Folk Art illustration: Paint Decorated Butterflies in Watercolor & Gouache | Julia Bausenhardt | Skillshare

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Folk Art illustration: Paint Decorated Butterflies in Watercolor & Gouache

teacher avatar Julia Bausenhardt, Nature Sketching & Illustration

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

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.



    • 4.

      Pencil drawing


    • 5.



    • 6.



    • 7.

      Final thoughts


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About This Class

In this class, I’m going to show you how to paint butterflies in a decorative folk art style. We’re going to look at two different techniques today and paint some pretty butterflies in watercolor and then in gouache. If you only have one of the two available, that’s no problem, you can achieve beautiful results with each.

First we’ll take a look at some of my examples, learn how to work with different kinds of paint, and explore painting different decorative elements.
Then we’ll choose a nice color palette and start painting our butterflies. We’ll explore layering and decoration techniques to add more visual interest to your painting.
We’ll do two different exercises, one in watercolor and one in gouache. If you only have watercolors, that’s absolutely no problem, just join in and find out how you can improvise to get that gouache look. If you prefer gouache, that’s great, you can work with gouache for all the exercises in this class.

At the end you’ll have learned how to paint your own beautifully decorated butterfly. Butterflies are wonderful and delicate little creatures, and I love watching and painting them in both realistic and abstract techniques.

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Bausenhardt

Nature Sketching & Illustration

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

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

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

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

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello. Welcome to this class about painting butterflies in a decorative folk art style. I'm Julia an Illustrator and designer from Germany. Thank you so much for joining me. In this class, I'm going to show you how to paint butterflies in a decorative folk art style. We're going to look at two different techniques today and paint some pretty butterflies in watercolor and then in gouache. If you only have one of the two available that's no problem, you can achieve beautiful results with each. First, we'll take a look at some of my examples, learn how to work with different kinds of paint and explore painting different decorative elements. Then we'll choose a nice color palette and start painting our butterflies. We'll explore layering and decoration techniques to add more visual interest to your painting. We'll do two different exercises, one on water color and one in gouache. If you only have watercolors that's absolutely no problem, just join in and find out how you could improvise to get that gouache look. If you prefer gouache that's great, you can work with gouache for all of the exercises in this class. At the end you'll have learned how to paint your own beautifully decorated butterfly. Butterflies are wonderful and delicate little creatures and I love watching and painting them both in realistic and asterisk techniques and actually they are one of my favorite subject. I hope you'll join me in this class about painting butterflies in watercolor and gouache. Let's get started. 2. Tools: Let's have a look at the materials you're going to need for this class. Let's start with the watercolor part. I'm using my pen set here and this is a combination, it's a sminiker case. I actually have put different pens into this pen set. The smaller ones, you can see on the left side are a combination of Windsor and Newton and sminiker half pens. These bigger ones are actually by a Russian company called Neff's KIA [inaudible]. They have these beautiful watercolors called St. Petersburg White Nights. I really like this. They're fairly inexpensive and they are great. They have great vivid colors and lot of pigment and these are actually honey base. They have a great consistency and I really enjoy working with these. I like to mention these when I make these introductions. You can see that I have little colors swatch here that I'd like to reference when I'm taking up these pigments with my brush so that I can remember what these colors actually looked like. You can also see that I have a little bit of a mixing area here on my palette that has passed tally tones. These are actually mixed with gouache, and I'm going to show you my gouache paints because part of this class we'll be featuring gouache. I've recently gotten this set by Windsor and Newton. It's a really nice set. I really enjoy the gouache and they really have a grayed white, this is a zinc white by what's written here, and it's really opaque. You're going to need some white for this class. If you can get this one, it's a great choice. There are other gouache whites that do a similar job. That's just what I'm working with at the moment. I really enjoy their gouache paint. You don't need all of these colors. These are great for covering all the colors that you might need. You have two yellows, two reds, two blues, one green, which is a little bit, I would get another green because I do a lot of nature studies, so I tend to have many different green tones. Have black and white and one brown. You can generate a lot of colors with these basic paints. I think it's even called an introductory set. You could also get a more inexpensive gouache if you're just trying out how this paint works and if you like it because it behaves a little bit differently from watercolor. As I like to say in my other classes too, if you don't want to invest in gouache, which is a shame because it's really lovely paint to work with. You could just get the white and then mix it with your watercolor. You could basically take with your brush any color that you want and mix it with a little bit of white. Then you get this lovely opaque and little bit chalky type of paint that is gouache. These are the paints, and then obviously you will need some kind of area where you'll mix these paints. If you do have a pen set then that's great, but it's a little bit small. What I often end up doing is just taking this kind of ceramic plate. That's just an old plate that if I would clean it, I could use it again with fresh colors and actually like these colors will make it a little bit muddy for different brown shapes. I'll just leave it like that. If you don't have anything else then a ceramic plate is great and it's actually a better surface than these plastic ones because it doesn't bead as much. That's especially when you're using watercolors. It's really nice feeling that you can mix your colors on these. Another thing that I am using these days, are these tear-off pellets and they're really not that great for the environment, but I've had this tear- off pellet over 10 years. I think I bought it when I went to art school and I didn't really paint that much back them. I'm just using it up. I just wanted to let you know that there are a few other possibilities for pellets that you can use these tear-off pellets which are basically paper with some kind of plastic surface. If you do have something like this lying around, you could also use it for mixing. Let's talk about paint brushes. You don't really need that many paint brushes for the exercises in this class. You'll usually need a bigger and smaller brush. I like to use the size four brush, or sometimes a size three brush. Just a round water color brush. I think this isn't even a very expensive brush. It looks like it's a synthetic brush. This little bit more expensive. It's a Sable brush and I really like it, but it's not the most expensive one I've ever had. For these bigger brushes, you don't need the best rushes that you can afford. Then I also have these smaller brushes and you don't need five, you just need one for this class. I wanted to show you that for the smaller brushes, the size zero or size one brushes, it's really good to maybe make an investment and take the more expensive brushes. Usually sable brushes that are made from animal hair. This is because these brushes form a nice pointy tip at the end and it won't wear down as easily, so you retain that ability in the brush to form a pointy tip for quite a long while before you have to exchange it. I used to work a lot with synthetic brushes too, but what I noticed was that the tip for these brushes wears down after awhile and that you can't form a pointy tip anymore. Sometimes these tips even split when you try to make a very thin line or a point. I got a bit frustrated with these type of synthetic brushes and I found it really, the better alternative to invest in maybe one or two really better brushes and with sable hair. I'm finding myself using these more than these, at least for very fine details. Then the next thing we'll need as some kind of pencil. I like to take hard pencil, this is 3H. You could take a softer pencil, but when you're erasing your pencil lines, it's usually a little bit better not to have those hot-lines and other smearing lines that you want to erase but to have very light lines that can be achieved with a hard pencil. I prefer those when I'm making my sketches. As for paper, I'm going to be using my watercolor sketch book, and this is a Stillman and Birn sketchbook. I'm not that big of a fan of this sketch book, but I want to finish it so I'm using it. It doesn't take really a lot of water, but enough so that you can make these very dry paintings that we're going to do in this class. Either a sketchbook that can work with watercolors or a watercolor pad. I really like the paper that Hahnemuhle makes. This is hot press watercolor paper with 300 GSM. It's a great paper, I really love it. I frequently use it. The other little helpers that you're going to need is of course, a water jar. I do have my trusty pipette that I use for wetting my watercolor pens. Then I always have a little rag at the side of my desk for cleaning up my brushes and for removing excess water when I paint. That's really all we need. I'm going to show you briefly in the next lesson what I use for reference. I like to work with books, but that's not necessary, but it's just what I like to use as a reference in my work. 3. Examples: I wanted to show you a few examples of some work I recently did. Just as personal work and as preparation for this class. You can see the same thing here where I tried to study real butterflies. Which are actually German butterflies that you can find when you go outside here. I used this book as a reference for this. This is just a really old book that I have which is for finding the butterflies and referencing them. You can see that I tried to study the actual animal. The actual butterfly, and tried to render it in a realistic manner. That's one possibility to come closer to a subject to really try to observe and then render it in the most realistic way. What we are trying to do here is going down the abstract route a little bit more. When you've taken this step to really look at how these butterflies are built, then I want to encourage you to really make these your own and add little fun details and make these a little bit more abstract. Actually with these [inaudible] of techniques you can make these butterflies look a little bit more free and abstract. On this page, I tried to keep one butterfly in a specific color range. These were done with watercolor and I tried to keep one butterfly in specific color family. That's one exercise we are going to try out. Then I do have an unfinished page here in which I tried a few new techniques, but yeah, sometimes it's just experimentation that doesn't lead anywhere. But I wanted to show you nonetheless. Another word on these reference books. I find them really beneficial even if you don't want to draw or to paint a realistic butterfly. I find them really great to get a feeling for the shape of an insect. You can use books like this or you can browse Pinterest or Google whatever or you can even take your own photos. I recently was on a hiking trip and I took a lot of photos from actual real live butterflies and I tried to observe them. But it was really fun to later look at these photos and to draw them in the different shapes that they are in. That's a really great way to know how these are built and then take your own abstract interpretation of it. 4. Pencil drawing: I've gone ahead and sketched a page full of butterflies and since you can't really see it when I do this, I will explain the principles of this at the paint. Just some very basic things about butterflies is that you have this middle part, which is the body and I'm just thinking that I could demonstrate this with another kind of pencil so just that you can see how I'm doing this. We have the middle part which is just and when with insects you always have the segments and you can do an abstract version of this. You have this breast part and little head where you have the antennas coming out of it and then you have a large abdomen or just the back part of the body. Then you'll have the wings coming out of this and it always looks very nice if you have symmetrical pairs of wings and you always have two pairs. You have the upper wing which goes something like this and always make sure that the base where the wing attaches is not too broad, too thick. Then I'm going to try and have this just come out of here and it's not really symmetrical, but you can get the direction. Then what you would do is just indicate the second lower wing below that and as for the details, I usually add them later. I don't care for many details because anything that I add in pencil I would need to cover or to erase before I start painting and so I try to keep it fairly simple. I'll try and show you another butterfly from this height. Again, let me start with the wing, actually it has a nice round shape, this wing and then it goes like this down and the lower part of this wing since you can see it from the side, will actually overlap the first wing. This has to be a little bit bigger and then we have something like this and obviously, when you use a harder pencil you won't have these fat lines like I do here. Now we'll add the body and for some of these you can just add these little rounded bodies and it's probably goes up here and feel absolutely free to use a reference for this. I am not an expert on insect physiology, so I'm just trying to get nice shape to do my abstract painting work on them so that it doesn't look entirely strange. Now for the legs because when you see them from the sides, you see the little legs so these actually have segments as well. We're just going to indicate the legs here. Then what you could also do if you just wanted to indicate those big round shapes that look like eyes they usually are in the outer areas of the wings and then sometimes there smaller ones at the edges. I'm going to draw a third one. Again, I'm starting with the middle body part. I'm just making a round long body and the head with the antennas and then we're going to try for a nice big shape. The tricky part here is to have this match when you draw the second wing so it's approximately what I'm going for. Now I'm just going to try to do something like this so the second wing will have few of these parts that grow out of the wing and I'm just indicating the rough shape for this, and then I'm adding the actual extruding parts. That makes it a little bit easier for me to follow the shape that this wing is supposed to have. Again, just going to indicate where these round eyes are supposed to be and you can of course, become a little bit more abstract when you're working on these shapes. This could be your body and then you could add these nice shapes there. You can see it's a little bit more easy to come up with these abstract shapes opposed to these more realistic looking butterflies. But I think it's beneficial to practice both. 5. Watercolor: I'm going to start painting with my watercolor paints first. What I want to do is fill the basic shapes for the wings and the body of the butterfly. I'm going to do this with a lighter tone so that I can add some details later when the paint has dried with a darker tone. As you know, you can only build darker layers in watercolors. As opposed to gush where I can work, light on dark, I have to think about the paint, the color here. I'm going to start with this cobalt blue. I'm going to mix a nice and juicy paint and I'm actually starting with the wing. Since I've erased a lot of the pencil line, actually not seeing where this shape was supposed to be, but I thing it's going to be fine. As you can see. I'm trying not to add too much water because for this class, I don't care about any wet in wet effects. I'm actually mixing quite a lot of pigment into this. We're going to leave this to dry and work on the second wing right now. Since we're going to let this dry, I'm actually coloring in a different butterfly. So I think this one would look nice maybe on a dark or in a not so dark red tone and, or maybe on this. Maybe a mixture of red and violet here. I'm taking this red violet and then a little bit darker, a madder lake red and I'm mixing these two to a nice dark red and a little bit more water, and there we go. I'm using this technique to work on different animals and work on different parts of my page so that I don't have to wait too long. For the body part of this one, I think I want little light. Make it a little bit darker. The next one I think would look nice with this Chrome oxy green. I already had this on my palate, so just adding a bit of water. Again, following first the outline, and then adding paint to the inner part. This darker green I'll use for the middle part, for the breast and the rest of the body. You can see that the color is still wet and quite juicy and that it will spread a little bit into the wings. I don't mind it too much right now, but usually I would wait until it's dry. You can see that I just messed up down here, and so I think this path has sufficiently dried. I'm just going to turn it over, add a little bit more of this cobalt blue and then just add a tiny bit of different blue to make this wing different hues, so to say. Maybe a little bit darker. Since watercolor dries a little bit lighter, you'll still be able to add the darker details. When I'm painting these underlying wings, then I'm trying not to overlap the shapes too much so that I will have clean lines. If you prefer, you can actually use a smaller brush for this. I think this looks pretty nice colorwise and shapewise, so let's add a little bit of detail. I'm going to start with these little wings, these little antennas, and the little feet of our butterfly and I've switched to my size one brush. I'm just going to try to keep this as thin as possible. You can see that I have tried to steady my hand here so I'm keeping my fingers locked. Actually not doing any work with my fingers. For this curve, I'm trying to paint it from my wrist so that I'm actually only using my wrist and I'm trying to make the brush more stable by placing my little finger on the paper. I'm just making this movement. So just as a tip, if you're wondering how you can keep your brush straight or curved rather, and with a light touch. Adding these little feet in a similar manner. Let me think a moment. These are on this side, so there's another one here and we'll have two more. Sometimes it gets a little bit confusing because they have all these tiny legs. I am going to turn around a page and work on this beautiful blue moth here. As I said with watercolor, we'll have to work with a darker color now. So I'm just mixing up I think this really dark blue. Yes, that's beautiful color. I'm not adding too much water here. We want a rich nice color. The first thing I'm going to do is I'm adding this round circle, this eye. I actually think, for real butterflies, the circles that you can frequently see are meant to look like real eyes, like animal eyes. So, as a means of not getting eaten by other animals. So that's rather clever. I think I'm going to add another indication on the second wing here. Just going to add some stripes here, some lines. Some of these little moth are a little bit furry. So I think it would be nice, even though we are not painting a realistic butterfly here, it would be nice to indicate these little lines and just have it look a little bit like micro furry area here. I think this breast area can be a little bit darker. If you want, you can indicate the eyes here. I'm turning the sketchbook a lot because it has this area where I can't rest my hands. So it's a little bit complicated with this sketchbook. That's why I don't like it very much. The paper is fine but this spirals not so cool I think. Whatever you do on one side, you'll want to do on the other side too to keep it symmetrical. I think that will give it a really nice result. We could try to add a little bit more interests or contrasts here by adding a different shade of blue. We have this really interesting, almost dark violet blue here. Not sure if you will see it on this already blue wing, but I'll add some dots. I think it will show up on this part of the butterfly though. It's really nice. I'm going to add a few smaller dots here. That's the one thing about watercolors that's nice that you always have a little bit of a surprise effect when it comes to the colors and because they look a lot different when they're dry. Now for the next one, I think we'll do the red one. Just erase a little bit of pencil here. Because as you can see this still hasn't dried this green one. I used a bit too much water there. I'm going to show you how to simulates or to speak a little bit more realistic. I'm sure you know these lines that are on the wings of butterflies. I'm just going to show you here, you can see this here with this one. They have these segments on their wings and I actually want to add a few lines so we can simulate this segmented effect. I'm going to use my red violet here again. Let's see. You want a fairly thin line for this because these are delicate, delicate wings. You can either choose to just make these up. Or you could study an actual butterfly, which is what I recommend at least for the first 5-10 of these that you do and see how this actually works on the real thing. I think that's pretty convincing already. What I have seen on my reference is that they have these little dark dots. I'm going to paint that in here and I actually want to simulate the structure of these two. I'm trying to make these little brush marks, I think that looks really nice. Just remember to keep your brush steady and make really thin lines. All right, now the same thing for the lower wing. Again, i'm not using too much water with my paint. You can see that it's really not thin down too much. Again this middle segment which is a little bit bigger, just make sure you come back to this connection point here where the sections all meet. Make sure that your brush tip is really authentic and not too loaded with water or with paint so that you will have a thick line. Because at that point, that would be really unfortunate. Again, I want to add some of these thin lines. I think I will add a few more on the edge of the wing neotheropod. I'm going to change my red note to this venetian red, which is a little bit warmer. I want to add a few more dots on this butterflies. Thinking this should be a dot and maybe down here. I think out on this one and dot two. There we go. Now what i'm going to do is just take a tiny amount of white and add a few more details in white. I'll take my white gouache add just a little bit on my palette and add just a tiny bit of water so that it is a bit more liquid. I'm going to add a few more of these little brush strokes. You can see that this wide, this one [inaudible] white. It's really bright and has really good opacity. That's what we want if we work in these layers. I've really become a fan of this white, maybe even add tops of white on this little fella. All right. On to the next one. Since we want to do some folk motives, and these often feature leaves or flowers, I think we will paint a few leaves and I'm taking this dark green, which is hookers green, thinning it down a little bit. The first thing that I want to do is add a little bit more definition to this part. Because I think it's best if you know where this middle breast pot ends. I'm just adding a few mark before these look like maybe this little fur that these moths have. It's not too prominent, so doesn't really grabbed the eye too much. Now, let's see. We'll have a stem for our flower and leaves. The actual flower. I'm going to add this on the other side too. You can achieve this leave effect by starting with the point of brush and then pressing it down in the middle and then lifting it again at the end. Down here we have a darker green and I'm going to add a little bit of CPR to my green to make it show up a little bit better. We're basically trying to add a similar effect here with a middle stem and some leaves to come out of that. Now I'm going to add some white. So I think this is quite beautiful effect for our watercolor butterflies. Now for these other two, I'm going to switch to my gouache paint. 6. Gouache: I'll quickly show you my palette for the gouache butterflies and I basically want to keep it very simple. I do have my yellows in this yellow walker and I have a little bit of red to add into the mix and some white because white is always very, comes in handy when you use gouache and yeah, that's basically it. I don't want to add too many colors. You could even leave out one of these yellows but I think sometimes it's fun to mix the tube colors that you have into a slightly different tone. I also have this old palette of mine which has already some mixed tones on it and I will see if I need it to modify the existing colors that I have a little bit more but I'll keep that on my desk and we'll see if I need it. I'm setting this on the side here and we'll go back to the sketch. With gouache, since it's an opaque paint it's not as important to erase all your pencil lines since you're going to paint over them anyway. I'm just going to take a little bit of water, not too much and I'm going to use this dark permanent yellow with a little bit of this lemony yellow into a nice orangy tone and you will notice if you've never worked with gouache that it has really a different consistency than watercolor. It's much more chalky and pasty and that's actually one of the nice things about it. Let's see. I'll start with the wings and you can see it's a very bright opaque paint. I'm actually also working a little bit differently. I'm starting by outlining everything and then just filling in my shape. Whereas with watercolor, I was more trying to start somewhere and then push the color around and you don't have to do this with gouache. You can just start somewhere and then pick it up later. You can make little adjustments. You don't have to keep one wet area so to speak which is as you might already know, quite important to avoid these drawing edges with watercolor. I always think of gouache as a little bit more flexible in that way. Again, it's important not to add too much water to your paint, so you can see I'm barely adding water. Because when you add too much water your paint will get thin and that's fine for layering and building up layers but we don't want that here. Also with this kind of thin paper that I'm using, it can easily buckle so it's not too good for gouache. I've added a little bit of yellow och-re and actually I think I'm going to add this white here to my paint to have a slightly different back wing. The beautiful thing about gouache is that you don't have to wait until everything is dry. You can just paint your next shape next to the one that you already have. For people like me who want to lay down a lot of color in the beginning that's actually great because I don't have to wait too long. Now, for the body of our little friend here, I want more dark, more yellow och-re and you can think the tone is getting darker already. With gouache you always have to remember that when you add white, the color will dry lighter and when you add dark tones or when you paint dark tones that the color will always dry a little bit darker. So not spending too much time on this middle part on this body and I will actually add the antennas with the smaller brush. Let's see. I hope everything has dried here. Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to let this yellow one dry, and I'm going to experiment a little bit with my palette now and see what happens when I add this red to my palette. Winsor Newton have this funny, scent in some of their paints. I think it's supposed to be lemon. I really don't like it a lot, but well, if I'm using their paint when I have to get used to this but it's really a bit weird. Usually paint only smells like paint, and not much else, but their paint has always this cleaning agent aroma. When you fill your shape it's sometimes good to smooth everything out by going over it again, which is what I'm doing here, and that just gives you a nice clean surface to work with, and it will look a little bit nicer. I have just added a little bit more red, and I wanted to dial it down a bit so to speak by adding more yellow ocher. You can see that the red has a little bit less contrast now than the original red. I think it will match this orangey tone a little bit better. You can also see that I just over painted this orange brushstroke that I originally had here, and that's something that's very easy to do with gouache. Again, I'm adding details with my white gouache paint. Yeah, just trying to keep the shapes, and lines very simple. These days I actually enjoy looking at some embroidery, suggestions on motives. That's another cool source for these folk art style motifs. You can also see here that when you add a little bit too much water to your paint then it's becoming more difficult to make the next layer opaque. Pay a little attention to this, and you can still fix it by just adding a bit more, less diluted color, but something that you'll see when you practice it enough like everything, it will get easier over time to just hit the right consistency. I think I will stop here before I add more and more decoration, but you can see the principles, and where this is going. First you're laying in these big shapes, and then you're adding decoration layer by layer, or bit by a bit. I'm always looking for these little spaces where I can add more dots in the end. I think overall, it's a really fun technique to try out either with watercolor or with gouache. I hope this was fun for you to watch, and of course, I'd like to see your work in the project gallery, so make sure to upload your project, and your beautiful butterflies into the gallery, and I'll leave a comment for you there. 7. Final thoughts: I hope you've enjoyed this class about painting butterflies. We've looked at a lot of different things today. Different paints and layering techniques, working with color combinations, and adding more decorative elements to your painting. I really like the different aspects of using gouache and watercolor together and seeing where these two differ and which effect you can achieve with each paint. Now, also I love painting butterflies in this folk art style like the birds from my other class, there were really great subject method to explore. Also I'd really love to see the butterflies that you've created and please upload and share your illustration or sketchbook page to the project gallery. I'm really looking forward to seeing your work. Thank you so much for taking this class with me. I hope I'll see you in the classroom and I hope you'll have a fabulous day. Bye.