips, the thick stalks, the bottoms of the bulbs that look like orange juice tumblers, the long elegant stems that seem to change color seamlessly as they weave closer to the head of the bulb.

Okay, here is a visual tutorial on how to paint a beautiful bouquet of tulips:

First, I sketch out a gentle outline of the bulbs and surrounding stems. I think about how I want the eye to move around the painting.

sketch of tulips

Next, I began to add in “blocks” of color. I lay down broad brush strokes of color to identify where the stems are going to be.

 

As you can see from the above picture, I start to add in the color for the bulbs. I don’t paint the petals entirely. Leave white to create the light, watercolor effect.

Then, add in more color. I “drop” color onto the bulbs. To do this, make sure the color has lots of water and dip it into the color that isn’t quite dry on the bulb. The watercolors will dance and merge together in unique ways.

Step 4 of painting tulips

A bit more color on the greenery. Be careful not to let the paint merge and blend into each other!

Note: When the colors merge in the bulbs of the flowers, it creates the special watercolor effect BUT I don’t want the color of the bulbs to merge into the green stalks (or vice versa).

If that happens, dab with a cloth or paper towel. It’s hard to be patient, at least for me, but do give the painting a few moments to dry before doing the detail work of finishing the greenery that is laying against the beautiful tulip bulb.

A few things to note when painting any bouquets:

  • There should be an odd number of flowers and/or stems. The odd number is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than an even number of flowers.
  • There are always a multitude of ways to paint flowers. Simply changing the color of the flowers but keeping the same composition would provide endless options for a variety of bouquets.
  • While sketching the tulips, or any flower group, think about how you want the eye to travel through the painting. It may not be evident to others, but if you plan out the direction the eye will travel, it will create a more satisfying composition.
  • If you’d like, you can sketch in a bit of detail with a micron pen and a gel pen. Wait until the paint dries or the poor micron pen will suffer! After I do that, I’ll add in more paint to create a more rich and layered effect with the art.
  • You can create a bit of more abstract look with the bouquets of tulips by using looser strokes with the micron pens or by overlaying different mediums over the watercolor. In this small piece, I use neocolor, watersoluble wax pastels. When you brush water over them, they get a watercolor look to them.

Pink Abstract-y Tulips

While painting tulips, it is best to have some fresh tulips in front of you. I’ll get some at the store, then take several pictures with my iPhone. That way, after the flowers have wilted, there is still the pictures to reference future work from.

When you have your tulips – or any other flower – note how the colors change on the petals of the tulip. Note the intensity of the green in the stalks, but how the stems themselves are usually a warm yellow green. These subtle notes will help create a muscle memory in your mind.

I’ve been including a lot of words on my art lately, adding on bible verses or quotes or things I need to remind myself of. Here is an example of what that looks like. Sometimes I will create lots and lots of paintings of the same thing, like tulips, and then cut them up and send them off in the mail to brighten someone’s day. I recall when others did this for me and it was such a lovely encouragement.

Showing how to add words to your art

Recently, a friend asked if I always look at pictures to paint. I still need to look at and study pictures and people and things in nature to keep learning and improving.

But with flowers, I’ve started to create a lot out of what I dream up in my head and heart. Along with the lovely homes that keep springing up on my art desk, what is in my heart comes out in my art with my imagination and past work for inspiration.

I suppose that happens with the things we love.

They become imprinted on our hearts.