Fun & Simple Watercolor Succulents: Color + Composition | Aima Kessy | Skillshare

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Fun & Simple Watercolor Succulents: Color + Composition

teacher avatar Aima Kessy, Top Teacher | Dainty Rebel

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.



    • 2.

      Class Materials


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Composition + Final Drawing


    • 5.

      Choosing A Color Palette


    • 6.

      Succulent 1


    • 7.

      Succulent 2


    • 8.

      Succulent 3


    • 9.

      Class Project


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Welcome to the second class of the Fun & Simple series!

In this class, you will learn how to create a stylized watercolor succulent and learn about the illustration process from sketch to finished painting.

What you can expect from this class:

  • Preparing your succulent drawing. I will share my drawing process, including tips and practices that can help improve your observation and drawing skills.
  • How to plan a composition. Learn about the design principles and tools I use in planning my composition. 
  • Choosing a color palette. Learn about how to create a harmonious color scheme and how to use color to enhance your visual story. Create a color swatch guide and learn how to plan your palette into your composition.
  • Watercolor tips and techniques. Join me through my painting demonstration as I share my process, along with some helpful tips and information.

By applying the skills and knowledge from this class, you will be able to create a variety of stylized watercolor succulents in different compositions and color schemes. 

Have fun learning and happy painting!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Aima Kessy

Top Teacher | Dainty Rebel

Top Teacher

Hi, I’m Aima!
I am a watercolour artist and creative educator based in Brisbane, Australia.
I have a background in Animation and Early Childhood Education, and currently teach art classes on Skillshare as a Top Teacher.

I am inspired by nature, books, animals and have an avid interest in health and wellness.
My favourite things to paint are uplifting quotes and succulents from my garden. Both these subjects centre around my journey of self-discovery, healing and personal growth over the years.

As someone who has struggled with mental health, I promote self care and compassion, and reconnecting with oneself through art and creative self-expression.

I teach watercolour classes with the aim of helping others underst... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Aima. I'm an artist and illustrator. Welcome to the second class of the fun and simple series. A series of simple prompts sprinkled with helpful tips and information that is designed to help you in your watercolor practice. In this class, I will share with you my illustration process from sketch to finished painting and show you how I create these stylized watercolor succulents. I will talk you through the drawing stage and how I plan my composition, how I select my color palette, as well as the techniques I use in my painting. We will look at practices that can help improve your observation and drawing skills, learn about design elements that go into planning a composition, understand how color can help enhance your visual story, and finally, some helpful tips and inspiration as I walk you through my painting process. Your final project is to create your very own stylized watercolor succulent. By applying the skills and knowledge from this class, you will be able to create a variety of designs in different compositions and color schemes. By the end of the class, you will have a finished watercolor illustration that you can choose to frame or even give as a gift to a loved one. You can even use this project as a prompt to fill up a page in your water color journal, as you practice on your skills and techniques, I hope that this class inspires you to create something every day, however small. Ready to start creating and let's get started. 2. Class Materials: For this class, you will need some watercolor paper. I'll be using the Canson XL cold press watercolor paper for the colors watching exercise. For the final illustration, I'll be using the Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. I will be creating a small painting for this class. I'll only be using half the paper. Feel free to use any other brands that you prefer. Next, we'll need some watercolor paints. For this class, I will be using some tube watercolors in these pigments. You don't have to use the exact color shown here. You can use whatever you have and come up with a color scheme of your own as you will learn in the coming color lesson. We'll also be needing some water. I like to use two water jars to separate my cool and warm colors, so they don't create a muddy mix. Other tools and materials you'll need are a mixing palette, some paintbrushes. I'm using a size 1 and size 3 round sable brush for this class, a HB pencil and an eraser for sketching, a masking tape or washi tape for creating a white border around the final painting, and some paper towel. Last of all, some copy papers or a sketchbook for drawing our initial sketches. 3. Sketches: Just an overview of my drawing process for this illustration. I start by gathering some reference photos, whether online or by taking my own photos. I usually look for images that are free to use or have a Creative Commons license. Then I'll do as many sketches until I familiarize myself with the subject matter. During this sketching process is also an I tried to combine different elements from several references to create variations in my drawings. Finally, I'll plan out different compositions through thumbnail sketches before creating the final drawing. So let's get started. I've got my reference photo on my phone ready, and I've even got a live reference here, which I'll use later. We're going to look at a couple of references and then we are going to fill out the entire page with sketches. I'll start by looking at the overall shape of the succulent, which is basically a circular shape. So I'll draw in some light cycles just as a guide and then I'll start drawing from the center. What I can see here are some basic triangle shapes, so I'm just going to draw that out. Then over here I see a bigger leaf hugging these two little leaf buds in the center. I see these as arms hugging or cutting the smaller leaps. I'm also keeping in mind that this is the center point where the leaves are pivoting from. So as I draw this next leaf, I'm also thinking of its pivot line, and it's also hugging these two leaves over here. So it's good to narrate what you see out loud as you draw, because it helps articulate your thoughts better and then help translate that onto paper. Of course, you don't have to do it if it feels weird, but I do find it a helpful practice. Now, try to also find basic shapes within the succulent that you can use as a guide, just like the circles we did earlier on to rough out the form. So you'll notice the three leaves over here for me triangle, which gives me an idea of their placement and angles. From there, I can also compare the difference in size between the leaves as I start to draw them in. I'm going to draw another one over here. Same as before, I'm focusing on the basic shapes that I can see, and just getting a sense of how the leaves are overlapping each other, as well as the curves within the form. I'll continue drawing and repeating the same process of observing and translating what I see onto paper until I fill up the rest of this page. At this stage, I'm copying what I see for the purpose of better understanding the form of the succulent, I'm not aiming for perfection, but more focused on filling my brain with information about what makes this succulent a succulent. It's definitely a good practice for your observation and drawing skills, which in turn also helps in your painting skills. Now, once you're more familiar with the subject, try to change it up a bit by creating different variations and adding your own artistic license to it, so play around with different shapes, curves, and sizes, and even mix and match different characteristics of succulents into one. So you can continue sketching and filling up more pages as you like or until you have one or more succulents that you're happy with. 4. Composition + Final Drawing: The next step is to plan our composition. We'll start by doing some thumbnail sketches. Just as the name suggests, thumbnails are smaller sketches that lay out the basic composition of an illustration. We're not focusing on details at this stage, but looking more at placing our elements in a composition that creates a visual harmony. For today's painting, it's pretty straightforward and simple since we're only dealing with one subject matter, which is the succulent. Now, there are a number of elements that come into play when dealing with composition, but I'm just going to focus on a few design principles and tools that I've used to help me create my composition for this painting. They are: balance, rhythm and variety. I'm also going to incorporate cropping, and the rule of odds. Balance is a way of combining elements to add a feeling of stability and equilibrium to a work of art. Think of each element is having a weight to them. Two common types of balance are symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is when both sides of a design are similar or mirrored. Asymmetrical balance is when the two sides are not identical, but still arrange so that there is a sense of balance. A symmetrical arrangement can create a sense of calm and order, whereas an asymmetrical arrangement creates a more dynamic feeling. Rhythm refers to the movement or the visual tempo within a work of art. This underlying tempo or beat, which is equivalent to a musical beat, guides the viewer's eyes around a piece of artwork. This created by thoughtful placement of repeated elements, such as colors, shapes, lines, and so on. Next we have variety. Variety consists of combining different elements within a work of art to create visual interest. It is achieved by using different shapes, sizes, and/or colors. Variety works hand in hand with rhythm to keep things interesting and more dynamic. Next we have cropping. Cropping is essentially the act of re-framing elements by removing unwanted outer areas of an image, whether a painting or a photograph. Cropping can change the focus of a piece by directing the eyes to what matters. It can essentially change the direction and balance of a composition. By incorporating the edges of elements, it creates more dynamic and visual interest. Finally, we have the rule of odds. The rule of odd states that using an uneven number of elements in your composition, is more visually appealing. This is because the brain is naturally drawn to unusual or uneven numbers in a composition. It helps create movement and is therefore more dynamic. That's not to say we should always group things in odd numbers because even numbers, while static can also imply a sense of stability and confidence. The trick is to know the rule to begin with, so you can make an informed choice when composing your illustration. I'll start by creating a small rectangular box that is roughly the dimensions of my paper. I've decided on having three succulents for this painting, keeping in line with the rule of odds. I'll start placing those elements in different compositions, while thinking about the design principles and tools I mentioned earlier. I'm only using circles at this stage to represent the succulent because we're more focused on placing these elements thoughtfully. In this first composition, I've place the elements in asymmetrical arrangement and they're occupying the space in equal balance. Now, if I start moving these elements anymore, asymmetrical balance, you can already start to sense a bit more movement. Next, I'm going to create more variety by scaling the elements in different sizes, which gives it more rhythm and invites your eyes move around the piece. Now, I'm going to crop the elements slightly off the frame to create a bit more interest, and give it more emphasis. So you can keep playing around with different iterations until you settle on one that you are happy with. Remember, you can do as many elements as you want, including even numbers of elements if it suits your composition. You can also add other supporting elements such as florals or leaves if you want. Keep in mind, this is just one way of doing these thumbnail sketches. Feel free to expand it to how ever you feel works best for you. I've chosen this layer over here, and I'm going to draw a slightly bigger sketch of it and start adding a bit more details. I'll start drawing in the succulents from my sketches, that I want in my painting, and I'm going to place them accordingly. Now will start prepping my watercolor paper and use some of that washy taped to create a white border that will frame the elements in our painting, just like how we planned in the composition. Now I'm ready to draw the final drawing on my watercolor paper, based on the last composition sketch that I did. I can still make adjustments at this stage. I actually am going to do a bit of changes like removed a floral leaf elements, and adjust the scale and placement of these smaller succulents. But I tried to do minimal pencil lines and corrections once I start drawing it in. Also, I will draw lightly with the HB pencil, but still visible enough for me to see. By this stage, I feel a lot more familiar withdrawing the succulents after doing the practice sketches from earlier. While I still refer back to my sketches, I'm not worried about being super accurate because I understand the basic form and how the leaves overlap each other. It's okay if you're not super confident at this stage with drawing straight onto the watercolor paper, you can use the tracing method from my previous class to create a clean line drawing on tracing paper, and then transferring that to your watercolor paper. For the purpose of this demonstration, I'm pressing down a little harder on the pencil, so the lines are more visible for you to see. 5. Choosing A Color Palette: All right. Time for the fun part. Choosing our colors. While it is exciting to jump right in and start painting with every color on your palate, planning a color scheme can save you a lot of time and potential myths. It's better to experiment beforehand than to realize at the very end of your painting that your colors do not sing the same song. One of the tools are used as a guide to help with planning a color scheme, is this color wheel. I think it's a great tool that can help with understanding more about color relationships and creating harmonious color schemes. Why is color harmony important? A harmonious color scheme creates a sense of order and unity within a painting. In other words, colors that work together are visually more appealing and engaging. Just a quick refresher on some basic formulas for color harmony. Analogous colors are any 2-4 colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Complimentary colors are colors sitting indirectly opposite each other on the wheel. A split complementary color scheme is any color on the wheel plus the two colors adjacent to its compliment. There are several more color schemes, but these are a few of the main ones and then we have our warm and cool colors which sit on either side of the wheel. Warm colors generally referred to the red, yellow, and orange hues, while the cool colors are typically the blue, purple, and green hues. It's helpful to note that within each primary color, there are also warm and cool color biases. You might have a cool and warm red and a warm and cool blue, for example. We will get more in-depth on this topic in another class, but essentially, these cool and warm biases influenced the vibrancy or saturation of a color when mixed. Warm colors are often associated with energy and excitement, while cool colors have a more calming effect. Warm colors tend to advance or push a subject more forward, whereas cool colors tend to recede into the background. Working with color based on temperature can be a great way to convey a certain mood or feeling. Now keep in mind that these formulas are meant to serve as a guide. They're not hard and fast rules, so you can certainly let your intuition and preference lead you to your own personal color schemes. But combining it with the knowledge of color theory can help in making better color choices and eventually over time, these things become more intuitive. Another tool I use is this paint swatch of the colors on my palette here, and it's really handy because I can quickly see how the actual colors will look like, and I can also use it to visually match different colors together that I feel look like a good combination. For this painting, I wanted to go for a cooler color palette and incorporate one of my favorite colors, which is the cobalt turquoise light. This color has a blend of blue and green pigments and sits on this side of the wheel. I've added the ultramarine violet, which is sitting not too far from the turquoise, so these two mixes can create an analogous color scheme. Then I've added a green gold which is a warmer hue, just to add a bit of contrast to the cool colors and it sits around here on the wheel. It's a rich gold yellow color with green undertones, so it will mix well with the turquoise, but that hint of gold yellow which is almost on the opposite side of the wheel gives it just the right amount of contrast to the blues and purples. Now, the next step is to swatch and mix the colors to further explore the different color combinations we can create. I'm going to squeeze this into my palate and then we can get started. I'll start by switching the three main colors. Then I'll start mixing two of each color to get a variety of different hues. It's always a good idea to label your swatches, especially when mixing colors so you remember how to recreate it later. Next, I'm going to swatch to color side by side just to see how they pair up. You can use any of the colors from the mixes above, including the transition colors. Now we're going to practice some wet on wet color blending, which is the technique I'll be using to paint the succulent leaves. I'm going to draw some leaf-like shapes, so we will have an idea of how the different color combinations will look like on each of the leaves later. I'll start by applying water on the areas where I want the pigment to flow into. Then I dab my brush and a paper towel so that it is dump enough to mop up any excess water on the surface of the paper. Then I dab in my first color and run it along the edge of the shape, then spread it gently around while leaving a bit of paper white for the second color. I apply the second pigment, same as before, and then dab gently where the two colors meet to help them blend a little. Now, I'll continue doing a few more combinations and play around with swapping the placement of the top and bottom colors. From the three colors I chose, I've managed to come up with quite a few color combinations, but now we're going to narrow it down to just a few that we will be using on each of our succulents. Since colors also form an important part of the composition, I'm going to do another thumbnail sketch of the final layout and I'm going to use that as a guide to plan where each color goes. I've chosen the cobalt turquoise light as my dominant color, which will be present in each of the succulents, either as a pure color or a mix. For the largest element here, I want to use brighter colors to bring more emphasis to it, so I'm going for the turquoise which is a nice vibrant hue, and the green gold, which has a nice bright warm tint to it. For the succulent which is sitting on top of a smaller succulent, I'm going to go for a similar combination to the first one, but with a much cooler blue hue, which will be a mix of the turquoise and ultra marine violet. The warmer tint from the green gold will make this elements stand out a bit more from the one behind it. For the last element, I'm going to go for a much cooler color combination, which will be the violet and turquoise. I'm going to swatch those in. The color on the outermost circle will be the one on the top part of the leaf. Having a bit of each color between the elements, including the dominant color, is a great way to tie different parts of the composition together. This will be my little guide for when we start painting. Feel free to create a few thumbnail swatches until you come up with one that you like best, and at any point during this color mixing and swatching exercise, if you're not happy with your color combinations feel free to swap colors out and experiment with a different palate. Keep in mind that this is just one way of planning a color palette. You can always expand it to whatever you feel works best for you. Now that we've prepped our color choices, we are ready to start painting our succulents. 6. Succulent 1: I'll start painting from the top-left since I'm right handed and I don't want my hand to go over any part of the paper that is still drying. We've got our color swatch guide here, which makes this part of the process a lot easier. We can just refer back to it to know which color mixes we'll be using on which succulent. I want a smooth blend of two colors, so I'll be painting all leaves, in the wet on wet technique throughout the class, except for the center leaves which I will be painting wet and dry. I'll start mixing the violet and turquoise to get that nice bluish purple mix and gently dab that in. I'm using my smaller brush for the areas closer to the base of the leaf since it requires a bit more precision, and my medium brush for the larger areas. My brush sure is quite loaded with pigment and water, so before I paint the tip of the leaf, I dab the brush gently on a paper towel and roll it into a point as I pull it towards me. Now I have a nice sharp point to work with. Sometimes when I apply my water glaze, I leave a bit of the base or the edges of the leaf dry. Then I'll drop my color onto the wet paper and pull it towards the edge of the shapes so that I can paint in a nice clean edge. I'm essentially combining the wet on wet and wet on dry technique, as I quickly connect the two areas of colors together. I do this sometimes just to have a bit more control over my pigment and brush strokes. I'm using my smaller brush here and painting wet on dry for the center leaves, since it's a much smaller area. I'm dropping in more pigment while the layer is still wet, just to deepen the value of the color, and I continue doing this as I paint each leaf so that I get a fuller strength of color. I'm going to fill up the rest of the space with some bluish purple mix, but still leave a tiny bit of negative space between the shapes. I'm using the very tip of the brush to carefully apply the paint.This can be a bit tricky when you're just starting out, but it is great practice for your precision of brushstrokes. Don't worry if you feel frustrated at not being able to get it as precise as you want, you are in the right place. It just takes a bit of time and practice. Now we're ready to paint this second succulent. 7. Succulent 2: For this succulent, I'm going for the cooler hues, which is the violet and turquoise combination. I'm going to repeat the wet on wet for the leaves. I'm helping the colors blend a little by dubbing my brush gently where they meet. The subtle hint of bluish purple, which is the same mix as in the first succulent, is what connects the elements together and create some color harmony. I'm using my smaller brush for this succulent since most of the leaves are pretty small, but I'll switch to the medium brush for larger areas like this leaf over here. The ultramarine violet is a bit delicate. So sometimes you have to add a bit more pigment just to build it up to its full strength of color. Here, I'm applying a glaze of the ultramarine violet as details just to create a bit of interest. I make sure that the paint beneath it is dried before applying this new layer. So I get nice hard edges. 8. Succulent 3: All right, so for our final succulent which is the largest element in our painting, I've chosen a vibrant color combo, which is the cobalt turquoise light, and green gold. I'm going to continue painting this succulent wet on wet. I decided to paint the green gold first, so that when I paint in the turquoise and dubbing more pigment, it spreads outwards and into the green. I'm always being mindful about the level of moisture in my brush and on the paper, what I don't want to do is coming with a very watery mix when the paper is already quite wet. This will only flood the area and push the pigment aside or even restrict its flow. The same could be said if there's more pigment and less moisture for it to flow into. I'm just gently dubbing in a bit of green gold here to help the colors blend a little. All right. The corner leaves a pretty much dried, so I'm going to start removing the washy tape. Now we have this nice frame that utilizes the edges of the elements to form part of the composition. The only thing left to do is probably just to erase any leftover pencil marks, once the paint is dried. That's it for our final painting. 9. Class Project: For your class project, you are going to create a stylized watercolor succulent in a color scheme of your choice. Now for the purpose of this class, you can recreate the illustration from the painting demonstration as a way of learning the skills and techniques that I showed you. But I do encourage you to take from this class the concepts and tools that you learned and integrate that into your own practice. Hopefully that will help you as you develop your own style over time. So have fun experimenting with different color combinations and compositions and perhaps even other elements to your illustration. If you want to start small that is completely fine, you can start by painting one circulate and create more as you advance in your project. You can also stick to one color and play around with the different levels of color value. Once you're done, be sure to upload your project into the project gallery so we can all share some inspiration and perhaps even some feedback. Feel free to also share photos of your work progress, including sketches and color gouaches. Have fun creating. 10. Final Thoughts: All right, so that's it for today's class. I hope you guys found something helpful to add to your art practice or even some inspiration to just create something every day however small. I'm super excited to see what you guys come up with your class projects and as usual, if you'd like to share your work on Instagram, feel free to tag me or use the hashtag right here. Also I love hearing from you guys. So if you have any questions at all or suggestions, leave them in the community section of this class and I'll be more than happy to respond. Do also check out the first class of this series, which is on watercolor cacti and if you're interested in learning how to paint some semi realistic succulents, do check out that class as well. I have more exciting classes coming up. So if you haven't already, be sure to hit the Follow button at the top of this page to stay notified of any new updates. Thank you so much for watching. I hope you guys enjoyed the class and I hope to see you next time. Bye.