Stick to It: How to Maintain a Creative Practice | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

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Stick to It: How to Maintain a Creative Practice

teacher avatar Amarilys Henderson, Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Stick to It - trailer


    • 2.

      Why Tho?


    • 3.

      Crafting your challenge


    • 4.

      Establish your why


    • 5.

      Work from Who You Are


    • 6.

      Gather Your Tools


    • 7.

      Rally Your Tribe


    • 8.

      When You're Tired & Busy


    • 9.

      Maintaining Momentum


    • 10.

      The Finish Line!


    • 11.

      How to: Floral


    • 12.

      How to: Line Drawings + Drops


    • 13.

      How to: Faces in Watercolor


    • 14.

      How to: Non-objectives


    • 15.

      Get Pumped!


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About This Class

100 days of this... 365 of that... daily sketch... And pretty soon you're up to your head with hopes and out of breath for stamina! I get it. But it doesn't have to be that way. 

Follow Amarilys' steps and thought process to set your goal and your momentum to a fine-tuned speed for success. 

In this unique class format, you'll listen to guided advice while watching a live work of {daily} art while learning...

  • How to craft your challenge or goal to suit you best for the long haul
  • What makes a goal stick
  • Practical tips for preparing yourself 
  • What to do on those days when you're busy, tired, or miss
  • How to re-energize your personal challenge after the halfway point
  • How to decide whether to do another challenge
  • And finally, you'll get a behind the scenes re-cap of the creation of the pieces created in watercolor, ink, and marker during the class

You'll finish this class encouraged and prepared to tackle that creative wish in your heart. 

Great for a 100 day challenge, sketchbook practice, or incorporating a regular creative routine into an already-busy life. 

Great things come from regular practices. They encourage creativity while affirming your commitment to your craft. 

See what students are saying:

This class explains how to create an art work challenge that caters to your needs, one that you can actually complete. Then it offers helpful strategies for sticking it out when the going gets tough. This is exactly what I've been looking for! There is no self-help rubbish here, no "new you in 10 easy steps." On the contrary, Amarylis' suggestions are down-to-earth practical, quite do-able, and truly inspirational. Thank you, Amarylis, for offering a class that is so very much needed, and far too long over-due! - Rochelle

Meet Your Teacher

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Amarilys Henderson

Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Top Teacher

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

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

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


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

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Level: Beginner

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1. Stick to It - trailer: So, I developed this class based on a single question that I received on a podcast interview. I was asked, "You do all these Instagram challenges or daily sketches, these creative challenges, these 100 days of something, how do you stick to it?" There are some real tangible ways to make it work. So that exciting and fresh idea you have, that challenge that you have that really you want to conquer or you want to maintain as a practice, won't fall away and you won't get discouraged. With my commentary while I'm talking, you will watch me create something and it can easily be a creative challenge for yourself. I'm Amarilys Henderson, I'm an illustrator and if I had not done these creative challenges that I've done in the past, I would not have a core of my portfolio. They've really been critical in pushing me forward to create more work and better work. Stick to It. 2. Why Tho?: Creative challenges are so important because for one, they're self-imposed. You create your own challenge. I'm a big believer in that and I'll help you walk through some of the parameters that you can give yourself. But you know the holes in your growth and as you craft these challenges to fill those holes with practice, with a lot of pieces, with a lot of work that you're throwing at the wall little by little, you're going to amass this body of work without knowing it. It might not seem like much at first, and I don't want you to put that pressure on yourself of creating a beautiful, finished piece every day because who can do that? But, you might create bits and pieces that then you can use in other pieces or get your bad pieces out of the way so that you can finally create that breakthrough piece that brings it all together, that you've learned through to get to it. 3. Crafting your challenge: The first step is going to be defining what are your challenges. If you already know what you want to do for the next whatever number of days or as a regular practice, I do encourage you to still listen through because you might be able to fine-tune your challenge to be better suited, to work for you long term. I want you to create a very simple goal. When you're at the beginning of a new challenge, a new season, you're really excited, you're pumped to get going. But, we want to have as clear a purpose on the onset to meet us at the middle point and towards the end, and not just right now at the beginning. Well, this is not the time for big goals, it's the time for a simple goal. Be somewhat specific in what you're going to create. Just keep it down to about two parameters. An example would be, I'm going to draw everyday objects inline drawing everyday. You could use markers, you could use pencils, you could use makeup eyeliner, and you're still within that parameter and you have some space to get funky depending on the mood that you have. 4. Establish your why: The second key that I think is very very important, actually is more important, is to establish your "Why?". A way to put that is, what is your "so that" sentence. So, I'm going to do everyday objects in line drawing, so that I can better understand the outside shapes of things. That "so that" statement is going to carry you through, especially on those days when you feel discouraged. This is the most important part of your challenge. 5. Work from Who You Are: What we're trying to craft the challenge, we really want to consider who we are. I take notes from the way that I already operate, the way I already am and then I build off of that. I'm not trying to change the way I am. I'm just trying to add this new skill to how I work. So you can be let's say one of three kinds of people; people who need a prompt everyday, who need a ton of structure, someone in the middle, and someone who is very loose and has a hard time sticking to something structured everyday. Cater your challenge to kind of be for that kind of person. For instance, I'm not a prompt person. I don't like to be told what to draw all the time because I do and that's my work. So in my personal practice in the portfolio that I'm trying to build out of the kind of work that I want to do in the future, I'm going to be very intentional about what I draw but I do like to have a continuity, a theme going on, and so that's how I fall in that middle ground. Something that I like to do with my challenges is to create an outline where you have, let's say I'm going to do 100 days of nature, drawings of nature and then break it down into each week or each 15 days, 33 days or whatever. I'm going to adjust my focus. So it might be leaves and then water features and be refreshed on the same theme but have a different thing to do every day. Craft your challenge and your why statement and make sure that something that tugs at your heart, something that you really want to conquer. Why is it that you want to do this challenge and what we gain when you're done with it. 6. Gather Your Tools: Now that you know what you going to do, gather your supplies. Have them all together, you want to create an atmosphere of no excuses. So, something that helps me, is actually to have one sketchbook where I have everything for that challenge, and I see the continuity. It encourages me so much to see my past work, and to see how it led up to this point. I did that with my Start With The Shape Challenge, I have a book. It's not 100 pages, so it's not absolutely all of them, but most of them are there and I could see what I did last week and what I did yesterday. It was kind of a warm up to look through that book and be able to say, ''Okay, today I'm not sure what I'm going to draw out of the shape that I have already painted", because that was the challenge, to create something out of shapes that I already had down, usually a circle. But you know what? I've done it so far for this many days or through this many sketches, and look how they ended up, and I can do this again today. Looking back, it's so important to encourage you to move forward. So, as you gather your sketchbook or let's say you just want a physical box, let's say you're taking pictures and you need a folder on your phone, or let's say you're collecting things or you're podcasting, create a folder or a hashtag, use social media, use Pinterest boards, use YouTube collections to help you create this collection of these things that you've created in this theme, for this purpose, and it's going to be something that will accelerate your work in the future. As you dread through some of those middle points, some of those difficult parts of kind of getting through your challenge, you'll see the continuity and you'll see your growth, and it will spur you on. Something else is key in organizing your supplies is to carry them with you wherever you go. I always have my art supplies in my purse. I have this packet where I have my sketchbook, my paints, my water brush, and I'm ready to go given the time and inspiration. If you don't have a kit like that, I do sell one. But create your own where you have your supplies always with you and there is no excuses. 7. Rally Your Tribe: Third, rally your tribe. It's no secret that we need other people to help encourage us and to feel like we're a part of something bigger. A lot of people do this through social media, whether you create a hash tag or you just tell your followers, "Hey I'm doing this." Adding that little number of this and such and such out of so many, really does spur you want to keep doing it. Another way to rally community is like with real people around you. Even if it's just one friend in town, where you guys can meet up periodically and share what you've been up to, that is huge. I have heard over and over on several podcasts how people had other people to call them out and say, "Hey, how's it going on this project that you're doing or this work that you're doing." When you don't have a boss or someone that you need to check in with, create a community where you do do that and don't confuse your followers for your supervisors. But they do often supply some great advice, some great requests. Those comments, that excitement you get from followers is critical, it's great. Get your creative peers involved whether they be across the country or nearby, so that it's not just you sitting in your room trying to do something every day. Even if you're telling somebody who doesn't do something creative every day, you tell them, "Hey, can you check in on me every so often". Just knowing that that's going to happen, really will help you adhere to your goals. 8. When You're Tired & Busy: All right. When you're tired. This is going to happen. You are going to be so tired. At the end of the day, you realize, I didn't do that one thing that I was supposed to do every day. At that point, create anything, so you won't miss, so that then you won't fall behind, so that then you won't lose momentum, so that then you don't fall into an emotional pit. But do something every day even if it's really quick, so that you'll experiment. So, maybe it's time to try something like a blind contour drying and you're not even looking in, and you're just doing something and it takes you five minutes, so you're going to go to bed. You will look back on those crummy days and you'll remember, I had crummy days, but look, I still did it. It becomes a bit of a journal, a record of your days. This is cool. You want to include the crummy days, right? We don't just want the highlights, we want to see the full picture of what it's like to live a creative life. When you're busy and you don't have time. So, all of us come into seasons where we know we're going to be busy. We know we're going to be busy around the holidays, and we know we're going to be busy at the beginning of the school year. Do forecast that, think about that right now, so that maybe when you're super excited about your new goal, create your pieces and you keep that second one in your back pocket for that busy day. On your tired days, make terrible work and on your busy days make quick work. Maybe you just need to put a frowny face on your sketchbook page and at least it's not blank, and then you move on. 9. Maintaining Momentum: So, we've come to what I think is the second most important part. Your why statement is the most important part of creating your challenge, but then maintaining momentum, that's biggie. So, you see the natural progression where you have a fresh idea and you've got that spark, and you're feeling awesome, and you go on this inspiration high. Then, you're in a rhythm, and you kind of just keep creating, and this is your thing, and then it becomes a grind. Then, there's a bit of a lull and usually there, you're at the halfway point. A lot of people fall off their intentions and their habits at the halfway point. Why? Because you're looking back at how far you've come and you realized, "That's as far as I have to go. I don't know if I have enough energy, inspiration, stamina, self-motivation, self-control to keep this up." That's when you need to revisit your why and maybe pivot. You're running towards something that you know what? It's still in that northward bound area, but I think I need to go just a slightly different direction. I did just this on my last 100-days challenge. I was doing a hundred days of color. I got really tired of creating monochromatic work and I got into this muddy, what is this anymore? I realized that I need to add another perimeter, another dimension to my challenge. That's when I started to do my color birds. Okay, I'm still doing one color a day. I'm using these specific paints that I don't use very often anymore, and I've dedicated myself to do 42 color birds. I added this dimension of so that because what I was going to get as my final result that really made me very excited to finish the entire 100 days. So let's say in another way you were too specific with your challenge and you're losing vigor with it because you're finding it too limiting. Let's say you decided to do a hundred days of subway sketching. You are getting tired of drawing the back of people's heads or the same positions that they're standing, the same things, and you've really tried to look at things in a fresh way, and to make it cool, and it's really not working for you. Just extend your parameters in that case. So, your why needs to stay true and maybe you're drawing not just your subway ride but on the way to work. Because then on the way to work, you can start to draw people walking their dogs and restaurants, and storefronts, and things that you haven't been able to do before when you're just doing the subway sketches. So feel free and please do pivot when you need to maybe at that 30 percent halfway mark. Once you're on that track, you're feeling refreshed, then you're just tracking through, then you're almost there, and you finish. As a hint, as you see this trajectory of what usually happens when you create a challenge and fulfilling it, we forget why we did things in the first place, or why we thought it would be fun, or why we thought we could do it. It might be encouraging to watch again just a feel that first spark. You're really trying to ignite that first spark again. You've done it. So at the end, we're done, right? Celebrate with a reveal. Do a compilation video where you go through all your pieces that you've done or you look back on some of the highlights. Something that's been really rewarding for me is to compile things and have this like packaged, and they're already cohesive so they really lend themselves to be able to do this. I did a class when I did my start with a shape challenge. I created this book when I did the color birds. Being able to be proud of something that you've done, it's something big to be able to have the self-discipline to stick to something that you said you'd do. What you will be inevitably asking yourself is, "Should I do this again?" I mean, I did it, so I should be able to do it again, and you can. I totally believe that you should do another challenge once you've completed your challenge, but not right after. Yeah. Give yourself a mile marker. It doesn't have to be a date but it could be through this month or whatever, where you have a mile marker of, "I think I want to start my next challenge around then." You want to give yourself some times of space to rejoice in the work that you've done, chill, and then get re-energized to really bond with whatever your next why is going to be that is going to propel your creative work to the next level. 10. The Finish Line!: Once you're on that track, you're feeling refreshed then you're trucking through, then you're almost there, and you finish. As a hint, as you see this trajectory of what usually happens when you create a challenge and fulfilling it, we forget why we did things in the first place, or why we thought it would be fun, or why we thought we could do it. It might be encouraging to watch again just to feel that first spark. You're really trying to ignite that first spark again. You've done it. So at the end, were done right. Celebrate with a reveal. Do a compilation video where you go through all your pieces that you've done or you look back on some of the highlights. So there it's been really rewarding for me as to compile things and have this like package, and they're already cohesive so they really lend themselves to be able to do this. I did a class when I did my start with a shape challenge. I created this book, when I did the color birds and being able to be proud of something that you've done it's something big to be able to have the self-discipline to stick to something that you said you'd do. What you will be inevitably asking yourself is should I do this again? I mean it did it. So I should be able to do it again. And you can. I totally believe that you should do another challenge once you've completed your challenge but not right after. Give yourself a mile marker. Doesn't have to be a date, but it could be this month or whatever. When you have kind of a mile marker of, I think I want to start my next challenge around then. I want to give yourself some times of space to rejoice in the work that you've done, chill and then get reenergized to really bond with whatever your next why is going to be, that is going to propel your creative work to the next level. I totally understand that feeling of wanting to grow and wanting to do all these little things that will add up to be something awesome, and I know you can do that. 11. How to: Floral: Next few videos are going to focus on how I did some of the pieces that I showed on the right-hand side on this class. Beginning with this wild floral, I focused on yellows and violets, the complimentary colors, and kind of branched out it from there. In my floral's class, it's called Modern Watercolor Florals, three ways. This takes after more of the wet-on-wet technique, and then I move into more of an illustrator technique. So I lay down the very light washes with my paint brush using a lot of water, a lot of color, and then I add in more colors. So you get kind of those rich bleeds, where you have full on color, and more watery washed out looks on the other side. I'm using a size eight, round brush, and it's really a crafter's brush. It's nothing very special, but I make sure that the point of the brush is still intact. From there, I moved on to a one-inch wide flat brush. Now, this brush isn't usually used this way, but I am using it in a very dry way. So I'm only using the tip of the brush with some paint on it, and not a whole lot of water, that creates these cool textures where I kind of have a feel for leaves or palm fronds. Now, moving on to another one of my favorite brushes, which is outliner brush, this is a size four. I'm loading it with a lot of paint and some water. I'd like to have really rich colors. As I get closer into the details, I use more paint and less water, and I want my lines to be crisper. Really, what I'm doing right now is focusing on trying to make these blobs more flower like, and experimenting with how to do that in different ways. So I use some hash marks, and I try to follow as if each one was a petal, and try to define the shapes that way. Then I created lines where they were pretty, wet lines, and then I added some paint where I wanted them to be darker. I added some blue that's hinting at purple, to keep it with this color scheme, but add a little darker variety. I'm also trying to use the width of the brush, not just the tip of the brush, to create lush lines that go still with the shapes that I have going here. I'm really trying to experiment and exploit all the different kind of marks that I can make with a single brush. Now recently, I've been really enjoying adding colored pencil on top of my watercolor painting. So here, I'm using Prismacolors. I really like the texture that colored pencils provide. You can really pick up on the texture of the paper. You see how little gaps are left to the white where the cold pressed paper has a little bit of texture to it. I can overlap in a way that I can't as much as in watercolor, because in watercolor it'll combine the colors together as I layer. With colored pencils, being a dry medium, I don't have that. So I have a thinner point, I can create more details, and just play around a little bit more. Floral are really such a great subject matter, because they provide so much variety, and shape, and color, and texture, and you can make a lot of things up to as you go. 12. How to: Line Drawings + Drops: I'm showing you how I do these line drawings. Real quickly. Basically I know I'm going to get questions about what marker I use. So this is a Tombo calligraphy pen. It is the Japanese version. If you do see variations on Amazon which is where I purchased it. If you like they love Harry Styles. Yes I do have a class for that. This one would be in a sans serif class, and I like just to play with different mine with. So the left hand side of those letters is a lot thicker than the right and then I fill it in with some designs. Now I don't know if you've ever done a blind contour drawing. That's when you are just solely looking at what you're driving. You have your paper and your pencil somewhere else down on your desk and you are not looking at your paper at all. It helps to not lift the pan out so that you kind of have a better sense of where you are on the page. Sometimes it is fun to lift your pencil and then find that the other half of your subject matters on the other side of the page. But it's a great way to help your brain be programmed to understand the shapes that it sees without looking in relation to other shapes. So it's a total cognitive interplay between your brain and your hand. What you're seeing and not registering with what you are creating. Now this is for my watercolor nerds, who really like to play with wet on wet techniques. So, what I meant is when you lay down the water with your brush, and you don't put on the paint until later, where you have the water actually bleed into that droplet instead of bleeding into the paper right away. And then while it's wet I'm extending those drops. So, essentially those lines are wet on dry while the droplets are wet on wet. 13. How to: Faces in Watercolor: All right. For those of you who are interested in doing faces, yes I do have a class for that. So, you'll hear me go through that class very quickly here in just a few minutes, minus the details of how to create skin tones, and how to create the correct proportions, and things like that. How it's like to add a little dash of blush on this, you haven't noticed. So, I always like to use two to three colors for just about anything I do. So, the face is the hair, the face tone, the hair, the accessories and clothing you'll see later. I'm always combining the colors and letting them blend naturally with the paint. I do not have a drawing underneath in this case. So, I'm really using my brush to create those shapes and then to fill them in. The paint I'm using are Mission Gold, it's just the quick palette that I reach for. I have several but this keeps me happy on the most part, so I just go with it usually. Now you are going to see me constantly hopping around this piece because I'm waiting for pieces to dry before I move on to another section in a piece. So, even though the first stage is always those lighter washes and then you go into darker or a more full of paint brush loads, I'm doing that but I'm taking turns between the face and the shirt so that I can have the face dry while marking on the shirt, and then come back and do the details in the face. All right. If you're like me, you kind of like to watch people screw up. So, I thought I'd show you this. So, I did work on a part of my face there that was not dry yet. So, what did I do? I used a tip that I shared in the dealing with mistakes class, or I just referred to as the oops class, where I blot it. So, I got that area wet and then I dabbed it as quickly as possible with a paper towel. Then you need to wait. You need to let that fully dry, let the paper heal a little bit. I'm going to actually do another repair to my painting. I felt like the jaw line was really just too short. The jaw line need to come a lot lower. So, what I did was I used a very wet brush to paint on my new jaw line. I cleaned up my brush, washed it off, and with the dry brush picked up the edges where I was hoping that line would be activated. So again, this is also in that class, if I'm not making a whole lot of sense, you basically want to take that line that you're trying to essentially erase. Get it wet so that it lightens the color, blot it with a dry brush or a paper towel, let it dry again. Then come back to it and create a darker line next to it and see if that distracts the eye enough so that you can see the line that you really want the viewer to see. Now, they aren't huge changes in water color but whatever change you can make in watercolor is pretty exciting. I'm going to revisit that eye with a dry sheet of paper and a very loaded brush with a dark color to cover up that mine a little better, and I created my eye lines. So, I really love to work on the eyes, kind of early in the game, just so I can get a sense of where this face is going. You're going to watch me now just adding details as I get darker with my paint, and again, this is all freestyle, freehand with my brush alternating, letting things dry a little bit from area to area as I continue to flesh out this face as I have so many other faces including in that faces class. Finally, I'm using my metallics paint to add some gold in my earrings. And I'm going to use a little bit of white to wipe now those eyes as I work right on top of that skin tone, and always to add a little bit of reflection in the eyes themselves. My favorite way to do faces is in groups. It's almost like creating this diverse group of different personalities. Much like the self-portrait that I just showed you, I go through a similar process but I wanted to show you how I used just this simple Signo Uni-ball pen, it's a gel pen, to create these little white lines to add details. I used to look down on these markers thinking, ''Oh, these are craft markers.'' But it's actually worked really well. I think that they really add such a touch to the finished faces that you just can't get with just the water color. 14. How to: Non-objectives: Now, different points of this class, I showed you just me doodling to create non-objectives, which would mean it's not really anything. They're just shapes, they're just lines, there's no object, there's no subject that I'm creating. But there is a method to the madness. So, as I'm creating these colors, I put down a little bit of color, and I'm trying to see how it'll interplay with something else. I'll think about rhythm. So, I'm trying to create kind of a rhythmic balance where you feel a sense of a pattern going on. If I were to divide up my paper and I were to put an invisible grid on it, I want to see some of these shapes repeating in each one of those grids, but not in the exact same place. So, when people ask me, "Do you just draw wherever you want and do whatever you think of?", in a way, that's true, but really there is a rhythm that goes with it, there is a design that I'm following. As I choose my colors, I'm a little conservative. I start out with lighter colors and I move on to darker colors and more bolder colors. So, in this palette, it's mostly monochromatic. On these triangles, I also went a bit monochromatic, and then just added neutral gray. Obviously, the watercolor that I'm working on is very dry. I'm not working on a wet painting, but I am just creating some hash marks. If you do this professionally, tip that I always loved to use is to scan things at different intervals so I can use this texture of triangles or I can use this as a finished piece. 15. Get Pumped!: It doesn't have to be every day, it doesn't have to be the same quality of work or the same amount of time that you give it. That's how you craft your challenge. To be simple and open, and yet focused in its mission. I'm excited to see what you do. Just be active in rallying your tribe, be honest with yourself and be creative. When you create this lifestyle, always creating something that's going to amount to something great. You'll be amazed at how all those little pieces are going to grow you creatively in your skill, in your practice, and whatever it is that you're really wanting to pursue. Then once you're done with that, then you're ready for another level of challenges, because as we create growing and never stop learning, you will find that there are different levels of skills that you didn't know you could attain to. I'm Signing off, I am excited to post my project and you will see what I'm up to too.