How to paint holly. ( Always useful at this time of year )

How to paint holly. ( Always useful at this time of year )

Today is bright and sunny in my Devon studio, the sun is shining , and it really raises my spirits to see the light. I am trying to walk everyday , get my heart beating and enjoy whatever the seasons have to offer. 

Christmas this year draws ever closer , and many of us aren't sure what is the best thing to do, and whether or not we will be able to join with family and friends as we usually do. I think we have all realised how much we took our everyday freedoms for granted, we miss them and I do hope we can cherish them more when this is all over.  I say when this is all over, as the news appears more hopeful , I know it will come too late for some, and to those people I can only send huge hugs and my heartfelt sympathy.

My 2 teenagers are certainly not appreciating a second lockdown. It is hard for them to learn to be independent, try new things, enjoy themselves in this strange world, but I do admire their efforts to keep me and other vulnerable people safe. 

The best way I know to unwind is to paint, even though I paint almost every day it still has a power to relax me, take me away from the moment and transport me into new worlds.


Today I thought I would share a little painting of holly , fun to do, perhaps to give as a gift or a homemade card .

Firstly find out some photos of holly, or better still pick some from the hedgerow or garden.



and draw your holly, only include the leaves you like, and where they are, remember you are in charge, paint what looks good, and do as much or as little as you like.



For this painting I will also need my spray bottle, this holly is going to be a loose interpretation.



Now look at the holly and see what colours you can see in the leaves. I start with lemon yellow, and make sure you leave some white of the paper for the highlights.


Next I add some cerulean blue.



And gradually build up the colours in the leaves. I add a touch or red to green to knock it back a bit, and make it look more natural. I think you all recognise paintings where the green looks unnatural, a touch of red really helps, but only a touch. Too much and you'll end up with a sludgy brown on your hands



You see how I am working from light to dark, classic watercolour technique, also adding wet in wet so it blends, but not too wet.



Then I sprayed it slightly with my spray bottle so the watercolour bleeds over the paper. ( you don't have to do this) but I like the way watercolour reacts and I just love those properties.

Have a go , let yourself go and go with the results. While that dries you can start working in the same way on the other leaves,



Then as they dry you can reinstate some colour and add to the darks by adding blues to your greens.



Now for the pop of colour that is the berries. I start with lemon yellow again, and make sure you leave the little highlight of white ( the paper) 

Then add an orangy red,




Then a darker red


build around the berries, adding some shadows too, the more depth of colour you add the more of a 3D effect you will achieve.



I added a bit more detail, and a final mist over the berries, I like the looseness of it all. But if you didn't spray it it would still work perfectly 

Have a go , it's a break from the 'real' world, for a few hours at least x





  • Hanna Powell

    Hi Rachel, thank you for sharing so many invaluable thoughts and hints. I also would like to say, that I find it so amazingly refreshing reading a well written blog compared to watching YouTube tutorials. I look forward to trying some of your ideas :)

  • Sheila Thomson

    Thankyou Rachel, I’ve just sat down, looking for inspiration to paint a Xmas card & seen your lovely painting. I look forward to following your instructions & thankyou once again x

  • Sara

    Thank you for sharing, it’s fascinating to see how you use your colours. I too escape into art and I might just add a sprig of holly to my planned picture of a brace of partridge. Not sure if it will work so it could be interesting!

  • Tanya

    Thank you, Rachel! If I manage to create such watercolor—it’ll be reply to your according tweet:)

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