Watercolor Abstract "Letter" Inspired Painting | Daniela Mellen | Skillshare

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Watercolor Abstract "Letter" Inspired Painting

teacher avatar Daniela Mellen, Artist & Author

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

10 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Class Intro

    • 2. Class Supplies

    • 3. Steps to Create the Letter

    • 4. Sketching the Painting

    • 5. Starting the Painting

    • 6. Painting the Letter: Large Shapes

    • 7. Adding Intense Color

    • 8. Additional Colors

    • 9. Evaluating the Painting

    • 10. Class Wrap Up

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About This Class

Take the mystery out of creating abstract art with this fun prompt using “letters of the alphabet” to inspire your design. In this beginner level class, we’ll look at a single letter as an illustration, and using our imagination, find shapes, alter existing characteristics and add new ones to complete our illustration.

We’ll use simple watercolor supplies to illustrate our painting, but use our imagination, aka creative power, to make the illustrations unique, artistic, and abstract. We’ll start by selecting a single letter or symbol, then creating a few sketches. After some evaluation, we’ll dive in and work on our abstract piece of a modern letter.

Class includes downloads of a Class Supply List, Abstract Letter Tips & Ideas Sheet, & Abstract Letter Shapes Inspiration Sheet. These downloads may inspire you and trigger ideas for your 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 or my YouTube Channel for additional c... See full profile

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1. Class Intro: Hello, I'm Daniela Mellen, an artist and author. Today's watercolor class. Abstract letter inspired painting, takes the mystery out of creating abstract illustrations by focusing on using letters of the alphabet as starting points in our design. Will look at letters or symbols or numbers as illustrations. Closely examining the parts that make up the letter. Instead of seeing the letter a, for example, we'll see shapes that comprise it, or parts that are missing, or pieces that stand out. We'll use our imagination, our creative power to make our very own version will take something that we've seen throughout our lifetime and look at it in a new way. Taking the opportunity to deconstruct it and then rebuild it. We'll start by selecting letter, making some sketches, and in settling on a final design to paint using basic watercolor techniques. And in the final chapter, I'll show some additional finished paintings and see if you can guess the letters that inspired them. It's a fun prompt. So thanks for joining me today. Now, let's get started. 2. Class Supplies: So here are the supplies that we'll use to create our abstract modern letter. There's a download, two pages plus a class supply list. And the download includes just some ideas for inspiration of various alphabets in different fonts to give you some ideas for shapes. And we'll go over this more in another chapter. There's also the actual list of the procedure we're going to use the techniques, the tips and ideas. I have my five by seven watercolor paper that I'm going to use. But this project lends itself to any size paper you'd like. I have sketchbook here, which is just a piece of paper here with my pencil and an eraser to do our sketches. And then I have my watercolor pigments in a couple of watercolor brushes. In the next chapter, we'll go over the steps to create our abstract piece inspired by a modern letter. 3. Steps to Create the Letter: Now to create our modern letter, we're not actually making the letter per se. We're using the shape of the letter to create our abstract art. So we're really being inspired by the actual graphics of the letter. Now on the download, there are just four fonts here, just to inspire you, showing the different ways that you can make the different shaped letters. So this a here is, has an arc with a point. This a has one arc. This a has a longer descender here. And the standard a here is just the sharp a. So for an example to create my piece, I like to start with some sketches. The first thing I do is I select a favorite letter for an example in class today I'm going to use an a, so I'll just create that a here. And then I like to create five to ten very quick sketches based on that letter. And those sketches are elements to that letter that inspire me or that I see in it. So the first thing I do, the first one is always just the basic shape of that letter. So because it's an a, it becomes a triangle. In my mind, this might be different for you. You might see a different shape. And from there I could make a teardrop. From there, I'll break the shape down even further. So I'll have the triangle top and then the base. And then I'll break it down even further where I'll have a triangle top, a mid layer and that base. And none of these examples are perfect. This is just my sketch to inspire me. From there, I can go even further and just make an a or something indicative of an a shape by lines. And so that's just the triangle shaped by lines. And if I wanted to do something more of an a, I can keep going here just like this until I get something that I'm thinking about. And I'm kinda just playing this in my mind. The other option is to take that letter and break the shapes down into very basic. So I have that triangle. I have a piece here, a piece here. Maybe I'll make that triangle again. And this is how I do my sketching. I'm just kinda play with different aspects of this until I get something that speaks to me. So I'll do a few more here. All inspired by this shape. Until I see what I have. Once I have five to ten sketches somewhere around there are ones that I am happy with. I'll take a few of them and choose the ones that I like best. Well, I kind of like this triangle with the circle, so I'll put that here. And then maybe this one I like as well. And again, it uses that circle, but it adds a different element to it. And then if there's any others that I like, I might use that as well. And I kinda like something to do with these lines. Not really sure what yet. So I've narrowed it down to some of the key elements that I like. In my case, I like the lines, I like that circle and I like the big shape. So now I'll try and combine them just in a few sketches to see how I can come up with maybe a final design. I'll make my big triangle. Then maybe I'll play with it. We'll give this a little bottom piece circle. Then I'll just continue to play around with it until I find a piece that I like. Now once I have that, I can start making my painting sketch. And we'll do that in the next chapter. 4. Sketching the Painting: So now I want to transfer my design to my watercolor paper so that I can paint on it. I like to have a straight edge and you can use a ruler. But for this size, I like to use just a three by five card that can manipulate it pretty easily. So I want to make something similar to this design, at least as my sketch. And from there I can play with its further. So I'll make my three points. And then I can maybe bring that down a little just to make that a little bit of a wider base. And I'll create my sketch, my external shape based on the letter a. I'm drawing very lightly with my pencil. So there I have my a, and now I want to work on making this separate piece here. So I'll just kind of sketch out a line. And then I can straighten it up here with my straight edge. And then I want this piece here to fall just a little bit below it. And once again, I combine those two pieces. Make my circle in here. And I think I'm going to change that circle up. I'm going to make that small circle. And then I want to have my little piece here. So I'll just continue with that shape. I'll erase the lines I don't want. And then I'll evaluate what I have here. And I kinda like the way this looks, but it's not what I'm really looking for. I'm going to round the edges. So I'll change that piece on the top. I don't really want those pointy edges. And then over here, this empty space I want to do something with. So now I'm veering away from the actual thinking of it as an a, the letter a. And I'm now creating my piece. So I have a lot of weight, a lot of size here on my painting, my composition. And now I want to put something here to even it out. I think I want to echo that rounded shape. So I think I'll change that shape yet again from a smaller circle to a little bit of a bigger circle. And I think I'll add a circle down here as well. And that balances it out. So my piece isn't symmetrical, but it has a lot of elements that are balanced to those. An image here that draws your eye and then an image here that draws your eye. And now I want to continue to see there's anything I'd like to add. I might consider adding another line here, but I'm going to hold off on that until after I had my painting done. So I'm just going to erase some of these extra pencil marks. And then in the next chapter, we'll start our painting. 5. Starting the Painting: So based on our sketches, I came up with this design that I wanted to paint. I transferred it to my paper, and then I decided I wanted to add two more circles in there just to balance it out to make it interesting. And this just came to me. There was no rhyme or reason, but, um, when I was creating those circles and erasing the extra pencil marks, I thought that would look nice. So there I have my sketch that will painting class today. After I did this sketch, I did a couple of others based on those same sketches that we made. So I came up with this one similar to this one where I rounded all the edges. And then I also came up with this one where I took this simple triangle with a circle inside of it and his sided, I'd add an additional circle. So in the end we'll take a look at the variations and see how these came out when they're painted. But in the next chapter, we'll start painting our actual piece. 6. Painting the Letter: Large Shapes: So now I have my sketch and I have my elements here, and I have to decide on my color scheme. I'm going to use soft pinks and peaches, kind of like a melon colors. So I'll just mix a few of them now. I'm going to take some perylene red over here and some brilliant pink. This will give me a nice pink to use in my work. And I'll just continue adding as much brilliant pink until I get that result that I'm looking for, which is a soft pink, not quite as bright as a watermelon, pink, but soft and recognizable as pink. Not just continue to play with those variations until I get that look, I'll take a little bit of what's left on my brush over here, make another little splash on my palette. And then I'm going to mix some vermilion hue with that. That will give me a little bit of that peach color that I'm looking for. And I'll mix a little deep yellow. Continue playing with this until I get the result that I want. I'll go back and add a little brilliant pink. And there I have two really nice colors to play with today. I'm gonna come over here and have a third well, and just add a little deep yellow for now, we'll mix in some more colors in a moment. So a wet my brush. And I'm gonna start with my biggest piece here. I'm just going to wet it all. Avoiding the edges. And they'll take some of that pink. And I'll turn my paper around. And I'm just going to come right before the pencil mark. Just so I have control to make a nice neat edge. And then I can erase the pencil marks when this is dry. Turn this around and just continue with this layer. Now I can decide when I get to these little balls on the edges. If I want to show a transparent parent layer through them. And if I want that pink layer to be the first layer that I put down, and when I put the additional layer on it, if that will show. So I think I'm going to do that. Gotta be careful going around here. First I'll continue to fill in my larger shape. Getting that nice edge. Going to go up to that pencil mark. I don't want to go over the pencil mark. Go around, come back in with my pigment. And I want to make sure I go all the way around this whole, this circle in the center. I'm going to come back and pick up that pink sharpen that edge, deposit more pigment along the edge. And I'm going to take a very sharp point and I'm going to go right across that pencil mark. We're trying to keep a straight line. Just like that. While I'm here, I'm going to take that pink and do this bottom shape as well. Can do this a different color, but I think I want to continue with it with the pink. Avoid that pencil mark because this one I don't think I'm going to go through still carving out that shape to this object, picking up more pigment as I go. Then last name just going to go around the edge, depositing more pigment. Now we'll give the edge a little bit of a brighter color. Can do that on the top piece as well. And then I'm going to let this layer completely dry. 7. Adding Intense Color: So our first layer has dried and it looks very nice. I want the code to be a little more intense. So I'm going to make a second layer. I'll mix up a little more of the color. So that was brilliant pink and perylene read. Put a little more brilliant pink in there. And I'll leave whatever's on my palette here with the other colors. And now I'm going to start at the top. And I'm going to deposit my color around the edge. Just in a thick brush stroke. Dab my brush in water and blend it out. Again. I'm going over all the area we put down the pigment, but I don't have to be as careful this time. I still want to maintain the area we painted, but I already have a layer down so I can go in there and there's a nice thick brush, deposit my pigment to brighten it up, dip my brush in water, and blend it out. Again. I'll pick up that pigment from my palette. And I'm doing this to intensify that color. Just so it's really bright. I'm going to leave that pigment in that circle, just as light as it was when it dried. And I'll come down here and intensify this shape. If I see any areas that I missed, I'll go back in, rewet them with additional pigment. Just like this. And this gives me the control just to do that second layer instead of adding additional pigment to a single layer. So now we're back at the drawing stage. So we'll let this dry and we'll come back and work on our next layer. 8. Additional Colors: So the layers dry and it's a nice color that I'm happy with. I'm going to go in there and I'm going to paint these circles here. And I'm gonna start with this one here that has our back layer of the pinkish red that we created. Just going to dampen my brush. I'm going to wet this area here that's white, that's just the white of the paper. I'm leaving the area that has the pigment on it. I'm leaving that dry. I'm going to go in there and re-wet this pigment that I mixed with the vermilion hue and the brilliant pink and the deep yellow. And now I'm going to start on the area on the X theory or of this shape. And I'm just going to deposit that orangey color. And then I'll come in here and gently deposited inside the shape as well. I don't want to stir up the bottom color. And once I have my circle, I'll decide where I want to put my next one. And I think I want to put my next circle right over here, directly across. Going to come in there, carve out that shape, bring the pigment rate to the pencil mark. And then I'll rinse my brush and I want to do this shape here. So now with just clean water on my brush, I'll wet that bottom shape and I'm going to pick up this yellow. And this was just the deep yellow. We mixed it in. And I want to make it a little lighter. You can take a little yellow ochre, still maintaining that golden color, mixing with a little bit of water. And then I'm just going to deposit that creating that shape. And now for the last circle here, I can leave it blank, just white, but I'm going to mix in this yellow color. And I'm going to put a layer of the yellow color. Not so much that it overruns the shape. I wanted to stay in the paper fairly vibrantly. And then I'm just going to clean my brush, remove the water and pick up some of that orange color and just deposited up top. Just like that. We'll let this dry and we'll see what we have. We'll re-evaluate it and decide if we're going to add more. 9. Evaluating the Painting: So now my pieces dry. Overall, I like it but I feel like it's missing something. So I'm really looking at what it could be missing. And there's a lot of space here that just seems to be floating. And there's nothing to really tie it to this piece except for the repetitive shape. So in considering what I'm gonna do about that, I think it would take a circle and just balance it all. So I'll put a circle in the background here. Just eyeball where I want it to go. Trace around it. Just like that. And now I'll add a background to this piece to hold it together. So come back to my paints and mix up a color. And I'm going to mix up a very pale orange. So I'm just gonna take this vermilion hue. I'll mix it in with the existing orange that we have and add some water to that. I'll rinse my brush and I'll add the background. And I want it to be a light background. I want the vibrancy of the red, this pinkish red to really show through, I will add one more brushstroke of water. Now we'll just create that background. Bring my pigment right up to the shapes. And I know this color will dry lighter. So that'll give me an interesting effect. Turn this around. Remove the pigment from my brush and the water, clean it up and dry it, and then it's going to pull up some of that color that I overlapped onto the red. Then I'll continue filling in the background here again and go all the way around my shape, really carving out that edge. This would have been a good one to do as the first shape. And I thought of it. But no bother. You can fix this right now. Come all the way around. Make that shape makes sure that that shape is carved out nicely. Rinse my brush, dry it, pick up any extra pigment here or there. And look that move around. And I'll let that dry. And then I'll erase the pencil marks. In the next chapter, we'll go over our final piece and look at some variations. 10. Class Wrap Up: So here we have our completed painting. We have the shapes inspired by the actual physical attributes of a capital letter a. And then I added some circles along with that final circle in the background. And now that I've had time to really look at it, I see that it really reminds me of the Avengers symbol from the Marvel movies. But nevertheless, it is an abstract piece based on whether a taking that essential letter and really breaking it down into some raw components. I have some other variations on that that I showed you with my sketches. And here's another one taking that same letter and creating something indicative of the shapes that comprise it. As well as this one, which was our basic triangle with a hole in the center. And for this one, I just modified it by adding a second hole here, a second round shape. And it's very effective and very interesting. I wanted to show you some other letters or actually other abstract pieces based on letters and see if you can detect what letter inspired them. Some are easier than others. So this one, can you tell it's based on the letter M. So it's kind of an interesting effect. Again, I used a half a circle and triangles to give that effect. This one's a lot easier. The letter D. This one's kind of interesting. I started using the letter r, and I just changed it around, added some pieces to get it. And lastly, this piece is based on the letter x for an abstract piece. I hope you'll try your hand at taking a letter and creating something abstract based on that look of that letter. The characteristics, the shapes, something about that letter that might intrigue you. Snap a photo of your work and post it in the project section. Please be sure to follow me here on Skillshare to get notified of future classes. Please consider leaving a review and thank you for joining me today.