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Dogwood Flowers
Watercolor Sketching Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch

The dogwoods are blooming! So I had to paint them. Here's a step by step watercolor tutorial of each wash!

Dogwoods are a quintessential Southern flower. Everyone here looks forward to the bright white of dogwood flowers when leaves first start appearing. I feel so lucky to have beautiful dogwood trees dotted through the woods here. The bright pink cultivar is striking, but I've always preferred the airiness of the native white dogwood.

Dogwood bark has been used as a substitute for quinine against malaria. Native Americans used it before Europeans came and everyone used it during the Civil War when ports were blocked. Dogwood twigs were toothbrushes - which explained why Native Americans had bright white teeth compared to the Europeans. The flowers could be used for infant colic - very calming. Dogwood was a very valuable medicinal plant.

When I grew up, you never cut a dogwood flower. It was supposed to be terribly bad luck. Perhaps this is because dogwood flowers are associated with Christ's crucifixion, with blood red color at the edges of a "cross" of 4 petals.

There's also a legend about a beautiful Cherokee woman who died and left her blood in the petals. It really is blood red splotches!

Personally, I prefer the Cherokee legend that helpful "little people" lived in the dogwoods. Don't disturb their home or they won't help you!

Whatever the reason, it still makes me uncomfortable when magazines feature cut dogwood boughs in their cheery spring articles. Just looks like bad luck! Black cats, now, I love!

Here's my watercolor tutorial of dogwood flowers on a grey day with hints of rain. The dreariness makes colors and whites glow against the background.

Dogwood Flowers Watercolor Painting tutorial

Sketching Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Strong Darks


Art Supplies


M. Graham watercolors

Azo Yellow
Quinacridone Red
Ultramarine Blue
Burnt Sienna
White Gouache

Painting Demonstration 1

Dogwood Flowers Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

A quick, light sketch.

Painting Demonstration 2

Dogwood Flowers Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

Whenever I paint white or light flowers, I always paint the darks first. Simple Ultramarine and Burnt sienna here.

Painting Demonstration 3

Dogwood Flowers Painting Tutorial 3

I have a lot of help painting!

Artist's Tips

Always be bold when negative painting. You want strong background darks - and you want to know just how dark to paint the white flowers!

Painting Demonstration 4

Dogwood Flowers Painting Tutorial 4

While everything is wet, I drop in bright greens and a few water droplets.

Painting Demonstration 5

Dogwood Flowers Painting Tutorial 5

Adding the bright green florets adds shape to the flowers.

This is a very simple 5 pigment palette of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, azo yellow, viridian, and quinacridone red. And one dash of white gouache.

Dogwood Flowers Watercolor Painting tutorial

Final Watercolor Sketch!

Happy Painting! Jennifer Branch

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