Creative Self-Care: A 5 Day Watercolor Challenge | Caitlin Sheffer | Skillshare

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Creative Self-Care: A 5 Day Watercolor Challenge

teacher avatar Caitlin Sheffer, Watercolor Artist & Designer

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

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Day 1: Washes & Affirmations


    • 4.

      Day 2: Lines & Gratitude


    • 5.

      Day 3: Shapes & Relaxation


    • 6.

      Day 4: Layers & Laughter


    • 7.

      Day 5: Applying What We've Learned


    • 8.



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About This Class

STRESS. It’s all around us! If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself tossing and turning at night thinking about your never ending to-do list, worrying about loved ones, or waking up in the morning with a clenched jaw and tight muscles. We all know stress isn’t good for our bodies or mental health, but more often than not we choose to ignore it until it manifests in ugly ways (hello insomnia, irritability, and anxiety!). In this class, we are going to talk all about how to use watercolors to alleviate stress, relax our minds, and build confidence - ALL while mastering basic techniques needed to improve your painting skills. It’s a win-win!

There are five main exercises that will be spread out over five days (although you may choose to do them in one sitting - that’s totally up to you!). Each exercise includes a demonstration of a basic watercolor technique (creating washes, brush control, layering, and composition) and ends with a unique prompt that will help reduce stress as you paint.

This is a beginning watercolor course and suitable for newcomers, but having previous knowledge of color mixing/theory may be beneficial. The stress reduction part of the class is for anyone - from uptight Type-A gals like me to total zen master Gurus. Let’s be honest - we all could benefit from a little self care!

Since I don’t want to add any stress to your life (wink wink, see what I did there?), our class project is super simple. Snap a quick picture of your work and upload to the community project section. I leave feedback on Every. Single. One! Bonus points if you share your favorite stress relief method covered in the course.


Meet Your Teacher

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Caitlin Sheffer

Watercolor Artist & Designer



I'm Cate from Emerald Ivy Studios, and I'm just a little in love with flowers, watercolors, and Diet Dr. Pepper. I'm a mom by day, artist by night, and a proud Hallmark Channel movie enthusiast. This is my happy corner of the internet where I will share with you my latest tutorials, tips, and tricks. Follow along on Instagram (@EmeraldandIvyStudios) for glimpses into my process. 


Questions/Inquiries? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or by emailing:

Based in Virginia, United States.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Stress, it's all around us. If you're anything like me, you might find yourself tossing and turning at night, thinking about your never-ending to-do list. Worried about loved ones, or waking up with a clenched jaw and tight muscles. We all know stress isn't good for our bodies or mental health, but more often than not, we choose to ignore it until it manifests in ugly ways like insomnia, irritability, or even anxiety. In this class, we are going to talk all about how to use watercolors to alleviate stress, relax our minds and build confidence. All while mastering basic techniques, needed to improve your painting skills. It's a win-win. There are five main exercises that will be spread out over five days. Although you can choose to do them in one sitting if you want. That's totally up to you. Each exercise includes a demonstration of a basic watercolor technique, such as creating washes, brush control, layering, and even composition. It ends with a unique prompt that will help you reduce your stress while you paint. This is a beginning watercolor course and suitable for newcomers, but having a little previous knowledge of color mixing and theory, may be beneficial. The stress reduction part of this class is for anyone, from uptight Taipei girls like me to total Zen master gurus. Let's be honest, we can all benefit from a little self-care. Since I don't want to add any stress to your life, our class project is super simple. Just snap a quick picture of your work and upload it to the community projects section. I leave feedback on every single one and bonus points, if you share, your favorite stress relief method covered in the course. Thanks so much, and let's get started. 2. Supplies: The supplies needed for this class are super simple. It's basically all you need to get started with watercolor painting. Just some paper, some brushes. I use brown brushes. I used the Princeton Heritage line. I, specifically, use a size 16 which is pretty large. I use this when I do washes, which is the first exercise we're going to do, so it might be beneficial to have a bigger round brush. Then, I also use a size six the most in this class, so that's good to know. Then, you'll want some paint. I have a paint palette that I made myself with tubes. I just squirted the colors into my palette and let them dry. But you can also use a pallet that's pre-made. I bought this on Amazon and it's awesome. That's pretty much all you need to get started. You'll also want to have a jar of water and a paper towel. 3. Day 1: Washes & Affirmations: Welcome to day one, for our first exercise, we will be practicing deep breathing and positive affirmations, while we make these beautiful watercolor washes, we will be using the wet on wet method, which means we will be adding paint from a wet brush to already wet paper. This is a soothing exercise for me when I'm feeling stressed, watching the colors blend together is mesmerizing, take a few minutes to get used to this technique, and when you feel ready, you can add in our self-care prompts. Every time you drop in a new color, I want you to pause and take a few deep breaths, you can put your hand on your chest, do that a few times. As you spread the paint around, I want you to practice positive affirmations by saying out loud or in your head if you're in an office, one positive thing about yourself, like, I am kind, I can do hard things, I'm a good mother. You might feel silly at first, but this is super important to practice, I do this with my son every night and I can already see the difference it made in his confidence levels, and I know that will work for you too. If you struggle to think of what to say, you can repeat in your mind, I am an artist, I am a painter, because whether you previously believed those sentences are not, you are painting right now and you're creating art. Let's get started with our wash by loading your largest round brush with water and spreading the water across the page. I like to work from left to right, but you can also work from top to bottom, and I like to work in segments, right here I'm just doing about a third of the page. I've loaded my favorite color onto my brush, we're doing wet on wet, paper is wet, my brush is wet. I'm dropping in the paint as I go and spreading it around, you can drop it in, drop by drop, but I like to spread it around, [inaudible] is an example of drop by drop. You can mix in other colors and see how they spread into each other and fan out, it's really fantastic to play with, and the colors blend beautifully together. I'm adding in more wet to my paper, I'm going to mix up a little bit of a different color, I think some blue [inaudible] nice here. Once you feel like you've gotten use to this wet on wet method and spreading color around, I'd like you to start thinking about our self care prompt, which for this exercise is taking deep breaths every time you add in a new color, you can put your hand on your chest, breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Once you feel like you've relaxed and done the deep breaths a few times, after adding in a few new colors, I'd like you to practice some positive affirmations, out loud or in your head, with each new stroke you make across the page, or with each new color you can choose, I'd like you to say one positive thing about yourself, for me, I'm going ahead with this color and say, I'm a good mum, I had a rough day, but I'm a good mum. You can say things like, I'm kind, I am a good friend. You can say things like, I am in control of my emotions, I am in charge of my future, or, my past traumas do not have to affect me today. Just positive things about yourself that will encourage you and help you feel better about yourself. You can also tilt the page in different directions to get the water to flow in fun ways, that's one of my favorite things to do when I've put a little bit too much water on the page. This is just for fun, but I have a metallic gold palette and I love adding in flecks of gold to my washes, they blend beautifully and I think it's going to look nice with this green-blue color scheme we've got going on. Now, I feel pretty satisfied with how this is looking, I'm going to add in a few more touches of blue, I love seeing how it fans out. I hope that as you have added each color that you've taken a chance to do some deep breathing and think of some positive affirmations, things that you love about yourself, that are true, that you can go back to when you're having a hard time. 4. Day 2: Lines & Gratitude: Welcome to day 2. Let's work on our gratitude while we paint some lines. This is one of my favorite exercises to do when I need a little shift in perspective. If you're having a bad day, you're angry at a loved one, or just feeling a little down, this exercise is a super simple and effective way to turn your mood right around. We will be practicing using different amounts of pressure on our brush to create different thicknesses of lines. Every time you paint a line, I want you to think to yourself something you're grateful for. Here's an example. If my son is misbehaving and I've had it up to here as a mom, I can try and reframe my perspective from anger to I'm grateful for my son and what he teaches me in how to be patient or I'm grateful that my son is healthy and strong. Studies have shown that participating in gratitude practices like this are extremely beneficial for our moods and our overall health. So the more lines you paint, the better. Let's get started. Once you've mixed up the color scheme that you want to use, I'm using orange and pink, we are going to just go ahead and draw some vertical lines from top to bottom. This is a really good watercolor exercise to do that will help you learn how to put the right amount of pressure on your brush. The more pressure you put, the broader your lines will be. The less pressure you put, the narrower your lines will be. Once you've done a few lines, I want you to start practicing your gratitude. Once you get the hang of it and you feel like you're in a good flow, each time you pull your brush down, think to yourself, I'm grateful for dot, dot, dot. So for example, here I go with another line, putting in some upper rows, make this little more pink. I am thankful for my family. It's very generic, but those the first that came to my mind. So once you start thinking of things that you're thankful for, it will flow a little bit easier and the things that you're thankful for will be more meaningful, more specific. Practice doing some thinner lines and alternating the pressure that you're putting. So right now I'm doing a really thin line. Then I'm going to go back to doing some more broader lines. Every line or so, maybe a couple, I'll alternate the shade. So I might add in a little more pink, a little more red, a little more orange just so that I have a nice flow from left to right. It's not all the same color. It's just got a really nice variation of colors across the whole page. I need a little more pink to my orange. I think of something of that I'm thankful for. Hope you're thinking of something too. I'm thankful for my awesome, awesome garden that I've got going on this year. It brings me so much joy. Now that you have the feel for what this exercise is like, I'd like for you to just keep going, keep thinking of things you're grateful for, you can say them out loud or you can say them in your head, whatever works for you. Alternate between narrow and thin lines and broader, thicker lines, and change up your shade of color that you're using to give it a little more variety. Once you've finished this exercise, I'd like you to take a few deep breaths, acknowledge the amazing blessings that you have in your life, maybe think of one last thing that you're grateful for. Notice the difference in how you feel from when we first started this exercise. Hopefully you'll be feeling better. 5. Day 3: Shapes & Relaxation: Time for Day 3. A big indicator of how stressed we are is linked to the tension in our bodies. I know I need to take a step back and practice some self-care when I wake up every morning with a tight clenched jaw. For this exercise, we will be painting different shapes. This teaches us brush control, something that I really need to work on as an artist continually. I tend to paint round shapes a lot because my main subject matter is flowers. Practicing shapes that have pointed edges like triangles and squares, is a great way to master brush control. Every time I paint a few shapes, I'm going to pause, take a deep breath and notice where I'm carrying tension. I'm I clenching my jaw? If so, I can massage my cheeks and my temples. Do I feel tension in my shoulders? If I do, I'll do a few shoulder rolls. Is it in my lower back? Maybe I need to do a few stretches to help alleviate the tension. Taking the time to assess how you feel physically can help you address and relax, and decide if you need to adjust things in your life to reduce stress. Now for these shapes, I'm going to focus on squares and triangles, shapes that have pointed corners because this is something that I need to work on as an artist, I tend to paint a lot of round shapes because I focused a lot on florals. I noticed that when I was painting architectural subjects that I was struggling to get really sharp corners. This is a really good exercise for me, but you're welcome to do any shapes that you want. If you want to throw in some ovals or circles or things, shapes with rounded edges, that's totally fine. For this exercise I'm going to focus on squares and triangles. Now, I'm going back to my green and blue color palette. It's just one that speaks to me and I am just adding in some new shapes, dabbing a little color here, and there, add some variety. Now, that I have two shapes and I'm ready to start on my third, this is where I need to practice and self-care, and pause, and stretch. I'm taking notice of where I have tension. I'm going to relax my jaw and then once I have done that exercise, I'm going to move on, and start painting some more shapes. This is what you're going to do throughout this exercise. You're going to paint a few shapes, pause, stretch, massage your temples, whatever it is that you feel like we'll help you relieve tension in your body. We tend to carry a lot of tension when we're stressed. I especially carry tension in my shoulders and in my jaw. I tend to clench my jaw when I slip, and so it's good for me to do this exercise because it's soothing to do the watercolors, and then take a little break every few minutes, and notice what I need to intentionally loosened up. I'm just placing shapes randomly throughout the paper. I'm just letting the composition develop as I go. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and you can do the same thing. Place them wherever you want, wherever your heart desires. To add a few more shapes, I'm going to go ahead and pause, and stretch again. Encourage you to do the same thing when you're ready. Continue to fill your page with shapes. You can change your colors. As you go, you can add in different types of shapes, play with a composition. It's totally up to you. Just remember that every few new shapes, you should pause and try, and relax your body in different ways. It's sometimes I'll get on the floor and do Child's pose, which is a yoga position where you are stretching your back. You can do some torso twists in your chair and loosen up your lower back. Whatever it is that you want to do to relieve tension in your body is perfect and is going to help you in the long run relieves stress. 6. Day 4: Layers & Laughter: Here we are on day four. Get ready to practice some patience because this exercise requires just a little bit of that. We will be revisiting brush control with more shapes, but we will be learning how to add layers to our paintings to add interest and dimension. After we lay down our initial shapes, you will need to let the paint fully dry before moving on to the next step. Depending on how much water you use and the humidity of your home or area, this can take up to 20 or 30 minute. While you wait for the first layer to dry, I'd like you to find something that makes you laugh. Laughter is proven to reduce stress and just plain feels good to do. You can find a comedy podcast. You can look up funny YouTube videos, or even find some funny jokes online. I always enjoy scanning Pinterest boards with funny memes. Once your first layer is dried, you can add a second layer of shapes, making sure to overlap them. I promise you'll feel better than when you first started. Laughter is the best medicine after all. For this exercise, I'm going to go ahead and do circles because I already practiced my squares and triangles. I like to do circles when I layer because it reminds me of bubbles and it just looks really cool when the finished project is all done. I'm using a similar color scheme to the lines exercise that we did earlier. I am doing some reds, pinks and oranges and a little bit of yellow, so kind of staying in the warm color range. I'm going to fill my paper with just lots of different circles of different sizes and colors. Then the goal is that once these dry, I will be able to go in and add another layer of circles on top. Making sure that they overlap the edges. It gives it a really cool layered effect. I love doing this. It's such a good practice and you definitely have to be patient because it does take a while to dry. Once you have finished your first layer, this is where we're going to practice some self-care by laughing. I want you to look up some funny YouTube videos or some jokes or you can listen to a comedy podcast, whatever it is that you like to do that makes you laugh. You could even put on an episode of The Office or whatever your favorite show is, something that will make you laugh and smile, and you will feel so much better when you're done with that task. Then before you know, I'm sure you'll get all caught up in the laughter and your painting would be dry and it'll be ready for your second layer. Go ahead and fill that page up. Okay. Hopefully you got some really good laughs in. My circles are all dry, so I'm going to go ahead and add in my second layer. I'm going to start with a nice yellow. It's very transparent, so it's really cool to see how it overlaps with the other colors. Trying to get it to overlap with three different circles right here so I get this nice layered effect when it goes on top of the other circles. Now if you're using other shapes that's totally fine, it's the same concept you just want to overlap the shapes. You'll find that if any of your shapes are still a little bit wet, they might bleed into the first shape a little bit, which is what is happening with this yellow one. Just slightly, not much, but just a little bit. That just means that you probably need to wait a little bit longer maybe listen to a funny podcast or something to help pass the time. Another trick you can do if you really need to speed things along, is you can use a blow dryer on a low warm setting and that can help speed up the process. Keep adding shapes until you feel like your design is complete and you should have a really cool, really awesome composition with layered shapes. I love doing this type of project. I think it looks like bubbles. It's so interesting and really fun to do. 7. Day 5: Applying What We've Learned: Do I look okay? You look so hot, it's ridiculous. You made it. We are on our final exercise on Day 5. This lesson combines all our previous watercolor techniques as we create a repeating pattern. You can get creative with the pattern you make and I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with. As you work, I want you to play some soothing music in the background. Choose something that will drift into the background and not distract you. When you finish a step and need to wait for things to dry, take that time to practice one of our suggested self-care techniques like positive affirmations, or listing things that you're grateful for. Now, this last exercise is really up to you, how you want to make your pattern. I'm starting with a wash. You don't have to do this, but I think it's really cool to have a pattern on top of a beautiful background. We're doing the wash the exact same way, wet-on-wet, watching the colors blend together, some nice soothing music in the background. I'm now going to add some lines on top of my wash now that my wash is fully dried. Instead of doing straight vertical lines like I did on Day 2, I'm doing lines on a diagonal, changing the color slightly as I go down the line. Then once I finish the first column, I'm going to go ahead and create a V by going diagonal the opposite direction like an arrow pointing down. Now keep in mind, you can do whatever pattern you want. You do not have to do this particular design, it's just something that I wanted to do to practice some of my lines and my brushstrokes. But you're welcome to do anything you want. You could do curvy lines, zigzags, plus signs, anything you want. I'm now going to practice my shapes, so I'm doing a column of triangles. What I'm going to do is, I'm going to alternate between the arrow V column and then a triangle column. As I go across the page, I'm going to change my color slightly, and then repeat the pattern. Remember that as you continue on with your pattern-making, that every so often you pause and practice one of our self-care techniques like listing things you're grateful for, practicing your positive affirmations, relaxing, and stretching your body, or even taking the time to laugh. 8. Conclusion: Thank you so much for joining me for this creative self-care challenge. I hope that you've enjoyed this course and that you feel a little less stressed than when you've began. Watercolors are such an amazing way to practice self-care and have helped me immensely throughout the past few years. For your final project, please take a photo of one or all of your exercises and post it to the community section of this class. Bonus points if you tell me what your favorite self-care exercise was. I will make sure to comment on every single project. I've also made a full PDF Companion Guide for my newsletter subscribers that includes all the information from this class. It's a great resource, especially when you're feeling that stress creep back in. If you've enjoyed this course, I would love for you to leave a review. You can also hit the "Follow" button above to stay in the loop when new Skillshare classes are released.