Watercolor For Absolute Beginners | Louise Stigell | Skillshare

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Watercolor For Absolute Beginners

teacher avatar Louise Stigell, Artist, writer & creative coach

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.

      The Magic Of Watercolor


    • 3.

      Gather Your Materials


    • 4.

      Set Up Your Workspace


    • 5.

      Warm Up


    • 6.

      Face The Blank Page


    • 7.

      Color Theory


    • 8.



    • 9.

      Color Poems


    • 10.

      Water Control


    • 11.

      Color Explosion


    • 12.

      Class Project


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About This Class

Watercolor is the medium that helped me heal from burnout, awaken my creativity, and start a whole new career as an artist. Nowadays, I mostly paint birds, animals and portraits. But when I first started out, abstracts was how I got over my fear of the blank page, learned the fundamentals of watercolor painting, and found my artistic voice. I believe it can do the same for you.

This class is for you if you're curious about watercolors but also a little intimidated and overwhelmed. Maybe you've never held a paintbrush before. Or you’ve made a few attempts but it felt more frustrating than fun. (I can relate to that…)

I will introduce you to the basics (and magic) of watercolor painting in a playful and non-overwhelming way: from preparing an inspiring workspace, to getting your brushes and color palette (and mindset) in order. Then, I'll walk you through some relaxing exercises designed to help you move past fears, develop your intuition, and create your first original pieces of art.

My goal for this class is for you to feel confident with your brushes and paints, to be able to paint playfully and without fear, and to have an art practice that calms and nourishes you.

To see more of my work, go to my website: www.louisestigell.com. Sign up for my weekly letters, for regular creative inspiration, resources and exercises. And check out my YouTube channel, where you'll find more tutorials, tips and talks about art and the creative life.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Louise Stigell

Artist, writer & creative coach


Hi! My name is Louise. I'm a Sweden-based artist, writer, and creative solopreneur.

I'm a former freelance writer & web designer who re-discovered and committed to art after a period of burnout. Now, I write and paint full-time, and teach what I've learned on my YouTube channel, my podcast, and in my writings, and here on Skillshare.

I write a newsletter called The Calm Creative, all about making a living on your art, without burning out or going insane. Check it out here.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Intro: Hi, I'm Louise. I'm a watercolor artist. Watercolor is the medium that helped me heal from burn out and start a whole new career as an artist. I love this medium so much me and watercolor was not love at first sight. And I think a lot of you might relate to this. The first few times that I tried painting with watercolor, it was very frustrating. This medium is infamously unpredictable and difficult to control, and it can feel very unforgiving for a beginner. When I approached watercolor again, I decided to try a different approach. I decided to only paint abstracts with abstract painting. There's no pressure to capture your subject accurately or to reach a certain predetermined goal. Painting abstracts was so much more relaxing to me. It allowed me to get to know this medium in a much gentler way. Maybe you are curious about watercolor. I would like to give it a try. But you also feel a bit intimidated and overwhelmed. Maybe you've never held a paint brush before. Or maybe you're more experienced artist, but you're struggling with your perfectionism. You want to try to loosen up a bit and maybe try a different way of making art regardless of your previous experience. This class might help you get over your fear of the plank page. Learn the fundamentals of watercolor painting in a relaxing and meditative way. Develop your creative intuition. I will introduce you to this medium in a playful and non overwhelming way. You're going to learn what materials you need, how to prepare your work space. Then I will walk you through a series of exercises designed to help you move past your fears, develop your intuition, and create your first original pieces of art. My goal for this class is for you to feel relaxed and confident with your brushes and paints. To be able to paint playfully and without fear. And to have an art practice that calms and nourishes you. If you're ready, join me and let's begin. 2. The Magic Of Watercolor: [MUSIC] Why watercolor? What makes this medium so special? So magical? Well first-off, watercolor is beautifully simple. All you need is paint and water, no solvents, no medium and is really easy to clean up. You don't need a lot of space, or a lot of tools or materials to get started with watercolor painting. You can do it on your kitchen table and then quickly clean up and stash everything away afterwards. Watercolor paintings are very easy to store and don't take up much space. The other reason that I love watercolor is that it has this luminous feel to it. Watercolors are transparent, meaning that the paper is showing through the paint. You build up a watercolor painting in layers, starting with your very brightest colors and then gradually deepening those colors and adding shadows and contrast. This is what gives watercolor paintings that vibrant's luminous look to them. You can see the path of the water on the paper, and the way different colors have melted together. Watercolor paintings can look really wild and spontaneous, or innocent and mysterious and fragile. That's what makes them so intriguing to look at and so thrilling to paint. The third reason that I love watercolor is that it has a will of its own in a way. Since we are working with water and often quite a lot of water, there is a lot of unpredictability. We can't know exactly what a brushstroke will look like so there's always that element of surprise and excitement. I view watercolor as a spirit that I need to tame and work with, and I find that I love watercolor the most when I can release some of that control and allow for this unpredictability. The results might not always be what I imagine it, it's often better than I could have imagined it. It's a cure for perfectionism in a way. Watercolor is a special way of thinking. It requires intuition and patience and courage and sometimes some quick thinking on your feet. When you're painting something more complex, it can feel a bit like a game of chess. You have to plan several steps ahead but still be prepared for the unexpected. This way of thinking is not going to come naturally to you in the beginning. It did not for me, it will probably feel strange and uncomfortable especially if you have experience in some other arc media. But once you get the hang of it, you might get just a little bit obsessed. You might find yourself looking at a beautiful cloudy sky, and imagining how you would interpret that in a watercolor painting, what colors you would pick and how you would move the brush. You might start to see water color paintings everywhere you look. In people and places and patterns, and you just long to pick up the brush and start putting those colors on the page. Just the process of putting paint to paper is just so meditative, especially for the abstracts that we're going to be making in this class. The biggest mistakes that I see beginners make with this medium has nothing to do with technique, technique is just something that you pick up as you practice. Being a beginner at something is not a mistake, the biggest mistake is your mindset, sitting down to paint and being hell-bent on a particular result, or being really scared to mess up and waste art supplies, or comparing yourself to other artists, or criticizing yourself as you paint. These are the types of mindset mistakes that we are going to try to avoid in this class. This class is not about mastering watercolor technique or making really impressive paintings that we can hang on our wall, this is for you to get to know this medium in the most relaxing and forgiving way, so that if and when you do want to develop your technique and maybe move on to other subjects then you will have the basic understanding and the right mindset to do so. In the next lesson we will look at the essential materials and supplies that you need to get started with watercolor painting. [MUSIC] 3. Gather Your Materials: [MUSIC] Let's talk about the very essential materials and supplies you need to get started with watercolor and a few nice extras that you don't really need, but that might be fun to have. Maybe you already have some of these things at home, in which case I recommend that you use what you have. But for the purpose of this class, I'm going to assume that you are a complete beginner at this and you're starting from absolute zero. I'm going to keep it really simple. You need a set of watercolor paints, you need a few brushes, and you need paper to paint on. Let's start with brushes. You don't just want any brushes. You want watercolor brushes. They usually have shorter handles than brushes for, for example oils or acrylics. They can be made from synthetic hairs or from different kinds of animal hairs. The strands are usually really long and soft. This is to let the brush soak up a lot of water and for you to be able to paint long strokes without running out of paint. Watercolor brushes come in many shapes and sizes. The most common ones are round brushes and flat brushes. You don't need a lot of brushes. In fact, you can get away with just using one or two or maybe three. For this class, I recommend that you get just two brushes. One a medium-sized round brush and one slightly smaller round brush. If you want to, a larger round brush, if you want to try painting on a larger surface. You will develop your own preferences for brushes and you can always expand your collection as you go along. As for quality, there's no need to buy super expensive, high-quality brushes. It won't make that much of a difference at this point. But you might want to avoid buying the very cheapest because those tend to break after a while or just lose their shape. Moving on to paints. Watercolor paints come in tubes like these, and in little pans like these. The only difference between them is that the pan variety is dried up into hard cakes. The tube paints have this buttery texture. They dry up fairly quickly though once outside of the tube, but they can always be reactivated with water, just like the pan paints. Pans are affordable and they are portable and they're really easy to use. Another aspect is the quality of the paint on one end of the scale we have the cheaper, sometimes called student grade paints. And on the opposite end of the scale we have the professional grade colors. Those can be really expensive, but they have more pigments in them. So you actually don't need to use as much of those paints. Of course, there are options in between these two extremes as well. My advice, if you're just starting out with the watercolor, you're not really sure if you're ready to commit to this medium yet is to start with student grade colors, there are plenty of good options there. I for example, started out with Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolors. Another great option is the St. Petersburg White Nights set. If you want to splurge and get really nice, high-quality paints, I recommend the Winsor and Newton professional grade watercolors. How many colors do you need? Well, less than you think as a beginner, it's really hard to know what colors you'll actually use. That's just something that you learn as you go along, you develop preferences for certain colors. A nice, basic watercolor palette will contain a warm and a cool version of each basic color, as well as black and a few earth tones like brown. I will explain what warm and cool colors mean later on in this course. Most 12 color sets are going to be structured roughly in this way. You can't really go too wrong. I will teach you all about color mixing later on in this course. What about palettes and mixing areas then. To get started, you will likely do just fine with the mixing wells that come with your starting kit, with your watercolors starting palette. If you want more space than this, you can always use a plate of some kind, like a regular porcelain plate, glass, ceramic, plastic. Anything you have lying around your kitchen can work as a watercolor palette a mixing area. The thing that makes the biggest difference both for the painting experience and for the actual finished painting is paper. When I got started with watercolor, I used the paper that came with the little basic starting kit that I had bought. It was a pad of pretty thin and textured paper that's made from cellulose from trees. The first thing that happened as I applied my first brushstrokes was that the sheet of paper buckles and curled so much that I couldn't hold it down, essentially, and the paint bloomed into these cauliflower shapes. Then when I tried to correct it by dabbing off some of the pains, the papers started to rub off in little clumps. But I continued to practice on this cheaper cellulose paper because I didn't feel good enough for the more expensive stuff. It wasn't until I tried painting on cotton watercolor paper that I realized my mistake. I had made learning watercolor so much harder for myself. A lot of the techniques that watercolor painters rely on can't even be properly practiced on this cheaper paper. Because we're working with so much water, it's important that our paper can handle large amounts of water and paint without buckling or tearing apart or doing other weird things. Cotton paper is expensive though. I completely understand if you don't feel ready to spend that much yet, especially as a beginner. I didn't want to for a long time. Here's what I recommend, get yourself plenty of affordable but decent quality cellulose paper. I have for example, been using this brand for many years. The thing to look for is a thickness of at least 300 GSM or 140 pounds. The thicker the paper, the more able it's going to be to hold the water without buckling too much. Use this paper as you are learning the basics and experimenting with your materials. Use it for this course. But as soon as you are able allow yourself the experience of 100 percent cotton watercolor paper. Even if it's just a tiny little pad, a few sheets, you might feel reluctant to use it because you're afraid you're going to mess up and waste that expensive paper, but don't be, no painting is ever wasted. There are also different textures of watercolor paper. There is cold press paper, and there's hot press paper, and there's also a rough textured paper. Hot press paper is very smooth, which means that your paint is going to flow around much more easily. Some people like this, others don't. The only way to know is to try it yourself. Cold press paper is more textured and then rough textured paper is, well more textured and bumpy, which of course affects both how the paint behaves on the paper and also how the painting will look when it's dried. I recommend starting with cold press paper because it sits somewhere in the middle, is versatile and it's a good middle ground to start out with. You can buy watercolor paper in loose sheets or in pads like this one. Or you can buy it in blocks. That's where the papers are glued almost all the way around except for small little gap that you can use to carve the paper out once you've finished. The great thing about blocks is that it will hold your paper in place and it will not buckle. That's it for paper. Some other great things to have on hand are painter's tape. I usually buy mine at the hardware store. This is for taping down the paper on my painting surface. Whether that is the desk or some board or glass pane. That's to prevent the paper from buckling or moving around too much as I paint. Paper towels, really useful for a lot of things in watercolor. Fixing mistakes, pulling up paint from the painting, drying your brushes, drying your hands, and probably a number of other things that I have forgotten, but paper towel is always useful to have close by when you paint. A spray bottle of water. Good to have when you want to wet your paper or get some interesting effects with your paints, as I will show you later in this course. Then we have some fun extra things that are not mandatory, but that are just fun to experiment with and that I will be using in some of the exercises in this class. One of them is a straw, preferably a pretty thin one because you're going to be blowing your paint around with this and then some salt. This is crystallized sea salt. We're going to use this in our paintings to create some cool effects. That's it. You now have everything you need to get started. Now, let's move on to setting up your watercolor workstation. [MUSIC] 4. Set Up Your Workspace: [MUSIC] Now that we have our supplies, let's get our watercolor workstation set up. The good thing about watercolor is that you don't need a lot of space at all. As long as you have a little bit of desk space or a kitchen table, you are all set. Here is what my workstation looks like. Just a simple desk by a window with some natural light. Lighting is always important when you're making art. You want to see what you're doing and get an accurate representation of the colors that you're mixing. Natural light is by far the best. But I live in Sweden and it gets dark here fairly early during the larger part of the year. For that, I have daylight lamp. This is a floor lamp, but I've put it on my desk anyway because I prefer not to have the light bulbs too close to me. You can just put a daylight bulb into an existing lamp, like a desk lamp, for example, but any strong neutral light can do. You want to make sure that the color temperature of your light source doesn't distort your color perception. You don't want warm lights like this one, for example, because it's going to make all of your colors look really distorted. You want more of a white light, something that's going to look more like daylight. I personally don't protect my desk because some watercolors stains are very easy to just wipe off with water or water and soap. But if you want to protect your service, you can just put like a tablecloth or some desk covering, or use a wooden board or a pane of glass to put your paper on. In your workstation, you'll want your paper, of course. I have my pencils and my most commonly used brushes here. There are, of course, fancier brush holders than this that you can buy. I have just carved this out of a kitchen sponge. I have my paper towels. I have my water containers. I personally prefer two containers, one for rinsing off warmer colors, like yellow and red and orange, and then another one for cooler colors. Can also use one container for that first rinse that's going to have more pigment in it, and then another one for a cleaner rinse. Or you can just use one big water container. But then you might need to switch out your water more frequently. I prefer glass containers because they are easy to clean off. They don't get stained by the pigments, and also I can see how dirty the water is and when it's time to change it out. Then I have my watercolor palettes. This is a plastic palette. I use tube paints in here right now, and here is my mixing area. I also like to keep a damp dish towel, and I use it to dab off the excess paint and water without drying out my brush too much. You can use any wet rag for this. You can use an old sock if you want to. I am right-handed, which is why I keep my water and my paints on this side, so that when I dip around and mix and prepare my brush that I don't have to pass over my painting on my way to where I'm going because I might drip somewhere that I don't want to drip. Obviously, if you're left-handed, you might want to do the reverse of this setup. That is what a watercolor workspace might look like. By now, you might be itching to actually dip a brush and some paints and get started. That's what we're going to do in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 5. Warm Up: [MUSIC] The first thing we're going to do as complete watercolor beginners is not to try to paint something, like a landscape, or a face, or something other complex, and then get really frustrated when it doesn't turn out the way we want, which it likely won't, because we are beginners, and this is the difficult medium to control. Instead, we're going to get warmed up by just getting a feel for how our brushes work, and how different colors look on the page. One of my favorite things to do, and a great way to get acquainted with watercolor is to make color swatches, to try out every color on our palettes on the page and see what it looks like. So I'm just going to take a piece of paper, and this can be paper of the cheaper, less fancy kind. Then I will paint a little patch of each of all of my colors. [MUSIC] You might also want to write out the name of the color under each little swatch, or patch, so that you can easily reference it for later. [MUSIC] Another fun and relaxing exercise is to do some brushwork doodling, just to get to know your brushes, different ways of holding them, and making marks with them. I'm just going to pick out each of my favorite brushes and dip them in some paint and start doodling. [MUSIC] If you're not used to working with brushes, this will probably feel a little awkward at first, but you will get more relaxed, and more precise with practice. We all have our own personal language in art. We naturally gravitate towards certain shapes, or patterns, or color combinations, and you will discover your art language over the course of this class. It all begins here actually with these little brushwork doodles. [MUSIC] Take as much time as you want with both of these exercises, and when you're done, let's meet up in the next lesson where we will talk about fear, our very common fear of putting paint to paper and making art, especially as beginners and how we can overcome that fear. [MUSIC] 6. Face The Blank Page: [MUSIC] Why do we fear the blank page? Almost every artist feels this way sometimes. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or a professional, it just seems to be a part of the artist's life to feel a bit nervous before putting down those first brushstrokes. With watercolor, that fear can be even more prominent due to the irreversible nature of this medium. Once we've made a brushstroke, we can't erase it. There's no undo button. Painting with watercolor takes courage. Actually, and that's one of the things that makes it exciting to me. The other thing about watercolor, as I've mentioned before, is its unpredictability. We can't completely control this medium and that really challenges our inner control freak. We can let that aspect scare us away, or we can let watercolor be a teacher [LAUGHTER] in a way. It can help us to surrender, control, and embrace the unexpected. You are probably going to feel nervous the first few times you sit down to paint. The only way to get over that, is to paint and to relax and to remove all of your expectations. That's what we're going to do in this exercise. You are going to put on one of your favorite songs and you are going to paint that song in watercolor and then let it turn out however it wants to turn out. There are no right or wrongs and no way to fail this exercise. [MUSIC] I'm going completely on instinct here. [LAUGHTER] I'm letting the music and my mood guide my choice of colors, and my choice of brush, and the marks that I make on the page. Normally when we make art, we tend to have a very fixed idea for what our painting should look like. Maybe we're looking at a reference photo or something in front of us and we struggle to get it just right. This way of painting will be easier once we have learned the basics of this medium and have better control over it, but with watercolor trying too much to control it too soon, it might just cause a lot of frustration. That's why abstracts are such a great way to get to know this medium because it takes away a lot of the pressure and leaves room for surprise and spontaneity. Since I can't fail at this, I am free to let my hand do whatever it feels like doing. I'm not planning anything or thinking about what I'm doing, this is a form of meditation. I'm enjoying just seeing how the paint behaves and how different colors look next to each other. Whenever a new part of the song begins, I try to express that in my brush strokes. [MUSIC] When the song is finished, so is my painting. Now it's your turn. Just put on any song that you love and interpret it in watercolor. Don't think, don't plan, just do. When you're done, just let your painting dry and I'll see you in the next lesson. 7. Color Theory: [MUSIC] How do I know which colors to pick? What colors look good together? How do I mix any color I want? These are just some of the questions that you might have about color as a beginner artist. Working with colors can feel very complicated, and we will not dive too deep into it in this course. What we will do is go through the basics of color theory so that we can start making beautiful abstracts. Learning about colors starts with looking at the color wheel and understanding the relationships between these colors, as well as the qualities that colors can have. What are those qualities? Well, the first one is hue. Hues are the broad categories of colors. We have yellow, red, and blue. Those are the primaries. Then we have some other hues in-between them such as green and purple and orange. Those colors are the results of mixing two adjacent primary colors. Purple, for example, is a mixture of red and blue. It can be useful to think about temperature in color. We have the color of warmth, which is yellow, and we have the color of cold, which is blue and by mixing in yellow or blue and two other colors, we can make them warmer or cooler. Look at these two greens. This one has some yellow added to it, which is a warm color, which makes the green a bit brighter and more golden. This one has some blue added to it, which makes it more cold. Let's look at these two reds. One has a yellow added to it, making it brighter and more orange and the other one has blue in it, making it more towards the pink or violet side. Color temperature takes some practice to see and the more time you spend mixing different colors, the better you will get. Which is why I don't recommend buying too many premixed colors because you're not going to get as much practice at mixing colors yourself. Let's practice it now. For this exercise, we're going to draw a circle, and we're going to divide it into pie slices. We'll end up with 12 in total. I will add in my yellow and my red and my blue in these spaces straight from my color palette, as vibrant as I can make them. Now, I have three pie charts between each primary color. The middle one of those should be an equal mix of those two adjacent colors and the other ones should steer more towards one or the other. Here, I'm mixing yellow and red to make orange. Then I'm adding more yellow to make a brighter orange and then more red to make it a more reddish orange. Then I do the same with my blue and my yellow. Then I take my red and blue. Now, I have the entire color wheel with my primary colors, my secondary colors with warm and cool versions of those colors in-between. Each color on this wheel has a hue, meaning that it belongs to one of the main categories of color but colors also have two other characteristics. The second one is saturation. Saturation is how pure and intense a color is. This is a very saturated red, for example. It's bold and it's vibrant. Here, you can see what happens when I desaturate it. It becomes muddier and brownish. We can desaturate a color by adding its complimentary color to it. Complimentary colors are colors that look good next to each other. They contrast each other. We have red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. These colors look great together, but not when mixed. Then they will instead take each other out and you're going to see this for yourself in the next exercise. On the outside circle of each primary color, try mixing it with its opposite color to desaturate it. You often don't need to add a lot of the opposite color because then you're just going to get brown, grayish hues of every color, but just add a little bit of it and see what happens. If you want to, you can do the same with all of the colors in your wheel. 8. Value: [MUSIC] The third characteristic of color is value, meaning how light or dark it is. An oil painter might add black or white to a color to make it lighter or darker. As water colorist, we can do that as well. We can add black to our colors to make them darker, but to make them lighter, we instead work with transparency. We simply add more water to our paint mixture so that more of the white of the paper is showing through the paint and that's what we're going to do in the next exercise. Let's practice changing the value of our colors, the lightness. We do this with a value scale. In fact, we're going to make two value scales, one that's going to be more incremental and another one in form of a gradient. First, we're going to draw five squares next to each other on a piece of watercolor paper and make sure that you have some space in between them. This is sometimes called the tea-to-butter exercise because our lightest, most diluted color will look and feel like tea in consistency and our darkest paint mixture will be almost buttery. Then we'll move through coffee and milk and cream along the way. Now pick any color you want. I'm going to use this indigo blue. I'm starting with the tea consistency. Imagine this color diluted in the form of tea. Maybe not a super steeped, strong black tea, but a slightly steeped one. You should see plenty of the white of the paper through the paint. Moving on to coffee our mixture will contain a little more paint and be more opaque. With milk, we add a little more paint still and we see very little of the paper underneath and with cream, we don't see any of the paper. The color is almost black in this case. Finally, for our butter, we're going to go as dark and as dry as we can. This might require me to take a tiny bit of paint straight from the tube or to rub for a good long while in a pan until I have a sticky little dab of paint on my brush. With butter, it should be difficult to get a smooth-looking border. Here are the five main values that we can use for our watercolor paints. We can divide them up into our lights and our mid tones and our darks. Now, as a quick bonus exercise, we're going to take the same color and we're going to paint the same value scale in the form of a gradient. I start by painting a long rectangle with just water. Now I'm taking my blue again and I'm making the thick and buttery version of it and I paint a square at the left side of my paper. This is my darkest version of this color. Now, I draw this color out into a gradient like this by carefully adding paint and water and pulling and pushing the paint to the right. By the time that I get to the other side, the paint should be very diluted to the point of almost looking like clean water. This is a surprisingly difficult exercise so do as many of these gradients as you want. Maybe try it with a couple of different colors and try to get this transition from dark to light as smooth as possible. [MUSIC] 9. Color Poems: [MUSIC] Now, for the question of what colors look good together? Well, we've already discussed complementary colors, and that's like the basic framework to keep in mind here. Complementary colors tend to, well, complement each other, and as for the rest of it, it's an intuitive process. We will all find our own preferred color combinations, our own color language, if you will. The only way to do that is by practicing, so that's what we're going to do next. We're going to create little color studies or color poems, I like to call them. [MUSIC] I start by painting a spiral shape with just clean water. You might need to look at your paper a bit at an angle to see where you're going here. Now, I'm adding in a color of my choice just by dropping it in here and there. Not everywhere because I want to save some space for the complementary color. [MUSIC] I'm also varying the color slightly. I'm darkening it in some places and keeping it almost transparent in other. [MUSIC] Now, I'm doing the same with a complementary color to the one I've already added, and in this case, that's blue. My paper is still wet, so I just need to lightly touch the paint to the paper and the water will carry it away. These colors will blend in some places, of course, and that's great, that will create some interesting shifts in the colors. [MUSIC] Just like with the orange, I'm varying my blue a bit, I'm making it darker in some places, I always love some extra contrast in my paintings. Don't be afraid to go really dark with your watercolors. [MUSIC] Now, this little color poem is done. It only took me about five minutes. Had I taken longer, I might have been tempted to start fiddling around too much and getting all perfectionistic and my colors might have turned muddy. With watercolor, less is more. You are done sooner than you think. If you want to keep going with this, start another color study instead. Feel free to do as many as you like, trying out different color pairings. I actually made two more of these because I was having fun. Try it with some other shape than a spiral and try it with neighboring colors instead of complementary colors. Maybe yellow and green, for example, or red and purple, or blue and green. This is a great way to get to know your colors and see how they look together. [MUSIC] When you're done, let your painting dry, maybe hang them up on your wall or your refrigerator or someplace where you can see them, and maybe be inspired by them. Then we'll meet up in the next lesson where we will dive into the topic of water and how to control and work with water. 10. Water Control: [MUSIC] The beautiful thing about this medium is that water can do a lot of our work for us if we let it. Yes, we can paint a watercolor in a very tight and controlled way. There's a time and a place for that. But we can also paint really wildly and we can let the water work for us. There are three main ways to put watercolor paint to paper. We can put wet paint onto dry paper. This is called wet on dry, and it's the most common technique. We simply dip our brush and some wet paint and we go. We can also put to paint onto wet paper. This is called wet on wet and it's what creates that watery, translucent look of colors flowing together. We can also put dry paint onto wet paper, called dry on wet, that buttery texture that we worked with in the previous lesson. When we put that onto a wet surface, the water is going to grab that paint and do really cool things with it. So let's practice all three of these techniques right now. For this exercise, you will need a sheet of paper and your paints, a medium-sized round brush, and a spray bottle of water. Divide your paper up into three equal parts. In the first area practice painting wet on dry. Use plenty of water and get as much color onto your brush as possible. Just paint some shapes with it on the dry paper. [MUSIC] In your next area, start by dipping a clean brush in clean water and paint the entire area with water first. There shouldn't be pools of water. It should just make the paper moist and glistening, and then right away saturate your brush with a color of your choice, just like in the first area and draw a line with it on the paper. [MUSIC] If you want to, you can add another color and let it melt together with the first one. For your third area, pre-wet the paper like before, but this time, use as little water as possible when you get your paint onto your brush. [MUSIC] If you need more water, just take your spray bottle and spray the paint on the paper. [MUSIC] Now you can let the paper dry and take out a fresh sheet of paper for the next exercise. 11. Color Explosion: In this exercise we're going to create a simple color study, similar to the ones we did in the previous lesson, but this time we're going to help the water move our paint around. We want to be able to pick up our sheets or our block of paper as we work, so don't tape your paper down onto the table this time. We're also going to use that straw that I mentioned back in lesson 3, so go ahead and put that next to you. I'm just going to go ahead and pick out two or three colors that I like, and since my paints are going to get pretty mixed up and this one, I'm not going to pick complimentary colors because they will just get muddy. I'm picking a bright yellow ocher and a darker crimson red. Then I'm also going to drop a little bit of indigo into my crimson to darken it in some places and add some purple hues. Now I'm loosely painting some shapes in the middle of the paper. Just a wet on dry, using plenty of water. [MUSIC] Water is key here. There should be little puddles of it on the paper because what I'm going to do now is lift my paper and tilt this around, letting my colors mix and meet and dance around each other. Not too much because I still want to be able to see each color, but enough to get that beautiful wet on wet blending of colors. Going in again and working dry on wet to this time just to punch up those colors as much as I can. I'm using cotton paper here, which allows me to keep working with this wet paper without buckling or distorting. Now, while I still have these little puddles of paint, I'm going to bring up my straw and I'm going to blow some paint around. If I blow forcefully in a direction, I think create little shoots of paints like this. I can keep turning the paper around and blowing in all directions so it looks like a little color explosion. I can also use the straw to push the paint around and guide it to where I want it to go and I can use to dry and brighten certain areas by blowing the paint away from it. [MUSIC] Remember how I also mentioned salt in lesson 3, and here's why. If I sprinkle salt on paint that is starting to dry, watch what happens. The salt soaks up the water around it, creating these cool textures. Timing is key with this, the paint can be too watery or the salt will just soak in a little puddle and it'll take forever to dry. If the paint is already too dry, then nothing will happen. The sweet spot is when the papers just glistening a little bit like this. Now I will let this dry. Feel free to do as many of these as you want. When you're done, come meet me in the final lesson of this course. It's time to utilize everything you have learned in a final project. 12. Class Project: [MUSIC] For our final project, we're going to use everything that we have learned and we're going to apply it in nature-inspired abstract painting. To do that, we're going to use a reference photo. Don't get nervous though, because we're not actually going to paint this picture, we're just going to let it inspire our choice of colors and textures and the composition of our painting. The finished result will probably not look anything like the photo, but it will have the same vibe, the same color harmony. I have a few pre-selected reference photos for you to download and use. I'm going to be working from this one simply because I love the colors, you can choose any nature photo you want. In fact, you could actually take your reference photo yourself if you want to. If you are outside and you see a beautiful sky of vibrantly colored butterfly or some flowers, just take a photo of it and use it for this project. I've chosen my reference photo, so I'm going to go first. I'm going to start by preselecting my main colors here and in this particular photo, they are pretty easy to pick out. If there's more noise in your photo, try squinting at the image because that makes it easier to get the gist of it without getting carried away by all the details. The main hues that I see here are this lovely blue queen of the ocean with both blues and greens in it and these bright earthy tones of the rocks, I see some greenish ones and some yellowy, and also some rust-colored ones in there and some dark brown. I'm going to go ahead and mix up some of these and see how they look on my mixing area. We have raw umber, which is a nice yellowy beige color and this is green gold, this hue is called green gold mixed with some sepia, which is a dark brown. Then we have some burnt sienna, one of my absolute favorite colors, with some extra red and brown added to it to tone it down so it's not as vibrant, and some sap green and indigo mixed together. Also some pure sepia for those really dark spots. I'm careful not to pick too many colors for this, I would recommend somewhere between three and five because you're going to be able to mix them around on your paper as well. Let's not overthink this, let's be brave. I'm prewetting the paper before dropping in my colors and that's to give the paint some help to move around. Starting with the ocean part, shifting around my greens and blues. I would like it a bit bluer and darker at the very top, like in the picture, and then gradually get brighter and more transparent towards the middle. I'm also going to save some crisp white spots here in the middle for some contrast. [MUSIC] Now let's work on the bottom part, I'm doing the same here, putting down some watery shapes and then dropping in my colors. [MUSIC] Here I'm spraying on some extra water and now tilting the painting and letting my colors mix on the paper. Going to work from this angle a bit now and lay in some more green with lots of water because now I want to have some fun and if the paint wants to splatter, I let it, I try to embrace that when it happens, and maybe even splatter some paints myself. Time for some straw-blowing action, this also lets me manipulate how the paints flow without getting too heavy-handed with my brush. As long as my paper is wet, I can keep adding water and paint and move it around like this. I'm using 100 percent cotton paper here, which makes this a lot easier. You can do this with setting those paper as well, but it's going to dry up much quicker and the paints not going to flow as well, the more water and paint you're going to use, the better off you will be with cotton paper. Now time for some salt, I don't want it all over the place, some being selective and as you can see, some areas are still pretty wet, so this is going to take some time to dry, let's let the painting rest for a while. There it is, my nature-inspired abstract painting. Now it's your turn, choose or take your reference photo and grab the largest sheet of paper you have and just let loose. Have fun with this exercise, if you're feeling brave, I would love for you to share your finished painting here. Just click the Start a Project button and upload a photo of your painting. I hope you have enjoyed this class with me, I sure have enjoyed teaching it. I hope that watercolor feels more like a friend now instead of that intimidating stranger that it can feel like in the beginning and from here on you can transition to other subjects if you want, maybe abstract landscapes or florals. The more you practice, the easier it's going to be to control this medium. I myself haven't fully tamed watercolor yet but then again, maybe you never do. Consider leaving a rating or review for this course. I will very much appreciate that and if you want to stay in touch and get weekly writings from me and extra videos, I have a newsletter, and you can find the link to that on my teacher's page. Thank you so much for spending time with me, I wish you the best on your continued art journey. 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