Let’s Paint a Peony Flower!

Remember last month when we did a sketch of the peony shoots ? Well they’ve cooked long enough and are now ready to smell and paint! So let’s have fun painting one of the most beautiful flowers I know…

Here is my reference photo. It is part of a large bush in  my backyard and this particular flower is not fully formed. What more can describe the season of spring than a not fully formed flower?

Step 1: This will be a watercolor painting. In this step I did a rough sketch with a #2 pencil on hot press 140lb watercolor paper. I like the composition of the main flower and buds. Always consider composition. It doesn’t matter how wonderful you paint, because if your composition is not interesting or dead, your painting will reflect that.

Step 2: I wet the background and did a loose watercolor wash of blue. While the blue was still wet, I dropped in some purple using a mix of blue and crimson. Drop it wherever you like. Will my painting succeed if I place the purple in the lower left corner and not the right? No! Who cares where you place it…be loose and free. Place it where you feel the painting wants you to place it.

Step 3: While the background was still wet, I painted the leaves. I wanted some of them to melt into the background…that’s why I didn’t wait until the painting was dry. When some of the leaves melt away, it creates depth of field. That means some of your items look far away and some of your subject will look close up.

Hey, this isn’t a step! That’s me in my backyard painting my lovely peony! Oh how wonderful it did smell. I could smell them the entire time I painted! When painting en plein air, make sure you are comfortable and have everything you need at arms length. Ok…back to business…

Step 4: Close up – flower petals. I wanted to show you how I’m painting each flower petal. With the yellow and pink petal, I painted yellow on one side and pink on the other and with a clean wet brush just barely touched them together. With the all pink petal, I painted the lower section pink and with a clean wet brush, moved the pink around. Make sure to leave a little white line of dry paper in between each petal. Just like how you have to yell at your kids…”DON”T TOUCH YOUR SISTER!” That is how you have to treat your flower petals. Don’t let them touch each other. We will make it all come together later.

Step 5: Close up – leaves. Let’s concentrate on the leaves. What I did was paint a yellow/green base. I let that completely dry and then painted a blue-green top in sections. While wet, I took a sharp edge and made veins. If an edge looked too hard I just simply took a clean wet brush and moved that edge around. Nothing to it!

Step 6 Final: Here is the final painting. When everything was dry, I made darker defining lines around some of the petals, stems, and leaves. Don’t define everything though, remember we want some petals to fade into the background.

“Sweet Smell Peony”
original watercolor
image: 4.5×6.5
off white mat outside dimension: 8×10

I hope you enjoyed this step by step demonstration of how to paint a peony flower.


  1. Seriously?? you expect any sane person to shell out $30 for that? One of the worst peony water painting ever!

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