Winter Foliage Series: Holly-Days

Variegated Holly

Variegated Holly

Holly, is one of the easiest plants to keep in the garden. I have a special fondness for variegated evergreens that share their color and beauty through every season. Variegated Holly is one of my most favorite plants in the winter months, along side Japanese Boxwood. Holly easily wins the show, however, with its lovely red berries. I get especially giddy when a few branches develop solid white splays of leaves. Squee!

I did however learn that it is especially challenging to paint variegated Holly. I’m not sure I’d want to take it up again soon. One thing for certain, I would not chose to use negative painting techniques to showcase the veining. I would, instead, apply an opaque layer on top as an end detail. Would have saved so much time if I had predicted this and probably satisfied my OCD (Overly Conscious of Details) brain.

Holly Detail

Holly Detail

The berries were a challenge, in as much as I didn’t want to use traditional approaches to chromatic or achromatic shading or tinting at all. Holly berries are so very vibrant and just gleam of bright beautiful energy. I chose instead to step aside of my double primary palette and utilized 4 primary pigments to get their round bold color defined:3 shades of red and one yellow pigment. At the very end I did use neutral tint to shade and tiny lines of black to punctuate, but barely.

The painting has been delivered to its new home; and I have archived it and prepped it to be part of a winter foliage collection for my art licensing portfolio. This means I need 3-4 more key subjects, and then need to make some borders, repeat patterns and such. One of those will be Mistletoe, from there I think a conifer and some Hellebore the Christmas/Lenten Rose.

Technique: Chromatic Layering

  • Allow for bold intense color and depth by using Quiller’s principal of color temperatures to pull and push depth.
  • Allow for very smooth surface for extra fine details to be applied.
  • Technique comes out best if the majority of your pigments have transparent qualites.
  • Be careful to layer and not mix for smoother more intense effect.(This means letting layers dry thoroughly between each other.)


  • Paper: Strathmore 400 series 140lb coldpress
  • Paint: Winsor and Newton Artists’ Water Colour: Naples Yellow, Winsor Yellow, Alizarin Crimpson, Winsor Red (deep), Vermillion Hue (now discontinued), Pthalo Blue, Winsor Green (yellow shade), Permanent Sap Green, Neutral Tint, Lamp Black, Chinese White.
  • Brushes: Round 000, 00, 2;
  • Other: Q-Tips, H2 pencil, toothpicks, masking fluid, flour sack cloth.

I even made a quick slide show to show the process of layering: Holly-Days

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