Illuminated Lettering: Drawing Letter A with Watercolor Flowers

Learn a simple creative process to draw an illuminated letter decorated with watercolor flowers, finally touching up with colored pencils and white gouache.

My fingers are itching to play! To draw illuminated letters, paint them with watercolor...and next time, gold paint too.  In this post I have drawn letter A, the start of a creative adventure with an illuminated lettering alphabet, where I combine interesting letter shapes with flowers, birds and animals.

When you have a good process in place, creating new, exiting forms is not difficult. What you need are two simple things: Good reference material, and a willingness to let your hand roam freely. Yes, you’re quite right: that’s called creativity. It’s there in abundant measure in all of us.

In this article, I will share some easy, concrete tools that you can use to jumpstart your own creativity. 

I know that the number one problem most people have when starting an art project is: “what to draw?”. If you select a general theme, it’s simply a matter of using a solid process to narrow it down. 

In this illustration, my general subject is:
The letter A and flowers

Before launching into the creative process, take a look at the two short videos of my illuminated letter A. Follow the step-by-step procedure I decribe below and you can do it too!



Tools for a Foolproof Creative Process

First, you need an alphabet with the letter A to look at for reference. Something to give you the starting point, and interesting version of letter A. Then you can play freely with that shape and draw your very own letter.

I used an old vintage book with beautiful fonts for inspiration. But there are endless amounts of websites with amazing fonts you can use for this purpose, such as This is a link to Celtic Uncial font , the letter A I used as inspiration from my book.

Secondly, you need a flower. Help--- there are too many flowers in this world to choose from! Fear not, I will show you simple, intuitive way to make a choice.

I used an old flower field guide with pretty botanical illustrations, but you can use the exact same method with pages in an online plant directory. Below is a description of how I select a flower:

  1. Close your eyes, open at random and point your finger somewhere on the selected page. It’s important to accept whatever plant shows ups, because you will most certainly be surprised at how interesting any plant can be once you start step two.
  2. Type the name of the flower into Google and open the image feed. Endless options will show. If you type in the Latin name of the flower, you will in most cases get even better photos. The Latin name will show on the right side of your search resuult, where Google list a few key data about your search query. 
  3. Save 5-6 photos that show the flower in interesting ways.
  4. Out of these, perhaps 4 end up being useful.

uncial alphabet    Comarum flower

On the two pictures above, you can see the starting point for my inspiration: Letter A in the Cletic Uncial alphabet and the flower Comarum ( purple marshlocks) in the field guide. 

With the letter A in the alphabet in front of you, draw the letter in a playful, dooling way. Let your hand loose, don’t try to draw something beautiful, and do it fast. Fast keeps your critical eyes at bay. Once you have a shape you like, you’re good to go.

With the flower photos in front of you, on your computer screen or as print-outs, start drawing shapes freely with inspiration from the flower. Don’t try to draw a replica of what you see. Draw with a free hand, creating shapes that you enjoy. Your shapes will probably look nothing like the flowers in the photos (at least mine don't).

As the flower takes shape, start adding your letter A, integrating the shape into the forms unfolding on your paper. Enjoy the interplay between shapes. 

The keyword here is to go easy, let your hand carry you. Listen to soothing music or an interesting podcast, something that will chase your critical mind away into a secluded corner. For the time being.

Try this method, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the amazing artwork you find yourself creating!

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Illuminated letter A, hand drawn with watercolor flower by Cecilie Okada

Illuminated letter A, hand drawn with watercolor flower by Cecilie Okada