How to Paint a Golden Watercolor Lotus | Cecilie Okada Design

How to Paint a Golden Watercolor Lotus

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The lotus flower has spiritual associations not only in Eastern cultures but also in ancient Egypt. Monet’s colorful painting of a lotus pond is much admired. In paintings and illustrations of the East, we see elegant, simplified lotuses. The uniform shape of the petals makes it an easy subject for the artist. In this tutorial, we aim for a more realistic rendering of a watercolor lotus. 

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The spiritual symbolism of the lotus flower.

Consider the life cycle of the graceful lotus flower. It is no wonder that it has such rich spiritual symbolism. Lotuses grow in the mud. Every morning, when the petals open up to the sun, they are a pristine, pure beauty. How is it possible? It is because the lotus petals have a waxy surface that repels the muddy water. 

Human beings have to live in the material world, just like the lotus growing in mud. Difficulties of one kind or another are unavoidable for every soul on the planet. In yoga meditation, the spiritual goal is to keep the mind focused on Spirit. That focus extends to when we go about our daily lives. To repel the dust and dirt of life with a pure and resilient state of mind. 

The reference photo for the yellow lotus flower.

The lotus itself is an object of meditation in many Eastern meditation practices. The crown chakra, or pineal gland, is considered the seat of the spirit-self. It is symbolized by a 1000-petaled lotus. Those 1000 petals correspond to mental propensities. When the mind merges with Spirit, all that mental baggage is left behind. 

Years ago, I made some illustrations with lotus imagery. It was for an art calendar about the ancient Mayan culture. They also cherished the lotus flower.

You can find lovely lotus art on two of my Pinterest boards. I have curated a large amount of Eastern art there:
Japanese Art & Design
Oriental Art & Design

Let’s start painting a beautiful watercolor lotus.

Step 1: Drawing the reference photo. 

The photo of the yellow lotus showed up in our free Sketching and Watercolor Ideas tool. When you click on the Discover button, new images are loaded. Most lotuses are pink or white. I’m a fan of yellow, lotus flowers, and mediation… so there was no question about painting this one. 

Drawing the flower was not much of a hurdle. You can see my rough sketch below. When I’m looking to get a shape right, I don’t care about drawing pretty lines. But for the watercolor, tidy lines are necessary to form the outline for painting. That’s why I trace the rough sketch. You can download my clean outline in the free One Tree Art Club library

Sketching the lotus flower.
Transferring the lotus flower outline to watercolor paper.

Step 2: Painting the yellow and green watercolor base.

All the petals are yellow, but some with a green hue. We start with a yellow watercolor base.

painting the whole flower with a yellow watercolor base.

Look at the color chart below to see how you can mix the kind of green we see in the photo.

Color palette for the yellow otus.

To get the textured effect of the green watercolor, I splashed some drops of water. 

Adding the first green color to the petals.

The green color has accumulated at the edges of the leaves. You can also get texture by painting with uneven amounts of water and pigments. 

The color palette calls for bright egg-yolk yellow as well as lemon yellow. Use water to mix the colors freely on the paper. Nothing exact to worry about at this stage of your painting. Bee free with the application of watercolors. 

painting the whole lotus with shades of yellow and green.

Step 3: Painting bright highlights.

Download free line art & more

To make the inner petals more translucent, paint with white gouache on the dry watercolor. My tutorials are illustrative rather than loosely painted watercolors. White gouache enables you to build transparency in reverse order. The regular order is to soak up color with a sponge for lightness.

Painting light petals with white gouache.

Step 4: Drawing details with colored pencils on the watercolor lotus, and adding more paint.

Next, draw details with colored pencils. Use a dark green colored pencil to redraw the outline. Very lightly, with a sharp tip. 

As you can see, my painting has moved away from the bright yellow reference photo. When I was chipping away with colored pencils and white gouache, something happened. I didn’t notice that the lotus got less and less yellow. 

Drawing details on the watercolor painting with colored pencils.
The colored pencils that I used that I used.

But the fun part of the creative process is when you stop looking at the reference photo. It is when you allow your eyes and intuition to take your artwork to the next level. Don’t strive for photographic likeness. Open up the river of free, creative flow. Go your own way and make a lotus that shines with your soul. 

The watercolor lotus that has been enhanced with colored pencils is all done. 

The completed golden watercolor lotus enhanced with colored pencils.

Are you wondering about the art materials needed for this tutorial? You will find the information on my Guide to Art Supplies page.

You can find many watercolor tutorials on my blog. These are some, plus one about meditation:

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