Watercolor Illustration: five fun, Fall elements | Courtney McCulloch | Skillshare

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Watercolor Illustration: five fun, Fall elements

teacher avatar Courtney McCulloch, Tulip Poplar Co.

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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

7 Lessons (51m)
    • 1. Intro and Materials

    • 2. Pumpkins

    • 3. Gourd

    • 4. Fall leaves

    • 5. Owl

    • 6. Turkey

    • 7. Final thoughts and Bonus

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About This Class


Are you ready for some fall fun?! Join Courtney Bray (Tulip Poplar Co.) for an exploration of watercolor art by creating five Fall watercolor illustrations. In this simple class, you will learn how to create pumpkins, gourds, fall leaves, an owl, and a turkey. The paintings start with the easiest skill level and progress to the more challenging pieces.  The processes are broken down with step-by-step instructions to make this class easy and enjoyable. Let your creativity flow and enjoy the peaceful and therapeutic nature of watercolor illustration! 

A list of materials I used for this class:

  • Watercolor paper- I used Canson Heritage 140lb rough press
  • Watercolors- I used a selection of Daniel Smith colors including Jadeite Green, Serpentine Green, Cascade Green, Indian Yellow, Quin Gold, Aussie Red Gold, Pyrrol Scarlet, Bordeaux, Yavapai Gen., Sodalite Gen., and Hematite Gen.
  • Brushes- I used a Princeton Quill brush size 6 for every painting
  • One or two jars of water
  • Paper towel
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Optional- calligraphy ink and pen (Dr. PH Martins Iridescent Bronze), templates and transfer paper

Music by:

  • Sunnyside- Nicolai Heidlas
  • The Cat Strut- GurtyBeats and Dyalla
  • Shake, Shake- Dyalla

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Courtney McCulloch

Tulip Poplar Co.


Hello there!  I'm Courtney...the face behind Tulip Poplar Co.!  During the day, you can find me in my classroom in front of groups of middle schoolers...attempting to teach them about the rich diversity and awesomeness of the world we live in.  By the afternoon, I NEED the energy that painting with watercolor gives me.  Art is my passion and my outlet and I crave the joy that it brings me. I hope that I can share some of that with you! Check out my Instagram for daily inspiration!

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1. Intro and Materials: Hey, all Thanks for joining me for my second skills, Your class today I'm going to teach you how to paint some illustrative watercolor full elements. If you're like me, you are ready for this cooler weather. All of those fall field you've got your sweater on my case, my plan or boots on, Let's get started. So let's briefly cover the materials that you're going to need for this class. You're definitely going to need some watercolor paper. I always like £140 cold pressed today. I'm actually using it, Can Seuin And this is going to be rough press, which is fine, too. You're also going to need your water colors, so I have my set of Daniel Smith. I will tell you specific colors in the description you are going to need two jars of water . I like to use one for your cool colors and one for your warm colors. Or you could use one to rinse your brush. Have one for clean water to make sure that it is good and clean. Also going to need a piece of paper, tell toe block your brush, and to drive that I'm going to use a single brush today. This is the Princeton Neptune brush. It is a quill brush size six. I like it because it is that holds a lot of water, and it also has a nice point on it. You could use a variety of just round brush is if that is what you have. There are some optional materials that you might need some calligraphy, ink and a calligraphy skin. You could also use just a regular watercolor brush with your a pencil and eraser, and then also some salt for texture. Let's get started. I'm going to work from the easiest thing to paint and get progressively more challenging. So if you are a beginner, I think that these pumpkins will be perfect for your skill level. 2. Pumpkins: So when I paint pumpkins, I like to just start with some basic shapes. These air going to be very loose. They're not going to be super detailed. You want to get some water on your brush and activate your watercolors? Just get them ready. Get on my some wet. This quill brush is great because it does hold a lot of water and you were going to pay a basic oval Here. You want your oval to be a little fatter in the sinner and then taper off a little bit at the top and the bottom, and then you're going to create just a few more ovals coming off of that center shape. So that's the center part of the pumpkin, and then these will be the little sides coming off of it. You don't really want the two pieces to touch. It's okay if they do. But you want to try to leave a little white space just to indicate that that is where the sides of the pumpkin kind of curve in. And you're gonna do that on both sides. And when I'm painting pumpkins, I generally like to have an odd number of these sides I'm not sure why. I just think that there's something about having odd numbers. It just looks a little born natural. So I want to do two more coming off of. Besides, I like to pick up water to make my color a little lighter. That's all you need. You do not have to add white. Okay, Now, one thing that you can do with these pumpkins is you can add a little bit of color, maybe down at the bottom in the tops. We can pull it down to create some lines and just give them a little bit of texture. So they're not one flat color. That would look really nice when it draws. And while that's still wet on these pumpkins, you do not have to let them dry completely. Before you go on to the next step, you can go ahead and you could do the still and the leaves. I actually like when these believe together just a little bit. So if you touch the stem to your pumpkin, you do not have to worry. I think that the believe looks pretty nice of those end up bleeding together for the stem, just like to make some little points coming off of it, and then you just draw your line up. And the top part of the stem is usually a little sicker than the part that meets the pumpkin. So it's gonna have a shape similar to that, and I like to put little leaves coming off of my stem. If you want to do your pumpkin without leaves, that is perfectly from that's up to you. I just think that leaves a little something extra. So I'm gonna extend from my pumpkin to stool, swishes back and forth and then do the same thing on the other side. And there's one leaf you can dio 2nd 1 If you want to add a little water, make this one a little lighter. And if you're relief touches your pumpkin, there's no worries about that either. I think that the believes look really pretty when they drop. If you want to do some little currently is coming off of it like you see on pumpkins divine , sometimes I think that that would be really cute as well. So just make these pumpkins your own and enjoy the process. I'm gonna do one more real quick just to show you. And I'm gonna make this one a little tall and skinny. Keep in mind that your pumpkins can be any colors that you want. In fact, you'll see those pumpkins on Pinterest a lot Now that people have painted, you know, all kinds, all kinds of colors, like pink or blue. I think that I really nice. Dusty blue is is really pretty on these pumpkins. And I think that she did a Pete pink pumpkin. That would be really pretty as well. So again we come up. I'm trying not to touch the two sides together. I want to leave a little bit of space just to indicate that these are those separate sections of the pumpkin and making some sections lighter in some a little darker. And these pumpkins air so fun, it would be really need to do a grouping of them. I've done a painting where I did a grouping of several pumpkins together, and then you could write a nice little quote above the pumpkins so that you have a nice decorative piece for your home. Okay? I'm gonna come in and do my stem. You can see it's gonna bleed a little bit there, and that is okay. I think that'll look really pretty. I'm actually gonna add a little green to this pumpkin. I think some pumpkins have a little green in them. Some green lines here and there. Especially at the bottom. They usually tend to have the green at the bottom and maybe a little bit of the top. So I think that will just give him some added interest. And we'll do his leaf and call him done. Just some quick little movements here to give the representation of believe do a little curly Q coming off of him. And then I think maybe second leaf over here on the right or the left, and he is done. 3. Gourd: hope you enjoy that pumpkin. For our second fall element, I'm going to show you how to paint a gored. There are tons of Goard's. You can buy them at the store. People love to decorate with them. If you've got some near you can always use those for reference. I'm going to just be using my imagination right now. We're going to just do a loose representation of a Gord. So I'm gonna gets a nice dark green on my brush. And I'm gonna do the really bumpy looking Gord that starts out with a thicker base and then tapers up Teoh a little curved, slender top. So I'm just creating the kind of bumpy parts by pressing down. And I'm lifting up on my brush and making some various squiggles, and I'll come back over these lines again at the end. So I'm not too worried about what they look like right now, thinking we do one more. It's OK if they meet down the bottom. Okay, so that's my general shape. I'm going to come back with a lighter green. I'm gonna make sure have plenty of water on my brush because I do not want this to be to saturated, and I'm gonna go back through in between the colors. Now it's OK. I want to leave a little bit of white space just to give some highlights. And it's OK. The colors touch and bleed a little bit because I will come back and redefine those areas with some darker color at the end. Plus, I really like the nice little bleeds that it gives way in the colors touch. I'm even gonna come in with some yellow. Just add a few little drops of yellow for some additional color. Yeah. Do you want to go ahead and add the little stem? So I'm gonna get some brown, and they usually have a pretty straight in narrow stem. So there's that little guy and now is what? I'm gonna go back. It's still wet, but I'm gonna go back with my darker green color and I'm gonna pick more of that up on my brush and then go back over those original areas of the gored that I wanted to be dark. Goard's are really interesting because there are so many different varieties and colors out there. So that's why I said, if you have some from the store to use for reference. You will get a lot of inspiration. I just do not have any right now. So we're going with my imagination. See how the colors believe together? I think that that creates a really need effect. And I think that is what is the beauty of watercolor. That's what makes it really stand out. Is an interesting medium. Definitely allow that to happen. Okay, that little guy's done. 4. Fall leaves: Okay, now that we've done pumpkins and Goard's were ready for a leaves, leaves require an extra step, so they're getting a little bit more difficult. I like to sketch my leaves out first, and then I'm gonna paint them second. If you have a pencil ready, that would be great. If you want to go straight to painting. If you feel really confident about you're mark making and knowing the shape of your leaf, then that is fine, too. If you have leaves available If you've collected some in the yard, that would be great reference. You could also trace those leaves to make sure you get the shape really perfect. I'm going to be free handing my leaves today. I'm going to start with the sketch now. You're leaves. Do not have to be perfect. I don't think anything is completely perfect. I think that having it be a little bit off every once in a while, that imperfection makes it beautiful. So there's my 1st 1 I'm gonna do a 2nd 1 It's gonna be more of ah, oval shape with some jagged edges. Drama stem down. Have one central vein and then it will have some veins coming off of the edges. Now, if you are not confident about your ability to draw these leaves, I will. I will add a template to this class that you can use and then trace onto your own paper. Now that my sketches dying, I am ready to paint the leaves. I want to start with a wash it first. So one wash of a color. I am actually going to use some of this orange from the pumpkins. I'm just gonna cover the entire shape of my leaf. Also, if you were wondering any time that I sketched out something in watercolor, I usually try to make it light. This is not super white, but I want to be able to erase it when I'm done, if I can. Sometimes, depending on the colors that you are using or held detailed, something is you can't erase. And at that point, I just think that's part of the watercolor. And it doesn't bother me that you can see the Hans. It just adds to the fact that it's an original painting and it becomes part of the peace. Okay, now I'm gonna go in, was in different colors and I'm just going to touch in. Since this is what already using wet on wet technique here, I'm just gonna add in little dots of these colors to leaf. Always love how fall leaves have a variety of different colors in them. Look at that green spread. Who? That's what I love about watercolor. Okay, I just level the different colors of the leaves have. So I'm trying to replicate that in this painting. I know the bottoms of them are usually the darkest. So at a little dark green down here, and then maybe a little gold and even a touch of red over here. Now, what's interesting is the way that these colors are going to blend together. And the fun part is always just kind of seeing what happens after they dry. So I'm gonna leave that you don't want to mess with it too much, because then your colors will become money. The good thing is, with these fall colors, with these full illustrations, brown is one of the colors of fall. So if it does become a little money, that is quite all right. Now I want this one to be a little more red I think I really love the The red fall leaves on what? Its edges to be kind of jagged. So I'm gonna come through just kind of creates a metal spikes on the edges. As I fill in this shape entirely with color, you'll notice that I keep dipping my brush into the water to pick up more water. That just extends my color. And it also makes a color lighter, which is fine, because this is our first wash. I'm gonna come back in with some red that I'm gonna tone down a little bit. That is really pretty. And I think for this one, I'm going to drop in a little bit of some darker red color. Maybe you touch the edges just a little bit. Tip some of the edges and I think I might go in even with a little bit of brown. Swish some of that brown around, drop it in. Now you'll notice that I did draw the veins, but I'm going to add those last if we try to add them right now, As you can see, that's not going to show what very well you can go ahead and try, and it might create a little fuzzy background that then you can come over with a finer line once this is dry, and that might look nice, but you're not gonna have a really defined line if you try to create that. Right now, I am going to go down and Emma stim for both of the leaves. Make sure that you add the end of the stem a little thicker, then the rest of the stuff. Okay, Now you can either do one of two things. At this point, the first wash is done. We have added in our color, we have created a nice texture. If you want, you can leave this, and you can wait for it to dry, and then you can go back in with your final details. However, if you have some salt, then you could drop in some little pieces of salt here to really create some extra texture . Because where you put those pieces of salt, the water color is going. Teoh kind of move away from it and create a really interesting effect. So we're going to try that. Don't overdo it. You want the thicker pieces of salt, not just regular table salt like a rock. Salt would work really well, if you have a puddle of water like I do right here, the salt is not going to do a lot for that area. It has to be almost dry. Not quite still a nice sheen to it. So if you kind of lean to the side, you can see it still shining in the light. That is gonna be perfect, not the puddles of water. And then if it's already dry, it's not going to have any effect. Okay, so we just need to wait for this to dry, and we can add the finishing touches, so want your leaves or dry. You will need Teoh. First of all, make sure they're very thoroughly dry. Because if you go to wipe the salt off and it's not, you will smear your paint, so make sure that they're definitely there really dry, and then you're gonna have to brush your salt away. It does kind of stick to your paper. Is your leader drying? And then once that's gone, you'll notice the lovely texture that the soul has left behind. Now, I didn't have rock, so I used a pink salt It's a little bit sicker than your regular table saw, but it still created a nice texture. So that's what we were going for For the finishing touches on the leaves. I'm going to add in the little sin veins. I'm just gonna pick up some brown and I'm gonna very lightly with the tip my brush create these veins. If you are using a round brushes, then you're probably gonna want to use the thinnest round that you have a nice two or a zero would work perfect for this. Anything with a really sharp point would actually do well, - okay . And then some leaves have little speckles or little darker spots. So I'm just gonna take some darker color and go around some of the parts of the leave. Just Teoh, give them a little more depth notice. Some leaves have some, like some parts where they have looks like there extra country or dying. So just creates, um, speckle areas. Okay. And I would call thes leaves done if you need to go back over your stem. So just to find those really Well, now's a good time. All right? 5. Owl: okay for our fourth element, we're going to be working on an owl. So I've got an image of one that I've already painted here for reference. And then I've already quickly sketched out his outline. Now, normally, for example, with this one, I wouldn't sketch this, but I'm going to today just to make sure that I get the proportions correct. So I will add a outline for you that you can download. If you would like to go ahead and use that for your own painting, you can print it out and then copy it. Always start with his eyes because I feel like those are the most important. Those really are What I think is iconic about an owl. So I'm gonna go ahead and just add the yellow. They're usually, like, really penetrating yellow. Um, sometimes an orangey color. Do you really need to try to get the eyes pretty accurate? You want to be spaced properly and be fairly proportional, Otherwise the whole owl could look a little off. All right, that is good enough. And then I'm going to start with a nice dark color when you use a Hema tie, and then a little bit of some brown. I'm gonna go ahead and start with first the beak and then some of these feathers that are on the top of his head just quickly laying down some strokes of color here. I'm gonna come back in later. Still got some yellow on my brush. I want to come back in later and add more detail. So this is just an initial first layer. Also gonna use a bit of an orange to create some interest. And I always love those little lines that come off around the owl's face if you it's a bottom, okay? And then for the body for the first layer, I just go in and some quick strokes just to kind of fill in some of the white. And we're gonna go back in later. And we're gonna add in a lot of detail for the bottom part for the main body. Do this little half moon shapes. Go back. You'll see. I work kind of work all the way around the hour. I'll start with the face. I moved the body. I go back up. I don't like to finish anyone part all at once. Getting some of the little details go back over the parts of his ears that are the darkest you'll notice with the hematite. Also, this is a granulated watercolor. So I think that that adds some nice texture. If you use a regular, you know, the lamp black, for example, then it won't have that granulated effect. So it just depends on the colors that you choose. You'll get different effects. Sometimes Granulated is nice, and it's for other paintings. I might not want that. All right, I'm gonna come down and do his talents. I'm gonna do with them different than what you see here. I'm actually just gonna have him coming, coming right out from under him like he's sitting on them. So I think that that will look nice. I don't want to have him on a branch like I did over here. There are so many different types of owls, so you could do like a snowy white owl. Um, you could create different little details around his face. I think that's what's so fun about them is they have so many different details in them, and you can make them look frustrated. You can make them, you know, look friendly and they're really adaptable in the little details I think are very meditative when you're sitting here doing them kind of just zone out and focus on all the little details to come in and get his eyebrows this aerial darker. And it looks like my Gilo is still wet. So I'm just gonna go back in, make some of these areas a little darker and then go back to his body. I usually found my reference photos. If you're wondering just photos that I've taken, or sometimes I'll look on Google or Pinterest for photos, I try not to copy photos exactly. You always want to do your representation of them if it's not one that you've taken. But you know, an owl is an owl. So just if there's a specific breed of our that you're looking at that you're interested in , you know, just Google that, and then you can get an idea of what their body structure looks like their anatomy and kind of the positions that you would find them in and work from there. Just come back in and add these little details just like a lot of texture. You guys have heard me say that a lot. I think that's what really adds. Interesting. What keeps people looking at your painting? Okay. I need to go in and add the sinner port of his eye. The black part. You do this one of two ways you could add in the black poor. And just leave those areas white for the highlight. Or you could go back with a white ink, Um, a white wash or just some really opaque watercolor and add those in later. Since I do not have any of that frenemy, I'm going to try to add them in now by just avoiding those areas. This is probably the most difficult of the two options. There's one I need to make sure have a really sharp point to get this fine detail. - And I kind of want even those eyes up. So go back to this one and rounded out a little. I also want to create that dark area around the I. - Okay . And a few more details and he is done. There is an owl 6. Turkey: for our fifth and final full element. We're going to be painting a turkey Iconic Thanksgiving. I've got a reference photo pulled up that I use I found on Google images or Pinterest. Usually is what I look for or take a picture yourself, if you can. I'm gonna start on this turkey. I've got my sketch already laid out. If you are nervous about doing that, I will again have a link so that you can get an outline Teoh use. I'm gonna start rolling down my first wash of color. And I'm just gonna use this human tight like a gray color to go around where all of his little feathers are going to be. I'm gonna completely fill in those areas again. We're gonna come back in later and add detail to these areas. So what is filling them in with color blocking them and with color? Right now, it's doesn't have to be real precise, and this is a loose representation. So it is gonna be a little more detailed than, say, the pumpkins that we did or the Gord. But it's okay if you go outside of the lines. It's OK if it's not perfect it is gonna be more loose than anything else. So now I'm gonna go back in and I'm gonna make some of these areas darker. Some of the areas that I know are really dark that this bottom part is really dark. And I usually like to paint in the direction that I know something is going when I'm going to do in detail. So I know that these feathers kind of curve back up and around. And even though they're going to be really feathered looking, no pun intended, I'm going to go ahead and kind of do them in the direction that they would be going on the actual turkey for these and other went down and the ones in the back I curve around. I'm gonna go ahead and know that there's a dark area right here. But I also want to create my lines that come off to represent these individual really big feathers in the back. His tell feathers. Now that there's come up, I'm also going to dio the final ones in the back. And then I know that those have some dark tips on them. Okay? Going in. Adding so more dark to the areas again that I know or darkest watercolor dries lighter. Then it will be that it is when you first put on your paper. So if there's a really dark area, you're gonna have to keep going back and adding and making that darker. And I've noticed that these turkeys feathers almost have a blue blue sheen to them. So I'm adding a little bit of a dark blue to my hematite to give that effect still wet. So I'm just coming in again, making really quick strokes in the direction the's feathers go to create more texture. - Okay , well, that is drawing a little bit. I'm going to come down and get his feet. - You'll notice any time that I'm making marks. They are spreading out because I'm doing wet on wet so they're blending together, and that's fine for this first layer. When you go in and get the blue part of his head really quick, try not to touch it to any of the wet areas because I don't want it to bleed, and I will touch in a bit of dark blue for his I and then that's gonna bleed out. But I will come back in and add some detail later to make it more defined. Right while it's drying, I'm gonna mix up with some of my darker blue in my hematite in a little brown, a nice dark color to go in and add those details with See that still were. It's really dry so I can go in and make just the smaller little strokes on top of this nice texture that I have. And it will just add another layer, and it will make it look like it has a more dimension to his feathers, which I think is a really nice look. Go in and Adam close to top, still a little wet, right, and there you'll see it feathers out a little bit. You want to use just the tip of your brush to get these fine lines unless you have a really thin brush, like maybe you're using around size two or zero and then you can use the tip of it just to get thes fine lines. For this detail part that's still a little wet. But maybe a little dry on this side can handsome these dots of the feathers in. And now I'm gonna go up and I'm gonna add a little bit of a cap on these feathers. This part seems to be fairly dry, so I'm gonna start going in with my really thin texture Feathers in these tell feathers. There's really thin lines. And this is the really meditative part of watercolor painting. Is just creating these little thin details just repetitive marks. Okay. And now the most of his feathers are done. I'm gonna add there's a little bit of almost bay aged color on the tips that I'm gonna go in and add with just a little bit of this light, yellowish color, maybe a little bit of brown to tone it down. I'm just gonna add that do the tip just to give it some contrast here. A little more texture. My add a little bit of that color and various places just kind of move the I around. It's a little bit right here. Now I'm going in for the red. Most of this is dry. I didn't want to believe too much, this kind of bumpy. So I'm gonna leave some white areas just to kind of indicate help. This area is bumpy at some water go in and we have smooth it into some of the blue Poor. Just so it's not such a stark contrast. And then he's got a little coming off of his beak. I'm gonna go in. Like I said, I waas with some dark blue and make his I just a little more defined, maybe even a speak, and then drop in just a little bit in the red, just to give it some shadow to tone it down just a little bit. And there is our turkey bird. If you want another example, I have created one from the side profile. So if you like that profile better again when you're looking for reference images, just look at the different viewpoints, different angles and go with whichever one you think looks the best. 7. Final thoughts and Bonus: I really hope that you have enjoyed making these watercolor, illustrative fall elements with me. I've had a great time. We've gone through pumpkins, Goard's leaves, even a turkey and an owl. I haven't showed you what you could do with these elements. Of course, you can just use them as paintings as decorative elements for your home. You can paint them and give them to friends. You could create a nice pumpkin skate with your pumpkins in the right, a little Italy quote at the top and use that. The fun thing that I think that you could do with them is to create place cards for your Thanksgiving table because Thanksgiving is coming up. I have done these individual little pumpkins. Each one is different, each one is unique. And then I've gone in with my calligraphy brush and my calligraphy ink. I've used Doctor Ph. Martin's iridescent bronze for these, and then I have just hand lettered names right on top of the pumpkins. You could do that with any of the elements that we've painted today. I think this would look spectacular with the leaves. I think you could throw a Gord in there with your pumpkins and it just makes every once place setting extra special you so much for joining me today I really hope that you have enjoyed your time. I would love to see what you have created. Please post in a project section Show me what you're up to. And then if you haven't already check out my illustrated capped by watercolor video Have a great day. Your life. I miss Nora. I your friends I had Thank you, your friends, It is Obama.