Botanical Illustration: Flower Buds of Peonies in WatercolourProposed Course
Tutor: Roger ReynoldsCourse Code: 1621-01


Peony buds are naturally shaped to provide good composition and their contrasting colours of white and pink along with lush green leaves make them irresistible as subjects to paint. Shapes are clear-cut and simple to draw and almost impossible to get wrong because the subject material is so variable. At the same time the opportunity exists for having fun with a variety painting techniques and colours.


Peony buds are seasonal, but very exciting to paint. Plants are usually available from mid-April and then continue with the home-grown varieties appearing in our gardens later. The flowers are wrapped in tight balls when they are buds, but these show the colours and markings of the flowers to come. Later they break open to make a rose-like flower. Peony leaves are a rich green (which makes a lovely background to set off the opening flowers), and have lovely curled edges. We should be able to choose a natural composition and construct a design quickly and easily. The drawing of the buds is a quick process and, as they open, the rich colours revealed inside provide opportunities for strong design. We will draw on layout paper so components can be adjusted before transferring the image to finish paper. Handling of the paint will need to be done carefully, but the techniques are not difficult to learn since the individual areas of colour are small. You will be able to use the effects of wet-in-wet or stay more controlled with a drier technique, or both! All will be demonstrated as we go along. It really is an ideal opportunity to learn to handle the painting of flowers because the areas to control are not large, and a flower can be quickly sketched allowing techniques to be tried out and practised before working directly on the painting.

Please bring with you

  • Watercolour paper, 300g/m2 smooth, hot pressed like Fabriano Classico 5 or Fabriano Artistico HP. A limited supply of paper will be available from the tutor.

  • Graphite pencils for drawing (e.g. HB or B and H or 2H)

  • Pencil Erasers – putty rubber ones are particularly useful

A container for paint water – a clean jam jar is fine
Paper towel kitchen roll is really useful for controlling brush loading
Watercolour paints, which might be half-pans in a paint box, or tubes, it doesn’t matter, but they must be artist quality. Useful colours from the Winsor and Newton range might be Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Winsor Yellow, Scarlet Lake, Winsor Red, Quinacridone red, Winsor Violet, Winsor Orange, Permanent Carmine, Light Red, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Sap Green, Neutral tint and Payne’s Grey. Do not worry if you do not have all these, just bring what you can.
If you have your own pads of layout paper or tracing paper please bring them, but a lightbox for transfer of drawings onto finish paper will be available.
Watercolour brushes, good quality, sable (e.g. Winsor and Newton series 7), capable of forming fine points, preferably down to size 0
Mixing palette, e.g. a white plate or saucer, don’t buy anything special!

Since opening buds can change quite rapidly, especially overnight, it is useful to have either a camera (or a phone) to record the flower at the stage you have drawn it, so as to provide a back reference if flower parts shift.

Please do worry if you do not have any or all of these items. In two days it is unlikely that we would use anything approaching the full list, and key colours will be available from the tutor.

Please bring your own blossom, if you have a favourite and particularly if you are non-residential and can bring in your plants fresh, but please bear in mind we will only be able to study one variety for each person. Otherwise specimens will be supplied by the tutor.

The following items can be purchased from your tutor

Layout paper, tracing paper and trace-down paper will be supplied as needed.


Some experience of botanical illustration is preferable for this class. If you are not sure if this is you, please ask!

Course Location

Missenden Abbey
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire HP16 0BD


Roger Reynolds

Roger Reynolds

Roger is a botanical illustrator who works in watercolour and coloured pencil. He is a long standing fellow of the Society of Botanical Artists where his work has been awarded a certificate of botanical merit, and has been used in their publications. He has exhibited at their annual exhibition in Westminster since 2004. In 2016 he was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Horticultural Society for his work illustrating plants. He is a member of the Institute for Analytical Plant Illustration which fosters the links between botanists and illustrators and he has an honours degree in botany. In 2018 he was a participant in the day of international botanical art exhibitions and as a member of the Association of British Botanical Art, represented the UK.

24th to 25th Apr 2021
Saturday to Sunday


9.45amStudents arrive
10am-1pmTeaching session
1pmLunch for all - residents may check in
2-5.30pmTeaching session
6.45 for 7pmDinner for residents
From 7-9.15amBreakfast for residents
9.30am-1pmTeaching session
1pmLunch for all
2-5pmLast teaching session

"So pleased to have Roger's tuition and encouragement." (Summer School 2019)

"I thought the course was excellent and the tutor very encouraging and explained techniques clearly." (May 2019)

"Always enjoy coming to Missenden - quality of tuition excellent." (Summer School 2019)

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For Botanical Illustration: Flower Buds of Peonies in Watercolour on 24th to 25th Apr 2021