My birthday was a couple of days ago, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do to celebrate: watch true crime documentaries and make art. In my pre-child life, I took my documentary/art time for granted. Now, I know better! As I handed our five-month-old baby over to my husband, I began to plan what I’d do for the next hour or two. The result: a colorful and jubilant watercolor lemons envelope. Today, I’ll walk you through how to make one just like it!
In order to create this mail art, you’ll need:
- Vintage book page, made into an envelope (as detailed in these instructions) – glue on a rectangle of white paper for the address
- Pencil + high-quality eraser
- Ziller Soot Black ink
- Straight pen + Nikko G nib
- Watercolor Set (preferably Cotman)
- Size 0 paintbrush + size 3 paintbrush
- Bleed Proof White Ink
With the exception of the vintage book page and the white ink, you can find all of these supplies in the The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Kit.
1. Assemble a Handmade Envelope
Part of this mail art’s “cool factor” comes from the contrast between the bright lemons and slightly yellowed, vintage paper. If you have a vintage book, tear out a page and use it to make an envelope (per the instructions in this tutorial). If you don’t have a vintage book, try looking for one at your local thrift shop!
2. Make a Pencil Draft
Next, grab a mechanical pencil and use it to draw a pencil draft of lemons. The illustration should extend from the upper left corner of the envelope down to the lower right corner.
Finish up by writing your recipient’s address somewhere on the envelope, too. I used Amy Style calligraphy, which I feel complements the cheerful nature of the envelope art motif.
3. Add Waterproof Ink
Now, use a straight pen (fitted with a Nikko G nib) and Ziller Soot Black ink to trace over your pencil draft and your calligraphy. Once the ink has dried, erase any remaining pencil draft lines with a high-quality eraser.
4. Add Watercolor
Next, use bright yellow watercolor paint (like “Lemon Yellow Hue” from the Cotman watercolor palette) to fill in the lemons.
Once the lemons have dried, use a light green tone to fill in the leaves.
Now, use “Cadmium Orange Hue” or a similar color to add dimension to the lemons. To do that, dry blend the Cadmium Orange around the edges of each lemon. (Not sure how to dry blend? Consider enrolling in The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course.)
Then, use a dark green tone (“Hooker’s Green Dark”) and your size 1 paintbrush to outline each leaf and add veins to them. There’s no blending going on here. You’re just painting directly over the light green paint! When you finish, use white ink to fill in the little flowers in the motif.
5. Put On the Finishing Touches
After the white ink has dried, use a light blue tone (“Cerulean Blue Hue”) to add a pop of color to the inside of each flower. Then, use your size 3 painbrush to add a white highlight to the middle of each lemon. Finally, apply postage stamps that complement the color scheme and content of your envelope art.
Learn How to Watercolor
If you love the look of watercolor, consider enrolling in TPK’s new The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course! In it, you’ll learn all the techniques you need in order to paint eye-catching, vibrant subjects like the lemons in today’s mail art tutorial.
I hope that you enjoyed today’s mail art tutorial! Getting to create it was the perfect birthday treat — so pleasant and relaxing. I encourage you to try it for yourself this weekend!