WHIMSICAL WOODLAND ANIMALS IN WATERCOLOR
Nature is such a big inspiration for me, and animals are a big part of what I love about the outdoor world.
Join me in learning how to create whimsical woodland animals in watercolor. In this course, we will be drawing, sketching and painting three different animals - cardinal, fox and bear. I'll show you all my tips on giving them whimsical character, yet keeping realistic features.
While this class is meant for any level, my suggestion is that you've worked with watercolor before. If you've taken one of my other online courses or have explored watercolor in other ways, you'll be all set!
This course is a 'pay what you can' offering.
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PS - This is a big class! You can navigate between the sections using the anchor menu to the right...
First, I'm going to talk about the most important thing in watercolor: the paper. I didn't realize this when I first started painting, but it makes all the difference. For this class, I highly recommend artist grade, cold press, 140lb watercolor paper. There are many different brands out there - take your pick... for this class, and pretty much for everything I paint, I use Arches 140lb cold press paper in block form.
I know that cost can be a deterrent, however if you break it down per painting, is cheap paper really worth the frustration? A block of 9x12 is roughly $30 for 20 sheets, that's about a $1.50 per sheet - and figuring you can get at least two small paintings from one sheet - it's a great deal. For practice painting, there is NO reason that you can't use the back of sheets as well, it works!
This video explains how to remove sheets from the block, if you decide to go that way...
I really have no loyalty to brand - only to color. Using artist grade materials will always produce the best results, but that being said, you don't have to break the bank on paint!
Here I will list the colors I use for each project in this class - but please know that you don't have to have these specific colors and brands! A basic color palette will work perfectly.
I am using the Classics and Decadent Pies Palettes from Prima Marketing.
I use the RED from the classics palette and the INDIGO from the Decadent Pies palette - so, any red you have and any dark blue/Indigo will work just fine.
For the actual fox, I use Quinicridone Sienna by Daniel Smith along with a small amount of Burnt Sienna from Winsor Newton. (You can also paint the fox with Burnt Sienna and use a darker brown or even purple for shadow colors. Or, if you have the Decadent Pies palette from Prima, there is a sienna type color in the set.)
I use a small amount of Burnt Umber for his eyes. Any brown will work.
I use Mauve by Cotman and Pthalo Turquoise by Daniel Smith for the shadow colors on his white fur... these can easily be substituted with a myriad of purples/blues.
For the nose on both the fox and the bear, I use Moonglow by Daniel Smith, just because it's what I had handy - but any dark color will work!
For the background on the fox, I use Amethyst by Daniel Smith, Mauve by Cotman, and Pthalo Turqouise by Daniel Smith
The bear is pretty much all Burnt Umber by Winsor Newton.
The background was created with Pthalo Blue, Mauve, and Apatite Green (any earth tone green will work)
I suggest a good mix of rounds. I use sizes 0 to 8 most frequently. I prefer synthetics over natural fiber, but this is truly an artists preference. Mainly, you want a brush that will keep it's shape. You don't have to have expensive brushes to create a beautiful painting.
You will most definitely need a tiny brush for detail work - size 0 or 1!
For star making and detail work:
I use white paint pens by Sharpie or Posca, as well as white gel pens by Signo. You could also use white acrylic ink or gouache.
For sketching, I use plain 'copy' paper and pencil
We will also use tracing paper to transfer our sketches to watercolor paper.
I typically use white ceramic plates or trays for my palettes. White plates are cheap and work great!
Paper towels or cloths
and obviously, water!
Drawing and sketching can be such a joy - but can also be intimidating. I use inexpensive materials when sketching to take the pressure off. Simple 'copy' paper, a standard pencil and an eraser are all you'll need.
My reference photos were gathered from a royalty free service called 'Unsplash'. (unsplash.com) There are thousands of beautiful, free photos you can use for inspiration.
Here is the reference photo I used for the cardinal, taken by Timothy Dykes.
Using the reference photo, I sketch this little guy out. I often do several drawings before settling on one I'll use for my painting.
Using a photo editing program, I cropped the area around the cardinal and printed him out, but you don't have to - you can use your phone or tablet to view and sketch.
Here's my process...
Once you have a sketch you like - it's time to transfer the sketch to your watercolor paper. There are two methods I use to do this. For this first one, you'll need only tracing paper and a pencil.
The second method is by using a light box. Here's the process:
If you are interested in finding a lightbox like mine, here is the website I used: https://www.wish.com/ The shipping takes forever, but it's worth it!
I am also including my sketch design - feel free to use it for reference.
I added a few more details to my sketch - the moon and some branches. The background will be just one color. I'm using the Indigo color from the Decadent Pies palette from Prima. Feel free to use any color you'd like.
Let's paint the background!
Once your background is painted and dry, it's time to work on the moon and stars...
Once your background is complete, it's time to start painting the Cardinal. I'm using the red from the Classics Prima Palette. Feel free to try any red you have in your collection. I'm also using small amounts of the background Indigo color for shadow forms and the tiniest amount of yellow for brightness. Any yellow will work...
Once the body is dry, it's time to work on the wings and tail...
Now we'll begin to work on the 'mask' and beak...
Now we'll paint the eye - it really brings our little bird to life!
Painting the cardinal's legs and feet and adding shape to the branch...
At last, the final details!
I hope you enjoyed painting this cardinal together! I can't wait to see what you create.
More Bird Inspiration
Birds come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are just so cute!
I came across this little Fairy Wren photograph (on unsplash.com taken by Phil Botha) and I just had to paint him!
Here are some tips on sketching this little guy...
And here is a short tutorial on how I painted him...
Hope you found this helpful and inspirational!
Our next woodland animal is one of my all-time favorites! The cleverest, cutest fox!
Here is the inspiration photograph I found on unsplash, taken by Linnea Sandbakk
For this drawing, we will really take some whimsical liberties :) We'll use reality as a loose guide - Here's how I sketch a fox...
Sketching a fox is so much fun! Here's the sketch I created for your reference.
A note for the perfectionist in you...Notice that it's not perfect - nothing will ever be lined up just so, and it shouldn't be. The beauty of nature, including our own faces, belongs to the imperfection. A perfectly symmetrical face will actually look flawed, because it just isn't found in nature. Remember that and keep sketching!
Once you have your fox sketch, you can transfer your drawing to your watercolor paper with whichever method you prefer. Then we're ready to paint the background. I'm using the methods that I cover extensively in my class, Wonderland Watercolor. Feel free to use your own style for your background or try something new!
For your reference, the colors I use in my background are Moonglow and Amethyst by Daniel Smith and Mauve by Cotman.
Now that I've created the sky, stars and moon - I'll paint the distant land and add some trees.
For the land and trees, I'm using Pthalo Turquoise (DS) and Mauve (Cotman).
With the background complete, we can start painting our fox!
I'll start by painting his back - the colors I'm using are Quinicridone Sienna (DS) and Burnt Sienna (Winsor). You can use any Sienna color you may have (there is also one in the Decadent Pies Palette by Prima if you have that palette). Feel free to experiment with foxy colors!
Next, we'll begin working on the face and legs... one little step at the time!
Detail by detail, a fox is painted :)
Let's start molding and refining the shape of his face...
The eyes are what really give your painting life! Here's my process for creating them...
Next step - painting the 'mane'...
Almost done with this little guy! Painting the tail...
Final, final details for our fox - adding whiskers, if you'd like, and some detail to his fur.
Now I'll paint the foreground...
I made the color decisions in the moment with this one and ended up using Pthalo Turquoise, Green Gold (DS) Sienna (Winsor) and Mauve (Cotman)... Strange combo! But it worked! I sometimes will just treat land forms as abstract pieces, not worrying about trying to make them look like 'land' or grass - just treating them as a colorful abstract form. Once I stopped the video, I ended up adding some salt to the area while it was still wet. I love how it dried.
In this video, I'll show you how I fixed my little mess-up and.... he's all done!
I really hope you enjoyed painting this little guy - and hope you'll find these techniques useful for painting all sorts of critters.
It can be a little difficult to show and teach all these little details - and each time you paint with watercolor, something different seems to happen! But, I actually find the whole process relaxing - being able to take each part, step by step - building and molding a sketch into a finished painting... it's satisfying and makes me feel good. I hope it does the same for you <3
Here's more inspiration to keep you sketching and creating!
Here's the sketch of this sweet little fox...
This is a quick tutorial on a bit of a different method of painting - working with wet paint on dry paper. I love working wet into wet - but I don't always work that way (gasp!).
Most often, I switch between working wet into wet and wet onto dry depending on what I'm painting, I'm sure you'll find you do the same thing. Watercolor has endless possibilities!
I hope this little tutorial was helpful - enjoy painting!
I saved the best for last... drumrollllllll..... It's my FAVORITE woodland creature... the bear!
I love animal symbolism - and bear has several meanings that are inspiring. Once, during a particularly stressful time in my life, I had a vivid dream of a bear. I watched her work diligently... finding food, foraging and exploring. Then, just as diligently, she found her hiding place and settled in for a long winters nap. She didn't argue with her body about how she needed to do a few more things - she followed the cue of nature and did what was natural. Her message to me was quite clear. Diligence in all things... work and rest. Listen to your body, energy doesn't lie.
Bear symbolizes many things: strength and confidence, action and leadership, the importance of solitude, quiet time, rest. The spirit of the bear provides strong grounding forces and I just love them.
I had a close encounter once when I was in the mountains of NC...and as much as I love bear, I have no desire to be that close in the wild ever again :)
Let's get started by sketching!
Here's my sketch for reference... (For the painting - I decided to take the moon out of my sketch and create a daytime scene.)
Let's start painting! I'm painting a day time sky for my bear - I'll be using Pthalo Blue and Mauve for the sky (any blue/pink/purple combo will work!)
After the sky has dried, we can paint our distant mountain scenes. I'm using Green Apatite by Daniel Smith - it's a warm, earthy toned green. You can use sap green or any other green you think might be a good fit. Remember that you can also mix your greens with blues or browns.
Once your land layer has dried, it's time to start painting our bear...
First layer is complete! Now we can start to give him some shape and shadow...
Time to paint his features - the nose and eyes...
Some final details on the eyes...
Painting the grassy foreground...
Another level of detail I sometimes use for my bear paintings... totally optional, but totally cute :)
I so hope you have enjoyed creating these whimsical woodland animals with me - and I am so thankful for you being here.
If you feel inspired by this class and would like to financially contribute to support the creation of more magical things, I so greatly appreciate it. You can help support my classes and offerings here:
Or here. THANK YOU!