Summer Botanical Watercolor Workshop

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with Mira O’Brien (Artist and Berlin Drawing Room Founder)

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Learn botanical watercolor techniques from your home and tune in to the riotous colors of summer all around us. During the summer edition of this workshop series, we will focus on flowers and the special opportunities summer offers to focus on bold color. Wet into wet watercolor techniques will be covered in order to achieve painterly and expressive results when painting a flower.

While instruction will take place through an interactive livestreaming format (Zoom), care will be taken to emphasize the individual sensual experience of drawing from living specimens and working with watercolors.

Watercolor Painting:

The livestreaming classes will introduce watercolor techniques through live demos and interactive instruction. Techniques will include line drawing with watercolor tea wash, building up layers with washes, adding detail with special watercolor effects, mixing colors and more. All levels are welcome. The painting made in this workshop are inspired by the figure of the Naturalist, who was both artist and scientist. These recordings are just as much about the subjective process of observation as they are about the recording of scientific data.

Specimen Collection:

Each class will include instructions for specimen collection, so that we can all work from direct observation. Simple instructions provided days in advance will direct you to pick up a green leaf from the sidewalk, grab a weed sprouting out from a crevice, purchase a piece of seasonal produce, and other actions intended to call attention to oft overlooked instances of nature. Photographic references will also be provided for each class.

Individual Feedback:

Upload your paintings to the Workshop Forum to receive individual feedback from the instructor and interact with your classmates. The Workshop Forum is a supportive and inclusive environment for sharing in progress work and exchanging tips and suggestions. It is not a public gallery for finished paintings, but a workshop space for figuring out the process together. Feel free to post work you are proud of so we can celebrate it as well as work that is incomplete or even is a source of frustration so that we can trouble shoot together. Chances are, if you need help with a specific technique, others in the class do to and you are helping everyone by asking a question. Visit the Summer Botanical Watercolor Workshop forum.

Botanical Drawing and Watercolor Supply List

Here is the supply list for the upcoming Botanical Watercolor Workshop.

For a guide on where to buy art supplies in Berlin, go HERE.  

Check List:

  • Hot Press Watercolor Block, 300g, A4
  • Watercolor Set (Malkasten) – cakes in a box with space for mixing colors
  • Watercolor Brush round size 6 (size 1-2 optional)
  • Pencils, HB and 2B
  • White eraser
  • Paper-towel
  • Water cup
  • Notebook for taking notes and testing colors
  • Optional but highly recommended for Lockdown version: Masking Fluid

Long version with explanations and all details:


Hot Press Watercolor Paper (also called smooth, Glatt, Glad) 300 g, A4.

  • Botanical Illustrators have traditionally used Hot Press Watercolor Paper for their work because its smooth surface is conducive to fine detail. 
  • Watercolor paper can be purchased as a block (edges glued together so paper doesn’t buckle) or as individual sheets. If you choose to work on loose sheets, you will need a board to tape your paper to.
Hot Press “Glad/glatt” Watercolor Block, 300g
purchased at Boesner – cost 7 Euro


These are the minimum required brushes. Look for the brushes marked for watercolor with the short handle. The larger brush must bereal or synthetic sable – this is the fibre that the brush is made from and can be referred to as Sable, Kolinsky-Sable, Rotmarderhaar (de). Real Sable brushes are made from animal hairs are are superior to synthetic brushes. 

  • #1-2 round brush – for fine detail (optional)
  • #6 round brush – Sable, Kolinsky-Sable, Rotmarderhaar (de), or synthetic sable


I recommend buying dry cakes of watercolors in a box (Aquarell Malkasten).

The fewest colors you can get by with would be these 6 colors below, the three primaries in warm and cool versions. If you have a watercolor set, bring that along and we can see if some colors can be substituted. Different brands also have different names for the same colors sometimes. 

BLUEPthalo Blue or Prussian BlueFrench Ultramarine Blue
REDAlizarin CrimsonCadmium Red
YELLOWLemon Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Pale)Cadmium Yellow

Additional optional colors: Payne’s Grey, Burnt Sienna, Violet, Greenish Yellow (Green Gold), Sap Green, Viridian Green, Yellow Ochre, your choice!

White Gouache (opaque watercolor)


  • Pencils: HB, 2B and white eraser
  • Notebook for taking notes
  • Water cup 


  • masking fluid (and a cheap small brush to use with the masking fluid)
  • masking tape  
  • additional palette for mixing colors  
  • magnifying glass
  • knife
  • pigment Liner 0.1 (artist archival ink pen)

If you have any questions, let me know!