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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Exotic Blooms

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Orchids are one of my favorite subjects and this painting is on a full sheet watercolor size 22 x 30. The annual Orchid Showcase at Denver Botanic Gardens opens January 12, 2024 and I will be there with my sketchbook, paints and camera. These orchids were in my studio and I was able to study them from different angles and do a number of drawings before I decided on this composition. With the two orchids in the center of the watercolor paper I connected them to the borders with stems, leaves, and one more petal on the left border. Then I covered that petal with a light blue wash so that it did not compete with the two main flowers.


Soft edges give the impression of thickness and, along with light values of cobalt violet, cerulean blue and yellow ochre, I painted the orchid petals. Yellow is the compliment of violet and the little shots of lemon yellow cause a subtle vibration next to the stripes of cobalt violet. The rich openings in the centers of the orchids are a combination of mineral violet, cobalt violet, and cerulean blue. The stems and leaves are also made to look thick with lots of soft edges. The yellow green leaves at the top were painted with lemon yellow and olive green and the ones at the bottom are a combination of olive green and French ultramarine blue. The other leaves in the lower right corner were painted with cobalt blue and yellow ochre.


The dark background was an interesting challenge and first I painted it with indigo but then decided it was boring. To solve this, I painted layers of cerulean blue on top of the dark indigo so that it looked like the indigo was glowing through the cerulean. Putting a light color over a dark color usually doesn't work in watercolor but painting the cerulean blue in several layers finally gave just the impression that I wanted. This eliminated any chance of transparency which is one of the hallmarks of watercolor painting. This was a calculated decision but I think it works well with all the transparency in the orchids. If you are a member of my Watercolor Salon you might consider the Denver Botanic Gardens Orchid Show to find a subject for the next assignment which is to do a large flower painting inspired by the paintings of Joseph Raffael. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton



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