Bamboo watercolor: Creative strokes using a round, flat, wedge, and dagger brush | Jen Sweeney | Skillshare

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Bamboo watercolor: Creative strokes using a round, flat, wedge, and dagger brush

teacher avatar Jen Sweeney, Watercolor, Calligraphy, Cycling

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

15 Lessons (1h 2m)
    • 1. Hello and Class Project

    • 2. Supplies for class

    • 3. Color and inspiration

    • 4. Bamboo stem with wedge brush

    • 5. Bamboo stem with flat brush

    • 6. Bamboo stem with round brush

    • 7. Bamboo stem with dagger brush

    • 8. Bamboo stem (B&W) with wedge brush

    • 9. Leaves, part 1

    • 10. Leaves, part 2

    • 11. Putting it all together (flat brush)

    • 12. Putting it all together (wedge brush)

    • 13. Putting it all together (dagger brush)

    • 14. Putting it all together (round brush)

    • 15. Thank You!

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About This Class


  • You will learn creative strokes, with 4 different brushes, for painting gorgeous Bamboo 
  • But no worries, you DO NOT need to have all four brushes for class. If you have one or all of them, this class is for you!
    • Round brush
    • Flat brush
    • Wedge or Triangle brush
    • Dagger brush
  • You'll be pleasantly surprised at the ease of executing these strokes
  • Various grips and angles of each brush are explained and demonstrated in order to obtain these lovely stems and leaves
  • You will paint right along with me, in real time.
  • You will learn the beautiful technique of dry brushing and see how it immediately gives gorgeous depth and interest to your bamboo.
  • We explore various colors - green, grey, brown, and the dramatic white on black.
  • Handouts are available! Located under the Projects & Resources tab.

Class Supplies

  • Grab 1 or all of these brushes:
    • Flat brush (I used ½ inch)
    • Wedge brush (6, 8, 10, or 16 - I use a 6 & 8) or Triangle
    • Dagger (025)
    • Round brush (I use a size 6)
  • Watercolor paper (for this class, I use Canson XL, 140 lb)
  • Optional: Black drawing paper (I use Canson XL Black drawing paper 92 lb)
  • Watercolor paint- any brand or hue of color is perfectly fine
    • Green (I use Undersea Green by Daniel Smith)
    • Brown (I use Raw Umber by Winsor & Newton, Cotman series)
    • Grey (I use Jane’s Grey by Daniel Smith)
    • White (I use Dr Ph Martin’s Bleedproof White)
  • Water jars, paper towels
  • White gelly roll pen
    • Signo Uni-ball or Sakura gelly roll
    • Micron pen (optional, if you choose to outline your watercolor) - I do not do this in class though

~ Feel free to improvise and use the supplies you have

~ Happy bamboo painting, friends! See you in class...

Meet Your Teacher

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Jen Sweeney

Watercolor, Calligraphy, Cycling




Hello! I’m Jen, a watercolor artist and calligrapher living in Ohio with my husband. I used to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner but now, I'm pursuing my art full time and have become completely smitten by the world of watercolor. Perhaps, like me, you didn’t go to art school, but you have a deep passion for creativity. My absolute favorite tool has been the wedge brush (or closely related, the triangle brush).  Maybe you have one, and know a few strokes, but eagerly desire to fully unleash the artist within. If so, allow me the privilege to walk alongside you and demonstrate, step by step, the versatility of this br... See full profile

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1. Hello and Class Project: Hi. Welcome to my home. I'm Jen Sweeney. Thanks for hanging out with me and choose in the bamboo watercolor class. I want to take you through my process. How These brushes make some really cool and interesting bamboo strokes. So if you have a wedge or a triangle, brush a dagger. Ah, flat brush or round brush. I think you'll really enjoy this class. Let me take you behind the scenes and show you some things that you'll learn. I am so excited to share this class with you. I really wish it was a live class because I would love to see your expressions of joy and excitement when you make these bamboo strokes the really a lot of fun. If you're a beginner intermediate artist, this classes for you. You'll have access to several handouts, and they're available in the projects. In Resource is tab. First we'll chat a little bit about color and inspiration before we actually start painting . But then we die right into making the bamboo stems, and I love showing you the effect you can achieve with the four different brushes, and I show you exactly how to grip your brush to get these really beautiful results. We then chat all about these beautiful bamboo leaves and talk about the importance of understanding directional flow. We'll take our time practicing these leaves because I really want you to feel confident in the brush strokes before moving on to the finished pieces. And then it's time to put it all together. I'll take you through my step by step, process off some bamboo examples and then it's your turn toe. Let your creativity soar and design your own unique bamboo piece for your class project. I'm so excited to see what you come up with, so let's have some fun head on over to class and get started. 2. Supplies for class: the supplies you want to grab for class, of course, your brushes and I'll be using the wedge brush. But if you have a triangle brush that's going to do the exact same thing, I'll also be using 1/2 inch flat brush, a number six round brush and the 0 to 5 dagger. Grab some paper towels. If you want to print off the handouts before class, feel free to do so. I'm not going to go through them one by one. But I just made them for your reference. The paint's I'll be using in class now. You don't need to have these exact paints. Just whatever colors in your palette is gonna be perfectly fine. I'm going to be using undersea green. Daniel Smith, Sap Green, Daniel Smith, James Gray A really nice blue gray color also by Daniel Smith, Dr Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White, an Windsor and Newton raw Lumber, Cotman Siri's grab some water jars and then just for a few enhancements. I like to use the generals, charcoal white pencil and also the signal you nibble white pen. As for paper, I'm going to be using the cancer in Excel watercolor paper. £140. And also I'm going to be using the cancer in Excel Black drawing paper, The £92. You don't need to have this. I just want to show you what the white on the black looks like when I'm making the bamboo. So that's it for supplies. I'll see you over in the next lesson. 3. Color and inspiration: I want to talk a little bit about inspiration and color. One place I like to go is the website unspool ash dot com. They just have a huge amount of photography of any subject that you would want. I typically go there, browse around and then print off a couple pictures for some inspiration. It can certainly get overwhelming. So just be careful on getting caught in that trap of just so many different pictures. And then, of course, that may pull This guy in here is just enormous. But this is bamboo. I have sitting in my kitchen and, of course, just looking at nature is the number one way for inspiration. At least in my mind. This one here is all Daniel Smith undersea green, and I'll be using this predominantly in class. Just I love that green. That's this guy here, so I tend to swatch my colors out before I start anything just to get a good idea. And don't mind this. This is just just a quick one here, but you can compare this to the real deal and see if you like that. Of course, sap green is always a choice, and you can certainly make up your own green, too. But if you're doing it to straight out of the tomb, just be careful. Daniel Smith, Windsor and Newton both sap green, but the makeup is a little bit different, both very pretty, but taken this step green and looking at the real deal. That's pretty spot on there to love that, and I'll be using that one as well to not the Windsor and Newton. But whatever green you have is gonna be just fine. I love this color to Jane's Gray by Daniel Smith. I just love how this looks. Here you get such a deep color almost. It's a blue gray kind of color and my favorite white doctor, Ph Martin's bleed proof white. I love the look of the white on black here and then last one. Just because, of course, bamboo comes in all kinds of different colors. Different shades of green and yellow and brown, even reds and blues. But raw lumber is a pretty decent color to use to. This one is just an old to buy head of Cottman. So just a few things to show you about color there and again with inspiration unspool ash dot com. Of course, we all know Pinterest and Instagram, but that can get us down the rabbit hole very quickly of looking too much and not creating . So let's go ahead and grab our brushes and we'll start working on our bamboo. 4. Bamboo stem with wedge brush: So the coolest part about making bamboo, I think making these stocks because you lay down one or two strokes and then it's immediately recognizable as bamboo. So I'm gonna walk you through the four brushes here. Same one here. I'm gonna be using the wedge, the number eight first, and then I'll take you through the others. But let's clear our space here, and I want you to be able to see everything that I'm doing. So I'm gonna add a little more water to my Daniel Smith undersea Kring. It's pretty warm in my house today, so I feel like I need to keep adding water over and over. And then I dap this brush fairly regular because it gets pretty saturated, holds a lot of water. Okay, so what I like to dio when I start the bamboo, you can hold your brush a couple different ways. So you want to make sure the point is that the nine oclock position you can either hold it like this, where I'm pretty much laying my little finger onto the paper with these three fingers here , or you can kind of hug it this way or another way. You can actually hold it like this with your finger on top of the bristles. So let me start this way. First again. Nine oclock position. I'm gonna lay it down almost flat and then glide up the paper lift, glide up lift. So there's a little bit of dry brushing already right there. Let me show you another grip. So withholding the bristle, I feel like I have a little bit more control. And then I'm guiding up the paper almost with this finger to I just love that look of the dry brush there. That's where you have more pigment and less water. The other way, too, can laying flat up, lift up lift. Now that's a lot of dry brushing right there, but still very pretty, I said The coolest thing about that you immediately recognize that as bamboo, the other way to do that is flip the belly of the brush up towards you. With the tip down, you're going through the same motions. Whoops. I ran into the palette there, so our baby was going to go that way totally fine. You can actually move your paper sideways if that's easier for you. So doing that one again. If you saw I kind of did a little wiggle in that area there before I lifted the brush. Turn around. And there you go. What I do next is once that is dry doesn't take two longest again, this is drawing really pretty fast. I go in and add some highlights to this node, these node areas and I definitely don't make them perfect. Just some squiggly lines in there to bring attention to that area, because later, that's where our branches air gonna come off. Okay. No, this is not traditional Chinese painting. I love that, but I've not been trained in that. But I do believe sometimes they kind of do some squiggle lines. I'm sure the person named for it I just don't know that. But they kind of do. Uh, and that one's a pretty, pretty wide note there, but enough to get in there and enhanced that area. What you can dio is also go back in. If this is too light for you, you can certainly go back in and dark in that up there. I don't know about you, but I really, really enjoy the dry brush technique. Do a little bit more with the wedge. It's turning this way again. I'm gonna hold him this way. Let's flip them up. You can always go back in and a little bit of grassy area here to kind of ground your work . Killing me. Show you now to while I've got it here and thinking about it. So the general charcoal is white. I use that sometimes. Or the signal white pan. If you want a little bit more dimension can just go in, and some white certainly can do that with white paint. This is a quick and easy way to add some of that dimension. It's light flicking motions. Try it down here, too. The other option is, of course, to go in with your brush. Add some details to some dry brushing that way too up to the artist How you want to play with this. So that's it for the wedge brush. Let me grab another one and we'll get on to the next one 5. Bamboo stem with flat brush: Okay, next up, I've got my half inch flat brush. We're gonna mix up some sap green here. Daniel Smith. Very vibrant, really pretty green. They have been some excess off. We're going to start with the brush pointing towards our belly at the six oclock position. And it's going to be the same motion keeping your hands steady. Glide and up the paper. Lift, wiggle, wiggle and then left. Light up. Wiggle lift. Glide up. And there we go. Could not be any easier. Let's do a little bit more bride dry brush. Excuse me. Angle him a little bit here. Not quite as dry as I was going for. Here we go. You have some really clean edges on the on the sides. There can also take your brush for a sinner bamboo and angle it this way. Same technique. Get in there with the same brush to enhance the notes. Going to give you some straight edges there, of course. Or you can grab your wedge or a liner brush or something else. If you were wanting to go for more squiggly, look there at the nodes. But this is pretty too again turning your paper. If that's easier. And this looks like it's more of a background bamboo. So that's really fun. When you're putting the whole piece together toe, have some, you know that wet and wet the dry brush this really dry brush. Look here, just up to the artists and again immediately recognize that as bamboo in a fun little trick with this, too. Can really get some quick fund branches out of that too. Try a little more really dry brush. I almost can't even see that one. Do you highlight those nodes? You definitely know. That's bamboo. Okay, Next brush up. I'm gonna grab my round brush. 6. Bamboo stem with round brush: So this next one, I'm going to use Jane's Gray Daniel Smith. And if you don't have this color, But you do have ultra marine blue and burnt Sienna, you can mix it up and see what kind of gray you get from that. But this is just become quickly one of my favorite favorite graze. It's a blue gray just gives a really cool vibe. So this round brush, actually a big fan of this one. Macon the Van Bill to check this out. I like to hold it this way. Same technique, but immediately gives that very organic death roll. Look to it. It's like old branches. You could do this for birch trees, to certainly less of this color with the birds trees. It's more white, But you know what I'm saying? To hear ago up obsessed is really quite dry. That's okay. More water in there. Certainly, we can just use it straight. I'm just a big fan of this color and how this looks. With a round brush, you have to let me know which one you really enjoy. Using the round brush that wedge, the dagger or the flat brush turn sideways. You don't have to hold it down on the bristles. Try to get us flat as you can. Instead, a few fun little branches in there. All right, so that's it for the round. The last one is the dagger brush. 7. Bamboo stem with dagger brush: So the dagger brush really pretty flimsy compared Teoh the wedge brush or the triangle. You've got this full belly here. This guy's pretty slender, still really good to use, but very flimsy. And honestly, I have a hard time controlling it. Sometimes it just is really just flops around in there a lot. Let's get some more water. This is the wrong number. Windsor and Newton Cotman. Siri's really wanna load your brush in the same way you're gonna point the point to the nine oclock position can either hold it this way, just like the wedge. Whatever is comfortable for you. So try this way. First, it's gliding up the paper, and this gives you a big old fat bamboo right here, which is just really pretty awesome. And the more you get your brush perpendicular, obviously you're gonna have smaller area there. It just feels really loose to me. I like it, but I'm just not as comfortable with this brush as I am with the wedge brush, but certainly a lot of options with the dagger really tiny little ones there. Certainly you can use that grip and that hold for the branches to same with the wedge. This way, the belly of the brush is facing up. Same technique. Try lifting this guy up a little bit more here, all kinds of different sizes with this, and you can hold far back this way or really close to the tip. Whatever is most comfortable for you. Turn in that paper, See how it's already angled out there. So just got to be careful with that. But once you get the hang of it, really pretty cool brush to use. 8. Bamboo stem (B&W) with wedge brush: Okay, Last button. At least I'm gonna use some bleed proof white. And I've got a number six wedge here. And I just love the look of white on black, like this same technique. A little more water in there have been that brush back and forth belly of the brush facing up. Tip is down towards the paper. You can see right here. I don't have the brushes. Flat as I really should. Makes it wider when I push it down. But you want to practice with it, you can get good control of it. It's a little sick. Runs may have an X ray and bones, but I just I love the look here. Get some of these nodes enhanced. Getting ahead of myself. But this is what we'll do in the next video. Learn in these leaves. All right? I want to get too ahead of myself. So I'll see in the next lesson we'll talk all about how to do the leaves. 9. Leaves, part 1: So we did the easy part. That's the stem you saw how easy that was with a different brushes. Now we gotta tackle these leaves and I love to make leaves, especially with the wedge brush. But for some reason, bamboo leaves can really give me some headaches. But we'll get through this little by little here. So taking a look at the real deal here, you can see this beautiful long stem here and then you've got the leaf graduating to get bigger in the center and then narrows out towards the tip. So that's exactly what our brush is going to do. We want to go narrow, thick and then narrow. Same way in our reference pictures. Here, you can see how these guys were just kind of jutting out to the left and right and facing downward. And some of these start to go upward. So you have to decide what you want your bamboo to dio. Do you want it reaching up to the sun and going up? Or do you want your bamboo leaves going down as right here? Such is after a rain in the afternoon, so you got to decide that you can't have him jutting out all over the place, but very long, graceful curves to the leaves. You got a few coming down here, but you got some sideways here, essentially going straight up. This guy's just These two are heavy leaves, so that's why they're folding down there. But this I just find us so beautiful, but it's really hard to execute sometimes. So let's go ahead and take a look at this. And I have a number six wedge brush here and I'm gonna be using the Daniel Smith undersea green again for this demonstration. So a couple things to before I start here and I wrote myself some notes so I wouldn't forget. So again, you want to think about what motion do you want your leaves to have going up down sideways , a little bit of up in sideways or down in sideways? OK, and then something simple to remember to three and three. So generally your branch is gonna have three offshoots here small, medium and large, and same with your leaves, too A small medium and large leaf. Once you get that down, then you can start adding in some more fillers. So the way I do this, we'll just try to repeat a little bit here. So I'm holding my the tip of my brush. It's about it. The seven oclock position. Just doing a little notch. It's going up that way. One. Here, one. This way. Not all of them need to look like this. This is really just to demonstrate, so a couple ways I can make the leaves. One. I'm flipping the belly of the brush up tip down, kind of going into that stem a bit there, down and up. So we're getting that narrow, wide, narrow part of the leaf and following the direction directional flow. It's really does take some practice. Has everything right the other way. You can do it. Let's get a branch here again. You can keep the belly of the brush facing down towards the paper. It's really essentially the same motion to now. I tend to prefer this way, keeping the belly of the brush up just because I'm trying to avoid these tips here. Like I said, I really like to make leaves with this wedge brush and my typical go to leave. I'm doing this kind of thing and swinging it around here, but it's definitely not that big for a bamboo leaf, so I got to kind of rein it in here a bit. So just with the belly of facing up again land, push, lift, land, push, lift another way to dio the branch. You could just do a series of these like this, and then again, following direction there says with the belly, the brush face and down, trying not to get too much of a tip there, but enough that it's graceful. You don't have to go right on that point. There, in fact, just vary it up a bit. Certainly have some Cross is a tight little branch here that leaves are kind of compact in there, and that's fine. But right here, that's that's kind of the tip. I'm trying to avoid more. I want to see. I want to see that. So let's do it again with the tip facing, huh? Depending on the size of your bamboo. Certainly want that to scale to the size of your leaves, too, - switching over to a round brush. Still, the size six that I used was making the stems. This guy's a little bigger and thicker but pretty much the same motion you're gonna land, push and left kind of a flicking motion at the end, going in the same direction. So my go to brush is just the wedge, but certainly play around. Even a liner brush would work. It's very, very long and thin, but that one gives a nice, very elegant leaf to It's a little thin, but if you press down pretty good, it'll work. 10. Leaves, part 2: So let's try some that after a long afternoon rain, our leaves are going down. So here would I do with the wedge. Here's my point about the one oclock position. I want a land and then kind of curve around this way, and I go above the branch here and then the other way. Still the tip here, belly facing up to about one o'clock. It's kind of curve around that way, and you can always add a little little cute stem there, too. Didn't angle that right? Let me do that one again. So the tip and then the belly facing about one o'clock, come back around to meet it there, too. Maybe extend your branch a little bit, getting a little carried away with that one. But let's dio some more with the downward downward leaves underneath, it there, coming around this way. Just play around with whatever brush you have for these leaves, and it just it takes some time for sure patients and time, as with everything and varying up the size, the color, even the shape a little bit too. So let me just dio a really quick stem here and will do more of this and that in the last lesson, we were putting it all together. But if we have couple branches out this way, we want some downward leaves right underneath there, a little thick on that branch there. But then, if we did some a little off kilter here, but just enoughto show you some upward facing leaves. But we'll do more of this in the next lesson. So why don't you play around with the leaves for a little bit, and then we will move on to putting it all together? 11. Putting it all together (flat brush): Okay, so it's time to put these together. I'm gonna show you a couple different individual examples with each brush on how I put these together. So start with the flat brush. Then I the bottom here I cross over that one. I am going to switch to the wedge brush. When I do the branches in the leaves, it's much better control with this one. Someone, I have one branch coming out this way and then one coming here. So let me start up on this side. - So the belly the brush is facing up towards me. I'm landing on the page, pushing and lifting up, keeping that directional flow in mind, - and I'll go back in and darken up. Some of these two just wanted to get a couple down first to kind of get a eyeball it and see where I need to go with the next set of leaves again, Feel free to add is little or as much as you want. - I do tend to bounce around a lot, so it's looking a little unbalanced, pretty heavy up here, leaning this way. So when you try to balance it and add a little bit down here. Okay, so I'm pretty happy with that one. I'm going to go ahead and let that one sit and dry, and they'll come back and add a little bit of enhancements. Okay? Just a few ways to finish this one off. Going back to my flat brush. I'll just go in and and some little grassy areas here. It kind of balances out the heaviness at the top. - And then if you wanted to go back in with your white panto, add just a A little bit of highlights there can do that. You could also go back in and add some dark green, too. Just in the way I do. That sometimes is just going back in with the side of your brush. Try to keep these highlights pretty pretty simple. And Manimal, it just gives it some added texture. 12. Putting it all together (wedge brush): okay. And I've used the wedge brush a lot, but just gonna do a real simple one here. Just a one stock bam bill. - Sometimes what I like to dio is just be very, very simple with it. Maybe just a little tiny, delicate little branch right there. 13. Putting it all together (dagger brush): All right, so next up, we're gonna grab the dagger, try something a little different here, so load him up. Good. The James Gray sometimes what I like to dio gonna turn it sideways, but when I actually have it this way for the end end result. But this one started the very bottom, son. We're essentially going to go off the page top and bottom if you want right away. You can go back in and dark in that up a little bit. Really. Given it some contrast, it's getting a little too dry over here, - just being very loose again with it. Let's go ahead and make the branches and leaves with the dagger. And it's essentially the same as the wedge or the triangle. But again, it's just so, so flimsy sometimes does give some nice, pretty long strokes, though. - Start to run out of my gray here. But another fun thing you can do is if the leaves air coming down from the top. All right? I'm running out of grey, so we're gonna let that one go. And again you could take your white, and if you wanted to enhance that a little bit, I probably would have made some of these leaves even a little bit darker but running out of paint there, so that's all right. 14. Putting it all together (round brush): Okay. Last but not least, we've got a round brush, and we're going to use the white on black for this one. So role that brush really good around your white. - So get some branches done with with the white here. I'm sorry with the wedge, and you can use the round brush for the leaves to, but I'm just gonna stick with my favorite. I'm not even watching on this side. I'm so close to that. There a few more leaves. I kind of want the focus to be on on the stems. Not necessarily the leaves. All right. I think I'm gonna leave that one as is. So please upload your projects into the project gallery. And I'm so excited that you were here in class. I really hope that you enjoyed making the bamboo with me. 15. Thank You!: Well, you did it. You made it to the end of class. I knew you could do it. Thank you for being here. And I really hope you enjoy this class as much as I enjoyed making it. Please do let me know what you liked about the class where you think I could improve and serve you better. And what are some things you'd like to learn from me in the future? So I thank you once again for being here And please do upload your projects. I would really love to see them. So until next time, I hope to see you in class again and have a fabulous day.