This watercolor cacti + succulent painting project was inspired by the iridescent colors, interesting shapes, and varied textures of these beautiful plants!
We’ve had a slight obsession with cacti + succulent painting projects pretty much since Miss Katie’s succulent strewn modern industrial wedding last May. Her husband Nick is proud of his new hobby of propagating the plants from their wedding and every now & then she is able to “borrow” a few from his treasured collection to take to the studio for fab projects like this! We’ve also been doing some cool succulent and cactus inspired workshops with adults through our sister studio Modern Craft Collective!
Students in our 12-15 yr. old class worked on these beauties over the course of two 1.5 hour class periods! We were impressed with how much they enjoyed just mixing their colors, layering the paint, gently blending and dabbing as they went.
How We Did It
We started with a very soft, gentle outline in watercolor pencil (so that the lines could be blended with the watercolor paint, avoiding an “outlined” look). The goal was really to study the multitude of colors and textures found in each petal, and also notice highlights and shadows.
Students identified areas ahead of time to keep really light. There is a tendency with a watercolor project like this to just fill in an entire petal with one tone of paint, and pretty soon everything just looks flat and there is no opportunity to capture any real highlights. During the second class, it was definitely a challenge to keep them from painting over their highlights, but rather keep them light. We also had to really push them not to be shy with dropping some really deep colors down in the center of their succulents where the darkest shadows could be seen.
Everyone opted for a “wet on wet” approach to layering and blending their colors.
The last step was to really focus on the textures they observed. We encouraged them to layer their colors as they created the wart like bumps on the fleshy pads. Even with this, we reminded them of the importance of noticing what they see (not just a bunch of dark polkadots!), and that watercolor painting requires a building up of color, working from light to dark. They were able to achieve a 3D look by starting with a very wet light dot of paint, letting that dry a bit, then adding a darker shade. Lastly, when those layers had dried, they added little white highlights.