Folk Art Illustration: Paint a Decorated Bird in Watercolor & Gouache | Julia Bausenhardt | Skillshare

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Folk Art Illustration: Paint a Decorated Bird in Watercolor & Gouache

teacher avatar Julia Bausenhardt, Nature Sketching & Illustration

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.



    • 4.

      Painting part 1 (watercolor)


    • 5.

      Painting part 2 (gouache)


    • 6.

      Final thoughts


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About This Class

In this class, I’m going to show you how to paint birds in a decorative folk art style. We’re going to look at two different techniques and paint colorful birds first in watercolor and then in gouache. With just a few tricks, you can create a decorative illustration of a bird.

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Bausenhardt

Nature Sketching & Illustration

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Hey, I'm Julia! I’m an illustrator & field sketcher from Germany.

I’ve been passionate about the natural world all my life, and I’m dedicated to connect art and nature in my work. With my work I want to increase awareness for the natural world we live in and its fascinating fauna and flora. I share my sketching adventures regularly on my blog.

I work mostly in traditional techniques like watercolor, gouache or ink and I love field sketching and nature journaling.

Showing people how they can discover and connect to nature through making art is an important part of what I do - that's why I teach here on Skillshare. Drawing and painting are excellent ways to learn more about nature. I want to help people deepe... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to this class about painting folk art style birds with watercolor and gouache. I'm Julia an Illustrator and designer from Germany. In this class, I'm going to show you how to paint birds in a decorative folk art style. We're going to look at two different techniques today and paint colorful birds first in watercolor and then in gouache. With just a few tricks, you can create a decorative illustration of a bird. You only need a few watercolors, some opaque, wide, and optional a few gouache paints. You'll take a look at some of my examples, learn how to work in layers, and how to blend paint together. You'll learn how you can mix water colors with gouache paints, and you'll see how you can add highlights with white paint. We'll do two different exercises, one in watercolor and one in gouache. If you only have watercolors that absolutely no problem, just join in and find out how you can improvise to get that gouache look. At the end, you'll have learned how to create your own beautiful decorated bird illustration. Birds are a great subject matter because they are not too complex animals and they're so colorful and cheerful. I hope you'll join me in this class about painting birds in watercolor and gouache. Let's get started. 2. Tools: So first let's talk a little bit about the tools that you're going to need for this class. Obviously, you need some watercolor paints and I like to use a variety of different brands, it doesn't really matter which kind of watercolors you have, just use what you have really is always good mantra for these type of classes. I'm not urging you to go out and buy new supplies, but you'll need some basic watercolors. I really like to use a selection of schminke and these bigger pens are white knights, they're Russian watercolors and they're honey based, and I really like their consistency and they have very rich vibrant colors and I really love those. They're also inexpensive. If you can get hold of these, that's great. If not, then please just use whatever kind of paints you have at your disposal. Another thing that you'll need is some kind of white and I like to use this gouache white, which usually comes in these tubes. Another white that I really like is this pH Martin's bleed proof white. This is a very opaque white. I'll quickly show you. You actually have to add a little bit of water into it and then stir it with your brush so that you have the right consistency. I really like this kind of white when I want to make really opaque white dots. You can also mix this with your paints. That's another option. If you don't have gouache white then this is a great alternative. I really love this. Then for the second part, we're going to experiment a little bit with gouache and I'll show you how to actually paint a bird in wash. If you have gouache paints, that's great. If not, you can really just use your watercolors and combine them with just white gouache. Basically, these kind of paints are the same and it's just a difference that in gouache you have a little bit of chalk added. This makes them more opaque on the page. They behave a little bit differently than watercolors. If you've never used gouache then, you can also just use your watercolor paints and add this kind of white gouache to them. As for brushes, you don't need really anything fancy, just two or three different brushes in different sizes. For details, we'll need a fairly small brush this size 0 brush and then I have two different brushes, size 4 and size 3, really just basic round brushes. You can use synthetic brushes if you like. For details, if you like to use these, then you could also use a dip pen to add the little dots and lines, and details on your painting. If you don't want to go out and buy anything besides your watercolors, then you could also use gel pens or anything that can make marks on top of watercolor paint. So that's another possibility. As for paper, you're going to need some kind of watercolor paper. I usually like to use hot press watercolor paper. That works really nicely with watercolor, especially with gouache and I really liked the smooth surface that it has, and if you prefer the textured surface of cold press paper, then feel free to take this. One thing to pay attention to is to use at least 250 or even better 300 GSM paper that's a little bit heavier so that your paper won't buckle if you add a little bit more water. We're not going to use any wet-and-wet techniques in this class, but it's still nice to know that your paper will take a certain amount of paint and water without buckling. The same thing goes for sketchbooks. If you prefer to work in sketchbooks, then make sure that your paper is heavy enough to take a certain amount of paint and water without buckling. Other useful things include a soft cloth that you can use to wipe your brush on and of course, some water. I usually like to use either an eye dropper or this kind of spray bottle that I can use to just wet down my watercolors before I start painting, and that makes it a little bit easier to pick a paint with the brush. That's something that I always like to have near when I start painting. 3. Examples: I wanted to show you a few examples of the birds that we are going to paint in this class. We're going to start with these watercolor bird. You can see that these have very vivid and bright colors, and this is great about water colors that you can achieve this very colorful look. It has a little bit of texture and it's still very vivid, and you can see that I also added these details and this is what you need the gouache or at least your watercolors mixed with gouache, because you have to work in these layers. If you want to make these little details pop out, then you have to use an opaque paint. That's where the gouache or the bleed proof white comes into play later. Here are some more examples of birds and water color. You can really see that these are again, these vivid colors and really great pops of color, I really love these, they're a little bit different than what I usually do. It's not really my go-to style, but I really love how this turned out. Again, you can see that I added these little dots and lines, birds are actually a great subject because you can see that these stylized feathers and strokes go well together and really make you think that this is part of the bird's feathers. Then for the second part of the class, when you explore gouache, you will see these birds look a little bit different, so the paint is less vivid, but a little bit more opaque, and you can achieve other effects with this. These birds look a little bit more graphic and the lines are little bit more clean, and I really like to work in this way too. You can achieve obviously a lot of great effects when working this style. You can see that there are many possibilities to add decoration to your birds. We will explore this in the next step when we start painting. Let's get started. 4. Painting part 1 (watercolor): So I'm going to show you how to construct a bird. Please feel free to use any reference that you might have. I really like using reference books for birds. You could also do a Google search and just make sure that you have a clear image of what your bird should look like with these more folk art style birds. It's not as important to have realistic features for everything. So these are a little bit more stylized and more graphic. But it's still important to get the main proportions right for the bird to look like a bird. I like to do very light pencil sketch before I start painting and I usually erase it before I start adding the paint. But it's still good to have some direction. I usually start with a round shape for the head and then add this more oval shape. Not sure if you can see this, but it's really just a round shape that goes into an oval shape. Then you have to think about the wing and the bird's tail. I have not decided how I want the end of the tail to look, I just leave this open. At some point you will have to add these little feet for the bird and a beak and the eye. That's it you don't need more, you can add the details when you add the paint in the same step. I'm just going to do a second sketch so that I have something on my page that I can work with. So I filled my page with four different sketches for birds and I'm sure I will refine this outlines a little bit more when I start painting. For now, it's important that you don't have too fat pencil lines because that will shine through, especially if you work with watercolors. So what I usually do before I start painting, I use an eraser and go very lightly over this so that I can barely see the lines that I drew earlier. I like these geometrical shapes that you can really construct very cute birds with it. Just have a look at some references and construct your birds by using geometric forms. So usually the head can be a circle shape and the belly and the wings can roughly fit into this oval shape and then you have more like a rectangle or triangle shape for the tail of the bird. That's basically all that you have to pay attention to is keep the proportion so that it roughly resembles a real bird or realistic bird. So let's get started with painting the birds. I'm actually going to start with watercolor, so I do have my paints here. I'm going to start with this small bird and I want to paint the body in a very light blue. This might be cobalt blue. I'm just going to mix a fair amount of paint. Don't add too much water to your paint. Then I'm just going to follow the outline that I did earlier with a pencil and actually erase part of this again because with watercolor you tend to see your pencil lines after the paint has dried. It can look nice for some paintings, like for urban sketching this looks nice, but for this painting it's really a bit too much. So I tried to get rid of the pencil as much as I could and then I'm just going to fill in that area, leaving a little bit of space for the wing. You can see that my lines are not perfect. I'm using this big brush here. It's a size four brush, but you can see it has a very fine tip and so I can add very fine details, but also cover large areas on the paper. Now, I'm going to take just a slightly darker tone of color, this darker blue here and just drop a few hints of this. Actually, this is the wet on wet technique that I told you earlier that we wouldn't do. We're just going to do it very reduced way. Just going to add these few dots and we don't need much. I just want to indicate that the head might be darker than the rest of the body of this bird. so that's all for now. As you might know, your paint has to dry before you continue in the other parts, because of water colored offloads together. I'm actually going to work on the second bird and I'm not sure if you can see this on camera but I am just going to erase a few more of these pencil lines because I don't want them to show up later. This might be cool if the bird would be an olive green. So I'm going to grab a big amount of paint. Yes you can see this, is the olive that I want the bird to have. So we're going to do the same thing for this fellow here. Because you have to be precise in some areas, and you can just add a little bit of water and spread the paint, when you have found your outline. You can actually work fairly quickly with this technique. Just going to spread the paint around for a bit, and because I don't want areas that are too bright I'll add more. The only thing that you'll have to remember, is that when the paint is starting to dry, then you shouldn't really touch it anymore, and just wait until it's really dry and then you can add a second layer. I think for this one, it might be nice to have a darker tail and to have a really nice green here. I'm just going to turn this around, it's a little bit tricky. I'm just going to add this lovely green to the tail. Now as you can see, I'm not using my watercolor paint in a very traditional way, because I add a lot of paint. I'm not really letting it at flow and the way that it usually would, if you would really use wet on wet technique. But that's all right because I'm going for a certain effect here, and the paint's still mingled in these little areas, where you can see both. Again, I need to let this dry, so I'm going to continue to go back to the other bird. I hope this isn't too disorienting for you, but it's really the most practical thing to do. I don't know if you can see it, I had to switch to a little bit rougher papers, actually cold pressed papers. Still a very fine-grain paper, but I ran out of my hot press paper, so I had to use this, instead and well, so far I'm liking it. So that's great too. Again, I'm just dropping a little bit more pigment into these still wet areas, to indicate that I want the wing to be darker here. While this is drying, I'm going to switch to a smaller brush, this is the size, the zero brush. I'm going to add a few details to these two birds, so we're going to have the small peak here. I believe this's a CPR, the color that I'm adding here, and we're going to add a little eye and then we're also going to add the legs. Yeah, I think that looks really cute. Now I am going to add just a wing for a lovely green bird, I think this might look cool in a yellow color. Just going to erase the rest of these pencil lines because if you add yellow on top of this, you will see the pencils, so be very careful with this. I'm going to grab this nice dark yellow, and I'm going to apply that. If you can, then it's a really good technique for these straight lines, to simply lock your fingers around the brush, and then move the whole arm or at least the whole wrist, so that way you're going to get really straight lines. That's better than, if you were just to use your finger movement, I know these lines and too long, but I find it really helpful to be able to draw longer lines with this technique. Now we have our two birds, I think I might drop just a little bit of a light green into this area here. Just because it's a little bit more fun this way, but you absolutely don't have to do this if you don't want. You can go with a cleaner, more graphic look if you want. I seem to have missed this wet and wet water color. I haven't done this in a while so I think I'm drawn to this right now. While this is drying, we can already think about how we want to decorate this smaller bird. I'm switching my brush to this smaller one and now we'll have to see in what way we can add some decoration. When working with watercolors, you can add darker color on top, but you can't add lighter color and this is where the wash comes into play. I'm actually going to add some wash to my palette. I'm going to do this on the other side so that it won't spoil any of the other colors and please don't add any white directly to your pen set or anything like that. This will not be good for your paints. I think the first thing I'm going to do is just add some dark blue dots to the tummy of the bird here or the belly rather. I just grab dark blue color and very non diluted paints, so very little water. I'm just going to add these little lines here. That doesn't have to be a lot. I think that's already enough. Now I actually want to add some feathers in this area and I need to grab this white and just add a little bit of water until you can spread it around a little bit better. Remember, you have to pay attention if there are areas that haven't dried yet. I have to be a little bit cautious with this. Then I'm just going to add some feathers here. There are no rules to this. You can take a look at actual birds to see how these wing feathers are actually constructed or built, or how they grow on the bird. You could also look at some folk art paintings to see how these declarations can be made. As I said, these light on dark effects can only be achieved with some opaque color like wash. Now I am going to add these little dots to the wing. Because I have to wait a bit longer before I can add details to this part, I will go on and grab a little bit of white and add it to my yellow water color right over here. This way, you can turn your watercolors. You just grab a little bit of yellow. This way you can turn your watercolor into opaque paint. Sometimes you have to apply a second layer, and that's probably when you use a little bit too much water. Now for the breast of this bird I actually want some bright dots and again, I have to use my wash white and mix it with a light green in this case. I want this to be a light green like a may green maybe. I'm grabbing a little bit of this term here and add it to my white. A little bit too much water here and then I will just add some little dots to to the breast of this bird. Also, I think I'm just trying to fix this area where I had a little bit of a water drop. With watercolor, it's always a little bit difficult to fix these areas, but I think I'm going to try. That's not too bad. Just adding a few more strokes here so, might actually be smaller feathers. Sometimes you just have to turn your accidental errors into a feature. I'm sure you've all heard this already. That looks nice and now, I want to add a little bit of detail to this part. Play around with contrast and with light and dark tones a little bit so that you can make your painting a little bit more interesting. Now that this area has dried, I can see that I do have large yellow blobs here. I think I want to add some vivid red to this. With this technique, it's important that you start to think in layers and how you can add details in layers over time. I've noticed that this area hasn't arrived yet, so I'm leaving it out of my feather painting for now. There we are. I think I'm really happy with how these two watercolor birds turned out. The last thing that I'm going to add to these two guys is little bit of white in the eyes. Just a tiny spot of white and you will see that this will make them actually have a gaze and not just look like dead birds which are maybe stuffed or something like that. One last thing I want to do is grab a little bit of the dark red that I had earlier and add another layer of details here. This way, the bird is really starting to look festive I think. Maybe also change these white dots. Yes, I really like this. Now our watercolor birds are finished. I'm going to let this dry and then we're going to work on the gouache birds. See you soon. 5. Painting part 2 (gouache): My beautiful watercolor birds have dried and I want to fill the rest of the page with birds in gouache. To prepare my gouache palette, I have already pre-mixed a lot of the colors and this is what I regularly use. You can see that I have a lot of colors, which mainly are pastel tones and then some are more contrasty and also a lot of greens which I use fairly often. I've already wetted them with my spray bottle. That's the beauty about gouache. You can always reactivate your paints. The way I would mix the paint, the tone that I want is to squeeze a little bit out of the tube and then add a fair amount of white. This is why I always have these big tubes of white because you need quite a lot to do this. If you want to know more about gouache and learn all the basics and how to mix the colors and how to choose the colors. Then have a look at my other class about floral illustration. I go a little bit more in depth about using gouache and like the basics on how to use this kind of color paint. Since gouache dries opaque and it's a little bit less watery than watercolor. I think I don't have to erase all the pencil lines, so I'm going to leave those that I already have here. Again, there need to be a few decisions about color. Since I want to show you the differences between watercolor gouache, I'm going to try out what happens when I just make this a really nice pastel colored bird. This is color that I don't think you will get it pre-mixed. What I've done is I've just taken really, really small amount of green paint and mixed a lot of white into it. You could also do this with your watercolor pens. If you just use watercolor and white gouache, then you would get a similar result. You can already see that this kind of paint behave quite differently. It's much more chalky, which seems logical because there's chalk in the paint. This makes gouache look quite different from watercolor. While I was talking, I actually forgot where the wing should have gone with this bird, but it doesn't matter since I use gouache, I can just paint it over. It's really not that bad. I think I want darker wing and a darker tail for this. Again with gouache, you can also work in layers. It's actually a great method to work from dark to light or from light to dark with this kind of paint. You can see that I don't have to wait so long as with watercolor when I want to add my next layer, because the colors actually don't bleed together. I can work a little bit more quickly with this technique. The other beautiful thing about gouache is that you can rework your painting a lot of times. Watercolor sometimes seems that when you make a mistake or color goes into the wrong spots, then you pretty much have to live with this but with gouache you have a lot of room for error and you can correct almost everything. I'm going to let this dry for a little bit as with the other two birds. I'm going to take a look at this little fella. The strength of gouache is that you can have a really graphic look in your painting if you want, so this can almost look like vector graphics with these bowed clean shapes and you still retain a sort of a painterly look. I really like that about gouache. I never get tired of saying it too. You can see that when those two wet areas touched, there's still a little bit of bleed. But not as dramatic like when you would use watercolor. If you don't like some of the decisions you've made then with gouache it's really cool you can always paint it over when it's dry. Don't be afraid to make bold changes. I'm just going to add the feet to these two little birds here. I'm just dabbing down my paint brush here to add some, they almost look like water drops, I think. You can see that my paint is a little bit too diluted here so isn't really opaque enough to cover the darker areas. So with wash you have to use a really opaque white if you want to cover your white areas. So I'm going to show you how to use this Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White. Basically, open the jar and there's just a little bit of water in it and I'm going to add some more with my eyedropper, not very much, but so that you just have a little bit of liquid and then you stir it. After stirring, you have just the right amount of white on your brush and you can start getting these beautiful white dots. You can see that these are really, really opaque and have a really great ability to cover the layers of paint that are below it. The main thing that I want you to take away from this is that this kind of exercise should be fun. There are no explicit rules, so you don't have to follow any patterns, just make up what you can think of or what you find interesting could even add some little curls on something else, just what you like. There are so many ideas and so many great ways to fill your birds with lovely patterns. All right. Now onto this little Radford and I almost think that this is a little bit too dark, so I'm thinking about painting it over. Yes, I think I'll actually do this. Only part of the area with sort of an undercoating and just add these strokes. So we'll have more of a feathery effect that way. That's actually a nice way to give your bird a more realistic look, so that's a good technique to keep in mind when you want to paint birds that look more realistic. I'm going to switch to an even lighter tone of paint because as you can see, gouache, when it dries, it always dries a bit darker. So it's another thing to keep in mind. This pink here almost looks white and actually, it's a very soft pink. As you can see when it has dried. I want to add some details to this little one. So again, I think this pink would be really nice as a contrasting color. Yeah. I think I'm really happy now with this one. Maybe I'll just fix the little corner here. Since I'm working with gouache, it's not such a difficult job. This what I mean by working in layers. You can see that works great with this paint. You can even blend these colors together a little bit more. So now on to the last tale of the last bird. I'm just going to add a little bit more blue to my pellet here, just a tiny amount to make it a little bit more agreeable. Now, what I'm going to do is add a bit of yellow to the mix. So just reactivate this beautiful, it's almost like a buttercup yellow from my palette. Again, this is a mixed tone which I got from mixing a regular light lemon yellow. Actually, just a regular yellow gouache with white. You could even do a fun exercise by keeping the birds all in monochrome colors, so in kind of greens on yellows, on blues, and only use basically one color for a bird and you could do complimentary birds where you use complimentary colors and endless possibilities. I think it's really fun to experiment with your color palette in this way. You can see I'm already fixing some of these dots where I feel they need a little bit more paint. So now I'm letting this one dry and then I go back and add the last little dots. All right. I think that's it. I feel like these birds are finished and I really like them all. I think they're looking gorgeous. Yeah, I hope you had a lot of fun watching this exercise and I hope you'll have a lot of fun doing it for yourself and I'm looking forward to seeing all your birds in the project gallery. So please share your work with everyone in the class and with me and I'm happy to take a look at your work and give you some tips and yeah, practical advice. So yeah, let us see all your work in the project gallery. 6. Final thoughts: I hope you've enjoyed this class and picked up a few tricks about painting today, like combining watercolor with gouache, layering your paint, and how you can add highlights with white paint. I really like the versatility of gouache and watercolor combined. To me, that's an unbeatable combination. I'm learning so much about my own painting process when I use and combine these different mediums, and that's the best thing for me. I'd really love to see the bird illustration you've created. Let's see all your ideas and finished birds in the Project Gallery. I'm really looking forward to seeing all your work. Thank you so much for taking this class with me, and I hope I'll see you in the classroom. I hope you'll have a fabulous day. Bye.