If you are a self-taught artist, it can become difficult to make enough progress to go from beginner to intermediate to advanced. If you are looking for books, videos, tutorials or paid classes they seem to only cover to a certain level but no further. So what to do? You might not want to do another class on how to paint birds in watercolor, or how to paint roses.
Maybe you have an image in your mind but you have no idea how to get there.
Or maybe you are in my situation. My biggest challenge is painting shadows and yet, I searched in books, I took Skillshare classes and watched YouTube videos ad-nauseum to try to get subtle and beautiful looking shadows in my paintings.
Another challenge for me was to paint flowers that didn’t look like the same never-ending Instagram search page. Same-old-same-old. Experimentation can only get you so far. And yes, when you draw the same thing over and over, it’s your style that is showing up, but also it might be a sign that you’re stuck.
So what is the trick?
Combine as much as you can, combine techniques, materials, brushes. If you learned from one teacher how to paint modern flowers, check a book where you learn negative painting.
As soon as you start combining techniques and you stray a little from those you learned before you will start making better work, you will start losing the fear of putting brush to paper and you will start choosing that unique combination of skills that make your artwork yours.
I had been stuck on Skillshare for a while. I’m lucky to speak Spanish and French so this allows me to find books in those other languages and expand my approach. My favorite source of classes since last year is Domestika.
I’ve linked to several of the early classes I took here. But I have faithfully been taking more and more. My work since then feels much more rounded and dare I say: professional. After taking classes with Domestika I finally felt the confidence to offer my pet portraits. I took Ana Santos’ class and then I took Carmen’s class on colored pencils. I now combine both watercolor and pencils to work my portraits into a mix of fine art and illustration.
Domestika’s classes are taught by some of the best working professionals in Spanish speaking countries. They recently added English subtitles to most of the courses. These artists have worked for huge brands and so they explain their process, their influences and how they come up with creative ideas. This inside look to the creative process is something that is lacking with many Skillshare classes.
So if you are thinking of leveling up your watercolor skills here is a list of Domestika’s courses I’ve taken and what skill I got from them. (Check to see if the course has subtitles in English before purchasing).
Reasons to Repeat
One of the first classes that showed me how to make a mood board and transform it into a pattern. I particularly loved how Monica shows her inspiration and references and how she transforms it into a wonderful new piece of work. Find it here.
Techniques Applied to Watercolour Illustration
You might have run into Ana Victoria’s Instagram. She makes beautiful illustrations (though not necessarily my style). However I took her class because I was interested once again in the creative workflow of making a suite of Wedding Invitations. It was well worth it! It encouraged me to try some lettering which is not my forte but it is a skill that is worth exploring. I basically focused more on breaking my rut of always painting the same botanical shapes. Find it here
Botanical Illustration with Watercolours
Classical watercolor painting is quite challenging but also, it’s one of those things that give your work edge and refinement. I’m very impatient so it’s not usual for me to attempt a single botanical painting in such details. But combining some of the techniques that Paulina teaches here with my own loose work I have made strides. I recommend learning glazing and layering if not for your work, for the mindful state it puts you in! Find it here.
Watercolour Experimental Techniques for Beginners
Don’t let the title fool you, this class is full of amazing techniques that I hadn’t seen anywhere and it gave me the confidence to start my Pet Portrait services. If I had to choose one Domestika class this would be it. Ana is incredibly generous with her teaching. Plus if you don’t draw, you will learn how to use a grid to achieve realistic images. Find it here.
Watercolor Illustration with Japanese Influence
I was looking forward to this class so much and even though I’m not focusing on creating work in this style, I wanted to learn some basic Sumi-e. Sumi-e paintings are incredibly elegant and fluid. Botanical and animal paintings in this technique have the prefect subtle and timeless quality so now I’m deep in practicing the five noble. Find it here.
My Own Work
Here is a sample of how the combination of all these skills has helped me to feel confident with my recent work!
You can visit my Pet Portrait Website to see more cute dogs in watercolor and colored pencil and you can consider bringing joy to a dog-loving friend!
Links are affiliates that allow me to continue learning and passing on my tips to my readers :)