Botanical Oil Pastel and Watercolor Paintings

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Students began this lesson by creating a series of individual pencil drawings of leaves, flowers and other plant life. Using a light table, we then created a large composition on watercolor paper by tracing our individual flowers into a believable garden scene. Students were required to create at least three examples of overlapping and to touch all fours sides of their paper with their arrangement. Students were allowed to trace the same flower more than once, but were encouraged to flip it or change the position to make it look different. We outlined our large composition with oil pastels, using naturalistic colors and analogous color blending techniques. The vibrant painting inside the flower and leaf forms was done with watercolors. Students were taught wet-into-wet blending techniques which require pre-wetting the paper in order to allow the pigments to flow and blend in soft focus.

Here is a student working on one of her preliminary drawings. We use flower and bulb catalogs as reference:

working 2


Here is a student using a light table to trace their larger composition on to watercolor paper. Notice the repetition of a single flower. (Free-hand it once, trace it as many times as you need!)

Note: Windows work just as well if your classroom doesn’t have light tables. Going over the preliminary drawings with Sharpie help make tracing easier.

Tip: Start tracing at the BOTTOM and work your way up to help create  believable  and naturalistic overlapping. working 1

Here’s how this student’s painting looked when complete. Notice how the color choices also helped to disguise the fact that she used the same flowers repeatedly in her composition!



Students were encouraged to try some overlapping and blending of analogous colors when they did their oil pastel work over their pencil tracing. This student has done it nicely on his tulips. It is important to lay the pastel down with neat, thick lines for maximum “resist effect”.IMG_3425


This painting technique I call a “two color fade”:

1.) Pre-wet the area, (in this case, one petal at a time.)

2.) Add two analogous colors of paint at OPPOSITE ends of the section. (In this case, red and red-violet.)

3.) Rinse/pat dry your brush and quickly blend the middle area while everything is still wet.



This technique is called “wet-into-wet blending”:

1.) Pre-wet a section, (in this case, one petal.)

2.) Add large splotches of 2-3 analogous colors randomly, across the section.

3.) Rinse/pat dry your brush and gently blend. Don’t over-blend, which will result in the whole section becoming one color. Rather, allow a “tie-dye” effect to occur by just bringing together the edges of the color splotches to allow some mixing.



Backgrounds were painted last. Students could use the “wet-into-wet” blending technique and any two analogous colors that would contrast their dominant flower colors, painting each section one at a time. Optional Bonus: sprinkle salt in each section after blending, but before it is dry, to create a crystallized texture!

In progress and finished examples:



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Garrett Bryan
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 02:52:13

    You have some amazing talent your surrounded with. Kudos to you.


  2. Kelly Shempert
    Nov 23, 2019 @ 00:37:58

    I have just purchased a painting by Lisa Amsler as an investment. Could you tell me what the value would be? “Two girls and a dog”


  3. Gretta Benson
    Sep 25, 2021 @ 02:49:43

    You don’t mention what kind of paper your students used. Was it watercolor paper? Thanks.


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