Watercolor and Mood Boards: An Interview with Chris from Octopus Connection

Interview with Chris from Octopus Connection

Chris is a fellow Skillshare teacher and talented watercolor artist based in Nevada. As someone who loves watercolor, but always struggles to get it right, I was excited to talk to Chris about her journey to becoming a watercolor expert and mentor. Read about her experience and see what she has to share:

Hi Chris! Can you please introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m Chris, or Octopus Connection! I live in the Mojave Desert in Las Vegas, NV, which is a huge inspiration for me and has informed my entire brand style. I love to teach watercolors to those who think they aren’t that good at art, in a low-pressure, easy going atmosphere, and watch their faces light up when they realize they really can paint. It’s one of my biggest joys about teaching, which include topics like abstracts, fashion illustration, floral painting, line drawing, and travel painting.

Chris and I chatted about watercolour tools, inspiration and teaching. But we also talked a bit about lettering, using Procreate and puns! Check the other half of our conversation here: Illustrated Pun Fun: Interview with Procreate Artist Claire Makes Things

I also love to host challenges for students to grow their skills and be part of a community. Live painting sessions will always be my favorite way to teach because I can answer questions in the moment, and share things as they become relevant. My love for them developed during 2020 when we all craved more in-person interaction. As a result, I found that online meetings and classes were perfect for me to connect with others around the globe.

Why do you choose to teach watercolors over another painting medium?

I have always been a multi-passionate creative! In fact, I didn’t start with watercolors as a teacher. I had a handmade jewelry brand in 2016, so my first two classes on Skillshare were tutorials for hand-crafting jewelry. Next, I considered teaching Procreate, since I love the app so much. I produced two Procreate-related classes, when I realised I already had way too much screen time on my plate. I needed to scale it down with some more analog activities. 

Chris from Octopus Connection - A journey to becoming a watercolor expert and mentor

Since watercolor painting had become my favorite pastime, and grown in popularity due to the beauty factor, I knew it would be perfect as a teaching topic. I also asked myself what I could teach indefinitely, and watercolors was the undeniable choice. I think it’s because I love the look of watercolors so much, and it’s something that is easy to take with me on the go, as I explain in this  video. Plus it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up compared to other types of painting like acrylic or oil painting. This is also a really important aspect for me because I like to create in the moment!

I love creating classes that inspire my students and part of that is being innovative. I hadn’t seen anyone building mood boards with watercolors and I wanted to fill that gap. The process has been so much fun and was a discovery for me along with my students. Since publishing my ‘Watercolor Mood Boards: Rethink Your Process’ class on Skillshare, I’ve had different types of artists and designers reach out to me. They told me how helpful this tool has been for them in breaking creative block, creating themes, and for designing surface pattern collections. Although I’d hoped it would be well received, I really didn’t anticipate the impact it would have. 

Octopus Connection watercolor landing page

What impact do you hope to make with your membership, courses, and Skillshare classes?

At the beginning of the shutdown in 2020, I experienced a horrible panic attack. I don’t normally suffer from those so I was at a loss at what to do. I was in my studio when it happened where I always keep by watercolor supplies at hand. Without thinking, I began dropping paint into pools of water on some paper, and as I watched the paint spread, my breathing began to slow. When I came out of it completely and looked at what I had painted, I had accidentally created a beautiful abstract painting.

It dawned on me then how powerful watercolor painting could be for mental health issues, and immediately produced a series of low-pressure abstract classes that I offered for free on Skillshare. Because 2020 it was so difficult for us all, I wanted to create an easy form of relaxation and stress relief for anyone to access during that time. To this day, those Skillshare classes are my most popular!

I also have several students who are terminally ill and turn to watercolor painting to calm them and reduce their pain, which is so extraordinary. I’m aware that art therapy is widely used for all types of health issues. But, knowing that my lessons promote well-being not only for the ill, but for all my students, really motivates me to keep going.

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection

In mid 2021, Viviva Colors reached out to me to represent the brand by using their paints for some of my work and posting that work on Instagram. Because I would never represent a brand I didn’t believe in, I waited for the set of paints they sent me and started to experiment. I fell in love with them right away, mostly because they allowed me to paint on the go with more ease than ever before. Plus the colors are vibrant, the sets only weigh a few ounces, and they each come with attachable painting palettes, making them pretty revolutionary. When I use a water brush, I don’t even need a table paint, and since they are 100% biodegradable and vegan, I feel responsible using them too. 

That’s why I use them to teach almost every watercolor lesson I produce, including the mood board class. I love sharing about them because they give painters new freedom of movement, and we can all use them knowing that they are good for the environment. Learn more about Viviva Colors and how I work with them here.

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection

What inspired you to create your recent watercolor mood board class?

I had just completed a course on my own teaching platform called, Easy Watercolor Collections, a step-by-step collection creation blueprint for any art medium, for which mood boards are the perfect compliment. Mood boards are often used by professional artists and designers to communicate with their clients and their teams. They are an effective form of communication and a wonderful way to organize ideas, making them the perfect tool for visual people. 

It’s a wonderful way to tell a visual story, so I’m calling mood boards my new secret weapon. I thought it was important to share that with my students who can use them to develop their skills, as they did for me. You can find Watercolor Mood Boards: Rethink Your Process on Skillshare. It pairs really well with a few of my other courses and it’s just good fun. Even if you’re not a Skillshare member, you can still watch this class on my website

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection

What artists inspire you to grow?

There are so many, but the first that come to mind are watercolor artist Ohn Mar Win, paper artist Julie Hamilton, poet and Procreate artist Morgan Harper Nichols, and surface designer Bonnie Christine. All of these lovely women have inspired me to start and grow my own creative business and I am forever grateful. I was actually hired by Bonnie Christine in a customer support role for her big Immersion course during 2021 and 2022, which was a highlight in my creative career. Learning from my art heroes has been a huge factor in pulling me forward in my own goals. These are only a few of the teachers that inspired me to teach. It’s really special that I get to help some of my students become Skillshare teachers now too!


What’s your favorite thing about having a creative business?

I love being my own boss, plan my own days, and choose my own creative projects to pursue. Since leaving my full-time retail management career of 15 years in 2020. I have missed having workmates, but I have compensated with a series of weekly online meetings with other amazing creatives who support me and cheer me on. 

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection - A journey to becoming a watercolor expert and mentor

I have also fallen in love with teaching others how to find their own creative skills. Watercolor painting is not easy for most, and it’s a privilege to be the one to make a difference for those students. It’s so empowering to me to know that I am giving students a skill they can use for the rest of their lives for their enjoyment, as a health benefit, or as a career. 

On that note, I love using mood boards for business planning and strategizing. There’s nothing like painting something beautiful you can hang on the wall that pulls you forward towards your goals each day. Some of those goals are more travel, which leads to inspiration for more classes. I can honestly see myself doing this for the rest of my life. 

What are your plans for the future?

I love hosting free challenges on YouTube and in my Facebook Group jointly, plus I’m in the process of growing my watercolor membership. I also have another course idea in mind for 2024, and I have plans for more Skillshare classes as well. As I travel, another dream of mine is to meet with other artists and brands in different parts of the world and collaborate with them on special projects. I’m also a surface pattern designer, and I’m working on some new watercolor paintings to use in some future designs that I would love to get licensed with fabric, home decor, and stationery companies.

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection and her studio

What would you say to those who either want to learn watercolor painting, but don’t know if they’re good enough, or those who want to improve their existing skills?

If you dream of learning how to paint, you should do it! I know it’s a popular social belief that only the chosen few should be artists, but I think that’s an old way of thinking. Painting just for the sheer joy of it is the best way to create, without initially worrying about how good that work is. Your skills will grow and evolve over time, and you will have a unique style, even if you don’t recognise it at first. Just like your handwriting is uniquely yours, so will your artwork be. Try not to play the comparison game, and look at your work objectively. 

Actually, you can create watercolor mood boards with very few painting skills, so they are a very approachable project for just about any creatively minded person. You can use your mood boards for mind maps, your personal stories, and even to help you communicate with others.

Watercolor classes with Octopus connection and her studio

Also, be slow to ask for critiques on your artwork from people who are not creatively minded. You may get some harsh opinions that might discourage you from continuing, and that would be a huge shame! Just about every student I have ever coached has thought that their work was not fit to be shared with others, while in fact, it was quite beautiful to me.

When I share my perspectives and suggestions on the matter, the students are allowed to see their work in new and hopeful ways. It’s hard to be fair when judging our own creations, so go easy and be kind to yourself. Be proud of all you create, and think of it as a journey. Just let it all unfold as you go forward. I can’t wait to see what you do!

Interview with Chris from Octopus Connection

Chris is a watercolor artist, designer, online instructor living on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada. She teachers watercolor courses, mentors students in her watercolor membership and teaches classes on watercolor and creativity on Skillshare.

Find Chris here: Newletter,  Instagram, YouTube,  Skillshare  

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