How to paint an illustrative watercolour lemon

On first impression, this illustrative watercolor lemon will seem like a really different approach to the realistic watercolour painting style that I’m better known for.

But, although the result is much looser looking, the painting process we follow is actually very similar.  So if you’re familiar with the painting process that I use for realistic watercolour, you’ll notice just how similar the technique is for painting loose watercolor too. 

With the addition of ink in the final stages, the added element of line transforms your loose painting into a piece of illustrative art.

This relaxed and spontaneous watercolour lemon is a lesson in letting go of perfectionism and welcoming imperfection. It’s seriously liberating!

If you’ve ever struggled with loose watercolor painting before, don’t be put off. Because as you’re about to see, once you’ve got an understanding of my layering method, you can apply it to other styles of watercolour painting too.

So, why not paint your own illustrative watercolor lemon?

If you’re feeling inspired to try it but can’t right now, then take a moment to schedule your next painting session in your calendar. You’ll thank yourself later.

And if you’re feeling a little unsure because you’re more into realistic watercolour, I’d like to encourage you to still have a play with this looser style. Just as it’s possible to learn more than one language or play more than one musical instrument, it’s perfectly possible to turn your hand to a looser approach sometimes without abandoning your realistic style.

I’d love to hear how you get on, so let me know how it goes in the comments below. And do also drop me a comment if you enjoyed the video. I love reading them!

Happy painting,

Share this post!

Subscribe to blog updates

Blog Updates


  1. Neil Booker on October 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Lovely. I have enjoyed painting in a realist style but feel it is not really my thing. This lemon is puch more “me” and I think that if it were possible to follow lessons in this style, particularly for painting buildings and landscapes, boats anbd seascapes then that would be perfect. Thank you Anna.

  2. Dale on October 14, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    I am 2 hours into your pear class and absolutely loving it. I am new to watercolors and am learning so much from you already. The details in the process are wonderful (which brush and why, how to mix colors, the order of the process, everything). I am planning to subscribe as well as buy a subscription for my mother who is also starting her journey into watercolors.

    I am currently using the W&N Cotman pan set and understand you recommend professional paints over student. What brand do you recommend and do you prefer pan or tube? Thanks so much.

    Looking forward to many hours of your classes.

  3. Olga on October 14, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Thank you so much, Anna. I love it that you are trying different techniques.

    • Dianne Greene on February 10, 2021 at 4:18 am

      I can not determine the style tat works best for me. I sketch well, but applying color to my sketch frequently sends it directly to the trash. HELP!

      • Chelle on February 26, 2021 at 10:12 pm

        That’s what I do aswell. I ruin my sketches with paint!

  4. Nathalie Chetcuti on October 14, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed painting the lemon. I like loose painting more than realistic although I like it too.. I think with painting the lemon I might have found the road in between and I am more inclined to believe that this is the style that I (ave been looking for. I will definitely consider taking up a monthly subscription soon.. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Gina on October 14, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Anna, but I don’t like this style much , I like the more realistic style.

  6. Kathy Howard on October 14, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Oh, this is much more in my comfort zone as I don’t have the patience or coordination for the detailed realistic art. Alas, I need to get some paints. Nice paints would be great great luxury now, but I would even settle for the children’s paint box I was using and used up. I turn my art into digital images, so long lasting quality in the paint isn’t really needed.

  7. Hilda Barone on October 14, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you so much Anna for this video. Love the way you build up the colour xxx

  8. Elena Jiva on October 14, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Love you work! It’s so beautiful !

  9. Beth Carroll on October 14, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    What fun! What fun! This loose style is very relaxing and warms one up for something more tight.
    Great job as usual.

  10. Leesa Carlisle-Brown on October 15, 2020 at 12:31 am

    Hi Anna,
    That was super interesting, the way you explained the relationship between the two styles. Personally I love to paint details but I like to look at looser work, maybe my style will become looser as I understand what I can leave out 🙂

    • Anna Mason on October 23, 2020 at 2:43 pm

      Interesting way of thinking about it Leesa – I think you might be right – but you’ll probably get to know that at a subconscious/right brain level without having to consciously think about it if that makes sense.

  11. Hellen on October 15, 2020 at 12:35 am

    Yes it looks easy. it would be good to paint this style on holidays. quick and simple.

  12. Gregoria on October 15, 2020 at 5:59 am

    Thank you – I will definitely give this a go – painting loosely is a real challenge for me but I love the result. I am loving your videos. They have inspired me to make time to paint again.

  13. Annie JMathew on October 15, 2020 at 6:15 am

    That was super Anna. .As a beginner i feel comfortable with ink and loose watercolor painting.Waiting for more of this kind.

  14. Susan on October 15, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    Enjoyed your video as always. I have not attempted it as of yet.

  15. Lily on October 16, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Dear Anna, Since I’ve finished my 1year subscription in your brilliant school,I’ve noticed I can’t really do loosely based paintings .My sister is encouraging me to try it, but now my observation skills are so much more “refined”,I always have to include every little detail .I will definitely try a more loosely based style after watching your lovely video. Thank you ❤.

Leave a Comment