Watercolor Secrets: Get to Know Your Water & Colors With Moody Washes | Marie-Noëlle Wurm | Skillshare

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Watercolor Secrets: Get to Know Your Water & Colors With Moody Washes

teacher avatar Marie-Noëlle Wurm, Artist, illustrator, HSP

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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

17 Lessons (1h 41m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What You'll Need For The Class

    • 3. The Class I Wish I Had

    • 4. Why The Moody Wash? Some Examples

    • 5. Definitions

    • 6. Let's Get Started! Prep Your Paper

    • 7. Wash #1: The Flat Wash

    • 8. Wash #2: The Flat Wash

    • 9. Finishing Touches

    • 10. The Main Takeaway: Water & Color

    • 11. Dirty Hands

    • 12. Wash #3: The Cloud-like Wash

    • 13. Wash #4: The Variegated Wash

    • 14. Final Results & Reminders

    • 15. Fail Like a Pro

    • 16. Further Explorations

    • 17. Outro

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About This Class

Have you ever gotten frustrated with weird unpredictable textures showing up in your watercolor paintings? 
Do you sometimes feel like you're missing an unnameable 'something' when it comes to working with watercolor? 

In this class, you'll learn what I believe to be the most important element in your watercolor practice: understanding how your WATER works — 
how it moves, how it dries, how pigments move within the water, andwhat the sheen of your paper can tell you about where your water is at in the drying process.

We'll dig into all those details, all the while strengthening your hands-on understanding of these important principles while creating beautiful moody washes, with soft edges and gradients. 

Learning to make moody washes was the first step in allowing me to create beautiful dreamy illustrations that felt like a real accomplishment in my watercolor journey. It allowed me to unlock the mystery of watercolor, the part of it that I was trying to learn intuitively but that somehow always felt outside of my grasp.

Let's dig into this beautiful adventure with colorful washes, little mechanical fish, paper boats, rain, rivers, and our faithful paints and brushes. :) 

See you in class! 


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Marie-Noëlle Wurm

Artist, illustrator, HSP

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1. Introduction: Do you want to learn to make giant watercolor swatches, otherwise known as moody watercolor backgrounds, dreamy gradients, lush watercolor washes, or your very own watercolor fan. Me too. [NOISE] [MUSIC] Hi, my name is Marie-Noelle Wurm. I'm an artist, illustrator, and top teacher here on Skillshare, where I've taught more than 70,000 of you to help unlock the doors to your own creativity. As a full-time artist and illustrator for more than a decade, I create artwork that's delicate, and dream-like, and sometimes a little dark. In this class, I'm going to demystify the number one watercolor secret. I know that sounds clickbait, but it's literally the thing that I wish I had known when I started working with watercolor. I would have saved so much time if I had known how to do this from the get-go. In this class, you'll learn what the number one thing you need to pay attention to, and that is how waterworks; how it moves, how it drives, how pigments move within the water, and by the end, you'll walk away with an array of giant watercolor swatches so that you can feel like tiny little fairy in a giant world of color, enjoy, or create beautiful, moody backgrounds and come away empowered with the knowledge that you've gained in order to make watercolor work for you. I hope you join. [MUSIC] Do you want to learn how to do that? I got you, baby. Go get it. What are we doing here? [NOISE] 2. What You'll Need For The Class: Let's talk about the art supplies that you're going to need for this class. It's actually pretty simple. You're just going to need some watercolor. I have brought out some of these tube watercolors because I do think that for our purposes, two watercolors will be a little bit easier than pan watercolors. Though you can use those. It's just it's much simpler because in terms of the quantities when you're wanting to cover a large surface, it's just a simpler way of going about it. I brought a few different brands here, but there's no specifications in terms of the brand. You can use whatever you want. Of course, you can actually use gouache as well. But for the purposes of showing you how it can work with watercolor, I'm going to be using watercolor rather than gouache today. You're also going to want some watercolor brushes. I have a few here. I have one synthetic one and two natural brushes. But again, no specification. Use whatever it is that you have. It is better though to use a brush that's made for watercolor simply because it's going to be able to hold that much more pigment and water and be easier for the task at hand. You can also see here that I have what is called a mop brush. These are brushes that are actually specifically made to carry huge amounts of water, which can be even easier for our purposes today. But the technique also works with brushes that aren't mop brushes. It's not an issue if you don't have a mop brush. Of course, you're going to need some water, some watercolor paper. I have a few different ones here to show you. For a long time I used this paper by the brand Hahnemuhle, which is made from bamboo rather than cotton, even though for watercolor, a 100 percent cotton is amazing and super fun to work with. But there are other types of papers that work fine as well. This one which is made of bamboo fiber works great. Any paper that is mixed media and says that it works with watercolor will do well, and of course, specific watercolor paper. Arches is one of the most well-known brands. They do hot pressed, which means that it's a very smooth surface and cold pressed, which has a little bit more texture. Of course there's a few other textures as well. We won't get into the details of that, but they can be very fun to play with. They do react differently so it's interesting to discover how different papers will work differently with your pigments in your watercolor and the different effects you can achieve. I also have a Winsor and Newton block of watercolor here. Again, there's no specific brand that you need. But if it is your first time doing this, I would recommend maybe not going as big as I am going, but maybe going for something smaller, something like this or even an A5 size just so that you can get used to how it works. Then once you are really comfortable with that, then you can move into bigger and bigger formats. Of course you're going to need some palettes, and a rag or paper towel so that you can plot out your brushes when needed. I also recommend having some artist tape if you want to make clean borders around the edge of your artwork, but it's not obligatory. Another small note, you might want to protect your table because this can sometimes be a messy process, especially the first few times you do it, juggling, water levels, etc. You might want to lay down either some newspapers, some craft paper, something to protect your table from watercolor spills even though watercolor, it's an easier paint to clean up in comparison to acrylic paint or whatever. But just to be safe, if you want to make sure that your table is nice and clean, prep it beforehand. 3. The Class I Wish I Had: If you're familiar with my classes, you'll know that I'm all about learning intuitively, experimenting, embracing the process, playing, making tons of mistakes, and making fun discoveries along the way. Sometimes though, it's nice to know thought shortcuts that can help you with what to focus on. In this class, I'm going to be giving you the thought shortcut that I wish I had had way back when I started my watercolor journey and that would've saved me so much time in terms of achieving the kinds of textures that I was looking to create. I'll give it to you in one sentence before we dive into the nitty-gritty and hands-on application of it. But it boils down to this. The most important thing about watercolor is understanding how your water works, how it moves, how it dries, how the pigments move within the water, and what the sheen of the paper can tell you about your water levels and where your water is at in the drying process. For a couple of years in my watercolor journey, I would get lost marveling at how the pigments moved in the water, how the colors would flow and merge, and then how that would look once it was dry. I would get lost in it in a fun, relaxing, peaceful, almost meditative way. Though that's very important, sometimes I was also frustrated because I would be trying to get a certain texture, more often, a smooth gradient or create a background and I thought I would have it and it was looking good and then as it dried, stuff would go wrong. Weird, unpredictable textures would show up, there would be watercolor blooms that I hadn't expected, and I just didn't understand why sometimes I would get these watercolor blooms and other times I wouldn't, I didn't realize that I was looking at the wrong thing. I also wanted to be able to build more complex images with my watercolor and It felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle in order to accomplish that. Don't get me wrong, I always recommend working with mistakes. There's so much that I've learned through trial and error, like way more than you think. But sometimes, you do want to look for a specific thing. If it happens over and over and you're still frustrated, then you might not be focusing on the right aspect of it. That's what was happening here for me. How could I create these beautiful, ethereal, misty, moody watercolor washes that I was looking for and what piece of the watercolor puzzle was I missing in order to feel like I fully understood the personality of my watercolor medium? In this class, you'll be learning what I believe to be the most important principle for any watercolor practice. We'll be creating four moody watercolor washes in order to strengthen our hands-on understanding of this underlying principle. Before we embark on our wash making journey, I'd like to show you a few examples of some of my artwork where the moody wash plays an important part in the final piece. 4. Why The Moody Wash? Some Examples : First, I want to show you two pieces that I made before I'd understood the principle that I'm teaching you in this class today. At this point, I already had a couple years of working with watercolor under my belt, so through trial and error, I had already figured out how to make something akin to the moody wash that we're going to be doing today. I had figure out part of that principle, and you can see it in the blue background of this one where you can really tell that the pigments were able to flow more freely with the water. But if you look closely, there are other parts of this piece where that falls apart a little and you see way more brushstrokes and hard edges. You can see it even more clearly in this piece just because of the colors that there are these parts where there is an accumulation of pigments that lead to hard edges being present. Now I want to show you a few pieces that I made after I'd understood this principle. In this first piece, I used the moody wash to evoke the feeling that you can sometimes have in a wintry landscape where the snow and the sky are indistinguishable. I used the granulation of this specific watercolor pigment in order to create that sense of flurries of snow and wind in this wintry landscape. If I'm not mistaken, I think this specific watercolor pigment was made by Simone Michiels, and I think it was a collaboration palette with Anna Jane Searle. The fact that I was able to create this entirely consistent wash really contributes to the feel of the piece and to the message that I was trying to convey. In the second piece, you'll notice I also have a moody wash as the background, the grass, but I did something a little bit different. I added a second wash on top of my first wash, and that's this lighter green here and I made that one a little bit more hard edged so that you could really get this sense of movement and wind in the grasses. Also, while I was creating the first part of this moody wash, I actually knew that I was going to have a forest on the top right. So I used the principles that we're going to learn about in this class in order to create a texture, something granular with hard edges in order to evoke those trees. That's why I think learning about the moody wash is so important in your watercolor journey because if you're able to have a range from making something that's very smooth and uniform all the way to very textured and you understand truly how they work, then you're able to create artwork that conveys the mood, atmosphere that you're looking for. In these two images, which by the way, I made for Folktale Week, which is a really fun art challenge that I found through Instagram. Sorry, this is a total aside, but art challenges are super fun and can really help further your art practice, so definitely check out the Folktale Week challenge that's in November usually. I also have a class called the Fearless Art Challenge, which is with all my favorite things pushing you to be creative and think outside the box and all that fun stuff. Anyway, shameless plug, but I just wanted to mention that because art challenges are a great way to further your artistic journey. I can say that I probably would not have created these two pieces if I hadn't participated in the Folktale Week challenge and I'm very happy with both of these. That just emphasizes how fun and important challenges can be. In these two images, I integrated the moody wash as part of the image, as building the scene and as evocative of the elements within those scenes, but that's not necessarily the only way that you can use it. This is a piece that I never quite finished as you can tell, but I thought it was a good example of a case where you can use a moody wash, not as an integrative part of the image that you're creating, but rather as a backdrop for other elements that are the main object of your image. The main point that I'm trying to illustrate here is the moody washes can be used and applied to a variety of different styles and for a variety of different aims. You can use it to create something abstract, something semi-abstract, something more realistic, figurative, or illustrative. Most of all, it's about using the colors and the textures that it offers in order to strengthen the message of the artwork you're trying to create. 5. Definitions: [NOISE] Let's go over a few little definitions and terms. You may have heard the term watercolor wash, but what is it exactly? It's a technique that results in a semi-transparent layer of color where no brush marks are visible. That means it's smooth, often uniform, and can be used to cover a big surface area. If there are color transitions, whether that's different colors merging together or the color of your watercolor merging with the white of the paper, then those transitions are often gradual, characterized by a softness or a blurriness to them. This transition is called a soft edge in opposition to what is called a hard edge, where there's an abrupt, clear distinction between one color and another color. Wet-on-wet is a technique where you're applying wet paint onto an already wet surface. That can be either your watercolor paper or a still wet previous layer of watercolor. Wet-on-dry is a technique where you're applying wet paint into a dry surface, whether that's just the white of the paper or an already previously dry layer of watercolor. In this class, we'll be using more of a wet-on-wet technique, but you should know that you can also create this using the wet-on-dry technique just with a few little changes, but all right, let's get to it. 6. Let's Get Started! Prep Your Paper: Now that we have a few terms and definitions in our back pocket, I want us to start getting our hands dirty. The reason I want this is because we learn by doing. In the next lesson I'm going to give you some additional theoretical knowledge that's going to help you strengthen and understand what is actually going on. But before going into that, I think it's very valuable to start with applying paint to paper. There are a few reasons that we're going to do that. One of them is that often we can get caught in these loops of trying to absorb all the knowledge before thinking that we're ready to actually get started. I want us to practice breaking that notion altogether. You can learn so much even if you don't have the theoretical framework behind to support you. The second reason that I want us to do that is, that it allows us to tap into our inner knowledge to try to figure out what it is that's going on. Of course, I'm going to come and give you some added info, the stuff that took me hours and hours of practice in order to learn, and so that you can have a shortcut in order to know what to focus on. I don't want you to worry because I'm not going to just throw you in the deep end of the pool, I'm going to be guiding you through the entire process, even in this first attempt. But what I would like to do is invite you, if you haven't yet, to grab your materials, pause the video, and then join me as we get started. So let's get started. I'm going to grab my artist tape. You can use washi tape if that's all you have, though this is the cheaper alternative. We're going to be making a frame on our watercolor paper. One little recommendation is that some papers don't like tape as much as other papers. For example, the bamboo paper that I was showing you in the materials section, that one will often rip if I use tape on it. So you have to test it out on your paper, but then again, since these are practice sheets, it's not really that big of a deal if it does rip. But one thing I am going to say is it can help to make your tape a little bit less sticky, so I'll just use my shirt. Sometimes the shirt isn't the best thing because you can get little tiny threads that come out in your drawing. [NOISE] But yeah, sometimes I'll do that anyway. Or maybe on your jeans it's easier or on even just a piece of wood. Just to get a little bit of that dust covering on your tape, so that it's a little bit less sticky. I'm just going to go all the way around here. Doesn't have to be perfect, but just so that you can play around with these nice clean edges. Of course, you can do this [NOISE] exercise without making the frame. That's also fine as well. I just thought it would be a fun added little element. [NOISE] If you're using something that's a similar size to what I'm using, which if I'm not mistaken, I think it's 10 by 14, 9 by 12, something like that, I'm actually going to recommend that we do two of them. So we're going to take another piece of tape [NOISE], down the central line, to split our page into two. If you really wanted to be a little bit more perfectionist about it, you could put two rows of tapes so that each one of your squares, once you've cut them out, rectangles will be exactly the same size. I don't know if that's going to work. I promise I know how to do this. [LAUGHTER] You just want to eyeball it. Again, it doesn't need to be perfect. You just want to get it straight. This one's a little bit bigger than this one, so I'm just going to maybe adjust it, before I press it down. But you do want to make sure it's a little bit straight. Now we have that ready. Now comes the fun part. 7. Wash #1: The Flat Wash: All right. Now we're going to get to painting. I'm going to just grab a color that sounds fun to me. I'm thinking of maybe using a blue. This is a Holbein blue. I think it's called peacock blue. It's pretty faded because I've had it for a while. I'm just going to squeeze a fair amount down on my palette. We're going to be covering a large surface. We're going to actually be doing this in two parts. For this first part, I want you to just gather some water onto your palette whether you're using something like this or something like that. We're just going to put a fair amount of water down and just pull in just tiny bit of that color. The reason is that we want to be creating this lightly pigmented juice. This step is not necessarily obligatory every time that you do this, but it can be helpful especially in the first times because what we're going to do is we're going to apply this lightly pigmented juice on top of the entire surface of our paper. The reason that we're doing that is we want to make sure that we are really saturating the entire area with water. I made it lightly pigmented so you can see if there's any of these little spots that you're missing. I think I forgot to press down this tape. Press down your table really well. Just sweeping a lot of this water onto your surface. We're just going to be doing the left side and then we'll be doing the right side next after we're done with this one. If you feel like you have enough water, go ahead and add a little more. A few key things here to note. You don't want it to be dripping wet. We're going to be adding a second layer of watercolor onto this. If it's already two dripping wet in this phase, then it's going to be a little bit more challenging in the second phase. You also don't want it to be too dry. This is where it gets a little tricky and let me tell you, it's highly likely that you won't get it right the first few times that you do this. But that's fine, that's why we're here, that's why we're practicing. Double-check that you have water everywhere. I often double-check the corners and the sides because that's often where you end up having these little dry zones. Now we're going to go in and really pull all of our watercolor into this water so that we can create a really deep rich color. For this first one, we're going to be trying to create a more homogenous wash. Once that's nice, a deep rich blue, I'm going to come in and start dropping it in. What you'll notice is that I'm already angling my paper in order to allow the pigments to move freely onto this surface area. This is going to be a key of this entire technique movement. But first I want to make sure that I have a fair amount of pigment all over. That it's all nice and saturated, all nice and wet. Now, I begin movement. What you're trying to do is really get this even coverage of water, even coverage of pigments. You don't want one section to be dripping and then another section to be dry. The movement is what is going to help you achieve that even coverage. You'll notice as you're moving it, the water starts to pool. When it pools in one edge, that's a signal that you need to start moving it around so that it covers evenly everywhere. This phase is one that requires a little bit of patience and a little bit of mindfulness. Because honestly, I think this is a pretty meditative part. You can have fun looking at how the pigments are shifting as you move your surface. Depending on how wet or dry your layer is, it might take a little longer or a little shorter. The key thing is that you want to keep moving your page until everything stops moving. This is what happens. There's something that fell into my water and I'm going to try delicately pull it out without touching it. Because if I touch it, then the oils of my fingers is going to create its own little watercolor repellent mark. It's starting to stabilize a little bit more in the center. But often it's the edges where it gets a little trickier and if you stop moving your page too soon, you're going to see that effect in the end when it's done drying. You really want to make sure that those edges, you keep moving them as long as there's a little bit of puddle of water gathered in those edges. You can think of it as dancing with your watercolor, which sounds fun to me [LAUGHTER]. Often, it'll take slightly longer than you think. Another thing that you can pay attention to is how the color is shifting as it dries. You can also start observing how the water moves. This is going to be key when I explain to you the principle behind this technique. The other thing that you can pay attention to is the sheen of the water. [MUSIC] How is it glistening? You'll notice that that glistening shifts as it dries. [MUSIC] 8. Wash #2: The Flat Wash: Once everything has stopped moving, it's not dry yet, your watercolor is still wet, but you've noticed that the pigments have stopped moving, there's no more puddles, even in the corners, even on all the edges, that's when you can relax, let go of the movement, take a breather, and wait for it to dry. While this is drying, we're already going to start on our second one, because that's how we get better at learning how this works. Going to give you a few more pointers along the way. You can use the same color, either you can use your leftover paint, so it might be a little bit more of a diluted wash for the second one, or you could use a different color altogether, and that would be fine. I think I'm going to use a different color just so I can see how the pigments react a little bit differently this time compared to the first. I'm going to clean up my palette and then get started on the second one. Another thing that's important to note, and I didn't do it this time, but in general, it's not always a good idea to leave your brushes in the water because over time your brush will deteriorate more quickly. It's best to try to keep your brushes out of the water, clean them, and then dry them, and let them just sit and do their thing, until you're ready to use them again. For this one, I'm going to go with a different color, but I think I'm going to stay in the blues. Somehow I didn't notice, but I must have had a little bit of water in my hands or sprayed it when I was cleaning my brush, and a few of those little droplets of water have landed in my drying watercolor. This is the stuff that happens. These are the happy accidents that sometimes happen. I'm sure you're going to have a bunch of them when you practice this. This is case in point, proof in the pudding, that stuff is going to sometimes go wrong when you're doing this. Luckily, it's just the tiniest little drips. I'm still going to be able to show you the final result, but that's something to note is that if you add any water at any point during this drying process, you're not going to get that homogeneous coverage that we're looking for. That being said, let's do the second one. I'm going to work [NOISE] with a blue, but I'm going to go for an ultramarine just to see the difference with my peacock blue, and I thought it could be fun to do something a little bit warmer. I'm going to use that one. I'm going to proceed in exactly the same way that I did for the first one. Since my water is actually already tinted, I could actually just use that immediately as my lightly pigmented juice. It's not the end of the world for me that it's a different type of blue because it's so diluted, but if you're using a color like a yellow or something that's very different from your original color, that's when you might want a second tub of water that's fresh, so that you can create your lightly pigmented juice again. I'm going to be very careful when I pick this up to not place my fingers on the drying watercolor, but also you want to make sure that you don't touch your other sheet with your fingers, again, because of the natural oils that are on our fingers and that become water repellent. I'm going to go in exactly the same way, double-checking that I am not forgetting any little zone. As we were observing the sheen of the water, your water levels, I want you to also pay attention to that here. [NOISE] Now I'm going to go in to my blue, make my nice pigmented layer. I'm actually going to add a little bit more of this blue, because I really want to get something quite rich, quite pigmented. With watercolor, of course, transparency is really fun, but I also really enjoy those really dark colors when you're able to get them. 9. Finishing Touches: Hopefully, you've gotten to a spot where all the water has stopped moving. This is going to continue drawing. Some people will use a hairdryer in order to accelerate the drying process, so that's something that you could also do. It's not something that I do just because I don't have a hairdryer, but that's definitely an option. I hope that you've enjoyed this first attempt at getting our hands dirty. In the next video, we're going to be looking a bit more in depth into the things that I asked you to pay attention to while we were doing these. How the pigments move, how the water moves, how it dries, how the shin shifts, and learn why building a relationship with your water levels is the single most important thing that you can do, when you're working with watercolor and trying to achieve different effects. My watercolors are entirely dry, but I'm going to take the tape off, because I'm impatient like that, and also so that you can move forward into the next section of this class. Also, taking the tape off is very satisfying. Sometimes I actually reuse these frames, if I'm able to take them off in a way that doesn't ruin my painting or the tape. But I would say that when it's this size, the frame is maybe a little bit more difficult to reuse, so I might just get rid of it. If I'm using more of a smaller size of tape, then it's a little bit easier to do that. What I do want to make sure as I'm taking the tape off, if my painting is still wet, like mine is right now, is not to drop my tape into my painting. Because the drying phase is the most critical part, and any contact with anything will really ruin your painting. So I'm trying to be a little careful. But if you are actually being a little bit more reasonable, you would be more patient and wait until it's completely dry in order to remove the tape. That's just the truth of it. [NOISE] Yes. I got it. It wasn't too bad. I did have a little bit of wetness, and so there's a little bit of blue on my frame here. But this already gives you a good starting point. I worked with two different types of blues, which is fun to observe, one that's a little bit colder, one that's a little bit warmer, and one that is definitely more granulating than the next. If it's your first time using a watercolor block, you might not know how to actually separate the sheets of your block. So I want to just demo that for you just so you can see how it works. You have this edge all around your block, which is holding the pages together and helping your sheet not warp as much. Actually now that I think of it, this is completely dry. This one's not completely dry. I'm still going to show you because these are practice sheets and it doesn't bother me. Even sometimes I will use sheets that are warped and then in the end I'll iron them face down, if they're are too warped, if they end up turning into a final piece or something. But you'll notice here that there's a little white part in the middle of all this black. That's actually a space where there's none of that glue to hold the pages together. I use a palette knife, but you could use a letter opener or something like that. You just slide it in, and just start going all around the edge of your sheet [NOISE] until you reach the beginning again. There you go. Now you have your separated sheet and a whole new sheet for our next ones. 10. The Main Takeaway: Water & Color : Watercolor. The name of the medium carries within and everything that you need to know about it. Water and color. Imagine water, how it feels, how it flows, its properties, its energy, its personality. Now imagine a fish, this is your color. The fish in the pond are your pigments. Wait pigment don't move over their own volition. Maybe their paper boats naturally they're fish but they're not regular fish, they're little tin fish with a tiny propeller for a tail that activates the water flows through it. Your fish are in a pond and in the pond they spread out evenly, each taking up their own little space, not too crowded, not too isolated just a lovely little community of tiny tin fish [NOISE]. Now mind than the sun drying the pond little by little until all that's left is the tiny tin fish grunting in the sun. From far away all you can see is the color of the fish where the pond used to be. This is a flat wash, a homogeneous, even distribution of pigments. But we're the ones who create the pond and add the fish, so let's go a little deeper. Imagine is sandy expense. This is your paper, these are the banks in the bottom of your pond. Now imagine rain, [NOISE] water pouring in and spilling out, turning it into a river [NOISE]. The tiny tin fish start flowing out faster and faster and they're rushing with the current. It rushes so fast that it creates grooves in the sand. On the edges of the river, the fish start gathering and clump together in puddles. Then the river slows and stops, the storm passing over. The river, becomes a pond again. The sun comes out and starts drying it out. [NOISE] But let's look at those puddles on the edges. As the river dries the fish settle where they landed, but the puddle still remain. When there's a lot of water next to a dry spot, the water pushes back into the drying area, trying to even itself out. In doing so, it pushes the tiny tin fish that had settled there forming a clumpy frontier of pilling tin fish. This is a backrun or a bloom, a place where the water pushes back into drier land. The clumps of piling fish, those with the hard edges of your backruns or blooms. Now you get to see why understanding your water is so important. Your water levels in your drying time are going to have the biggest impact on the textures that you create. Whether that's something smooth with soft edges and soft gradients, or whether that's something with hard edges, something a little bit more textured and granular. If your water levels are too different, they're drying times are too different, and your tiny tin fish or your small paper boats are going to clump up together forming uneven, scattered, chaotic frontiers with hard edges and a textural look. If your water level is dry at a similar or more less homogeneous rate, your fish can find a good little spot to land in without getting too clumped in with its friends. In the case of the cloud-like wash or variegated wash, which will experiment with next, the tiny tin fish spread out evenly but in varying concentrations. They gather in small organized groups, but there's no clumping or chaotic distribution here. We'll you want to become familiar with is your water levels and what that means about where it's at in your drawing process. This is where the sheen of your water comes in. The sheen will tell you how deep your water level is, how wet or dry it is. When it's deep and flowing it shines. You can add pigments here freely, they still have time to move and find their spot to settle in. But as the water starts drying, it shifts, going from shiny to satiny to matte to dry. It's a gradual shift, and with practice and observation you'll learn when it's still okay to add paint and maybe when it's better to refrain. If you're looking for a soft edge wash that is. The movement we give to our page allows the water to spread evenly across the surface to even out the kinks, prevent the puddles, and make sure each fish gets its own little space to shine. 11. Dirty Hands: A quick little note on learning. You can watch all the videos in the world and learn a lot intellectually, but you got to get your hands dirty. You really have to just dive in and actually do the exercises, because that's where we learn the most. Sometimes we can get caught in loops watching videos, thinking that we need accumulate all the knowledge before actually getting to our paper. I would argue that that's an avoidance tactic. If you've been guilty of that, please don't feel ashamed. I think we've all been there, we've all done that. But please remember, you have to get your hands dirty. Show me your dirty hands, the water spills on your table, your kajillion failed attempts. Show me that you've tried and failed and tried and failed again. That's where the magic lies. I know it's a hard truth, but that's truth. Please share your attempts in the project section so that I can see it, so that other students can see it, so we can be inspired by each other's journeys, by our failed attempts, which are actually veiled successes. Give yourself a loving, supportive pat on the back and let's get to it. Show up for yourself. Future you will thank you. 12. Wash #3: The Cloud-like Wash: Now that you have a better understanding of how watercolor pigments move in water, how the water moves, how it dries, and why that's important. Why don't we go ahead and do a few more watercolor washes to practice this principle. In the first example, we were going for more of a homogeneous look. In this second attempt, third and fourth, actually, we're going to be trying to play with varying values or in other words, varying levels of pigmentation. That means that we'll have lighter spots with less pigments, darker spots with more pigments. But you're still not going to see any brushstrokes either. We're really looking for that soft gradient of the watercolor wash. No hard edges here. We're going to start off in the same way that we did with the first ones by applying the tape and prepping our paper. [MUSIC] I know that this would be a problem. For the second color, I was thinking that it would be fun rather than using a pure pigment to do a little bit of a mix. I'm going to keep my ultramarine blue, but I'm going to include a little bit of red, a little bit of crimson, just to make it a little bit warmer. Of course, since I'm going to be using again just a different version of a blue. I'm going to go ahead and use my water that I already have as my lightly pigmented juice. If you're exploring another color, you'll have to make it separately with some fresh water. I'm going to go in with my lightly colored juice. Make sure that I'm covering all areas of my page. Again, you don't want it to be too wet or too dry. If you're struggling with this part of knowing what is too wet or too dry, remember that that's totally normal and that it's just with practice that you're going to start really understanding the different subtleties between what is too wet and what is too dry. Because that's the truth of it is since we're working with where those water levels are very thin. The difference between too wet and too dry is a little bit tricky to hone at the beginning. The more you do this, the more familiar you'll get with what level you're actually at and the sheen of the water again is what is going to inform that decision. I'm going to actually make mine a little bit more wet here as I prep my color for the next phase. Not too wet, but just a little. I'm going to start out with my ultramarine. But here this time we're going to do something a little bit different than the first time. Instead of making a homogeneous coverage, we're actually going to be looking for a varying coverage. I still want to prep my color in the beginning. I'm just going to add a tiny bit of this crimson and I might darken it as we go. I just want to make sure that I have the right hue. This is really beautiful. I like how it's a little bit more muted. Now we're going to go in with our paint into our lightly pigmented juice. Since I'm not looking for an even coverage, I'm just going to drop it in different sections that I'd like to see this color. I've have some spots that are going to stay lighter and others that'll have a little bit more pigment. Remember that what we want is an even distribution of the water. Distribute your water evenly, even though your pigments are not distributed evenly. There's a certain time-frame in which it's still okay to add more pigment into your wash. But you have to make sure that when you're doing this, you still have enough water to sustain that addition. If you're adding pigments when your wash is already a little bit too dry, then you're really going to get that overworked look where you'll see the marks of the brushes and lose those soft edges that we're looking for. When you're working with a little bit more variation in terms of the values of your piece, you're going to notice that it's easier to get distracted by what your pigments are doing. Remind yourself that even though the pigments are very important, the most important thing here is to observe your water levels, observe the sheen of your water, and keep moving your page in order to keep that distribution equal. [MUSIC] You could even if you wanted to drop in a tiny bit more paint just at the edges and that's going to just have this darkening effect around the edges of your wash, which can be a fun effect as well. But again, you want to do this at a point where it's still okay, you don't want to do this too late in your drawing process. Right now the water is flowing pretty well on my piece. It's still very far from dry, I'm able to do that still around the edges. Remember to give your little paper boats lot of space. For example, in the middle of my piece right now, the water is too dry. If I went in and added pigments in the middle, then I would actually be lifting those pigments or moving them around so that they're no longer equally distributed. I can still do that along the edges, but not in the center of where it's already in the midst of that drying process. But you can already see as it's drawing that I have different values on my sheet here, I have these very white sections and then these darker sections all around. That's because I just dropped in my pigments in certain places and didn't try to distribute those pigments evenly, even though I was distributing my water evenly. Now I'm getting to that point again where the water is stabilizing, it's almost no longer moving even in the corners and the edges where it pulls more frequently. I'm just going to keep moving it a little bit just to make sure and when I'm satisfied, I will set it down and let it dry. Also, can I just say I love observing my watercolor palette and seeing the beautiful colors that are often on there. Now we're going to work on the second one and I'm actually going to be using two colors, but rather than mixing them on my palette before dropping it in, I'm going to try to keep them separate and let the wash create that color, create the mixes and you'll really have those two pure pigments and the merges of those pigments. I'm just going to use this little extra palette that I have in order to do that. 13. Wash #4: The Variegated Wash: Why don't we move on to our second one while this one is drying. For the second one, I'm actually going to also be using two colors, but rather than pre mixing them on the palette, we're going to keep them separate on the page and let the water mingle them. It's the water that's going to be creating the mixes. And you'll really have these two colors with a few areas where the two will mix and I think that's a really fun background to make, a fun wash to do. Because it creates this mystical moody effect. I'm going to go ahead and clean my palette. Let this one dry a little bit more as I'm prepping the color. I'll be right back. Just going to clean this. I admit I've been a little bit obsessed with my blue colors. I'm going to switch it up and try a different color combo. I was thinking there's, one of my favorite colors is shadow green. This one is by Holbein, though I think that there are other shadow greens by other brands, but I really love this color, so I think that would be a really fun one. I might try to mix it with a different type of green, which is by Schmincke called phthalo green and so it's a much brighter, this one is much more muted, lot darker. Whereas this one is quite bright, quite vibrant color. I thought that would be fun just to see how these two interact. Honestly, I've never tried this color combo, so it's going to be fun for me to explore this with you and see what the effects are. I haven't used my phthalo or actually, no, I did use my phthalo green yesterday and it got a little stuck. Sometimes if you don't watch out your watercolor cap, watercolor ends up drawing in the cap and it makes it harder to open. That's what happened here. All these little pieces of dry watercolor. I'm going to put some phthalo green on that side and some shadow green on this side. Since this time I'm working with a different color than I did previously. I'm going to use my fresh tub of water and I don't know if you've noticed, but already you can see the value differences in the first one that we made as it's drying. Which is a really fun thing to observe. Depending on the types of colors that you're using, you might see separation of your pigments. That means that, I don't know if you can tell on this video, but some of the red pigments are, even though it's all blended into one. They've separated a little, so you see a red sheen shining out through the blue. That's a really fun thing to explore with your pigments because some pigments will do this and some pigments won't. Certain mixes of pigments will create a very homogeneous color and others will have this separation and that's due to actually the weight of the pigment itself. That's at least one of the explanations that I've heard of and I think it's a really fun thing to experiment with, to observe and to notice how different each one of your paints is just by the nature of the raw pigment. Let's get back to this one. I'm going to make my juice here and since out of both of my colors, my phthalo green is lighter than my shadow green. I'm just going to use just a touch of that for my lightly pigmented juice. Each time that we do this is an opportunity to practice observing water levels and understanding them a little bit more. I had a little bit of a drip of a little bit of the blue from my previous one that's going to appear here, but it's not a very big deal. Sometimes you'll find little hairs in your paint like I just did or a little piece of thread and I use my brush to push that out. If I use my finger than I run the risk of depositing some of the natural oils onto my paper and then creating that water repellent effect, which I really don't want at this point. Just going to add a little bit more here to make sure that I have the right water level. Let's go in and have fun with this. I'm going to take a lot of this. This might be a little bit too much actually of my pigment, I want to make sure that I have the separation, but if I overwhelm my water with both of these pigments, then they'll just mix indiscriminately and I won't get that different blocks of color. I'm just going to go in with a little bit of this one in some areas. You'll notice actually that for all of these I have a tendency and I've used the term drop in. You really want to drop in your color rather than like mix it in just because it allows the water to be free in terms of how it moves, where it wants to go. I'm going to do the same thing with my phthalo green. I'll maybe drop in a little bit there. But again, remember to observe your water levels and not forget that, that is the key factor here in your final effect. I actually want to add a little bit more of my shadow green just because it's a color I really love, especially when it's very pigmented. Now, you get to again practice your multitasking abilities. [LAUGHTER] I'm going to come and drop it in in a similar spot than where I initially brought it in. [NOISE] There's only so much thing you can control when you're doing this effect, because really it's the water that's going to determine where your colors end up. You can really only determine where you're dropping in your color but not where it ends up. You can a little bit as you're moving your page, but of course, there are limits to that because what we're aiming for is that even distribution. I also left a few white sections just to exaggerate this effect that we also had in the first one. You can premix your colors, or you can separate them, but of course, you always have that option of keeping the white of the paper present in certain sections in order to have that real highlight coming out. [NOISE] This is messy business, I warned you in the beginning. I'm definitely [LAUGHTER] getting a few drips in onto my desk as well. [MUSIC] Of course, each color has a value in itself, that is, a level of lightness or darkness that corresponds to that hue. That's something that you can also use to your advantage when you're creating these pieces as, think about the value of each one of your colors and how that's going to create contrast in your piece. If you're interested in color theory or don't know much about it, I have a huge class warning. It's a long class, but it's packed full of information about these principles of color, hue, how you can get a little bit more subtlety in your color mixes, and also to fun creative color collecting. That class is called Color Collector. You can definitely check that out if that's a subject that you want to dive into. Because even though that class is a class that I made with acrylic gouache, it can be applied to anything. All the things that I've learned in color theory using acrylic is stuff that I've used in my artistic journey even when I'm using a different medium like watercolor. As this is getting closer to its final drying point where I don't need to move it any longer. You can already see how it's shifted drastically from how it was when we started out. If you remember, I was dropping some of the darker color, the shadow green, up in these sections, and the phthalo green more in these bottom sections. I had much more white space than what you see here. That's what I mean by saying that there's only so much that you can control. You have to understand that water is going to move, the pigments are going to move. That's also part of the fun, is to see where it goes and allow yourself to notice these shifts and play with them. The more you practice it, of course, the better able you're going to be able to control the amount of pigments or blank spaces that you want in your piece. I'd also argue that control isn't the be-all and end-all, and rather, that there's a lot of learning in letting go and surrendering to the process as well. It's like just this interesting balance between learning to understand how we can better use our tools but also enjoying the times when we can go long for the ride and see where it brings us. The water has stabilized over on this corner, but on this edge, I still have a little bit of shift happening. A very small amount. [NOISE] Now, as I allow both of these to dry, I could, if I wanted to and if I had a different watercolor block or even just a watercolor sheet of paper, do a few more with what I have left over on my palette. I'm going to leave it at that for today in terms of the demonstrations, but I'm going to also show you all of the ones that I've made, at least in prepping for this class, just so that you can also get a range of the different things that you can obtain and talk you through different paths for experimenting with these watercolor washes. What it is that you can keep looking for, what it is that you can keep practicing, and other alternatives for doing this thing. 14. Final Results & Reminders: We're going to just remove the tape for these, even though my green one isn't dry yet. Of course, I'm just too impatient and want to share the final result with you. Again, we're trying to be super careful to not get the tape to touch. [NOISE] If you've succeeded in doing this, then you'll be able to see this effect that we were trying to look for, which is a smoky blurry, mystical effect. The both reveals the beauty of the pigments that we're exploring, but also the light that shines through with the paper. Of course, watercolor, that is what watercolor is best at. I hope that you've managed to figure this one out. If you haven't, please remember that it's absolutely normal. I've literally done this like, I don't know, dozens, hundreds of times. If it seems like I make it look easy, remember that it's just because I have a lot of practice under my belt. The more practice that you have under your belt, the more quickly you'll be able to achieve these results that you're looking for. I just want to put side-by-side this with the two other attempts that we started out with. So that you can really see this range of possibilities in terms of a very homogeneous watercolor wash or something a little bit more varied with more value shifting happening within the image. Both of these are useful for different things. Personally, I find both of these effects really beautiful and which is why I invite you to do both, after having explored a little bit more theory and practiced with these final two. If you want to go back to the first ones and try to better obtain that homogeneous watercolor wash, then please remember that you can go and do that. I would actually invite you to go and do that. The point is that these are starting points. These are just the beginnings of your practicing journey of this specific technique. When you forget what it is that is important if you stumble, if you get frustrated with not being able to achieve the effects that you'd like, remind yourself of the key element that we learned about watercolor. What is it that is the most important thing? Understanding your water levels, reading your water levels, learning to read the sheen of your water on your page. Building that relationship with how your water moves, how it dries, and how it interacts with the pigments. I hope that you had fun doing that. I know I had a blast and this was the first time that I was exploring this specific color combo, and I think it created something really beautiful. That's something that I might use for a future piece. In the next section of the video, we're going to go over a few other tools and techniques that you can use for further explorations, as well as the value of looking back at your practice sheets and what it is to look at and what to learn from them. 15. Fail Like a Pro: Often when we create something that we're not happy with, we have this impulse to throw it away, rip it into small pieces, hide it in a drawer, never look at it again. [LAUGHTER] I say that because I've done all of those things. But today I'd like to invite you to counter this very normal impulse that I think we've all had. Rather to go back, and try to integrate your failed attempts into your artistic journey. I talk about this a lot in many of my classes. For me, I think it's such a vital part of a healthy art practice. I invite you to go back, and look at your failed attempts, and try to see what it is that you can learn from them. What does it say about the process that you were using when you were doing it? What lessons can you take away for the next attempts? These failures are actually just springboards for learning. I'm going to go through some of mine so that you can see what I mean. For example, in this one, you can see here that there are three quite clear lines in my otherwise pretty homogeneous wash. To me, that's an indication that probably the water level when I was using these brush brushstrokes was too shallow. My water level wasn't deep enough. There wasn't enough water to support balance out counter my brushstrokes that I was doing. That's something that I would keep in mind for next one, make sure that my water levels are high enough that the pigments are really moving around, and have the space to move around rather than getting stuck in one place. Another indication that it could be is maybe that I simply overworked it. Maybe I went too frequently in this one spot with my brush, and so disturbed the natural flow of my pigments there. That's another lesson that's really important when you're using watercolor is that we very easily overwork our pigments, and our pigments love it best when we guide them, but let them go. [LAUGHTER] I'm sure there's tons of metaphors in their [LAUGHTER] take it as you will. Here are Hear other examples. In this one, you see very clearly that I have a bloom or a back run or another term that I discovered today in ouzo, which I think is the best word ever. Probably what I did here, and this is my guess is that when I was moving my page, I set it down, and I didn't notice that I still had one section at the bottom edge here that was a puddle. Since I wasn't moving my page around, and this section was almost dry, that puddle merged back into the slightly drier layers, thus pushing the pigments to accumulate. That's why I kept saying in the demos to always watch out for your edges because that's really what is going to be the downfall sometimes of your washes. Something similar probably happened here, but I'm actually thinking that I came in maybe with a brush that had too much water to pigment ratio compared to the rest of it. That's just a few examples, but I hope that you'll take this opportunity to look back at your attempts, and figure it out what the learnings are that you can take away for your next ones. 16. Further Explorations: I want to give you a few more ideas of things that you can experiment with, in order to observe the difference in results that you're going to obtain. One of those things is paper. I talked about it a little bit in the materials section of the class, but there are a lot of different types of watercolor paper that range from ultra smooth to ultra textured. Those differences in the way the paper is made is going to have an impact on how your watercolor washes look. Experiment with different paper. Notice how that affects the texture of your watercolor. How the granulation of your pigments is either revealed or exaggerated by the rough texture of the paper. Use the same color on multiple types of paper in order to really reveal the different effects. There's a lot of room for exploration there, and I hope that you'll have fun discovering these gems about how your paper can really affect the mood of your artwork. Another thing, of course, that's going to have a huge impact is your watercolor. What type of pigments are in your watercolor tubes? You'll have granulating pigments and non granulating pigments. That's going to have a huge impact on the overall look of your piece. Especially if you join that up with varying textures of paper, you're going to see that it's going to have a big effect on the final result. Of course, if it's granulating, you might see more of these little dots of where the heavier pigment has landed. If it's non granulating, you'll get a much smoother effect. Take some time to learn and explore the different watercolor pigments that you have. Have fun admiring the differences and subtleties that exist there. Having that knowledge is also going to help you because when you're creating an artwork in the future, you'll be able to better know which specific color you'd like to go for. Yes, you want a blue color, but do you want a granulating blue or a non granulating blue? What is that final texture that you're looking for and that you're going to have fun playing with, in your final piece? I'm going to give you a few tips for some further explorations that if you feel sharing in your project as well, that would be awesome. At any point during your drying process, you can lift the watercolor. What that means, is it means removing the pigments from the paper. You can use either a dry brush or a paper towel or a rag or even a sponge. What you can experiment with is the timing of the removal. What if you do it right at the beginning of the drying process? Somewhere in the middle? Or right at the end when it's almost completely dry? As you can see, there's some really interesting textures that can emerge when you try to lift the watercolor. I hope you'll have fun with that little exploration. You can also experiment with using a slightly wet brush and coming to disturb the peace amidst your uniform wash. It can create some really interesting textures though of course, you have to be careful if you don't want it to turn into either a bloom or lifting. That one requires a little bit more subtlety, little bit more practice, but it can really create some very nice effects. You can also try creating shapes with a pencil before your wash, and then leaving those parts out while you create your wash. This can be really useful if you want to paint something specific within those shapes that doesn't have the underlying color of your wash. Also allows you to keep the white of the paper, which you can then use for example, for highlights. You can of course do this also with masking fluid, which is maybe an easier method than this, where you simply mask out the shapes that you want and then remove the masking fluid once it's dry. You can also experiment with squeezing out some of your watercolor tube directly onto your paper and then creating the wash from there. I also mentioned that the first step, the lightly pigmented juice, is something that is helpful but not obligatory. You can also try to strengthen your practice and understanding of this by skipping that first step altogether and trying to create your wash right away without that lightly pigmented juice. It'll just require a little bit more attention to make sure that you don't forget any sections of your paper. Lastly, experiment with the size of your paper. Notice how it makes it either easier or harder to create washes if you use papers of a different size. All these explorations are very valuable time because they'll help you become more familiar with your tools and also practice how your waterworks. How the watercolors work with the water. Any information that you can glean in terms of the personality of your materials is going to help you in your journey towards creating the types of artwork that you like to see. As always, this is just a small step in your watercolor journey. I hope that you'll take away some of the little gems that you found in here. If you feel sharing in the project section, I would love to see what you made. Your fellow students would too. I'd invite you to share your third attempt and maybe your 20th. So that you can also see the progression and see what it is that you've learned as you've embarked upon this journey. Take notes, observe. Spend a little bit more time with your colors, your watercolor, your water. 17. Outro: Thank you so much for joining me and trusting me to be your guide in this journey about watercolor. I hope that you enjoyed it and that you learned a few things along the way. The nice thing with what we've done today is that even though they were practiced sheets, we've basically taken the first step in the next step of your watercolor journey. What that means is that you can use these as backgrounds for your watercolor pieces. Whether that's something that is more abstract or more figurative. I also have a class that I released a few years ago all about how you can create a piece of abstract watercolor painting using both a free form technique and improvisational intuitive technique, all the way to a planned techniques. You could use these as the basis, for example, for one of those pieces in that class or any other class or project it is that you want to work on. You could also just keep these for yourself as reference in order to remember what colors it is that you have and how they react, whether the granulating, not granulating, and just have this array of giant color swatches, which in itself is, I think it's already a very fun thing to do. You could also simply hang these on your wall. But of course, what I really hope is that you've started falling in love with watercolor because it's a fascinating medium that can be both extremely challenging and very simple, and there's a lot of beauty that lies in pulling apart all those complexities and subtleties that can really help further to you on your artistic journey. Whether it's something that you like to do as a hobby, to relax, to unwind, or if you're someone who's a professional or an aspiring professional. On that note, thank you so much for joining, I hope you share your experiments in the project section and that you comment on each other's projects in order to support each other on this artistic journey. If you enjoyed this class, I hope that you'll leave me a review. [MUSIC] Of course, you can also follow me here by clicking on this button or going to my profile, and that'll notify you when my next class is out. Of course, we can also become Insta buddies on Instagram, where I share the daily ins and outs of the artwork that I do, and my Skillshare classes when I make them. Finally, we can also connect on Patreon, where I share exclusive sketch book tours where I go more in depth into my artistic process and my art practice, as well as host monthly live drawing sessions, which I call the moon lost club, and where we come together to further our art practice in a smaller, more intimate setting. Also, can we take a little moment to celebrate all the awesome work that you did today or over however many days that you decided to take this class. I mean, you made as many as me. You've made many, which I think is pretty cool. [MUSIC] I also have a bunch of other Skillshare classes which are all geared around the idea of creativity and how to tap into it, how to overcome art blocks, how to overcome fear and really stay true to yourself in your creative practice and tap into your artistic voice. That's something that I'm really passionate about. If that's something that you'd like to focus on more, I have a bunch of classes for you that talks about just that. I've had a blast making this class. I hope that you enjoyed your experimentations on your end and I can't wait to see what you made. Thank you so much for joining. Bye. What you want to become filming. [NOISE] I think we're good. We're going to proceed in the same way as we did before with applying our tape. That is lame. Is it lame? This is just the beginning points of your practicing journey. I said follow me on Instagram, follow me on Skillshare, leave me a review. Share your project. I have my other classes. That's it. That's a wrap. [MUSIC]