Watercolour gives you the limitless potential for different textures in your painting, because of all the paper options and the different granulating paints you can buy. But have you ever tried adding other materials to your watercolour to enhance the texture of a painting?

Sahar Imran is great at doing this and her Live Demo will show you how to make an amazing poppy field! Let’s follow her process and see how it’s done.

Step 1: The Sky

Let’s start by wetting the top of the page to make a soft sky. Don’t put the horizon line perfectly in the centre of the page, because if the picture is too symmetrical that will be bad for the composition. You want a bit of asymmetry.

Once the page is wet, take some blue and softly add it in, leaving plenty of white space so that there are fluffy clouds. Then, add some small touches of yellow ochre to show the light reflecting warmly off of the clouds. Don’t overdo the yellow ochre, because you don’t want the colours to mix on the page.

Step 2: Salt Texture

For best results here, use large, chunky grains of sea salt. I had a salt grinder at my house, so I ground some salt onto the page and let the varying sizes of grains make a varied texture. The wetter the paint is when you do this the better. Now, wait for the paint to dry and let the salt do its textural magic.

Step 3: Grass

For this step, you’ll want to work a bit quickly to keep the horizon soft. Blurred lines further back are a good way to create atmospheric perspective, especially in a soft and hazy painting style like this. Make the green a bit lighter at the back, and darker and richer going towards the front.

Step 4: Plastic Wrap

I had not seen this technique until Sahar’s demo! With the green paint still wet, lay some crinkly plastic wrap over the top of it. Leave it untouched until the paint is dry.

Step 5: Remove the Plastic and Salt

When all the paint has dried, remove the salt and the plastic wrap. The salt might be a bit stuck, so be careful not to wreck the paper when removing it. When the salt is gone, you’ll notice mottled patterns. Most interestingly, with the plastic wrap gone you will have abstract geometric forms in a subtle pattern!

Step 6: Clouds

Don’t overdo this step, because you don’t want to drown out the texture you made earlier, but take some soft blue and add some thin clouds. Once these are in place you’ll notice more dimension in the sky.

Step 7: Poppies

For this step, you will want to remember the principles of atmospheric perspective. Just like we made the horizon line lighter and more blurred than the foreground, we will use a bit less paint and make smaller marks with the poppies in the distance.

Use pure red paint, and make irregular marks. If the marks are too neat of a pattern, you will lose the carefree feeling of the painting, and make the composition less dynamic.

As the poppies get closer, Sahar draws them in a detailed way, with individually defined petals and stems. It looked wonderful when she did it, but I felt that if I did the same thing, my painting might look a little disjointed if there was a cutoff point between abstract and defined flowers.

So, I decided to keep the flowers imprecise the whole way through, only increasing in size. I did add some stems using cool green, which I think turned out rather nice. To make the picture consistent, you can add little speckles of the cool green further back, to indicate that the flowers in the back have stems too.

This project is worth doing more than once in different ways to see how different paper and paint react to salt and plastic wrap! Maybe experiment with some large grains of salt and some small grains, and try putting salt on different blue paints to see if some spread out more when salted.

Try putting plastic wrap on some granulating colours to see what happens. Would the plastic wrap texture work well for the side of a building? There are endless possibilities!

To explore the possibilities further, check out Sahar Imran’s 90-minute class! And if you’d like to see more lessons like this one, then subscribe to our email newsletter. I hope you have a great time painting!

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.

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