When I’m stuck in a creative rut, the first thing I do is pick up a new art or craft. This year has been full of ruts, despite my best plans and intentions. My mind has felt sloppy and unfocused.
At first I thought I would brush up on my photography skills because whoa do I need to! Since Facebook knows more about me than I do (creepy!) it showed me a post about a photography class on Skillshare. I popped over to check the site out. Since there was a free 30-day trial, I signed up. I figured I could get what I needed in 30 days and then cancel the membership.
When I started poking around on Skillshare, I was surprised by how many classes there were. SO. MANY. CLASSES. Not just photography, but graphic design, writing, game design, knitting, macrame, animation, time management, Photoshop, cooking…I mean seriously if you have a creativity bucket list, you could cross off most things on it by taking Skillshare courses.
A watercolor class by Yasmina Creates immediately caught my eye. I love watercolor paintings! Dreamy, colorful, and cute images are right up my alley, and that’s exactly what she paints.
I watched one of her classes, and then another, and then a class by Ana Victoria Calderon. When I finally glanced at the clock I realized that three hours had passed!
It was a pretty weird experience because I hate watching how-to videos. They are usually way too talky and unfocused. I want “how to do the thing” fast – without hearing what the instructor had for breakfast or seeing their cats popping in to say hi. Don’t get me wrong, I love cats. But I also love efficient teaching.
I was totally engrossed in the amazing instructional videos on Skillshare. Yasmina’s classes are perfect for beginners like me. She explains each step carefully and brings a playfulness to painting that encourages us to be fearless of making mistakes. At least that’s how I feel – I’m a huge Yasmina Creates fangirl.
Even with all that encouragement, I have “I can’t draw” and “I can’t paint” core beliefs. I don’t feel like I have that artist’s eye if you know what I mean. That’s why I prefer working with yarn and three dimensional shapes. They’re easy to make and take apart until things look just right.
Still, I am determined to learn and see if I can’t make myself draw and paint with enough practice.
The day after my Skillshare bingewatch I gathered up some artsy supplies and followed along with a few lessons. I didn’t color correct these in Photoshop, so pardon any weird hues. I haven’t taken the class that teaches me how to scan and correct watercolors yet. 😉
My first attempt at transparencies:
The second, with different paints and help from Smalls (dramatic improvement!):
A sorry excuse of a color wheel:
Practicing pulse and precision (an exercise recommended by Ana Victoria Calderon, which I LOVE doing):
Color mixing play:
Annnnnnd my first “real” painting:
I’m pretty pleased with my efforts so far!
I really need to improve my understanding about how much water to have on my brush and when. I am also seriously struggling with color mixing. I can accidentally make awesome colors, but if I try to do something on purpose the colors go all muddy.
No worries. I’ll get there.
So What’s Skillshare Like, Anyway?
Skillshare is an online learning community. A monthly subscription costs about $10 a month, and there are thousands of courses on the platform. It’s easy to find classes by either using the search box or by browsing topics. When you find a course you’d like to take, you can save it to a list in your profile.
If you find a Skillshare instructor you love, you can follow them to receive notification when they post new classes. Also, you can follow other users on the platform. Students often make comments in the class discussion that are extremely helpful.
In all the watercolor classes I’ve taken so far, the instructors invite you to ask questions and post your projects. (I haven’t done this yet because I’m still a little timid about my work.) The instructors offer helpful feedback and answer any questions you have. This is so much better than watching a random video you find on the Internet! It’s also helpful to see what the other people have done in class. There are so many talented people out there!
Many of the instructors post additional course materials, such as worksheets and supply lists. Some include links to Pinterest boards and websites for additional information. These extra resources have been really helpful for me.
I really like that the classes are short – most of them less than an hour – and are broken into bite-sized pieces. It’s easy to do a bit of a lesson and then pick up where you left off next time. Bonus: Skillshare offers a mobile app for both Apple and Android, so you don’t even have to be stuck in front of your computer to learn.
The other thing I love is that there are many different instructors teaching the same thing. It’s been helpful to be able to explore lots of different artistic styles and techniques until I found the instruction that worked best for me. The more options, the better!
Why I’m Writing About Watercolors
When you and I first met, I’d already nailed the knitting and crochet thing. I can pick up some yarn and a hook and make whatever I set out to do, and then explain that magic here on my blog. Most of the time. 😉
I’d like to say the reason I’m learning watercolors is because I miss the process of making my brain and hands do new tricks. Truth be told, the real reason is the brain fug I mentioned in the beginning of this post.
Being so good at something that I don’t have to think about it provides too much time for my mind to wander. And watch news. And ruminate.
I’m having a terrible struggle with my anxiety right now. It’s awful. My brain needs a challenge.
When I’m actively engaged in learning, my mind is hyper-focused on that task. It doesn’t drift off to mull over looming catastrophes. I don’t have time to worry about the future because I need to pay attention to what I’m doing.
I am present.
Painting with watercolors has been freeing for me. Since I have no idea how to draw or paint, my brain is 100% showing up.
Trying out something new is super intimidating. Remember how you felt the first time you picked up a crochet hook and couldn’t make a chain? So frustrating!
I love encouraging people to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. So, I thought I’d share my learning to watercolor adventures with you. I’m sure I’ll make lots of mistakes, get frustrated, and want to quit. Moving through that process is its own adventure.
This might sound ridiculous but finding Skillshare has been life-changing. I would never have thought to try painting with watercolors had I not stumbled across the courses there. It’s so relaxing to disappear into playing with paint – watching the pigment swirl around in the water and float across the page. It is truly magical.
I put on some music, grab a brush, and just start painting away without any expectation of getting it right.
Giving myself permission to experiment and fail is hard to do because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m trying! And it sort of worked when I was playing around trying to paint some jellyfish:
I didn’t manage to make any jellyfish, but do love how this painting of absolutely nothing turned out.
Want to learn something new with me? I’m not going to do an official challenge right now or anything, but I can hook you up with a free 30-day trial of Skillshare! I got so much out of taking classes on Skillshare that I’m still using it beyond the trial period.
When you sign up for the trial you might get an email after a few days offering you a 90-day membership for 99 cents. Three whole months to play around for $1! (No promises! But I did get that offer a few times and hope you do too!)
School is letting out for Smalls soon, and I definitely think taking some creative classes together would be an excellent use of summer vacation. He’s already been playing with watercolors when I paint, and it’s a nice way to wind down with him before bed.
Here are a few of my favorite classes so far:
Anyone Can Watercolor: The Basics for Creating Magical Pieces – Yasmina Creates
Watercolor Magic: The Basics of Color Mixing and Color Harmony – Yasmina Creates
Modern Watercolor Techniques: Beginner’s Level – Ana Victoria Caulderon
Fun and Easy Watercolors – Drawing Cookies and Pastry – Maria Popandopulo
Your Introduction to Watercolor Painting: Create with Confidence – Ciarra Rouwhorst
If you aren’t interested in learning watercolors, you can click on the banner below to be whooshed away to an AMAZING list of crafty courses (I’ve got my eye on the weaving class!).
If you do sign up for the trial, come say hello and I’ll follow you. I’m a great cheerleader and love seeing the creative things my friends get up to!