Red Squirrel: Expressive Animal Portrait in Watercolor | Bianca Rayala | Skillshare

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Red Squirrel: Expressive Animal Portrait in Watercolor

teacher avatar Bianca Rayala, Watercolor 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

6 Lessons (59m)
    • 1. About The Class

    • 2. Materials and Color Mixing

    • 3. Tone and Color Connection

    • 4. Painting The Squirrel

    • 5. Adding Contrast and Details

    • 6. Key Learnings and Class Project

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About This Class

Welcome to my Expressive Red Squirrel Watercolor Class!


In this course, you will learn how to paint captivating portrait of animals using watercolor and wide variety of techniques. For your final project, you will paint an expressive red squirrel in a loose watercolor style.

To achieve that, I will explain what tonal value is and how to look at tonal values on full range of colors. We will look at the important principles that will serve as your strong foundation in painting any subject. Then we will talk about color, the color mix and recipe to create the squirrel’s fur and tail using a limited color palette and painting a watercolor study applying the principle of color connection. I will demonstrate how to paint the red squirrel from the first layer to the finishing touches such as adding splashes and splatters. I'll show you how to play with loose and tight brush strokes, how to add texture and shadows to paint animals successfully.

By the end of this course, you will learn how to keep the freshness in your watercolor work by painting in one layer and building color connection. To learn these, you just need watercolors, paper, brushes and the willingness to get out of your comfort zone and have fun!

Lets bring this red squirrel to life in watercolor. See you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

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Bianca Rayala

Watercolor Artist


Hi friends! I'm Bianca and I'm a watercolor artist. My purpose is to inspire people to discover and pursue their creative passion. See full profile

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1. About The Class: Hi, I'm Bianca Rayala. I'm a watercolor artist from the Philippines. I love watercolors, and I'm passionate about sharing my love for painting. Painting from the heart is the secret to all my creations. I paint whatever that inspires me. Whether it's a serene landscape, vintage scenery, or characters in action. I love using watercolors to bring things to life. To expressive strokes and splash of colors, I fell story through my paintings. In this course, you will learn how the captivating portrait of animals using watercolor in wide variety of techniques. For your final project, you will paint an expressive red squirrel in the loose watercolor style. To achieve that, I will explain what tonal value is and how to look at tonal values on the full range of colors. We will look at the important principles that will serve as your strong foundation in painting any subject. Next, we will talk about color, the color mix, and recipe to create the squirrel's fur and tail using a limited color palette and painting watercolors study applying the principle of color connection. I will demonstrate how to paint the red squirrel from the first layer to the finishing touches such as adding splashes and splatters. I'll show you how to play with loose and light brushstrokes. How to add texture and shadows to paint animals successfully. By the end of this course, you will learn how to keep the freshness in your watercolor work by painting in one layer and building color connection. To learn all this, you just need watercolors, paper, brushes, and the willingness to get out of your comfort zone and how fun. let's bring this red squirrel to live in watercolors. I'll see you in class. 2. Materials and Color Mixing: In this lesson, I will show you the materials and the color mixtures that we will use for the class. Let's start with a watercolor paper. For best results, I suggest that you use 100 percent cotton watercolor paper in 300 GSM. Using a cotton paper gives you more time to work in one layer since the paint doesn't dry as quickly as compared to cellulose paper. This will allow you to paint without having too much hard edges in-between color transitions. For the brushes, I will be using three types of brushes. First is red sable hair for painting the entire squirrel. Next is Silver Silk 88 Synthetic brush for painting fine details and lastly, the script liner brush for painting whiskers. For the paints, I still use my primary watercolor palette. I'll be sharing the specific colors and mixes to achieve this painting on the latter part of the video. I want you to prepare also a cup of water, tissue paper, pencil, and eraser. These are the paints that I'll be using to paint our red squirrel. These color mixes that I'll be sharing are so easy and simple to make and you can use for any awesome themed paintings. The basic colors in my palette are Number 1, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, perylene violet, perylene red, new gamboge, amethyst genuine, horizon blue, lavender, Payne's gray, indigo, and olive green. Here I will be sharing the color recipe that you can use to build the colors for the squirrel. Let's start with the first mix. To paint the light off-white tones of this squirrel, I will simply mix amethyst genuine and horizon blue to create a purplish-gray color. An alternative color mix you can use is yellow ocher and lavender. Now, for the colors of the fur of the squirrel, we will have four color mixes. Color mix Number 1 is new gamboge and burnt sienna. The new gamboge is too bright, so we diffuse it with burnt sienna. We adjust the amount of water depending on the lightness or darkness of tone that we want. This is like our base for color. Color mix Number 2 is for the mid-tones. We use the same colors, new gamboge, burnt sienna but this time we will mix it with a bit of perylene red. We don't want it to be too reddish. We just use red to make a deeper, darker version of color mix Number 1. Color mix Number 3 is for the dark tones. We will be using perylene violet, burnt sienna, and perylene red. I will use this mix to paint those dark shades on the arms and back. Just add a bit of perylene violet for an even darker tone. Color mix Number 4 is the darkest tone on the tail. It is made of perylene violet in amethyst genuine. To get a rich dark color, you must control the amount of water in your mix. Make your mixture very saturated. Next, for the greens, I mix olive green and indigo. To create a lighter shade of green, I simply add a bit of burnt sienna to my previous mix. To recap, the first group is for the off white shades on the squirrel's body. Second group is for the light, mid, and dark tones of the fur. The last group is for the impression of leaves on our painting. Lastly, I use pure pigment of Payne's gray to paint the eyes, nose, and whiskers. 3. Tone and Color Connection: In this lesson, I'd like to share some important theories before we proceed on painting the red squirrel. Let me share these three basic principles that I want you to keep in mind when painting any subject. First is shape or form. Second is value, and third is color. The shape helps us understand what the object is. For example, if I draw this image even without value, color, or details, because of its shape, it is obvious that this is a human figure. Since we communicate what the subject is through its shape, our pencil sketch has a major role to having a beautiful work. Your sketch is a skeleton of your painting. I provided a template of this sketch in the reference section for your guide. You can use and trace it, so you can spend more time painting rather than sketching. We need to pay high attention on shapes, particularly, in drawing the figure. Because when we fail to properly draw the figure proportionately and move ahead to painting, no matter how correct the tonal values we place, or how good and confident the painting strokes are, they will not result to a good painting. With a poor sketch, it is already impossible to fix the mistake anymore. Next is the tonal value. Tonal value helps us view the image in three-dimension. It helps make the image look more realistic. In watercolor, we adjust the tonal value by adjusting the water pigment ratio in our mixture. If we want a saturated mix or high tonal value, we create more pigment, less water mixture. For low tonal value, we place less pigment and more water. When we study tonal values, we often try it using a single color to better see the difference in tone. Here, we can see a range of dark, paint's gray slowly transitioning to a light tone paint's gray. The tone becomes lighter as we gradually increase the amount of water added in this single color. But in painting with full colors, we must also understand how tonal values work using varying colors, because this will help us create color connection in our work and paint in just one layer. Here, I start with a dark color mix, number 4. Then gradually transitions the tone by changing the color mix number 3, then color mix number 2. Lastly, a watery mix of color mix number 1. In this illustration, we can see a difference in tonal value using multiple colors. The one with darkest tonal value has very minimal amount of water in it. It is almost opaque and very saturated. The one with the lightest tonal value has a rich amount of water and very transparent. Understanding this principle will help us also paint in one layer because we can build the overall dimension of the object by simply applying the appropriate tonal value in one wash. Doing this also allows us to create color connection by preventing unwanted hard edges in-between transition of stones. Let's do a quick demo of color connection using application of appropriate tonal values in one layer. I will draw a portion of the squirrel and briefly show you how to build this color connection. I start with the lightest tone that I can see on its face, which is off-white color around its eye. Next, we move to a slightly darker tone using color mix number 1. I connect the lightest tone to this orange color, which is color mix number 1, by making sure the colors are still moist. In that way, we avoid hard edges. Now, to paint the chin area, I do it with a very light wash, then gently, transition to a darker tone by having a creamy mix of orange. I also use a creamy mix of color mix number 3 and 4 to paint the dark portions of the ear and arms. One advantage of learning one layer technique of painting is having a fresh transparent work. We also avoid creating muddy mixes, which is caused by multiple layering in watercolor. However, the only challenge in this technique is the need to work a little faster and the need to really understand the capacity of your brush to hold water and pigment. So you can easily prepare color mixtures on appropriate tonal values. Now that we have laid the base wash with the appropriate tonal values, notice that we don't create so much hard edges between the changing tonal values because we painted the next color while the other color is still moist. That is also the principal of color connection. It is painting the entire subject as one unit rather than looking at it part by part. You might be asking, how do we make the image defined considering the colors look like that? The answer is, by placing contrast, shadow, and shade. For example, I add additional dark strokes under the arm and behind the legs to define the shape. To be able to apply proper tonal values and color connection, you must fully understand your brush. Know how to control the water pigment mixture absorbed by your brush. Different hair types have different water and pigment holding capacity. The only way to know your brush is through frequent practice with that particular brush that you have. The third point is color. Color basically is the least important among the three because this one depends on personal preference. You would notice that artists use different set of colors which they find beautiful for them. The colors I use for the entire painting may differ from the colors that you have. But rest assured that the painting will still look uniquely beautiful if correct tonal values are applied. During the demo, I will specify the color mixes, but I encourage you to use the colors that you already have and are comfortable using. Feel free to use the colors that you love and make you feel inspired. It will also be helpful for you if you keep a copy of the reference photo beside you as you paint, so you can practice squinting your eye and looking at tonal values. The reference photo, pencil sketch, and the final painting are all provided in the resource section in the project and resources tab below this video. 4. Painting The Squirrel: Let's begin painting. We start from top to bottom, starting from the face. Since we aim to paint this squirrel in one layer, I suggest that you either prepare your color mix before starting painting if you're not yet too comfortable with mixing colors on a faster speed. The key here is knowing well the colors that you have, so you have the mastery of which colors to mix, the grade, the desired you, or tone that you need. For the lightest part of the squirrel's face, around its eye, I mix lavender and yellow ocher to paint the off-white portion around it. Notice the consistency of my mix. It is very light, yet not too wet. Next, I create our color mix number 1, the yellow, orange mixture using new gamboge and burnt sienna. This will serve as our base for our color. The mixture is creamy and saturated but still transparent. I connect this yellow orange color to the off white layer I initially painted. Notice that there is no hard edge between two colors because the off white layer is still moist upon applying the second color. I squint my eyes to see the correct tonal values, and I made the upper portion of the head a little darker by adding a little perylene violet to my mix. For those dark spots on his face, I simply use amethyst genuine and blend it to the orange color on his head. Now to paint the dark side part of the ear, I use my color mix number 3, which is composed of perylene violet, burnt sienna, and perylene red. I use the same mix to paint the other dark portions of his face with the same dark tonal value. The process may look tricky at first, but for you to better understand the technique of painting in one layer and maintaining color connection. The most important thing you need to keep in mind is to look for the appropriate tonal value and apply it to your work by controlling the consistency of the water and pigment ratio in your mix. Darker tonal value means more pigment and less water in the mix, and lighter tonal value means more water and less pigment in the mix. As we transition from the head to the body, we can see a change again from a dark bone to a lighter tone. Here using a brush loaded with water, I soften the edge and let the paint to softly bleed on the wet surface to achieve the light tone. Next, I use a watery mix of amethyst and horizon blue to paint the back part. Let's finish off the face by painting the chain using color mix number 1, burnt sienna and new gamboge. I paint the off white shade on its chest with the same grayish purple mix I used for the back, which is Amethyst and horizon blue. Let's create dimension by darkening the neck part a little more using creamy color mixed number 2, comprising of new gamboge, branchiana, and perylene red. This layer is still wet. That's why the colors blend softly. Now, I paint the arm using color mix number 2 and color mix number 3. The consistency is noticeably thicker than the off-white color on the chest. That's why the colors I painted on the arm didn't lead uncontrollably to the chest fragment. We can leave the arm like this and proceed painting the body. Using color mix 1 in a very saturated and flowy consistency, I paint the body with semicircular strokes. Then using color mix number 3, I paint the dark tones behind its length. In the leg, I use color mix number 1 as the base and add dimension by transitioning to a color mix number 2 and 3. I continue painting the off-white portion of this body using my purplish gray mix from Amethysts genuine and Horizon Blue. I paint the little hand with dark purple mix. You don't have to be so particular on the details when painting the hand. Bold strokes are sufficient to show the impression that we want to achieve. I add a little bit more of gray color on the chest and tummy area so I can build dimension on this fragment. While the layer is still moist, I quickly mix a green color using olive and indigo to paint the leaves. I load my brush with lots of water and pigment and do this loose strokes and splatters. I add a bit of branch into my green mix to create a lighter tone green. I let the green color to bleed and blend to the lower body of the squirrel as I want them to look like one fragment. In this way, we also build connection between the squirrel and the leaves. I also drop some orange color from my leftover paints to build color connection between the greens in the squirrel. Now using color mix number 4 which is made of Berlin violet and Amethyst genuine, let's paint the darkest part of the tail. I create a very saturated and creamy mix. My brush is almost dry on my initial strokes. Then I adjust the tone to a slightly lighter one by adding water and my leftover orange mix to create the gradient on the tail. Notice this circular movement on my brush as I paint the tail. I basically follow the flow of the tail as I paint it. Using color mix number 2, I paint the other parts of the tail and connect it to the body. I also lift some colors to keep the lightest tone light and I also darken those areas that need to be really dark by adding color mix number 4. Again, you don't need to be particular on painting it's foot since it's not a focal point. I add a few splatters near the tail to create balance on the hump position. Now I go back and paint the other ear to complete the painting. I'll see you in the next video, and we will be adding contrast and details to finish our work. 5. Adding Contrast and Details: Now that our layer is dry, let's add some final touches and a few additional texture on the fur. With the brush flattened, I create dry brush strokes using color mix number one. My strokes are very light and made in circular motion. This step is done to enhance the tonal value so we can have a better dimension. I also darken those areas under the arm and on the folds of the leg. After applying these dark tones, I use a clean brush to softly blend it with the base layer. Next, let's add the dark spots in details on the ear and on the other eye. I make sure that the face is thoroughly dry before painting the details so we won't mess up the face. Using a synthetic brush I mix a dark brown color to paint the nose. I don't fill it in with solid brown color. I paint a small part and then blend the color with a clean brush. This will make the face look more natural. I paint the lip area using peridot and violet diluted with water, then soften the edges after the stroke. I darken the chin a little bit more to separate it from the body. I paint the shadow below its face with a gray mix. I go back to the lips and enhance the stroke since it appeared to be so light. I paint with a very light on this portion of the whiskers. Let's paint the eye using paint's gray. I carefully outline the shape of the eye and leave a small white unpainted part for the highlight. If you accidentally painted it entirely, you may use a white or pink paint to add the highlight. I'm just darkening some portions a little bit more, like the base of the nose, some spots on the ears, and the hands. Let's finish off by adding some less dark swift strokes for texture on the legs and hands. I want to portray its holding something but it doesn't have to be specific; a dark stroke is enough to portray that. Using a liner brush, I carefully paint the whiskers. I keep the stroke very thin and fine, it is almost not that visible, the strokes are broken and not very defined to. Don't forget to paint the whiskers from the other side of his cheek. I added a slight pink brush from the roots of the whiskers and also a light tone around its eye. I wanted to add some more green splatters here using the same green mix that I have. Lastly, let's add some splatters of orange for color connection. This is our final painting. 6. Key Learnings and Class Project: We have come to the end of the course. I hope you got inspired to paint and enjoy painting using one layer technique. If you follow the lessons and trust yourself, I'm sure you can easily create your red squirrel painting. I want to see your final painting in the project section so I can share my feedback and thoughts about your work. Don't forget the importance of applying appropriate tonal values and building color connection when painting any subject in one layer technique. Thank you so much for joining me on this course, and I look forward to seeing you on my other watercolor classes.