Confident Watercolors: Dealing with Mistakes | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

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Confident Watercolors: Dealing with Mistakes

teacher avatar Amarilys Henderson, Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Watch this class and thousands more

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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.

      Oops Intro


    • 2.

      Step 1


    • 3.

      Step 2


    • 4.

      Step 3


    • 5.

      Step 4


    • 6.

      Oops Class Project


    • 7.

      Oops Case Study


    • 8.

      Oops Closing


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About This Class


Ever heard or thought watercolor is so hard because you can't make a mistake? Not true. Mistakes are had. How you deal with those mistakes makes all the difference. 

In this second installment of the Confident Watercolors Series, we embrace the inevitable: mistakes! Learning to handle mistakes in watercolor is key to feeling comfortable with them. This "Oops." class will give you a step-by-step process to facing, dealing with, and correcting your own oops moments. Implementing these four steps will speed up your confidence when facing your next piece!

What You'll Learn:

  • The 4 steps to dealing with most mistakes in watercolor--complete with examples and demos
  • You'll watch Amarilys exercise these steps in a case study piece--walking through her thought process while understanding how these steps work together.
  • Gain a more accurate awareness for how watercolor paints work

Get comfortable with the process and enjoy your painting sessions more deeply!

Enroll to join our class of imperfect painters creating beautifully bold things.





Meet Your Teacher

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Amarilys Henderson

Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Top Teacher

Hello! I'm Amarilys. I process on paper and I problem-solve with keystrokes.

As a commercial illustrator, I've had the pleasure of bringing the dynamic vibrance of colorful watercolor strokes to everyday products. My work is licensed for greeting and Christmas cards, art prints, drawing books, and home decor items. My design background influences much of my recent work, revolving around typography and florals.

While my professional work in illustration is driven by trend, my personal work springs from my faith. Follow along on Instagram


Learn a variety of fun and on-trend techniques to improve your work!

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1. Oops Intro: [SOFT MUSIC] You can't make mistakes in watercolor. [SOFT MUSIC] I've made mistakes, and sometimes there's nothing you can do about them, and you learn to love them. Sometimes there is something you can do about them. Learn the steps you need to know to deal with mistakes in watercolor [SOFT MUSIC]. 2. Step 1: The first step in correcting a mistake is to remove as much of it as possible. You can blot out with a brush, a paper towel, a sponge, whatever that will soak up that pigment or lifted as some people say, from your piece, while allowing yourself control. I find that brushes the best, since my hand is already used to it's movement. But if a piece is really wet, I'll grab a paper towel. I'll show you some examples. I painted this berries as part of a Christmas design, and it got really muddy going between red and green. So I'm trying to lift as much as possible, removing it onto the paper towel. With this one, I am going to do the same thing. This blue color wasn't going to work, so I wanted it to be a different color. What I had to do was blot out as much as possible with my dry brush. Some call it a thirsty brush. With your thirsty brush, lift as much as you can. This is a classic wet on wet mistake. When you have some very wet flowers, and you use contrasting colors, and then something happens where those edges meet. I'm doing this intentionally in this case, and you have some of that colorful flower bleeding into your leaves. I like that sometimes, but if it's the green going into the flower, it really ruins the look of where the edge of that flower is. So I'm coming in with a very thirsty brush, so it's completely dry. It's much bigger, and it lifts much faster. When you're working wet on wet, you have to work very fast. It's good to have a lot of brushes around you even if you're not using them all. Here is another example of wet on wet bleeding together. You can see that I mean, these leaves already with the water, I painted them with the water, and I'm coming in with the color. But what happen is that, I find that when I put in this green, I wanted them to be two very different colors. I put too much paint on it. This is fun by the way, trying to make mistakes, and the green bled into that other leaf that wasn't supposed to be green. So basically, you're stopping the bleeding with a brush. You take a very dry brush or like I said, something else that will soak up pigment, and cutting that off. Cutting off the connection to the water by making it very dry. This example is similar to the one with the blue circle. The blue circle, I wanted it to be green, and I'll fix that later. At first, I just needed to blot it. So I painted these lips because I wanted to show what happens when you put in too much color. I really wanted to leave some translucentness in the lips. So I blot it with the brush, but I'm also adding water. With watercolor, you have the variables of water and paint. If you have too much paint, you need to take it out, and add in a little more water. If you have too much water, you'd take it out, and add a little more paint, and that's exactly what we're doing here. 3. Step 2: Something that's key in making mistakes is re-framing. Now that this bleeding happened and I was able to erase as much as I could, but it wasn't enough. Where else could this piece go? Pause and think about, is what I had in mind necessary? My original plan was to do it this way, it's not looking exactly this way. If possible, you may be able to change it to steer back to your original idea. But most of the time we have to think of what else could work well. Sometimes your worst mistakes maybe a huge advantage in your painting. I find a lot of times that my mistakes end up being something really good. I'm showing you guys some splatters. Let's say you mistakenly did these splatters while you were painting and you're devastated. Whether you like splatters or not, it's a personal preference, but let's say I really hate these splatters. I'm going to do as much as I can to remove them. I will blot them like we talked about in the first step. I'll try to remove them as best as possible but since this is so dark, I really need to be thinking about, okay, what is my plan B. How else could this look? How else could it actually be a neat design element or workout well actually in the end. You're making a gut judgment of what is most important to you in this piece and what you can let go of. In this example like I said, since it's a dark splatter, I have to kind of let go of the fact that this is going to be bright white. But it could be a light wash, it could be this light gray and I can make it as light as possible. I'm trying to remove that speckled look because that doesn't go with my painting but I can make it a light hays and that could go with my painting by softening it. Here's a mistake that I do quite a bit. I don't know why, but when I'm writing Mary for Merry Christmas, I think two rs and I write two es. In this case, what I was trying to do then was to somehow convert this second e into an r. Now I could have done this digitally. I could have just skipped that letter and kept working on since that's how my illustrations usually end up. But I wanted to give myself this re-framing challenge to be able to take this e and somehow make it look like an r. It's coming along pretty well, but I realize that I still have that curve of the e on the bottom that I'm going to need to get rid of. At this point, it's getting pretty dry. I have a wet brush instead of a dry brush and I'm going to just smudge it in there as best as I can like we did in the first part in blotting. But this time I'm needing to re-wet it and I will blot out as much as I can, but I don't want to keep going if the paper is going to start peeling. I'll come back to this later. 4. Step 3: All right. You get a taste of reworking with the last segment where I was changing me into mer. But obviously, at this point, we've already re-framed and we're trying to think of how else could this go or does it need to be fixed, and how am I going to do that. Now is the time to just go forward with that plan of action. This circle as I had told you before, the blue circle, I'm turning it into a green circle so it goes with the colors that I was planning to use. It is a little on the dark side, so I blot it. I'm still going to have that blue edge because with watercolor as the paint sits and dries, the color is pushed to the edges and I have to make peace with that. With these flowers that were bleeding, I'm bringing in the color again. When you're working wet on wet, especially, you need to wait for things to dry a bit and if they need to be wet, let's say those flower petals bleed within the flower petals, then I re-wet it and do that. But when it is wet from a mistake, I want to leave it alone and not touch it. I did the same thing with these leaves. I let it dry, mostly make sure the channel right there, that stem was dry, and then I came in with my other color. 5. Step 4: Finally, the cover up. In the watercolor world, the term is usually body-color, adding body-color. Which basically means to add an opaque water-based paint to your watercolor paints or your watercolor paintings. Anyway, I call it the cover up and there are several ways to do that. So sometimes when you're creating, you can subdue something well enough. But if your mistake is at a focal point or if it's becoming distracting, then it's time to break out the tools to cover them up. There are several things you could use. You could use Chinese opaque white. On the left, I have Dr. P.H. Martin's pen white. It's usually used for calligraphy, but I've used it a lot with my paintings and it's nice and chalky. It's my favorite of the moment. The next one beside it is acrylic white ink which is used commonly as adding details and things like that to your painting. Both of those can be applied with a brush just like the two on the right that you might be more familiar with, Gesso and acrylic paint that's used in acrylic painting most of the time. Gesso is chalky and it's thicker and acrylic will leave a plastic residue. The ones on the left are usually the ones that I use most often. But if you covering up a larger area, those on the right can be an option for you too. I'm bringing out my MER, beginning of merry again and blotting out took care of most of the color. But I'm going to bring in some white to cover it up as well. I'm going in lightly. I don't want it to be too thick, but I'll do it in layers if I feel like I don't have enough I will bring in another layer of white. I'll show you how it looked at the end and I could go back with another layer of white and make it even brighter. It is such a dark green that I used that it will take several layers. Here's another example of a painting that needed a little white. Again, I'm going to use that one on the left and I squeeze just a drop onto a scrap piece of paper so I can just throw it away. This little spot is distracting, it needs to be turned white. You'll be able to see the entire process towards the end of the class. This was a rectangular vase that I made a round face. As you can see, the white is working really well. I'm just doing very small dabs, smoothing it over so it's not super bumpy by the time I finish. Since I have a tangent, that corner is meeting right up against that leaf and you can't quite tell what's overlapping what. I added even a little sliver of white to the edge. Up next we're going to look at a couple of more case studies. But now you know all the steps for addressing those oops moments in watercolor. 6. Oops Class Project: We're going to have a quick class project inspired by the class title slide and paint a circle. So the way that I like to go about painting a circle, is I go with wet on wet. So I'll start with a watery circle and then I'll bring in the paint that I want to use, blotch it in preferably a couple of different colors. But the next thing that you're going to do, is to actually change its color. Earlier I showed you how I changed the color on this circle from blue to green And you can choose your colors, but that's going to be the assignment. Of course, the quick and easy step three is to post your project in the class project area and for extra brownie points, right, oops on top because I think it would be so funny to fill the Skillshare projects page with a bunch of oopses, but that's up to you. 7. Oops Case Study: I'm going to take you through a case study where I did this vase and I really didn't like that blocky shape. It is too late to blot. So I'm going to have to skip step one and go straight to re-framing. I decided I want to make it round like this. Make this floral arrangement be sitting in a bowl. Because I think that that would go better with my design here. I felt like that rectangle was just too boxy. I thought it would offset all the organic shapes I have going on up top, but instead, I tried it and I didn't like it. What I'm going to do, is now that I know what shape this is going to be, I'm gong to keep that pretty light and white so that the background can be dark. Now, this may not rock your world that I am coloring this in, but it's another example of how you can make your mistakes not show, not look intentional. I'm blurring this line by adding a lot of paint and a lot of water. I'm doing it even in a smudging way. I'm not rubbing into the paper. I'm trying to just get to that top layer, maybe the top three layers that have this paint on it, and if I still see it, I'll come back with some more color. Challenge that I have here is now that I have this dark, then I need to make a table. I prefer not to be higher than this, but if I have to bring it up, I will do that. I just use whatever I have on hand as a guide. Whoops. My spiral is getting in the way, that spiral there. Now I have to remember that that is a good bit across here to that lately. Switch my brush. The reason I was using a small brush here was for the rubbing action. Using a small brush instead of a big brush gets in there a little more because the bristles are a little closer together. But now I'm ready to fill in color, so I'm willing to go with a bigger brush. I'm not going to go very big because I want to maintain control right now. I am worried a little bit, not terribly, but since I'm fixing something I'm not going to get adventurous and use a large brush. A way to distract if covering up is not helping is to introduce another color. I'm going to bring in little pink. So the pink is going to be a bit of a distraction. So hopefully, you're not looking over here, you're looking over there, and I'm going to let this dry and then I'm going to add some details. With this white, I'm going to bring a pattern into here. 8. Oops Closing: I hope you enjoyed this class. I hope I gave you some confidence. But really there is nothing like practicing these steps over and over again to realize that it could work. The most important part is that reframing bit. You'll learn to manipulate what your piece was and make it be something even better. Sometimes people really love what are actually mistakes. So go ahead, make some happy mistakes. Don't forget to post your project and share these tricks with others.