Watercolor Landscape - Dancing Northern Lights and Pine Forest | Trupti Karjinni | Skillshare

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Watercolor Landscape - Dancing Northern Lights and Pine Forest

teacher avatar Trupti Karjinni, Artist, Paintmaker, Entrepreneur

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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 (49m)
    • 1. What's This Class About?

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Color Palette and Tones

    • 4. Dymanic Blending in Washes & Acceptance

    • 5. First Layer - Adding Lights

    • 6. Second Layer - Adding Contrast

    • 7. Stars

    • 8. Third Layer - Pine Forest

    • 9. Own Your Work!!!

    • 10. Epilogue and Pep Talk

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About This Class


Along with learning the skills to paint dancing Northern Lights, you will learn something far more important in this class - GOING WHERE YOUR PAINTING WANTS TO TAKE YOU.

That's right! Watercolor is a medium unlike any other. By letting the colors blend however they want on paper, you will get effects that are IMPOSSIBLE to get in any other medium. It seems like a hard thing to learn but you'll see how easily we will achieve this in today's class.

You will also get loads of small yet effective tips throughout this class which will improve your creative practice.

Through this class I am going to help you get rid of fear and doubt when approaching a watercolor landscape and we are going give ourselves the permission to embrace the unpredictable nature of watercolors and how to work with the ‚Äúmistakes‚ÄĚ that come with it.

Are you ready to paint the ethereal, dacing Aurora Borrealis with me?


Flying High by Fredji

Prelude White by Svyat Ilin

Meet Your Teacher

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Trupti Karjinni

Artist, Paintmaker, Entrepreneur

Top Teacher


Hey there! I'm Trupti Karjinni, an artist and creative entrepreneur based in India. I wear the hats of a Painter, Paintmaker and Educator.

I am the creator of Thrive With Trupti, a reimagined online membership where I teach watercolor enthusiasts like you the skills and mindset you need to create confidently.

I'm also the Founder of Blue Pine Arts where we make our world-renowned handmade watercolors, sketchbooks and other art supplies.

I live in the idyllic town of Belgaum with my husband, Nahush and my cat master, Satsuki.

Although I work with many mediums, ... See full profile

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1. What's This Class About?: This class is all about the one thing that watercolors asks us to do, letting go. What better way to exercise that than to paint these magical and a surreal aurora borealis, also known as the northern Lights. Hey guys, I'm Trupti Karjinni, and welcome to my 11th Skillshare class. I'm an artist instructor and owner of Blue Pine Arts, a company where we make beautiful handmade watercolors, sketchbooks, brushes, and other art supplies. I'll let you find out more about me on my Skillshare profile. This is going to be a super chill class where we are going to embrace the wild unpredictably of watercolors and the wet on wet technique. We're going to let the colors run across the paper and organically bend with each other. I am going to teach you a new way of how it's been pine forest, illuminated by the dancing lights in the night sky. By the end of the class, I'm sure you're going to have a better understanding of not just the techniques but of the medium itself. This is going to be an intermediate level class. So if you're never painted northern lights before, I strongly suggest to take my other Skillshare class on this topic to get a basic understanding of how to paint this magical lights. Beginning of 2020, with this class where I'm going to show you how I really worked with the magic of watercolors, which means you should not be missing out on this opportunity. So join me right away and let's get started. 2. Supplies: I'm going to go over the materials I'll be using in this class. Please remember that you don't need to have the exact same materials that I have. Use the tools and supplies that you have on hand. Now this is my brush roll from Blue Bernards and I store all of my brushes in this. It's great for safe storage of brushes, especially when I'm traveling. For this class, I'll be using some of my favorite Princeton brushes for landscape works. Like the Neptune size 1 flat brush for the background washes, the Neptune size 6 mop brush for some of the larger washes of color. This one is one of my most favorite brushes from the Princeton series. It's the Princeton Neptune size 10, and it's just so versatile, it's a great size and I can get a lot done with this one brush. I will also be using my Princeton heritage size 6 for splattering the stars in the night sky. The Princeton size 2 heritage brush to sign my name. But really the most important brushes that you need, are these three brushes. As long as you have brushes of these sizes you're good to go. For the paints I'll be using my Paulson palette of Blue Pine Arts handmade watercolors. From a range of all of these colors, I will be using just six, namely Lemon Yellow, New Leaf, Deodar Green, Phthalo Turqueise, Indus Blue and Trupti's Grey. I'll demonstrate how these colors behave and how exactly we'll be using these colors in the next segment. For the paper, I'll be using my Fabriano artistico 300 gsm cold press fine green paper. Now for this class, I will recommend using an artist grade paper because we're going to be doing a lot of dynamic wet on wet blending. Trust me, when I say this, it's going to be so much more easier and so much more effective if you use 100 percent cotton artist grade paper. You're also going to need a few scraps of paper like these to just swatch out some colors, just to test some colors, I always had these bits of paper on hand. Apart from the bigger piece of paper that we're going to be painting on, I also have a smaller piece of paper that we are going to practice our washes on. You're going to need two pieces of paper. You're going to need some whitewash to splatter these styles. If you don't have that, you can also use a white pen like this. This is the Uni-ball Signo gelly roll pen. I really found this useful as well. I will definitely recommend having two jars of clean water through all the stages of painting and not just for the entire painting. Keep switching the water and keep getting clean water for every layer of the painting, highly recommended. Of course paper towels. I will say that this is an intermediate level class, so I hope you've checked out my first class on Painting Northern Lights here on Skillshare. I'm teaching how to paint this particular landscape over here and it's a great class to get acquainted with the techniques of painting northern lights, and the philosophy that goes behind it. Make sure you check that class out before you start this class. Lastly, I have this well-used piece of foam board that I tape my paper on. It's going to act as the backing board to my paint. I'm using a foam board today and not a plywood board because this is really lightweight. I can just move it around with only one hand and it's quite easy to use. 3. Color Palette and Tones: Before we begin, I'm just going to quickly run you through the colors that I am going to be using today. This is my personal blue fine arts palette, and I'm going to be using five colors from this collection today. First color is lemon yellow, and I really love this color for its luminosity. It's quite opaque and thick when at its maximum strength, but when you really dilute it down and you add a lot of water to it, it just gives these glowing yellow washes which are great to paint the lightest value of the glowing Northern lights. I'm not sure if you can see it properly on the camera, but it really glows and it's really beautiful. The next color that I'm going to use in combination with this is the leaf green. So again, it's really strong when it's thick but when I dilute it down, it just gives this glowing light green color of the aurora borealis, and you can see how I'm blending these colors. I love swatching colors like this sometimes because, it really helps me get warmed up to my wet-in-wet technique that I'm going to use later. The next color is Diodor green. This again works in combination with these two colors to give that glowing bluish-green characteristic of the Northern lights that we are so well acquainted with. It looks a little turquoise in the video here. I'm checking my camera but trust me, it is almost like a neon green color. The next one is a little bit of Taylor turquoise. So again, highly pigmented, very beautiful aqua blue color, but it works wonderfully for the Northern lights as well. It's a lot greenish than what it looks on the camera. The last color I'm going to be using is Indus blue. It's this deep, dark staining blue color, which is just so perfect for the night sky that we're going to paint. I have also decided to use Truptis gray, that's going to be the sixth color. Not able to really demonstrate it properly because I ran out of space. But, once I mix it with the blue, it makes my night sky a little darker, and I love the combination of these colors. I also love how seamlessly they're blended. These scholars are artist-grade watercolors and you can see just how glowing and transparent they are in the washes over here, and this is what's going to be really useful in our class. So go with artist-grade colors if that's what you have, or else any watercolor paints that you have will work for this piece. So here in my ceramic palette, I already have premixed some of the colors that I am going to use the most in today's landscape and this is really important. So find a palette that has deep wells that can hold a lot of paint and water like I have over here. Premixing and keeping some of your colors ready is going to be one of the biggest factors in ensuring that you get successful in a beautiful painting, because this way you don't have to keep going back and forth between colors, you don't have to keep hurrying to mix colors while your paper keeps drying. I'm just going to show you some of the mixtures that I have mixed over here. So this is just plain Diodor green because I'm anticipating that I'm going to be using quite a bit of this color and I've really diluted it down so you can see how watery this mixture is. So that's a lot of water and a little bit of pigment to give this very nice watery, glowing wash of this color. This mixture here is a mix of the lemon yellow and the new leaf. So it's a very nice, clean mixture, beautifully glowing. I might also go and get a very watery mixture of the lemon yellow. This is obviously too strong, so, I'm going to add a little bit more water to it and you can see just how beautiful it is when it glows. The other mixture that I have on here is Taylor turquoise and Indus blue mixed together and it's darker in value compared to these two colors, which means that it has more pigment and lesser water. The reason why I'm using this darker color is because, this is going to be a night sky and it's going to contrast beautifully with the color that we're going to use for the Northern lights. You can already see how the color has started bleeding into this. You can see how beautifully these two colors contrast with each other giving that effect of a glowing, beautiful Northern night sky. So maintaining good contrast is always the key, especially when you want to paint glowing things. Towards the end, in the last layer, I am going to add a little bit more Truptis gray to this one. I haven't added it yet, but I'll just add a little bit of it over here to show you the gradients that I'm going for. So it's going to go from a deep, dark, inky night sky to a little bit more bluish contrasting with the aurora borealis colors. 4. Dymanic Blending in Washes & Acceptance: Now, I did want to dive right away into the final painting and take you along with me on this journey. But I do realize that sometimes some of us struggle with accepting the unpredictability of [inaudible] washes. Since that is what we are going to be using the most today to our advantage, I thought it's a good idea if we just get comfortable with letting the colors blend with each other on the paper and to come to terms with what effect we end up with. A couple of things, before we start this practice, you definitely want both the jars to be filled with clean water. Anytime you paint anything that glows, that has a clean transparency in watercolors. Both of my jars are filled with clean water. The next thing is that you want to make sure that your brush is clean, because we're going to be using a lot of staining colors. Like in this blue, the [inaudible] these colors are highly staining. If I use this, just wash this brush off in the jar and then I continue using the lighter color. Trust me, when I say that the previous color, the darker staining color will come through because they really tend to settle into the brush and contaminate the other colors. Use different brushes for different colors or definitely start with a very clean brush. If you take my backlit snowy paints classes, I have a complete bonus lesson on how to clean your brushes, especially when you've used staining colors. Definitely, check that out. Grab any piece of paper and paper to your board. I would prefer if you use the same paper that you're going to use for the final piece, because it's going to help you get acquainted with how the colors behave on your paper. Real quickly without overthinking too much, I'm going to grab my flat brush and start wetting the paper. This is the point where I really want you to just shut off that part of your brain that overthinks everything, that wants everything to be perfect, and just tap into your heart, which really just wants to experience the joy of watercolors. I wet my paper. It's quite wet. A little bit sloppy because we do want a lot of water to help with the movement of the colors. Yeah, I've got quite a bit of water on here. Using my brush, I'm going to bring in a very light value of the yellow, and I'm just going to start dropping the colors in. I'm going to tilt my paper to help the colors move, leading to each other, and notice how I am not so worried about where the colors are moving, how they're blending. Because today it's really all about going where my painting wants to take me. I'm just going to drop some colors and let it do the work for me. You will definitely get some runoff of the water here. Keep your paper towels ready and soak all of this excess water up if you want to. Keep tilting your board, pushing the colors to different places. Remember this is a practice piece, so no point in being stressed out over here. The whole point is to let go and have some fun. When I am swirling my paper around, I do still want to take care of the fact that I have a few glowing parts like this preserved. This is a point where you can really get acquainted with the washing of colors and how they mix on paper. Since I want my night sky to be on the top and the bottom part to be lit with the dancing lights. I'm going to start and would grab some of the dark blue color and very commonly, very gracefully, gently drop some color and just watch it swoop down. We don't want to overdo it. I'm going to tilt my paper back down and just allow the magic to happen. Add more color to the places where you want some more night sky and just wait for the magic to happen. The steeper your angle, the sharper your angles, of the northern lights are going to be. This is almost vertical here. I hope you are able to see what I mean. The colors are dripping off of your board. Let that happen. This is quite messy. It's a messy painting. That's all right. You can see that just because I held my board almost vertically, you can see how the colors have just run into each other and they have created these streaks of the northern light, and I'm really quite happy with that. Now all the excess water and paint has run off. I've cleaned it off. You can see just because I held the board almost vertically, just how beautiful the streets of the northern lights are blending into the darker night sky. I'm just going to leave this, I'm going to let it dry and then I'm going to show you how it looks when it's all dried up. Now that the paper has dried, you can see how this has turned out. Now, did I intend for my northern light to look exactly like this? No. Did I intend for the blue color of the night sky to seep down till here and create the separation between the lights? Not really, but am I happy with what's happened over here? Absolutely. This is the whole point of this exercise, is to embrace the fact that you're going to get, because it doesn't matter how it's turned out. All that matters is that it is still going to look beautiful. I think this looks beautiful because I really love how the colors have just blended into each other and created these very natural really soft blends, very dynamic. I know that if I had tried to blend these colors with my brush, I would not have been able to achieve the effect that I've got over here, and that mind you is the magic of watercolors. Now let's jump on to the next segment where we are going to dive right into the final painting and we're going to paint just a beautiful, beautiful northern lights artwork. 5. First Layer - Adding Lights: Let's begin. Clean brushes, check. I'm going to be using this one for the lighter colors and this one for the night sky darker colors, and this one to wet my paper. Clean brushes. Clean water in the jars, check. Premixed colors in the palette, check, and clean paper towels. Let's begin. Remember, like I said, for the lights, we're going to be using the absolute lightest value of these three colors, and for the night sky, we are going to be using darker values of these three colors. It's as simple as that. I'm going to get started. I'm going to wet my paper. Like I say in all of my classes, at this point I need you to take a big deep breath and just let go of perfect expectations, because I promise you that using the method I showed you in the previous class, you are going to end up with a beautiful modern lights painting no matter what. Just go in with a positive spirit, not over thinking anything. It's really all about just having fun with watercolors today. We're going to get in a little bit of that lemon yellow in here. Notice how much water and paint I'm adding. When I make any Northern lights paintings, I feel like a little child who has been allowed to just do whatever they want, having the wildest fun with no parental supervision, and it's just a good feeling to feel like a child again. I'm using this really light form board as my backing board because it's just so easy to just lift it up in one hand and just tilt the board. I really don't mind if the water and the colors run off of my board and just stay in my table because I don't care for things like that. But if you're worried about the surface, you can just lay down an old cloth rag, something to protect your surface because we are using staining colors and they're going to stain. I'm just having the best kind of fun here, just dropping in some coloring paint. I really like this in a light area over here, so I'm not going to drop any paint so that it runs off in that area, but just do what you feel is right. Make sure your paper is totally wet though, and if you feel like you paint or your paper is starting to dry up, stop adding more color. I love it. Oh God. I love what's happening over here. It's just so beautiful. At this point, I'm going to soak up all of this color, clean my board a little bit, then very calmly, I'm going to bring in this blue color from the top. Notice how I'm holding the board, and I am going to add a lot of paint and water because I want it to seep down like this, but also not too much. Just keeping my movements really calm, controlled, not forgetting to take an occasional deep breath. Because I can be scare you guys, I totally get it. Can be scary to work with an uncontrollable medium like this. Towards the end, I'm going to let the lighter colors over here seep into the darker colors. Be patient over here and just let the colors and the water do their own thing. Once you think all the excess color and water has flowed out of the painting onto the masking tape, just gently soak it up, and then you can let your board rest horizontally because, remember that if there's still a lot of water, it's still going to come seeping down the moment you lay it horizontally. Cool, I'm really happy with this. I'm going to dry this layer off, and I'm going to see you in the next segment where we will put another wash of a darker night sky. 6. Second Layer - Adding Contrast: This is how it's looking now that the first layer is dry and I'm not kidding you guys I am just so happy at how this has turned out. When I'm filming my Skillshre classes there are so many things that can go wrong, but when something goes as right as this has, it just makes my heart do a happy little dance. I can go on and on about just how much I love the glowing beauty of this layer over here, but I'm not going to do that because I don't want to eat too much into your time. Honestly, I could just leave this as it is because I'm still very happy with how it looks. I have observed so many pictures of the northern lights and there are times when the night sky is actually quite light because the northern lights are just so strong that they're illuminating the night sky so much that it's not too dark. You can go ahead and do the next layer with this if you've achieved something like this. But personally, I want a little bit more contrast between this glowing part over here and the night sky. I am going to use a slightly darker color in the next layer over here. For that I'm going to be using my Princeton Neptune size brush not the mob brush because I don't want too much paint on this part over here. Oops, this has some color on it still. As I was saying, I don't want too much of the darkness over here, just a little bit towards the edges may be. I'm going to use this brush and I have already pre-mixed the Indus blue with some took these green over here, so let's just test it out. It's quite dark. It's dark enough, but it's not too dark because I don't want it to be too much of contrasts between these layers. I'm going to stick with this color. I'm going to wet my paper but before that I am going to drop this board against something. I have that right book of the Complete Novels by Jane Austen. I'm going to use this to prop my board against. I've gone ahead and adjusted the camera angles so you can see what I'm doing, but know that my board is tilted. We're going to need this tool so that we can take advantage of the gravity. Because again for the darker night sky, I don't want the colors to flow down. Using my brush and being very gentle with it, I'm just wetting my papers in these comments smooth movements because I don't want to disturb the underlying colors over here. Deciding a tub, but more water. As you can see, the colors are starting to get disturbed already, I don't want to scrub it too much. This is the part where you want to be a little more controlled with your wet in wet because you don't want the dark colors to sweep into these glowing areas. We're going to take just a little bit of care to protect that. If you think your colors are just flowing too uncontrollably downwards, you can always tilt your board back up. I'm just going to drop in a little bit more color here. Just notice how calmly I'm working with my colors. Just a tiny bit more here. Not going to put in too much as I said, just going to tilt it up and watch the colors bleed down. If you don't want them to be bleeding down a lot, I can just stop. I can also clean my brush and just make a toasty brush and blend these colors by myself just to help them nudge along. As I said, very little interference from us. You can always lift your colors back up like this. What I'm going to do now is just lay down my board because I don't want my colors to bleed too much. I'm going to get a slightly darker and thicker mixture of Trudy's Cree in this blue. While my paper is still wet I might just go ahead and drop a slightly darker value towards the top here, just to give that nice gradient. Because my paint mixture was really thick you can see that it's not really bleeding down too much, but since it's wet in wet it's going to blend really nice. You can see now that we have a beautiful gradient between the very dark of the night sky when it's just like seeping into the northern light and getting lighter and lighter. I just love how this is looking right now, and I'm going to stop. Let's move on to the next layer where we are going to try this off and start painting the pine trees. 7. Stars: Now, before we begin painting the pine trees, I think it's a good idea to splatter as trials now, so I'm just using my Princeton round number 6 heritage brush. Use any brush for this and I'm using some white gouache, I'm going to dilute it with some water. Lot of my pressure lies with it and start splattering towards the stars in the night sky. Now if you observe that those stars are a little too big, so get some excess paint out of your crush and starts splattering. If you want to learn how to use the exact technique that I use for splattering, I explain it in my backlit noise binds class. Go ahead and take that class. But it's really just a fuse plateaus, not too many. You can also use this universal signal, Jelly Roll, white pen to make some more styles, which just makes sure that you are placement of the styles is random and not in a pattern. Let's try this layer off and then we'll start building the pine trees. 8. Third Layer - Pine Forest: Let's start painting the pine forest against this beautiful northern night sky. A couple of things that I want to point out before we start painting the pine trees is that I've noticed a lot of artists who paint the mountains or the pine trees in an absolute black or very dark color against a bright light. Now, while that might look good for a few people, it's not really my style. When I paint something in a landscape that has a high contrast, I try not to make the contrast too deep. What I'm trying to say is the pine trees or I'm going to be painting are not going to be like a dark black color. They are going to be illuminated by a source of light from the top right, because the northern lights light up the snow and the trees. While they might look dark in a photograph, an inspiration picture that you look, it always looks great if you can introduce some of the colors that you have used in the landscape, in your foreground elements. Let me explain that a little better. Instead of going just straight up with three-piece gray or black for the pine trees against this night sky, I am going to bring in a dark green mixture for the pine trees. That is going to make it look more cohesive. I'm bringing in some of the other green and some of this green. Don't get me wrong, it is going to be dark, but it's going to be a dark green. It's going to be like a dark color tinted with the green, with a neon green of the colors that are in the night sky. That's the color I have mixed over here. Let me swatch it out for you. This is the color of the pine trees. I'm just going to paint it down to just show you how much green it has because I realized that in the camera it's just looking like a dark black color, but it's in fact a very deep, moody green color, and that is what I'm going to use for my pine trees, occasionally making it slightly darker. But know that I am using like a dark moody greenish color. For this landscape, I want to give it a little bit of a sense of perspective to make it more interesting, like I have done over here, where it looks like the photo has been taken from the bottom up. Because of that, the trees are going to appear tilted towards the center over here. You can also see that the forest is receding in the back. That gives a sense of distance and a sense of depth to the artwork. I'm going to paint something like this and you can see just how natural and organic my brushstrokes are going to be when I paint this wilderness foreground. I'm going to start off here on the side and for the bottom mass of the forest where all the branches are merging into each other and it's just mass, I'm just going to make rough shapes like this. Then what I'm going to do is just start pulling the trees from this mass over here. Using the tip of my brush, I'm going to start painting the trees. I might go for some lighter values, here and there just because it makes it more interesting to have varying values, and you can see how I'm not bothered with keeping my trees perfect. The main idea is to show these trees that are shooting up out of this forest mass. I am taking care to make the trees smaller as I approach the center here. Don't worry if it doesn't make any sense at this point. At this point it's just looking like a bunch of buildings, but now we can obvious go ahead and fix that. Now as I come towards the center, I want the angle of the trees to start straightening up because it's goes like this. As we go further and further back to forest, gets further and further from us. Right about here I'm going to stop and I'm going to paint my highlight tree from this corner over here because I really loved the idea of just one of the trees, just soaring a little higher in the sky, and that is one of my key elements. That is going to give as depth and enhancement to this landscape and it's following the rule of third. It just looks great because the tree is coming and resting here in the one third part of the night sky. I really loved this competition, so I'm going to go ahead and follow this. Using the tip of my brush and getting the excess paint out, I will start with the both the two tree here and start painting the foliage. If you want a better understanding of how I paint my pine trees, please take my monochrome mystic pines class because I give you the full breakdown of my pine tree shapes over there. Notice how I'm using the dry brush techniques to give this rough edged foliage over here. Dry brushing is just like a great technique to make a foliage look so much more natural, and I love how you can use the texture of the paper to your advantage for this and then I'm going to start placing smaller trees further away from this tree to complete the look of depth and perspective. You can see how I'm using all the different parts of my brush to paint the foliage and I actually do have another skull shape class on how to use all the different parts of your brush to get maximum use out of it, so if you're interested in getting more out of my brush, definitely check out that class. For dry brush technique, remember to get the excess paint of your brush to really get into this textured look. Just gives it more natural feel to the foliage. Maybe just another tree over here. Just looks a little too uniform. I think I might just add another tree over here just to make it look more natural. Perfect. 9. Own Your Work!!!: As in all of my Skillshare classes, I always encourage my students to sign their paintings. We've tried because you're an artist now. You've accomplished something really wonderful in this class and you've finished painting. Which means that you need to own it. Let's go ahead and sign our artworks. 10. Epilogue and Pep Talk: There you have it guys. It really is as simple as this to create a magical Northern Lights piece. What I want you to take away from this class, is that sometimes when you're working with watercolors, it really is okay to just sit back and relax, and go where the colors want to take you, especially in painting something as dynamic and as real as Northern Lights. You really can give yourself the permission to just let the colors blend how they want, and let them run wild on your paper and just enjoy what you get from it. There's a huge life lesson to be learnt from it as well. Well, I'm not going to get too preachy on you, but this is something that I aim to embrace more and more in this new year and I hope that this class was really beneficial for you to learn this very important watercolor technique and also to embrace the beauty of the unpredictability of watercolors. Now, if you enjoyed this class and if you made the class project from it, please go ahead and upload it in the class project section. If you post it on your social media, on your Instagram, please tag me. My Instagram handle is @truptikarjinni and feel free to check out my Blue Pine Arts at discrete watercolors, and other art supplies on my website, bluepinearts.com. Lastly, if you really appreciated the knowledge and the experience that you had from this class, please do leave a review for me and I love you forever, deal? Anyway, until the next class, happy painting.