Intuitive Illustration: 4 Quick, Fun Exercises to Unlock Creativity | Amber Vittoria | Skillshare

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Intuitive Illustration: 4 Quick, Fun Exercises to Unlock Creativity

teacher avatar Amber Vittoria, Artist and Illustrator

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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.

      Working From Instinct


    • 3.

      Loosening Up


    • 4.

      Drawing With Your Less Dominant Hand


    • 5.

      Drawing With Your Eyes Closed


    • 6.

      Drawing From Feeling


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Work your inspiration muscles by trying something new and a little silly in this fun, accessible class from artist Amber Vittoria!

Hanging onto inspiration and creativity can be tough, whether you’re a professional with some burnout or a hobbyist going through it. In this no-pressure, upbeat class, Amber Vittoria will take you through the exercises she uses to reconnect with her creative energy and explore her imagination  — and help you access your own! Whether you’re looking to add a shot of energy to your day, bust creative block, have some fun, or just plain looking for something to do, Amber’s class is here to provide you with repeatable exercises that are enjoyable and valuable for anyone who considers themselves a creative human.

Alongside Amber, you’ll complete exercises including:

  • Loosening up in the way that’s most fun for you
  • Drawing with your non-dominant hand
  • Drawing from memory

Plus, you’ll explore new ways of seeing your art and expressing yourself, and maybe find a favorite warm-up you’ll return to again and again!

Amber’s vulnerable, up-front attitude as she moves through these exercises with you will allow you to really dig into connecting with yourself, your art, and your inspiration. Join in and get drawing (with your eyes closed, at least for a little bit)!

This class is suitable for students of any level and with any materials to hand. Amber uses paper and markers as well as the trackpad of her laptop with Adobe Photoshop, but you are welcome to use whatever materials you enjoy most.

Meet Your Teacher

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Amber Vittoria

Artist and Illustrator


Take the class here!

Want to learn how to paint flowing, abstract forms like Amber Vittoria—and, more importantly, how to find creative inspiration all around you? In her upcoming class, Amber will walk you through her entire process from inspiration to final painting, including:

Unique places to find inspiration, and how to see the world in new ways to create abstract work Ways to incorporate experimentation as you plan out your piece, playing with different forms and colors along the way  The special acrylic painting techniques she uses to create her signature work

Best of all, her easy and fun process is accessible to artists of any level—and even inspiring if you prefer to work in a different medium! You’ll walk away with a finished ... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Working from instinct is really important because for me, it's the most accurate way that I can depict how I am feeling. It allows me to put my honest self into the work. I'm Amber Vittoria, and I am an illustrator. A lot of the work that I make focuses on feminine in the female form, and I work both commercially and editorially. Today's class is a collective of fun exercises that I love to do to get myself into a creative mindset. It just allows me to get out of my own head and get me back into the mindset of being creative. The first one is going to be loosening up, the second is going to be drawing with your less dominant hand, which in my case is my left-hand. Third is drawing with my eyes closed, make sure not to knock my laptop over while doing this. I've been known to knock coffee off of the table while drawing with my eyes closed. Then the last piece is going to be taking all of those different ideas and applying it to a final self-portrait. So you're definitely going to question a lot of these exercises. These are all things that you can come across a bit silly or can make you feel a little bit self-conscious, and that's okay, that's the point. I feel like every time I do these exercises, it allows me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and that just makes projects for myself better or just living your everyday life a little bit easier. Thank you so much for taking this class and for spending time with me. I'm super excited. Let's get started. 2. Working From Instinct: Drawing from instinct and drawing from feeling is probably one of the most freeing experiences that you can have. It helps your brain think a little bit differently. If you're struggling with a project or if you're unsure how to start a project, being able to use one of these exercises that switch gears, allows you to approach your work from a new perspective. I feel like at the beginning of most of my projects, I can become overwhelmed with the idea of, "Is this going to look perfect, or will people love this piece, or is this communicating what I needed to communicate," all before I've begun anything. So I'll be staring at a blank page panicked. To be able to use one of these exercises is really important to me because: it allows me to put a mark on the paper and now that paper is no longer perfect and we can move forward more quickly. It also frees my mind from that struggle and reminds me that I'm doing this because I love it and it just makes the beginning process a lot easier. The idea of perfection, I, right now, I'm saying there's no such thing as perfection, just forget about it. In theory, that's great. I wish I could say that to myself every day before I start a project, but in reality, we all struggle with the idea of what is perfect to us and what we know we can make the best from ourselves. That's something that I do struggle with on a daily basis, and I feel that using these exercises really allows me to forget about the idea of perfection. So as we start these exercises, something that I want us to focus on is how we're currently feeling in this moment. To be able to do that, drawing in these different ways is really great to be able to get a little bit more introspective. I feel like we're impacted by a lot of things like on our phones or on our TV screens, and to be able to just take a moment for ourselves and really feel how we're feeling, and putting it on the page is going to be great not only for your mood, but also for the work that you'll make in the future. In regards to being connected to yourself and to your emotions and being able to put that into the work, for me at least, it allows me to be honest with the subject matter of the pieces that I make. So a lot of the pieces I make focus on feminism, whether it's emotional or physical, or just storytelling things that have happened to me or happened to other women in a way that is relatable for the viewer. I think being in touch with my own feelings and being honest with myself and the things that I've learned over time is really important to be able to accurately put that in the work so the person viewing it can easily see that emotion, take that emotion in and hopefully learn from it. Speaking from your own experience is incredibly important regardless of how you identify as a person. Because when we put out stories that are authentic and honest to ourselves where other people can view them or read them and then ideally learn from them, I feel like as a collective, we can learn about each other and empathize with each other more. So it's really important that if you can share those honest aspects of yourself and your work, that other people would love to see them and would love to learn from them. 3. Loosening Up: The first step is to loosen up, and you can do this several different ways. Sometimes I will dance around my apartment. I'm feeling lazy, so today we're just going to take a few deep breaths and we're going to stretch. So I think that it's super important to physically loosen yourself up, because I feel at least for me, I carry a lot of tension in my upper body, and that can get into my drawing and make my drawing a bit more difficult. So just being able even to just roll your shoulders back, stretch your arms, dance in place, learning TikTok dance, you do you, just being able to physically get into it is super important. Feels good actually. I try to do this every morning. I draw though. I do it right before I draw, but I really should make it an everyday practice to just get up and stretch. So after we've done our stretches or dance moves, we are going to draw on top of an old drawing. It could be a drawing that you've made, it could be a photo from a magazine, it could be some junk mail that you got in the mail that was like a pretty landscape on it. Just draw on top of something that already exists. It could be a receipt, anything. For me, I'm going to take my sketchbook and I just opened it to a page from a drawing that I made a few weeks ago, and I'm going to just draw right on top of it. So for this one, I'm going to pick a really fun light color. This really helps you to loosen up too, because the page already has marks on it. So you're not feeling super precious about it. You're just having fun. Whatever you decide to draw, it can be anything. It could also be the written word if that's something that you haven't explored and you want to play with. The idea of loosening up in this way really helps me because I'm not precious about this drawing. It's just supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be loose. It's just like to get you into the mode of mark making and putting things down onto the page. The thoughts that go through my mind while I'm making this piece is to just really have fun and explore different forms, explore different color combinations, build off of forms that already exist on the actual drawing or photo, and to just really loosen up to ease myself into making something and just allow myself to have fun with it. If you're struggling to figure out where to put your first mark on the page, my number one thing to do is just close your eyes and go like that and just put a dot in the page because now you did it, and then you could either build off of that dot and make a shape from it. You could just do a bunch of dots with your eyes closed or your eyes open, and it just, even though there's something on the page and you're already less precious about it, sometimes that first mark can be scary, so just putting a dot down helps you get over it a little bit. For this first exercise, it can depend on the size of the paper that you're drawing on, what you're drawing in particular or the actual types of pens that you use. I would say for me, depending on how much time I have, I could spend a minute doing this or I could spend 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes or onwards, really just depending on how much time I feel I need to loosen up and get out of my own head. It's also okay too, if you'd like to completely fill the page. If it gets to the point where it's like unrecognizable what you've made, I think that's awesome, because again, the piece isn't really meant to tell story. It's not a narrative. You're not showing anybody this unless you want to. The idea behind this drawing is just to get into the act of mark making. How you'll know when you're finished is you'll get this sense of content, like, "Yeah, I'm ready to make something new. I'm not afraid to make a mark on a blank page." That's when you can move on from this exercise. It sometimes can take me an hour really to just get all the thoughts from my day before or all the things that I have to do out of my head and really focus. Sometimes it's something as quick as a few seconds, and I'm like, "Okay. Cool. I'm in it, I'm ready. Let's make something awesome." So that is it. This exercise really allows me to empty out my mind with all the things that I know that I have to do for the rest of the day, or all of my insecurities about making a new piece, all my fears about what that new piece will look like. It just allows me to focus on putting ink or pencil or whatever medium you have onto paper. Now that we've completed our masterpiece on another masterpiece, we are going to start to draw with our less dominant hand. 4. Drawing With Your Less Dominant Hand: Now, we are going to do a self-portrait with our less dominant hand, and for me that is my left hand. I'm going to use my photo booth camera on my laptop, just because I live in a small apartment and don't have that many mirrors. However, using a mirror, using your phones, face-time camera are all great, whatever you feel more comfortable with. The one thing that I would suggest is don't use a photo of yourself. I think that drawing from a live reflection of you is going to be a bit more interesting, than having to render a photo, because then that way when you're done, you're not sitting there comparing your drawing with your less dominant hand to a photo of you, whereas you'll be focusing on the fact that you were able to depict yourself in a way that makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable. So this exercise is important to put you in a head space, where you are experimenting, because when we use the hand that we usually tend to write with, for me at least tend to overanalyze the marks that I'm putting on the page, and by switching hands, it allows you to free yourself up, free up the mind space, and just make marks as best as you can. Your mind goes into this problem-solving mode of like, don't get the ink on the table, or get the ink on the table if that's fine and it really just frees you up from any over-analyzation of what you're about to draw. Let's begin. I'm going to for this one use my brush pen. I love them because one side has a brush, and it really allows you to play with different weights, and the other side just pretty standard pen. I take both caps off, especially if I'm not drawing for more than 10 or 15 minutes because it allows me to swap between both of them. So self-portrait, it can be scary, because you're like, I want this to look awesome because it's a reflection of me by me, but it's not supposed to do that. The idea is you're using you're less dominant hand. You're just trying to put it on the paper, and your self portrait doesn't necessarily have to look like you. It can also be how you're feeling in the moment. So if you decide that you're looking at yourself in the mirror or on your computer, and you're like you know what? I'm feeling in a pattern instead, draw a pattern, if you like, that's the most authentic portrait and reflection of you at this time, then you should do it. So for me, I'm going to make mine a little more representational, just because I'm feeling how my hair looks today, so I'm going to go with it. The idea is to just have fun with it. Don't worry about if an eye is very big for this, and then very small for a face. That's you. Also feel free to play with where your hand lives on the pen, really close sometimes makes you really tighten up, and use your wrist. You want to keep yourself loose. Try to use the back of the pen, you might be thinking that will just make the drawing more difficult to make and it wrong. It just keep it loose, it's going to remind you physically to just have fun with the drawing. I'm in internal much today. I love drawing internal X. Sometimes I'll just draw self-portraits of myself in the Delta summer in eternal neck, just because they're great and I love the shape that they make, especially integer i. It's also important to remember you're probably starting to get to the point now where you're over-analyzing what this looks like. Don't, just have fun. Allow your hands to just figure out how to use the pen in a way that it's not used to using and just put things on the paper. I've also got this really fun plant behind me that makes fun composition. So I'm going to add that, I love plants. I'm definitely a plant person, and I feel that is an accurate thing to add into my self-portrait because it feels like me. I've decided to use the thinner line for the plants instead of the thicker one, just because it allows the depth of field for this to be focused on me with the halo of the plant in the background. Again, not giving it too much thought. I also remembered that I opened it, so I should use it. Also feel free to switch up colors if you want. So I'm going to switch to adding a color. You could stick with the same exact utensil. If that's where you're feeling you're starting to get into it or if you feel like I've hit my stopping point with this particular color, switch it up. There are no wrong answers when making a self-portrait, especially with your less dominant hand. You're then going to get to the point where you feel like you've either fill the page or this feels like a good representation of you and that's where you're going to hit a stopping point. You're not going to keep drawing until it's perfect because there is no such thing. If you're like, "It's feels like me, I'm feeling good about it. I think it's done," then it's done. Now that we've finished our self-portrait with our less dominant hand. We are going to go into the next exercise, which is drawing with the eyes closed. 5. Drawing With Your Eyes Closed: Now we are going to draw with our eyes closed. I'm going to draw this on my computer because it makes it a little bit more interesting. Things that I want you to think about as we're getting into this exercise is the piece itself is also going to be a self-portrait. I want you to close your eyes and envision how you see yourself. That could be very similar to our last drawing or it's a little bit more representational. It can be something that's abstracted, that's a pattern. It could be a collage with your eyes closed. Whatever mood that you're in, let that piece take on that emotion. This is really important too because similarly to drawing with a less dominant hand, drawing with your eyes closed frees up your mind and allows you to just experiment and play with different form and your imagination. I'm going to using Adobe Photoshop on my computer and the Trackpad. I make most of my work with my Trackpad, and a lot of my artist friends get very confused as to why I don't use an iPad or a tablet. I just love using the Trackpad because it allows for natural errors to happen, but you can use anything. So I'm using Photoshop, feel for you to join me if you would like to use Photoshop as well. If not, feel free to do another drawing by hand with your eyes closed. I'll make sure not to knock my laptop over while doing this. I've been known to knock coffee off of the table while I'm drawing with my eyes closed. So as you're drawing your portrait, make sure that any of those doubting words that you're saying to yourself like, "I feel silly." It's okay, you're supposed to feel silly. These drawings sometimes I suggest keeping them shorter, so we could do a few of them, if you've got extra paper or in Photoshop, just save extra layers. That way you can save it as one cohesive file and reference it for the future if you'd like. That way you don't feel you're focusing on one drawing for an extended period of time just because drawing with your eyes closed, you feel like you fill up the page a bit faster than if your eyes were open. So I felt like I finished my first drawing and this is what it came out to be which is pretty awesome. I think the fact that you don't have any special awareness of the edges of your canvas or of your paper, physically you might, but being able to go off of that and not worry about the boundaries is really interesting and just again, even though this isn't as representational as this may have been, it still feels like being. I'm feeling excited, we're filming this, it is awesome. I'm also experimenting with my own comfort level and being able to push that. So the serendipity of the portrait falling off the side of the canvas speaks to that emotion that I'm feeling right now which is cool. So we could do it again. We're going to do this a few times and feel free to do it for as many or as little times as you need. I like to do this probably like 2-3 times. I'm going to pick a different color, I'm going to do blue, I'm also going to decrease my brush size for this one. For this one, I'm going to try to do a profile portrait. I often feel that we don't really look at ourselves from profile because it's difficult unless we've got a photo of ourselves. So it makes it a bit easier to envision because you're not envisioning for accuracy, you're envisioning for what you think you might look like, so it plays into your imagination. Again now I'm attempting to draw a turtleneck because I love them. I wear a turtleneck everyday, I feel pretty good, unless it's 90 degrees out then, not so good. Now I'm attempting to draw the plants behind me. I really loved those from our first exercise. If you're drawing by hand, feel free to switch up the markers that you have or the colored pencils, and if you want to play with different colors. Before you start drawing with your eyes closed, make sure you set those up with all the markers open. That way you don't have to worry about losing caps or anything like that on your pens. If you're drawing digitally, it might be a little bit more difficult to switch colors, but feel free to click off and then click back on and see what happens. I'm going to stick with the blue color that I originally made. Now that I'm feeling good about this second piece, I feel I've covered the whole canvas, I'm going to open my eyes and see what it looks like. Now for this piece, I think that the blue, I chose a color that is on level with my current mood which is really excited, but also being calm. This was an attempt to be a profile of my face. For this piece, adding the plants in the background really brought a nice texture to it and to be able to open up and see that the nose is much higher in the plane than the eyes than the ears. It gives us upward looking feeling, and I feel that also resonates with me because I was feeling a bit hopeful today and a bit excited about what this class would become and that's what this portrait looks like, so that's pretty awesome. We're going to do one more portrait with our eyes closed and hopefully at this point now that we're too in, you're feeling a bit more relaxed, you're not feeling silly anymore, you're like, " This is a really fun exercise. I really love how my instinct is leaning into what these pieces are turning out." Even if they're not, that's still okay. The idea is to just loosen up, get out of your own head and enjoy making art for the sake of it. So this third one, I'm going to pick red. I feel like my favorite colors change minute by minute, I'm feeling red. So for our third portrait, I'm going to focus more on the plants behind me. So I'm going to start off and make a smaller portrait of what I think it look like in the foreground, and then focus on the plants. The reason why I'm doing that is right now, I wish I could be outside with the weather being a bit warmer and being able to be in the sun and being around nature is always something that rejuvenates me. So wishful thinking as I'm putting that into this drawing. I'm feeling pretty good with this one, I think I got a lot of plant in there, so I'm going to open my eyes. I forgot to draw my eyes which I think leans into the entire idea of drawing with your eyes closed. So down here is the portrait, and up here I pretty accurately got a leaf-ish, and just being able to draw my surrounding also speaks to where I am physically, so it's pretty exciting to see. Now that we've done all of these different exercises, drawing with our left hand, drawing with our eyes closed and loosening up, we're going to take them all and put them together to produce a final self-portrait. 6. Drawing From Feeling: Now, we're going to make a self portrait that is inspired by all of the exercises that we've done previously, and this is really open-ended. It's supposed to be a self portrait on how you feel, not necessarily how you are looking, and that's really important to think about while we're making this piece. It does not have to be representational. You don't have to have a face on it. It can be abstracted colors, it can be torn paper, it could be whatever feels most authentically to you. So that's what I want you to keep in mind as we're making this. Before we begin, I feel like it's nice to take a pause and look back at the portraits that we made in the earlier lessons. So being able to look at the digital portraits for me that I made with my eyes closed and then the portrait that I made with my left hand, just being able to see how my emotion plays out onto paper, and then lean into those decisions that I subconsciously made, and then remake them consciously for this final piece. So for mine, I really loved in the digital pieces, the color that I chose and I like the lines which like pushing the boundaries of the actual piece. Then for the piece with my left hand, I loved how I started to introduce multiple colors and really just let my surroundings drive the narrative of this piece. So I'm going to try to take those two elements and put them into my final portrait. Because I am working digitally with my eyes open this time, it gives me the ability to choose colors, which is pretty fun, but that can also be overwhelming. So if you want to stick to one color, or if you want to stick to the last few colors that you've used in your palette, it takes the decision-making away from you. So that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to use the last five colors I've used, which is an orange, a red, a blue, and two greens. So we're good go with that. Now, if you're starting to feel a bit nervous, like,"My goodness, I'm looking at a blank page, everything we just did escaped my mind and I'm nervous again." That's completely natural and that happens to everybody, that also happens to me. I just spent an hour doing all these exercises, for what? So sometimes I like to use one of those exercises for this final piece. So I am going to actually draw the first layer of my portrait with my eyes closed. For me, I'm going to focus on the face. I feel like in my work, the face tells a lot of the story, so I like to start there. Sometimes I'll start with actual form. Wherever you feel like you want to start is where you should start. So I'm going to close my eyes and I'm just going to make what I feel is an outline of my piece. Then when that's done, I'm going to open my eyes and close off that shape and fill in the color. You can keep it as a line drawing, you could fill it in with color, whatever you want to do. I'm going to play with scale a little bit, whatever feels right. Then from there, I'm going to build with the sweater. Again, if you're like "Good. First marks on the page, I'm feeling good." That's great, that's where we want you to be. If you're still feeling a little bit like, "I don't know, is this going to look good?" Another way to get rid of that is to draw with your less dominant hand again. So on a computer, it takes a little getting used to, you're going to hold down with your dominant hand and then draw with your less dominant hand, which is fun and again, it allows your mind to focus on the logistics of doing that because you don't do that regularly. That should hopefully help eliminate those thoughts of concern or fear and experimentation. When working on this final piece, I would say don't spend more than 15-30 minutes on it. It's not meant to be the best piece that you've ever made. For me, my best pieces are always pieces that I'll make in the future, and having that mindset really frees you from worrying about how this piece will turn out. Now, again to I where feel like my sweater is feeling good, I like how loose and flowy it is on me, and I feel like this accurately depicts that. I'm going to move on to making some hair because I like my hair, it's feeling good today. Again, if you're working on something that's a bit more abstracted and more gestural, and you're moving through this portrait faster then, like 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes, feel free to make more than one. You definitely don't have to stick with the one final portrait. For me now that I'm working on this hair, I noticed that the layer of the hairs is in front of the face, I'm just going to lean into that and build around it. If you make a mistake in your work, definitely try and lean into it, sometimes it could take your work to a place that you otherwise wouldn't have taken it, and that can always be really exciting. A lot of the work that I make, I'll have made a mistake in a sketch or drawing or in a warm-up exercise like we've just did, and then taking a look back at it, I'm like, "I love that, that's awesome." I'm going to actually do that intentionally for a client piece or intentionally for a portrait of myself. So definitely don't be afraid of making mistakes. Now, I'm going to draw the base. If you are drawing a representational portrait that looks like a human, a lot of people get worried about the face, don't. Don't worry about proportions, I feel like in art school or just like drawing lessons that we see on TV, people were like, "Where are my eyes in relationship to my nose?" Don't worry about that. If you're feeling yourself getting a little stuck, starting to let those thoughts creep back in, another good thing that I love to do is call my parents. So I work from home which is great. Whenever I'm working solo and I'm struggling with a piece and I just didn't have in my plans to meet up with other artists that freelance, I'll call and talk to my parents on the phone, and it is a really good way to distract yourself from overthinking a piece. Oftentimes, I'll be struggling on a project. I'm like, "My goodness, this is just awful." I'll chat with my mom for like a half hour and then look up from my screen and be like, "Good job mum, thanks." Then just like being out of your own head and having to focus on something else other than drawing can also help you loosen up. Now that I'm feeling pretty good about my face, I again really love how all of my other exercises I brought in the shapes of the plants behind me. I think those forms are really fun and relate to how I'm feeling currently. So I'm going to add those in as well. You don't have to add in your surroundings, if it's something that's just not resonating with you. You could focus only on your surroundings for this portrait, if that's what works for you in the moment, definitely listen to your instinct when adding or taking away things in this portrait. You're eventually going to get to a place in your piece where you're like, "I'm feeling it, this is cool. I like this." At that moment, definitely feel like you don't have to continuously draw, take a break, take a step back and look at the piece itself and see if there's anything that you put on the page that you like, "I'm actually not feeling that now. I felt that five minutes ago, but I don't know. It's just not me anymore." Feel free to go back and change or add to it or take it away. So for me the sweater, I can go back in and remove a line, and then fill the bottom part of the sweater with a big brush and leave the top part with the line detail instead. You're eventually going to get to a point where you feel like you want to naturally stop and that's when you're stopping point should be, even if you've only got one eye on the page or things are not perfect. If you look at it and it feels like you, that's your stopping point. So for me, I'm looking at this, I'm feeling like, yeah, this is resonating with how I'm feeling at the moment, I've got beautiful plants behind me. I'm excited. I'm also very thoughtful because this work does take a lot of thought to be able to get out of your own headspace. It feels like how I'm feeling right now, and that's the ultimate goal. I've reached my stopping point, but feel free to continue to work on this piece until you feel like it's complete for you. You can take a break from it now and come back to it later and spent a minute here on it and a minute there depending on how your mood changes throughout the day, but try not to spend too much more than 15-30 minutes on it because it's not meant to be this perfect masterpiece. It's just supposed to be an accurate representation on how you're feeling. 7. Final Thoughts: We have made it. Thank you so much for spending this time with me and taking this class with me. I hope that you want a few fun exercises to use when you're starting to overanalyze and overquestion your work or something that's going on in your life, and then you can use these to break out of that thought process and feel a little bit more free. Also be sure to share your work in the project gallery. I can't wait to see it. Thank you so much for taking this class and spending this time with me, I'll seen you all soon.