Painting succulents: hints from a master artist

Succulents are the perfect house plants: small and sweet, colorful, modern-looking and very, very hard to kill. Hallmark Master Artist Jeanne R. shows us how to make them even more long-lasting with some helpful tips on painting succulents.

Just looking at these plants while I paint them puts me in a good mood. And I love that painting succulents can be as complex (super realistic) or simple (super graphic) as you want.

The first step to painting succulents is to gather the right supplies. These are my go-to basics:

SUPPLIES

Pencil and eraser
Sketch pad or vellum
Paint (gouache or watercolor)
Small to medium paint brushes
Wet media paper of your choice
Paint palette (aluminum foil in a pinch)
Water bowl
Paper towels

GET SET UP

Both gouache and watercolor mediums are forgiving, have cool wet effects and rich colors. Wet media paper works for either type of paint; use a watercolor sketchbook or a single sheet. Select the paint that works for you and set out your supplies in a well-lit spot, preferably surrounded by succulents.

Pro tip: If you’re using a single loose sheet, try taping it down to a piece of cardboard to prevent buckling.

SKETCH SOME IDEAS

I like visual inspiration—like a photo or actual potted succulent plant—in front of me for painting. I typically start with a pencil drawing in a sketchbook or on vellum and explore a few ideas, then select a favorite for my painting.

Keep the shapes simple and have fun with the detail. Note the pattern in the leaves, the varied colors and the pot profile.

Once you’re finished, you can paint directly over the sketch if its on strong paper, or just use it for reference.

PREPARE YOUR PALETTE

Simple color palettes tend to look modern and dramatic and are a good fit for succulents.

Have I mentioned I love color? It makes me very happy. Pick colors based on what makes you happy. This example features fresh brights with a dark charcoal.

To get started, ready the brush and dab out a little palette on scrap paper.

PAINT THE POT AND PLANT

Referring to the sketch and palette, start by painting the pot’s basic shape. Then add a couple of simple strokes for stems or leaves.

Use a little imagination to add fun patterns and details over your simple shapes: try dots on stems and leaves, triangles, and thin black lines for accents.

Pro tips: Experiment with different brush sizes and shapes. Keep the tip of the brush moist, but not overly wet, for best results. Rinsing the bristles out between color shifts will keep the palette bright.

One pretty cute succulent: Done!

REPEAT AS DESIRED

One plant on its own is sweet. So painting a few more succulents must be even better, right?

Clearly, we have not grown bored with succulents. (More succulent inspiration here if you’re a fan, too.) What about you? Share your creations with us on Instagram @think.make.share or on our Facebook page.

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