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Paint like Potter: Explore the beauty of Beatrix Potter's watercolours

by Cass Art
Paint like Potter: Explore the beauty of Beatrix Potter's watercolours

Spring has sprung, watercolour season is upon us and what better way to celebrate than with a look to one of Britain's most beloved artist who encompasses both these things: Beatrix Potter.

Inspired by her holidays spent in the Lake District which ignited her passion for nature, there's no other illustrator who explores the characters of the natural world quite like Potter. Her animal characters endower human emotion and habit that compliment the animals' nature, rather than counter it.

Everyone has a soft spot for the Tales of Peter Rabbit, not to mention the antics of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, with this in mind Cass Art celebrates springtime with a step by step guide to paint like Potter..

Step One

Seek out nature and let it inspire you, take a trip to the countryside or even just to your back garden and allow yourself to be absorbed by what happens around you. One of the most essential elements to Beatrix's unique realist style is her power of observation, she spent years studying insects, fossils and fungi which certainly trained her keen eye.

Step Two

Using a light graphite pencil and soft mark making on watercolour paper, sketch out the shape of your chosen natural form. Notice the true shapes and even if it's not what you'd expect to see, aim to recreate the drawing as accurately as possible. You'll see that Peter Rabbit's head is oval shaped - probably not what we'd normally think to draw for a rabbit's head - but entirely accurate.

Step Three

Potter's style typically was a thin playful use of watercolour. This texture was achieved with half pans, using a soft layer in the background and applying more layers of colour to the foreground. Try the Winsor and Newton Artists Field Box for working outdoors - this set includes 12 assorted half pans, a sketcher's brush, water bottle, sponge and palette and is completely pocket-sized and portable!

Step Four

Once the paint has completely dried, Beatrix would use pen and ink for line work and detail. This is where "the fewer the lines, the less error committed" is key; really consider why you are choosing to make a mark before applying the black ink. Keeping the lines smooth and fluid will keep your illustrations true to Potter's style. Try Winsor and Newton sets of ink with a fine sable brush for a traditional working method, the cheater method is to use a black brush pen which keeps your work safe from drips and dribbles. (It's okay Beatrix would probably have had one if they'd existed!)

Your masterpiece is now ready for framing, keeping, selling or publishing!

Feeling inspired? Stock up on your art supplies with exclusive discounts on watercolour materials. Try the Cass Art Jumbo 50 page watercolour pad, perfect for watercolouring holidays.

Shop online now and remember to follow Cass Art on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest on materials, art news and interviews.