Techniques and Tutorials

Jellyfish Watercolor Tutorial

Another day, another tutorial! I’m making my way through my favorite animals first, with yesterday’s owl and now today a colorful jellyfish. Let’s paint!

You will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I used a 6×6″ piece, but you can work bigger if you’d like as well)
  • 3 Paint colors: A blue of your choice, and 2 accent colors. I chose magenta and lime green. You could also use 3 different shades of blue if you want. Jellyfish come in many colors!
  • A large (I used size 8), medium (I used size 5), and detail (I used size 0) round brush (The brushes that come to a point at the end).
  • A large flat brush (The brushes with rectangular bristles, flat on the end).

Start by adding a good amount of water to your main blue color choice to dilute it down to a light wash. Use your large flat brush to fill in the entire paper pale blue. Use long back and forth strokes, brushing in the same direction horizontally across your paper. There may be some streaks and this is ok as we are trying to create our water :). If you want to even anything out a bit more, you can brush over darker areas with plain water using the same brush to blend. Let this dry. Once the background is dry, grab your medium round brush. Dip the brush in some of the same blue color, but with less water so it goes on a bit darker. Outline a shape that looks like the top of a cupcake in the upper right corner.

Rinse off your brush, and with just water run your brush along the inside edge of that outline to blend it inward. Grab some more blue, and make 3 squiggly lines coming down from your cupcake shape. Curving them on the end makes it look more natural, like how they would be flowing as the jellyfish swims through the water. Using the same brush, grab some more of that same blue and add a paint streak along each side of your jellyfish top, and make some short strokes also along the bottom edge.

Rinse off your brush, then go over these blue streaks you just added with water to blend. Using the same brush, take your chosen accent color and make some squiggly lines over your blue ones in that new color. Next, we are going to use our small detail brush. Take your other accent color and make a curved bridge shape near the top of your jellyfish body. Streak some lines coming down from that bridge. Use your detail brush to make some thin tentacles flowing out from the body as well. Use the tip of your brush and drag it across with a light touch, hardly putting any pressure on the paper to get thin, flowing lines. If you are having trouble making a continuous stroke, just add more water. Your tentacles can flow in all different directions as they float through the water.

Rinse off your detail brush, and grab some of your first accent color that you used on the squiggly center tentacles. Make a broken scalloped outline along the bottom of the jellyfish body. You can also add an oval up top with some short, radial streaks coming down from the circle, like a simple sun shape. For a finishing touch, take your large round brush now and dip it in some watered down paint in the original color you used for the background – You don’t want this to be too dark. Make some bubbly, cloud-like texture in a portion of the blank space around your jellyfish by filling in the areas using a circular motion with your brush. Your brush should be laying at an angle as you do this.

These are so fun to make in different colors – You could create a whole jellyfish army!

Be sure to follow for more art fun to keep your mind and hands busy :).

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Techniques and Tutorials

Barn Owl Watercolor Tutorial

In light of social distancing precautions, we all are ending up with some unexpected downtime. It can certainly be discouraging and frustrating, but we can also use this time to our advantage to bring something positive out of a negative situation. I will be posting some simple tutorials on a regular basis over the next couple weeks. The best thing to do when things are uncertain is to occupy your mind, especially with something creative. Let’s have some fun!

To create this owl, you will need:

  • Watercolor paper (I used a 6×6″ piece, but you can work bigger if you’d like as well)
  • 3 Paint colors: Grey (or if using black add a lot more water to lighten it), Burnt Umber (or any dark brown), and Raw Sienna (or any bright, warm brown)
  • A large (I used size 8), medium (I used size 5), and detail (I used size 0) round brush (The brushes that come to a point at the end).
  • A medium size flat brush (The brushes with rectangular bristles, flat on the end).
  • A pencil
  • Optional: Black liner pen (Like a fine point Sharpie!)

Start with a light pencil outline made from basic shapes to guide your painting. Draw a circle for the head, a teardrop shape coming diagonally out from that circle for the body, and another smaller teardrop shape sticking out from the bottom center of the body for the tail feathers.

Using your large round brush, water down your raw sienna paint – you do not want this first layer too dark. Following the shape of the body keeping all your brushstrokes in the same direction flowing downward, fill in the wings, leaving the head and the chest white for now.

Using your detail brush, make some jagged up-and-down strokes with a watered down grey along the front of the chest, underneath the head, and along the back of the neck.

Rinse off your detail brush, and using the same brush strokes go over your grey you just added to the chest and neck with water. This will help blend the grey so your transition from grey to white is more gradual, and you end up with a soft, feathery look. Next, using your detail brush and watered down grey, outline a pointed “U” shape in the center of the face. Make some radial brush strokes sticking out from the top of the U where the eyes will be using your detail brush.

Still using your detail brush, add some radial strokes along the outside edge of the head, including one ray down the center from the top pointing to the beak. Add some grey to fill in the end of the beak. Rinse off your brush, and lightly brush over what you just added with a damp brush to blend it.

Continuing to use your detail brush, add a border around the head with raw sienna using short, radial strokes pointing inwards towards the face. Don’t forget the widow’s peak up top :)! Water down your raw sienna a bit more, and add some of this pale warm brown to the area where the eyes will be, using radial brush strokes again pointing outward from the top of the U shape.

Next, we are going to start adding texture to the feathers. Dip your medium round brush in some raw sienna with a little less water so the coverage is a bit darker than the base underneath. Stamp up and down over the entire area to create blots of color (This is called stippling.).

Do the same thing overtop while the raw sienna is still wet with the burnt umber on the top section of the wings. Add a bit of water to your umber first, but you still want it to be pretty dark.

Then, use your detail brush to create some thin outlines in burnt umber. Hold your brush at a 90 degree angle to your paper and use a light touch, hardly pressing down at all as you drag your brush to create thin lines. Create a darker outline around the inner edge of the raw sienna outline around the face. Outline the wing, and add some lines to the bottom section of the wing and tail feathers following the direction of the shape.

Still using your detail brush and burnt umber, make some groupings of short, vertical brush strokes to create striping in the wing and tail feathers in between the lines. Make them jagged and uneven for a more realistic feathery look.

Next, using your flat brush add some more water to your burnt umber. Using the width of your brush, drag a diagonal line underneath the owl starting at the bottom of the chest.

Go back to your detail brush, and grab some burnt umber with a little less water mixed in so you get a darker color. Add some short streaks of this darker shade over the post while it is still wet. Then, using the very tip of your brush, lightly add some speckled dots over the chest. Less is more! You still want to see mostly white.

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Now for the finishing touches! Use your detail brush to create a hooked shape with the burnt umber for the talon. Use your medium round brush to add a dark burnt umber feather shape visible from behind, between the tail feathers and the post. The last step is the eyes. Create a downward slanted football shape in the area we shaded for the eyes. You may use your detail brush to fill in the eye in grey or black, but you can also use a black liner pen for a little extra control. Be sure to leave a small circle open near the top of each eye for the reflection – This is what really makes your owl look alive!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! If it didn’t come out exactly how you expected the first time, remember it just takes practice and the goal is experimenting and fun. No matter the outcome, you know more than before you started!

You don’t have to use natural colors for this project either. I think it would be fun to try a whimsical, fantasy owl in wild colors like purples, oranges, magenta, lime green … There are no rules! If you feel like sharing, post a picture in the comments of how yours turned out and as always, if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask! Stay safe everyone!

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

Blending With Watercolors – Stained Glass Ocean Project

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Hello! Today I want to show you a fun beginner project you can do to practice blending colors with watercolor paints and markers. If you are a complete beginner to color mixing, it is easiest to stick to either all warm colors (red, yellow, pink, orange …) or all cool colors like I did (blue, green, violet …). Some colors when blended together turn into “mud”, making a neutral like brown or gray. This is where understanding the color wheel comes in handy! For more about the color wheel, visit my earlier post Colors Aren’t Scary :). For this project, we will try out both flat brushes and round brushes. Round brushes have a teardrop shaped bristle that comes to a point at the end, and flat brushes have rectangular shaped bristles that are, well, flat on the end. Pretty easy to remember! It’s good to have a variety of sizes of each. Your brush size depends on the size of the area you are filling in. If your brush is too big, you risk getting paint where you don’t want it  but if your brush is too small, you will see all the little strokes and the paint won’t cover evenly.

wc blend 2

I started first with an outline, drawing my design in pencil on watercolor paper and then tracing over it with a waterproof black fine-liner pen (Sharpie fine points will work – You do not necessarily need a fancy art pen, though my preference when I do watercolor and ink work are these bad boys by Staedler.). You can draw your design however you want, or if you want to practice this technique without the added pressure of drawing, feel free to print this outline out and use graphite paper to transfer it right onto a piece of watercolor paper (Don’t have graphite paper on hand? Just shade over the back of your printout with a pencil, lay it on top of your watercolor paper, and trace over the lines and it will work the same way, though a bit more labor intensive.).

 

With watercolor, you want to start with the background and move to the foreground, and you always want to work lightest to darkest. It’s all about layering and building up colors since the paints themselves are translucent. In this more simplified project, we will be focusing just on blending this time, not layering. Still, working with the background first ensures that if any background color does find its way into the waves, which it inevitably will, we can just work right over it later and you won’t even notice by the end. Starting with the background, you want to choose a couple of colors (I used a cornflower blue and a cerulean blue.) and water them down so that they are consisting of mainly water with a small amount of pigment. Then you want to use a larger round brush and start filling in the space using circular motions. This will give our background wash a bit of texture, so that it has a hazy, cloud-like appearance rather than just flat streaks. I applied the cornflower blue on the bottom half of my sky and the cerulean on the top. Because both colors are wet, they should bleed into each other and blend together in a pretty seamless gradation. Be sure to overlap the two colors slightly where they meet. If they aren’t blending enough, you may also rinse off your brush and using the same circular motion run over the line where they touch with your damp brush to work them together further.

Color blending is one of the foundation skills of painting with watercolors, but it takes a lot of practice. Good thing you are about to get a lot of it! We did a textured blend for the background, but within an individual space inside our waves, we are now going to practice some flat blending with the goal of getting our colors to merge into as smooth of a gradation as possible. Now we are going to use a medium sized flat brush. A flat brush will be perfect for the smooth effect we need and will also be easier to keep inside the edges of our geometric shapes. You can tilt the brush so you are only using the tip rather than the whole side for narrower areas. Pick 2 different colors, and start painting one color on one end until you’ve gotten to about halfway across. Rinse your brush, and paint in another color starting on the opposite end, overlapping in the middle. A unique quality watercolor has is that when one color touches another while it is still wet, they WILL bleed into each other. In this case, that is a good thing as using wet-on-wet color with watercolors makes for some pretty low-effort, seamless blending. Still, watercolor can be finicky and things don’t always go as planned. I purposely filled the shape in so that there are darker, patchy areas and a harsh transition between the two colors. This happens sometimes, but can be easily rectified by going back over the uneven area with a damp brush. Be sure to always paint in the same direction, following the length of your shape.

Blending with watercolor markers is a similar process, but you need to be a bit more controlled with your water application so that you don’t completely lose the effect of the ink. I love watercolor markers because you can get such bold contrast, but a little bit of ink goes a long way, and with too much water your separate colors will just swim all together into one mass.  I cannot emphasize enough, quality also matters. If you get cheap markers, chances are they won’t blend nicely no matter how skillful the artist. They don’t need to be officially called “watercolor markers”, they just need to be water soluble so they will run when wet. I love using Tombow’s water soluble brush markers. You also need to think about the values of the markers you are using. Deeper colors will spread a lot farther than paler colors, and can overpower. I have started with a darker color, a royal blue, and a lighter more muted color, a sage green. Start by scribbling a bit of each color on opposite ends of your shape. You do NOT want to shade the entire area in. Again, a little bit of ink goes a long way when water is added. Then, still using a flat brush you want to dip your brush in some water, tapping off the extra on a nearby paper towel. Wet the ink on one side and work it into the middle of the shape. Rinse off your brush, and wet the ink on the other side, again working towards the middle where they will meet. The wet colors will again, flow together and seamlessly blend pretty much on their own once they meet, staying darkest where you first laid down the ink. You can see above that a gradation is apparent, but the blue has pretty much taken over as the main color you see.

Trying the process again using the same 2 colors, but shading in only a tiny bit of blue and more of the green, you can see we get a more balanced effect where the pure green color is still highly visible.

 

You can also create a gradation with only one color. The beauty of watercolor is the depth of value that can be captured from one single hue, simply by adjusting the amount of water added. To do this you would apply a bit of the same color on each end in a darker or medium value (mixing less water with your paint). Then, rinsing off your brush, add some water to the edge of the area of color on each side, again spreading towards the center from each end. The color will remain most saturated at the ends, and will be the lightest (most watered down) in the center.

If at any point you add too much water, your gradation is in danger of all just running together into one flat tone. If this happens, you can blot the area with a paper towel to lift the excess water (and some of the pigment), and then blend right over again. You don’t want to see any “puddles” pooling on your paper … that is a sign there is too much water being used. Also keep in mind damp is ok, but if you are filling in a new area next to an old one that is still very wet, the colors will bleed together over your lines. Sometimes it helps to use a blow-dryer to speed along the drying process. Or, you could just work on filling in areas that aren’t touching each other until each spot dries. The paint air dries pretty quick.

wc blend 1

Here is a reminder of the final image! It is the same blending process for each section, which is what makes it good practice. I filled in some spaces using the markers, and some with paint. I kept lighter colors on the crests of the waves, and alternated medium and dark tones throughout the body of water, making sure not to fill in too many of the same colors right next to each other. It always feels good to still have some sort of finished product after practicing techniques, and I guarantee you will start to see a difference in the first couple spaces you fill in versus the last! Remember, it’s all about playing with color. Have fun!

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