Abstract Watercolor Paintings: Explore Through Freeform & Planned Process | Marie-Noëlle Wurm | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Abstract Watercolor Paintings: Explore Through Freeform & Planned Process

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

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

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.

      A Closer look at brushes


    • 4.

      A Closer Look at Watercolors


    • 5.

      Create Your Watercolor Library—Color Swatches


    • 6.

      Two Methods


    • 7.

      Freeform—The Improvisational Method


    • 8.

      Art is About Choices


    • 9.

      Freeform—First Steps


    • 10.

      Freeform—Paint to Paper & Key Takeaways


    • 11.

      Freeform—Development & Key Takeaways


    • 12.

      Freeform—Another Example & Key Takeaways


    • 13.

      Freeform—Become an Explorer and a Gatherer


    • 14.

      Planned Process


    • 15.

      Planned Process— Color Mix & Match


    • 16.

      Planned process—Brainstorm With Thumbnails


    • 17.

      Planned process—Paint to paper


    • 18.

      Planned process—Development & Key Takeaways


    • 19.

      Final thoughts


    • 20.

      BONUS: Handmade Watercolors — Their qualities & particularities


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Do you feel like venturing into the wonderful world of abstract watercolor paintings? 

In this class, you'll be learning two methods to go about creating abstract watercolor paintings: one that is freeform and improvisational, where you jump right in & learn to trust your creative instincts; and another involves brainstorming and planning out your work before putting paint to paper.

Planning out a painting is often easier than jumping right into the immediacy of improvisation, so I'll be bringing you behind-the-scenes into my studio where I will share my artistic process with you, step by step, You'll be learning the principles that make this method fun, accessible, and inspiring, and apply it to your own creations.

I'll be giving you little tips & tricks along the way that are particular to watercolor and helping it work for you so that you can create your own freeform & planned process abstract paintings.

Subjects we'll cover are: 

  • A close look at brushes and different types of watercolor
  • Creating watercolor swatches to become familiar with your colors
  • Tips & tricks to make your watercolors work for you
  • Simplifying your choices to help you get started
  • How to create abstract paintings through freeform & improvisation
  • How to create abstract paintings through a planned process
  • Learning ways to release yourself from fear while you're painting

I will show you exactly how I created 3 different abstract paintings from start to finish—to get a real glimpse into what goes on when I'm painting. The creative process is often a mysterious, seemingly untameable thing, but I break it up for you here, so that you can take away new principles about process, design & the world of watercolors; and hopefully inspire you to create your own.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Marie-Noëlle Wurm

Artist, illustrator, HSP

Top Teacher

I believe that every single one of us has a wealth of untapped creativity that lies within. Maybe there are brambles and thickets in the way so that it feels dark & scary or awakens the lurking beasts in the shadows. But it's there. I hope to lend a hand on this sometimes scary but beautiful journey of getting back in touch with your creativity, of expansion, exploration, of opening yourself up to the wealth of wisdom inside you--to help you gently brush away the brambles and the thickets, and clear away the path back to yourself & the creative fields that lie within.

Hi, my name is Marie-Noelle Wurm, and I'm a French, American and German artist & illustrator living in the South of France. You'll often find me sipping good coffee in local cafes, reading a book, working or plann... See full profile

Level: Beginner

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Marie Noelle, I'm an artist and illustrator and I live in the southern flats. Welcome to my studio. Today I wanted to introduce you to the wonderful world of abstract watercolor paintings. This is class is for anybody who's curious to know how you can go about creating an abstract watercolor painting using two different methods and finding the one that works best for you. These methods can of course be applied to other mediums than watercolor, but in this particular class, I'm also going to be talking specifically about watercolor and try and give you little hints and little techniques that you can also use when you're using the specific medium, which can sometimes be a tricky medium. I'd like to bring you along behind the scenes into my artistic process, which is very based on unplanned improvisational ways of working. Abstract art lends itself perfectly to this technique. I'm also going to be teaching you how to plan an abstract watercolor artwork. You can really get a sense of these two methods and see which one maybe it works for you. Of course knowing that there's everything in between. You can semi plan, you can semi improvise, but there's really a range of different ways to go about this. But one thing that I want make clear is that for me, abstract painting is the gateway to delving into our creativity. Why? Because in abstract painting, there are no rules, there's no needing to look like thing. Sometimes that can create a lot of fear because then you're really confronted with how you go about your creative process. If you learn to overcome these hurdles that can arise when you're creating an abstract painting, you already are gaining a lot of things that you can use again, when you're working on your figurative paintings or anything in between, whether it's abstract or semi abstract. So make yourself a warm cup of tea, don't have your brush in it. Let's get started. 2. Materials : Let's talk about the different tools and materials that you're going to need for this class. As you can tell, I have a number of different brushes and I want to make clear from the get-go that you do not need these many brushes. The reason that I've laid out so many is because I'm going to be creating a little video where I'm going to walk you through the different types of brushes that you can have. But all you need for the class is I would say a minimum of two or three brushes of different sizes or shapes. Something else that you might need is some water. I usually have two, but you can have just one big one, a rag to dry and clean your brushes or it can also be paper towels, a pencil and an eraser, and then a few optional things, including a brush cleaner and drawing gum that can come in little bottles or it can come in a pen form this way. These things are optional, but they can be fun to use during this class. You're also going to want some watercolor paper. If you don't have any lying around, then you might want to go for some paper that's slightly thicker. Something that's 200 grams, 300 grams is even better. But so that the paper doesn't buckle too much when you're using the watercolor. The paper that I'm using is by a good brand called Hahnemuhle but you have many different brands of paper, so don't feel like there's a specific brand that you need to be using. It's just good if it's thicker and more destined for watercolor because it will react better with your paints and your brushes. This specific paper, what I like about it is that it's highly renewable and it has a warm tone to it. It's connected on two sides, which means that it buckles slightly less, but you have other watercolor blocks where it's actually connected on all four sides, which is even better for battling buckling. I'm also going to ask you to have a smaller piece of watercolor paper and you can use a bigger one that you cut up into little squares or you can already buy one that's a tinier size and this is going to be to make watercolors swatches so that you can have a very clear vision of the different colors that you have going forward into the exercises. Of course, you're going to want some watercolor. I have different types of watercolor and I'm also going to be creating a video where I go a little bit more in depth into the differences between these kinds of watercolor. I have watercolor pans, I've watercolor tubes, and I've watercolor sheets. You can use whatever it is that you have lying around, whether it's the pans, the tubes, or the sheets, anything goes. Of course, you're also going to want watercolor palettes where you can mix your colors. If you have one of these pans sets there already is a place where you can start mixing your watercolors here. But it can also be a good idea to have another separate watercolor palettes such as these. As you can tell, I'm the painter who paints a little messy, which means that I don't necessarily clean my palettes after I use them and do let them dry and then I will sometimes reuse these watercolors for my next painting and then every once in a while I will clean my palette if I realize okay, no, there's a specific color that I want in mind and so I want to work with this cleaner palette. There's no right or wrong way to go about this. The key is just to go with what works for you. Whether you're a very clean, meticulous painter or one that's a little bit more chaotic like I am. 3. A Closer look at brushes: Let's have a look at the different kinds of brushes that you can have. Like I said, you don't need this many brushes, but I just wanted to show you a wide array so that you can get an idea of what exists. This is actually a little travel kit that I have, which is really useful because it's very tiny and a handy. This one is made of synthetic fibers. So the first distinction that you have to know between different kinds of brushes is that you can have natural brushes and you can have synthetic brushes. My synthetic brushes are here on the left side, and these are some natural brushes. What are the differences between the two? Synthetic brushes have a good tension against the surface, and this is called the spring of the brush, except if you're using a very soft synthetic brush. In general, they returned to their natural shape quite easily as you can tell, and this is called the snap of the brush. I have a range of different synthetic brushes that are really love for all these reasons. It can be a little bit more difficult for the natural brushes to come back to their natural shape. If you put them in your water, jar for too long, then the angle of the brush can change because they're much more sensitive to that. The advantage though is that they can also carry more paint in general than synthetic bristles. But to be honest, I wouldn't worry too much about that, and having a synthetic brush is perfectly fine. In my personal collection of brushes. I would also say that my natural brushes have a tendency to be softer than my synthetic brushes. So that's something that we'll take into account when I'm looking for a certain type of feel when I'm painting. There are also many different sizes and shapes of brushes, and it really depends on what you want to do. Firmer brushes can be good for creating bold strokes. Software brushes can be better for softer, more fluid organic work. In general, thinner point here, round brushes are better for precision work, whereas bigger, thicker, flatter brushes are better for washes. Another important thing to note between natural brushes and synthetic brushes is that natural brushes are much more expensive in general than synthetic brushes. If you're on a budget, then go from synthetic brushes. You have a lot of different possibilities and the different forms of synthetic brushes that will give you effects that come close to natural brushes. I would even say in general, I use my synthetic brushes more than I do my natural brushes. So it's about personal preference and use. Another type of brush that I haven't talked about is these water brushes. I got these because I was curious to see how they worked, and I have different sizes, small, medium, and large. They're quite useful for when you're wanting to travel. But I have to admit that when I use them, I actually tend to revert to using them like normal brushes and dipping them in my water in order to add more water. So it's really not obligatory and just depends on what you prefer. A brush cleaning product is not an obligatory thing to have, but it can actually be really good, especially if you use acrylic or acrylic wash in addition to your watercolors. Because the way that that dries, it can screw up the little fibers of your brush. If you want to make sure that your brushes last longer than it's a good thing to have. So the first step is usually to wash your brush very well with warm water at the sink. Once you've done that, then you can just go in and swirl it around in your brush cleaner, and it'll get rid of any additional little pigments that might have gotten stuck in-between the hairs of your brush. Then take my water and I can rinse it one final time. Then I'm sure that my brush is nice and clean. 4. A Closer Look at Watercolors: Let's look a little bit closer at the different options of watercolor. Most often people know watercolor in this format, which is little pans that are replaceable, you can take them out, add other colors in. It's actually super useful for traveling because it's a little contained kit, and often has a little brush in it. I really love this set, but I also really love tubes. I know one thing that I really like with the tube is that it creates already a very liquid form of the color right away that you can apply even directly on your paper. We're going to make color swatches for each single one of these types of watercolors, so that you can see how they work differently. This is something particular which I actually got on a Kickstarter campaign.The reason was that I thought it was really an interesting concept, which is watercolor that is on different sheets. I thought that this would be very good for traveling, which absolutely is because it's a very small format and the colors are quite vivid. It does make full an interesting contrast to these types of watercolors and these types of watercolors. I haven't tried other forms of watercolor sheets, which I'm sure exist. But I'll show you what these look like just so that you can get an idea of another possibility of watercolors. I also wanted to show you a demo of handmade watercolors, which I've seen prop up more and more on Instagram. I actually have an order of handmade watercolors coming in, but I haven't received it yet. I'll probably be creating a bonus video where I show you how those work. 5. Create Your Watercolor Library—Color Swatches: The first thing we're going to do is our water color swatches, and for that I have a few different things. I have my watercolor pan set, a brush, a pencil, some water, and some paper. First I'm going to make a quick sketch of my watercolor pans, and what I mean by that is I want to have two lines with six little rectangles so that I know exactly which ones I'm referencing. By no means do they need to be perfect. It's really just to have a good view of what the different colors are. Then here, I can write down the name of the different water colors. This is my Winsor and Newton pan set and then of course I can add in the names of each one of these colors, which are actually written on the sides of these pans, which you can take out later. Once you've done that, you want to be wetting your brush and adding some water into your watercolor pans, and I'm adding a good amount just so I can pick up a good amount of watercolor. But I want to make sure that my brush is nice and loaded with a lot of paint, so I'm just going to keep swirling it around until I feel like I have a good amount of pigment on my brush. I'm going to put the most amount on the left side just so I can see what it looks like when it's quite thick, and I'll even add a little bit more pigment by going in there again. Once I've done that, I'm taking my brush and I'm going to rinse it out a little bit until there's barely any paint left, and I'm going to just take some water, add it into the side here, and then at some point I'm going to connect it with the part on the left. This is so that I have a good range of intense pigment to lighter pigment, and so I can see that shift. I'm going to now go in with the second color. This is a bit of a warmer yellow than the previous one. Yet again, I really want to load my brush really well til it's nice and thick. I can also, if I prefer, just take a little bit of this water after I've cleaned the brush and actually pull the paint onto the right side. That will give a slightly different effect. Using the same basic principles for all of these, I created my three swatch sets. Actually what I did is I cut two of these swatches to be the size of my pan sets so that I could actually slide it in there, and this one corresponds exactly to this pan set, and then this one corresponds to all my tubes. I just decided to make those the same size so I could stash them with my pan sets. It's just a really good reference so that you can really see the different colors that you have, and just make sure that the one that you want to be using is the one that you're choosing. Because when you look at the colors in the pan set, for example, compared to the colors that you see here, there is definitely a difference. They look much lighter when they're on the paper than when they're in the pan sets. I think the best examples of that are the two greens, which look almost black in the pan set, but then have these very vivid green color when it's on the paper. That's just a really good idea to have this reference. Same thing for the tubes. I think it was very useful to have a nice array of colors and to see which ones I might want, and I separated them by the different brands that I have. I have two brands. I have Winsor and Newton, and I have Holbein brands. The third one that I made is with this particular set of watercolor sheets that I was showing you in the beginning. I just want to show you how these work. I got these on a kick-starter project and I thought they were really interesting. The way that they work, and I'm just going to give you a quick demo here is you have every time two colors on each sheet, and so there's a total of 16 colors. The pigment is very thickly placed onto these sheets, and there is a separator so that they don't get stuck to each other. What you do is you go ahead and place water directly on your watercolor sheet. I'm going to use the same principle I did earlier, so I try to really load up my brush with a lot of pigment, I place it on one side. I could thicken that a little bit more. I clean my brush and I add the water and pull the pigment over there. This is the dry version of these particular watercolor sheets. There's one thing that I noticed in particular with this brand, and I don't have many other brands, so I don't have much to compare them to, but I can compare them to my tubes and my handsets. What I've noticed is that the color seems to extend in a more homogeneous manner. It has less of that water color texture where you see the little granules of the pigments on the surface of the paper. These have something that's much more homogeneous, but I really like them and I think they were a pretty good complement with the colors that I already have and they just allow me to try different things, so there we go. Here is my set of three color swatches, which is going to be very useful for me to reference when I'm creating my abstract watercolors. 6. Two Methods: When you are creating a piece of the abstract art work, there are two kind of methods that you can use in order to create that. One of them I would say is the planned way, where you plan everything out in advance and then you create your piece. The other way is more than unplanned improvisational way. Of course, there's everything in between. But for simplicity's sake, we're going to look at these two methods. I want you to keep in mind that they can both interweave and there are different elements from each method that you can apply to the next method. 7. Freeform—The Improvisational Method: The first method that we're going to talk about is the improvisational unplanned way of going about creating abstract art. The reason I'm going to start with this method is because it's the one that I'm the most familiar with. It's the one that has allowed me to break free from my own creative hurdles and become the artist that I am today, and I think that there's a lot of valuable things to be learned in using this method. Even if down the line you decide that this method is not the right one for you, I still think that there are a lot of important things to be said about this method and things that I use even when I am planning my artwork that I've gained from doing all these improvisational unplanned artworks. I hope that it'll be useful to you. I'm going to be demoing how I go about doing this and all the while, I'm going to be giving you little insights into the process behind the decisions that I make. Things that help you go down the path of improvising, of creating artwork from nothing, which is one of the more difficult things to do. 8. Art is About Choices: Someone once told me that making art is all about making choices. I thought that was a really interesting way of looking at it because it explained why there's so much anxiety that can arise when you're about to create a piece of artwork. I don't know if you're familiar with this, but you may have heard that when we're confronted with too many choices, then we get overwhelmed by the possibilities; there are too many factors in the balance and you don't know which one to choose. Then that can lead to anxiety and to not even making a decision at all. Initially, that's something that I've heard in the context of like supermarkets or purchasing decisions. But I think that's actually true for a lot of aspects of our life. In particular, when we're trying to do a creative endeavor where it's our own creativity. We're using ourselves to create something that didn't exist before, then that can be a big challenge. Knowing that one of the easiest ways to go about breaking the anxiety that can arise with art-making is to narrow your decision pool. What I mean by that is that if art making is all about making choices, then why not make the choices that we have to do? Smaller and smaller until they don't instill anymore fear. That's one of the tools that has helped me the most on those days when I have a lot of self-doubt and I still apply it today. So narrow down the choices that you have to make. I'm going to show you what I mean by that right now. 9. Freeform—First Steps: The first decision that I need to make is what tools I'm going to be using. Obviously, since this is an abstract watercolor class, it's pretty clear that I'm going to be using different types of watercolor, so that decision is already made. Now I need to decide, okay, what tool do I want to use? My current favorites at the moment, I would say are this one which is a synthetic brush and these three, these two are both natural, this one is synthetic and I like all of these. But for some reason just today I feel like starting out with something that's a little bit more detailed and more precise. I'm not going to go for this one. I've narrowed down my choice to three different brushes and really I'm just going to ask you to go with your gut. What do you feel like doing? Do you feel like doing something a little bit more thicker and looser or something a little bit more precise. I'm going to go with something a little bit more precise today. There we go. I already now have one of my decisions made this is the tool that I'm going to start with. The next step is to choose what color am I going to start my painting with? Since I have no idea where this painting is going to go, that is going to be the most important decision at this current moment. What color do I feel like starting out with? I have to say I feel like doing something that's a little bit in the red tones and so I have a few different options in terms of red. I could actually, even if I wanted to refer to my swatches to see which colors in particular I want to go towards. To be honest, I feel like going towards something that's more crimson like this one. But I'm going to darken it a little bit and so I wanted to be even darker maybe I want to process with the Payne's gray so that it's a very, very dark red. These are the two choices that I had to make and it seems maybe like a very simple thing to do but if you apply this on the days when you have no idea where you're painting is going to go or you don't know how to get started, it's going to simplify the process a lot. One tool, one color, let's get started. 10. Freeform—Paint to Paper & Key Takeaways: In order to find the color that I want precisely, I'm going to use my tube paint and then mix that in my palette to find the shade that I'm more interested in. I want to point something out though I don't always use this method. Sometimes I will even, especially if I'm using a tube, put a little dash of color directly on my piece of paper and just see where that goes. Both are possible methods to go by, but in this particular case, I'm going to go for the crimson lake and I'm going to add a little bit of Payne's gray in order to darken it. Payne's gray is one of my favorite colors. It's a kind of blue gray that I think is really beautiful and I often use it actually to replace my black so that I have a slightly different shade. I still want to stay in the red's here, but I'm going to add a little bit of this Payne's gray and in there. As you can tell, I went a little too far and went towards something more purple. Whereas what I really want is something that's slightly more red. I'm just going to correct that by adding a little more paint. It doesn't really matter to me that I'm using a little bit more paint in this one because since this is the color that I chose, I'm okay with having this be my main color. Now that I've mixed the color that I want, it's a very nice and thick pigmented coat of color. I'm going to go in and immediately start putting a mark on my paper.[MUSIC] Usually this first mark is the one that's more terrifying because you still have a blank piece of paper in front of you and you're thinking, well I don't know where I'm going to go, I don't know what's going to happen. I'd like you just to re-frame that by thinking, well, it doesn't really matter. It's an experiment. We're just going to see where this goes and just get started, just jump right in. If you're really terrified. One thing that you can do is even close your eyes when you apply your brush to the paper.[MUSIC] The key here is not really to analyze too much. The real point here is mostly just to focus on the sensations, the colors, the textures, and just playing around with shape and form. At this point, I really have no preconceived ideas about where this painting is going to go. I'm just trying to have fun playing with the colors, the way the brush reacts in a strange, surprising way [MUSIC]. The key and I think most painting work is that your drawing is going to reflect the amount of mindfulness that you bring into your painting [MUSIC] I'm trying to be very mindful and very present just with the colors. Not trying want to worry too much, not think too much about where it's going to go [MUSIC]. I can add a little bit more water to create colors that are slightly more transparent [MUSIC]. Also keeping in mind that the colors will be slightly lighter when they dry, than when there are wet [MUSIC]. Mindset that we're trying to cultivate here is a childlike mindset. When we're children, we're not judging so much what we do. We're just enjoying the sensations in the colors and seeing what emerges as it comes. That's really the mindset that we're try and practice here [MUSIC] like anything, it gets easier the more that you do it. [MUSIC]. At this point, I'm realizing, Oh well I'm having fun with this color, but I think it would be even more fun if I integrated a new color. 11. Freeform—Development & Key Takeaways: Now I have to make my second decision. What is the next color that I'm going to use here? I really like how dark these reds are and I want to contrast that, so I'm thinking of going towards something that is slightly more cold and blue. I'm going to come back to my different swatches here. Have a quick look at them and I'm just curious, I'm going to try to take this ultramarine that I see here, and this isn't the shade at all that I'm interested in having. But I'm going to start off with this and I want to create something cooled and blue, like I said. I'm going to be mixing it with a lot of white and see where that brings me. Maybe I might try to make it slightly more green by adding a little bit of yellow, but we'll see. This is my Windsor and Newton pen set. I'm going to go ahead and take that and this is my ultramarine on the right. This is my white tier also, but I have a tube whites. So I think I'm going to start off with that one. I'm going to make sure that I cleaned my brush really well. That's actually also why I have these two pots of water because right now, this one is very pinkish and then this one is still nice and clear. I'm going to use that just to confirm that it's nice and clean. Since I'm looking for something quite cold and blue, I'm going to start off with more white and I'm just going to add the blue little by little. Going to add a little water just to make it a little bit more usable, workable. Clean it, dry it. I'm going to go ahead, take a little bit of this ultramarine. Because my ultramarine is colder blue then my cobalt, which is right here, and add a tiny touch of that two color here. As I thought, this is a little bit too much of a baby blue and I'm looking for something that's maybe slightly more greenish. Either I could directly add a little bit of green into that color or I can go with a little yellow. I'm actually going to go for something slightly more yellow. I'm going to just go with this one, this is a cadmium yellow and I only want this tiny touch of that. There we go. That looks more like the color that I'm looking for. If you're not very familiar with color mixing, don't worry, just try things out if it doesn't match exactly the color that you'd like, that's fine to just play around and maybe that's something to keep in mind for the future that you maybe need to work on color theory a little bit more. I'm actually thinking of creating a class in not too long that talks about color mixing. You can check that out when that comes out. I like this color a lot. It's very pale. You almost don't see it against this white, but you still do. I'm going to go ahead. Even though there are areas that aren't quite dry, let me go ahead and mix it in there. There's nothing right or wrong. It's just you testing things out with your materials and your colors. As you can see, I'm like correcting this as I go because I'm getting a little too excited and going a little bit too hard on the blues and the yellows that I'm adding in but this is a nice color. It's actually even more greenish than the color I started out initially with, but that's fine. Let that dry brush texture come out. As I'm moving forward with this painting, there's something that I'm going to be doing increasingly as I advance in the work. In the beginning I was really looking in on the details and focusing just on that specific part that I was looking at and working on. Of course, I'm going to keep doing that as I move forward. But I'm also going to be looking more in a general view at what I'm creating. I'm going to look at the placement on the page. I'm going to maybe turn my painting in a different direction. I'm going to be basically increasingly focusing on switching between the precise place where I'm adding paint, but then also having a general view of what my painting is looking like. How's it placed on the page? What is the negative space? The positive space, how are the textures working together or against each other? Another thing to keep in mind is the watercolor. It doesn't like to be reworked too many times. In general, I try to just go with how it ends up right in the beginning and then accepting that and working with that rather than constantly trying to correct what I previously did. If you accept that fact about watercolor, that it is tricky and doesn't like to be reworked too much. 12. Freeform—Another Example & Key Takeaways: For this next example, I wanted to show you what it was like to work with materials that I hadn't used in the previous example. In particular, the watercolor sheets and the water brush. I'm also going to be using pen sets, and I'm going to completely be ignoring my tubes, since you saw me use them in the previous example. One particular thing about the water brush is that, you can use it like a normal brush, of course, but you can also use the sides to press out more water into the tip of your brush and dilute the pigment. That can create a lot of fun textures, and you can see me playing around with that particular characteristic of a water brush. Another thing that I wanted to emphasize in this specific example is that in the previous example, I was working with more of a limited palette. In this one, I wanted to really show you what it would be like if you use many different colors in a same painting. Like I said, there's no right or wrong with colors. It's really just about exploring and seeing the different moods that you can create. You see me do here is, I'm actually using a wet-on-wet technique. I'm just observing and having fun seeing how the different colors are interacting with each other, blending into each other. We haven't really talked about wet-on-wet technique, but it is this capacity that when the watercolor isn't dry yet, then if you add another color into that mix, it will blend very nicely. That's something very particular about watercolor, which is very fun to explore. As I move forward with this painting, I'm going to increasingly be switching to looking at it in a more general view and thinking about composition and how it looks on the page. So you can see me move things off my page here to actually get a better sense of what it looks like in general. Of course, I'm still focusing in on the details because those are important, and that's a big part of being present. But I am also taking a step back, taking a few breaks, and then trying to explore something new, add something unexpected that I maybe hadn't tried before. In this particular case, it's quite fun to use the airbrush to create drops of water that have color in them and just wait for them to dry in the end. You'll notice that I'm also taking a break analyzing the negative space around my drawing, seeing what I like about it, what I don't like, what might be missing, where I want to add something new. After doing this, I actually decided that it would be maybe fun to change the direction of my painting. This is something that I often do with abstract art, which is really fun to do, because since abstract art is, by definition, non-representational. The direction that you place your painting will have a huge influence on how you perceive it. Sometimes just changing the direction of that painting is going to give you new ideas and have you see it with a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes people ask me, "How do you know when a painting is finished or not?" I would say that, it's actually more of a gut feeling, more than anything else. Like I said, for a lot of these principles that I'm trying to teach, they will get easier with practice. I remember that when I started out, I found it very difficult to know when my painting was finished, sometimes I was like, "I'm not sure, it almost looks good, but maybe there I could add something else, I don't know." That's okay if you're still in that phase. You'll see that with time and with repetition, by creating many abstract paintings, it will get easier for you to know, "Okay, now I'm nearing completion," and then you might add a few little details and then realize, "This is done. I think I don't need to add anything else." Sometimes some people get really stuck on that end phase, where you get stuck in the details right at the end, just adding little tiny nitty-gritty things. It's also a skill to be able to recognize when you're doing that as a finishing touch, or when you're doing it as a way of delaying the fact that your painting is actually done, and just being anxious of admitting to yourself that it might be done and that this is your artistic statement. One way that you can help alleviate that anxiety, or any form of anxiety that you experience while you're painting, is to re-frame what you're doing. Instead of thinking of it as, "Oh, I'm creating a piece of artwork," and it's very serious, heavy matter where it needs to be good, re-frame it by considering it as an experiment, and that every time that you approach your painting is just an opportunity to learn. If it doesn't work out the way that you wanted it to, that's okay. What can you learn from it? Each time we create a painting, whether it's abstract or figurative, that's just a stepping stone in our artistic journey. The journey is more important than the result. If your result doesn't please you, that's okay. Accept it and move on because tomorrow's another day, and you can have fun exploring some other aspect of painting, tomorrow. 13. Freeform—Become an Explorer and a Gatherer: This time, I really went for a pretty broad palette, where I have a lot of greens, but I also have blue, I have orange, I have yellow, I have red. As you can see, that doesn't necessarily take away from the painting. There's a lot to talk about using limited palettes for monochrome paintings which can really render a beautiful effect, but I don't want you to think that there's a rule that makes something good or not good. It really just depends on the energy that you're wanting to convey. If you look at the difference between these two, obviously there are a lot of different factors that influence the mood and the feeling that comes from both of them, but one thing is that these range of colors is quite as soothing and maybe slightly mystical palette. This one, I went for something really earthy, but it also has something almost chaotic and nebulous. That comes from the fact that I've used a range of different colors, but it could also be the shapes. There's all these different factors that influence why your painting ends up the way it looks. The key is to make as many paintings as possible so that you can start to gather data. Understand what it is that makes your paintings feel a certain way, what they evoke, to understand what really creates the mood in your paintings. The great thing with all of these abstract watercolor paintings is that there are always new things to explore. There's always new information to be discovered about what works, what doesn't work, how you can push yourself out of your comfort zones, and what you can take from it all, and obviously, bottom line, let's just have fun. 14. Planned Process: Now we're going to look at the method of creating a piece of abstract art that is planned. Where you take steps in advance to really plan out every aspect of your painting and then create your finished painting in the end. This is a method that I don't use as frequently as the previous method, but there are a lot of really important elements in this one as well. I hope you play along and try to create not only an unplanned piece of art, but also planned piece of art so that you can get a sense of these two methods. 15. Planned Process— Color Mix & Match: way, way, way we owe way. 16. Planned process—Brainstorm With Thumbnails: The first step in creating a planned abstract drawing is the thumb-nailing brainstorm process. I have a pencil here and two different types of erasers. You can use whichever one you have at home. This is just a pretty normal rubber eraser and this is an edit eraser which you can shape according to what you need. I like both of those. I'm going to take my page here and I'm just going to create a few little rectangles which are going to be in the orientation of the page that I'm going to be using. I'm going to go with more of a vertical format and I'm just creating a few and it doesn't matter, they don't need to be perfect. It's really just to have a space to just brainstorm and try a few different possibilities. I'm going to make six here. But the brainstorm process is actually something that can you can fill up this entire page with thumbnails. It really just depends on how far you want to take your brainstorm process and I'm just going to show you six for the sake of brevity and so this video doesn't get too boring. I'm just going to really just try out different shapes and placing the amount on the page and seeing what I like about them. Or if I like them. If I want, I can even fill them in with pencil just to give a quick idea of the gradients and then this phase really just play around. Try things that you maybe haven't tried before. I am going for something very geometric here, which is very unlike what I usually do but that could create a fun drawing. The way that you shade these in doesn't need to be perfect either is really just to get a sense of what you're going to maybe do. All of these, I use the repetition of certain shapes. But if I wanted to, I could also do another one where I use just a range of different shapes. This is just a little glimpse of different ideas, of different things that you can do. But of course there are so many others, so go ahead and explore it in this phase. Now I'm going to look at these and I'm going to decide which one I think is the most interesting. There are a few of them that I quite like. I think that this one could be an interesting one just because the repetition of these lines could be interesting with different types of colors which the watercolor can bring. But I'm going to go for something a little bit more complex because I think that one's simple and just for the sake of this demo, I want to show you something a little bit more complex. I also quite enjoyed this one just because of how different it is to what I usually do. It's very geometric, but I still have a soft spot for this first one. I just really like that diagonal, that intersects the page and then the circular shapes that cut into that. What I'm going to do is I'm going to make a slightly bigger thumbnail and you don't have to do this, but this is one step if you want to try it out and just explore it even a little further. It just so happens that in this one, my first one is the one that I liked best, but it can often happen that my best one only ends up after many iterations of different thumbnails. As I'm doing this, this is reminding me of this one which I also think is interesting in terms of the overlapping shapes as envisioning these as like flat expenses of color that were overlapping through the use of transparency. That makes me think that I could use these overlapping textures maybe in a section of this painting. I'm making these just like a flat expense of color. But it's probably not going to be necessarily super flat. I'm probably going to create random textures, more abstract textures within these. I don't want to spend too much time on my sketch because I do want to get my hands dirty and start painting. I know that I'm going to make these probably a little bit more texture than they seem here. I'm just going to create another one here on the side just to try out other possibilities of this same thumbnail and maybe I could even make these slightly circular and warm, just organically shaped. There's something that I like here, but these squiggly lines breaking free from this diagonal. I think I might keep that and maybe in the background I will still keep a few overlapping shapes. One of the things that I'm always keeping in mind is positive space versus negative space. How does it feel? Do I like the feel that it gives and I have to say I prefer this one, then this one just because there's a little bit more space here. Then again, this is probably going to be filled up with color, but I'm going to probably just keep it a lighter color or maybe even a more solid color in order to emphasize that expensiveness. All right, I think that this is my final thumbnail sketch and I could if I wanted to go even more in detail, decide what textures I'm going to be doing here. It really depends on how much planning you want to be doing for me, am satisfied enough with this that I'm just going to go ahead, get out my brushes, get out my watercolor, and start painting. 17. Planned process—Paint to paper: Now, that I have my thumbnails and my color swatches ready, I can get down to work and start applying my sketch directly to my watercolor paper. I'm going to do that with my pencil and use my thumbnail as a reference in order to create this. It doesn't need to be exactly your thumbnail, don't get too attached to the thumbnail that you created since it was still only a sketch. Just like earlier, at some point you just have to start. So I re-wet my brush and decided to go for a very fine detail natural brush just so you could see what these look like. Like I said, I had planned to create a little bit more texture in these bubbles of color that I wanted. I wanted them to be darker, so they're going to be the basis for this dark-green and dark-red color that I created. You can also see the way that I shaped my brush. I'm created really interesting fun texture and that was by chance but I flowed with it. Even though we're in a planned painting here, that doesn't mean that you can't apply principles that you may have learned in the improvisational technique, which is to go with the flow and accept the unexpected. One thing that I'd like you to notice is that as you can tell, I'm using the red and the green very close to each other and even at times overlapping. Because of the specific hues that I chose, these colors are actually very close to being complimentary. Which means that when they mix, I create more of a neutral tint. That I'm graying the color down by associating it with its complimentary. This is something that can be really fun to do and in the beginning it can be a little tricky, because you need a lot of practice to learn what colors are actually complimentary from each other, but I just wanted to introduce you to this notion and know that there are ways that you can learn how to gray your colors. Actually what I didn't realize right at the beginning was that, the two colors that I created, the red and the green, are actually very similar to the colors that I used in my improvised piece. But what you'll notice is that the way that I use them in this piece is very different from the way that I used them in that first piece. In the first piece, I was really going with the pure colors that I had created, whereas in this one, I'm mixing them much more. So there's going to be much more of a neutral, soft, complimentary graying, but in the sense of a colored gray atmosphere to it, because of the fact that I'm overlapping them and using them to neutralize each other. I'm also using much more water with both of these colors, so by definition, it's going to be diluting my pigment and I'm going to be going away from something that's highly pigmented and highly saturated, to something that is much less saturated and a little bit softer in the end. You can also see that I left the pencil marks around these shapes, and that's a personal choice. If you wanted to, you could barely erase them before you start working with your watercolor. In general to me, it doesn't really bother me if I have some pencil marks in my watercolor painting. I actually like it because it underlines the fact that it is a process, and there were different parts that were used to create the piece. But like I said, it's a personal choice and you definitely don't need to keep the pencil marks if you don't want to. I'm showing you here another thing that I often do which is to apply pigment directly onto my page. I'm actually creating a wash here with a thicker brush which allows me to do a wash, and also adding in little touches of color here and there to give it more of a gradient and more of a texture. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that I had planned to have overlapping shapes of color in this spot. I just went with something a little bit more solid and a little bit more like a textured wash. You can also notice that for this one, I actually decided to erase the pencil marks, and that's because since this base color is very light, I thought it would be nicer to not have those pencil marks visible. Whereas with the darker shapes, it didn't bother me as much. This is yet again the wet on wet technique that I was talking about earlier. Also you can tell, leaving a few white spots where I'm not putting any watercolor, so that is also a texture. It's having a spot where there is no paint and right next to a spot that does have paint. That little negative space becomes a part of your painting and a part of your statement. Right now, I just added a few more pigments to the darker shapes and since I had made my wash right next to it, it bled into the wash. Oops, unplanned and it's fine. I'm not going to try to go in and rework it or correct it, I'm just going to leave it be, and accept that's part of what I'm making. 18. Planned process—Development & Key Takeaways: Once I had laid down the groundwork of this painting, I decided that I was going to go in and add a little bit of texture to this background, to this diagonal line because even though it was a wash, I wanted there to be a little bit more of a texture, so I use these flowy lines to kind of echo some of the lines that I used in the darker shapes. Some of them I use with my tips, so that it's a very fine line and others I use the entire brush which gives it thicker, less defined feel so that it also blends into the background and so that these pictures that I create actually become part of that background rather than just overlaid on top of it. Now I'm going in and adding those lines that I had quickly sketched on my thumbnail and as you saw, I didn't pencil these in before making them. I just decided, okay, well these lines, I hadn't made a precise plan for where they would go and just decided to use my brush to go ahead and do that. Once I did those, I realized that they were a little bit too light for my liking and went in again to add another layer in order to darken them a little bit. If you feel like a section of your watercolor is too light, feel free to darken it with an added layer. The good thing with watercolor is that you can make it darker. It's very difficult when you've made something dark to make it lighter. However, you can make things darker if they're too light. That's also a possibility that you can use in your own paintings [MUSIC]. Now I'm adding a few finishing touches and then I'm pretty much done and I'm quite happy with it [MUSIC]. 19. Final thoughts: I hope you enjoyed this class. I had a blast and I really can't wait to see what you make. So please upload it in the project section so we can all get a glimpse into the experiments that you did and what you found out. Also share the ones that you're proud of, and also the ones that maybe you think, well, I might rework this or I might do this a different way next time. I hope you enjoyed this little stroll through the abstract realm. The thing that's amazing with abstract paintings is that it's an infinite language. There's an infinite number of possibilities, and each time that you create an abstract painting is an opportunity to keep exploring, and learning, finding something new that excites you. Please play around with all this, have a lot of fun. That's the bottom line. Have fun. If you want to hear a little bit more about the next classes that I'm going to create, then be sure to click the " follow" button in my profile somewhere here, there, I don't remember, and you'll get news for when my new class is out. I also have a SkillShare group at the moment, which is called Become a creative Explorer, and I give weekly challenges, and prompts, and questions. So if you feel like jumping in on that, that would be fun. It would be awesome to have you there. What else? I'm on all social media. I'm on Instagram, Etsy, Twitter and Facebook, Patreon. You can follow along my adventures on whichever platform you prefer, and I hope to see you soon. Are we done? I think we're done. From my plants. I thank you, my plants thank you, and the world thanks you for exploring your creativity because that's the best thing that you can do for yourself. Believe me. It really is. I'll see you soon. 20. BONUS: Handmade Watercolors — Their qualities & particularities: Here we are with my array of handmade watercolors, which come from a specific brand called Wildthorne. This is not sponsored by the way, this is literally just the ones that I happened to get. Since I only have this one brand, everything that I say here doesn't necessarily apply to all the other brands of handmade watercolors that you will find. That's one thing that's really particular with handmade watercolors is that since they are a handmade, then each brand, I think, is going to have very specific qualities and advantages and disadvantages to them. If you're venturing into that world, it's just about knowing that they will be very different from your brand watercolors, and that's something that you should embrace rather than resist. Here are the colors that I chose and I want to point out that two of these pallets are actually pallets that were created by the maker of these watercolors, which means that they're the ones who decided these are the colors that are going to go together and these are the colors that are going to go together. These two other pallets are colors that I chose simply because I thought that they would be interesting to work with and so I can pose them myself. One thing that I want you to notice as you look at these is that the color palettes themselves have a unique quality to them. The colors that you find here are less regular than the ones that you might find with brand watercolors. That I think has a lot to do with their handmade nature and the fact that each one of these colors is made by sourcing minerals, rocks, and sometimes even plants in order to create these specific shades. I just wanted to give you a sense of what these different palettes are so you can really get a sense of the colors here. There's something already really beautiful in the array of colors that you have here, which can be really interesting if let's say you're a little bit more tentative with your color palettes and you're not exactly sure which colors to put together, then you can simplify your choice by just saying, okay, I'm going to take my one pallet and just use the colors of this palette. In comparison, I just want you to see the difference between these colors and these ones, which are my brand watercolors, so you see how these are quite vibrant in comparison to these. These have an earthy muted quality to them that is really quite beautiful, but isn't necessarily what you want at all times, which is why, it might be interesting if you're considering getting handmade watercolors to also have a set of more regular brand watercolors. Because depending on the artwork that you're going to be creating, what you're interested in doing, you might want things that are more earthy and have the specific qualities that I'll be showing you later on of these handmade watercolors. Or you might want to go with something that's a little bit more regular and a little bit more predictable. That's one of the major things that I would say is that, brand watercolors have a tendency to be more predictable in the way that they feel on your brush as compared to the ones that are handmade. You saw the swatches that I had here, and I'm not going to be using every single one of these, but I wanted to just give you a sense of how some of them react and how differently each one reacts from the other. That's, I think really the particularity with handmade watercolors is that each one will have a specific quality to it that you need to become familiar with in order to see how it works. Some of them, and for example, I'm going to show you this one which is if I'm not mistaken, I think it's a prune. Yes, this is a prune color. I'm loading my brush with lot of pigment just so you can see and you see this one has a very, very smooth quality to it. I can go in, add a lot of water and it moves really, really beautifully with the water, and you'll see as it dries, it will take a little bit more of that earthy quality to it. On the other hand, I have other ones that are actually very granular. I'm going to show you what I mean and this one I would say is one of the ones that is the most granular, and it's called bamboo cane. Already, I don't know if you can see the way that it's reacting on my brush, but it's already much more sandy in a sense. I'm loading up my brush quite a lot here, and I don't even know but you can hear it. You can hear the grains on the paper, and already what you'll notice is that it's not flowing as well as this one. The little grains of this mineral are actually depositing on my paper in a way that's much more linked to where I'm placing my brush than this, where they move with the water. This is a little bit more resistant to that moving and so what's interesting with that is that, initially it can be, I guess, frustrating because you're like, oh, why isn't this moving? But if you lean into the way that it works, it can actually create some really interesting textures. Let's say if I decide, okay, I'm going to add to these little tiny dots over here. The stay quite static and there's still a little bit of blending in the water, but I could actually use this as a way of creating texture in my piece. I'm going to give you another example with one of my favorite colors that these two have a similar quality to them. This one is red moon, and this one is a little bit smoother than that green one, and you'll immediately see that. But if you really load it up it also as it drives, you'll see it has these black granules that spread in a really interesting way. So this is something that's really particular and that I've never encountered with my brand watercolors and which I find really fascinating and very fun to play with. I'm going to give you another one of these that is more granular. Why don't we go with this one? You can actually just see with the brush how it reacts differently. This one is a little bit smoother than that green one, it has something close to honeyeater, butter maybe and so it's already quite smooth. But it's not as smooth as this one, it still has some particular earthiness to it. I don't know if you can see it, but I can definitely feel the difference with that one. Why don't I show you another one of these like more granular ones. This is the peach aggregate and this one is already much smoother than that green one, for example, but if I wanted to use it really thickly, it still retains some of that granularity. I'm going to show you actually one of these shimmers, which is something particular, so I've seen more and more of these shimmers and even regular brands like Holbein, Winsor, and Newton are getting into making these shimmery watercolors and they're really fascinating. What's interesting is it does take a lot of time to actually load the pigment onto the brush, some really having to go in and rub it and keep rubbing it until it really connects to all the parts of the strands. But it does create these really, really nice shimmers, which are really fun to play with. That's not something that I'm used to in watercolor and so that can also create a fun little thing to play with. I'm going to give you just a few more examples of some of these super smooth ones. For example, this one, which I think is a burnt umber or raw umber, I'm not quite sure. Very earthy, beautiful, rich brown color. It moves very nicely with the water. The one that's slightly thicker almost reminds me of mud. But in the a good sense, like smooth, maybe clay, more clay is the term that I'm looking for. It has a similar quality to this one. Why don't I also show you one of these black glimmers? Truly special. Just like that gold, I really need to move my brush around in there in order to capture as much pigment as I can. These glimmers are actually very natural because they're made with mica, which is an element that is part of rock. When you walk around and you see this shimmery rocks, that's what's used to make these and so this is also a really different quality, and you can actually see those granules. Same thing, it doesn't shift very well, you kind of need to place it with your brush and it'll stay little static and you can also create thicker zones than this. There's one thing that I want to note here, and I'm not sure if you can really see it on this page, but one particularity with these handmade water colors, which I have noticed is that the quality of how they look or stay on the page is very different to the brand watercolors. In particular, when it's dry, it hovers at the surface of the page much more than brand watercolors, which is an interesting quality and then sometimes can be a little frustrating, and so I'm going to show you some examples of that. This color I didn't actually show you in the demo, that's one of these more of these green colors, which are also really fun and this was actually one of my first experiments with these handmade water colors and I'm really happy actually with how this turned out, but I don't know if you can really tell, but there's really a sense that the pigments are hovering above and they feel Sandy underneath your finger and so that I think is part of what makes it really beautiful and lush and earthy. But it also can be problematic if you're storing them. And so it can be good too, for example, have a spray or at least this is what I've done, to go over your painting and solidify those granules and in particular, the ones that are the most granular, like this green one which is also here and a few of these little spots. Those are the ones that are the most at risk, shedding off your page; so that's something to keep in mind. Here's another one that I made and using this, in particular was this color, which is also one of my favorite colors from the ones that I've tested, which is called Red Moon and you see how it creates these really fascinating textures around here. That's something that I don't think that I could get with my brand watercolors, and which I really enjoyed with these handmade watercolors. This one is still an experiment, I wouldn't say that it's a completely finalized drawing though there are some interesting things in it. But the reason I wanted to show you this is I felt like you could really get a sense of the fact that the pigments are hovering on the page rather than really being sucked into the page the way brand watercolors are and so some of these which I showed you in the demo, like the Peach agate, you can really get a sense of that earthy clay quality of it. This pink one is also one of these more granular colors right here, which is a little bit trickier to play with, but can also be very fun. Then one more of these, and I think that was also with that same color here that I told you that I created a lot of really interesting textures. I guess all in all what the main message here is that handmade watercolors can be super fun to play with, especially if you're creating things that are more abstract and playful words about texture and shape and color. It can be a really great addition to your collection of watercolors, but you do need to be aware of the differences with brand water colors. They are trickier, they have qualities that you're maybe not wanting to be used to so they can be a source of frustration. The tip, I would say, is the most useful in order to play with that is to really, rather than resist the inherent properties of the handmade watercolors, lean into them, try to work with them rather than against them. Often, I find that when we experiment or when we are frustrated with how something is working, it's because we're trying to do something with a specific medium that it doesn't actually feel comfortable with and I guess that sounds a little bit like I'm anthropomorphizing the tools that we use, but I really do feel that way in the sense that, each tool has its own personality, has its own textures, has its own way that it likes to be used in the best way possible, so try to find that out and it's like a dance between what you want to do and what the tool wants to do, and how you can use that to your advantage rather than disadvantage. Just wanted to show you some of these as they are drawing, you can see that gold shimmer. These granular ones that I was telling you about that are much more textured and more difficult to move around, and then some of them that are really smooth and flow quite beautifully; similarly to my brand watercolors. There you go. I hope that you enjoyed that. I hope that was informative to you, and if you do happen to get any handmade watercolors, let me know in the comments or in your projects, share your experiments and tell us what you've learned. Because like I said, I think every brand of handmade watercolor has its own particularities, and so they can be useful for other people to see what you've found out as well. Happy painting.