How to paint a loose watercolour Bumblebee

How to paint a loose watercolour Bumblebee

In this simple sketchbook tutorial, I’ll show you how to paint a loose watercolour Bumble bee capturing the vibrant yellow and
orange hues to its lovely fuzzy round body. We will also include a beautiful purple hue into our bee to add as an enhancement and also as a subtle reflection from the flower in which the bee is settled on.
My good friend and neighbour Kara kindly supplied me with this beautiful reference photo to work from for this study. You can use the same photo too (please contact me) or alternatively, you can paint along by just looking at the photos I’ve provided.

Bumble bees are very important for helping to keep our ecosystems healthy, and so I love raising awareness of them by featuring them in my artwork collections.

You can read more about my bumblebee observations in my latest journal entry.

The pressure is off in this sketchbook tutorial, so lets relax and enjoy observing the hues and textures in this wonderful process.

What you’ll need:

If you don’t have the equipment and paints I recommend, get creative and try with what you have handy.

I recommend using a scrap piece of paper by your side to mix the yellow and purple shades to experiment with your hues.

  • A bumble bee photo as your reference.
  • Mop paintbrush – Rosemary & Co Size 10/0
  • Daisy palette (for mixing watery paints)
  • Water bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Watercolour paper or any sketchbook paper/book (preferably cold pressed)
  • Paints (see colour list below). I use Winsor and Newton paints.

Paint colours needed:

  • A yellow colour of your choice (I used Windsor yellow ochre)
  • A purple colour (I used Quin Violet)
  • A  fresh green colour (I used Olive Green)
  • A vibrant yellow (I used Winsor lemon
  • A dark brown colour (I used Burnt umber)
  • A lighter reddish brown colour (I used Burnt sienna) my favourite colour!
  • Rose of ultra marine
  • Lamp black
  • Payne’s Grey

Step 1: Place your bumble bee reference photo close to you, and on a larger scale, outline your bumble bee using an HB pencil. When ready, begin by placing a watery wash of Winsor lemon to the lightest areas of the Bumble Bee. It doesn’t matter if the paint goes over the edges, this all adds to the loose effect at the end.

Step 2: Whilst this is drying,  drop in your reddish-brown colour (Burnt Sienna) to the yellow areas that I can see. You will see lovely effects take place
where the colour bleeds into the yellow. It feels like the bumble bee is coming to life already!

Step 3: To add contrast, I’ve created a watery wash of Rose of Ultramarine, and placing it the areas that I can see within my bee on the reference photo. I can also see the flower reflecting through part of the wing, enhancing the translucency to the papery wings. Leave to dry and settle.

We will bring back our purple hue at the very end to create the gorgeous lavender flower.

Step 4: Keeping your reference picture still close, I’m including burnt umber to our now dried Bumble Bee colour. This will deepen the tone and act as a
further base colour to our black which we will add later. When outlining the wing, make sure to preserve the white areas carefully. Spreading the brown hues to the edges of the yellow on the Bumble Bee and placing again to the dark areas of the bee.

Step 5: Whilst the Burnt Umber is still wet and settling, I’m going to drop in my Payne’s Grey colour to merge and create a darker shade to my Bee. I will also include a little of my lamp black colour at the same time to strengthen the tone even more. Watch and see the beautiful effects which can be created.
*tip* Use the tip of the brush to define the antenna.

Step 6: With the darkest colour now in place, I’m going to leave my painting to dry and settle back before including my lavender flower.

Step 7: Returning to my dried Bumble Bee, where the hues have settled and created some beautiful effects, I’m going to include some additional yellow ochre and burnt sienna to my Bee. This will increase the vibrancy and tone even further. I’m also going to apply some more of my Payne’s Grey colour to the darker sections of my Bee and outline the top of the wings. Take care observing the shape of the bee and where the highlights are when applying these darker hues.

Once I’ve applied all of my dark areas with a second layer, I’m dropping in any further colour enhancements I’d like to make. Once happy with final adjustments, I will leave my painting to fully dry once again.

Step 8: To finish, I’m going to include a very loose indication of a lavender flower underneath to where the bee has rested on it. Using my purple hue, I gently create some petal shapes by pressing my brush on its side to create the form to my flower. I’m also including some of my olive green paint to indicate where the stem would be. I keep this very fluid and loose bringing my bumblebee to life. You may want to include more flowers to build up a composition if you’d like. It’s really fun to experiment!

I hope this brief sketch book guide has helped inspire you to paint your own Bumble Bee, and given you the confidence to experiment with your watercolour hues.

If you paint your own Bumble bee, I would love to see your results, so tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #jenniferrosegallery so I can see how you got on. You can also find me on Facebook.

Make sure you hear about my latest step by step guides, video mini-classes, and inspiration journal entries – all for free- by signing up to my newsletter.

Happy Summer,

Love Jennifer Rose xx

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