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Painting popcorn ball flowers (hydrangeas) instead…

Hydrangeas (popcorn ball flowers)

Have you ever been so sleepy you’re just slap-happy silly? That’s how I was yesterday. I’ve been trying to change my schedule to get up early and go to bed early but after a few days of doing the former but not the latter, I was so sleep-deprived yesterday afternoon that I just stopped making sense, even to myself.

When I get over-tired, instead of thinking, “sleep,” I think I’m hungry and crave carbs (and now research is showing that sleep deprivation causes weight gain and other health risks…see here and here).  So instead of eating popcorn (or going to bed at 7:00), I decided to paint these “popcorn ball flowers” (as my sister and I used to call hydrangeas when we were kids…and I thought everybody did until I Googled “popcorn ball flowers because I can never remember their real name, and discovered only recipes for making flowers out of popcorn and no references to hydrangeas!).

First I had to refill my watercolor palette because a couple weeks ago I’d washed out all the funky old paint that had been in there for too long. Some of it was getting moldy and all of it was dirty.  Before refilling my palette, I did color tests of all my paints to decide which pigments I wanted to use now. I love organizing things, so this was a perfectly soothing task for a tired mind.

Finally I was ready to paint, and grabbed my homemade 6×8” sketchbook filled with hot pressed Fabriano Artistico paper, and this bouquet of hydrangeas from my yard that I’d plopped into a drinking glass the day before. Instead of starting with my usual ink drawing, I used pencil and then painted using more of an oil painting technique, starting with the darkest darks instead of the lights.

Maybe it was because I was so tired, but I had so much fun, just being playful as I painted and not worrying about the outcome. As usual I wished I’d stopped about 10 minutes sooner and someday I’ll learn that “when you’re 75% finished you ARE finished!”  Some day….

If you’d like to know which pigments I settled on, click “Continue Reading for the details….

The colors currently in my watercolor palette are a combination of a warm and cool of each color plus an opaque and transparent of most colors, and are an attempt to have a similar palette in watercolor and oils. I use a Robert E. Wood palette with a lid.

Winsor Newton (WN) Cadmium Lemon, Holbein Cadmium Yellow Light, Daniel Smith New Gamboge

Holbein Cadmium Red Light, WN Scarlet Lake, Winsor Red, WN Permanent Alizarin, WN Permanent Rose

WN Quinacridone Magenta, WN Permanent Magenta, Holbein Cobalt Violet Light, Winsor Violet

WN French Ultramarine Blue, Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue, WN Cerulean Blue, Winsor Blue green shade

Winsor Green yellow shade, WN Permanent Sap Green

Earth colors:
Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold, WN Yellow Ochre, WN Burnt Sienna, Old Holland Burnt Umber, WN Sepia, DS Indigo (the latter two are mixed pigments that contain black paint and I use them infrequently)

9 replies on “Painting popcorn ball flowers (hydrangeas) instead…”

I always like looking at your flower paintings Jana!

Great to see the details of your palette.

Since doing my research about pigments, I’ve become very interested in why people choose certain paints. Could you maybe do a blog post some time about how you’ve settled on the particular paints you use and why you like these better than others? You have such a range I feel sure that this must be the result of lots of experimentation and thought.

Or maybe one colour group at a time if doing the whole lot at once seems too daunting?

I’m sure lots of other people would love to know more about your choices.


That is such an appropriate name – we sometimes call them Christmas flowers here, as that is when they all come out. The watercolour is so fresh and lovely – I have just been re-visiting your website and am in awe of your watercolours there… your glass and reflections are incredible!


Hi jana,

All this time, I’ve had your blog in my favorites and yesterday I discovered your blog link in Cathy Johnson’s blog as well!
So you and Cathy are right up there as my favorites. One day, when I grow up, I want to paint just like you.
Thank you for linking to that nifty palette with cover and also for putting the colors you use in your painting. I am just learning watercolors and journaling is my method of choice right now for practice.
I wonder why there aren’t more examples out there on mixing greens? I would love to have a color card with different greens and their mixing formulas. Better yet, why don’t the paint companies make a better selection of greens so that pretty greens don’t have to be mixed (I guess I am just being a lazy painter). LOL
I really love your work! Thanks again!


wow!!!!!! maybe i should try some sleep deprived silliness! I love your work and am so inspired by it. I thought of you while in New Mexico as I was sitting with my 11 year old niece and giving her an art lesson and heard myself saying “the dog before the fleas”


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