Feathers and Symbols in Watercolor | Maria Dinu | Skillshare

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Feathers and Symbols in Watercolor

teacher avatar Maria Dinu, Watercolor and Lettering Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

8 Lessons (37m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Project

    • 3. Supplies

    • 4. Feather Anatomy Practice

    • 5. Loose Feather

    • 6. Tribal Feather

    • 7. Mixed Media Feather

    • 8. Outro

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About This Class

Learn to paint beautiful feathers in watercolor, 3 ways! 
In this class, you'll learn the basic anatomy of a feather painting, and you'll exercise 3 ways to paint feathers - loose watercolor, adding tribal elements, or mixing watercolor with pencils for a fun effect! 


As we paint, you'll learn the following skills: 

  • Supplies needed¬†
  • How to paint around a white area¬†
  • Mixing colors wet on wet¬†
  • Wet on dry watercolor¬†
  • Using layers
  • Adding mixed media on top of a watercolor¬†
  • Using coaching and reflection questions¬†
  • Mindfulness while painting¬†
  • Symbolic thinking¬†

My name is Maria Dinu. I'm a planner designer and watercolor artist, and this is my second Skillshare class. 
I'm completely self-taught, and have been painting and drawing all my life. I've discovered watercolor about 5 years ago, and have been learning and applying lots, while working on my planner designs. 

I love explaining watercolor basics, and I started teaching also in-person watercolor workshops for beginners. 

This class is open to all levels, but you can also be a complete beginner in watercolor. 

If you'd like, follow me on Instagram where I share more tips and watercolor process videos! 

Or check out my previous class on Watercolor and Lettering: 

Meet Your Teacher

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Maria Dinu

Watercolor and Lettering Artist


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1. Intro: Hi and welcome. I'm thrilled that you're here. I'm Maria. This is my second Skillshare class, and I'll be guiding you to make three beautiful watercolor feathers using symbols and going deeper into your intuition, I've been painting all my life and somehow I never pursued an art career full-time. Instead, I went and made a career in a corporation. But not that never stopped me from actually painting almost daily. And when I went into maternity leave, I wanted to build something that was mine and that really represented me. So that's when I launched a plumber line called Colorful Mind. This actually made me paint almost daily because I had to build elements to incorporate into the planners. So that only made my skill go grow stronger and stronger. And actually I learned quite a lot from the artists on Skillshare. I could paint symbols as a part of my elements in the planner. So I started with moons, with crystals, with leaves. And somehow people were very drawn to the way I paint feathers. So in the past months, I painted all sorts of feathers and I would like to invite you as well to join me in this class and paint your own feathers. The symbolism of feathers is that they are a messenger for the soul. Some believe that a messenger from the heavens, but you can use feathers and feather watercolor to express a certain intention or intuition that comes from deep inside. So in this class you will learn some simple watercolor skills, such as mixing colors or working wet on wet, we'll be working with mixed media such as pen or crayons. But you'll also be learning some self-coaching tips. I believe it's very simple to ask ourselves the deep questions and use art as a sort of a journaling technique. 2. Project: In this project, you'll be creating three types of feathers. The first one will be loose watercolor. You'll be mixing two or three colors and just creating a feather beautiful shape. On the personal side, the loose watercolor will teach you how to let go of control. And it will ask you, how do you feel about imperfections? The second type of feather is the tribal Feather, where we will go into the world of symbols. And you will ask your soul, what intention doesn't want to create in the outer world? We will explore the meaning behind symbols and the intention behind them. And you will choose one or two symbols to add to your tribal feather. The third type of feather is mixed media, where we will give free rein to your creativity. You will see how you need to have patients for the different types of media to work between each other. For example, water color or crayons or watercolor and ink. And you will see how very different things have different meanings that can work very nicely between each other. So at the end you will have three feathers and hopefully free deeper answers into some questions of your inner workings. And so. 3. Supplies: Welcome, In this lesson we'll be talking tools. So what tools do you need when you want to work in watercolor? I'll be showing you mine. I have a lot of them because I've been painting for many years, but really don't need too many tools just to get started. The most basic one is paper. I have here. Watercolor paper by Hahnemuhle. I like to use large size paper because I can just tear it apart and use the size that I need. So this one is fine grain. 300 grams, please, if you buy watercolor paper, do not go below 300 grams because this is the thickness standard that you need in order for it not to go all wobbly when you put water on it. So this is the one that I use the most. I also use Canson, which is fairly inexpensive. Both brands, Hahnemuhle and Canson They have ranges from quite cheap student grade paper to the most premium paper. And of course, there is a ton of brands out there. For this lesson, I'm going to use the Hahnemuhle. Now. You will be needing some water and something to mix your water color in. I have this porcelain palette that I bought because I use tubes. But in case you have a watercolor set, you can simply use the pan and feel free to make it all dirty. This one hasn't been used for ages, so that's why it's so clean. So this is how a watercolor set looks like. And these are all used because I've been having this pan for the ages. Right now. I have this huge box of tubes where I have everything mixed together. I really like the granulating watercolors, actually more than one shade in them. So when you mix them with paper, you get really, really beautiful effects. And you see that when we bake. And I also have these from Daniel Smith, which are also some of them granulating. I tend to recommend shrink and then you'll submit it because they have amazing pigment. Which means when you mix them with water, it gets really, really bright and shiny colors. So that helps a lot with the final effect. Regarding brushes. I have tons of brushes, but I tend to use just one or two most. These are my mop brushes. So this one has been thoroughly used, as you can see it in it's now patched. All of these are Casaneo by da Vinci. These are some natural hair brushes that are really, really soft and hold a lot of water. And as I paint with a lot of wet on wet, I use them frequently. What they really like about these brushes is that they have a very pointed tip. So if you need to do some details, you can also do that with such a brush. So I recommend that you buy a midsized brush. For example, this one is a size one, but a size one brush will not be the same size one in a normal brush, so you might get confused by the brush sizes. I definitely recommend if you're just starting out to use synthetic hair brushes. This one is Angelo, but I also recommend the Da Vinci brushes. Sonnet makes some very inexpensive and really good quality brushes as well. So this one is from a range called Nova, which is a student grade perfectly fine range by da Vinci. So regardless, if you choose a natural hair which holds more water and is more bendy, or synthetic, which is more stiff and holds less water. Just know the main difference in brushes is just to find the one that works best for you. Don't go after the price. Just experiment and find which one works best for you. For now though, let's get started and start painting. 4. Feather Anatomy Practice: To explore feather anatomy, I'm going to use a crayon. And I will be drawing a very simple feather shape. It has a stem. It has a more thick bony part at the end, which is called the calamus. And then the portion on which the actual feather hairs are placed is called the rachis. Just next to that calamus, we have some very puffy and soft hairs, which are called the after feathers. And then the actual feather shape has usually a pointed tip. Now, when you paint feathers, this part right here tends to be darker, the calamus and the rachis. This part is usually darker as well, and this part tends to be white, so we're going to have to leave it white. Let's see how we can paint such a feather just as an exercise. Okay. 5. Loose Feather: Let's start with the first part of our project. But loose watercolor further, identical with a simple triangular, regular size feathers that you see everywhere. And I'm just going to start with one of those. And the first thing we need to tap into your intuition is choosing your colors. So ask yourself, what kind of colors do you want to choose for your feather? Are they lighter colors or darker colors? What type of feeling would you like to convey through your feather? In my case, I chose the following three colors. Glacier green, tundra orange, and glacier black, which is the one I just used. for the exercise feather not long ago. So let me show you how these three colors work together and the reason why I chose these colors. First of all, glacier green is a beautiful turquoise and I cannot get enough of it. It's such a pretty color. Glacier black is a very nice contrast for the inner side of the feather. And then tundra orange will make a very good contrast between these two. Plus orange and blue. Bluish-green for the turquoise are complimentary colors. So they make very nice contrast and they will amplify each other quite nicely. I'm going to draw my outline first, similar to the one that we did just before. I'm drawing it very lightly and loosely on the paper. And I'm making space for the after feathers. The calamus, which needs to be a little longer. And then I'm going to leave some spaces. Just cracks so that it looks more natural. The sketch is finished and I'm going to start painting. The first thing I do is put a lot of water next to the center, to the rachis. Because here I am going to drop later a lot of paint. By placing the water first. I also ensure that I'm leaving the center area dry so that it remains white at the end. I'm working quite quickly so that it doesn't dry. And I'm using the tip of my brush to create details. And now we start painting. I'm just going to drop randomly the colors. And to see what I notice in my flow. I really like this part and the dark edge that formed. And I'm going to try to make some blooms and watercolor puddles. I don't quite like how the orange faded. So I'm going to drop some more here. So these puddles look like oil bundles in water. And as I go down, I'm going to choose some darker black. This one is a bit too dark. But maybe I can fix it by putting some water instead. I'm diluting it, but I'm not sure. This dark black was such a good idea. So I'm coming back with a dark but with more water underneath. So that Hopefully it will look a little bit more dilute. This part is going to go dry soon. So I have to finish. I'm going to try to make some wisps just to give the impression of I like to think, what do I like about what I've done? So I like the blue on the top. I'm going to try to bring some more turquoise in this part is why I like this part when it's dried nicely. So I'm going to try to make a transition. I'm careful to work in those places where the paint is still wet. Because if I come in and it's already dry, it's going to be too late. And now for the after feathers, I'm just using the tip of my brush and doing some flicks. Remember, it doesn't have to look super real. After all. The bird whose father just painted probably doesn't exist. And I'm putting in more water as I come underneath in the lower part of the feather. And here I will just put my darker color because this part is darker. And we're finished. So here is what this watercolor is teaching us here. So I worked quite fast because I need to allow the colors to mix. So that has to create a sort of spontaneity and building as what going. Ask ourselves, how comfortable did you feel with building on what was happening right then on the paper? How comfortable are you with spontaneity? How much are you able to just enjoy what is happening then in the moment. And then allow yourself, and then allow yourself to make decisions based on what you see is unfolding in the moment. Also, how comfortable are you with imperfection and with something evolving and not necessarily in the way that you wanted to evolve. This is what loose watercolor teaches us. And you can learn so much about yourself and about what you want to project in the world and how you feel when the word response back to you. I hope I'll see you back here for the next lesson. 6. Tribal Feather: Welcome back. In this lesson, we're going to be doing a tribal further and we'll be using symbolic thinking to express an intention with this feather. Now don't get scared. It's not as complicated as it sounds. So I'll be keeping the yellowish orange color. I'll be keeping the black. Because this one I'm going to use for the symbol on the feather. And I'll be choosing instead of orange, I'll be choosing this lovely forests gray, which is a warm November ish, kind of green gray. When we talk about symbols, please don't think of something really elaborate. Just think of simple geometric shapes and what they evoke to you. For example, the circle evokes unity, balance, acceptance, inclusion. Some diagonal strokes may be evoke something that you want to attract or something that is coming towards you. Maybe you want to put some horizontal lines, which again to me suggests a balance or something that's quiet. I'll be using my same brush now. And just dropping the dark green at the top. Just look how nicely it's blending with the water. I'm trying to avoid the areas where I'm going to place the block. Now for rinsing my brush really, really well. Blending these colors a little bit. And now coming in with the orange, I'm going to place it strategically in the circle intentionally. And then in those barriers where I see this. I don't worry too much about blending because the colors will do this on the rod. This part already dried up. So I have to take and why did again, I'm making sure that the center is enough. Just adding some more dark colors. Such as here. I like to work with a lot of water. But when I get father's wife my brush and just lift. Before we do the tribal lines, we have to let all of this part that I perfectly okay. 7. Mixed Media Feather: Hi and welcome back for this final lesson in our watercolor technique for feathers class. Oh, that was a long one. I will propose to you to play and to have patients. I know they seem a little bit contradictory, but you will see how they work out. So for this one, for this lesson, I brought out everything I have. I have some bins, bands by Figma. I have my masking fluid, and I have some colored pencils. Incidentally that also water-soluble pencils, but you can use any kind of pencils. And of course, I have my thruster watercolors over here. So we're going to paint the feather and we're going to hold a vision in our heads. But then we're also going to play with the colors and just use whatever we have and make it really spontaneous. The patients comes because between layers we're going to have to exercise our patients to let it dry and then to put another layer. So if you want, this can be your most elaborate. Further. However, it can also be the most fun. Let's start with the colors. I trust the pencil I have here, the masking fluid. If you don't know how this works, you have to put it on the paper and then wait for it to dry and then you just rub it off and the space underneath it remains paper white. And here I also have some big markers, ink markers. I'm going to first start with yellow undertone. So I'll be using my thunder orange, quite diluted in the output Bart. And then after it dries, I'm going to put the masking fluid on top so that we have these yellowish dots peeking through. Now that the masking fluid pretty much dried. It's time for the second layer. Now I think it's time to try a little bit of this dark green. So now that the paint is fully dry, I'm going to take down the masking fluid just by rubbing, rubbing it down. Or you can use also some colored pencils. So some turquoise and some dark while it, just for contrast. Don't be afraid to use colored pencil off another color because they could just make some very interesting contrast. And finally, I would like to play with a little splash. This was the Feather where we use several layers and it required to think ahead when to put the masking fluid on, when to use the crayons, which one to use first off, they're still because it was play. I didn't plan my colors and I just build everything layer by layer as I saw the image coming together. So there is still a lot of spontaneity even when you exercise patients. So ask yourself, where can I use patients more? And what could emerge if I were patient enough to let each layer buildup one-by-one. 8. Outro: We've made it. We've come to the end of this class. I hope you've enjoyed painting these watercolors with me. And I greatly encourage you to have the curiosity to look inward and to ask yourself the questions that I prompted during the class. Please share your projects in the gallery section or ask me any questions that you may have regarding coaching questions, symbols or watercolor. I promised to answer each one of them and see you in the next class. I hope that this has been useful to you. Thank you.