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How to paint a still life from an abstract watercolor background

watercolor and mixed media on canvas

English Garden

Watercolor and mixed media on canvas

12 x 12 inches

CAD 150

Original is sold, prints available here

Original is sold, prints available here

When you want to paint from imagination, starting with an abstract background gives you a good starting point to try to see shapes. There are many ways to start an abstract background, here it is with watercolor on canvas.

Here are the steps you can take to paint a mixed media still life from imagination


Start by mixing watercolors wet in wet on the canvas using a dropper.


If you want to, you can spray alcohol to help with the formation of abstract patterns.


Let the canvas dry. As this are watercolor and they could be very easily lifted up form the canvas,, you will need to spray the painting with fixative once it is dry before the next steps.


If you want more complexity, you can paint additional layers, here a layer of turquoise blue acrylic.


Now this is where the real fun starts. On the same idea as the  Rohrbach test, try to guess shapes in the design. Here I see little flowers.


Outline the main contours of the shapes you see.



Block those shapes by painting all the negative space with white acrylic.



You can introduce more colors as you go, like here on the vase.


You can draw on top of shapes to add definition.



and add designs with markers, here I used Sakura pigma micron markers.




A white oil marker will work well on a darker background.


The finish painting: English Garden

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Andrea June 24, 2014, 9:47 am

    Hi Sandrine,
    Love your art work! I’m wondering, I use watercolor but haven’t tried it on plain canvas.
    Do you do anything to fix it before painting on it and when finished, how do you preserve it?


  • CheyAnne Sexton June 16, 2014, 4:57 am

    The layers and the colors with all that white just looks like so much fun. I wish I had all these supplies to give this a try. I can see where you find the fun in finding the designs. So beautiful
    peace n abundance,

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