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Monet's Water Lilies - a Watercolor Demo by John Norman Stewart

Updated on March 3, 2013

A Watercolor Demonstration

In 2001 my sister and I took a trip to France. One of our visits was to the home of famous impressionist Claude Monet. His house was very large and covered with vines and flowers. Monet had a fascination with flowers and they covered his property. We walked through the extensive gardens in front of his house, amazed by both the quantity and variety of flowers. Later we went to his ponds where he painted his famous water lilie paintings. He painted 250 of these that are in museums around the world.

Needless to say, I took a lot of pictures of his gardens and ponds and recently (2011) decided to paint a watercolor of one of them. This lens is a step by step sequence of pictures taken during my own watercolor painting process. It was done on a full sheet of Arches watercolor board.
Some of my other paintings can be seen at: California My personal website is at:

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About The Artist

John Norman Stewart started drawing when he was five years old. His mother was very supporitve and bought him a lot of art books. He had his first formal class at the age of twelve and at sixteen he signed up for The Famous Artist's Course out of Westport, Connecticut. He won a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in 1958 and later attended classes at Art Center School of Design. In 1975 he began working for various film studios: Disney, Universal, Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros and TV studios: NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS, for 25 years and retired from that in 2002. He is a signature member of The National Watercolor Society and past member of The California Art Club and Los Angeles Art Association. He is active in the arts and music and now lives in rural Northern California.

Step 1 - Drawing and Beginning Lay-in.....

I began by drawing with my favorite pencil, an Eagle Draughting pencil, using a kneaded eraser when necessary. The yellow at the top was the first color for the lay-in. I used liquid masking on the lillies and anywhere I wanted white to come through. Some of the red flowers at the bottom were masked so that the red would be vibrant over the white paper.

Step 2 - Laying In The Background Colors.....

After the yellow at the top I laid in a blue to purple color for the background of the water area, using a 2 inch brush. I use imitation sable brushes - they work great, hold their shape, and are economical to buy.

Step 3 - Adding Some Shrubbery and Reflections.......

I decided at this point to throw in some of the reflections of trees and a little bit of background shrubs. I usually move from the background to the foreground when developing a painting. With watercolor you have to be cautious.

Step 4 - Adding Tree Trunks......

I decided to add a few tree trunks in the upper background along with some hanging willow branches in the foreground.

Step 5 - More Willow Branches......

I added some more willow branches on the left side. Nothing is finished at this point. It is just a loose lay-in. I also added some shadows in the water under the edges of the lilie pads.

Step 6 - More Lay-in......

One thing to remember - make sure that your board dries thoroughly before you paint over an area. This avoids making a smudgy mess. I use an old powerful hair dryer for this.

Step 7 - Background and Reflection Lay-ins......

You can see that I've added more details in the top and bottom of the picture. I still consider these to be lay-ins as I feel my way through the process. I keep refering back to the photo for reference. Notice the added branches and shrubbery to the background trees. I also added an angular tree that wasn't in the original photo, for the sake of interest.

Step 8 - Taking Off The Liquid Masking.......

I decided to take off the liquid masking at this point, using a special removing block that resembles an eraser, but is more rubbery. Then I added some forground leaves and grasses at the bottom.

Step 9 - Lily Pad Lay-in............

I used a light yellow/green to lay in the lily pads. As you can see - there are a lot of them. I also added some detail to the shrubs on the far shore.

Step 10 - Lily Pad Rendering Begins.......

I started painting the front group of lily pads and then the 2nd group back, still keeping it simple. Added a red blossom in the front group.

Step 11 - Bottom Developement.......

Got tired of lily pads and decided to develop the plants at the bottom of the picture.

Step 12 - Water Surface Added..............

I added three or four large but subtle, paint strokes on the surface of the water.....about 1/3 to 1/2 way up from the bottom. This helps to describe the angle or perspective of the water.

Step 13 - More Lily Pads and Blossoms......

Finished the next groups of lily pads and added colored blossoms using the white paper left by the liquid masking.

Step 14 - Still More Lily Pad Details.......

More details on lily pads and starting to figure out where I want my darkest accents. This is done pretty much to individual taste.

Step 15 - More Accents and Details......

Added tree reflection details and other shrub details. At this point the painting talks to me and tells me where it needs things. I'm not sure how that works, but it does help.

Step 16 - 99 1/2% Finished...........:)

It is Finished............. - The Finished Painting.........

Here is the finished painting. I hope that you like it. You can purchase the original or a 300 year archival giclee of it at California If you mention the codeword "Johnart" they will give you a discount on any of their gallery works.

This Painting Demo on YouTube

I recently put this hi-def video together showing the same pictures in this lens, but with me narrating it, along with some nice music in the background.

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    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @acreativethinker: Thanks so much. Very nice of you to say so. Happy that you came by....:)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is so beautiful and such a lovely lens. You have a great gift and talent. Thanks for sharing.

      Take care :)

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @SusanDeppner: Thanks Susan. I'm sure that your gifts are many and exceptional. :)

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I am just amazed when I watch an artist at work. I know some of it can be taught, but there's that element of talent that you have and I am most definitely lacking. Beautiful watercolor, excellent documentation, wonderful lens. Thank you for sharing!

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @TransplantedSoul: I will check that one out. Thanks for all of your activity on my lenses. Have a great weekend! :)

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @anonymous: Thanks. Appreciate your visiting the lens. :)

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @aliciamaggie54: Thanks Alicia. I appreciate your looking at the lens. :)

    • TransplantedSoul profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow you are talented. We have some Monet's in the Canadian National Art Gallery where I live. I made a lens about the gallery. It is worth a visit.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great step by step painting. Thank you for sharing

    • aliciamaggie54 profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice pictures:)

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      7 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @mariaamoroso: Hi Irenemaria: Thanks for blessing, liking and commenting on the lens. I really appreciated it. I will check out your work...:) John

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      I really like these step by step photos! Blessed by a painting Squid Angel

    • jnstewart profile imageAUTHOR

      John Norman Stewart 

      7 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      @anonymous: Thanks TW: Appreciate the blessing......:) John

    • profile image


      7 years ago



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