Beyond Beginner: Tips and Tricks to Level Up Your Watercolors | Anne Butera | Skillshare

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Beyond Beginner: Tips and Tricks to Level Up Your Watercolors

teacher avatar Anne Butera, Artist. Instigating creativity and joy.

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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.

      About this class


    • 3.

      Upgrade Your Supplies


    • 4.

      Mix Your Own Colors


    • 5.

      Take Time to Observe


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Water Control


    • 8.

      The Most Important Skill


    • 9.

      One Petal at a Time


    • 10.

      Overlapping Objects


    • 11.

      Layering Color


    • 12.

      Lifting Paint


    • 13.

      Adding Details


    • 14.

      On Your Own


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About This Class

Are you frustrated with your progress learning to paint with watercolor? As a self-taught artist I completely understand how tricky it can be to work with watercolor and how much time and practice it takes to develop the skills necessary to be successful with the medium. But I also know that it's possible to develop those skills. Painting is not just a talent you're born with!

In this class you'll get suggestions, tips, tricks and techniques I learned over ten years of painting. The class is designed to help you move beyond being a beginner and get more comfortable working with the medium.

To illustrate the concepts I share in class, I give examples of my own early paintings and suggestions for what I could have done to improve them. I also take students into my painting process, sharing views of my sketchbooks and practice pages.

You'll learn:

  • The importance of using high quality materials
  • How mixing unique colors will give you the most natural looking paintings
  • That learning to study and observe your subjects will make your paintings more successful
  • How to choose the right composition
  • Learning to controlling the amount of water you use
  • The secret, most important skill you need for learning how to paint
  • How painting one petal at a time will make your flowers look more realistic
  • Tips for painting overlapping objects
  • Techniques for layering paint
  • Suggestions for manipulating paint on the paper
  • The importance of adding fine details

By the end of class I hope you'll be able to look critically at your work with an eye to what steps you need to take to improve it.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Anne Butera

Artist. Instigating creativity and joy.

Top Teacher

I'm a full-time artist, art educator and writer, but for a long time I believed I wasn't good at art and could never be an artist.

The beginning of my story might sound similar to yours. When I was a child I loved to make things, but as I grew up I "learned" I wasn't good at art and stopped making it.

But that wasn't the end of my story.

I love teaching on Skillshare because through my classes I can help YOU reclaim YOUR creativity. I know what it's like to yearn to make art but not know where to start.

Are you ready to begin rewriting your story?

Read My Blog

Get My Free Sketchbook Guide

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: I think many of us believe painting is a talent you're either born with or not, or it's a skill that if you don't develop as a child, you never will. Yet we yearn to be creative. We look at other people's art and wish we could do that too. If that wish, that yearning gets strong enough, maybe we buy some paints, pick up a brush, and try it ourselves. We paint and what shows up on the page, not the beautiful art we wish we could make, but the first tentative brush strokes of a beginner. That was me ten years ago. But instead of stopping after those first tentative brushstrokes, I kept going. I'm Anne Butera. I'm self-taught, so I learned by making mistakes, fumbling, and hitting walls, but I never gave up. It took years of trial and error, experiments, and play, but eventually I moved beyond being a beginner and today I work as a professional artist. If I had given up on my dreams, it would never have happened. I don't want you to give up either. This class is designed to help you move past the frustration of learning watercolor. I share tips and techniques I learned along the way, many of which if I had known from the beginning, would have eased my fumbling. Some are easy and quick, others will take more practice. The only way to learn how to paint is by painting. I truly believe that if I can do it, so can you. If you're ready to take your water colors to the next level, I'll see you in class. 2. About this class: I grew up thinking that I was not good at making art. Although I enjoyed it, I did not pursue art at all. I had the idea that art was a talent that you either had or did not have, when in fact, learning to paint, learning to draw, those are skills that anyone can develop if they work on them. If they have the patience and then drive and the ambition to keep going, and the courage not to give up. In this class, I'll be sharing some tips and techniques and suggestions of things that I wished that I had known when I was progressing on my artistic journey. I really hope that they will be helpful for you. Throughout this class, I'll be sharing some of my early paintings with you and you can see that they are not very good. The important thing is that I did not get discouraged and I did not give up. Very few people sit down to paint and paint a masterpiece. Or even paint something that's considered good when they sit down to paint for the first time. So please don't be discouraged. I want you to keep going. If nothing else, I hope this class will encourage you not to give up. I don't think a lot of professional artists share their early works and their failed paintings, and I totally understand why. My art and journey is not a secret, it's all out there on my original blog. I think it's important to share with my students where I'm coming from, because the bottom line always is, I want to encourage and inspire you to keep going, to believe in your beautiful dreams and to not get discouraged as you're learning to paint. It takes time. Give yourself that time. There's nothing to be ashamed at or embarrassed by if you are a beginner. I hope that all of these tips and tricks and suggestions will be helpful for you. Feel free to skip from one lesson to another to address anything that you are specifically struggling with. Throughout the class, anytime, reach out to me here on Skillshare or e-mail me, with questions or to share some frustrations. I'll be sure to get back to you. I want you to not rush through this class either. Take some time to digest each lesson and think about how you can build one skill after another. This isn't something that's going to happen overnight, so give yourself time to learn and to develop. Why don't we get started. In the next lesson, I'm going to talk about supplies because I think upgrading your supplies is one of the quickest and easiest ways that you can level up your art. 3. Upgrade Your Supplies: I always encourage my students to use what you have when you're learning how to make art. There is no need to accumulate a lot of supplies, and materials in order to have fun, and find joy in the process of creating. But when you're moving beyond being a beginner, it makes a huge impact, to upgrade your supplies. Using professional quality paint, paper, and brushes will really help improve your arts. I'll show you examples of just what I mean. I'm going to start by talking about paint, and showing you some examples. I have two sets here to compare. One of them, this watercolor pan set is by [inaudible] , and it's a very inexpensive scholastic quality set. On the package for the set, there's not a lot of information. You don't see any of the pigment names. It doesn't give you any information about light fastness or much about transparency of the colors. This is another set by Ark St. Petersburg, which is a Russian company. There's a lot more information here telling you the transparency, the light fastness. You see all these names which include the pigment names like cadmium, lemon, and matter lake red, all of them are named. Looking at the paints themselves, you can see a distinct difference. The Ark St. Petersburg paints are very moist. These [inaudible] paints are very dry. Just right off the bat, looking at the sets, you can get a lot of information about the differences between them. When we look at these paints on paper, you can see these differences even more clearly. The cheaper paints are very pale. The higher-quality paints are much richer, and more intense, a lot more pigmented. Just looking at these on paper, you can tell already where you'll find some frustrations working with the cheaper set over the more high-quality set. We're going to talk about paper now. Both of the examples were painted on this Canson XL watercolor paper. This is fairly inexpensive paper, but it is 140 pounds, which is a nice weight from watercolor paper. It is also acid free, but it doesn't tell you what it's made out of. I want to show you some swatches I created from both paints on some higher-quality paper. This paper is from Arches, also pronounced Arch by some people. It's 140 pounds, and it is cold press like the other. It's made out of 100 percent cotton. If we compare these two papers, you can see in the cheaper paints, the paint did not absorb well into the paper. You get some lines, some unevenness, some blotchiness. Looking at the cheaper paints, it's very apparent, they do look nicer on the more expensive paper. If you look at the higher quality paints on both papers, you can see that same marked difference. The paint is not absorbed well into the cheaper paper. It's not as even, it's not as uniform. You can see right away where, even using higher-quality paints will give you some frustrations, if you're using cheaper paper. Let's look at this in action. I'm going to start with the scholastic quality paint. I'm rubbing my wet brush against the pan, and trying to pick up as much paint as I can. Just looking at the brush, you can see there's not a lot of paint on there. Going down on the paper, it's beautiful, but it's not very intense. Let's try that with the Ark St. Petersburg paint. Look how different that is. It's so deep and rich. I can get some lighter tones by adding more water. That's one of the beauties of watercolor. You can get some very pale colors by just adding water. But the less high-quality paint, I just can't get the intensity of color. Trying it on the higher-quality paper, might be a little bit deeper of a color with that scholastic paint, but it doesn't get anywhere near as dark as I can get with the professional quality paint. That gives you an idea of how the different paints, and papers react together when you're working with them on the page. I just want to make a note about quality of materials. Just because something is high-quality, just because something is expensive or made in Italy like these two blocks of paper, it doesn't mean that it's going to work well for you, or that the quality is going to be the same as something else that is also expensive. These two blocks, they look like they should work really well, but both were very disappointing to me. This round one, the paint does not want to go down at all nicely on the page. It's like the paper is resisting the paint, and the water, and you're getting very erratic results. This other block, it seems at first to go down nicely the paint, but then edges begin to feather out, and bleed, and that's something you really don't want to have happen. You want to know where your paint is going down, and that it's going to stay where you put it. That's one of the things that's important to watercolor. If you're doing fine lines like these, and they begin to bleed, and get fuzzy. If that's not the look you're after, it's going to be very frustrating for you. It can be helpful to do some research, read reviews, and try things out before you buy a lot of a single supply. Let's talk about brushes. Brushes are the third supply that will help you up your game, if you upgraded your brushes. I'm going to start with this really cheap brush. This came with that scholastic set. If you're using a brush that is this low-quality, upgrading will be a revelation. Let me tell you. I'm going to see how I can do with this one. Trying to make a variety of marks. This brush doesn't really want to interact with the paper very well. It's not spreading the paint very well across the page. The bristles, the hairs are not holding together very well. I can get a variety of marks, but it takes a lot of work, and it's not very easy to use. I also feel as if these hairs will probably fall out very quickly. That's one of the other frustrations with a cheap brush. This is just not very fun to use. In contrast, I'm going to go one step up. This is a craft brush from, I think it was Michaels Craft Store in with the acrylic paints. You can see right away how much more nicely this works with the paper, but the hairs don't want to stay in a point very well, unless you have a lot of water on your brush. They're separating a bit, so that can cause frustration with the cheaper brushes. This one is a Princeton brush. I'm not sure what line, maybe just their basic line. We'll see how this one does. This one is very nice to work with. I'm getting a variety of widths of my marks. Some wider marks, some finer marks, this one is nice to work with. The brush is responsive, it works well on the paper. Finally, this is the Princeton Velvetouch long round. This is my favorite series of brushes right now. They create the wonderful fine point with the long shape of the brush. I can get a variety of marks, so I think I need some more water here. Let's try this again. The brush feels nice on your hand as well. That velvet touch handle is very soft. But as a botanical watercolor painter who paints realistically and very detailed paintings, I like to paint a lot of fine lines when I'm working. A brush like this allows me to paint really tiny details and also some wider marks, it holds a lot of paint too. Once it's loaded up with paint, I can paint very long fine lines. I will continue to paint a lot of fine lines or paint wider marks as well. That gives you an idea of what a difference different brushes make to your watercolor painting. Another thing that these fine pointer brushes will allow you to do is paint right up against another object. If you're painting overlapping objects or two parts of a flower that are butting up against one another, the very fine pointed brush will allow you to do that, so you won't have a lot of overlap with your brush strokes and it'll give you very clean distinct lines. I want to show you some examples of some paintings. Here is an early painting of mine. You can see there's a lot going on here. I was very much a beginner when I was painting this. There's some issues with the way the paint is going down on the paper. Looking at this, it's clear I was using lower quality paint, lower quality paper, and also brushes. Some of these lines are nice. These little buds are fairly distinct but some of the lines are not very even. You can see that the wobble a bit. Some of that is due to skill but also just by the quality of the brush. Knowing that you're going to get a fine line or even line with a high-quality brush as I showed earlier, that's just not happening here. Also, the way the paint is reacting with the paper, it looks almost as if some of these areas are damaged possibly from multiple layers of paint. The way the paint is bleeding and blending together on the page is not very even and not very controlled. Part of that, I'm sure is due to the paper. You can see here, almost looks like the paper is damaged by too much paint, too much attention from the brush. That painting, although the skills weren't quite there yet, having some better quality materials would have improved the painting. Here's a more recent painting. It's another paint in a pot, although a different type. You can see the paint is blending in more interesting and controlled ways because it's a better paper and better paint. The details here are very fine and distinct. The overlapping areas are with neat edges, unlike with this earlier painting. The blending of colors is a lot nicer, the way the paper and the paint reacted. Here's another example. You can see the overlapping leaves on both of these more recent paintings, it's a lot neater. The brush was able to get close. Also the blending here in this pot is just very even and nice. Was a lot more interesting effects going on, thanks to the high-quality paper and paint and also brushes. Here's another early painting. You can see some of those same issues going on. The blending of a paint is not very even. The blending in this pot, the edges of the leaves is a little better than the other one, but there's still some issues with how the paper is reacting to the paint. I can see it's not very evenly absorbed into the page and the colors, when there's a couple of colors together, they're not blending very nicely. Some of these details are painted more carefully than in the other painting. It could be that the brush I used was better than the brush I used for the other painting, but the quality of the brushes still not there. One more thing, these veins, I'm pretty sure I used a pin or a needle to scratch the paper to create these veins. You can see some damage to the paper from that effect especially over here. If you touch the paper, you can feel that it's rough from the paper, slightly disintegrating. A higher-quality paper will take those effects a lot more nicely. Here's a more recent painting. You can see again, the overlapping areas are a lot cleaner and neater. The blending and interesting effects in the pot are more controlled. Higher-quality paper allows that to happen without the uneven blending that you get in the cheaper papers. You can see the lights and darks in these leaves, the details in the flowers. A lot cleaner and neater also in this painting. Of course, some of this is due to skill, yes, because I had practiced and painted a lot between that early painting and these later paintings. But also the higher quality paper and paint and brushes allow you to do things that the lower quality materials do not. I hope that now you have an idea of how big of an impact it can have to your art to upgrade your materials. One thing I didn't talk about was how there's a vast array of different brands and types of paints, papers and brushes. You don't have to use the same brands that I prefer using, but I've included my favorites in the handout for this class. I'm also linking to my YouTube frequently asked questions videos where I talk in depth about the different supplies I like to use. Now, when you look at your paintings and are feeling frustrated, maybe you'll see that it could be the materials themselves that you're feeling frustrated with. 4. Mix Your Own Colors: Probably the most important thing that you can learn that will help improve your watercolor painting is how to mix your colors. Now, I know that probably sounds simplistic, especially since mixing colors might seem like a beginner topic. But I think that being able to mix natural looking colors will set your work apart and bring it out of the beginner stage. I'm botanical watercolor painting and I find my inspiration from nature. If you go out and look at nature, there's a whole spectrum of colors, so many colors that you can't even name them all or describe them. One color out of all of those that I work with a lot, is green. Any plant that I encounter has some green in it. The greens that you'll see in your watercolor paint palettes, or in your tubes of water color paint, are not going to look like the colors that you see in nature. If you use your colors directly out of the pans or directly out of the tubes, they're always going to look a little bit unnatural. I'll show you some examples so you can see what I'm talking about. Here's an early painting of mine. Like with the other paintings that I showed in the last lesson, there's a lot going on here that I could talk about. But I really want to focus on color. That's one thing that stands out, especially this green. If you look carefully at the green in this painting, it's not a very natural looking color. If you look at the purple in the petals of this flower, it's not a very natural looking purple. It's a muddy color. It's not a color that you would expect to see in a flower in nature. Right off the bat, if I had used better color mixes, this painting would have been more successful. I don't have another clematis or clematis flower that's the same color, but I'm going to show you a couple other paintings. This one, you can see, of course the skill has improved, but one thing that stands out between these two painting is the more natural looking colors here in the leaves and also in the petals, even though they're not the same color. They look a lot more natural. The colors are more carefully mixed. Here's another example with two different varieties of the flower. You can see the colors are all a lot more natural than in this early painting. That really sets them apart. Being able to mix your more natural looking colors, will really help improve your painting. Here's another example. This is another potted plant. Looking at this, the first thing that sticks out to me is how unnatural these greens look. I don't think I've ever seen a plant with leaves that are quite that color. If you look this brown leaf, the leaf that's dying and about to fall off. I like this color the most out of all the colors. The pot is okay, but in terms of the plant and the leaves, even the stems, that color that's in that dead leaf, it really works the best. The rest of these look really unnatural, both the darker sides of the leaves and the lighter sides. Now I don't have another, a painting of the same plant, but here's a potted begonia. You can see the colors of these leaves. Even though they're different leaf, a different plant, the color is so much more natural. Also with this organ, this warm, mossy green, a lot more natural. Here is a deeper, darker, even bluer green, but it looks a lot more natural. The color is not something that was just taken out of the painting. This one too with a couple of different colors of green. Mixing some red in your greens will give you a more natural look. These examples show you the difference that carefully mixed colors can make for your paintings. One last example. This is a nasturtium plant that I painted. This might be my first attempt at painting nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are one of my very favorite things to paint. I even have a class that shows how to paint the flowers. Looking at this painting, one thing that really sticks out to me is the color. Again, the color is just not natural looking. If you look at this stem here, the blending of colors, it just doesn't look natural. I really like the maroon blended into the stem on this part. But the greenish bluish color here, just doesn't look like a natural color. Also, these leaves, this color is very blue, and an unnatural bluish green, not something that you'd see in nature. As a comparison, this is the most recent nasturtium painting that I've painted. Of course, the level of detail and skill is a lot improved over my first painting. But if you're looking at the colors, even the colors in the flowers, the more recent picture is a lot more natural. Again, taking your time to mix your own colors will make a big difference for your paintings. Mastering the art of mixing colors will help open up a whole new world for you. Instead of being limited to the number of colors in your paint box, you'll have an unlimited amount of colors. I demonstrated in the last lessons, watching colors from a large set of paints. I do have a lot of paints in my collection. The truth is though, you do not need a lot of colors to be successful with your painting, and to have a lot of colors to work with. I would suggest, all you need are; two yellows, two blues, two reds, maybe a black, and a white. I'd also recommend some pink. Why two yellows, two blues, and two reds? Why two of each of the primary colors? I would say you need two because sometimes the color that you're using will be a warm version of a color. There are warm reds and there are cooler reds, there are warm blues and there are cooler blues. The same goes for yellows. When you use those different temperatures of colors, you will be able to get a mix that's a different temperature of color. Mixing together a green, you can get warm greens or cool greens, or something somewhere in the middle. Having two of each of those primaries just opens up your possibilities even more. Black and white sometimes are frowned upon in watercolors circles. But I like having a black because it's hard to mix a really deep dark black color. You can certainly do it, but it takes a lot of paint, it takes a lot of time, and maybe I'm just a little too lazy to mix my own. Black is also great to add to other colors to darken them, to muddy them, I don't use it a lot. White is also handy to have, not for using to create white on your painting because that's not going to work with watercolor, watercolor is to transparent. But if you use white in your mixes, it makes them kind of milky, it makes them kind of opaque. It's really helpful if you're making, let's say, sage leaves or lamb's ears, that's a plant, a grayish green color. Mixing a little white into your color will help give that fuzzy, opaque, most furry color. As for pink, pink is really hard to mix. If you take red and you mix it with white, or if you take red and you dilute it with a lot of water, you're not going to get a clear bright pink. Once I added some pink paint to my collection, it really made a difference in terms of painting pink flowers. One exercise that I would recommend for everyone is, seeing how many colors you can mix with just a few paints. Going through meticulously, adding a little bit of another color. Starting with blue, adding a little bit of yellow, adding a little bit more yellow, adding a bit more yellow, and continuously increasing the percentage of yellow in your mix to give you the fullest range of colors is an eye-opening exercise. It's also very meditative and calming, and in these crazy times, it's a wonderful practice just for the joy of it. Here's the color mixing in action. When you take three colors and see how many colors that you can create, so the yellow, the blue, and the red. So many colors can be created from just those three. The way I work, I start with one color and here I am adding some more blue to each of those. More blue here, more blue here, and then continuing along. Starting with just those two, but then after mixing the two, adding the third color in. With the three colors, the red, the yellow, and the blue, you've got all sorts of grays and browns, and there's so many beautiful colors. Here's another sheet showing you a huge range of grays, and browns, and greens, and rusts, and purples. Here's another one that I haven't finished, but just working through, seeing how many colors that you can mix because I think it's truly limitless. Just starting with those three colors and even just with two colors, all the purples and then adding the third color, you get rusts, and browns, and mossy greens, and grays, such beautiful colors. You don't need a lot of colors in your paint tin, in your paint collection, just a few will give you almost limitless colors. Here's another spread from my sketch book. On the one hand it's just some swatches of colors, but then also some mixing. Just starting with a couple colors and then adding the third color in, and you get so many interesting results. Also for greens, if you start with a green that's in your palate, and then you mix in some colors. See what happens when you add some yellow to your green, you get these colors, and you can use a cool yellow first and get some cool greens. Then you can use a warmer yellow and get some warmer greens. Then when you add some red to that you get some wonderful deep greens, and some rusts, and some browns. Just experimenting and seeing all the range of colors that you can get with just a very limited palette, it's just really amazing to me and it's almost magical. You do not need to buy brown paint, you do not need to buy gray paint, both of those are easily mixed. One thing I want to point out is that it's important to follow your own eye when you're creating your paint mixes. It doesn't matter what colors I'm using, it doesn't matter what colors are in my collection of paints, it matters what colors are in your collection and what colors you have and are using for your own art. If you're taking another class for me and I show you how to paint a plant or a flower, don't worry about recreating the exact color mix that I use. Look at your collection of paints and look at your experiments mixing colors and see what color might work. Or just be curious and wonder, what combination of colors would I like to use to make the green that I see in this plant or flower? I think you'll be most successful when you're working from your own curiosity, from your own creativity, and not trying to recreate something that someone else has done. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take other people's classes, I'm not saying that you shouldn't follow other people's examples or use their techniques. But I think that being able to have a sustainable practice and to paint anything that you encounter that you want to paint, you have to have the ability to look at something. Look at your paints, look at your memory and your experience with mixing colors and create your color mixes that way. I know this is a skill that you need to build. When I work with my beginner students, they often struggle with this, being able to create the color that they want to mix, not having confidence in their own mixing ability. I'll say be patient, work with it, practice, do a lot of color mixing, do a lot of experiments with color. When you're painting a plant or a flower, play in your sketch book, take a lot of notes. Write notes to yourself about the colors that you create. Is this color a little bit too blue? Is this color a little bit off looking for some reason that you're not even sure? Has this color gotten too muddied? Being able to look at your work with that critical eye, not saying, "Oh, this is terrible," or anything like that. But being able to critique what you do, whether it be color mixing, which is what we're talking about now, or one of the other skills we'll talk about later, that will really help you in your development. I urge you just to be patient, enjoy the process, and have fun playing with color. Here's another example of some sketch book pages that are helpful. If you record the colors that you're mixing, not just your experiments but also when you're trying for a specific color, make notes, which colors did you use? Here are some purples that I was creating for some viola flowers, and some greens that I was creating for those viola leaves and stems, and I wrote down meticulous notes about what colors that I used. That way if I want to recreate those same colors in another painting, I'll know what I used. This page shows the colors that I mixed for my favorite clay pot color. One of the things that's great about this mix is that the cobalt turquoise creates such an interesting effect. The color, that pigment will granulate out of your mix, and so you get some modeled shading in your mix, the colors coming out of that mixture. It creates a really interesting effects. Keeping track of the colors and how they work is also really helpful. That cobalt turquoise light is fun to play with to get some interesting effects. They aren't very controllable, which makes it fun and interesting too. I hope talking about color has opened your eyes to a whole range of possibilities, and I hope you'll spend some time playing with your paints, experimenting, being curious, being open to possibilities. Asking yourself, what would happen if I mixed this and this? What would happen if I use a little bit of more of this color? Being able to experiment like that, being open to ideas and possibilities, being curious about color will really help you as you move through your creative journey. 5. Take Time to Observe: In addition to being able to mix the colors you see, one of the most important skills that you can hone is observing itself. So as a botanical artist, I spend a lot of time observing in my garden and taking what I grow up to my studio and observing it there. The two most useful tools for my observation are my eyes and my pencil. Look at the flowers. What shapes do you see in the flowers? How do the petals attach to one another? What patterns do you see? What different colors do you see? What are the shapes of the leaves and how do they attach to the stem? How does the flower attach to the stem? Then in your sketchbook, what you're doing is just observing with your pencil or with your pen. So taking what you see and putting it on paper. All those curiosities, all those questions that you ask, get answered with pencil or with pen. Then when you sit down to create your painting, you know what it's going to look like, and that will help you be more successful. But it always starts with your eye looking, asking questions, comparing one flower to another. How are these flowers petals different from another flower? Are the petals the same color on both sides? Is the flower symmetrical? What about the leaves? Are the leaves symmetrical? Are they opposite one another or on the stems? What do the buds look like? Then take those questions and answer them on paper. Take those questions and work them out with what you see, so that when you sit down to paint, you won't be floundering. You won't be asking yourself, what does a bud look like as you're painting it, because you'll already know. So don't skip the observation part, look carefully. Look at the leaves, look at the flower buds, look at the centers of the flowers, all of those things. You can then work out and capture on paper, observe, ask questions, write down questions in your sketchbook, write down your observations, get very detailed, and then that will help you when you're doing your final paintings because you'll know what your subject looks like. If you're not painting realistically, then you don't need all the details in your painting. But if you are painting realistically and you are painting detailed botanicals, the sorts of paintings that I paint most frequently, you need to observe those details. Take a look at how the leaf attaches to the stem, how the flower attaches to the stem, how that stem attaches to the flower, how many petals are there in a flower. Do they all look the same? What do the flower buds look like when they're teeny tiny? How do they progress from smaller to larger? Count how many veins are in a leaf. Are the same colors everywhere in the stem or is the stem multiple colors? What parts of the flower bud do you see? What parts of the flower and the leaf do you see? Are all the leaves the same? Do they face the same direction? It's really helpful to ask yourself all these questions and to truly take the time to observe. I love observing the flowers and plants in my garden right where they grow and I'll often bring my sketchbook outside, and nestle myself in-between my plants to sketch. But when it comes time to creating a painting from what I'm observing, I find it most helpful to bring the flower or plant or stem or whatever it is up to my studio where I can take time to fully observe it without any distractions. There is no other plants in the way blocking my view. I can take the flower and look at it from all angles. I can see every part without having to squint because I'm far away or without having to imagine what it looks like. Those sorts of problems I also encounter if I'm working from photographs, because often in a photograph not everything will be in focus or not everything will be in the frame. So you may wonder, what does the leaf really look like, or how does that stem connect to the other stem, or how does that flower connect to the rest of the plant. Being able to see that up-close and personal makes all the difference in the world. So look first with your eyes and then observe with your pen or your pencil, capturing the details, what you see. It's also helpful if it's not the summertime to use photographs that you've taken. Then when you sit down to create your paintings, you will be able to be more successful because you know what that plant looks like. You've spent the time to observe, you've taken the time to truly see, and then painting becomes so much easier. I want to show you a few more sketchbook examples. Here's a page that I worked from photographs. I taped the photographs into my sketchbook and then I observed on the opposite page. I wrote myself all sorts of notes, I asked questions, I wrote notes about colors and included some color swatches here. I observed things like how the leaves in stem were almost fuzzy, how they were pale, and I sketched things out, but also wrote lots and lots of notes. This is so helpful for you to do, write notes to yourself so that you remember. Here's some sketches of some poppies that I did, and I just kept doing more sketches, observing the different parts separately, observing them together. Here's another page with some photographs that I printed out and then I sketched. Again, use good photographs that you've taken where you can clearly see your subject and it makes it easier to sketch then. Here's some flowers that I sketched and looked at the leaves separately, looked at the side view of the flower, looked at the back view of the flower, behind, I wrote here. This one's sketched some zinnias on a cold, rainy, dark day and sketched them from different directions. This is just pencil and paper. It's so helpful, especially if you don't have confidence in your drawing abilities. The more you do it, the better you'll become. Here's a page where I was working out. I have my sketch here, but I was also working out the colors, figuring out just the right reds, just the right greens for my painting, and testing out a couple different kinds of techniques to see what would work the best. Then capturing all of my color swatches here, which is one of the most fun things for me. Another page with a combination of pen and watercolor, looking at the different parts of the flower, taking notes again, pinstriped stems I wrote, and it's just a part of the fun process in addition to being helpful. Here's a page, it's a little different because I actually taped in a stem of the plant, and then I did my sketches on different pieces of paper, watercolor paper, and taped them into my sketchbook that wouldn't work as well with watercolor. So I did my watercolor sketches on a scrap of paper, tested them out, and then taped them in my book. This was from a recent online art event that I was a presenter at and I am taking a look at the different parts of the plant, painting them with watercolor, painting swatches, sketching them with pen, and then also gluing or taping the leaves and petals. So this is a great reference for you. I want to show you some examples of what happens if you aren't observing well. Here is an early painting of mine, of a rose and again, there's a lot of other things going on. One thing I see is that the way the stems are attached to one another, how the stem attaches to the flower, that is not very clear in the painting. My guess looking at this, is that I didn't take enough time to observe the plant so that I could paint it the way it really looks. This little painting also could have benefited from some more observation. Looking at it now, it looks as if I don't have a clear idea of what the plant really looks like, especially these leaves. If I had spent some more time observing them, how they attach to the plant, what their shape is, what those stems really look like, I would have been more effective at capturing the plant on paper. One thing I haven't mentioned is that having a sketch on your paper before you paint, really will help you be more effective. In this case, if I had sketched out the flower before I painted it, I wouldn't have the problem that I have here where the stem is not in the proper place. The stem should be in the center of the flower, not off-center here. So although I love the look of all these petals, they're really beautiful, the painting is ruined because the stem is in the wrong place. So a little bit more work observing before you start painting, sketching before you start painting, sketching on your watercolor paper before you start painting, really pays off in the long run. I've shown you this painting already, but I wanted to come back to it because I think, especially with this flower, if I had spent more time observing the flower before I painted it, it would look less awkward. So after I've painted distortions a lot of times over the years and I know what they look like, and this flower just doesn't look right to me and I think part of it is that I didn't take the time to fully observe what the petals look like, how the petals fit together, all the different parts of the flower. If I had spent more time observing, it would have helped me be more successful. Here's one more example, and this painting, much of it is very carefully rendered, but these roots, they do not seem to fit with the rest of the painting. I know the reason is that the leaves, the stems, the flowers, the flower buds, the spent flower, all of those things I was able to directly observe. But when it came time to paint the roots, I did not dig these tubers up out of the flower pots and observe the roots with my own eyes. So these roots, they are fairly fanciful. They do not seem to fit with the rest of the painting. So here's a warning for you. If you haven't been able to observe something, don't paint it. I hope that now you're ready to take what you've learned about observation and apply it to your next painting. 6. Composition: Before I demonstrate some more techniques for you to practice, I want to talk about something that will help you be more successful as you are choosing what to paint and creating your paintings. That is composition. If you choose a composition for your painting, that is appropriate for your skill level, you're going to be more successful. If you choose a composition that's going to be a little too challenging for you, that's when you can run into some problems. But if you choose compositions always that are too simple for you, you're never going to learn some of the more advanced techniques. There's always a fine line and it's always a balancing act. More than anything though, I want you to just be conscious of composition. As you are creating your paintings and planning them out, I want you to think about how you may arrange the items in your painting for your finished piece to be the most successful it can be. There will be a lot of experimentation in the process and that's a good thing. I just want to share a few examples so that you understand what I'm talking about. The simplest composition is simply a single object on a page. That object can either be a simple object or more complex object. These flowers and this tomato have some overlapping areas that make them a little more complex. You could certainly simplify where you put the stems, but they don't have leaves, they don't have multiple flowers, they don't have other stems or buds. The flowers are mostly facing the front, which makes them easier to paint. These are the most simplified version of these subjects. Adding leaves, having a couple stems and multiple flowers will make your composition more complex and a little harder to paint. One way to make a more interesting composition is to paint multiples of the same object. These three leaves are one example of a fun composition. Then this, which is a lot more complex, all of these acorns in a circle. Each of the acorns themselves is very simple and yet putting them together makes an interesting and more complex composition. You can build the complexity of your paintings by adding more and more objects and having more and more overlap. In this way you can build your skills and your confidence. More complex than a single object, a plant in a pot can still be something that you can simplify. Here each of the leaves is painted separately. These stems don't have a lot of overlap. The leaves don't overlap. There's a little bit of overlap of the stems with some of the pot. This was an earlier painting of mine, and I was able to be more successful with it, than some of the others because I was able to simplify the subject. Here's another early example of a plant in a pot where I simplified things. There's a little bit of overlap in the stems, but the leaves are all separate and not overlapping anything at all. The painting is more successful because of it. I think this is the first orchid I ever painted. Although it's not perfect, it really helped me to build my confidence. There is some overlap of the leaves and the stem. The paper I don't really like the color did not stay in one place and it bled a bit. If I had a different paper, it would have been more successful. But I kept it simple. There's one stem, there's one flower pointing forward. There're some buds, but nothing overlaps other than the leaves and the roots. There's no overlap, which makes it simpler. If you compare this more recent painting, there's a lot of overlap. There's overlap of the flowers. There's also complexity in that the flowers are facing different directions. There are buds that are open and I'm partially open. This is much more complex. But I was able to build towards this complexity by first starting in a more simple manner. Looking back at this painting, I can compare it to a progression of complexity. You can see in the first one there's not a lot of overlap. In the second, there is some overlap and then the third here, there's lots of overlap. You can see that with this painting, it's a simpler composition with not a lot of overlap. Then here, and this painting, there's a lot of complexity in how the leaves overlap, how they overlap the stems, how they overlap in the pot. So one way you can build your complexity is by increasing the amount of objects in your painting that overlap. Similarly, you can build your complexity by choosing flowers that have more complex shapes like this rose that has a lot of petals, a lot more than the rose campion or this painting of iris that has multiple flowers and multiple buds, lots of leaves that overlap. Another way to increase the complexity of your compositions is to include multiple subjects. This painting has three different types of plants. There's a butterfly, they're all nestled together and overlapped. This has just one type of plant, but two different colors, two different varieties. There's so many different ways that you can play with the complexity of your composition. The best way to play with your composition is to sketch out some different layouts in your sketchbook with pencil before you start painting. That way you can have a clear idea of what you want, your composition to be. By doing this, you can work up to more complex compositions before you put any paint to paper. Here's another example of an idea I was working out for a painting of sunflowers, and I wrote all notes for myself as I refine my design. Here's another one with multiple plants and I'm figuring out where exactly I want them to be on the page, so I have a clear idea when it's time to paint. This is another one with some tomatoes. It's still helpful to work out your compositions in your sketchbook and grow and plan that way. In the next lessons, I'll be sharing techniques that I think are important for you to practice and master in order to move beyond being a beginner. 7. Water Control: I want to spend some time talking about water control because I know it's something a lot of you struggle with. As I was editing and filming this class, I reached out to my students to see if there's anything in particular that was very frustrating to them as they were learning how to paint. Again and again, I heard that the biggest challenge was learning how to control the water when painting with watercolor. I totally get it, and I wish that I could give you an easy quick answer of how to master controlling water with watercolor. But unfortunately, the bad news is the only way that you're going to master that skill is by practicing and practicing and practicing. I'll give you a few tips though that will help make it easier. Actually I've already talked about upgrading your materials, paper, and brushes will make a big difference in terms of your ability to control the medium. If you are using a higher quality paper, you'll run into less of the frustrations about uneven absorption of pain. Also, you'll have fewer unexpected blooms of color where things are drawing unevenly and the paint backs up in ways you don't want it to. Let's just look at these samples we did in the other lesson. This is the lower quality paint, and on the left is the lower quality paper. You can see that it's dried unevenly. On the higher quality paper, there's more even color, and you can see that the lower quality paper, there's some lines, there's unevenness in color. There's not really blooms, but it just is not a nice, flat, even color. This is even more apparent with the higher quality paint because it's more saturated color. If you're looking at these two, you can see the difference that the higher quality paper makes, it has dried so much more evenly. There's not lines in the color. You don't see any weird blooms. The colors are very even and nicely saturated, but here on the cheaper paper you've got some blooms, there's some lineness, and it really just doesn't look as good. That's just a good reminder of what a difference higher quality materials will make. Brushes too will make a big difference, because if you're using a high quality brush that holds paint and water well, it's not going to drip when you don't want it to, and you won't have to continually add more water into our paint to keep painting a larger area. That being said, you're still going to need to practice and get comfortable using the medium. I'm going to show you a couple more examples of early paintings and some problems. This painting, the bowl, you can see that the paint did not dry very evenly. Although some of the effects I like, this edge where you can have distinct lines and a darker color right on the edge; that's because there was too much water, and the paint was pushed to the edge as it dried and it left that darker line. I could go back in there and fix that, especially if I was using a better brush, I could go smooth that out. You can see the overlapping colors the same in the tomato here. A better paper would have helped with this two, and also a better brush, but control of the water is the big thing with this, because there's just too much water and it did not absorb evenly. A problem with absorption is obvious in this radish as well. I was trying to blend the colors, so there's the white bottom part and the dark red part. That white part dried more quickly than the red, and the red paint was trying to blend down in there, but it hit that dry area and it couldn't go any further, and that's why you have the line. Better paper would have helped with that too, but also just a more evenness of water saturation. One other quick trick that I can share with you is making sure that you have some tests scraps of your paper handy. That way you can test your brush and your water load on the brush on the scrap of paper to see if you have too little or too much. Testing on a scrap of paper before working on your final painting is always a good idea because that way you don't risk ruining that painting, and you know whether your brush has too little or too much water. I'm going to do a little practice here using this Canson Heritage Watercolor Papers because it's a nice middle texture paper. I'm going to be working from some dry paint on my palette that I mixed ahead of time. This is how I prefer to work, having this dry paint on my palette. That way, I have more control over the saturation and the paint is not too wet. That's one little trick to use; mix your paint, let it dry, and then come back, and use it after it's dried. I'm going to practice with too much water, too little water, and then try and control my water. I want you to play around with this too, mostly because I want you to get a feel for what it feels like to have too much water on your brush. Try to exaggerate this and then observe what does your paper look like? What does your brush look like? What does it feel like? I'm trying to mix these two colors here on the paper. You may find that it's really difficult to force yourself to have too much water, so there it doesn't even look that bad. But then experiment, what is it like to try and paint fine lines with too much water? How does the paper look? How does your brush feel? Then how does it dry in the end? Just try filling your page with all these experiments, different mixing experiments, just different mark making. Let's try and mix some colors up here. You may need to pull up more water and observe how do those colors mix together? What kinds of lines do you make if you're trying to make a fine line and there's too much water on your brush? If you're trying to fill up a large space and there's too much water on your brush, what happens? I'm finding it very difficult to use too much water. It's just not natural for the way that I work. What's even harder is trying to work with too little water. What happens if there's not enough water on your brush? One thing is that the water or the paint does not spread. It looks dry, it's uneven. It's what I'm noticing, and these fine lines actually aren't too bad. My brush is already moistened from working with too much water. Maybe I should have started with too little water. I hadn't really thought of that. Here I'm making one color, and then we'll try and blend them on the paper and see how different that looks from the too much water. They're blending to some degree. You may even blot your paper if you're finding that it's too much water or just the right amount. You can see the wet places. They're already starting to wave and buckle. The paper is buckling. Let's try and blend some other colors here. Actually, this is not too bad. They're blending nicely. Again, it's hard to force yourself to work with too little water. I switched to an unused brush which is a lot drier. You can see how hard it is for me to try and paint a fine line without enough water on my brush, and of course, I am exaggerating this. I want you to exaggerate it too and just experiment and play. Looking at those blending, that's not too bad. Let's try blending something that's really dry here and see what happens. Because both of these are dry paint, they're not going to blend. Let's try over here on this edge too. That's just too dry. If you have too much water, it's not going to blend nicely. If you have too little, it's not going to blend nicely. In addition to blotting your paper, you can also blot your brush if you find you have too much water on it. I like to just blot the side of the brush. It'll pull up the water without taking off too much of the paint. Just dry the brush a bit, and then remember to keep your swatch scrap handy so you can test. Once you have exaggerated too much water and too little water, I want you to play with controlling your water. Make some nice washes, make some fine lines or some lines of varying width, and try different saturations of color. Lighter saturations and darker. If it seems uneven, you can go back and move the paint around a little bit as long as it's still damp. If it's too absorbed into the paper, you're going to start pulling paint up. Experiment and get a feel for it. If your brush starts to get dry, you can pick up more paint or pick up more water, and you can go back, and you can adjust anywhere that looks uneven. But again, remember, don't go over your paint too much because then you'll start to pick up the paint instead of putting it down. Fine lines can be difficult, and it's great to practice lighter fine lines and darker fine lines and experiment with making medium-sized lines. Maybe even draw with some pencil first and fill in different widths of lines, and just practice. It might also be helpful to, instead of painting, swatches or squares or rectangles, paint shapes. Maybe paint some leaf shapes. I guess I have leaves on the mind because as I'm filming this class, it's fall, and so I see lots of leaves around. Of course, you can also practice on an actual painting instead of page of swatches. It's really up to you what you're most comfortable with. I think it's helpful to just play with the paint outside of the context of painting something specific. If in your practice, your paper gets too wet, you can always blot it and then come back and paint over whatever it is that was too wet. An alternative would be to let that fully dry and then paint over it. But just fill up a whole paper with different practice can be helpful. Here, this leaf, I want to blend some colors, and if it's too wet, they won't blend nicely. You can experiment with blending with different amounts of water. One thing that is helpful to keep in mind is that paint will blend most nicely if both colors, both paints that you're using, are at the same wetness. If one is really dry and one is really wet, they aren't going to blend nicely on the page. I want this orange to dry a little bit, so let's paint some more. The skill of blending colors is a slightly different skill than that of control of the water. But I think that control of the water is so important to how colors blend on the paper, that you can practice both of those things together. Let's go back to this first orange leaf and add in some other color here, some red. Be careful, don't put your hand on wet paint. I'm going back and just touching the edge of this leaf with the tip of the brush. You can see if you dab the brush or if you stop moving the brush, that will drive more color into the orange. We can try it with this one. This is a lot drier, so I don't think it's going to blend as much. The color is not going to be driven into that orange. It's just going to sit along the edge, which is also a good skill to have because sometimes you want the colors to not blend. Let's try this third leaf here and see what happens. This looks like a nice amount of wetness. We can come back in here, and there you saw I stopped my brush, and the color was driven in there. Anytime you stop your brush or dab your brush, the color will spread. Now that everything is dry, we can take a look and see what happened. Here where there was too much water, you can see how things blended. You can also feel the paper. This is still slightly buckled because of how much water I used. You can see where the color was pushed to the edge, how I talked about earlier. When you have too much water, the color comes to the edge. There's almost a line. You can see here where the colors did not blend because there was not enough water, and here they blended okay. Then take a look at all of these experiments, see how smooth they are, how you may need to have another layer. This was maybe a little too dry. There are a couple of lines in there, but here are leaf shapes, and you can see how they dried, how the colors blended. The maroon and red is a little more distinct now that it's dried. You can see where things blended and bled and didn't. Practice, practice, and more practice. That will help you get more comfortable. I hope that helps with your thinking about how to practice and how to improve your control of water. Again, the most important thing to remember is that you need to keep practicing. The more you practice, the more you paint, the more comfortable you'll become, and eventually, it won't be quite as mysterious. Even today, sometimes when I'm painting, I will put a markdown and think, "Oh, there's too much water, or oh, I need some more water." That's okay. This is not an exact science, it's an art, and so, just learning to go with the flow is one of the most important things you can do. In the next lesson, I'm going to share the number one skill that will help you move from being a beginner, and I can guarantee you that it's probably not something that you thought I was going to say. 8. The Most Important Skill: I'm guessing that you may have some suspicions about what I would consider the number 1 skill you should learn when you're developing your abilities with watercolor, or truly with any other kind of art. The skill that I would say is the most important for you to exercise and for you to practice, and for you to master, is the skill and the art of patience. You're going to need patience when working with watercolor, you're going to need patience with building up your skills, and you're going to be learning and exercising your skill of patience as you are developing your artistic abilities. It's not going to be an overnight thing, it's going to take time. I think accepting that and understanding that helps take some of the pressure off that you might be feeling. Take a deep breath, and know this will take time. Take a deep breath and know you need to be patient with yourself, as well as with the process. Be gentle with yourself, be kind with yourself, and know that good things take time. Patience is also really important with watercolor, because, with watercolor, you need to be doing a lot of waiting. You need to wait for paint to dry, you need to wait for the paper to get to the perfect level of saturation so that when you're mixing colors on the page, or trying to curate blends of colors, you're working at the right time. If you rush things, if you do things when the water and the paint aren't ready, you're not going to be successful. Knowing that will really help you as you're working through the process. I think it's a really wonderful thing to learn too, patience is something we all need in all areas of our life and to be able to not rush things, to be mindful, to be present, that's a really important gift that you can give yourself, especially during times of stress and times of transition. Slowing down, taking a deep breath, settling into the moment, and knowing that things will take time, that is a wonderful, helpful skill for you to have. When you're present and when you're slowing down, that's when you get to the really good stuff, that's when you can observe, that's when you make connections in your brain, that is when you have epiphanies and when you can move forward. This is not something that you can rush, it's not something that's going to happen overnight, and that's a good thing. I've been learning to paint now for 10 years, and I'm really excited to see what the next 10 years will bring. Not just to things like success, but to things like learning new skills, trying new things, it's a really exciting thing to think about. It's exciting to think about where my style will progress. Looking back over the last 10 years, it's interesting to see how my style has progressed to the point it has gotten today, and I'm hoping that you will have the same kind of understanding as you move through your journey as well. I'll say again, the most important skill that you can have throughout all of this process and while working with watercolor is patience. Settle in, get comfortable, and we're going to keep going. I'll share some more tips with you to help you develop your skills with watercolor and move beyond being a beginner. 9. One Petal at a Time: I want to share some skills that will really help you improve your watercolors. The first one I want to talk about is waiting for one area of your painting to dry before painting something that butts up against that area. The best practical application that I have found for myself, for my paintings, where I've seen a huge difference painting this way is when I'm painting flowers. That one area is one petal and the second area is a second petal. Roses are a great example of this. Here are some early paintings that I was really struggling to do. I was struggling to create a rose that looks like a rose that has separate petals, that has a separate center and yet I was painting the flower as one entity and trying to get all the lights and darks as one thing instead of painting the petals separately. Here I tried to differentiate the petals and yet it just wasn't working. When I started painting the petals separately it made a huge difference. Here's an example of a study with lots of different roses and I was experimenting to see what I could create. You've seen this already but it's clear how separate each of these petals are, the center is separate from the petals. Here's a peony flower that I painted really early on and I was struggling to get the look of the multi petal peony flower by painting just one thing, the flower, and it didn't work. If I were to paint these petals separately, like in this painting, it would suddenly look like a peony flower and not just a blob. Key, paint each petal separately. This one too even though the petals are not overlapping, they're not even touching, painting it with the petals and the center as one entity instead of separate parts was just not successful. You can see how different it looks when I paint the petals separately, when I paint the center separately and let each thing dry thoroughly before painting the next. Again, this is something where you'll be practicing patience waiting for one petal to dry before painting the other petal. But when you paint this way, it's amazing what a difference it makes. 10. Overlapping Objects: Similar to the skill of painting one petal beside another petal, is painting one object in front of another object. This is something that I was pretty nervous about in the beginning. Here are some examples for you to take a look at where I was struggling with painting one object in front of the other. The paint does not go right up to the edge and part of that is skill and part of that is materials. Having a brush that doesn't have a very fine point will make it very difficult to paint right up to a narrow edge like that, so it's important that there isn't a gap with white space, or that you can see the paint overlapping one color over another because watercolor's transparent. It's really something that you need to practice and having better materials helps too. You've seen this painting before as well. Here in the pot where there's that shadow, that second layer of paint that I painted, it doesn't go right all the way up to those stems. So making sure that when you paint second layers or third layers on top of one color, that you bring that layer over the whole area so that you have the neatest finished appearance. If you look at some of my earlier paintings to make it easier for myself, I simplify the composition so there weren't different objects in front of one another. But learning to be able to have one object in front of the other will make a big difference to your paintings. Any page with watercolor marks on it will work for practicing painting one object in front of another. This is where having a nice tip on your brush makes a big difference. Starting out, I'm going to wet my brush and then I'm going to pull up some paint from my palate, working with the same colors that we had before, and just making sure my brush is nicely saturated. I'm just going to start painting right up to the edge of this green shape. This edge is not a perfect edge, so that'll make it a little bit more tricky. You'll have to decide if you want to paint right up to the first color and have a little bit of overlap or if you want to leave a little bit of the white, you could always go back in after you've painted your second color. Even if it's the same color, it doesn't matter. You can go back with the first object and paint another layer over it and that way you can clean up that edge. Cleaning up your edges is always a good idea. If you haven't gotten a clean edge the first time around, you can always go back and fix things. I'm continuing here with this orange. This is just going to take practice if you haven't done much of this. I'm going back in here where I had left the white space. I decided I want to come and overlap a little bit more. Some of that green is going to show through, but if we saturate our color a bit more and have a bit of a darker orange that'll help cover up some of those green bits that weren't quite smooth. Having a smoother paper will make this easier as well. This is the cold pressed with a bit of some texture to it. If your paper has less texture, it'll be easier. Well, you just practice. If you have a bunch of shapes on your paper, you can practice taking your line right up to the edge of the painted shape and get more comfortable. You can start out working really slowly along that edge to be more precise and then in your larger areas, you can work more quickly and move the paint into that space. Another thing I want to remind you, use your little test papers. So test to make sure you have enough paint, you have enough water. That you like the color that's coming up. If it's saturated enough or not saturated enough and use that before you put your brush down on the paper. You can also use that to make sure that the line that you're getting is fine enough. So just take your time and be patient. As I said, patience is your most important skill that's going to serve you well and just work on getting a nice clean line and a nice clean overlap between your objects. Because I often have leaves that overlap, I'm going to just paint another leaf over here. I know that first shape doesn't even really look like a leaf, but less pretend. Here is another orange leaf, the same color. I won't add those other shades in there, which is practice. Here again, having a sketch would help, but just practice imagining what different objects you might overlap. Again, if you need to blot any mistakes that you make. It's always helpful. Something that I think sometimes you don't think about with watercolor is that you can blot the paint in areas where you don't want it. So there's idea of a leaf behind that first one that we painted. Now one thing that's a little trickier is overlapping fine lines. For example, in my work, I often have stems that are overlapping. It is difficult to do until you build the control and the small motor skills necessary and get comfortable with the process. One thing that I find helpful is to make a slight line along the first stem and then fill in the second stem. That line is where the two stems overlap. It helps give it definition, and it helps the paint stop. So you aren't overlapping the paint and you don't have a messy edge. Of course, you can fix any messiness and I'll show you that in another lesson. By working slowly and taking your time and stopping your paint with that other line that just runs along the edge of your first stem will help you to keep from having messy overlap. Remember to take your time as I said before and take time for practice. Don't rush the process of learning which I think is what I've said all along. Don't rush the process of learning, take your time to enjoy it. Take your time to get really comfortable with it because the only way to learn how to paint is by painting. You have to paint a lot to really get comfortable. As I said before, patience is your most important skill. Once you relax into that it becomes easier. I'm going to demonstrate one more practice of painting overlapping stems. I think it's really helpful to practice this over and over. With that you just have to be careful and slow and patient. As with the larger overlapping areas, also make sure that you're always moving your paper so you're working at the most comfortable position and so that you can really see what you're doing. If you have a sketch on your paper already, it will make it easier. Here I didn't sketch anything out and I'm just winging it. You may want to do a sketch first as you're practicing. Also make sure you don't set your hand down anywhere where there's wet paint. That's a little bit too much water and a little too much paint. I can dab that and that will fix the problem. Also, if you overlap where you don't want it to, you can dab your paper to fix that as long as your color isn't too staining. Then you can go back and fix it. Either let it dry all the way and then fix it or come back while it's still wet. Again, I want you to practice this if you're not already comfortable doing it and see how cleanly you can get your objects to overlap. Also, challenge yourself to paint. Smaller objects or larger objects or whatever overlapping objects scare you the most, just practice that and see. Let's see. Why don't we an orange on orange? Because often your objects that are overlapping will be the same color. Again, use your scrap to test out the color. Make sure that it's right, and then come in and paint your line. Again, there's no hurry. There's no rush. Remember to breathe. know I was first learning how to paint and I would be painting something I was a little nervous about, I would always hold my breath, which I think makes things more difficult. It's also not very healthy. Remember to breathe and just take your time, enjoy the process and have fun with it. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. I'm going to come back here and just darken this green. When you're working with small areas and it's not very saturated, it will dry pretty quickly. You can add branching-off areas. Practice with that. Practice overlapping different objects. You could fill a whole page with experiments like that. Also going back in and adding more color can always help. You can start out with a paler version of your color and then come back in and add some more. Just building up the color. After you paint is dried, you can come back and add some differentiation between your objects. Right here I'm just testing out a gray color to make a very subtle narrow shadow. I'm going to start with these leaves. I'm just going to paint a very fine line to help make the leaf that's on top pop up from the page of it. Just make sure that you test your line out first before you put it on your paper. There, that just helps really differentiate those two shapes. I'll do that on the other side even though there's already some differentiation because that first leaf is a darker color than the bottom leaf. But just painting that really fine darker line helps give a little more definition. Even when the shapes are totally different colors, you can add a bit of a shadow, just a tiny fine line. It's really up to you if you want a fine line, if you want a thicker line, I can come back here and make that line thicker. Tested out again, see. I think I need a little bit more water. I'll come back in here and just slowly add a bit more of a shadow line. That just helps those two objects to seem as if there's one in front of the other. This can also be helpful here for our orange and green shapes where there's a little bit of an overlap of the paint. Adding in that shadow color will help disguise it and make it look more intentional. Practice and experiment and see what happens when you add a very fine line to differentiate your shapes. I hope that as you create your next painting, you'll be thinking about objects that are in front of one another and challenging yourself to see how you can paint one in front of the other and be successful. 11. Layering Color: Layering color is something that will help give your paintings depth. In order to be successful with that, you really need to master the skill of water control. But I'll show you a few things to make it easier. Adding additional layers to your paintings can do some amazing things. I'm going to show you on this too much water example, how we can fix this blending of colors. I'm just starting by adding that first red color again. This is a fairly watery mix that I'm using because I don't want the color to get too dark. Then dropping in some of that orange, just going back over that area that looks even, it's not very dark. We can fix that unevenness, fix that blend of those two colors, and darken up that light color. Let those do their thing. Over here, this example with too little water where the color was really uneven and pale, I can go back and add more color and cover over that unevenness with another layer. Being able to darken your colors with transparent watercolor layers is one of the main techniques for working with watercolor that you should learn. You can also adjust colors by adding more layers. Adjust your shapes, so if you don't like the way a shape is looking, you can add another layer and work on that, smoothing out the edges. As long as your first layer isn't really dark and won't bleed through, you can come back and fix that a bit. You can also add subsequent layers so you don't have to stop with just two layers. If you have a very pale color that's working towards a darker color, you can use lots of layers. This little example here with the blending that did not lend because the paint was to dry, we can fix that blend by adding the second color, that bright chartreuse color, just on the edge where it was, and I added a little extra so it's fanning out to the edge. Then in the aqua, I'm just going to use plain water and that water is going to touch where the chartreuse color is. I'm pulling some of the color over. Just blending that clear water over the aqua and that chartreuse is going to bleed and blend into the blue. Here where there are lines in our color and our colors pale, I can come back and fix those lines, darken the color. I can also fix the edges like I did with the red example. Make the rectangle a little neater by adding this other layer. Anytime you're not liking how your painting looks, think about what would happen if you added another layer. Down here, this little leaf where the red did not blend into the orange, if you didn't want that effect, you can come back and cover the whole shape with some clear water and let that soak in a little bit, so it's no longer shiny and then come back after it's soaked in and add some of the red. The red is going to come along the edge just like we did in those other examples. You can also refine and change the shape a bit. If you wanted the tip of the leaf to be a little more interesting, you can come back and add more color, add to the shape. Anywhere that you dab the tip of your brush will send more of that red into the orange and it let it blend some more. Coming back to this other example page, here is a shape where there's some blooms and unevenness. I'm going to use a sturdy or brush here. Although I'm running out of orange paint, I'm going to soak up as much as I can and using paint and also just using water, I'm going to fix this color. Coming back along these edges that are really uneven where there are some blooms, I can come back with my brush and smooth everything out. Sometimes you can just use water and that's fine, it will reactivate the paint on the page. If you don't have enough paint on the page, if it's a really pale color, you'll need to add some more paint. But I think this is working pretty well. It's just blending all those uneven areas where having a nice sturdy brush with lesser of a pointed tip can come in handy, refining those edges. The examples I showed you where there were distinct lines between the layers, that could be fixed with another layer of paint where you scrub the edges a bit with the tip of the brush. You're going to need to make sure that your paper that you're using is really sturdy paper to withstand additional layers and additional rubbing. Here, this shape to where there were some blooms because there was too much water, I can come back and add some more water and more paint and smooth out that unevenness and just fix the edges. Instead of having a messy shape, we'll have a much neater shape. I want you to think about your own work and times where you had layers that the color was uneven, or you had blooms, or your color was not dark enough and instead of despairing and thinking that it was a mistake or a problem, just look at it as your first layer. Watercolor is wonderful because it is transparent and you can build layer upon layer. It's also wonderful because those layers can help you fix problems that happened in layers below them. If practicing on random shapes works for you, go ahead and do that, or take a look at a previous painting and see if you can fix it by adding another layer. 12. Lifting Paint: Lifting paint from your paper is a really great skill that you can have so that your paintings are not completely uniform looking. This helps if you are painting things that are three-dimensional, this helps if you are painting things that have a highlight, or light parts, and dark parts. This also helps when you're doing things like painting veins, and it's definitely something that takes some practice. Before I demonstrate lifting paint, I want to show you a couple examples of some early paintings that could have benefited from lifting the paint to make the color less uniform. These two paintings, I'll show you, in contrast, those rose hips, the color was pretty uniform here. There's some lights and darks. If I had some some shading and some lights and darks in that first painting, it would have improved it. This rose, you can see there's lights and darks in these petals, which is not apparent in that other painting. When I demonstrate a couple examples of how to manipulate the paint on the paper. I'm painting a simple leaf shape, and I'm going to move the paint around. This second brush here is damp, there's no paint on it, and I can use it to push the paint and lift the paint off of the one side of this leaf. There's a lighter side and a darker side, and then I can come back and add a little bit more green paint to make the contrast between light and dark even more apparent. Practice this, lifting the paint. I'll give you another example here. Another simple leaf shape with the green paint, and this time I'm going to lift up a vein. I'll let this green leaf dry a little bit. So the paint has absorbed into the paper, it's still damp. Using a clean, damp brush, I'm pulling the paint off of the paper. It's almost like I'm painting a line, but instead of adding paint, the brush is taking paint away. Here's another leaf shape that I painted with a darker, reddish color, and since this color is darker and absorbed slightly more, it's going to take a couple tries, so be patient with this. Just move your brush gently and it'll pull up the color. Let's paint another leaf here. This one in a brighter red. Painting shapes like this, it's also a good practice for controlling the water, the amount of water on your brush and on your paper. I'm going to come back here and pull up some of the paint again, similar to that first leaf that we painted, using the damp brush and then making sure to remove the extra paint on the paper towel so that you're not just spreading more paint into the lighter area. I can use that damp brush to push and move the paint, and this gives me a leaf with a light side and a darker side. One thing that has been helpful as I've developed my watercolor skills is trying out some different kinds of brushes, and one brush that's been very helpful to use is a chisel blender, or a flat shader, a very narrow one, and I'll show you what I mean. The shader and blender brushes work wonderfully to lift up veins. Here is a damp red leaf shape, and I'm using the tip of the brush sideways to pull up my vein and then wiping the excess paint off and taking the damp brush. Just like we did with the pointed round brush, lifting up that fine line. I'm going to also show you that you can lift up color from dry paint. It takes a little bit more effort, but one advantage is that you can get a finer line when the paint is dried. You may have to go over the paint a number of times to pull up a nice clean line. Just be patient and you'll get there. Blender and shader brushes are great for cleaning things up too. Like here, I'm just neatening the edges where I had some overlapping stems. You work it in the same way you would if you're picking up some dried paint, all of these stems, if there's a little bit of a messiness of where you painted the overlaps, you can come back and lift up some of the paint and clean off those edges. It can also allow you to lighten up the centers of stems or the sides of stems and give them more of a three-dimensional look. I hope you will play with and experiment with some different types of brushes. 13. Adding Details: The last technique I want to share is adding details to your paintings. Details are a great way to move beyond being a beginner, and they also help your pieces look more finished. This early painting does not have any details really. The flower buds don't have any details. The leaves don't have any veins. If you look at the flower petals, there are no veins, there's no details in the center of the flower. In contrast, this painting, there are details in the leaves, there are details in the flower buds and also in the flower petals. In the center of the flower, there are textural marks and veins. Adding these details make the painting look really finished and a lot less like beginner work. This painting doesn't really have many details although the leaves have some nice lights and darks, and blending of colors even though the colors are not very natural-looking, there's not a lot of detail. There are a couple of veins on the undersides of leaves, but these tops of the leaves don't have any veins at all. Also, the stems, the branches, they don't have much detail. They're fairly flat colored, so they don't look three-dimensional at all. The pot has some shading to make it look more three-dimensional, but that's about it. In contrast, this painting, if you look at the stem, there's a lot of detail here. It looks a lot more realistic because of the textural marks on the stems, these leaves, this is a jade plant and they don't have veins, but there are a lot of lights and darks and shading that make it look more realistic. These two little paintings of maple seeds, these are recent and they are unfinished. They don't have any details at this point. Not having details make them look more like a beginner painting. These two flowers also, they are unfinished. In this state without the details, without them being finished, they look more like a beginner painting. Adding some details to your paintings will help move them beyond looking like a beginner. If we take a look at these maple seeds again, and contrast them to a finished painting of some maple seeds, you can see there's a lot of textural details, there's veins, and adding these details to this painting has made the piece look a lot less like a beginner painting, and it makes it look a lot more finished. Another example to contrast is this painting of zinnia. The petals are highly detailed with veins, there's some shadowing, there's details in the center, also there's the leaves and stem with some lights and darks, and veins. It's a lot more finished looking and it does not look like a beginner painting. Adding some details, you'll want to use a fine, pointed brush and test out your brush on your scrap of paper. I'm going to add some veins to this red leaf. Just using the tip of my brush, I'm painting a very fine line down the center of the leaf. Now this imaginary leaf, so I'm imagining that there are some veins on the sides radiating from the center. This is just to show you an example of how to paint these fine detail marks on your painting. These are just simple veins that are single lines. If you're observing an actual leaf in nature, I want you to look and see what those veins really look like. Here, I'm just adding a little more color to the stem itself to darken that and it will go along with the color of the veins. That's the most simple type of vein. Something else that if you observe with veins that are lighter, you will see that right along the edges of those lighter veins, there's often some darkness. Whether that's the shadow of the center or it's an actual colored line, it helps to differentiate that darker line by painting a very fine line on either side of the center. Then, again, painting some veins that are on the edges, you can either paint from the center out or from the edges to the center, and that gives you a quick idea of how to paint some veins. In addition to actual veins, you can add detail by adding some textural marks. I'm going to just use the same color red and add some really quick, fine, overlapping lines to give a sense of texture to this leaf. It's really up to you how much detail you want to use, and remember to keep your swatch test paper handy. I'm adding a darker line along that vein to help it stand out a bit. I can go back and add as much detail and darken any areas that need to be darkened like the other side of this vein as I want. Remember that observing is your first step. These are imaginary leaves that I'm painting. But I want you to observe, here, I'm just going to add some detail to these stems. Maybe a darkness between where the two stems attach to one another. That's often something that I see, or maybe a darker edge to one or the other side of the stems. Remember to observe and then you can decide how much detail you want to add. Of course, practicing helps, so here I'm going to show you one other way we can add some detail. I'm darkening along that lighter vein, and then I'm going to come back and make a contrast in lights and darks on the one-half of the leaf. It's darker near the center, and then that darkness is not even. It gives this sense of three-dimensionality. You can add a darker color here. You can layer different colors, and that helps make the leaf look more finished. I want you to practice observing and adding details. I know this just scratches the surface of the whole topic of adding details to your paintings, and my examples were simply practice. I want you to go out, observe your subject and look at them so you can truly see the details and then recreate them in your paintings. How much detail you want to add is totally up to you. As you advance with your skills, you can add more and more details. Of course, adding detail is a stylistic decision as well. There are so many different styles of art, some with more and some with less details. So that's something you have to decide as well. 14. On Your Own: I know we've covered a lot of ground during this class and there's a lot for you to think about and a lot for you to practice. Please don't feel overwhelmed. Remember that the most important thing throughout all of this, throughout your creative journey, is patience. Think about how you can start putting into practice some of the things that we've talked about. As I said earlier, the quickest thing that you can do to help improve your paintings is to upgrade your supplies. Maybe you want to start there and just see what happens when you're painting with a higher quality paper, with higher quality paints, and with higher quality brushes. Right off the bat, I hope that will help you to improve. Also, start learning how to mix your colors and practice mixing those colors. Practice your water control, practice all of those little skills, all the skills that help you refine the details of your painting and take your time with it. I don't want you to feel rushed. Remember, patience is the most important thing. It's taken me 10 years of learning to get here and I know we all have our own timeline. We all have our own natural abilities and our own natural ways of learning, so don't be discouraged if it takes you longer than someone else. We all learn at our own pace. All of our journeys are unique and that's a wonderful thing. Savor your journey, savor your learning process. Enjoy the magic of working with watercolor. I really truly believe it's magical, it's beautiful, it's joyful, and I want you to feel all of those things too. I want to say something about privacy. When you're creating, it's important to have some privacy. I don't just mean a private space for you to work, I mean that in a more metaphorical way. Don't feel the pressure to share everything you create. Don't feel pressure to post things on social media. Take some time for yourself. Let some of your art be just for you. In doing so, I think you're freed from the pressure of making things that look perfect or of making things that even look what you would consider good. I don't want you to compare yourself to other people that you see online, you see in social media, you see in stores, in galleries, whatever. Don't compare your art to anyone but yourself. I want you to take a very early painting that you've created and look at it in comparison to something that you've created recently. If you've been painting for a while, you should see an improvement. If you haven't been painting for a while, that's okay too. Take some time to develop your skills. I hope that after taking this class and working through some of the things that I've talked about, you can take a painting that you painted last week and compare it to a painting that you paint tomorrow, and that you'll see an improvement. Again, it's not something that's going to happen overnight, so be patient, give yourself time. For the project for this class, I want you to take a painting that you've created, that you're not entirely happy with and look at it through the filter of the things that we've talked about in class and think about how you can improve it. Maybe you're going to paint on better paper, maybe you're going to mix all your own colors, maybe you're going to add some details at the end, whatever it is, maybe you're going to do a lot of different things that we've talked about. Even if you just do one, I'm hoping that when you go to repaint that subject, you will see an improvement in your painting. So find a painting that you want to recreate and get going with that. In terms of privacy, and what I said about keeping some things to yourself, don't necessarily feel that you need to share or not share in this class. I would love to see what you create. I would love to give you feedback or suggestions in how you can improve. So if you share something, ask me questions if you want my feedback. Also, I'm totally okay with you posting a project for this class that is something that's just written. Maybe share a photo of some of your supplies and then some of your thoughts, because I like to see what you're thinking, and I'd like to see what things you're still struggling with and I'd love to help. So definitely tell me, what are you struggling with, what would you like to learn next? Because I love to incorporate that into my next class, or into a blog post, or into a newsletter that I write and send to my followers, so be sure to share your thoughts with me. Be sure to follow me here on Skillshare, and look over at my website and sign up. If you haven't already, you can get my watercolor guide that will take you through a lot of the things that we've talked about today, especially about watercolor supplies, that'll be very helpful. There's also a PDF here in this class that I hope you'll download. That's all for today. Thank you so much for taking my class. Thank you for painting with me. Thank you for learning with me. Until next time, happy painting. Take care. Bye-bye.