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Enjoy the Zen of Watercolor Classes at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

I have a thing for art and creative projects; and I have my mom to thank for that. “Thank you, Mami!” She was always up to something: painting a mural, collecting pine cones for a Christmas decoration, or trying some new medium like wood burning. Turns out my sister, Andrea, and I love making things just like mom did. Arts and crafts are our jam. We even started a blog about our DIY adventures and tutorials. It’s called Dapper Animals.

Dapper Animals paper maché masks

I like to create 3D crafts like paper maché, origami, sculptures, and piñatas. Andrea is a talented graphic designer, illustrator, mural painter, and hand-letterer. If you are in need graphic design and creative direction, check out Andrea’s design company, Vintage Unicorn. Her work ranges from whimsical to corporate.

Dapper Animals dinosaur felt bag tutorial

Between the two of us, we cover quite the range of techniques and we’re always trying new stuff. Resin jewelry, cement casting, crocheting, sewing, wood working, and the list goes on. There’s nothing like trying a new medium, but it’s nice to have someone guide you when you first try something new.

Watercolor warm up exercises.

That’s why when Andrea and I heard about watercolor classes at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, we signed up right away. Andrea has experience handlettering in watercolors, but this class was focused on painting plants. I was completely new to watercolors before the class and was happy to learn anything about watercolors really. Most important of all, I was ready to disconnect from my email for a couple of hours a day to work on art.

Drying watercolor background layer

There’s something akin to meditation when I work on an art project. Whether it’s paper mache, origami, or crocheting; focusing on the repetitive steps releases the tension from my muscles. Tension that I didn’t even realize was there. I zoom in on the task at hand (mixing colors, glueing, designing, etc), allowing me to let go of the constant checking of the never-ending-to-do list.

While I am a huge advocate of writing lists to get shit done. The non-stop-mental-to-do list – a parallel process running in the back of my head unbeknownst to me – is a relentless “tiki tiki” that frays my nerves. It’s an automatic thing that I do, a reflex. It makes me bunch my shoulders and scrunch my brain, leading to migraines and an icky feeling of stress. Am I the only one that feels this way? If you do too, you need to join me on my crafting obsession because it really helps. You take a break from the real world and dive into the project in front of you.

Student watercolor project

A great way to test the waters is to sign up for an art class at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Andrea and I signed up to what was essentially a 3-day long adult watercoloring summer camp. The class was relaxing and fun. You get an entire 5 foot table to yourself to spread out with all your art supplies. The fellow students ranged from seriously experienced artists to newbies like me.

Diane Lary

Our class was taught by Diane Lary – a talented watercolor artist, encouraging instructor, and member of the Florida Watercolor Society. We discussed how to capture tropical flowers and foliage using a limited palette of transparent watercolors, composition, and layering techniques. It’s amazing to watch her bring nature to life where I previously only saw splotches. Where my untrained eye simply saw a shadow, Diane sees a blending of colors transforming from gray to pink. The three days were about learning lessons like these that seem small but take a painting from blah to BAM!

While my watercoloring still needs a lot of practice, I saw a huge improvement from my first painting to the second. I learned several neat tricks and have a new appreciation for watercolor paintings. The few hours spent surrounded by students working on their watercolor craft was just the reset I needed to ground myself and rein in the anxiety.

Sign up for an art class at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. They have classes for all level of experienced artists from beginner to advanced. Plus, they teach different techniques including acrylic, oil, charcoal, pastels, watercolors, and more. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road Coral Gables, FL 33156 . Visit for more information about their education programs for children and adults.

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