Friday, March 17, 2017

Trying Something New: Playing With Watercolor (and Creativebug Class Review)

For most of my life, I've just accepted that there are things I am good at and there are things I am not good at. Most of the things I've deemed myself "not good at" (most sports, math, etc.) were things I never cared enough about to improve. The one shining regret though is that I am not better at art. By "art" I mean fine arts: painting, drawing, etc. As a kid, I showed very little natural ability, so I was never encouraged to try harder. I just knew that the art I produced didn't look anything like the artists I loved (Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet), so I thought I was just no good and I set the dreams of being an artist aside and went on doing things I knew I was good at. I've developed my skills in sewing, knitting, photography, baking, crocheting, and much much more. Some of these skills required a lot of time and work, but I grow more confident in them all the time and I enjoy the time I spend in these types of activities. Ever since I started knitting, I've slowly realized that most any skill just requires determination and practice. I've suspected this about art as well, but it wasn't until I started watching drawing and painting classes on Creativebug that it really sunk in: I could do this - I just have to work at it.

The glory of the Creativebug class platform is that when you subscribe you can watch any class in their catalog that you want. I've always loved Craftsy, but since you purchase each class individually I've always stuck with things I knew I would use and apply (mostly sewing, knitting, and baking classes). When I subscribed to Creativebug and started looking around, I got pretty into watching their beginner art classes. For one it's mesmerizing to watch someone paint who really knows what they're doing (*cough* Yao Cheng *cough*), but in each class I've noticed the same theme: anyone can do this if they devote the time to practice and learn. What a novel thought, huh? 

I started by watching Molly Hatch's Introduction to Drawing, which inspired me to get a set of pencils and give things a try. I've noticed a little improvement since I started, which is pretty great :) From there I really became interested in water color painting thanks to Yao Cheng's Beginning Watercolor class. Her paintings are beautiful, but they are very freeform. She constantly says that you need to try to capture the feeling more than the intricacies of the piece you are painting, and I definitely feel that in her work. She paints beautiful florals, and she just makes me want to give it a try.

Now considering that I did not know if I would enjoy painting enough to make it a real practice, I did not want to spend a lot of money on materials to give it a try. Enter ebay. Guys, I've probably mentioned it before, but did you know that you can buy a lot of things for a fraction of what they cost in the US when you buy from a Chinese seller on ebay? I feel like I'm putting on my salesman voice here, but I'm talking these are the exact same products that we can buy here, you're just buying them direct from the source and so you are paying far less. The packaging may not be as fancy, but who cares about the packaging? I was able to get everything I needed this way and I spent quite a bit less than I would have here if I'd bought similar products. (Also I do not get any form of a kick back for mentioning this, just so we're clear).
This is what I bought:
I'll admit that the palette was a slight splurge since I could've bought the round ones for about $1, but I liked that this one folded up. I also bought a larger paint set with 18 colors instead of the basic 12 colors from the same company, and that cost $1.28 extra. But that's just compared to other Chinese made prices. The cheapest I found these types of supplies in the US was at Michael's in their Everyday Values section - they were identical products and the 12 tube set cost $5, a set of several flat palettes (not close-able like this one) was $5, and a brush set was $5. So I spent $10 instead of $15 but I got more paint and a palette like I wanted. Any time I try a new hobby, I check ebay first for the supplies. Anyway, let's move on (end rant, lol). The other things I already had (the pad of watercolor paper and the little metallic paints). just for the record.
I decided to start out my painting journey by watching the Playing with Watercolor class by Lindsay Stripling. She goes over how to make yourself a color chart before you begin, and I thought that would be a great place to start since I was in no way familiar with my paints. I made a grid on my paper and followed her instructions to make my own color chart with fades and tints that turned out pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

Once I started actually trying to paint something, I realized how easy the chart was, lol. Give me a grid to fill in with a pretty color, no problem. Give me an entire blank page to fill as I liked ... crickets. In all my fine art experimentation, I think the hardest thing for me is figuring out what to paint or draw. I'm surrounded by neat objects, but I'm just not used to looking at them artistically. I started off by doing an exercise from Yao Cheng's Beginning Watercolor class where you paint a shape (circles, triangles, etc) over and over again in different colors, but you allow just one tip of the shape to touch a previously painted one, causing the paint to bleed over just a touch. It looked cool in the class, so I gave it a go. Turns out I'm not so good at making shapes that look even yet, lol. So I tried it for a while and soon just started doodling with paint. This was my resulting masterpiece:
Ha ha see why I never pursued painting? It's not as bad as it could be (maybe), but it certainly doesn't show any artistic vision. I stopped after that painting and continued with my day. Later that night though I decided to give things another go. This time I decided to draw something first and then paint it. I went with one of my favorite plants right now: My Christmas Cactus. 
This is my subject in real life. It's already past blooming, so this was just about the plant itself. I figured simple leaves and variations on the same basic shape would be a good place to begin. First I drew my still life in a 2H pencil:
Then I used water color paint to fill it in:
Still not a great work of art, but it's passable. You can tell that it's a Christmas cactus in a pot. Adding the gnome was a bad choice (he's a clay watering thing in my real pot), I see that now. Also I tried to add depth with color, but I kept running into problems with my previous painted areas being completely dry, so the paint wouldn't blend at all, or being too wet still and the paint just spreading around and changing the color. These are the things I really need to work on to improve, and that will just come with time and continuing to see what the paint does in certain situations. I'm reasonably proud of my little art work though for just beginning :)
A short while after the cactus, I watched another of Yao Cheng's classes - Intermediate Watercolor - where she shows tips for painting her iconic florals. I was really inspired, so I decided to give things a try. My attempt is certainly not anywhere near Yao's standard, but you can tell they are flowers, and I tried a few new techniques with this that actually worked out, so that was cool.

It's really interesting learning the ins and outs of a completely new medium or expression. I plan to keep painting and drawing simply to improve - I know these are borderline embarassing paintings by the standards of any "real artist" out there, but I wanted to share them almost because of that fact. You have to start somewhere, and there is no shame in trying something and then working to get better. So now these are on the internet for comparison so I can see if I do, in fact, get better. I just need to devote the time and keep trying :) You can do it too!
I shared once before about Creativebug, but there is a new deal that I wanted to let you know about. First time members can get their first month for just $1 AND get a free class to keep forever even if you don't keep up your membership. Like I said before, this is an affiliate link, and I do get something if you join, but in total honesty I wouldn't share it here unless I truly liked the company, which I absolutely do! I find myself watching their classes just for fun instead of watching a movie, lol. I'd rather be learning something new. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of this offer and watch as many classes as you like while you have that free month, then decide for yourself. If they can get me to try art again, they can help you do pretty much anything :) Go here to sign up!

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