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

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

The weather here has been unseasonably mild, with a cotton wool like blanket of cloud over everything. We seem to find ourselves with a national feeling of deja vu , covid, omicron, social distancing, masks are all words whirling around our heads. What should we do, how can we keep ourselves and those in our communities safe? 

I think keeping people safe is another way of saying let's be kind. I think we should do things that keep us mentally and physically well. A coffee with a friend on a bench this morning, it kept us both safe, and did us both the world of good. 

I hope you , wherever you are,  are doing ok.

Nature is another way I keep my body and soul together. A good walk under the cotton wool sky yesterday was another tonic.

As I post off the last few Christmas orders and think about wrapping  a few more presents , it's nice to say thankyou to the post office workers who must be exhausted at this time of year.

Then to think back to a bright cold day last December when the sun was shining  I try to walk everyday , get my heart beating and enjoy whatever the seasons have to offer. 


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




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Thank you Rachel for sharing, during the year, all your news, wonderful and inspirational photos and of course your “how to paint …….” section. Wishing you and your family a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and healthy New Year. Stay safe. judith

judith lawrence

Thank you for your generosity in sharing your techniques. Merry Christmas!

Margaret Sutton

Hi Rachel
I just want to thank you so much for your inspirational blogs to keep us all painting and seeing things afresh….It is always a delight on a Thursday to read and see a new technique or subject.
Hope you have a peaceful,happy and healthy Christmas
Kind regards Anne

Anne Gooch

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 :)

Hanna Powell

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

Sheila Thomson

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