'Five things I wish I had known before I started botanical art.'

Tulip - Marie Batters - 2021

This week Marie Batters' shares the five most important things that she wished she had known before she started botanical art. We have all been at the starting line and like most novices we are not sure what is really important. Well, Marie helps us out here and from our perspective, Marie has come a long way since she first caught the botanical art bug.

The ABBA Team


Hello, my name is Marie and I am a self-taught artist with a love for watercolour and botanical art.

I’ve been teaching myself watercolour painting for just over two years, during which time I have become passionate about botanical art.

I’ve been studying via a distance learning course for the last 18 months, focusing on leaves, which has been extremely enjoyable and challenging at times.

In this post I’d like to share a few of the things that I’ve learned along the way, things that I would have loved to have known at the start of my art journey. These five things are my personal experiences but I hope they can help you along the way with your art journey too.

1- Primary Colours – they are all you need.

When I started painting, I went out and bought so many different colours, in various different ranges and brands.

There is so much choice – Tube, Pan, Half Pan ....... So many different brands – Winsor Newton, Daniel Smith, Daler Rowney, to name but a few ......

Pans, tubes, pots .....

I often found myself in the craft shop, staring at the shelves of colours and brands, trying to remember which ones I had already bought. I even had a picture on my mobile phone of my colour chart, so that I didn’t buy 2 tubes of the same colour. It got to be quite expensive!

I then learnt about colour mixing and using only the three primary colours to create so many others.

I’ll be honest, If I’d have taken the time to watch the multitude of Youtube videos out there I probably would have picked this one up a lot sooner, but I just wanted to get painting (oh, and become a professional within weeks by the way!)

And so, tip Number 1 that I wish I had known is this; To create so many beautiful colours you only need 3 – blue, red and yellow.

Tip Number 2; To create all of those beautiful colours takes practice. Create colour charts, play around with mixing and don’t be afraid to mix many different versions, there are still many shades of the primaries to choose from.

Personally, I paint from tubes but with other types too, a little goes a very long way.

Needless to say, I now have lots of tubes of paint, in various colours, that are in my ‘emergency stash’. I can’t part with them just yet, after all I did spend a lot of time in the art shops (and online) staring at those shelves.

2 - Paper – It's worth the investment.

As I paint in watercolour my paper choices are a little biased towards this medium, however, I imagine the multitude of choices may be the same for oil and acrylic with board vs. paper.

As with paints, there is so much choice......Cold Pressed, Hot Pressed, Rough........which weight to choose......pad, block or sketchbook......cotton or mulch????

Hot press or cold - texture and colour.

Much like my experience with the paints I have quite the collection of paper pads and blocks, with a couple of sketch books thrown in for good measure.

Some of these pads have stood me in good stead, and have been really useful, especially for making colour charts.

But there are a handful of paper types that I could not get along with. The paintings just didn’t look right, or the paper did not stand up to that much water or movement of paint. I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t get my paintings how I wanted them, but by experimenting and guidance I came to understand it was, in part, down to the paper I was using.

I started with Cold Pressed paper, which I have to say was great. Not as expensive as Hot Pressed and certainly more forgiving, it’s great for practicing on.

For botanical art, or fine art, where tiny details and crisp edges are needed I would, however, recommend Hot Pressed paper. It is more expensive than Cold Pressed paper, but worth the investment in my opinion.

Which leads me to the second thing I wish I had known when I started; If you can, tip Number 3 - buy sample papers.