Step By Step Holly Branch In Watercolor


How I Created My Holly Branch

I Begin In Graphite

I almost always begin my work in graphite. Only once in a while will I go straight to watercolor for beginning my watercolor piece.

For this Holly Branch, I had already completed a study page and drawing, as well as a botanical illustration in watercolor a couple years ago - so I went back to the study page, as well as my nature journal to avoid recreating something I had already done. So easy! :)

Here’s how I chose to tone my Holly Branch in my nature journal - I really love how this page turned out - and I liked the composition I did.


Retracing Again And Again

I used a piece of new tracing paper and retraced my image using a 2H graphite.


Then I flipped the tracing paper over and retraced again on the back side using a 5B graphite. This is kind of an old way of transferring your image, but it works really well if you don’t have room for a light table.


Once I had it completely retraced on the back side with the darker graphite, I then flipped it over and positioned carefully on my handmade paper, making sure to center it perfectly. I was careful to measure it as well, just to be sure it was right where it needed to be - Then, you guessed it, I retraced again, being careful to not press too hard. I didn’t want to indent my handmade paper, but I pressed hard enough to be sure the image transferred in every area.


Once my image was transferred to my handmade paper, using my Micron Black Ink #005, I retraced the image again. After I was sure to have traced over every part with my black pen, I let it dry for a bit, then erased any graphite that was visible.

Water Makes Graphite Permanent

You may choose to not retrace with a waterproof pen, in which case you will want to use a putty eraser to remove graphite to where you can barely see it, so that it will not show through your watercolor. Once water comes into contact with graphite, the graphite it permanent and cannot be erased.


A Fact About The Holly Branch

Here is part of my original study page I did while creating my first botanical illustration of the Holly Branch. It was such a great study! One of the amazing things I learned about the Holly branch is that the berries grow in clusters in a spiral manner around the branch. This was such a cool discovery.


Watercolor Work

I began with the first layer of watercolor, being careful to keep the lightest colors I could see in my study.


Working around the piece, I began darkening carefully in areas that had dried. You really have to be carefully when working with watercolor. As you practice using it, you will discover when you can apply more color effectively into a wet area, and when you can no longer apply color without actually lifting up your existing color. This take time and patience to learn.


Also, when I laid down my first light layer of paint, I was careful to leave the area of highlight untouched and carefully work around it with each layer following.


You Must Let It Dry Completely!

While allowing it to dry between layers, I continued to work around the painting not allowing any wet areas to come in contact with each other. For instance, if I tried to apply watercolor to a leave that was near a berry that was still wet, I would have green watercolor running into my berry and red running into my leaf.

If you are patient to allow each area to dry completely, you will not have a problem with this. This also takes patience as it can take a while for a wet area to dry, but discipline yourself to work in another location and it will go well for you. :)


All done!


Whitening The Background

Once I completed my piece, I photographed it and then pulled the image into Picmonkey to whiten the background for a display image in my shop. I also took a couple photos of it on my desk with the paints I used, and some beautiful Scripture from God’s Word. This is a process I love doing!

At some point, I will write a blog post on how I whiten the background of my images in Picmonkey, and hopefully that will be useful information for you as well.

Here it is!

I really love how this piece turned out! You can click on the image above to find it in my shop :) It is offered in this Original, and Lovely Greeting Cards, Set of 4 or individually.

Sunday is the beginning of Advent. Our family will gather together after church for lunch and the lighting of our first Advent Candle. We will be reading from our favorite book, “The Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader”. I hope you have a blessed Advent Sunday also, as we await with focused hearts for the return of our Sweet Lord Jesus!

The end of something is better than its beginning.
Patience is better than pride.
— Ecclesiastes 7:8