Welcome to Watercolor: A Beginners Guide to Contemporary Botanical Watercolor | Natalie Martin | Skillshare

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Welcome to Watercolor: A Beginners Guide to Contemporary Botanical Watercolor

teacher avatar Natalie Martin, Australian Watercolour Artist

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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.

      Let's Talk Materials


    • 3.

      Getting Started


    • 4.

      Techniques Part 01


    • 5.

      Techniques Part 02


    • 6.

      Exploring Brush Strokes


    • 7.

      Simple Shapes


    • 8.

      Let's get Botanical


    • 9.

      The Wrap Up


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About This Class

Welcome! My name is Natalie Martin and I'm a watercolor artist based on the Surf Coast in Victoria, Australia. This is my first online course, and where else do you start, but at the beginning? In this professionally filmed, self-paced beginners guide to contemporary watercolour, we start from the foundations and build your skills and confidence towards painting a botanical specimen from observation. Essentially, I have broken down my own process into accessible, bite-size pieces ready for you to devour. 

Working through a series of technique based exercises, I share all my best tips. We'll look at getting the paint moving fluidly on page, how to hold your brush, manage water control, swirl and twirl your brush, relaxing into the process and much more!

We’ll delve into the materials you'll need and how best to work with them. I believe sharing my experience and why I use and recommend certain things over others can help inform you as an artist and your own choices. My philosophy is to build your kit gradually, rather than outlay too much initially. Discover and play with the medium first. Find your feet in it and tailor your materials accordingly.

My own style is loose, organic, flowy and all about creating an expression of the subject on the page - not replicating it exactly. I talk about where I find inspiration and how working from observation has really informed my practice. I also encourage you to find your own creative voice.

Quick note: I am Australian, and we spell watercolor with a 'u' in it. I've adapted the class to suit this largely US based audience, I may miss the occasional 'u' though!


  • Fundamental skills using watercolor
  • An understanding of watercolor as a medium and necessary materials
  • A final project - a botanical watercolor painting


Downloadable files included:

  • Materials List
  • Course Notes
  • Emergency Reference Photos

I've also provided a list of links to individual products in the Projects and Resources section.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Natalie Martin

Australian Watercolour Artist




Hi! My name is Natalie and I'm an artist based on the Surf Coast in Victoria, Australia. I've painted with watercolor for over 10 years and have been teaching it through workshops and online courses for the last few years now. I really enjoy teaching and sharing the magic of watercolor. 'Welcome to Watercolor' is my first online course, a beginner's guide to contemporary botanical watercolor. My second course is on my all time favorite subject COLOR called 'The Magic of Color Mixing' and I've just released my third, 'Lessons in Layering with Watercolor' - you guessed it! It's all about layering and exploring what this can bring to your work.

My practice explores the natural world with this joyous and free-flow... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: My name is Natalie Martin and I'm an artist based on the South Coast in Victoria, Australia. I started painting with watercolor about 10 years ago I'd say, and not long after that, started exhibiting and selling my work. Watercolor found me through possibly exploring every other medium under the sun. I started off in high school, focussing on oils. I think that's where a lot of my color theory and layering techniques come from. I've had a lot of other things influence my Watercolor journey as well. I think a style is difficult to determine exactly where it's come from. I think that's through process and repetition and practice that it evolves. I can definitely tell you that my style has evolved enormously over the last 10 years. Though I was very shy about sharing my work, and I think I'm finding it quite odd to be in this place right here, right now teaching it. I exhibited for the first time, that was an intense experience, again, for the shyness factor, and then I've exhibited a number times now. I have a line of prints. I've worked with multiple brands on identities and all kinds of things with Watercolor. There's just the world of opportunity and that's why I can't see an endpoint with my journey with Watercolor because it's just endless and there's always something new to explore, some new skill to learn, and I learn so much of my students because of their unique approach even when I'm providing them with the content that I'll still do. They can't help themselves but do it their own way and I love seeing how that comes back. My information then comes back to me in a new way. It's fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. To be working full time on my art is just mind-blowing. It's beyond what I thought I'd be able to do in this lifetime and I still feel like I've got an enormous journey ahead of me. I have a love of the bush and native Australian flora. I don't think it's very highly celebrated in a lot of floral communities and there's something about it that just rings home for me. I grew up in a bush, it feels calming to me. I think that's what I'm trying to convey in the fewest strokes and colors. You can't physically be out there all the time and I think in our homes, they're so stark and man-made that any kind of element from nature is really important. Within my practice, my goal is to find that flow state. The place where you just completely evaporate from time and place and you just paint and hours could go by and you don't even realize, and it's actually where I get the best paintings as well because none of those little inhibitions or, I don't know, distractions in life, are present, they're gone and it's just the most pure moment. From this course, you can expect to learn all about the materials and supplies you'll need to get started, colors and things we're going to work with there, a whole bunch of techniques in application, blends and brushstrokes, how to make marks, combining these things into simple shapes, and then bringing it all together to create your own botanical master piece. That's basically my practice broken down into small sections, but digestible and so you can do it in your own time. I believe it's really important to learn the skills individually. Therefore, you can construct your own paintings as opposed to me just giving you exactly what you needed to produce one thing, this will give you the skills to have a more broad spectrum across any kind of botanical matter. Most importantly, the course is beginner-friendly, accessible, and fun. 2. Let's Talk Materials: Now, let's talk materials. Watercolor materials can be so expensive and so unapproachable. I try to make life a whole lot easier by selecting based ranged kit that can get you into watercolor in a really cost-effective way as opposed to making it a hindrance to the whole experience. If you were to set yourself up with exclusively professional watercolor paints and brushes, you are looking at probably a $500 or $600 outlay, whereas I think that can be such a deterrent to even paint because at every time you paint you like, "Oh, this paint cost me money, oh, this brushes cost me money. I don't want to wear them out." Whereas I think you're better off starting off getting familiar with the paints, how they move, and start with a cheaper set and work into and build up your kit of more expensive materials. Let's talk the paint sets. These are Koh-i-Noor brilliant paint sets. This is what I'm going to teach with today. I don't necessarily paint with these myself. I sometimes do but not always. I find them really fantastic and vibrant color. They're the best value of quality versus outcome, and they move really nicely on the page. This little set here, they're made up of synthetic colors. You'll see that the colors themselves don't look particularly vibrant, but it's because the colors are synthetic dyes as opposed to a natural pigment paint, which is what I do for my fine art pieces. There is a really, really, really concentrated pigment so they have super-duper vibrant. If you have your own paint set at home, you're more than welcome to use whatever you have on hand. This is what I'm going to teach with today, but whatever you have with you is totally fine. This is the set that I work with usually. These are mineral pigment paints, that means they are ground minerals from the earth bound with a glue type substance called gum arabic that makes them move on the page. Each color of these is equivalent of the whole set of these, so one tube. All these are tube paints that I've squeezed out and let dry over night. Each one of these tubes is about $30, as opposed to this whole set being about about $30. It really does make a big difference to your initial setup costs. There is one little trick with these disks. If you were to run off and purchase them is, see how they're in a white base like this. The plastic is this thick. The cakes of paint are actually sitting in the white base. They do come in a black base as well. The black base is a student quality or kids quality paint. They're full of a filler. It makes them really chalky, makes the color weak. This is the bottom level of paints I would suggest where you're going to get that combination of great flow and quality on the page, as well as nice, rich color without any compromises. They stuck up nice and neatly for you to travel with, like so. The main difference between synthetic and mineral paints is the cost. Your synthetic paints are a lot cheaper because they're cheaper to produce, but your mineral paints are made out of ground pigments from the earth so to source each of those individual pigments is really quite expensive. That's where the costs come into with watercolor. If you can take that element away and use these to start off with and then build your kit because you can pick and choose your tube paints if you get to that level, and pick the colors that you like to work with the most. It's a more cost-effective way than just buying a whole random bunch of tubes and hoping for the best that there's the colors you enjoy working with. The synthetic ones are easy, compact, really great to travel with. I still use these on a regular basis, especially for the more commercial style jobs that I do. I use the mineral paints for when I'm say, doing a commission or a fine art painting that'll end up in a frame because it's the more traditional standard. Now brushes. Brushes is one of my favorite topics. I've actually just bought two new brushes because I was like, "I'm doing a video and I want fancy new brushes so they'll look pretty in the video. I work largely with these two, which are synthetic round brushes. These are the workhorses in watercolor. I very rarely need to use any other brushes. You'll see here that I've got this whole swathe of brushes, and I've got hundreds more. But, ultimately I come down back down to these two almost every painting. I'll do 95 percent of all my paintings with this one brush, and I'll come back in with this smaller brush to do the detail work. There's different levels of paint brushes. If you've ever been to an art store, you'll know how complex and unwieldy it can be to try and pick the correct paint brushes. There's three different kinds. There is a totally synthetic fiber brush, which would be a white bristle brush up here. They tend to last the least amount of time. They fall apart. They're not as well-made, but they're also substantially cheaper. Then you've got your synthetic sable brushes, which is what I'm working with here today. They have the fibers here, have been synthesized to be more like an animal hair, more like a traditional watercolor brush. The advantage being they hold more water, but then they also last a whole lot longer if you look after them. I do take a little bit of care. Then the most expensive version of brushes are fully sable brushes or squirrel or badger. We're talking actual animal hair. You have to look after it like your own hair. You need to condition them, you need to look after them. They're very expensive. But in the same instance, I have my mom's set of sable brushes, so they will last a lot longer. If you look after them, they'll last a lifetime or two. I tend to work with these, the synthetic version, because they have a lot more spring. The natural fiber brushes are a lot softer and squeegee. With my style, I like to use that spring as a part of the flow while I'm painting. If you've got the money, go for the synthetic sable. They're also known as sablinsky or kolinsky. They work out piece mid-range price, but if you're really starting out and if you've never touched watercolor before, just go with the cheaper brushes. I'm not dashing off to Officeworks or K-Mart to get said brushes. It's definitely an out store purchase. But go for the white-tipped synthetic brushes. I have here a size 10 and a size 4. You only really need two brushes to start off with, and I'd say you could go with a 10 or 12, or 4 or 6, just depending on what scale you like to work on, but that's a really good starting point. Again, that's the base kit. From there you can build up your brush collection. You might want to start working into backgrounds and you need larger brushes to cover that area. It really depends on where your journey takes you to what kits that you start to build at. A landscape painter's kit is going to be very different to a portrait painter's kit, who's very different to a botanical illustration kit. Next up you'll need paper. Today I'll be working on a cellulose-based paper. Most watercolorists will say, "Don't even bother with cellulose." But again, comes down to cost. So this piece that I have here in front of me is on cotton. Cotton is your fine art standard for watercolor. You get the beautiful deckled edge. It's been mould made, it's got a lovely texture, but it's also very expensive. If you're going to afford yourself a half an hour window to have a little paint before the mayhem continues at home, you don't want to have to be anxious about going onto expensive piece of paper. If you've got a pad of safe paper, that cellulose is a lot cheaper and you can just buy it by the block in the art store. Again, that's another thing that's not going to inhibit you because you're not worried about the cost that's going into you exploring because watercolor is so much about exploring your medium and practicing. You don't want to be worried about how much paper you're churning through. As you learn, you tend to go through a fair bit. When we're talking cellulose we're talking trees. This is tree pulp paper, as opposed to cotton, which is literally your clothes. Cellulose, this particular cellulose paper is still watercolor paper. So it's still constructed in a way that it takes the water volume and it does the best possible. I definitely don't recommend grabbing just a ream of your printed paper and practicing on that because you not going to get a desired result and you're going to get extreme buckling because it's not manufactured to absorb the same water content. The reason we work on cotton, it's far more absorbent than a cellulose paper and it tends to buckle less. You can see here I haven't taped my work down and it's buckled a little bit there. Some people will stretch their paper, and there's plenty of tutorials online if you wanted to look into these and that prevents all buckling. When you work on the cellulose paper, you will find, especially if you look on the back and there isn't a wrong side or a right side to your paper. If you look on the back, you'll see that it will buckle because the when the water contents on there, it fully expands the fibers is in the paper and when they contract, they contract in different place and they contract tighter. So therefore the paper ends up all buckled, which is not an ideal look. As you are learning, you'll find that finding the right balance of water going onto the page and your water control will make a big difference to the buckling that happens with the paper. I work largely on a medium texture paper. If you go to the art store and you looking at the cotton papers I find them quite overwhelming. There's a difference between watercolor paper and print making paper. So make sure you buying a watercolor specific paper. There is hot- pressed, which is dead smooth paper. This has actually hot pressed here. There's no texture on a hot pressed paper, it's like it's been between, it's actually gone through two irons to completely smooth surfaces of the paper. A medium has a little texture and then rough has a very extreme texture. It's called the tooth of the paper. We can see here's a little bit of tooth, not too severe. What tends to happen is the water, which is the medium moving the pigment across the surface of the page is completely unhindered or smooth. There's nothing, there's no barriers to stop that water from moving around. So the pigment tends to swirl and really move around and have a dramatic effect. Whereas on a medium paper, you've got hills and valleys and the water gets stuck in the bottom of the hills. It gets stuck in the middle of the valleys and it can't traverse the hills so it gets fixed quicker. And then rough has even more severe hills and valleys, so the water travels less. If you like very fixed watercolor where it specifically going to stay in one place, rough is your best option plus you have that beautiful texture to work with, if you like a lot of texture in your work, medium is a nice balance of both worlds where you still get a really beautiful blend. The colors will mix and bleed, but they weren't go mad. Then on your smooth, it's very hard to control and people can't find it quite frustrating to work on the smooth paper. The other thing is you need are a couple of water jars. One's fine, two is great. One is for rinsing, so you're rinsing all that pigment off in there and this is the clean water for blending and cleaning out mistakes which sometimes you need. So having a clean jar is really important. Alternatively, some artists will go cold colors, warm colors. It just depends on your style and how often you probably need clean water. You'll see here, this is my watercolor palette. This is a plastic one because I use it for travel, but I've actually ended up getting really fond of it and I enjoy keeping all my colors there. One of the big advantage of watercolor paint is it's always reconstitutable. So there's no point in rinsing this down. If you're a hobbyist at home, a plate is best solution and old porcelain plate because it will never stain in and you can always reduce all that color off, but you don't need to ever rinse it because you can reconstitute it. So if you've got one and can just donate to art practice, then leave that in your room and you can just let it be and every time you come back, you can just bring water to it and it will come back to life and you can bring up all those beautiful colors that you've mixed in the past. The other things you will need a pencil, paper towel, very handy. I keep it right here by my paper here just for bloating off excess water or if you quickly need to clean up anything very handy to have on hand and an eraser, just in case these things happen. If you've seen any of my own work, you'll have noticed that I do a, a pen line as an illustrative element at the very end, most people assume that it's an owl ended, completely missed, but I add it towards the end as a illustrative element and I use a archival pigment pen so it's waterproof and fade proof. Very important. So there's a couple of brands you can use there, but definitely go archival because otherwise it'll yellow or it'll bleed if there's any water content lifting the page. Then this last little piece here is a little swatch card. So I will test my colors before taking them to my page each time so that I'm really confident in exactly the strength and hue that I have on my brush before I go onto here, just takes that little bit of risk factor out. So I'll just do a little dab on there before going on to the final work. Then the last thing I suggest that you bring to your table is a little pinch of courage because it takes a little bit of courage to break a white page like a blank white piece paper can be very scary. To use your creative bones that you haven't used in ages also very scary, to let watercolor do its thing can also be very scary because there's only so much control you can have over it and bringing that little bit of courage and allowing it to do it and letting go is a really important part of the process. Simplify things, I have put all of your basic kit into one little package and it's available from my online store, it includes your paint, brushes, paper, a pencil, and a palette already for you to go. So we've covered all things materials and I really could talk about them all day long because I love art materials, but we better get painting. So I'll see you in the next episode. 3. Getting Started: We are going to get straight into painting. I don't want to put too many rules on it or anything. I just want to get that paint moving before we get too structural in our techniques and everything. First thing I'm going to get everyone to do and even if you're painting with any other set besides what we have here, I'm going to get you to unstuck your paints or get them prepared. If you're a left-handed painter, everything moves to the left. You put your water, your paints, all your brushes, and your paper towel, palette, everything on the left. I'm a righty, so I'm going to leave everything as it is here. I try and get it set up in a way like I'm bit strict in where I like to do things over here. But everyone will come up with their own little formula for what works. I let my palette on the right-hand side of my paints, water's over here so I can't splash because that's what tends to happen if you have your water, right here as you grab water and splashes everywhere. Let's keep them far away and paint brushes that are good reach, distance, get rid of that we don't need that anymore. The very first thing we're going to do is just paint out each of those colors so that we know what we're working with. As I explained with them in the materials, these colors aren't obvious. When you're looking at the discs like this and you'll be surprised at how vibrant they are in real life and if you are working with, say, a gifted set of tubes or whatever paints you have on hand, still a great exercise because then you can say what you are working with. What I'm going to do is grab my pencil. I've got four discs here, so I'm actually going to make a little map for myself on what is what. I'm going to go 1, 2, 3, 4 and that's going to represent each of those discs and then grab my big brush. Because I like to try and do most of the work with the big brush it just means less swishing around and then, what I tend to do is actually I number these discs. I do the yellow one is number 1, 2, 3, 4 and that way that corresponds to 1, 2, 3, 4. Put them back in place. Now, disk 1 has one enormous problem on it and I don't know why considering its watercolor brands that this exists, but we have white paint and white paint is so not essential in watercolor because white is your paper. If you wanted to more pastel version of a color, you dilute it as opposed to using the white paint, the white paint is chalky and it gives it a nasty quality and it's not very nice to look a, so let's just put a big cross through that straight away. If you have another kit it won't have white paint in it this is just a bit of a mystery. To get a brush nice and wet we are going to get it in there. We are not going to damage it by smashing it on the bottom of the glass, but I want it to get really vigorously wet not just like dainty taps like this because it wont be wet enough. The bristles and the water travel all the way up to the end of the paint brush up there. So you want to make sure it's got nice and fluid all the way up and then just working in a logical order, whether it's clockwise counterclockwise, however you want to do it. I'm going to use the belly of the brush so again, not just the end like this because you just wont pick up enough pigment. You need to really lather it up and use that belly like so and I'm going to put a blob on the disk 1, number 1 of as much pigment as it possibly can gather, then rinse all that color off give it a little wipe, and then put a clear one next to it. You'll start to see that tonal range bleed across like so. This is part of the magic of watercolor and as that drys is going to continuously evolve until it's bone dry so this is the bit that makes your heart sing and it get really exciting and when you can start to orchestrate that into actual art work it's really, really fun. I'm going to continue on and do each of these colors. Again, and you'll see that that color there is a lot weaker than the previous, so there is quite a difference in the strength of pigment. A lot of different colors, blues, purples greens tend to be very strong, whereas some of the yellows, even some of the browns, can be quite weak. It just depends on what paints you are working with. I get that lathered right up like so. Rinse it. What you'll find as we start to go around the entire color wheel is that your water jar is going to start looking real gross. If it starts to look like a green smoothie or swamp juice, it's time to turn it over. If you can't see through it, so right now it's quite yellow. If I can't see through it. It's time to turn it over because that's all that loose pigment floating around in your water jar and that pigment will be picked up by a brush and you'll be applying it back on to your page so you get some muddy gross colors happening. Eventually I'll have to turn that over as I work my way around further colors. Take your time doing this, make sure you've got all the colors down and enjoy it, first and foremost and I'll see you at the other end. Now we have all of that colors painted out, so there's no more mystery colors that we can't work out. What we're looking at this is our visual reference moving forwards and you've got a nice, clear way to identify what's what here, because it gets even more tricky once they wet because they all go dark you would've noticed on what I call disc number 4, which is all the neutral colors that again, there's white, it's pearlescent white even this time so it's disgusting. Let's not even touch that one and you would have noticed that the grey is quite proxy as well. It goes a bit dish water as again, got lots of filler in it. I just avoid that one altogether because if you are thinking about how you make those pastel and lighter tones then it's the dilution of the black is going to make all your beautiful greys instead of using that funky grey that's on the discs, let's go with what we can actually mix and make ourselves. What we have here is verging and swamp juice. It's time to turn that water over, that is pigment floating around in water and it really affects the clean water that goes onto your paint and affects all those beautiful colors. So work with clean water. Do yourself a favor and fill the jar right up because if it's lower, you just have to change the water over more regularly. So we've got some freshwater so I'm ready to start painting again. The next thing I'd like you to do is to just we've had a play with the colors now we've got that without any rules, or instruction, I just want you to have a play. Again, wet your brush down and pick whatever color tickled your fancy the most from this original set. I'm going to pick this ultramarine here because that's my absolute favorite. Then I'm going to take this to the page and working from left to right or right to left, depending whether you're a lefty or a righty because you want to be working into the wettest areas of the work. I'm going to start on the left and I'm just going to paint a circle. Like so. Then rinse and then pick up another color whichever you like, I really don't mind. What am I going to do here? Let's do yellow. Then I'm going to paint a second circle and it's just going to very gently kiss the previous one. You'll see what happens when you bring two bodies of water together on the page when there's pigment involved, and it's a little bit of the fun stuff that happens with watercolor. Rather than draw a circle and then fill it. Because that's going to really hinder exactly what we want this to do. I'm going to use that belly of the brush again, the full breadth of it and paint away from it and build my circle up. At the last minute I am going to kiss it. Like so. Then rinse and pick up another color and just keep going. Have some fun. I always say with this one. If your little inner child's wondering going ''Hmm, wonder what happens what if I did that?'' That's the perfect opportunity to try because this is just practice. There is no expectations here. Again, build up that circle before you make any of those smooches and touch. Don't forget, you can twist your paper, it's not fixed down. Another one there. Then my favorite one to do with these is actually do one with a clear water circle. Just fresh water, no pigment whatsoever, and I'm just going to do it again. Didn't work very well. Might need to do another one. It's a bit warm in here and it's drying really quickly. Let's go again. Just keep going. I've got a strong color this time. Purple is very strong. There we go. You have absolutely no control if that circle is going to go and invade this circle, or vice versa. Sometimes the will come into the purple and this is part of the magic of watercolor. You don't have control over that. All you have control over is what color essentially at this point and how much water you are applying to the page. More water, more dramatic effect. Let's keep going. It always ends up looking like the very hungry caterpillar by the time you finish this one. If you move too slowly, the paint tends to start to dry and you're not going to get any effect at all. If your circles aren't bleeding at all, I'd suggest that you need to add a fraction more water. It's not a lot of water, but just a fraction more water and you'll get a much bigger result. If you've got rivers, water flooding through multiple circles, that is also not a great effect. You can use your paper towel to vacuum up a little bit of that excess water, which is this guy here. Going to fold him in half, and half again. It turns into a little sandwich and then I'm going to use it like a pen to suck up excess here. I'm going to trust that the watercolor is going to find that wet space and fill it in again. This is a really good way of not being too intrusive and removing too much water, because too much water will mean your page will buckle. Plus you have no control of the pigments that are swimming around on the page. You don't want giant rivers of water flowing through. I'm going to keep exploring all the colors because I can and see what happens. Again, I'll probably end up with swamp juice, but just fill up your water again. If you're in a very warm environment, the paint will dry super quickly. You need to move quicker and potentially add a little bit more water. If you're in a very cold environment, it's just going to take a really long time to dry. Avoid tilting it and moving it anywhere because the paint will swim all the way around the page. You don't want that either. There we have it. We have the most basic, but also my favorite part of watercolor on the page where the pigment swims into each other. There's no other medium that does this exactly this way, and it is part of the joy of watercolor. On this side here, I have used less water. You can see about less dramatic effect of the bleeding into the circles. If you go over to the other side, I've used more water and that's where you're going to get more dramatic effect. More bleeding, more color mixing into another. From here. We've had a play, no instructions, no rules, and we're going to start to learn a bit more of the formalities before we take it to the next level. 4. Techniques Part 01: We've had a little play, let's get a little bit more formalized with that techniques. The first thing we're going to do is the most basic thing which is called a flat wash. That's actually more challenging than you think it's going to be. Plus I'm going to force you to use, if we limit ourselves to just the two brushes were going to try and use, utilize this as best as possible. Typically, you would do a flat wash with one of these type brushes where you get a nice big broad stroke and is very little room for error. This is going to be teaching you to control that water volume and can control how much pigment you have on the brush and force yourself to work very evenly. Again in our wet brush, I'm going to pick up some pigment, whatever color you like doesn't matter. I'm going to mix it over here. I'm going to bring quite a bit of water to it, to dilute it a fair bit. So we've got nice big even, I don't want any bits caught on the edges because that'll make the pigment itself quite variegated. I'm just going to very quickly in a evenly get it on the page and I'm just going to paint a bar like so. Rather than stopping, I'm just going to keep that pigment moving to keep it nice and even. If I'm going to back, the temptation to go back and fiddle with it is real I know but try and not. Because that human influence is really going to affect how that paint moves on the page. See how beautiful and even that is. If I was to then try and fix anything, say flip a bit of dust flew in there or I dropped of water. It's going to look really affected and keep it smooth, just let it be. If you didn't get it right the first time, just give it a second go and give yourself a chance. Second one is what we call a gradient wash. It's going to be a tonal version of the first one. We're going to go from a dark color all the way through to the lightest version, meaning basically zero. We're going to use one color and dilute it with water to make a tonal wash. Yellow isn't thing like a lot of colors not so good for this exercise because it's all about training your eye and your hand to work out where you are on that tonal scales. Pick one of the stronger colors. I'm going to go with the purple, I'm going to take some to my palette. Just I'll got a little bit to work with it. Then same deal, I'm going to paint a bar and I'm going to gradually dilute as we go along. There's my nice strong base, a color is like maximum intensity or a 100 percent volume of paint, like so. Then to bring that down, or it's going to go a quick rinse, not a full rinse of your brush has really just a quick, woo, in it like toothbrush movement. Then back on here again, I'm going to bring my paintbrush back to where I finished the last block and we're back into where I came and then bring it forward. It's one step back, two steps forward. Then again, same deal. One step back, two steps forward. You can see that paints starting to lighten off. One step back, two steps forward I should say, and again. Each time that you rinse off that brush, you're taking a little bit more pigment off. Again, two steps forward and then one final one, I want to rinse all the pigment off because I want it to come out zero. So I might even grab some of my fresh water there and there we go. Quite often, we'll get to here and I'll be really dark and it'll go straight through to light. Give yourself a couple of options. Even try different colors because different colors are going to respond like take more rinsing the blue is very strong, so it tends to hold in your brush a bit more. What you want to do is try and get that as even as transition as possible. Then bear in mind that until it's finished drying, it's going to keep moving. I'm trusting that, that pigments going to pull into a perfect straight gradient wash. The last one we're going to do here is a variegated wash. We've just done tonal here, so, dark through to light inside the one color. We're going to go from one color to another color. We're going to need to pick my color transitions. If you're at all familiar with the color wheel, I wouldn't be going from say, green to red or purple to yellow. It's very extreme, it's you going from one side of the color wheel to another. Pick something that you think it's going to look really beautiful. Maybe sunset colors, maybe you're going from yellow to orange. The closer the transition is going to be easier for you to gauge and the harder it is if you've got a very disparate colors. I'm going to go with that same purple again because I love it and start here with maximum intensity, and this time we're not getting any lighter, all we're doing is transitioning to a different color altogether. I'm going to transition to the cyan. What I'm going to do is I've got the purple on my palette here. I'm going to grab a little bit of the color that I'm going to transition to and mix it thoroughly into the entire area of paint that I've had on here. I haven't got little edges of purple or anything anywhere because that will come back and influence it later, you do need to move quickly on this one, so I'm going to move backwards, one step back, two steps forwards. Again grab a bit more blue into that mixture, mix it all around, one step back, two steps forward. A bit more and you never adding more purple, you only adding more blue to this mixture. One step back, two steps forward. You might need to grab a little more water along the way because you're not adding more water. But as you go, you'll just start to see that color transition over. One step back, two steps forward, keep going. One step back, two steps forward. Then I'm going to rinse completely because my last little leg, I'm going to do just straight of the discs here. One step back, two steps forward. Then we have variegated wash from purple through to cyan. From here, what we're going to do, this has been our blends and washes, and now we're going to go into some more application techniques and slowly building up our skills towards the end point. 5. Techniques Part 02: We've gone through our first series of techniques which might seem really basic, but they do take practice and all that blending can really make a big difference to the outcome of you work, because you start to think about tonal range and variegated color instead of big broad panels of one color. Well, our second array of techniques is all about how we apply the paint to the page and the different results you can get, whether the page is wet, whether the pages dry and those kinds of things. So it's drawing time and I know everyone freaks out, but drawing, it is the basis of all art. We're only going to do the most simple of drawing right now, we're going to give us an outlines to work with. I'm going to draw some leaves, if you're super uncomfortable, go with a circle, go with a heart. I really don't mind so long as there's four and they're roughly the same size. So my leaves like so, I'm going to fill each of these leaves with a different watercolor technique so then you start to see how they work across. The first one we're going to do is wet on dry. Wet on dry literally means, wet paint brush, dry paper. Seems really straightforward, but it actually has a totally different result to our neighbor here, which is going to be wet on wet. Wet on dry means you have complete control of where that paint's being applied to the page and you get a really beautiful crisp hard line. Whereas if you're talking wet on wet and you got wet paper, because it's wet paint brush, wet paper, you get a really soft blend. So you get very different results and the two work together, you can put them in layers and there's so many ways to integrate these two together. I'd very rarely would exclusively work wet on wet and I'd very rarely exclusively work wet on dry. So it's working out. I want this to be a defined shape, so therefore, I should probably work wet on dry or if I wanted say a diffused cloud or some soft blooms, then wet on wet is the right way to go. Wet on dry, I'm going to grab a nice big chunk of paint, let's go orange this time, shake it up and wet on dry. I'm just going to paint in the leaves themselves. You can see there, I've got really beautiful crisp, very defined shapes and that's a really important part of this technique. So wet on dry, very defined, very specific shapes and you can build these up in layers, it's not a onetime effect. You can then wait for that to dry and do a second layer on top. Can be really effective. The next one we're going to do is wet on wet and watch me do tongue twisters about this all day long because wet on dry and wet on wet, I get all confused. So with clean water, I'm going to fill this leaf shape with beautiful clean water because we're going to use the wet paper to diffuse the color. Without having giant puddle on top swimming from side to side, you want to really nice sheen on there. If you hold it up to the light, you can usually see that there's a nice even coating and it hasn't started to dry up. So there we go. What I'm I going to do this time? Let's go this color. Now, sometimes you do and sometimes you don't get the perfect effect the first time with wet on wet. What I have to do though is trust that, that's going to do it's thing. Because if I went back in with that paintbrush and force the paint around, it tends to have that interfered look again and it loses that natural quality of what watercolor does all on its own. So until that's bone dry as we've mentioned before, that's going to keep moving. Come back to that one by the time when we get to here and it's going to look totally different again anyway. What you can do is say, drop some clean water into it, can have a cool effect. Let that pool around. When the paper's wet, quite often, most water color artists will say that wet on wet is their favorite technique because that's where the watercolor does most of the talking. You are just setting up the parameters and then you just letting it go and it's that letting go process that's actually the most challenging for some, but then also the most rewarding because you cannot generate that with a paintbrush or any other means and it could never regenerate exactly that same thing over and over again. The next one is called a three color blend. It's similar to what we just did, but we're going to get a little bit more painterly with it. For your three color blend, there's so many options and really there's no wrong but if you were to go from violet to yellow or blue to orange, you see how I am going from one side of the color wheel to the other, you end up with all the dirty brown colors in the middle. So you have less of that vibrant pigment coming through. For your three color blend, I'd suggest going green, yellow or orange or say, blue, purple, and red and that'll be a really nice harmonious colors that will work nicely together. Let's go, I'm going to start with maybe a red and a pink or an orange or something like that. Grab some red, you want a nice wet brush because the more water, the more bleeding that you get. I'm going to fill this shape a little bit, it's a little bit like the circle exercise we did at the beginning. Then I'm going to pick up some pink and then I'm going to pick up some yellow. This instance is really good for when you want some more of that random bleeding to occur and you can put all the colors you like in there, but you can turn into a giant puddle. So you want to think about the colors you putting in there and not put too many really strong colors because it ends up looking a bit full-on. But you can get some really beautiful results here and a bit more of that random effect with the watercolor of it blending and allowing it to do its thing. The final one we're going to do is called negative space. Now, negative space is one of my favorite effects, but it also is, I think one of the key parts of making a watercolor painting successful. Because quite often with watercolor, it's what you're not putting in rather than what you put in that makes a big difference, makes the overall outcome. So negative space is allowing the white of the page to breath through and define shapes. What I'm going to do is I'm going to paint around the veins of a leaf and you'll see how a dramatic effect that can have. It's all about restraint and pulling back rather than layering on more paint. More talking can be less paint and I think quite often that's the best way to go about it. With just one load of paint, so I'm going to grab this lovely green, this sap green, like so. One load of paint, I'm going to start at the bottom here and paint these veins in. We'll paint everything but the veins really. Rather than grab more paint, I'm just going to use water to bring that around. Now, unfortunately guys, I made that look easy and it's not, it's really hard. If you get really stumped, what most people do is they get to here, at the beginning and go, "What does a leaf even look like? I've forgotten what a leaf looks like." So do yourself a favor and do a little drawing here. Go okay, so a leaf is this shape and then it usually has a central vein and then they come off like this. This will be your little map before you go here. I don't want you to be doing pencil outlines here and losing all that loose quality of the brush. It's hard, it will probably take a couple of goes. Quite often, people need to have a first pancake, you know how the first pancake's often quite a bit dodgy, it's the funky one and then the next one is usually a best one because you've knotted out all those little bits and pieces that are the hold ups and then you go, boom for the second one, always looks good. These are the key ways of me bringing a work together. I will use a combination of all of these things in a final work. Individually, great to learn and I think it's really important to learn each of these separately because they are separate techniques. But then, there's so many ways to bring them all together. From here, we're going to learn all about the brushes, how to utilize them. See how versatile they are and learn about mark making. 6. Exploring Brush Strokes: The way you utilize your brush is a really important aspect to the overall out come of your watercolor work. This little guy here is the workhorse, the synthetic round. Right now we're going to learn all about how to utilize him in a bunch of different ways because he's super versatile. The very first thing we going to do is paint some basic bars and it's not the goal of getting perfectly square bars, it's all about getting them as close as humanly possible, and it's training that muscle memory and your hand to get that negative space in play. I'm going to pick what color this time? Let's get some green, because I can, you can see it was my hold here I've got a slanted hold, which means that I'm holding it much like a pencil. I've got a thumb and forefinger and my third finger is bracketing like so. With this particular exercise, I find it really much easier if my hand is at 90 degrees with the paper, because it means I can see exactly where I'm going. With my hands over here, I can't see where I'm going plus I've got my elbow going into my body, so I think of this as one big fluid thing and it's not rigid. It's not just through your wrist and your fingers, it's definitely painting is more than just through your hand is whole body, and quite often I'm shifting my body weight as well to get that body out of the way. Here we're going to do our first little bars exercise which is we're just going to paint a bar, and you will see that I'm only using the top two or three mill of the brush, there so much more brush that you used, just bear that in mind for the future, and then the next one we're going to do, is I'm going to do it again and slowly is better with this one, so go nice and slowly, and you want to try and get that next bar as close as humanly possible to the previous one. What this is doing, is training your hand to measure that negative space and where that touch is going to happen, if it does in fact happen and if it does, it's not the of the world, we're human. Little shakes and all things will affect whether it touches or not, I'm just going to change up the colors, because why not? This is a good one to do if you just warming up as well. Like can feel like you get to sit down, I finally get to paint one we're going to do and go, I don't what to paint, I've got no idea, so just go back to your exercises and have a play well as opposed to having a freak out and just packing it all the way again, it's just too hard basket. Because you never know when these might lead to. Rinse, some blue, it's going all over the rainbow to this one, another touch, so that's bound to happen at some point. You can say that it's not the end of the world, in fact, I'm just going to keep going because it doesn't make any difference, we're just practicing. If you really struggling with this one, I find having the heel of the hand down is a nice balancing point, and then start wider and not trying going to close too soon, just like do two, and they might have a centimeter between them, it doesn't matter. But if you do the next one and go well, I got about one down pat, then you can do the next one 9 millimeters closer and it's still you just going to gradually get closer, it doesn't matter how long that's going to take you. It's all about getting that practice in your hand, getting familiar with the shakes and your hand, plenty people have shakes in their hand, my hand shakes, more blue maybe. It's getting familiar with you brush and it's also teaching you how much water to have on there because you want the pigment to move across the surface, but definitely don't want puddles on there that those big droplets tend to touch on the page anyway, so it's just finding all those little tiny things that you can manage control over, I'm just getting keep going, I'm going to go all the way across, and if you start to feel really confident, I wanted to add a little curve in there and save your hand can follow that curves. I get so excited about all the colors that I just used all the most vibrant one, but sometimes disc number four gets neglected, and it's got some of the best ones on there especially if you talk natural world colors. From here we've just had a slanted hold where we're like this, I'm going to switch you up to a vertical hold, so think of it like a record pin on a record player, it's very much perpendicular to the page, and I've got my thumb and forefinger on there and then my third finger locks in, so that's really quite rigid. There's not a lot of movement there, so instead of my wrist and my fingers moving with this one, it's very much my arm and this is all fixed from here up, so it's just my arm moving like so, I don't want you brush going like this. There's no tilting, just vertical the whole time, and what we're going to do is get some cool color on there. With my vertical hold, I'm going to use the knuckle and the heel of my hand to bounce and rest, if you can't get your little finger down, just rely on the heel because the heel should be enough that you can do it and you're actually going to drag that heel of your hand along, so drop the pin like on a record player and you're going to just get the skinniest, thinnest little line, and because we're not twisting and we're not moving anything, you have a lot of control because you're only just dropping that little point and dragging it. With this one, I typically see people going like this, and it gets too fat. That means you are using too much of your fingers, you really want to try and just lock everything firm and just straight. Doesn't matter if it's wobbly, that just comes with practice in steadying your hand. See that was a little bit wobbly, So this is your vertical hold. Really great for controlled thin lines, and you will just start to not even realize you're doing it when you start painting more intuitively and become more familiar with how all this holds work, you'll just switch and you won't even think about it, so I'm just going to keep going along. Try and get them thinner, try to get them straighter, that one was terrible. Then there's another one, there we go nice and thin, and then if you just drop it a little bit firmer, you get a fatter line. All I've done is drop it harder onto the page, still get a nice straight in line there. If you're struggling to get a really nice point on your brush, this is a really great tip. When you're picking up the paint. Say if I'm going to pick up this orange, the orange here, instead of just going mash mash, mash, which you can see really affects the tip of the brush, because you end up with a flat side and a skinny side which is really not ideal because you've lost that point of control. Twist the brush as you pick up the paint, which will mean that you always have a prefect firm point on there, and then you've got control back because then you can just drop that point and get a really nice skinny line. You can see that my arm is like a carriage on a train. The whole thing is moving as one unit, hands, fingers, wrist, nothing else is moving. There we go, so that's your vertical hold with a nice skinny straight line. This one is the one that drives people insane, but you'll see once we pull it all together and I promise you I've said that a few times now it will all come together. This one is called variegated stroke or a pressure stroke and immediately you'll see the difference here and what will become of it. I've had to troubleshoot this one a lot with people, I've just picked up blue again, but oh well, blue is the theme for this one for this one. What we're going to do is very similar to this, but we're going to change the angle a little bit. Instead of a true vertical hold like this, the brush is going to be about a 60 degree angle, like so. This time I'm actually going to be using my fingers to be adding pressure and removing pressure. I'm going to drop it again and then gradually add pressure until the bristles are wide as possible and then very gradually lift. You start to see where this can go, like leaf shapes, maybe botanical, practice that one again. This is the trickiest one by far, it's really challenging because it feels very foreign to your hand. We want to try and get that point as fine as possible, but don't forget to add too much pressure, so really gently and slowly and lift. You can see, as I lift slower than I apply the pressure because the bristles themselves will vacuum back in to make that final point. I'll show you what happens if you're getting a result like this. Lets get this color. If you are getting these dead raggedy ends, that usually means you're lifting too quickly, going putting the pressure down is going, "Yes, I did it". Then you've lifted way too quickly and you get these raggedy ends, just slow it right down. If you haven't quite got it right again, slow it down again. Nice and slow, apply pressure slowly and don't keep dragging and you'll notice that my hand and the angle of the brush never changes. I'm not going like this, If you're finding that you are getting some banana-shapes or some chilies, some people call them, it's because if we're tilting the brush back on itself. When I say back on itself, its, I'm going like this and put the brushes now going away from me. There's nowhere else for the bristles to go, but around the base of the brush, so you end up with chilies. In real-time, it always swings around the side. If you finding that you're constantly getting these type of shapes rather than a straight line like this two, your brush is bending back on itself. Try and just keep it at the same angle and it's only through the fingers that you're doing the work. Most importantly, your arms on that carriage again. It's just like this one here. The work is happening through the fingers, but your wrist and your hand are not moving and your elbow comes up. I'm actually standing now, so this makes a big difference. If you're really struggling, standing does help because your elbow will need to come past your body. Standing will allow you to stand a little more sideways if you need to and you can allow your arm, the carriage to come along past the body. Yeah. We've done that always besides all my sizes, I've done that always besides 10 brush. You can then do that entire exercise all over again with the size 4. The only difference being you going to get a smaller result because you've got a smaller brush. This one will take some practice. I'm not kidding and again, I've made it look easy. I'm sorry, but I've got 10 years of experience through this hand and it does take a lot of practice and it's just over and over, I've done sheets of it before. Whenever, one of my students is struggling, I just get them to do it repetitively because with each time, you'll have a little thing and I'm not here to tap you on the wrist and go, "You doing this wrong." I go back through my notes and try and pinpoint what's going wrong. If you've got raggedy ends, you lifting too quickly and if you've got bananas, you're bending the brush back on itself, that's largely the two biggest problems that come with this. If you're drying out, you just haven't dunked enough water on your brush before starting. With this in mind, that's the most simple version. I might actually moved to a second page for this one. Get some more paint, so you've got this going, but what you can then do is connect them. Like so, this one is a good one to practice again, like I was saying, with the warm ups, if you just sit down, you all excited to paint, then you just go, "I don't know what to paint, I'm stumped". These little warm ups and little practices are really handy because then, they will not just flow naturally flow onto the next thing. All right, there we go. We've got that pressure sort of idea like we're applying pressure to the bristles and they flare out and become broader and that's what makes that versatile line. Then what we're going to do is use that same idea, but just to do some dabs and dots. With a nice load of paint, I'm just going to do little ones. What I want you to try and do is try and do as many different marks with this one brush as possible. Let's do, can go away from me and it's long skinny ones and then I could do tip down and pressure and release. All these can make up different petals, different leaves and it's all with the one brush. The reason why I don't like to switch between brushes too often is because it interrupts that flow state that I was talking about from the beginning. Every time that you have to make a conscious decision and switch brushes, you're switching out of that relaxed state that you're in as you're painting and having to change things up. I try and get everything done largely with the one brush because then it stops all those micro decisions along the way. Those ones where you have to snap out of your little zone and go, "Oh maybe it's time and I switched my brush?" What else can we do here? We can do a flick, All different shapes and then little dots. Do hold painting classes just on mark making because it's so fun. This identifying and you'll start to walk down the street and go on, " I know to do that flower because it's just those couple of different marks and then dots." You can do really fine dots with this ginormous brush, even little ones, I like doing those ones. Build up bits of texture good for stamens and tiny details on leaves. There we have it. Okay, so really you can practice these component till the cows come home. There is endless opportunities and I quite often start here if I'm trying to identify certain shapes in a plant and I'm going to go to and experiment so this is a good experimentation phase. Then we're going to start to look at how we can pull all these ideas together into some simple shapes before we head into the big stuff. 7. Simple Shapes: We've just seen just how much we can make out of the simple tool of a brush. Now, it's time to pull those ideas together into some simple shapes. Some say not so simple, but I'm trying to just break it down for you so that it's digestible. So grab some color. I'm just going to pick a color, any whole color. Now, I'm going to go from a vertical hold to do a little stem here, like so and then I'm going to use one of those pressure strokes to draw down the one side. Can anyone see what I'm doing here? Then use negative space to define that vein down the center. You can construct almost anything out of this array here. It's just a matter of identifying because we're not painting the literal thing, we are creating an expression of it on the page. You can be as literal or as free as you'd like, and it really doesn't matter. There's no right or wrong here. It's just a matter of having a play. So I have another go and other gum leaf we can even tie one to another. Let's go over here, Vertical stroke, then I'm going to switch my whole back to the slanted hold, do another one like so. Really, you can make this like the circles pattern just do leaves all the way across if you'd like, if that's what you're happy exploring, or if you want to look at the work as a whole before you get too carried away and goes all the way across and just going crazy. A safer to go in with restraint, and if you are feeling like you're just really in the zone, sometimes it's better to just take a step back and even put the paintbrush down, because that means you can look at the work as a whole without coming back in in fiddling with it. Because then he can go and I think that's enough now and you can make the call a lot clearer. So just have another play. Let's do another leaf that's poking out the side of that one, let's keep going. So that's simple shape. Number 1, going to use up some of these other colors I've got here. You can see as I'm trying to twist the brush at the end, it helps get some of those more irregular shapes, and I love it when they run into one another. Because in nature, what I always seem to say is that you get really defined shapes and then sometimes when they're a little bit more background or your eyes entirely focused, the light and the colors and the blends are blur into one, so you're allowed to let that happen, you don't have to have stark shapes all over the page. Embrace watercolor for what it does best. Oops. That was a purple overwhelm on the palette. Every time you take your paintbrush to paper is a chance to explore all the things that watercolor can do. Say you are doing the example of pulling a few ideas together. Don't forget to think about tonal range. So lot enough, those colors occasionally don't always grab maximum volume from you paints it. Also, think about the colors that you use. I could have done them all on the same shade of green because yes, gum leaves a green, but when you start to think about how light and shadows and all those things into play in the native bush, you get a really interesting mixture of colors and people always talk about the Australian bush colors and that's up for interpretation and just have a little play, because every single opportunity, every time you pick up paint is another way to learn how colors talk to one another along side using all those brushstroke techniques we just learnt. I suggest starting off with gum leaves because it's such a natural lead on from where we left off with letting the brush straight techniques that that shape is there, and then I want to flip it on its head and let's have a little play with a different style of Eucalypt leaf. We're going to do your more traditional Eucalypt. Again, it's just to make sure of those vertical strikes, meaning these ones, as well as a few precious strikes and a little bit of negative space at play. So instead of the downward stroke, I'm going to turn my paper. Don't forget you can turn your paper because it is not fixed down, like this. I'm just going to go right here and you'll start to see how this builds out. Again, there's playing with those colors is really important part of the learning, is to not get too fixated with what colors you're using. It's very tempting to just go one very safe shade of green across the board, but that is boring and is not interesting to look at, and when you show a mom, she's going to go cool. Whereas if you had something a bit more interesting and a bit more playful with color, I think apart from the fact that it is more joyful to paint, it's more interesting to look out for everyone as well. I'm playing with those tones, making sure it's not all too the same. This way as well. Everything is made up of the same few strokes just simplifies. Want to work into the wettest areas because that's going to always encourage bleeding. So once it's dry or if it's partially dry, just stop because then you can wait and build a second layer on top or assess it once it's dry. If you're someone that's tempted to keep running paint over and over again, it's going to look really laboured and you're going to get a really weird mixture of colors and little lines where paint has previously dried and where the new lot dries, and it's not very not a very polished look. Whereas if you can confidently go on the page with simple strikes and then know the fact that you can always come back once it's bone dry, is a really important stage of the learning. Let's do this top little bud bits. There we go, it's a little bit of Eucalypt. Then the last one I want to show you is pulling so same idea, but really similar to this. However, we're going to put the paint on first and let the water draw out the color. So this is going to be a simple flower and turn that page so I can move it around. If you're someone that tends to always use really heavy amounts of pigment, this is a nice way of just retraining that idea because you've got enough pigment on the page and you can just pull that out. You can do it across all kinds of things. You could even do it with the gum leaves and just paint the stem and then pull that color down the stem. So pulling is using the pigment on the page and then clean water to move it around. Nice simple shapes. I'll do one more. Nice big juicy dot in the middle because you want lots of pigment in there because that's all we have got to work with. Give it a little rinse over here to get some clean. And before it dries, you've got to keep it moving. There we go. Spin around, there we go. These are really simple shapes and they will come with practice. I can't stress how much practice comes into play with these things because all about the confidence you go onto the page, and the more familiar you are with the pressure stroke and getting that vertical line nice and narrow, the more confidence you will have here. So a lot of energy should be focused in this part of the process, and take your time, don't press yourself, but then this is a nice place to start, just familiarizing yourself with how to get some botanical shapes on the page, and in the next stage, we're going to pull it into a more complex place and paint actual specimen from observation. 8. Let's get Botanical: So I feel like I've armed you with a bunch of skills, but where are we going with all of this? It's time to get botanical. But we can't do that in here, we've got to go outside to gather our inspiration and we'll come back to the table and will be painting something from observation. We've got some Hakea in bloom here, so I think I'm going to choose that as my subject for today. When I'm looking at a stem to pick, I'm trying to find something that's going to look really nice on the page, as well as just holding it in my hand. Whether it's got a bloom or not, whether it's in bloom, or it's very early. Plenty of foliage is always nice, because you can always take leaves off, but it's harder to add them on, and it's nice to have a good reference point from the very get-go. I'm just going to give this one a little snip here, because I think that looks pretty good. And away we go. Now back in studio. I know that beautiful Australian flower is not available to all of us, but it is largely available. So head outside, I think having the physical thing here, makes a massive difference to the outcome of your work. If you're working from a photo, you tend to only have that one angle, the photo that's being taken as the option. Whereas here I can turn it and work out the best angle to paint it from, I can also remove any leaves or anything like that that I don't want to have in the picture anymore. If you get really stuck, a florist will often sell you stems as opposed to a whole bouquet, or you can even buy a bouquet and deconstruct it into its various components. Painting from observation, though is really, really big deal. I can't even explain how big a difference it made to my own work, and I think it's really important part of my process. From here, what I'm actually going to do is grab a new piece of paper. I am going to do a sketch first, because I feel like that eradicates a lot of the um's and ah's when it comes to doing a final work. I don't really generally paint with any pencil lines at all, or if anything, the faintest, because once the pencil is on the paint, you can't erase it. You want as few pencil lines as possible. Plus I find that whenever we have pencil lines, we tend to use them as an outline and get very tight with how we use the brush, and I would rather, you have very few guidelines, and just roll with how the brush is moving and trust your instincts in painting. The drawing is essential because it helps us place the flower, and leaves, and the stem on the page, and it takes a lot of that stress away from doing the final work. I'm just going to put the blooming first, so I've got to in a rough position that I want it. Holding it sometimes really helps, because you can literally change that angle of it to see which way you want to look at it. I'm going to and put the flower here-ish, and then stem goes, like so, and then put some leaves in. Looks like enough flower. It's not so much a work of art, it's more a reference point for yourself, so you can place things really confidently, later down the track. It also can help identify where to start in the painting, because any time a leaf goes in front of the stem, you need to paint that leaf first as opposed to the stem, and I know everyone loves painting the stem first, I've seen it a thousand times over, but if you paint the stem first, all the leaves must come off from the sides of the stem and you end up with a very 2D naive style painting. As soon as you put a leaf in front of the stem, all of a sudden you've clearly thinking about the object that you're painting in a different light, and you thinking better as a 3D shape. The stem is very much an architectural element, it's not something I feature are often barely put it in, doesn't connect because the eye will make up the difference and it's more about that the leaves and the blooming in most instances. I'm just going to keep adding some leaves. You'll say that I'm referencing this, but also making sure that it's working on the page on its own. I want to make sure that it looks good. No one's ever going to put the two of these two things together and go, "Well, that doesn't look like that. What were you thinking?" So you've got to make sure that it's looking good as a work of art, as well as referencing this. So say if this leaf isn't working, just take it off. It just makes life easier rather than you trying to trip around it and going, "I can't make it work. It's not working." Then we'll do one more leaf up there. Put that stem in, it's roughly what we're working with here. If anything with my drawing, I want to move the whole thing over, just a tiny fraction, because it was a little too far aligned to the left. Make little notes for myself. It's the edge of the bloom. It's not the most overly complex drawing, but at least gives me an idea of where I'm going to start placing those elements on the page. From here, I'm going to pop that aside, but it's my maps, so I'm going to keep it really close by. Pop that there. I'm going to grab a fresh sheet of paper, which is going to be my final work. This is a good opportunity to switch to a cotton paper. If this is something that you're really going to put a lot of energy into, it's worth going onto a finer paper. They're acid free, they don't yellow over time, and it'll last a lot longer than say, a typical paper where the acid in there will make it go yellow, it'll tire and also go brittle, which is no good. So think about that. It does effect in the long-term how long these painting will last. From here, what I'm going to do is, I've got the idea of where the stem's going to go there, and knowing that the pencil is not going to come off once I've started painting, unless I've haven't painted over the top of it. I'm just going to roughly put that pencil line in. I'm going to do a circle for the flower, and I'm going to put that stem in, and it's literally so light that I'm not even sure you're going to be able to see it. But it's so light, I do this so that all the leaves attach to a stem and they're not floating in space, and I can paint the stem in last with confidence knowing that all the leaves will attach, and be logical. I'm going to start with painting in some of these leaves. It's just that pressure stroke that we will do in in the brushstrokes section. As you can tell from this leaf shape, it's almost identical. I don't have to think too hard about it, and I'm not even worrying that the veins are anything at this point because I want the flower to be the focal point. That's where the eye should go first, and the rest is a support act. The stem is merely structural, it's nothing to do with anything. Make sure leaves are attaching, grab some more colors. Like what I was doing in the previous module, I like shifting the colors of the leaves, because of the way that light hits them in nature, it's never the same color across the board and that's how the eye distinguishes between the leaves. If you're working with the Cohen or brilliant discs, you'll find that the greens are super-duper vibrant. If you want to knock off a little bit of that vibrancy and bring it into the more natural world, either add some purple, or some of the pinks, or even red sometimes works as well, and it will just take that electricity off the synthetic green. Reconstituting a whole bunch of these older colors that I had on my palette that are a little bit dirtier, that make for the colors that I like to use. I very rarely work directly off these colors because they are so vibrant and that's why I enjoy mixing on the palette first, which is very much an experiment and the thing to learn. Watercolors very much a mixture of like, "Go really quick. Go, go, go, all sorts or all wet" and you want it to bleed and then "Stop, stop everything. Don't make muscle" because you need to let it dry for the next era of the painting to happen. Where are we going to go next. Over to this leaf. Sometimes if it's hiding behind, I might just drop a little bit of another color in there to imply that it's sitting behind a little bit deeper. Because we're working off white, whenever I'm trying to send a leaf backwards, unless it's got a color to play off, I usually go lighter as opposed to darker because of the white ground, it'll help fade into the distance as opposed to put everything in sharp contrast. This leaf at the back here, I'm just going to do really, really lightly. Then whilst it's all wet, I'm going to connect up this stem so that it can bleed into one another if it wants to soften it up a little. I'll continue up until the flower and then I'll probably do the far side of the flower after. I most often actually start with the flower itself, but because the leaves come so close, I think I want to do the leaves first. The order of things can be really challenging. But once you get more familiar with how you're working, it usually twigs, it becomes second nature. You'll notice that I've completely forgotten about this all together. I'm largely referencing the drawing from this point because I can trust that that's going to be what I had it wanted. This is what my goal was here, and this is just a reference point for the, say, color, like if I'm looking closely, the stem is actually red, and where the leaf connects to the stem, that's quite red as well, and then the leaves themselves, that beautiful green. It's more about identifying little signifies of each of the plants. Each one has its own little set of factors that make it look like it. It's just looking really closely to find out what's, what. This one after that. I'll just do a little more down there. Now, for the flower I'm actually going to switch to my smaller brush, because I've got some really tiny detail in here to make sure that I'm capturing everything, all that information like it look super crazy, and really had to paint bit, strip back all that fear, and it's really just a red sphere with little strands coming out of it. it's just having a little play with the idea of it, as well as not getting too hung up on all those tiny details. I'm not counting every single one of those little stamen and going it must have 500 statement on it as more as capturing the essence of it on the page. Add some more pink. I've picked out some of these more deep red. I'm going to try and paint this ball in. I'm going to just to do a series of dots. We'll find it if anything's too complicated, reducing it down to a series of dots is actually a nice way of getting complex information on the page without getting too hung up on the details. It's fast, it's furious, and just let it go. Best part of these are, if you really have a blue, it's just more paper. You just ditch that one, start all over again, no one even knows it had to exist. I do that all the time. I've got a whole stack of paintings which were the lesser successful paintings. It's amazing how many times you come back to them and you like "It wasn't as bad as I thought". We can be so hard on ourselves whilst we're painting. Then you come out of it, out of your little zone, and it's not so bad. It's really not so bad. We just love being really hard on ourselves. I'm just going to change up the color because nothing is one color in nature. A little bit more in there. Now we're going to do those top leaves, I think or maybe the stamen. Decisions, decisions. I think I will do the stamen, which I'm going to do with a very, very light yellow. Maybe a greeny yellow with a little bit of pink too. I'm just going to mix up my color first, like so. Then I'm actually going to pull, like what we're doing in the simple shapes, I'm going to pull some of these out. With a little brush, it's a lot easier. If you're with a fat brush, you'd have a lot more difficulty making sure you maintain a really, really fine point. But all of a sudden that seemingly ultra difficult flower to paint is reduced to just a series of dots and strokes. I could add more information in, but if I was to keep pushing that with more paint and more water, what tends to happen is it turns into a big mess, it all bleeds into one another. What I'm going to do is actually stop and I'm going to move on and do the very ends of the stamens, which are very pale lime green. I'm just going to dot them around and then I'm going to wait for it to dry the flower itself, and if I need more information, I can always add it in after the fact. Not while its damp, but while it's bone dry so you have to be patient and let it dry completely. I'm just going to get all over it really. I always have music playing when I'm painting so there's not really long silences because that just disappear into my own little world. I'm going to leave that as is for the minute maybe just a little swipe, that's better. Take out some of that harsh detail. Then I'm going to add those top leaves. What color? Color, color color, color, color. Going back to this guy again. Some more of that one. The stem finishes up here too. Exactly goes past the flower and has a nice little bud on that. Paint that bud in. Go to number four. Get some of the neutral colors. Haven't touched them this whole time. Now, what I'm going to do is add a little bit more of this thing. I love it when things don't attach and get a bit more mysterious, I call it the magic because that's what the eye doesn't see but eye loves to see it because it's what's not there. So it's always handing out what's not there. Like these colors, they're obviously not there, but it's over enhancing them and really playing that out, which makes it feel more magical than what it actually is. I could have painted that all in the same flat green but you would have no life in it. So it's giving it life through color and playfulness with paint. I think that's nearly there. If anything, if I wanted to add anymore to it, I couldn't do it right now because it's wet. I wait for it to dry it, which also gives me breathing space to remove it from my line of vision and come back to it with fresh eyes. Because it's amazing what can happen sometimes when you come back with fresh eyes. It will look completely different, plus it will have dried, so all of the effects will have taken place and you can re-assess what needs attention. It's just the about to dry. It just go little, I can just tell. I don't want to put my finger in it because you'll end up with a giant thumb print in your paint which is not ideal. From here I re-assess where I'm at and I could do with a few more darker colors or I might like to do a bit more intensity into the ball of the Hakea itself. What I'm going to do is I'm going to mix up a color for that darker leaf in the background there. I'm going to pop him in. Freehand painting it can be super intimidating, but it's just all it is, is confidence going onto the page. It's building that work, what we've done through the whole course. The more regularly you do that, the more familiar you get with everything, this will come second nature. You won't even have to think about it. Let's get the right color. I'm just going to put a couple more leaves in here. I want one dark in there, there we go. Maybe a little, there we go. Then I'm going to add a little bit more contrast into that ball by adding some pinky purple. Just more dots on top of previous dots will build up a second layer which can create a whole new point of interest because you're creating more complex information on the page. So by building up layers, which is my favorite thing to do, I've very rarely complete a painting all in one sitting. Some of my work will have anywhere up to 10 or 12 layers. So it's finding that patience to go. It's okay. I can wait. I'm just going to let it dry and I'll come back to it when it's dry and build up that second layer because I know it's going to look better if I'm patient. It's the hardest thing with watercolor. You just want it done now. But building up those layers can be really good. Dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. Add a little bit of fresh red I think. You can take as much artistic licence as you want. I don't mind if you get the whole thing could be purple, I don't care. You just got to take that leap and have a go. Because that's a really important part is just that you can't have too high expectations at the beginning, but then you can always built into it. The more you practice, the better the outcome. It's just the way it's going to be. Sometimes I still do a stinker. There's just sometimes I'm just not having a good day at painting and it's just put the paint brush down. This isn't my day and then I can go off and do something else, be productive elsewhere. Then some days you can't take the paint brush out of my hand and I just want to paint for 15 hours straight, and I'm just having a winner day. Even a professional painter, I can still have good and bad days when it comes to coming to a blank page. So there we have it. This is my Hakea and I'd love to see what you guys come up with as well because everyone's garden and whatever they pick is totally unique. Even the things we were attracted to is unique as well. Typically if I was working on this one and to starve that impatient person that I am. I would have two or three, four even paintings going at the same time. So that I can put one off to the side and focus my energy on another one. while I also wait for that one to dry so I can come back and do that layering more effectively rather than rushing it and try and get it all done in one sitting. I don't often get a whole painting done in one sitting. I could anywhere up to 12 to be honest, because I want to build up lots of concentrated detail in certain areas and it takes that time and the patience to let it dry it and build them up as we go. So I have more than one painting on the go. Try different botanicals, try different cuttings, tried different flowers. Find whatever you can, paint the world around you and you'll be out of just see those skills develop from here and you'll only get better and better. 9. The Wrap Up: Thank you so much for coming along and painting with me. I really hope you enjoyed the course and I'm so open to feed back and reviews, so please let me know if you've got any questions, you can email me or I have a Facebook group that has a whole community of past and present students that's very supportive and I'd love to have you on board. Most importantly, I'd love to see what paintings you come up with because I haven't provided you with a specific thing to paint. It's more of a skill set that I want to see in operation. Just remember this is only the beginning and there is so much to learn from here. Happy painting.