She makes good use of atmospheric perspective, making the backgrounds of her pictures blurred while the subject is in focus. Her composition and lighting approach reminds me of macro photography more than it does painting. Let’s dive in and see if we can recreate her masterpiece!
Step 1: Sketching and Masking Fluid
To begin, we will sketch the dandelion puff. I followed YuYin’s composition advice and placed it off-centre in the picture plane. Then, I added the masking fluid.
YuYin uses masking fluid from a jar and applies it with a brush that she dips in soap first to protect the bristles. I have a marker full of blue masking fluid that works pretty well, so I used that. The only downside to my marker is that I couldn’t get the ends of the seeds as precise and feathery as YuYin got hers.
If you need a few tips on how to use masking fluid, we've got you covered!
Step 2: Mixing the Colors
YuYin uses a specific watercolour set for this project that I have never seen before, and the colours in the set were kind of obscure and specific. I mixed my own colours to have ready before I got the paper wet, and I couldn’t get them to precisely match, but it was about as close as I was going to get.
If you’re in the same situation as me, where you have to mix these specific colours from scratch, I recommend mixing more than you think you need and making sure to do it before the paper is wet. That way, it’s almost like you just had that colour to begin with!
Step 3: Starting the Sky
YuYin paints her sky in stages, wetting the page and painting it from top to bottom. She just paints the suggestion of foliage in the background, keeping areas of white visible for the bokeh effect.
Start with the yellowy tan colour and add some of the olive green colour. This might not be your only layer, depending on how pigmented your mixtures are. Remember to apply the pigment with a fairly dry brush so that there’s no blooming on the wet page.
Step 4: Continuing the Sky
I had to go over the sky again in another layer because I was having trouble getting the first layer dark enough. I let the paint dry completely, then I wet it just like in the previous step and added some more colour to darken it.
The darker green area to the right of the dandelion will look its best if you vary the shade of green, making some areas lighter and some darker and making some areas bluer and some yellower.
Try to keep the overall texture the same as the rest of the sky so that it all feels like one whole. YuYin let the bottom of the green shadow be a jagged edge, so I allowed that too, but I don’t think mine was as nice in the end because it didn’t feel purposeful.
Step 5: Removing the Masking Fluid
Be careful what you use to remove masking fluid because if you use something with an edge and then press too hard, you will indent the paper. YuYin uses a rubber cement eraser, and I think that’s a great idea.
I’ll be doing that from now on. Since my rubber cement eraser is packed away still from my most recent move, I used the blunt end of a paintbrush handle, making sure I didn’t press too hard. Get every last bit of masking fluid off of the paper for the best results.
Step 6: Detailing the Dandelion
Take the yellow mixture and suggest the dark seeds at the centre of the dandelion, allowing white space here and there for the fluff to come out. Then, add some of the dark green mixture to shade the seeds.
After that, it’s a good idea to take some very, very diluted navy blue and shade the dandelion a bit so that it appears spherical and has the feeling of depth to it.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
This step is more intuitive and individual than the others. Take a step back from your piece and see if anything needs to be adjusted. I chose to shade the dandelion fluff just a tiny bit more, but your painting might not need it. It depends entirely on your individual result and preferences.
This Live Demo was a tremendous lesson not only in realism but also in judging how wet your brush needs to be for different scenarios! If you found value here, check out YuYin Lin’s Mini Workshop for a more in depth class!