Category Archives: watercolor

Reading, Doing, Making, not Blogging

I’ve sort of neglected this space this month. Partly it’s that I’ve been reading and researching, trying things out, making things (more talismans, mainly), preparing and teaching, and by the time I get to the end of the day I never get around to sharing. Partly it’s the January-almost-February doldrums…despite what I’ve just listed, most days it feels like I haven’t actually accomplished anything, or finished anything. This feeling is, I’m sure, exacerbated by the continuing limbo of not having sold our house yet. There are some things I’d like to plan and such and they really do need to wait until we are where we’re going to be. Doldrum-y limbo, that’s uncertainty in January all right.

Anyway, some photos of some things, in reverse order of occurrence.

watercolor and ink mandala at

A mandala, completed this week, first doodled in ink and then colored with watercolor. A very soothing thing to do.

Last weekend I decided my earrings needed to be out of crowded jewelry box and somewhere I could see them. After finding this on Pinterest, I decided to keep my decorative metal sheet whole and hang it on the wall as is. My earrings would never fit in an 8×10 frame.

earring holder at

I might still space them out a bit–I have the room. I also have room to add more. Let me tell you about me and earrings–before I had kids, I wore earrings every day. I really liked them, and while I never wore overmuch makeup or jewelry, earrings were a part of my outfit. Then I had kids and years and years of small people understandably attracted to shiny dangling things, perched on my hip within grabbing distance, so I stopped wearing them. So many years of this that I thought my holes had closed up. But no! A couple of years ago I decided to reclaim my earrings and even buy more. It’s a small way of getting back to that pre-mother Amy and I enjoy them. My kids do, too, because, as my daughter said, when they’re not sure what to get me for Mother’s Day or my birthday, they can always pick out earrings. My mother-in-law has given me some gorgeous pairs as well. Liking earrings makes it easy on gift-givers! It’s a win-win.

On to teaching… I’d love to have a studio/classroom space of my own one day where I could offer classes. At our last class (we didn’t have one this week because Monday was not a school day), we talked about different types of line and Piet Mondrian. When I showed a Mondrian and asked what sort of feeling it gave them, one girl said “quiet.” Yes, I feel that way about his paintings too. The orderly frame of lines, the limited palette–soothing. Then we made tape-resist paintings using primaries and black (ie, Mondrian’s palette). I showed them several examples of tape-resist paintings. One I’d done as “inspired by” Mondrian. Another, my son had used the tape as roads on a map. Another showed an abstract design made by the tape. I told them they could be inspired by Mondrian but they could also do their own thing entirely, because it’s their project. I’m very clear on this: I’m not out for cookie-cutter projects. And they all had ideas. One boy wanted to recreate the Union Jack, so he got an atlas to consult, used the tape to form the lines, painted blue, then filled in the tape lines (after peeling) with red. Another girl placed four pieces of tape vertically, painted the whole paper black, and ended up with a striking and minimalist black and white painting. I am always impressed with kids’ ideas, always.

These are my kids’ paintings, which I can share here. G was Mondrian inspired but in many directions.

tape-resist in Mondrian's palette at

N did his the next day, since he’s on duty as a helper (and an excellent one) during class time.

tape resist using Mondrian's palette at

He painted white on white, too, which might be observable if you click right on the photo–I’m not sure. It’s quite an effect in person.

So, that’s more or less what I’ve been up to. I run when I can to try to combat the irritability that seems to be cropping up (see: doldrum-y limbo). I’m reading books on all sorts of topics for the next issue. I’m getting ready for a quick scouting trip down to Maryland. I’m driving kids to school and appointments and activities and feeding them all the time. You know. The usual.

Paint Labs #4 and #11

I’m still working on the activities in Paint Lab, here and there. I full well know I have a problem focusing on just one area at a time. I’ve given up fighting it; I’ll just embrace it. So lots of things are always half done, and this month in particular it’s felt like I’ve been slogging along, mostly mired in my own head, spinning my wheels. I’ve been doing a lot of reading; dog days indeed. This also accounts for the quiet here. Days have been just sort of slipping by…

Anyway. I did paint lab #4, which involved acrylic glazing medium, a squeegee, and a canvas panel, a while ago.

paint lab #4 at

Then I decided to add a couple of tree-ish things.

paint lab #4 with tree at

I’m not sure about any of it, but these exercises are just that–exercises. Trying things out.

This week I did paint lab #11, “Masking Fluid Exploration,” in my sketchbook. I decided to use that day’s Spoonflower prompt, arrow, as the shape. I’ve done a few of the Spoonflower prompts; I’ve done more in my head, but as I said, August is like quicksand or something. I’m keeping track of them and I will pull them out for inspiration in the future even if I don’t get to them on the day they’re posted.

paint lab #11 at

This was my first experimentation with proper masking fluid. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories of destroyed paper and so on, but it peeled up easily. My sketchbook contains Strathmore 500 series mixed media paper, and I bought the Utrecht store brand of masking fluid last time we were there. Again, this was, as the lab title says, simply exploration. It will take more of it before I really get a feel for how it can be used beyond the obvious use of maintaining highlights.

I have more things and thoughts to share but we’ll have to see how long it takes given my apparent August torpor.

Watercolor Sketches + Shop Update

The final two watercolor sketches from last week. I only missed one day, Thursday, so I ended up with six total for the week.

watercolor sketch at

watercolor sketch at

I thought it would be fun to show the process, so I took photos along the way while making the strawberry sketch. I did this one Saturday evening, so the lighting isn’t the best. Before I share all those photos, though, I wanted to let you know that hand-stamped blank cards and lino prints and watercolors are now available in the shop. It took a bit of self-talk (and some encouraging talk by other people) to list the prints and watercolors. It feels different from the other products. They serve no purpose other than to hang on the wall; it’s a public declaration of my belief that my artwork is worthy of offering for sale. That’s not easy to do. (Which I only share because I think it’s better for all of us creative types if we admit when we feel a bit wobbly. Everybody does, you know.)

On to the strawberries.

still life set up at

The still life set up.

initial pencil sketch at

Initial pencil sketch.

traced over with ink at

Traced over with ink (copic multiliner).

first wash of watercolor at

First wash of watercolor.

more color added at

More color added.

almost done at

Almost done.


just needs to dry at

Just needs to dry.

It takes a while to complete one because of the waiting time in between layers of color. If you add wet watercolors next to (or on top of) wet watercolor, it’ll bleed together. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Other times, it’s not, so it needs to dry first. You can see I have the paper taped down to a board (it’s a clipboard). I leave it that way until it dries. It helps keep it from curling too much.

In some ways this makes it a perfect type of painting for me to do. I’m always getting interrupted anyway. However, I’ve also gotten very good at telling the interrupter that I’m drawing/painting and I’ll get to them in a few minutes. All of my kids are old enough for me to be able to do this, generally. And they all respect the process, for the most part.

Two More Watercolor Sketches

Tuesday’s sketch was of a flower through a magnifying loupe. I don’t know what kind of flower it is; it’s the sort that would be in the background of an arrangement, just a nondescript spray of yellow, nothing much…until you look at it closely. Then it’s a world of tiny yellow petals, sticky sap, delicate stems.

watercolor sketch at

Wednesday’s sketch is of black-eyed Susans rescued from a local meadow–which is supposed to be open space managed by the town–right before it was mowed right to the ground. I’m so sad about this, and curious–it’s the wrong time of year for meadow mowing for management, so what are they doing? Town hall referred me to the head of the conservation commission, who hasn’t returned my message yet.

watercolor sketch at

These flowers look very different from the ones I bought Sunday, so either I mis-identified those, or they’re a cultivated version as opposed to the wild ones. At any rate, I like these, with their protruding center and drooping petals, better. I loved drawing them.

I didn’t manage a sketch on Thursday. We spent six hours at the beach, some of that time with friends (yay!), and after dinner I went to the market, because it’s much easier to do it with just my 12yo than with all three children. But I have a picture of a feisty blue crab to share with you, found by my 10yo at the salt pond.

blue crab at

I hope your week is ending on a good note! Enjoy the weekend!

Watercolor Sketches

I quietly–well, not so quietly anymore, since I’m saying so here–set myself the challenge of making a watercolor sketch every day this week. I’m not sure I’ll make it, as we have a couple of long out-of-the-house days this week, including today, Tuesday. But I’ve completed two in a row, and that’s Something. Here’s the one I did Sunday, of a flower bought from the on-your-honor stand down the road, which I went to in the pouring rain because I wanted some flowers to draw. While I drew and painted, Ghostbusters was on in the background–the rest of the family was watching it. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

watercolor sketch at

5×7 watercolor sketch of a black-eyed Susan.

And this is the one I did Monday morning, while more or less leaving my kids to their own devices. My daughter drew and painted the flowers Monday morning as well, but she was almost done by the time I began. This flower wasn’t purchased; I found Turk’s-cap Lilies growing on the side of road next to the freshwater wetland, on the property that nobody wants to buy because it would be so hard to build on it. I love that wetland! And I was delighted to find these flowers. I snipped just two to take home with me.

watercolor sketch at

5×7 watercolor sketch of Turk’s-cap Lilies.

These were difficult to draw, and I don’t think my hesitancy did me any favors. I may try this one again.

I am really enjoying my watercolors.

Making + Listening::14/2014

Lots of photos to share this week, some of which are better than others in terms of quality. First up, my daughter’s embroidery from a few weeks ago, that I have neglected to share. She drew on the felt with the nifty disappearing-ink fabric marker and then embroidered over her lines. (We just don’t go in for embroidering other people’s patterns here!)

5yo's embroidery at

Drawing and embroidery by G, age 5.

This is a fairy–the semi-circles on the sides are wings. I love this–she has preserved her own drawing in fabric and floss!! (I helped with the eyes–I did the French knots. But she did the rest herself.) This was completely her idea. I think of all those Pinterest-type projects that have adults transferring kids’ drawings to fabric to embroider or turn into pillows and I look at my daughter’s self-created, self-directed activity with her own drawing that she then embroidered herself, and it’s just perfection. So much better than if I had embroidered it. Her small capable hands did this.

Those wonderful hands of hers also learned how to use the knitting tower this week.

using the knitting tower at

Blurry cell-phone picture of G using the knitting tower.

We’ve had this for years and years and neither boy was ever much interested, but, much like her mama, G likes to make things with her hands, and she took to this right away. While she was sitting there finger knitting, I was working on a knotted, beaded ankle bracelet.

knotted anklet in progress at

Another blurry cell phone picture, of my knotted anklet in progress.

This started with making a beachy bracelet out of string while we were at the beach one day, using directions from the book Summer Crafts by Marjorie Galen (a used bookstore find several years ago, and I love it; it also inspired our hot rocks).

Beachy knotted bracelet at

Beachy bracelet.

After making that one, I made a few more (just to keep my hands busy), and then I wondered if I could add beads. I have a necklace purchased a while ago that looks very similar to this simple knotting, but with beads. So I bought some thin hemp string and got to work. This is the finished anklet (and I’m out of body lotion for my legs, as I’m sure you can tell by this close-up photo).

knotted beaded anklet at


We’re not done yet! I also finished a baby sweater and hat this week. It’s for one of my husband’s co-workers. Gah it’s so cute!!

baby sweater + hat at

The details are on Ravelry. I hardly knit at all these days unless I’m making something as a gift. It was nice to pick up the needles again–this little sweater worked up fast, too. I began it on the second day of the Tour de France, and they’re not done cycling yet.

Finally, yesterday I added “draw and paint sunflowers” on my to-do list. Do you do that–add on the fun things to your list, to give the same importance as the chores? I do. I cleaned the bathrooms yesterday as well, but I made sure drawing and painting was also a priority. My daughter sat next to me and we both quietly looked, drew, and painted for quite some time. Here’s my finished page.

Sunflower sketchbook page at

As for listening, I got to hear the most amazing (and at times inane) conversations Tuesday as we sat in traffic on 95. We visited the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and instead of 90 minutes each way it was at least two hours. That’s a lot of car time! (Thanks, Massachusetts, for the construction.) My boys finished the books they’d brought well before we got anywhere near home, so they began discussing who they’d pick for a multi-universe superhero all-star team (that’s what it sounded like, anyway–both DC and Marvel characters, who would your top 20 be and why?). After a while they exhausted that topic and moved onto discussing which body part they’d willingly give up if necessary. (My practical 12yo said appendix. Mine’s already been removed and I don’t miss it at all.) That conversation quickly veered into the surreal. Four hours of driving with three kids. The things you overhear.

Phew! I’m linking up with Jen again this week. How about you? What are you making? Overhear any good conversations lately?

Postcard Idea: Found Poetry

Postcard Idea: Found Poetry at

Suppose you want to participate in the summer postcard swap but you’re not sure what to do artistically? You could do something with words instead–such as found poetry.

To do this, first we looked through magazines, newspapers, and old books (the ones we have set aside for collage purposes) for interesting phrases that we liked. This is obviously easier for kids who can read, but my 5yo really wanted to join in, so I read phrases aloud to her and she cut out ones that she liked. But otherwise, let kids choose phrases they like themselves, with no in-between.

found poetry postcard at

Background: Liquid watercolors.

When we had phrases, we created the backgrounds. These can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Most of the ones here just use watercolors.

found poetry postcard at

Background: Ink doodles colored in with colored pencils.

I like to collect the phrases first and then arrange something from what I have, but my 12yo looked for phrases for a specific idea. There are no hard and fast rules here. The fun is in combining words that you didn’t find together to begin with.

found poetry postcard at

Background: Watercolor, with Sharpie pictures added after words were glued down.

My 5yo had me read all her cut-out phrases to her and then she arranged them according to some internal 5yo order. It came out sounding a bit like the Giant’s story in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales–which is also a pretty fun outcome.

We used a glue stick to adhere our words to our postcards. The ones with watercolor backgrounds are on watercolor paper, and the one with a colored pencil background is on Bristol board. You could do this on a solid color background, too…use whatever is on hand.

Have you started working on postcards yet? Share your thoughts/ideas in the comments, or add photos in progress to the Art Together Flickr group. And don’t forget to spread the word about the swap–the more the merrier!

Working My Way Through Paint Lab

{Jen has a review and giveaway of Art Together Issue Four: Mixed Media. Leave her a comment by Saturday for a chance to win–and go check out what she has to say!}

I bought myself a present recently–my own copy (versus the library copy) of Paint Lab: 52 Exercises Inspired by Artists, Materials, Time, Place, and Method, by Deborah Forman. I have some other books in the Lab Series, but this one has so many exercises I want to try that I decided to make a list and work my way through them. I’m not going in order–I’ll go back to skipped ones when I get the materials I’m lacking. For instance, Lab 4 requires glazing medium, and I don’t have any.

I’ve completed two and started a third, though, and I’m enjoying the exercise-ness of them. They remind me of art class assignments. It’s very much just working things out. I think maybe framing something as an exercise lets me sink into it in a different way. Sometimes I am playing around with technique or method while I’m art-making. Sometimes I’m trying to achieve a specific design or image. And with exercises it’s a bit of problem-solving within a framework. These different ways of working engage different parts of my brain. I remember enjoying my design class exercises in college, and these remind me of those in some ways.

Paint Lab #1 at

Paint Lab #1

This is layers of watercolor. All those dots? Pretty meditative. Not boring to do at all.

For Lab #5, Forman suggested doing the same design (created by collage first, then transferred) in two different color schemes. I also used two different types of paint and paper. The results are very different. In this first version, I used acrylic paint on canvas paper. I decided to use red, yellow, white, and green. Red and yellow are both warm colors, and green is red’s complement (it lies across it on the color wheel).

Paint Lab #5 at

Paint Lab #5, version 1.

For the second version, I used watercolors on watercolor paper. I used the analagous colors of blue, blue-green, and green, with orange, which is blue’s complement.

Paint Lab #5 at

Paint Lab #5 version 2.

I’ll keep posting these exercises as I do them. If anybody else has a copy of Paint Lab and wants to join in, please feel free to share links to posts or photos. It would be pretty cool to find others who have or who are working their way through the book, too.

Sketchbook Skool So Far

in the style of Sendak at

Sketching from Where the Wild Things Are to try on different styles.

We’re in Week Four (already!) of Sketchbook Skool. I signed up with the goal of using my sketchbook more and getting more out of it, and I think I am. My experiences with the instructors have been variable, but that’s to be expected, I think; different people have different styles and philosophies. I’m also at a different place in life than the instructors so far. They talk of how a sketchbook practice is easy to fit into a day, just 45 minutes to an hour! I’ve noticed that none of them are trying to draw while tending to the needs of a few kids. (To be fair, an hour of drawing would have been difficult on days I waitressed 12-hour shifts, too. These challenges aren’t confined to parents and I don’t mean to imply they are.) But as always, I work around my responsibilities and use the parts of the class that I can, as I can.

flowers sketchbook page at

Remembering special days via the sketchbook.

The first two instructors, Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene, both suggested starting off with pen, not pencil. I completely understand that philosophy–pencil can cause you to draw small and tight, over-focused on the perfect line, erasing as you go. But I don’t like starting with pen, and I don’t draw small and tight with pencil. I’m looser, putting down multiple lines, zeroing in on the one I want. I often leave those other lines in the drawing, liking the way they add energy to it. I did my homework using only the pen, but it didn’t change my mind much. However, because of Danny’s class, I’m adding a bit more text to some of my drawings.

sneakers sketchbook page at

Adding text to my drawing.

(An aside: One of his demonstrations was drawing breakfast before eating it. This really highlighted the different-place-in-life thing. I’ve gotten used to eating soggy cereal because morning is such a difficult time of day to sit for ten minutes straight to eat even that much. Imagine taking the time to draw your food before eating it! I’d end up with neither breakfast nor a drawing.)

fruit sketchbook page at

Jane LaFazio’s homework assignment involved using a grid.

This week’s instructor, Jane LaFazio, uses pencil to start with. Hurrah! I really like her style. It resonates quite a bit–she also carves stamps and uses textiles and embroiders and paints. It’s probably no surprise that I enjoy her work.

sea shell study at

I liked the homework so much I did it again with seashells.

I don’t get into the sketchbook every day, but I’m definitely having fun with it. Last night I spent several hours with those seashells, in between other tasks. We have two more weeks of Sketchbook Skool…I’m looking forward to seeing what the last two instructors have to offer.

I’m adding my sketchbook pages to a Flickr set, if you want to see more as I go on.

Collage Book

I think I’ve finally broken through my difficulty with “art journaling.”

cover of collage book at

Cover of a book-in-progress.

Part of my problem was trying to work in store-bought journals. So many pages! So. Many. Blank. Pages. I had two small pieces of really thick watercolor paper, so I sliced them both in half length-ways, painted them, folded them, and stitched them together. Now I have a 16-page book. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I knew I wanted to start with collages. So I did.

The pictures I chose began to turn into prompts for writing. I’ve been trying to work with memoir-specific writing prompts this month (from both Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg and Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart). But it can often be hard for me to remember things (part of the problem I’m trying to work on with the memoir prompts). What I found when I began playing with the images I had at my disposal and just choosing what I liked is that they brought certain things to mind.

spread from collage book at

A completed spread.

I liked the fish, so I glued the fish down. The fish made me think of Lenten Fridays during childhood, so I glued the pic of me on my First Communion day on the same page. (All the pics in this book are color photocopies of the originals.) And then I began writing. The images from a pattern envelope of course led me to write about my mother sewing me clothes.

I have some pages ready for writing and doodling…

collage book pages ready for writing at

And lots of pages that have neither images nor words yet.

collage book blank pages at

So this can be a project for quite a while. I…I’m really loving it.


Since today is the first day of one of my favorite months, National Poetry Month, I wanted to share a bit of poetry, too. (Look for that all month long.) This is an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “Black Oaks,” found in the book Blue Iris:

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight
from one boot to another–why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,
I don’t even want to come out of the rain.