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Hello! Today’s tutorial is sort of a Take It Further option of Chapter 5: Imaginary Animals: Abstract Watercolor Starts. (Regular readers will recognize this piece!)

I will be showing you how I made the above drawing/painting (kind of interchangeable in my mind). However, this only outlines how I happened to finish this particular piece, and it could have gone many different ways and still have been successful (or not). If you choose to try the steps outlined below, remember that the result will — and should — turn out differently… your own unique hand will enter the process, a very good thing!

(Click to enlarge images.)


One piece of hot press 140# watercolor paper, about 7″x10″
watecolors, brushes (I like a #12 round)
white gesso
mechanical pencil
spray fixative



(This first step is really two steps combined, as i hadn’t originally planned to make this a tutorial and didn’t scan the very first step.)

Step 1a. Using red watercolor and a #12 round brush, mix up a very watery amount and make a mark. I started with the tail in this case. Once I had a shape I liked, I picked up the paper and added more watercolor to the base of the tail, and then tipped my paper so that the pigment would slide across the page. I had a dog in mind, and just kept repeating the mark/dripping process until I had a recognizable animal (head, body, four legs). Also, load your brush with pigment and then “splatter” it onto the page randomly by hitting the brush against your hand.

While the paint was still wet, I went in to some of the areas and pulled out little lines (fur!) from some of the areas with a sharp stylus (though you can also use a mechanical pencil or even a shish kabab skewer). Here’s a detail:

Step 1b. Once your red watercolor is dry, mix up another color of your choice and color in your animal, leaving the areas where you want the eyes, white.



Step 2. Here I added some blue watercolor on the body, and some pencil iines as fur once that dried. In addition, I decided to “take a risk” and turn the head a bit, as I was feeling the original was a little boring. (At this point the “dog” became a bull.) I also decided to pencil in the eyes, and changed their shape a bit at this step as well. Let dry.



Step 3. After changing the head direction, I felt it would be too difficult to hide the original lines without the help of the big guns — gesso. Using a small, round, dry brush I added the fur on the body. Then, I wet the brush a little when i applied it on the face. I also added a white layer to the eyes with a very small brush. Let dry completely.



Step 4. All the shading and details were then pulled out using a regular, cheap mechanical pencil (2B). When applying your pencil lines for fur especially, keep your hand very loose and apply more pressure at the beginning of the stroke than at the end of the stroke. Work fairly quickly so you don’t over-think it — fur is usually scraggly!

Here’s a detail:

Spray with fixative. Done!


This post is part of a Two-Week Book Release Celebration for my new book, “Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim.” For the schedule, which includes book and art giveaways, contributing artists features, tutorials, and assignments, click here.