Hi guys! I recently decided to start designing my own fabric, and it’s been one big learning curve for me since I don’t have a background in surface pattern design or watercolors. Since I know that we all have to start from somewhere, I thought it would be interesting and perhaps helpful to share my journey with you.
To that end, I’ve started this series “Adventures in Fabric Design” to document my every step in this whole process. Hopefully it helps some of you who are looking get started in fabric design as well.
For Part Two, I will be covering my process for picking up drawing again and the watercolor supplies I use to create my watercolor artwork.
This most may contain affiliate links.
Relearning How to Draw
Prior to starting the 30 Watercolor Painting Challenge, I spent some time trying to get into the habit of doodling and drawing. I also did some watercolor doodles to practice my brush stroke techniques. By first doing this, I can later put paintbrush to paper not not feel paralyzed by what and how to draw.
Here’s how I went about it.
Disclaimer: Everyone’s drawing habits and methods are different. I am laying out what works for me, but it may not work for everyone.
Draw from Observation or Reference
When you are first relearning how to draw, your creative muscles are clumsy from being atrophied from the lack of use. I find it pretty hard to think and imagine things to draw. Instead of sitting there agonizing over what to draw, I drew from observation or reference. This takes a lot of the thinking out of the exercise and keeps you focused on replicating what you see.
Let Other People Tell You What to Draw
This is where Skillshare classes are handy. I would watch Skillshare classes on doodling and drawing and I would doodle along as the instructor lays out the steps of how to draw a certain object or subject matter. All Skillshare classes end with a Class Project that they encourage you to complete. I like this format a lot, because it provides clear actionable next steps for you after you’ve completed a course. This also takes the deliberating and thinking part of drawing out of the equation and leaves you with a clear set of actions to take. Of course, I will be upfront and admit that I don’t do a lot of the class projects and I cherry pick which ones I complete.
Eat the Frog First
This is a productivity trick I use for all aspects of my life and business. The frog is a metaphor for a task that you have no motivation to do and will most likely to procrastinate on. Instead of putting it off, you take care of it the first thing in the morning–which is to say, eat the frog first. That way, the rest of the day will go by easier because you will build up momentum a sense of accomplishment from completing the task.
The night before, I will leave put my laptop to the corner of the desk. I will lay out a sheet of paper for drawing or watercolor paper for painting. When I sit down to work, the first thing I have to do is the drawing or painting.
Set Reasonable Goals
To stay on course, it’s really important to set reasonable, achievable goals. If you set a goal of “I must produce 30 drawings in 30 days”, there’s a chance you will miss some days and you will feel discouraged because you will have immediately failed your goal by missing just one day.
Instead, set smaller achievable goals to build up momentum. For example, you can set a goal of drawing 3 times in a week. Overtime, you can up it to 4 times or even 5 times a week.
This is why my 30 watercolor painting challenge is spread out over 45 days, and not 30 days!
Your Doodles or Drawings Don’t Have to Be Masterpieces!
Your doodles or drawings don’t have to be your best work. On days when when I feel particularly uninspired, I would just fill pages of my watercolor sketchbook with leaves. This is great for practicing my brush strokes and you are getting used to the motion of drawing again.
By announcing that I will be doing the 30 Watercolor Painting challenge publicly, I felt a lot more inclined to complete it. If there’s a habit you want to get into, try announcing it on your blog or instagram or facebook page and share your progress as you complete your challenge! I personally love following along other people’s progress in their personal challenges and goals.
Here are the supplies I use to create my watercolor paintings. I will also share my thoughts on the tools.
- Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook 5″ x 8″
I have a Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook from my previous attempts at watercolor. I like it because the size is ideal for travel–which was the reason I got it in the first place.
- Fabriano Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper 140 lbs 9″ x 12″
For most of my watercolors, I use the Fabriano Hot Pressed Watercolor paper. Hot pressed means that the paper texture is smooth and fine-grained. Due to the smooth texture, the paint tends to lay on top of the paper so it takes longer for the paint to dry and gives you more time to play with colors. This also allows you to achieve more vivid colors.
If you want more texture in your watercolor paintings, spring for cold pressed paper. Cold pressed watercolor paper has a textured surface, which allows you to achieve fine detail and texture in your watercolor paintings. The textured surface also means that the paint is absorbed by the paper more quickly and the colors are less vibrant when dry.
Which paper you choose will depend on your needs, but the hot pressed paper by Fabriano is great for me because I get vibrant colors and smooth washes with no texture.
Also I prefer the paper versus a sketchbook, because it’s completely flat and thus it’s easy to scan the artwork when it’s in my scanner.
The Sakura 24 Assorted Watercolors Set is an inexpensive watercolor set, but you can still achieve vivid colors with the paints. I actually purchased this set in 2013 and the pigments have not gone bad. You do not need expensive watercolor paints to create vibrant watercolor work.
I love the Pentel Watercolor Brushes! They have a barrel for water and when you squeeze it, the water will travel to the tip of the brush. This is great for travel and for when you have to dilute the paint on your brush. These brushes are also relatively inexpensive and have a nice fine tip for detail work. The soft bristles are also great for painting watercolor florals and creating petals and leaves.
I purchase this set because it was recommended by Bonnie Christie in her class Watercolor for Surface Pattern Design. I actually don’t like this set. The bristles are on the stiffer side and they don’t hold as much paint or water. As you can tell from the photos, some of the brushes are still new/unused.
I use the Loew Cornell Round brushes and the Pentel Brushes the most. Like the Pentel brushes, the fine tip is great for detail work and the soft quality of the bristles allow you to create lovely, ethereal shapes. I also love how comfortable the handles of these brushes are. I got these after I realize that the Grace Art Watercolor Brushes were not for me.
I purchased this set for detail work, but I find myself rarely using them. If you don’t plan on doing a lot of detail work, I would not purchase them. The Pentel Watercolor brush in the smallest size should be sufficient for the times you need to make a fine line or mark.
At this point, I have finished the 30 watercolor challenge and I’ve even created a number of repeats from my watercolor work. I’m currently giving my repeats a final one look over and then I’ll be submitting them to Spoonflower for proofing!
Instead of posting the rest of the watercolor artworks here, I will do a roundup post at the end of this series with all 30 paintings.
In the next post, I will cover how to create a repeating tile.
For most posts in this series, check out the following: