Watercolour Autumn Oak leaves with Negative Painting | Victoria Jeffery | Skillshare

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Watercolour Autumn Oak leaves with Negative Painting

teacher avatar Victoria Jeffery, Artist and teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (46m)
    • 1. Class Intro

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Let's Talk Negative Painting!

    • 4. A Scattering of Leaves

    • 5. Let's get Painting

    • 6. Adding the Details

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Autumn Watercolour Leaves with Negative Painting

Autumn is beginning to show us its beauty. Capturing the rich, vibrant colours as the season changes is a great way to celebrate this time of year. 


Take some time to appreciate nature's beauty with this step by step, beginner friendly watercolour class, you'll gain knowledge and skills to interpret the inspiration that you find at this time of year. 

In this class you'll discover:

  • How to use negative painting techniques. 
  • Using wet on wet watercolours. 
  • How to blend and soften edges. 
  • How to mix cool and warm neutral greys. 

And create a beautiful autumnal watercolour painting. 

Gather your supplies!

You will need:

  • Watercolour paper (300gsm2 cotton rag is best). 
  • 2 pots of clean water. 
  • Pencil. 
  • Eraser. 
  • Paper towel or cloth. 
  • A palette or plate. 
  • A small, medium and large pointed round brush. 
  • Watercolours, pans or tubes. I used: Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Olive Green, Sap Green, Ultramarine Blue, and Burnt Sienna. 
  • Some leaves or templates (see resources) to draw around. 
  • A hairdryer or heat tool to speed things along is handy too. 

Don't worry if you don't have these exact colours; a selection of earthy browns and greens will do. 

Getting started:

After you have watched the supplies video and set up your workspace, join me for each lesson and follow along at your own pace. 


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Victoria Jeffery

Artist and teacher


Welcome to my SkillShare page.

I’m Vicky, also known as Crobbles Watercolours. I am an artist and teacher with a passion for watercolours. 


I have been creative all my life, but love to paint and draw most. It makes me incredibly happy to share my knowledge and skills and be inspired by those I work with. 




I studied art and textiles to degree level. As a primary school teacher, I was responsible for art throughout the schools I taught in. I ran art clubs and even painted an enormous mural of childrens’ book characters. 

I taught life drawing and colour exploration at a holiday resort in Portugal.

I ran a highly successful art class for Home Educated child... See full profile

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1. Class Intro: Hello. Autumn is just beginning here. Nothing bold or bright in the way of colors yet. Just those lovely muted shades and tones that come when the leaves are just starting to turn. I was really intrigued by the oak leaves at the bottom of our garden and decided to paint them are used negative painting to create depth, shape, and three-dimensions in my painting. I thought you might like to learn how to do it to. Hello. My name is Vicki Jeffrey, also known as crumbles watercolors. I live in the northwest of England with my family. We're all creative and we love to collaborate together. I recently rediscovered the joy of watercolors and they have become a passion. I studied art and textiles up to degree level and have always painted and drawn. This is a beginner friendly class, but it's suitable for all levels. Lots of fun can be had. Learning about negative painting. Your project will be to paint a scatter of leaves on a subtle background. Come and join me in the next lesson. And we'll look to see what supplies we need. 2. Supplies: Welcome to the first part of this Skillshare class to create a painting of autumnal leaves. I'm going to talk you through the supplies you need to gather so that we can work together step-by-step to create a painting just like this one. Don't worry if you don't have the exact same supplies is me. Whatever you've got this near will be fine, I'm sure. And you will be able to create a beautiful painting. To start with our paper. This is a 100 percent cotton and I'm using a block so that I don't have to stretch my paper. If you don't have a block. I do recommend that you tape your paper down onto a board because we're going to be working wet on wet. We're going to be using lots of layers of paint. And your paper will buckle if you don't tape it down to parts of clean water. As always, one for clean paint and one for cleaning your brush. I've got a flannel here and all face cloth which are used for cleaning and drying my brush is on. You can use paper, towel or napkins, whatever you have handy. These are the watercolors that I'm going to be using. We have yellow ocher, raw umber, burnt, umber, green, which is olive green and sap green. And then for mixing up our warm and cool neutrals, we've got burnt sienna and French Ultramarine, these tubes. And I'm going to be putting some paint onto my palette in a moment, ready to go? If you've got pans, that's fine. Just gathered them together, dots and water on to activate them. Ready for painting? I've got three brushes, small, medium, and large, for large areas washes. These are all pointed rounds. I have a pencil handy, and I have some real dry leaves. These I gathered from the bottom of the garden. Don't worry if you don't have leaves to hand. I'm going to put some line drawings that you can use to make templates or to help you draw your own leaves onto the paper. I'm actually going to use these templates and draw around them. I will also put some photos of my inspiration with these leaves in the resources for you to look at. You may want to get a hairdryer or heat tool to hand as well. That would just help speed things up when we're waiting for large areas to dry, right? Gather your things and come and join me in the first lesson, and we will start painting our autumnal leaves. 3. Let's Talk Negative Painting!: Let's talk negative painting. What is it? Negative Painting is a technique that's used all the time in watercolor painting. You probably use the technique and don't even realize that you're doing it. It's often used to preserve light, bright subjects or pale and white areas within a painting. And it's used to bring a subject right up into the foreground into focus. So if we say that this oak leaf here is my subject, it's the positive space on my painting. Means everything else around it is the negative space. But that can happen to apply to all of these leaves. This leaf is in the positive space to this leaf, which is slightly behind it. And then the background is in the negative space behind that leaf. Sounds very complicated, but it's actually very simple. And when you start building up your layers of color, you will see it actually happening before your very eyes. Let me just show you if this leaf here. Now, I've drawn this leaf on to a washed background. I've covered the whole paper with the colors of my leaf. And the reason for doing that is that it will give our finished painting a unified appearance and it's a nice, stylish look to the painting. I'm going to now mix up a warm gray to start just taking the background away and making the leaf pop forward. So here I've got burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. These two are often used to create a deep rich gray, which can be used as a substitute for black. It's much more, it's got more life to it then a deadpan black. And as you can see, we've already got a gray. Now, depending on how much blue you can have a cool, right? Or how much burnt sienna you can make it warm. I've mixed up a little bit that the warmer gray on this side and the cooler gray here. My brush nice and clean. I'm going to carefully go around the edge of my leaf and lend the water out to the edge of the paper. I've drawn the leaf very strongly on this paper, partially so that you can see it easily on camera. But also with applying continually darkening layers of paint, your pencil lines can get lost. So it's a good idea to draw your leaves a little bit stronger than you would normally for watercolor painting. I'm just going to scoop up some of this gray and debit to the edge of my leaf and let the color disperse in the water that we have laid down. I'm going to mix and match it so that sometimes it's warmer and sometimes it's Kubla. Bit more water near the top. Don't be afraid to turn your work when you're painting to get good access to where you need to be. You don't want to be resting your hand on wet parts and smudging Newark. Another technique you could try with this is to, rather than wetting the area and letting the paint disperse on its own, we can mix up our gray gently, outline, our leaf. But what we don't want to happen is it'll look like it's been just been outlined. So before it dries. I'm going to do is get plenty of clean water on my brush and soften the edge with the brush all the way. And as you can see, we've got a nice subtle gradation of the color is our oak leaf with this first layer of background negative painting. And as you can see, it's really popped up off the paper and is standing out. Join me in the next lesson and we'll start sketching out our leaves and creating a composition for our painting. 4. A Scattering of Leaves: Project time. To start our project, we need to actually draw our leaves up on our paper and create a pleasing composition. I'm, as I said before in the previous lesson, going to be using real leaves as templates. If you're confident drawer, and you've had plenty of practice, you might want to just draw the leaves freehand yourself. If you don't have oak leaves the hand and you fancy something slightly different, Go for it. Beach leaves, holly leaves. Whatever you can find will make a really interesting composition and you can draw up your own. Because we're looking at negative painting. We don't want to make this too confusing for ourselves. We need some leaves that are overlapping, others. And if you have too many leaves on your page, you're not going to know which leaf is which, and you can make it very fiddly and difficult to paint. So I would suggest keeping it to 56, maybe seven or eight if your leaves aren't too small. I'm going to have one of these as my central leaf. And I think I'm going to go for this one. It's a beautiful shape and it's one of the larger leaves. With negative painting. Because you are building up darker layers and glazes all the time, It's easy to lose your pencil lines. So unlike the normal process with watercolor painting, where you keep your pencil lines as paint as possible. With this, it doesn't matter if you draw quite firmly. And just hold the leaf in pace and loosely draw around the shape. I've centered this one just slightly below the middle of the paper, which will give me plenty of space to add, subsequently leaves and create that effect of them overlapping. Then we get this, our first one. So I'm going to have a sideways leaf and iodine here. So this one is going to be Behind might first leaf. So I will not draw over where my first leaf is, just where it meets the edge. I said, takes me back to being a little person at school and tracing round shapes and templates. It's all good fun. Here we go. So as you can see, that leaf is now behind our first leaf, going to add few moron and get some interesting directions going. Let's have this one going this way. You don't have to be super accurate with these leaves. We are painting and impressionistic rather than super realistic leaf. And I think I'm going to put that one on here as well, so that I get this nice pointy tail end. Here we go. So that's four leaves. I'm just going to add a couple more. This one. Let's play with composition and a little bit. So I have that one quite straight, I think. As with using different leaves, if that's what you have to hand or you just fancy a different style. You could change up the colors to and use something a lot more or terminal. These are, these leaves I like. The colors I chose for these leaves are because these were the colors of the leaves that I found. If you're using a different plant, you might want to go with more reds or oranges or yellows just to show what the leaves look like. Now with this one, I'm just going to show you with this one, I'm going to have it so that it overlaps two leaves. But it's going to leave a little gap here where our background will show through. And I'm doing that on purpose so that we can, I can show you how that works with all negative painting. And we go, It's a little bit there, and then we'll get there. Okay, So I've got six leaves, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, six leaves. I'm quite happy with that composite composition and I'm ready to start painting. Join me in the next class, and we'll start sloshing paint around. 5. Let's get Painting: Welcome back. Time to start painting. We're going to paint the whole of our page with the colors that we want our leaves to be. And in doing that will create a unity and harmony to our painting. And we will push the background away from those leaves with our negative painting. I'm going to wet the whole paper first because we're going to work wet on wet and let the paint do its magic with dispersing in the water and granulating into the paper. So nice clean water and a large brush. And we, I paint the whole page. You've been very generous with this. Plenty of paper, paper, sorry, not paint, water. Put plenty of water onto your paper. And you should have a good sheen. But still be able to see the texture of your paper. And we just move it slightly in the light and you might be able to see the sheen. I have. Put my paints out on my palette. I've activated them even though they're two paints, It's very warm here, so they were starting to dry a little. I've just put a dot of fresh clean water onto each one to get it ready for going. Now we're going to focus on leaves and the background at the same time. So we want speckles and spots and streaks and can have lots of fun with sloshing some paint around. So I'm going to start with some yellow ocher. This will dry, paler than when you put it on, but you don't want it to be too dark. We can easily dark and colors down in subsequent layers by adding glazes. But we find it very difficult to make it lighter. So just be aware that you don't want to go too dark. Initially. Keeping my darker pieces at the moment near the edge. And as you can see, the paint is dispersing beautifully at some of this lovely olive green around where my leaves are. And being very random, just letting the paint do its thing, having fun and being relaxed with my paint. It's good for the soul. A bit of sloshing. Let's have a little bit of the sap green which is brighter. And add some of this in. Here we go. And we want some more small brands. So I have this role, umber, lovely natural color. This, it reminds me a little of camouflage. I'm painting camouflage. Okay. Right to the edges of my paper. Make sure that where my leaves are, they are covered. Well, I'm going to just splash there. That won't matter. But of intentional background, I'm going to get some of the burnt umber and just tap a few spots on. As you can see on the real leaves. There are speckles in spots. Just a few. Now we need to wait for this to dry before we can start our actual negative painting. Or you can without with your hairdryer or heat tool and dry it off quickly so that you can carry on painting. So my background has dried. I had a quick brew while I was waiting for that to happen. And now we can start painting the background around the leaves with our negative painting technique. I'm going to use the burnt sienna and the ultramarine blue to create various grays. Woman cool as we go round. But first, I need to wet the paper up to the edges of the leaves so that our gray will disperse and give a nice soft edge. You don't have to go all the way round at once. If you're working in a very warm, dry environment, it might be better to do this in stages so that you'll pay. Stays wet while you're working rather than drawing out before you get to it. So if I've wetted just around here, this corner and I'm going to start mixing up my gray and just dotting it in. I need to be a bit stronger. I think it looks to bran. More blue. There we go. Let's bring it in. And because I've already wet right up to the edge of the leaves, I can just dab the coloring right up to the points we give and let it flow. I want to change that. I don't want this to be uniform all the way round. So I'm going to make it cooler by adding more blue and bring it in. Now you can see the leaves are starting to pop forward and take shape. Without actually painting the leaves. All I'm doing is painting the background. A few spots here and there, just to give some variety and a natural look. I'm guessing a little bit of an edge here and it gets because it warm. So I'm just going to use this clean water to spread it out. More of the slightly cooler gray over here. And again, put the clean water. We're just going to turn my paper so that I can be accurate about where I'm placing my brush. Here we go and look up this side now, clean water into all those lovely little nooks and crannies that give the oak leaves their characteristic shape. And then just gently wash that to the edge of the page. And let's go back to a slightly more warm gray. If you mix this 5050, you will get that classic deep, almost black gray that you can use for shadows and things. It's great for painting on skies. Because you're using two very distinct pigments. If you use it wet on wet for a sky or something like that, it will, the colors will split as they dry on the paper. And you can get some fantastic cloudy effects and things like that. Again, I'll clean water. Now in here, I've got two little patches where the background actually shows through our little pile of leaves. So I need to come in and do those. I just use the very tip of my brush and carefully at the color in there. We can always darken it down. After we've started adding some details to our leaves if it's not strong enough. And I'm going to continue with the same mix. Here. Here we go. And as you can see, it's blending out nicely down here, not not forming a hard edge at all. You don't want that one more time. And we can work down this side bit more water. Because we've used caused a lot of water on this. It will take a while for this layer to dry. And again, you can always give it a quick blast. Radio hairdryer or a heat tool. I want this side to be a little bit darker again, I think so. I'm going to mix a stronger mix with my neutral colors here. So this is more paint and more pigment and less water. They'll still disperse out. And it gives us a nice contrast and make it a little warmer. For Dan here. Get into that a little bit. Space where store keys for come back to original position. And to have a look at that, how am I feeling about the way the colors are looking? I think I want a little bit darker down here. So what I'm going to do is while it's still wet, I'm just going to add a few patches of the darker mix to give us some texture within the background. As I think I'm quite content with that. I'm going to leave it to dry. You can blast it with your hairdryer if you want, and will then start giving our leaves some definition and texture. Join me in the next section. 6. Adding the Details: Okay, so our background is dry and as you can see, the leaves are now lifted forward from the background, which is, has been darkened with our negative painting. But at the moment, it's just a big blob. We haven't got a pile of leaves. We've just got this rather strange abstract splash in the middle of our paper. So what we need to do is to create separation between our leaves where they overlap. And what we will do is we will do a smaller version and a more delicate version perhaps of the negative painting where the leaves actually overlapping each other. So I'm going to use smaller brush. And I'm going to look at where the leaves overlap and what colors I have actually got from my sloshing in the background. So here with this leaf, we've got, it's mostly the greens. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to add some more green to those in a glaze to make it darker, to make it appear to be behind this leaf and these two. And the way I'm going to do that, because it's a smaller brush with a nice point. I'm going to use the olive green and follow the contour lines, contour lines, curvy lines, sorry, curvy lines of the oak leaf there where it's green. And then using my clean water, not too much on the brush, blend it in. I'm bringing it brand. Here we go. Now, being aware of the structure of the leaf as well. So you have all the veins and the shaping. Now we don't want this to be super accurate with it. We're not going for a botanical painting here, but we do need some shaping to help give our leaves the feeling of being real ones. So I'm up here, this is slightly more yellowy, so my shadow here. We'll be using some watery paint on the brush. The yellow ocher blend, I went into them. Now this leaf is already looking like it's sitting behind these. And while that bit's drawing, I'm going to work on something over here so that I'm not going to get bleeds in from this work onto this work because we're working wet on to dry. So I'm going to work down here now where this leaf is behind these two. And we've got lots of it was mostly yellow ocher with a little bit of the raw umber. So I'm going to use the raw umber. And in the same way, I'm going to come in following the shape of the leaf on top and then soften it. A little bit of clean water. Again, giving this some a little bit of shape down the middle of the leaf where the central vein would be. I think I can go darker on this one actually. So I'm going to add near the base a little bit of the burnt umber as well. Just to make it look even more shadowed. And we get while that's drawing and that's drawing. Going to work over here. Yes, here, this leaf. So we've got again, the raw umber and lots of green. So I'm going to come in here with my colors and need to soften that. Strolling very quickly in these moonlights. Soften these areas. And this is just negative painting really. In the same way as we used on the background. You'll just negative painting the leaf below to create a shadowy form. Clean water to get rid of the edge. Now you can see just softening this a little. It's I think because we've got all the lights and things on in here, the paper is drying while the paint rather he's drawing very quickly. And I'm not quite getting the soft edges I want. But I can just use my brush gently with a little tiny bit of water on it to soften those edges. So these leaves and I are looking like they're behind these, which is great. So we're going to work on these and make it look even more three-dimensional. And a bit of green. Now plenty of water to soften it out. Here we go. Now going to come in on here. And then mostly yellow ocher. And then along here. And again with my clean water too much on the brush and softening it out. Now you can do this several times. The thing is to build up your layers so that you are happy with how three-dimensional is looking. It always start paler than you and you think you might need to go, as we've said before, you can easily darken things up. It's much harder to make things lighter. You'd have to start trying to lift the paint off the paper. And that would be might damage the paper. And if the paints very staining, you might not have any success anyway. I'm just darkening that one up there. A little bit of the bone time, but just to give a nice little bit of shadow there. Okay. Under there as well. Keep working on your layers, building it up gradually so that your leaves look like they are individual leaves laying on top of each other. You've got some separation being formed by your negative painting. Okay, now I'm actually going to start at a little bit of definition to my leaves. And we're thinking about the veins and the actual structure. I'm going to swap to a much smaller brush. This is my size 4 and it's very pointed. And again, looking at our real leaves, as you can see, the veins are very prominent and they tend to go straight out from the center to the middle of these lobes. So will bear that in mind as we're drawing them in. I'm going to use the olive green for the central one. And with a light touch holding my brush near the end so that I've got a gentle touch. I'm not pushing much. So I get a nice point on the tip of my brush. I'm going to sweep my lining from the base of the leaf towards the top. And then sweep some lines in towards the edges of the lobes to make the veins. Now that looks very strong there, what we're going to do again is we are going to soften those slightly by using some clean water. And that helps to give the three-dimensional feel to it. Just on one side, clean water to soften. Same again with this one. And on these, these are a bit finance or they won't need so much. Hey, we give little soften that. I'm going to do that with the other leaves. In fact, I think I might mix a little bit of brown with my green for this one. Keeping it delicate and light. Don't have to do every single one. We're giving an impression of the leaves. Here we go. Coming in with the clean water just to soften and give us slightly three-dimensional look. And you can play with this rages. Just keep keep in mind that you don't want to overwork it and end up putting too many lines everywhere. Now it's drawing a little, I actually think and feel that I've gone to a patch here that could do with a little bit more definition. It doesn't, because we've got green on this leaf here. In green on this leaf here. It's not separating enough for my liking. So I'm actually going to work a little bit more on this leaf to push it back. A little bit more negative painting. Going to come in with the olive green, again, following the shape of that leaf above, making it a little bit darker. And then just softening the edge. With my clean water. Yes, that's already made this leaf pop forward a bit more. And so I'm going to do the same here with this leaf. I'm going to use the MBA. And the Nisbett is a little bit of the olive green. It's a good thing to step back and review your work as you're painting. Sometimes even leave it for a little while to dry completely and then come back and see what works and what needs a little bit more attention. We go. So I've already made a big difference to those two leaves. I'm thinking this one might need a little bit of work as well. So we might speed this bit up and you can just follow along with me as I'm putting these finishing touches on to the leaves. Okay. One last look to see whether we need any areas to be darker. And one of the things I've noticed is that the background here is a cinema. Can't speak today, is a similar tonal quality to the leaves around it, so it needs to be darker. So I'm going to come in here these spaces and probably spread it out a little bit behind at the top there, just to give our lease a little bit more definition. So it's back to the burnt sienna and raw umber MIX. No, burnt sienna and ultramarine mix. So it's back to the burnt sienna and ultramarine mix for the gray. And I'm going to come in with my pointer, small pointed brush. And take this back a little bit darker. And to give us some continuity, I'm going to take it up here as well. I'm a little bit of clean water. Just soften that edge. There we go. I think we're done. I hope you've enjoyed watching me paint this and that you will enjoy painting your own autumnal leaves scattered across your paper. I would love to see your project. And if you have time, take a photo, pop it up in the projects for all of us to share and appreciate it. Be lovely to see what you create with your autumnal colors. Thank you. 7. Final Thoughts: Thank you for joining me in this class. I hope you've had a lovely time and they're super pleased with your paintings. I'd really love to see them. So if you could take a photo, pop it up in the projects. Even if it's just a work in progress or your swatches, it will be wonderfully inspiring for us all to share them. In my next class, I'm going to teach you how to paint delicate seed heads. Those of a plant called carrier parsley. Like this. It's done with salt and water color and masking fluid. It's very simple and very dramatic. I hope you'll join me and learn how to paint kale parsley.