Abstract Watercolor Painting in 6 Steps | Daniela Mellen | Skillshare

Abstract Watercolor Painting in 6 Steps

Daniela Mellen, Artist & Author

Abstract Watercolor Painting in 6 Steps

Daniela Mellen, Artist & Author

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10 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Class Intro

    • 2. Class Supplies

    • 3. Step 1: Organic Shapes

    • 4. Step 2: Standard Shapes

    • 5. Step 3: Contour Shapes

    • 6. Step 4: Stuttered Strokes

    • 7. Step 5: Pen Outlines

    • 8. Step 6: Leading Lines

    • 9. Class Wrap Up & Variations

    • 10. Bonus Class: Bonus Layer

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About This Class

Abstract Art involves emotions, calling on the viewer to observe, draw on experiences, and call on memories. The abstract artist, also uses emotions to create their pieces. But, the challenge in creating abstract art is being able to focus on the piece, while channeling emotions and not being overwhelmed by them. One way to accomplish this task is to create guidelines or “steps” to use in creating a painting.

In today’s class we will create an abstract watercolor painting using six, simple, steps. These steps offer an opportunity to focus, and, to work within general boundaries. For each step, follow the suggestions to achieve a multi-layered painting. We will practice watercolor techniques such as blending boundaries, wet-on-dry techniques, and varying pigments within a shape. Each chapter in the class offers instruction for each step of the process. By modifying each step, you will achieve varying results, and always create a unique painting.

Meet Your Teacher

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Daniela Mellen

Artist & Author


I'm an artist and author living in coastal Florida and surrounded by plants, animals, marine life, and the warm sun - all things that inspire me.

I am drawn to creating things and love to get lost in projects. Each day is a opportunity to learn something new, build on existing skills, and branch out to new ones. I was formally trained as a educator which is my passion and incorporating art into teaching makes my life complete.

I upload art classes every Friday, here on Skillshare. You'll see handmade books, memory keeping, watercolor, acrylic paint, unique art supplies, and photography composition. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to seeing your work.

Check out my blog for additional info on my website danielamellen.com

You can contact me at [email protected] See full profile

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1. Class Intro: are you intrigued by abstract art but not sure about how to start creating it in today's class? Abstract watercolor painting in six steps. Also simple strategies to help you create abstract art using watercolor supplies and a pen . Abstract art is a huge genre of images that evoke feelings rather than a specific illustration. Think of abstract art as a person's description of an event. That description is based on their experiences, preferences and observations, and two people at the same event will have different descriptions. Abstract art is similar to this in that it is interpretive and subjective to who and what we are. And for this reason, abstract art encompasses a huge field. In today's class, we'll take a look at just a microscopic bit of abstract art and explore creating layers upon layers based on six simple steps. Each of these steps has basic guidelines that you follow. Choose your color shapes and number of objects to create the's. Simple steps will be the basis of our art will choose one color to use one shape for each layer and then unite the layers with some pen work. East time. You create this project, you'll end up with a different result by modifying the techniques you and create entirely new pieces of art. I'm Daniella Melon, an artist and author. Thanks for joining me. Let's get out our supplies and start painting. 2. Class Supplies: the supplies that will use today in our six step abstract art include watercolor paper. Now I'm using eight by 10 watercolor paper. You could use a water cop color journal and just use one of the pages, or you could shrink the size down accordingly. I have my watercolor palette, and I'm only gonna use a single color And to get that single color I actually used to colors. So I'm choosing to use blue. I have a Prussian blue in an ultra marine blue and for all the layers, I'm gonna use variations on this color. So those are the colors that I'm choosing. I have an assortment of brushes. I have a very thick one. It's a 3/4 inch brush, and it doesn't have to be this brush, but it gives me a nice, thick layer. Um, it holds a lot of water for our first layer. And then I have a 642 and a one for the consecutive layers. And then at the end, the last steps are some pen work. And so I like to just use this little ink pen here. It's a black pen. I'll use this on my dry paper, and sometimes I use my white gel pen for some highlights or just some texture as well. Also used some paper towels in a jug of water. 3. Step 1: Organic Shapes: now we're gonna create lots of layers. Are first layer is gonna be very organic. It's gonna be kind of the most abstract of the ones we create in that there's nothing that we're trying to emulate or sketch. It's kind of intuitive and that you just go where you want to go with it. So there are a couple ways to go about making this first layer because I want organic shapes. I'm not looking to get perfections. I'm not looking to get right angles. I'm just taking my thickest brush with and this is my 3/4 inch brush, and I'm just creating little splotches of shapes here and there on my page. Can't really see where they are, but I know that I'm saturating different parts of the page. And if I tilt my page, I could get a better view of what I've done. I could go off the page in some spots as well, and I want to kind of, in my mind envision an odd number for all these different layers. So for our first layer, I want to stick to the odd number, and I want to make my organic shapes, so I'm gonna makes my color And because the first layer I want the color to be super light . So I'll take some of this Prussian blue, which is my deepest blue, and I'll mix that in and it's quite beautiful. And then I'm just gonna mix in a little this ultra Marine as well. Now we know the watercolor will dry lighter than it is here. So go back and add a little more ultra Marine. And now I'm just gonna deposit it on some of those areas where I already wet on the paper and I can turn my paper to the side to find out where that is. And I'll make those spots those shapes and then I'll count 12345678 So I'm gonna have one more. Think I'll put it right over here. Right on the edge. I'll move my pigment around so it rules around the page and then we'll rinse off my brush. I'll remove a lot of water from it, and then we'll go back in to these shapes. Some of them I like the way they are, some of them they just trail off, and I like that effect, and I'll just kind of emphasize that I'll go over here, build this one up a little more by adding some color. And this really is just trial and error. See what you do seeing if you like what you're doing, you liking the way it looks. If the shapes combined, that's okay. Now go back in. And I also have a lot of white on the background, and I like that as well. So it's really an adjustment of finding what you like. Some of the edges are gonna drive very sharp, and others will just fade. And I like that contrast. If you want to have all sharp edges, now is your chance to make them all nice and sharp and crisp. You could make some parts of it really pigmented compared to the other parts. And then if you want to fade it out, you just go and clean your brush and remove the majority of the water from it. I'll do that here and then I'm just gonna I'll take this one and I'm just gonna gently move that edge, do a little bit of scrubbing with my brush, not trying to tear the paper I'm just tryingto help it fade. I'll just pull that pigment out. I'll come back here, deposit a little more pigment on this side and a little more here, just like that, and I'll let this layer completely dry. 4. Step 2: Standard Shapes: So now our first layer is dried, and as you can see, there's a lot of variation. There's clearly nine distinct shapes and the edges very there, from really sharp contrast to just a beautiful little blend. And it creates a lot of interest in our piece because this one layer actually looks like more layers to the I at least at first glance, toe are completed piece because you're seeing different depths of color and variations for our next step. Now we're gonna add an odd number, and that number is up to you of shapes. And where is our first layer? Was organic shapes? Nothing particular. We're going to really work on adding standard shapes. And for standard shapes, I consider those just any type of shapes you'd see typically, like in a kindergarten class or what not, You know, a a solid shape here. Ah, square and mobile on the lips, Anything like that. It could be any variation of that shape that you like as well. But you're gonna try and repeat it, and you're not gonna try and repeat it. Exactly. Each one you're gonna create your first shape and then you go to try and duplicate it within reason. You're gonna vary the shape you might vary the height and the width of it. But essentially, it's always gonna look like, for example, if you did, a square off four will resemble squares. So I'm gonna take my largest brush to start that. And what I'll do is I'll dip my brush in the water and create my next color. And so the first color we had was relatively light. So for this one, I'm gonna take a little more ultra Marine blue. That's our lighter of the two blues. And I'm gonna make some color there and I'm gonna add just a little Prussian blue. We had kind of the inverse before for our first layer, and then we watered it down. So now I'm gonna take this color and I'm gonna create my shapes, And I think I'm gonna create triangle shapes. Want to stick to an odd number. So I think I'm gonna go somewhere between three and five. And I'm gonna do my 1st 1 over here and I'm gonna overlap. And I kind of wanted to pick up some of the, um, connect some of the background of the white as well as unite some of the next layer that we did hear the organic shapes. So I'll create my triangle, and then I could fill it in. And I can add different variations to that triangle, leaving some areas later than others and really saturating other parts of it. And then I just work on creating the shape, the nice, crisp lines. And now I'm gonna add a few more of these. I think I will add two more. These So we'll go with the number three for this big shape here, this main shape. And again, I'm gonna create my angle first and then build from there. Just take my time. And I just enjoy the process of this, creating the shapes, playing with the paint, moving the color around and then seeing the layers through all the colors. It's a very interesting effect for my last one. Think of this one's gonna go off the page just like that, gonna come back and makes a little more of that color and now under deposited back on those shapes just in some areas, I like that variation as well. Come back and see if there's any areas I want to really emphasize, and part of this is a little messy. I'm creating a little spatter here, and that's okay. I like the way that looks. It kind of introduces another layer unintentionally. I just want to sharpen this a little, and I'm gonna let this layer completely dry. 5. Step 3: Contour Shapes: So now we have our 1st 2 layers dried. We have a lot of variation. We still have a single color that we're working with here and now we're gonna add our third layer for our third layer rig going to introduce 1/3 shape here, and this is gonna be our contour shape. So that just means the silhouette you're gonna leave the shape open and you can do the contra shape in a couple of ways. You can use a repeated version of this shape. For example, if you're making circles and you want to just continue and your creation of making that circle, if you want to blur the lines where you put down a shape and then you dip your brush in water and kind of just blur those edges just so that you have the hint of this shape and so I think that's what we're gonna do today. So I have my number to brush here, and I'm gonna take my brush and wet it, and I'm gonna mix a different color here. I'm going to use whatever I have left in my palette, and I'm just gonna use some more Prussian blue with that, and I'll just mix in some water. So I want a slightly different color than the one we used for either layer. And now, with this color, once again, I'm gonna try in you in unite all the shapes that are existing by just tracing over them. I'm not gonna avoid them. You can if that's the look you want to go for. And that's what's beautiful about this step is that it's really optional, and you can get so many variations doing the same project, using the same steps over and over again. What you want to just keep in mind is that when since we're using watercolor and depending on the color you use if you go over and already dry layer, you might reinvigorate it and it might run. It will produce a different effect, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just want you to be aware of that so you could be careful, because if you are trying to preserve a sharp edge going over, that might blur that edge. So I have my color on my brush and I'm gonna just use circles. So I'm gonna destroying Go around here just in a circle, Go a couple of times, wet my brush, remove the pigment, and then just gonna blur that edge, blur the center of it. I'm gonna go back and just clear the exterior. And in a way, it kind of looks like a coffee cup that was set down on a counter or in a table. I kind of like that effect. So again, I'm gonna stick to even numbers here. So I think I'm gonna add five of these, and I'll just go around blurring that edge. And not every circle has to unite various layers. Some of them can stand on their own and something go right off the page. So there I have my five. On top of my layer of three. On top of my layer of nine, I'm gonna let this dry will come back and add another layer 6. Step 4: Stuttered Strokes: So now that this layers dry, we'll start with our fourth layer here, and we're gonna add what I call a group of stuttered strokes and stuttered Strokes are just a clump of repetitive shapes, and usually the shapes are many. So that might look something like dots. And they could be spaced, um, wide, like with a lot of space in between them, very organically. Or they could be tight, the overall look to be very tight. And it could be dashes. It could be a pen stroke. So these air kind of ovals could be triangles. It could be squares. It's up to you and again, you want to stick each cluster, you want to keep each cluster to an odd number. So I think I'm gonna add We'll start with three and go from there for this. I'm going to use my number to brush, but I'm going to use a darker color or richer color. So I'm just gonna take some of this ultra Marine. Now, put it over here and I just want to take it slowly. And I want to make my shapes my clusters as a shape as well. But not they can be a particular shape or a standard shape, as I call it, or it could just be kind of organic, and so I'm just gonna create them. But what I like to do is layer on top of existing shapes. And so I'm just gonna go around making this layer here, dragging these colors and these this wet brush here and letting that dry. So there's one cluster. Maybe I'll is that a few more over here, do the same thing over here and again. This is the part where you should just enjoyed creating the strokes, the repetition of the same stroke as well, a seeing how it builds up the layers doing over here. And now I'll take a sit back and just take a look at my work here. I want this one to be a little bigger. I think this cluster to be a little bigger just to balance everything. So just add a few more of these little stuttered strokes and I'll just deposit a little more color in some of them. So I like the way that looks. I can add more clusters if I want, but I think I'm gonna stop there. I really like the contrast in this particular painting between the white background and our colors. So I'll stop there, let this dry, and then we'll start our pen work. 7. Step 5: Pen Outlines: So now we're gonna start with our pen work. I would just start with my dark pen here. Now, your job here is to try and create an additional layer with your pan emphasizing the existing layers you have. So for this point, you want to take and decide if you want to Which layer you gotta work on. So do I want to take my organic shapes the first layer we did and just create an outline of them with my pen. This may or may not work. Some of them. I like to have this, like, soft blend. So I think I'm gonna set aside my first layer, at least for now. I might revisit it if I choose to. The other layer we have are these very light contour shapes, and I think I might go and emphasize those as well. And we have our nice, bold shapes as well. A czar stuttered strokes. I'm going to start, though, with these hollow shapes here, these contour shapes. And now when I create my outline, I can use a solid line, a thin line. I could even use an angled line. And I'm just trying to emphasize the shape. I don't even have to fill it entirely. So for that I'm going to create the shape and I'm going to set up my own rules. I'm not going to go right and draw over these other existing shapes. So I'm gonna make the I'm gonna use this trick to make thes rounded shapes. These hollow shapes fall behind these other ones. So I'm going to create my outline. I'll start with the interior just like this. Think I'll just add a few dots here, create that, and then I'll do the same thing on the exterior of it just to create that outline. And so, by doing it this way, I've essentially made it look like the dots are on top of it. And I'll go and continue to do this and I'll start with this one again, emphasizing that shape when I get up to the edge of this larger standard shape, I'm just going to stop creating that contour and we'll do that. Over here is well, hoops. This little wet still must have dropped some water on that. Come back and finish that Now continue with these. So now I can decide if I want this shape to fall beneath this con. This first layer and I don't swim is gonna go back in here and added right on top. Don't do the same thing here. I want to make it appear that this shape is underneath our standard shape, but above our first layer. And there's no right or wrong here after you do it. If you decide you don't like the way it looks, just start another painting. And so there I have those shapes outlined. I can go in there and outlines some other ones, or I can create different effects. And so I think I'll do that. I think I'll take these standard shapes here. And instead of doing a solid outline, I'm just gonna do a dashed outline and I'm just gonna do it a little bit above the actual shape. So they'll be a little layer of white or a little distance between this outline layer that I'm creating as well as the standard shape. And also, when I get to this part here with my cluster, I'm gonna allow the cluster toe overlay on top of that shape. And so I avoided using my ink on top of that. And so over here I'll do the same thing. I'll avoid using my ink on top of the cluster. I don't mind going over the other shape because I'm trying to place it in an order, A layer order, and then I'll use the shape last. So there I have my shapes outlined. The way I like them. I'm going to stop here. And in the next chapter, I'm gonna add yet additional layer with my pen work. 8. Step 6: Leading Lines: now for another layer. I have my shapes down. I have them outlined. And now I'm going to try and create movement in my piece. And so I'm gonna choose some of the shapes and I'm country and connect them. And I can choose any of the shapes I have here any of the layers if I want to use it by layer. And that's what I like to dio. So I'm gonna actually try and connect these shapes here that we outlined. Take my pen and I'm going to create a leading line. And the only thing I'm gonna really work on is not making a straight line. So not as the crow flies, but kind of as a winding road. And I'm gonna look for a fun new shape, so that would be rounded as a way to connect them. And I'm gonna just use a series of dots. I'm gonna start with one row, and if it looks too thin, I'll come back and add a second row. And so I'm gonna connect this one to this one only because that's where I want to start. You can start on any of them, and I'm just placing the dots around here as a river wines. And then I'm gonna come back here, and I think I'm gonna connect, Gonna figure out if I want to connect it in the center or around. Thank you to go around. And I'm going to start at the end of this cluster and not gonna go behind the cluster and again making a very winding road. And if at first I have a lot of space between them, that's fine. Because then I can go back in and create more dots here to create that line that connects some things to keep in mind. When you're doing this, are you your eyes gonna follow that line? So if you make it to straight or you cut through things too much, you're I might get lost to just keep an eye of an idea of how you want to continue it. So now I'm gonna think I have this side of the page done, and I have two more to connect to. I'm gonna actually connect to all of them. So I can either go all the way around on the outside creating kind of a swirly technique, or I could go on the inside and then behind. Think about a connect outside with a swirly technique. So I'm gonna bring some of this line off the page like a little trail of ants, and I'll come back in over here so it looks like I'm going behind this big shape, and then I'm gonna come over here and create an s shape. And again, it's that curve which adds a little prettiness and a little interest. And then from here, I want to connect this shape to this shape, gonna connect it over here mainly because I like the idea of crossing over this organic shape and then I'll come all the way around and then lastly, I have just that one shape to connect. But I think I'm gonna connect this way as well. So all gonna connect that shape and I think I'm gonna make kind of a little curve in the center here. And so I'm just gonna kind of eyeball the curve with a lot of spacing first, and then I'll go back in and work that curve, and I can always go back in and add a few more just to tighten it up. And then Lastly, I want to have the curve come out here and connect to our original shape just like that. So I like the way that looks. I can add a second layer if I want, and I see right here I kind of made a mess where I put my hand on it. So keep that in mind when you're using your pen if it doesn't dry right away. If it's a pigment pen, you could also take your gel pan here and add additional layers. And so I'm just gonna add a few little, just a little spots here on one side of my standard shapes. And again, this is just another layer, and it adds interest, and it's completely optional. And there we have our six steps to an abstract watercolor. 9. Class Wrap Up & Variations: So here we have our completed six step abstract piece we've got. All our layers are leading lines. We have a bunch of things going on here. In addition to the layers, we have a lot of texture. We have a lot of movement in our peace, and we have a lot of visual elements that are. I moves around and jumps around to. It's kind of an interesting effect, and you'll always get something different, with a simple modification of varying the shapes, the size of them and the colors that you choose today. We stuck to using one color family or one color for our peace, and that gives a completely different effect than if you were to use multiple colors. I have a bonus class for you, where I add 1/7 step using the same exact technique. But instead what I did was I started with the first layer of collage, and again I stuck to an odd number, and I added some collage elements and it gives a completely different effect. So check that out. That's the bonus class at the end. I also want to show you some variations that I had and what not to do and what to dio some kind of yes, things to look for. So I have this piece here that I did in purple, and it's kind of interesting because this one, I thought, did a nice job balancing out the white of the background, the contrast with the purple that I chose and I pulled some more white into it, using that gel pen to create texture on those standard shapes. Now, this was just a little thumbnail sketch that I did to try and get some information for me on what I liked about this technique. Another one that I did that I found. What I didn't like is where I made this in Green, I added, are layers. Once again, I used the gel pen. But see, I didn't leave enough white in the background. And perhaps if I used a lighter color for our first layer, I could have gotten a different effect as well. But I knew from this piece that I made the next one. I wasn't getting continued using so much of the pigment on the paper. Now I did this one in yellow when I kind of like the way this one looked again. I use the background. I completed all the shapes with very crisp edges, and then I really emphasized the lightness of that color by using a black pen. And if you don't want to use a marker, you can use just a standard ballpoint pen like I did here again. This was another thumbnail sketch I did toe learn about my piece in my techniques and what I liked about the properties of it. And then, lastly, I had this very involved piece here, where instead of using just a single standard shape, I threw in a bunch of them. I have triangles in a be in shape. I have kind of like little arrows as well as rectangles. So I only added a few different layers. I didn't have the organic layer first, so I skipped that layer. But I used multiple shapes, and it gives a different effect. I think the reason this worked for me is because there is that white border between each of these shapes and then just occasional one where I have a layer on top uniting the peace again. Here I broke the layers down and kind of mix them up with the different shapes and the outlines. So it's a different effect that you get. And but it happened just intuitively, just by playing around. And that's the beauty of this technique. You get to see some very interesting effects that you kind of just do by mote by motion by rote. So it's a fun effect, I hope. Youll try your hand at one of these pieces and enjoy the beauty of abstract of working, not trying to achieve a particular realistic effect or making example of face with eyes and a nose, but more just playing with your supplies. Working on borders and textures and colors and brightness and contrast. All those elements will be very important for you in your painting, whether you do realism or abstract. But by this practice technique for abstract, you'll gain some knowledge that way. Thanks for watching. Please be sure to follow me here on skill share to get notified of future classes and please consider leaving a review 10. Bonus Class: Bonus Layer: Another addition that you could make to the layers is to start with some collage work. So what I do is I have my watercolor paper here the same way, and I'm using a little Matt medium. This dries clear. It's kind of an adhesive, but it is also a protective layer. And because I'm gonna put watercolor over it, I'm going to be very conservative with my use of this. I'm only gonna use enoughto hold down the peace by gluing it on the back. And so what I do is I take off the cap and I just use whatever Matt medium I can reach with my brush. I like to use neutral papers for my first layer. And by that I mean, I like to use either texts or music, musical notes or grid paper, something along those lines, something that doesn't distract for my other objects. So I'll use this musical paper today, and what I do is I just take it and I don't want any straight edges. So I tear it into strips, and from there I'll tear pieces on it. And again, I'm going to stick to an odd number of pieces to put down on my paper. So just take some pieces and depending on how you tear it, you can get a white edge or not, and it's just a different effect. And so I'll just cut some paces. She says Here, actually, just tear them really and just stick them down, seeing how they look, I'll move them around to get the placement that I want. And I think I'm gonna just stick to three. I could put them in the line just off the line anyhow. Anyway, I want them, Really? I'm gonna try and balance it out a little bit, so I think I'll just do just like that. So then I just take my Matt medium, get a little bit on my brush, and then I'm gonna be careful to only paint the paper that I want to stick down. I don't need to much just enough to adhere the paper. And then I'm gonna let that layer dry. So I go right to the edge of my little scrap here, and then I'll set it down and burnish it well, right to the edge. I'll do this with all the pieces. The mat medium is a very thick medium. I would like to work with it. So I take my scrap and I said it down. I set it down and then I just try and go around my paper and just remove any little spots of Matt Medium. That may have dripped. I'll burnish this, flip it over and burnish it again, trying to get out all the air bubbles. And then I'll let that dry and then I'll build it. My layers on top of that Oh oh!