Watercolor Playgrounds: Discover Your Style and Break Your Blocks | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

Watercolor Playgrounds: Discover Your Style and Break Your Blocks

Amarilys Henderson, Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
11 Lessons (47m)
    • 1. Break Through the Stuck

      1:07
    • 2. Wanna Play?

      2:13
    • 3. Exploring Style Pt. 1

      2:25
    • 4. Exploring Style Pt. 2

      2:26
    • 5. Supplies

      3:59
    • 6. Loose Shapes

      7:14
    • 7. Playful Forms

      11:58
    • 8. Recap

      2:33
    • 9. Decorative Details

      8:58
    • 10. Going Further

      2:37
    • 11. Did It Work?

      1:13
34 students are watching this class

About This Class

db165d58

Everyone is trying to find their style--even well-established creatives as we’re constantly pushing forward. Style is the happy place between those things “you always do” and places you’re pushing towards. I want to show you a way of working that calls upon your familiar tendencies while challenging you to explore more.

Amarilys Henderson, a watercolor illustrator, created this class as her own work seemed to be hitting a ceiling that was waiting to be broken. Through this process of combining play with the design principles, she found herself swimming in a unchartered waters that felt wonderfully familiar.

Through this class you’ll have fun creating some fresh, new work. But while we’re busy making imaginative playgrounds, you’ll be on an expedition to chase the thread that connects your body of work together to discover what sets you apart.

065c2b3b

Transcripts

1. Break Through the Stuck: Have you felt yourself stuck in a creative art, where you either keep creating the same thing or you just don't know what else to do. I totally understand that feeling. I want to show you a way to get past that. I created this class as I usually do, based on what's fresh to me and what I'm really enjoying at the moment. The reason that I'm really enjoying it is because I've found it's so helpful for me to break through the ceiling of where I was creatively, and to explore some new ground, literally watercolor playgrounds. I call them playgrounds because it's a place to create fun, work, while you get lost doing it. I hope you'll join me in the class, and we'll explore color and composition and basic elements of design that are going to serve you to create more vibrant work, something that you're excited about, and stumble upon something new and fresh and amazing. I hope you'll join me. 2. Wanna Play?: I'm Emily Sanderson. I'm a Watercolor Illustrator specializing in Surface Design. That means that a lot of my art ends up on products and I churn out a lot of work and I often get asked how I keep creating work and how I found my style. The way that I did is like anybody else, just stumbled upon. I want to show you a method to help you stumble upon, not just creativity to push through those boulders of being in a creative block, but at the same time, you will find hints of your style, the thread that connects your body of work together. The key is play. Even that can be hard because we're so wound up in wanting to create something awesome that we don't know how to just let loose and let it flow. I found a way by focusing on design elements, such as shape, color, composition where I wasn't creating just abstracts which are too obscure for me, not objectives or you just got a ton of colors and blobs. I wanted to push it further into my style. Now everybody wants to find their style and what's funny is that it's always under our note. Style is the happy place between what you always do and you get sick of how you always do that and where you're going towards. As you work and do these what I'm calling watercolor playgrounds, you'll find that there is a thread to how you work. Because you'll find areas where you need to address something at a little fun somewhere and you'll find patterns of how you typically work. As we're playing and getting ourselves out of a creative rut, I want us to also be looking out for clues to our style. You'll be surprised at how much can come out of playing. 3. Exploring Style Pt. 1: What's funny about understanding style, is that your own style is often obvious to everyone else before it is to you. I've been told, "You have a really recognizable style." After feeling elated, I feel pretty uneasy because I'm wondering, what is it? I feel like I go between flowing non-objective work to a unicorn and something very tight. I have a hard time seeing the connection, and I see maybe some colors and things like that. The truth is that there is a thread of what I continue to just pull in to each piece, whether I know it or not. The way for me to see those hints is to look back at my body of work, scroll through it, and try to see hints of it. I have a few methods of how I, not only cultivate my style, but I also try to keep playing, keep experimenting as I continue to work. Like so many artists, one of the ways I do that is that I doodle. Like most creatives, I keep a sketchbook. I keep about a handful of sketchbooks that I have in different places so that I can take them on the go. This is one of them. They're just a way of helping me just doodle. Doodling is such a huge part in letting your mind wander visually. I will often doodle flowers or shapes or motifs. I will take notes of what I am listening to, because a lot of the time, I am supposed to be listening to something. This enable me to let my mind go and see the little things that I tend to repetitively do. 4. Exploring Style Pt. 2: [MUSIC] Another thing that I've done while I'm creating work and we're in the middle of the night, and I just don't know what to do is what I'm calling growth boards. I'll take one of these large watercolor boards. They take up a lot of paint and that's the reason that I use them. They won't make the colors vibrant, but they'll soak up a lot so I can do a lot of layers, and I'll just write the word grow in a lot of different ways. This one is not nearly done, but I'll just doodle on it, create little elements after I write the word grow. The reason that I write the word grow is because I want to keep my mind focused on not creating a final piece, rather just playing and experimenting. With this one I experimented more with medium. I wanted to see how gold would work with pencil or a charcoal. This is one of the first ones I did where I just wrote the word grow and then I would find little places to create patterns or motifs. I just play with this part and then move on another day and another part. I'd have these at my side to just work on as a scratch pad. Another way to let loose is creating two of something. When you have client work and you are told to do a unicorn, for example. I like ragged on unicorns. Then, you create your unicorn, and I like to have my own version. I do that for lots of reasons. One of them is for just creativity to push myself in an area where I don't feel like I can play, so I have a little play board. But in part also clients usually have their finger on trend much better than I do. I will take their Intel and also work on my own work so that when I'm done I have a piece for them that I often can't share until it's out on the market, want to two years later. I also have a piece that I can share instantly that's going to go into my portfolio for future work. 5. Supplies: Let's talk about the supplies you'll need. You'll definitely need some paper. I like to use Canson's Watercolor XL brand. It's a 9 by 12 size. You can go up to 11 by 14, but I'd like to keep it a medium size, so I'm not intimidated. Of course you're going to need some water, paper towels for watercolor paints. You can do this method with other medium. I'm just going to show you how to do it with watercolor. With watercolor, we start from big to small, from light to dark, and from big brushes to small brushes. We're going to start with big brushes making the shapes. It's my top of big brushes and a t-square. The reason I like to use big brushes right off the bat is not only with those watercolor principles, but when I have a big brush in my hand, it makes my arm make larger movements and it keeps me loose. Now as a piece develops, then I'm going to want to hone in even more and more. The paints we're going to use for this step, are these. They are also very fluid and loose. These are Dr. Ph. Martin's concentrated watercolor paints. They are liquid and they will get away from you at times and that is totally okay. I'm going to go with a monochromatic color scheme on the first step, and we'll talk more about this, but the colors I'm going to be using are all the same or similar colors. Violet, hyacinth, blue and cyclin. For step two, we're going to use medium sized brushes and some small ones. These are my favorites. It's my favorite step because you start to see some definition. Now we're not going to use the fluid watercolors anymore on this step. We're going to use tube watercolors. These are mission gold watercolor paints. They're very vibrant, so I use them all the time. You don't have to have all these different kinds of paints. It just helps me to go from fluid to more tight or condensed in paint. That's what you'll find when you're working with tube watercolors. They won't run as much and so they're actually much more flexible than these guys are because they can be very saturated with water and be fluid or be very saturated with the paint itself and be much more defined and create more defined shapes, which is what this second step is about. Lastly, I'm going to use Posca paint markers. These are Japanese markers that if you have been on Instagram and following artists, you probably figure that they are all the rage and they are for a good reason. If you've ever used a paint marker, you shake them, you scored amounts. Sometimes a bay blob comes out, sometimes it gets stuck or clogged, and these don't. Also when you finish, you are left with a chalky finish that's not a glossy acrylic one, that makes it hard to work on top of. They truly are like pink markers. They come in three sizes. one, two, three. The ones that I've enjoyed the most are the medium. Even though I really do like the definition of the smallest, I find that the medium size is just more versatile. This might seem like a lot of supplies, but you can do and go down to this, a big fat brush, a medium brush and a little brush, and your watercolor paint set. Let's get to work. 6. Loose Shapes: I'm going to use three brushes. It's overkill, but this is how I have fun. This is a size 24 round. I use the Master's Touch brand mostly, it's the brand that Hobby Lobby. They're affordable, they have good variety, and their hairs don't fall out instantly. This is a 15 flat brush and this is a size 11 fan brush and of course the fan is going to be a lot of fun here at the end. If you're more curious about brushes, I do have a class on that called Brushes. I've squirted out my paints. I did about three drops of each paint here, and lined them up for you so you know exactly which I'm pulling from. I always like to start with the big round because it's just what I'm most comfortable with and you probably have used it a lot too. I honestly don't know what I'm going to do next, but that's part of the fun; that's part of the play. I'm putting water in the middle so that I can dip into the paint. This brush already had a little bit of this color in it, this cyclamen. You know what, I'm going to start with that and I'll just start with a blob. As you're creating your first shapes, just keep them simple. You don't need to feel the pressure of getting super creative right now. We just want to play around. You'll notice that the way that I'm holding my brush is vertical, I do that because that way I exploit as much of the brush tip as I can. So when you hold it tight like a pencil, you're going to be the one manipulating what shape the brush makes. But when you hold it up high, you're letting the brush hairs take a lot more freedom into the shape that you're creating, and it also makes you looser as you paint. So I have these wet blobs of color and what's fun about this paint is I've re-dipped my brush into more paint so that I'm doing what's called a wet on wet technique, where you just drop color and let it expand on its own. I could push it through and make the entire shape that darker color, but I want to see what it does. What's also great is that it's good for gradients. If I put, let's say this light pink color, this is going to start looking like an Easter egg pretty soon and then I add the next darkest color. Let me put that in here, maybe in the middle of my gradient, little more of it towards the top of that color, you can see that the top is going to end up being the darkest color, which is this third violet. I'll just let that dry, maybe mess it up just a little bit, just to remind myself that this isn't about me. I'm just going to let these paints flow. I'm making a straight edge, I'm not going to force a round brush to make a straight edge, it's good for blobs. Now I'm going to flip to this guy, the flat brush. Again, I'm working wet on wet, so I really just have some colorful water on my brush, and I'm letting the paints do as they please. I don't have to like what this looks like right now, that'll come. I'm going to introduce some more of the violet. Rainbows are so in right now and they do make me happy. So I am stacking the lines of this rainbow with different colors of paint and since they make me happy I'm going to make another one. Like I said, we are just playing and discovering where this goes and that can be really hard, it's also really hard to explain. But as you just add in more shapes, you're just letting it flow into something else. At this point we're focusing on composition. We're laying out the framework of what this guy is going to look like. I often twist my paper around to see how compositionally it might look best. I think we'll work on this. I don't have anything going on over here, I'm just going to do a shape of the rose color, maybe a leaf shape. As I've been painting these, I've discovered that I do leaf shapes quite a bit, it's part of my style. When I make one big thing of something, just like I did with the ovals, I like to have another echo of it elsewhere. Normally, I do one more thing, and that is to use my fan brush because I haven't done that yet. What's fun about the fan brush, just like with this flat brush, where it got dry, then you get this raspy texture. I'm not going to dip it in all the way to the water, I'll just let it kiss the very tops of it there. Then I'll add the paint, and I'm going to put this on top of the rainbow and it creates some fun stripes that then blur out in there. I'm going to wash that out so I can do it with a different color, and dry it because again, I don't want it to be so wet. When it's so wet, it'll just sip to the top, and it'll end up looking like the flat brush effect did. Let's do a squiggly just for fun and like I said, when I do one thing I do like to echo it elsewhere. It's so tempting to keep going, but I think I'm going to leave it just like that and we'll move onto the second step. 7. Playful Forms: I have my art supplies out for this second step. So these are the medium sized art supplies and I'm going to use these paints which are two watercolor paints. Like I said, they're Mission Gold they do not pay me to say that, but they are going to be nice and vibrant to complement the colors that I already have here. We're working in an analogous color scheme, meaning that we are using three colors that are close together on the color wheel. So far we've used a blue violet to a red violet and so those colors are right here. We might swing to more of a warmer feel or to a cooler feel with the blues we'll soon find out what we end up with there. Let me tell you about the brushes we're going to use a flat brush that's just smaller than the one we used before. I want to keep with the same shape but just give it a little twist, going a little smaller, a size seven. This is also shorter body than the one we used before so it's actually going to go dryer faster. It's got less hairs to hold the water so we're going to get more of this dry brush feel. I'm going to use two round brushes one 12, one 6, just because they're so versatile. With a round brush you can do a thick line as wide as the body of the brush or a thin line as thin or as tiny as the tip of the brush. These are also master's touch but they have more of the craft side of the spectrum of brush brands and quality. They were maybe 20 for about $6 and using cheap supplies is okay as long as when you are looking at the brush you don't want the hairs to be frazzled and coming out. Do remember to just throw them away when they no longer serve you. In the first stage we were focusing on composition and wanting to distribute the shapes and just figure out what this thing is going to look like. We've focused on shape and composition, but now we're going to take those shapes and focus on form. Let's say I'm looking at this shape I can work in one of two ways. I create a pattern or motifs that go within this shape or maybe it will bleed out. It's fun to do both so that as I as guided around, we are looking at a push and pull where we're going into a space and then we're coming back out. I'm going to start with the largest brush of my three that I've chosen for this step. The easiest way for me to jump in is with two things: opera pink and dots. So I'm just going to do some simple dots this brush is really nice thin hair there at the end so I really will be able to get a lot out of it. This style of working is more design focused than illustrative or fine art where we're thinking about the principles of design. Like I said as I look at this I think I'm going to go cooler with a turquoise blue and make sure that it's dry. I'll do something that I tend to doodle flowers and they're just a collection of repetitive shapes that usually are a radial coming out of the center and it's going to come out of this shape a bit. At this point when you are working, when you're creating, just figuring out what's the next thing I'm going to do. It can be hard to constantly think of something new but I think that that's where the magic of finding your style comes through because you won't help but create similar motifs. You'll think what can I do in this corner? You'll find, "Well, I'll try these leaf shapes and you'll realize, "Yeah, I tend to do those shapes." Personally, I tend to gravitate towards organic shapes. I am very keen on rhythm. Right now as I feel like, "I'm not having fun with this anymore," I have the freedom to move on to something else. Because if it's not fun anymore than we want to stop doing it and do something that is fun. I'm going to push these arc rainbow shapes a little further. No rainbow is complete with just a couple of colors and I'm playing with how wet I have the brush versus how much paint is loaded onto it. Sometimes it helps to have somewhat of a reference of something that you're abstracting. As I look at my piece it feels as if like this is a little bit of a river and so I think I'll add mountain shapes, half circles down here. As a surface designer at you notice patterns everywhere often what makes up a pattern is just a lot of very simple shapes and motifs. We're exploiting that here I'm finishing my line right on the edge of this. Sometimes like I said, it extends outside of the shape I'm creating and sometimes it doesn't. Now these guys are mountains not rainbows so I'm going to reel it back into giving it that feel and if no one understands that they are mountains that's okay too. It just helps to have a reference something that you're thinking towards. Instead of just, "I don't know how about this blob of color?" We're now getting a little more defined. Keeping with that rhythm of having these half circle shapes that I have down here. These are basically the same shapes just spread out a little bit, made wider and I've found that I really like doing this motif it reminds me of my summers in Puerto Rico. I go back to Puerto Rico every summer, be with my dad and usually be with cousins, living at my grandmother's and being left to our own devices in the countryside. These remind me of those little things that they cling to your socks that you find In the thickets, in the bushes.To add a little variety I'm doing three different colors of them. How about we just keep this one hollow. So exploring and trying to push your style, push what you usually do along with doing what you always do. It's asking a lot of how about questions. How about we try some lines now? When you have the freedom to do that that's when you're playing and you're actually learning how things look. When you figure out what predictably happens when you do lines with this brush and it ends up looking somewhat like animal hair, zebra print. Then you know next time how you can add that and incorporate that into your work. For this switch to the flat brush this area is mighty pink and I'm liking this emerald green I have going on here. I'm veering off the analogous color scheme but I'm going to add a little more blue to reel it in. Flip the little guy so this is again the same brush just smaller and shorter. That's fun I'm going to use that same color to do what I predictably do; a little ream of leaves. This is the six with watercolor there are two ways of working typically ways of moving your brush. One is to create the outline and fill in and another is to use the body of the brush to create the shape and since I'm exploring I want to do both. 8. Recap: So far we've done the large shapes, and in those loose shapes, the things that we're focusing on were composition and balance, so we wanted to keep a balance between the upper left corner and the right corner, while still, not making it completely evenly scoped because otherwise then it will look like a quilt. I do work all over the page instead of working from one corner out. The reason why I do that, if I start on a corner and I go from loose to medium, tightness to very detailed work, I will fall in love with that little corner, it'll be the marker to judge the rest of the piece by. As I move on to another corner, or the middle of the piece, and then I start over again and do a large shape, and then give it some form, and then move on to details, I'm going to be constantly looking at that last one that I did, and I will not only be tempted to compare constantly, but also be tempted to stop. You get to a point when you're getting to those finishing touches on a piece where you are falling in love with it or you're settling this is what it's going to be, and then it's hard to move from that point on, and you just want to leave it as it is. They are just discomfort of having an unfinished piece is really motivating and great for creating and pushing your work to finish it to be an all over cohesive piece where the eye moves around and it's fun. Secondly, we worked on the playful forms, so we went from shape to form, and then we're focusing more on beauty and fun, just making it look good, and trying out different things with different sized brushes. We took some shapes, and constricted them to within an area of color. We push some out, so they're coming in and out, and we're creating a trail for the eye to go through. Now, we're tightening all this work and making it look a lot more cohesive and a lot more interesting to look at. 9. Decorative Details: I pulled out some markers to use for this final step. There are all kinds of different sizes and I don't know where this is going to end up. That's what's fun about it. It's good to shake them. You don't always need to. I like to have a little scratch pad. Again, not my usual because, I just fly by the seat of my pants. But I'm going to go it safe and at this point we are working on color theory. I say I'm going to go at safe by using the same color just in a lighter value, here on top of a similar color just to kind of get my feet wet. The hardest part in creating is starting. You're starting by watching this video. That's great. But also when you hit the paper, you want to just do what feels maybe the safest. It'll build your confidence to move forward and keep working and then at that middle point, when we were doing those medium-sized shapes or in the middle of this stage, you might start to feel a lot more confident to take risks and try something different. I start out with very loose shapes, which have a mind of their own and create something on their own and then I tighten and then I explore. As you feel confident, you'll just kind of ebb and flow out of those two tendencies of doing what you usually do and trying something new.All right, I've used this beautiful aqua color, which is sure to be the first to go in my collection. And I've concentrated on this part. I want to pick a focal point or two or three, no more than that. If it's three, then it's going to be a bit of a triangular shape. This is basically where you are telling your viewer, "I want you to look here, there and here." Let's say if my focal points are all here, where there's this heavy contrast of dark and light pink, these guys are going to get lost and that might be okay if they recede to the background, but I want to make that decision right now. It doesn't need to be as formal as I made it sound. I'm just trying to articulate how you go about not creating a piece that's just a blob of a lot of different things, but something that has more of a soul, more of an identity. I've got some very defined shapes going on here and I'm tempted to move this work, but over here. I'm going to use this color just for a little bit, but it's going to help me introduce a color that's similar to this one, a darker one. As I'm using the same thing, the same color, the same thinness of the line, I'm flowing the eye creating a bit of a map. Here is actually an x in the way that I'm working. Still experimenting with shapes. Trying out some squares here, which is pretty different from a lot of the organic shapes that I've been doing and I really just want to use that color as a guide to guide our eye over here. I don't think I'm done with you, buddy. I'm going to move on to the dark blue. Now this dark blue, same thickness as him, but now he's in kind of this little dark blue family side. We're going to add some more of these lines. Again, it's doing more of the same, but just a little different. This time my lines have some dots that kind of break out, they aren't uniform in their proximity to each other. This feels a little bit like a plant that's shooting up out of a body of water I'm going to let it be a plant. Some ripples in the water. These ripples could work into this shape I have going on here with the waves. I've only started with the markers, but you see a narrative already building. The reason that I use marker on top of the watercolor is because it gives me the freedom to go as dark and rich with my colors as I want to while I'm painting. As I go from dark to light, I can get to that dark in the middle stage. Because then with the marker, I can actually go light on dark. I'm looking at how this might guide us back. I don't want to create an x because that would be a little too balanced. But, if let's say these aquas are creating this x and these blues could do that, then you've got a much more interesting collection going on here. Finally, I think all either use one of these two for this area. That to me feels less important, almost like this is the background and this is where the eye is going. The reason that eye is going this way is because you have that high contrast of the darkest color against white and I can also create forms that weren't there before with the marker. I'm not just creating details. I'm doing whatever needs to be done to serve my playground. This might not sound like a lot of play if there's a so much thought put into it. But these are things that you're naturally doing on your own and as you get better, I have been doing them on my own and I just want to let you in on the things that I've learned so far. This light blue has lead us from the top right to the center. This aquas led us all the way to the edge, and bring him back a little bit. Now I'll use light purple. I felt like this flower needed a little more defining. It doesn't need to be a flower. But sometimes it just helps to give people little hints as to what in the world they're looking at and then that also creates interests is not treating each thing the same. I'm not going to fill in each and every leaf, some of them and since I use this pink here, I do want to carry some of it over here. I just feel like this circle is trying to create a focal point for something. This is really very dark and these lines are getting lost. I want to give them a little more definition here. I don't want to outline them. I think I'm going to walk away from this guy, that was fun. Sometimes you get zoomed into your piece so much you get lost in it. But I guess that's what it's supposed to do. I'm done. 10. Going Further: So there are playgrounds here. But now we've created one, I encourage you to create many. For you to be able to detect patterns in your work, you need to create a lot of it in order to see the things that are repeated throughout your work and also maybe even the progression throughout your work. Also as you focus on colors that are relatively similar to each other, you'll be tempted to push it into working to different colors. I don't quite have my rainbow here yet, I think I need some oranges, red, orange, some greens, I don't typically gravitate to greens. So that'll be probably last on my list, but you'll see what you have been doing and you'll be tempted to do more. You'll know in which direction to move towards. As you look at your work and you're assessing those clues of how to move forward or how this exercise has helped you, create a lot, and then ask yourself what did you enjoy most and what ended up looking awesome. For me, a surprise was using black in here, because I don't typically use black, but that high contrast, especially in a monochromatic color scheme or an analogous color scheme, really did jump out at me. What are areas that you want to work harder? So I found that yes, I tend to do similar shapes, but I wanted to explore more shapes. So now when I look at pieces be they my own or somebody else is I noticed different shapes and most importantly just going back to that first point, what did you enjoy the most? I really didn't paint, let's say this shape very much, the rainbow things that I'm kind of going bananas over and other pieces and I want to incorporate that in my other work. So as you're assessing your style and you put it all together like this, I hope you see some threads, I hope you enjoy this process, I do ask that you do the usual do post your process. I want you to not only see what comes out of you, but see what other people do too. You'll be surprised that even though I'm showing small body of work here, that's done in the same way, same fashion, by the same person and in the same style, you'll be surprised at how other people interpret the same contents, so differently, and that's also really inspiring. 11. Did It Work?: Thanks for doing this project with me. You'll find that this exercise, like everything else, it's going to get a lot simpler to you, and it's going to be even more and more fun as you feel yourself thinking less. I hope that you found that place of flow, where you're creating work and you are just going to the next step and trying something new, and not knowing where it's going to end up, but trusting that it will end somewhere fantastic. Do the usual, like this class, give me some feedback, and go ahead and ask questions. I'm happy to answer any questions that I didn't think of as I was preparing this class, rate the class, and tell others about it if you think that they could benefit from it too. My Instagram handle is watercolordevo if you want to follow along with me there. If you post your project there, I'll give it a quick comment. But if you posted on skill share, I will give it a more thoughtful look. So I'll take the cue from you and I thank you for watching this class.