Hi everyone! We are Steffi @nepucat on instagram, and Stella @merakiwatercolor, a watercolor artist and a paint-maker. We have been collaborating on a watercolor set for a while now and Stacey asked us if we would like to write about our collaboration. We were, of course, thrilled to do so and hope to inspire some of you to consider a collaboration as well. Collaborating can be so much fun and really boosts the art community, so definitely keep reading if you want to know more!
Stella, half Greek half Dutch water colorist and paint-maker based in The Netherlands. When I'm not covered with paint or obsessively buying new pigments I am a social worker that reads a lot, talks to plants when I think nobody is listening and loves everything about cats. Besides art, I advocate for mental health and inclusivity, both in my daily job and my social media.
I'm Steffi, or you can totally call me Nepu, because many people do. I'm a German watercolor artist. Madly in love with handmade watercolors because they are simply awesome. I'm earning my money as a social worker in addiction aid and I'm also fighting for equality and inclusivity for everyone. I still believe in fairies (because you can't see them it doesn't mean they are not there, right?) and I try to keep my inner child alive because I don't want to lose that wonder and awe of the beauty in this world. With my art, I hope to bring some of that joy, magic and wonder back to people.
Finding a collaboration partner
So, how and where do you find a collaboration partner?
Instagram is the platform we found each other on, but there are many other platforms and communities you can do this on. It just depends on which one you're most active and follow people that inspire you.
This is how it all started for us....
Steffi (artist): Since I found out about handmade watercolors and fell deeply in love with them, I secretly wished for creating a watercolor palette with a maker. I've been using handmade watercolors for over a year now and I love that you are able to get very special colors you won't be able to get anywhere else.
So a while ago when one of the makers (Stella) I like to buy my colors from asked in her stories for ideas for upcoming color palettes I eagerly wrote her, because I have a LOT of ideas for those. Plus the possibility to get my hands on a color or even a palette I'm looking for is pretty awesome. And I told her that if she ever would like to do a galaxy themed palette she could let me know.
Stella (paint-maker): When Steffi suggested a Galaxy themed palette I was immediately sold. A while later I asked her if she was still interested and she was! So that’s how our collaboration began. Before I asked her I did a little overthinking, which made me doubt myself etc. etc..you know that spiral right?!
What can help with this is to find an artist or fellow paint-maker you want to collaborate with, that you already know a bit. By that I mean that you’ve chatted, followed each other for a while, like each others work but most importantly someone you feel you connect with. I always drool over Steffi’s work and I always felt comfortable having little chats with her and that really helped me to just go for it!
Tip: If you’re not feeling confident to approach someone directly or want to be open minded about new ideas and possibilities, you could also do a post or Instagram story. It could be like an offer to collaborate, like: I would love to collaborate etc etc, let me know if you’re interested! And who knows what comes from it :)
Phase of “sorting things out”
Okay, you’ve found a collaboration partner. What now?!
Stella (paint-maker):First of all, from the paint-makers perspective I think it’s important that you’re clear about the terms of the collaboration. So after you’re in agreement about WHAT you’ll create, chat about the long term expectations.
As a paint-maker, I see the artist as the curator and it’s good to think about what you can offer them (and what not). In most cases it wouldn’t be money because most paint-makers barely make a profit, but there are other options. For example a complete palette for free or maybe heavily discounted when it’s ready and/or a dot card set for the artist to do a giveaway. Besides that, the artist will receive all your paint experiments and that is also much fun!
Also, something to consider and communicate early on is how you’d like the collaboration to work. I’ve read about collaborations where the paint-maker sends 10-12 samples to the artist and the artist chooses a certain amount and that’s it. Which is much quicker and efficient. You could also let the artist choose some colors and then you can make them and that’s it. The part of the artists will be much smaller in this case.
Later on in this post you can read about our process!
Other important things that we didn’t explicitly discuss but can be handy:
How you will communicate (chat, video calling, voice clips etc.)?
How much time do you expect someone to put into it?
Is there a deadline?
Steffi (artist): Then we immediately talked about how this could work. Luckily both of us live in Europe so sending color samples was not a problem. For the next days we talked about colors a lot and how both of us envisioned a galaxy watercolor palette. From the first moment on I realized that we like the same hues for galaxy art and we connected very easily. There was a lot we needed to figure out before starting making colors and testing them, like how many colors do we want in the set? What colors would be essential? Do we want mica (shiny) colors as well?
Somehow we didn't have any big problems with those decisions because I think we have the same way of approaching and thinking about working together and making decisions.
We sent each other a lot of pictures of colors and links of accounts that use colors we like to get a feeling for our palette.
Well begun is half done, right? So after the first “sorting things out” phase we could actually start the whole process.
Stella (paint-maker): When we had some ideas about what we wanted, I started with the paint-making process. I looked into the pigments I had but also ordered new ones and made (big) dot cards. Maybe a bit obvious but tip: Make 2 dots cards of each paint making experiment and give them names. I name mine T for Test and then a number. So, T1, T2, T3 and so on. So you have one to test and the artist gets one.
Steffi (artist): Two weeks later I got the first colors to try. What an awesome moment that was! Working on making a watercolor palette, it was happening for real! (Stella was so sweet to send me some goodies, too. Unbelievable how sweet she is!)
I was so eager to make this galaxy palette happening that I immediately tried the first batch (I think 11 colors, this was heaven guys, for real!!!) and swatched and mixed them to my heart's content.
Stella (paint-maker): After that, Steffi gave me her feedback and a lot of new ideas and I started working on new ones. Some colors were lovely but we immediately were like “Nah, not for this set…” and some colors Steffi mixed and created new combinations from which I made a new color.
What is really great and I’m so grateful for is that Steffi is just the loveliest to work with! Often we are in such a flow and that feels like a dream. What I also appreciate (and suggest to you) is honesty. Steffi gives me her opinion and feedback and that is so incredibly helpful!
Steffi (artist): I could tell her honestly what I thought could work and which colors might need a tweak or don´t work at all for me. We chatted a lot and talked about possible colors and how they should work together. Stella was so fast in getting new colors ready for me to try it's unbelievable.
We even went looking for micas (shimmers) together. I was so happy to be able to help her and that she really appreciated my opinion on the colors.
As I'm a huge color nerd, I have many colors at hand and I looked up some from big brands as they have their pigments listed on them so we could create the palette of our galaxy-dreams.
After our second try we already had two colors we both loved a lot: Cepheus and Pink Supernova.
And as proud as we were, like mommies, we announced them. That was a big moment for me as we teased people before but kept the secret until we definitely were sure about those colors.
During the testing and waiting time for new colors, we talked about possible sizes for the set and I painted a lot with the colors Stella sent me, to get a feel for them and check out how they worked together in my art.
How even more ideas where born
About a new palette, creative flow and no deadlines.
Steffi (artist): During these days we had even more ideas because some colors that didn't fit into the galaxy theme gave us strong vibes for another set of watercolors (which won´t be revealed yet ;) ). We tend to inspire each other while testing and painting so this is the best way possible this could have worked out, right? We are both very open for the ideas of each other and appreciate each other a lot I think.
We talked about how to tease people with sneak peeks and when to reveal the first colors. What set options would be nice for people to buy it when it's finished. And we have had a lot of fun creating this together so far.
Stella (paint-maker): We definitely have fun!
Also, what really helps I guess is that we don’t have a deadline. This gives us the freedom to just go with the flow and really choose colors that we actually love. Of course we want to bring out this palette somewhere this year, but we both aren’t fans of rushing our creative process.
This no-deadline approach isn’t for everyone. It can be tricky if you are someone that doesn’t like to make decisions and I wouldn't recommend it if you’re struggling with perfectionism. So make sure you and your collaboration partner work in a way that keeps you both productive.
For us, this way works and I feel like we’re on the same page. Besides we’ve come to realize that from every color we make and test, new ideas are born.
As Steffi wrote, we even have another palette in mind. So, if you’re going to collaborate keep an open mind and trust in that creative process!
Love, Steffi and Stella
Thank you so much to Stella and Steffi for contributing such an honest and thorough insight into how artists and paint-makers collaborate together. This is such a fascinating and truly special experience so thank you for sharing this. If you want to learn more about this, please feel free to comment your queries below.