How, exactly, can creating art help someone deal with negative emotions such as anxiety and stress? What happens in an art therapy session? Why are holistic, comprehensive approaches for managing inner turmoil more effective than treatments that only revolve around talking or taking medication?
As an artist sharing content online, I've made it a priority to not only share helpful tips and tutorials that help others progress their technical skills, but also articles and videos providing insights and habits I've set in place that have allowed me to improve my mindset and wellbeing.
Our physical and mental health permeate, quite literally, into all areas of our lives (personal, professional, interpersonal).
Plus, being an artist can not only be incredibly challenging in a variety of ways, but lonely too.
In the past, I've shared how I've struggled with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since my teenage years and how, since making my mental/physical wellbeing a priority and started embracing more positive practices and routines, I've become way happier, as well as more focused and energized.
This, of course, has helped me be a lot more productive, which has led to much greater success with my art creation and business overall.
Alongside my art creation and everything I do revolving around my business, I'm constantly reading, researching and putting to use new information that I feel could help me improve my life, as a working artist and educator, even more.
And I'll keep sharing with you guys, in hopes that some of you may find it helpful too.
Because of the current worldwide pandemic, its negative effects on our economies and the social injustices/inequalities that are becoming more and more evident, a lot of us are struggling with negative emotions such as worry and overwhelm at a deeper level than we normally would.
This is why I'm incredibly happy to be sharing an article written for us by professional writer, Patrick Bailey, who has studied the fields of mental health and addiction for years.
Patrick's article helps clarify what happens during an art therapy session and why creative activities are such a great way to cope with negative emotions.
This information is enlightening even for those of us who don't struggle with severe mental illnesses.
Without much further ado, let's get into his article!
How to prepare:
Print out your reference photo several times.
Print out the original photo on regular printing paper once (preferably in grayscale/black and white if you draw with pencils).
Other copies should ideally be a little lighter and a little darker than the original. You can make small brightness adjustments using any photo editing software.
Why do you need lighter and darker copies?
In the lighter copy you'll be able to see dark areas in more detail and in the darker copy the highlights will stand out even more. This will help you to create a high level of contrast between lights and darks later on, which is important for realism.
You’ll also need an extra copy to draw in some helpful guidelines.
Link to my reference photo.
1. Draw basic outlines
To begin, carefully draw the outlines of the head, neck and hair on your drawing paper. Use a harder pencil grade (for example H or HB) and make sure not to press down too hard on your paper as you're creating your sketch.
In the beginning it’s completely normal to make mistakes and you’ll often have to fix something. That’s why your strokes shouldn’t be too dark, so they're easily erasable.
If you have trouble getting the proportions right, try breaking down your subject/reference into simple shapes (such as circles and rectangles). It also helps me to draw guidelines, for example along the central axis of the face (from forehead to nose to chin).
In this example you can draw a circle for the head (chin to top of the head) and then draw an identical circle beneath it, to get an idea where the hair
2. Analyze shapes
It's time to analyze the separate strands of hair. To do this, take your extra copies of the reference photo and try to recognize abstract shapes throughout the hair.
Draw these abstract shapes with a pen or drawing tool that you'll be able to see clearly on your photo. I used a yellow acrylic pen in the example below.
Once you have divided the hair into shapes, transfer these shapes onto your sketch, once again, without pressing too hard.
Reference photo with shapes:
3. Start shading
The next step is very basic shading.
I'd recommend using a softer pencil grade such as B or 2B, and shade the darkest areas on your sketch where least amount of light reaches the hair.
Mostly the areas around the neck and on the parting are very dark. Start there.
Take a look at your lighter copy of the reference photo and detect the areas where the image is darkest.
Next, give your hair more volume and three-dimensional form by adding individual hair strands inside of those basic shapes you created.
By dividing the strands into shapes (step 2), this process is much easier for you and you can work your way over the head one strand at a time.
Make sure that your strokes flow in the same direction as the hair naturally grows. Constantly observe your reference photo for clues.
Try to leave the bright spots (highlights) free of graphite and concentrate on the dark tones and midtones.
*Tips and techniques to give hair a 3D look
In the sketch below, you can see how you can shade in a single lock of hair.
Always draw your lines from the ends of that strand, going in (see arrow direction) so that your strokes end gradually in the widest area in the center. In other words, those pencil strokes are going towards the direction of the highlight in that strand of hair.
The hair usually shines most in the middle of the strand because this part protrudes outwards most and thus captures the most light.
Therefore, it's helpful to work from the ends towards the middle section, and not fill in the area in the middle with as much graphite, as this will be the lightest part.
Your focus should be more on the overall shape of the strand, and not on the individual hairs.
The more lines you draw, the darker everything will look. This creates more contrast with the lighter (empty) areas in the middle and this will make your stand look three-dimensional and shiny.
One lock of hair:
5. Smooth things out
The next step is a suggestion and not a requirement. It mostly depends on the overall look or result you'd like to achieve.
I think it makes a big difference to smooth out the transitions between values (lights, midtones and darks), and to soften out individual lines. I like using a paper bending stump for this part of the process, but you can also use a cotton swab.
Carefully (and gently) trace over your previous pencil strokes and let the flow of the hair guide you.
Try your best to not go over areas of lighter values/highlights. It often happens that I accidentally smear something or bring graphite into areas that I wanted to leave very light.
But don't worry, if this happens! We will correct this in the next step.
6. Pull out highlights
Next, take your pen-style/barrel eraser (or a pointed-shaped kneaded eraser) and erase the highlights (i.e. the shiny spots that reflect the light the most).
Most of the time I accidentally smudge these shiny spots with my blending stump in the previous step, so I have to pull them back out by erasing the graphite.
Observe your darker copy. There, you'll be able to notice lighter areas even more distinctly.
A pen-style eraser is perfect for this because it provides a lot of precision and you can even erase individual hairs.
7. Add contrast
By this point, your drawing will probably already look pretty good, but you shouldn’t stop there!
Using a black colored pencil, darken the darkest areas of your drawing again, using the same strokes/direction/overall motion that you were previously using with your pencil.
Colored pencils provide a more opaque/less shiny finish than regular pencils and will help add more depth and contrast, making your drawing look even more realistic.
8. Final details
The last step will really make your drawing stand out. If you want your drawing to look natural, you should also invest some time adding the final details.
By that I mean details such as smaller hairs that don’t follow the general flow of the hair, such as flyaways, stray hairs, and all the small imperfections that make hair look "real". These can be added around the head or even over the face.
You can draw a few flyaways on the outside of the head with a hard pencil grade. Flyaways are usually very thin and hardly recognizable from a distance. The pen-style eraser is suitable for drawing individual hairs over the main hair areas. Use it to erase small lines over larger, dark areas to add in a flyaway hair.
Take a close look at your reference photo and decide for yourself which details you would like to draw in and which make the hairstyle unique.
You can also add some details from your imagination, if you want to achieve a messy look for instance.
*Final tip: Adding details
In the image above, you can see examples of “imperfections” such as flyaways and stray hairs in greater detail. Some single hairs also cast their own shadow on the hair underneath.
Avoid dark ends in hairs by releasing the pressure on the pencil at the end of your stroke. Try to get your hairs darker at the roots and remember to create a line weight variation within your lines (from thick to thin/dark to light), instead of having one continuous line weight from one end to the other.
Never forget to draw your lines in a dynamic motion so they don’t end up being wobbly. If you move your hand in a fast and confident way, you will achieve a great look!
I hope that these tips will help you to draw complex and believable hairstyles and that from now on drawing hair will be much more enjoyable for you.
Drawing hair is a great way to practice our shading skills and advance out ability to draw different textures. Not to mention, we're also able to progress out observational skills via analyzing complex references.
Once you understand the basic principle, you can let your imagination go wild and draw interesting hairstyles or fur.
I would be happy to hear from your experiences - you can contact me here.
Was this an amazing tutorial or what?
I certainly learned a lot of things that I'll be putting into practice when drawing hair realistically, and I hope you did too.
For more helpful tips and tutorials from Sabrina, check out her blog.
Sending out a huge thank you to Sabrina for this incredibly helpful tutorial!
Do you enjoy taking your watercolors with you while traveling or to different local settings to create unique, artistic renditions of your experiences? Love exploring new art supplies and sharing them with your creative friends? Do you like bold, bright, expressive color?
It's been a month since I first received my Viviva Colorsheets and I'm excited to report that, after having created a little series of paintings with them (some of which I'm including in this post), I'm ready to share my thoughts!
In this blog post, I'll not only be including my swatching video for the 16 colors offered in Viviva's watercolor sheets, but I'll also share some information about this amazing brand, the products they currently offer and my observations after having explored them for a bit.
This way, you can decide whether to order yourself a set a.s.a.p., or stick to regular watercolor tubes or pans.
Viviva's watercolor sheets take the form of a booklet and each sheet contains 2 (6 x 4.5 cms.) highly saturated "plaques" of pigment. To use them, one has to simply touch the color with a slightly wet paintbrush and the color will be immediately activated.
This is an idea pioneered by Peerless Watercolors in 1885 and Viviva has succeeded at creating their own modernized, all-around visually appealing version that they're constantly working on improving and providing different iterations of for their audience.
Viviva Colorsheets was founded in 2015 by med student Aditya Vadgaonkar, who loved watercolor, but found it hard to make time to paint ever since starting with his university studies. Even when he did have a bit of free time, the set-up process, taking care of required supplies and clean up involved, made things very impractical for him.
He longed to continue with his art practice and knew that there probably were lots of people around the world who loved art and felt that eagerness to sit down to create, yet found it too challenging to make time for it in their busy schedules.
While working on a med school assignment involving a diagnostic technique that required picking up color from a paper substrate, the idea of creating watercolor sheets that contained color in dried form occurred to him.
He thought this would be a great way to make watercolor painting more practical for busy people and for those enjoy sketching/painting outside of the studio, as these sheets would be easy to carry around and required minimal preparation/clean up.
Passionate about making his idea come to life, Aditya then worked with an expert on colorants and, after 2 years and lots of different iterations, they arrived at a product that was ready to be offered to the world.
They came up with a method to create watercolor sheets using a minimal amount of binder (when compared to regular watercolor pan sets), which gives them their vividness and great color payoff.
In May 2017, Viviva launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in order to begin producing their colorsheets in small volumes and start selling worldwide. It was a huge success.
Viviva has been working on their product design nonstop, and now offer a wide range of vibrant colors that are not only super bright and easily activated, but portable, durable and eco-friendly.
They've added more colors, tabs on the bottom of each sheet so that colors can be easily found, protective water-repellent paper in between each sheet, a small foldable paper palette, and they've even added beautiful and customizable wood covers as an option for your colorsheets (an amazing addition if you want to give these colorsheets away as a gift).
They've also been working hard on getting their innovative product into art-enthusiasts' hands worldwide, as they continue spreading their mission to share the joy of being able to paint anytime and without the mess.
Today, Viviva is selling their colorsheets to artists and art-lovers all over the world via their website, as well as through art stores in the U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Singapore, Honk Kong, Australia and more.
- Single set: One set of colorsheets with 16 different colors
- Sketcher's set: One set of colorsheets with 16 different colors + a refillable watercolor brush
- Gift set: One set of colorsheets with its wood/customizable cover and a refillable watercolor brush
- Deluxe set: Two sets of colorsheets, each with its wood/customizable cover and a refillable watercolor brush
Find out more about their products by visiting their website.
Viviva Watercolor Swatches
The very first thing I did after receiving my colorsheets, was work on swatches for their 16 colors. As you'll see in the video, I also made sure to test out some techniques that I frequently use in my watercolor painting.
As I explain in my blog post/YouTube video titled How to Swatch Watercolor and Why It's Important, making time to test out colors before using them in an actual painting will not only give us a feel for the usability of the new set on hand, but will also help us avoid surprises when we're laying down our colors and creating our different color mixtures.
Many colors in regular watercolor sets often look very different while in the pan/tube when compared to how they look when they're placed on paper and Viviva's colorsheets are no different (specific colors like Violet, Peacock Blue and Viridian are especially surprising!).
Swatching colors out also allows us to have a better understanding of the color range offered.
The 16 colors included in Viviva's Colorsheets are:
You'll notice that, in this video included above, I also share my initial thoughts on how these paints compare to regular watercolor pans and tubes.
In many ways, these paints act more like dyes than regular watercolors and it's important to take this into account when you start painting with them.
This said, I've come across pieces created by different artists using these colorsheets that look like they were painted with regular watercolors.
Because of this, I refused to change the way I work and just simplified my method. I came up with something that works similarly to my usual techniques and that I like the look of.
As with many art supplies, there's a learning curve involved, for sure. Especially if you already have a specific way of working as well as a style you're trying to achieve.
As you'll see in the pieces I share here, I've have managed to use these colorsheets to successfully create beautiful wet-on-wet effects, muted out color mixtures and even a variety of values using layering to provide a bit more realism.
Dry Color Swatches and Tests
Pros and Cons of Viviva's Colorsheets
Trying out these colorsheets has been a great experience and the product didn't disappoint. I'd recommend it to artists who are looking for convenience/portability and love creating quick paintings or sketches using watercolor, especially those who love bright color and do minimal color mixing.
Viviva's colorsheets are the smallest, most lightweight, portable set that I've ever used, which make them perfect for art on-the-go. Any artist who enjoys creating quick sketches outdoors, in different settings or while traveling, should definitely give these a go!
Though it definitely took me a bit to get used to them in order to produce the results I was after, I think the challenge has expanded my horizons and has made me a better artist.
Thank you for reading!
*Follow Viviva Colors on social media to see inspiring artwork created with their colorsheets, as well as the latest news from them:
Viviva Colors on Instagram
Viviva Colors on Facebook
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Interested in watercolor food illustration, but don't know where do start? How can higher levels of realism be developed using watercolor? Why is layering so important and how does it work when using this tricky painting medium?
In today's blog post/YouTube video, I'm taking you through my full watercolor painting process for a stack of doughnuts. Throughout the video included in this post, I share everything about my technique, no holds barred, as well as provide tons of tips on water control and much more.
I absolutely love painting food!
Food illustration is one of the first kinds of work I started doing when my journey with watercolor began a few years ago, and this is still my go-to subject when I feel blocked or frustrated creatively.
For the painting process I'll be sharing in this post, I used a photo that I took in my own home studio. Here's the photo and the final painting.
*To get immediate access to a vault of my original art reference photos that gets added to every month and that you can use with no attribution, join us on Patreon!
Check out my blog post titled How to Take Your Own Art Reference Photos Quickly and Easily to find essential tips on taking pictures to work from for future pieces. Forming your own art reference photo library is so powerful!
Or, if you're short on time and are looking to find great art reference photos online that you can use without getting into trouble, check out this blog post.
Below the video, I'll be providing the key takeaways for you.
Key Takeaways from Today's Watercolor Tutorial
1. Use a high-quality reference
When you're looking for a great art reference photo to work from, there are a few things to have in mind. These include: image resolution, lighting, cropping, etc.
You want to work from a photo that'll make the process easier for you and not harder!
In my blog post titled 6 Tips for Realistic Drawing, I provide the key things to have in mind when looking for a great art reference photo for realism in drawing/painting.
If we work purely from our imagination, chances are we're going to be guessing on important details such as different values (highlights, midtones, darks) found throughout the three-dimensional structure of the subject, shadow placement, and small nuances that can really make or break the realism in our painting.
Training ourselves to observe the things around us is essential, especially as representational artists.
When we're going for realism, it's important to remember that we have to draw or paint the subject the way it actually looks like in real life and not what we think it looks like. These are two very different things.
And unless we've been studying a specific subject for a long time, in all sorts of different perspectives and lighting situations, most likely than not, having a reference is going to be necessary.
2. Pinpoint highlights and keep them protected throughout the painting process
By doing this, you can map them out in your preliminary outline sketch (lightly!) and keep them protected throughout the painting process.
Remember that, when working with watercolor, the whiteness of your paper is going to stand for your highlights. If we cover them up, we're getting rid of that lightest value and there's no way to go back to the whiteness the paper once had.
Not to mention, when we're going for higher levels of realism, we need to develop a wide range of values starting from highlights, lightest lights, a wide range of midtones, and darkest darks.
With watercolor, we're using the medium's translucency, in combination with the lightness of the paper underneath it, to develop these different values.
If we're afraid of going in with darker/more saturated color and leave our painting very light all throughout, OR if we go in super dark and saturated right away and leave out lighter values, our painting will probably look very flat and/or heavy.
This is cool, if we're going for a more illustrative style, but not optimal if we want to create a sensation of three-dimensional form or depth in our painting.
3. Use layering
Also, I love using wet-on-wet for my beginning layers in order to create soft gradations and edges, and later move on to wet-on-dry techniques for my darker values and other details. In other words, I tend to use less and less water as the painting process moves forward.
Layering is awesome, but there are a few things to have in mind.
When painting with watercolor, it's important to remember that we're working on paper. Even though this paper is intended for water-soluble mediums, wet paper is fragile paper, and we need to stay mindful of when it's time to take a step back and allow it to regain its strength.
Especially when we're just getting started and haven't gotten our water control down, it's very easy to overwork/damage our paper.
It's okay to move the paint around a bit or even do some lifting with an absorbent towel while it's still wet if you do so gently, but going over the same spot again and again with your paintbrush is usually not the best.
Move the paint around minimally (if needed) and to allow that layer of paint to dry before going back in to darken certain areas or add further detail.
Also, it's important to have some sort of plan for your layers. Visualize and ask yourself how many layers you're going to need to create your painting and what techniques you're going to use for each layer to get the results you're after.
Ask yourself: Am I looking for the paint to blur out and create softer edges? Am I going for sharp, defined edges or marks?
If you want edges to be blurred out, go in while the paper is still wet (the level of wetness will determine how much your paint blurs out). If you want defined edges, make sure you've allowed your painting to dry completely.
Finally, remember to be patient! Achieving higher levels of realism is almost always going to take quite a bit longer than more expressive, loose pieces do.
But it'll totally be worth it!
4. Stay away from stark looking shapes or marks, as well as obvious outlines
The way we're able to tell one plane from the next or one element from another element, is because there is a difference in values amongst them, not because there is an outline in between them.
And oftentimes, this difference in values is very subtle!
This can be a difficult thing to grasp when we're just getting started, especially because a lot of us get started with art by copying our favorite cartoon characters (which often have black or dark outlines all throughout) and/or because we get started coloring pages with our crayons that contain images composed of line drawings.
The more you practice drawing and painting, and continue developing your observational skills, the easier it gets to pinpoint subtle differences in values.
In this same vein, we want to stay away from marks that are way too stark looking as they also detract from the realism of the piece. Marks that are too obvious, or heavy/flat shapes are distracting and, if we need to incorporate marks, it's important to have line weight variation in mind, as well as gradations in values around them.
Also, it's important to keep things irregular, imperfect and organic, especially if we're drawing or painting something that isn't machine made. This leads to more natural results.
I like visualizing the different values throughout my subjects as abstract shapes that fit together as a type of puzzle.
5. Add your shadow to place your subject in space
This is okay, in situations in which we're looking to create a completely background-free illustration, such as the type of work that we'll be editing digitally to place on products or to send to a client for some sort of editorial purpose. Like the ones I'm working on in my blog post/YouTube video titled How to Remove Backgrounds from Scanned Art (Photoshop for Beginners).
I love creating my largest area of cast shadow using wet-on-wet and then placing my area of occlusion shadow (darker area closest to the subject), on top of the first layer of lighter paint while it's still wet. This way the second, darker color dissipates and gradates into the lighter color.
Usually, there are different values even throughout areas of shadow. Sometimes there's a sharp edge between them, and other times they gradate softly into each other. It depends on the light situation present.
And remember, shadows should always be consistent throughout a piece. Otherwise, something is going to look off at the end and this will detract from the realism in the drawing or painting.
Before getting started with a new piece, locate the light source. Where is the light hitting the subject from? Is it in the top left? Top right? Right in front of the subject? Somewhere below it?
Wherever it is, keep in in mind throughout the painting process and make sure all the shadows you add in make sense.
*BONUS TIP: Careful when painting white subjects with watercolor!
If we don't develop enough values in these areas, the object will likely appear flat and will not be consistent with the other elements in your painting that you have developed a three-dimensional look in.
It's similar to how we never want to leave the whites of the eyes (the Sclera), or the teeth completely white when painting a portrait. White or off-white objects are never completely white in realism.
There are shadows falling over them that have to do with their structure and the elements around them, as well as colors in the environment they are in that affect the way we see them.
The material the subject is made of (bone, glass, ceramic, silk, etc.) also has a huge effect on its reflective qualities and how sharp those highlights are, as well as if we're able to see reflected colors on its surface.
On the other hand, if we go overboard with adding way too much paint and aren't careful to leave enough white paper unpainted, it won't look white anymore!
It's a very subtle balance, for sure.
I would recommend taking a step back from your work every few minutes, observing your piece from further back and comparing it to your reference. Ask yourself if more paint or detail is really necessary to create that illusion of three-dimensional form.
If it's not really necessary, leave it as is!
Watercolor supplies used in video:
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