I love watercolor – how you can add more and more water, how easily it spreads on the paper. I occasionally paint with acrylics but find myself struggling with them. They don’t spread as easily and you can’t add too much water because it breaks down the paint. Last weekend I took an online acrylic class “Acrylic Painting: Abstract Landscapes” with Megan Elizabeth, which focused on painting a seascape.
Often I try to figure things out myself, but I thought it would be a fun project for the weekend and might provide some insight into my own struggles with acrylics. The class, which is suitable for beginners, is easy to follow. I enjoyed learning how someone else approaches painting a seascape – which is my favorite subject. The biggest take away for me was observing the paints Megan uses – which are much more fluid than the heavy body ones I have. And she doesn’t mix her colors. She blends on the canvas. I’m always struggling with mixing the right color and then running out and not having enough. Definitely food for thought when I try my next seascape canvas.
Taking a class often reveals nuggets that can enhance your own art practice. They might not even be a key element to the lesson, but have value to you at for where you are in your art practice. I’ll never forget taking Val Webb’s Drawing Children class where she explained the nuances of a child’s face. I realized drawing (or painting) something involves knowing your subject really, really well. I applied this lesson to seascapes and spent more time observing the ocean.
Ultimately we take advice from others and roll it into the way we prefer to do things. I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to hold a brush and they reveal differing opinions. It’s good to know other options on how do things and then you can decide what works best for you.
I was sewing the other day. Trying to make a few new masks. Sewing is a new thing for me. I’ve tried it here and there over the years but waited so long in between that it always felt like starting over. Now that I’ve been doing it more regularly, I’m getting the hang of it. There isn’t as much of a struggle.
As I sewed I wondered what new things – art, craft, baking, etc. – I would carry on with after quarantine is over? Based on what I see online, lots of people are trying their hand at new things – baking bread, painting, etc. or getting back to things they used to enjoy – puzzles, game night, taking walks, etc. What will we take with us into the new normal of life?
The silver lining in self quarantine is that some of us have had this time to explore things we normally don’t have time to explore. A friend of my sister’s messaged me and said she hadn’t painted in decades, but wanted to try again and asked what paint and tutorials I recommended. Often it is hard to know where to start.
How do you know what medium to begin with? How do you find an art medium that speaks to you? I went through this myself when I started My Creative Resolution. Throughout the process of exploration painting in watercolor was what rose to the top. For you it may be something totally different. But how do you find your thing?
I’ve developed a process for you to follow, that walks you through trying things, while developing a regular practice of creativity. Fifteen minutes a day can be sufficient! We start with the basics, no fancy supplies needed, and slowly work up to trying other mediums. There is room for your interests here. After all, your exploratory journey should be based on you!
Sometimes the hardest part (of anything) is starting. So many things can hold you back – fear, uncertainty, a lack of confidence. It’s important to take stock of those things so they don’t slow you down.
Since I was young I’ve loved art, but like many people, I got away from it. But the desire to be creative stuck with me, even if it was dormant for a long time. It wasn’t until I had a career and family before the desire was stronger than all the things holding me back.
Before I started my creative journey, I looked at those things holding me back. I was able to shift my way of thinking. It wasn’t about what other people thought about my abilities and what I might make, it was about me, and my love for creating. There would always be people who didn’t like what I made. This shift in thinking freed me up to move forward.
I’ve never looked back and never regretted committing time and energy to creativity. It fills me up and brings me so much joy!
Last week I wrote about how I needed a “project” to inspire and motivate me. I was sitting down to paint less and less. I thought a two week project would be good – not too long, but long enough that there might be some progress in this pandemic situation. Last week’s post includes the steps to pick a project – read it here.
When I developed my 4 week “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program I dedicated one week to painting like the masters. Each week of the program is a different theme – Parisian Food, the Architecture, the Masters, the Palace of Versailles. During the masters week, we paint like Monet. I loved this project! I found painting with Monet’s color palette to be so interesting. And so when I picked my new project, I chose to paint like Monet.
Originally my plan was to paint anything, and work in Monet’s palette. That has morphed into painting his paintings. Today I painted the Waterlilies and the Japanese Bridge. It was so fun!
This kind of project makes me feel like I’m working on a school project – researching, learning. I love that my work over the next 2 weeks won’t be random, but will have a theme to tie it together.
If you are looking for a project, the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program is a great deep dive into Paris. I learned so much about Paris and I share it all. I grew so much as an artist during the program! Real growth happens when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Learn more here.
I remember a saying when I was a kid, “You can be anything you set your mind to.” During self quarantine I’ve been thinking a lot about time. I think the saying really should be “You can be anything (or do anything) you set your TIME to.”
As I pursue new things – some out of curiosity, some out of necessity, some out of both – I realize now more than ever how important time is. Time waiting for the dough to rise. Time practicing sewing to make masks. Taking my time giving my husband a haircut.
Setting our mind to something, having a goal or intention, is important but it’s only the first step. Spending time working on something is the essential ingredient. Each time I bake bread I learn more about the process. The more I sit down to sew, the less it feels like starting over. I threaded the bobbin again today!
I have more time these days. I think it’s important to be intentional about what I spend my time on. I can do anything!
I’ve been thinking I need a creative project to help motivate me during self quarantine, especially since things don’t seem to be opening up any time soon. If this is going to continue – for 2 weeks, a month, more? – it would be nice to have something to do, practice a skill, and work towards a goal or final product.
It’s a challenge to pick a project. I definitely have ideas, but it’s like standing at a fork in the road and not knowing which direction to take. Here’s how to pick a creative project:
Step 1. Write down all the ideas that have been floating around your head.
Step 2. Evaluate the ideas. Which items are things you really want to work on? Which project would yield results you’d be especially excited about? Which project could you see yourself being excited about every day?
Here’s my list so far:
Drawing Lesson – Continue developing my online drawing lesson.
iPad drawing – practice
Color Wheel Book – Continue working on – illustrate
Clay – Learn polymer clay and create sea creatures (as an example for in person art camp project).
Watercolor – work on a specific subject or in specific colors
Video – Create another video promo.
My list is often filled with things I think I should do or would like the final results of, but not things I feel like working on EVERY DAY.
Having trouble picking one idea? Sometimes we don’t know until we try. Spend a day sampling the project ideas you are most interested in. Spend 15-20 minutes on each project. Which one sparks the most interest and excitement?
Step 3. Pick a project. Make a decision and stick with it.
Step 4. Plan your creative time. Pick the time (and place) that you will work on this project. It’s easier to remember and make it happen if it’s every day at the same time. Things don’t happen if you don’t plan for them to happen.
Step 5. Follow through! Every project has peaks and valleys. Push through the hard days, do the work and the results will follow. Even 15 minutes a day adds up and is progress!
For weeks I’ve wanted to try sewing a mask, but I don’t really know how to sew. From time to time I try, but then so much time passes I forget everything. It’s like starting over every time. I dusted off the machine and prayed it would work and that I wouldn’t have to do anything complicated with the bobbin. No such luck, the stitches were all wonky. When I looked closely at the bobbin, it didn’t appear to be threaded correctly. With the machine’s instruction manual at my side, I was able to rethread the bobbin. Finally, I was sewing! I’ll admit all my movements are awkward. I said to my husband, if sewing was cooking, I’d say, “I can’t even boil water.” Trying to pin the fabric was a struggle. Why did my mother make me take physics instead of Home Ec? I’ll tease her about that forever.
Finally, I made a mask! It was pretty decent! The second one wasn’t so great. The next night I tried again and the two I made came out okay. The following night was even better. I’m seeing improvement every day! That’s what happens when we keep practicing right? I’ve been experimenting to see which tutorial video mask I like the best. These are the 3 I’ve tried. #1 fits around the nose. #2 and #3 have folds and expand over your face. They all have aspects I like. Does anyone have a mask tutorial they recommend?
The unexpected bonus is that I can finally make something with the fabrics I designed! I have a pile of fabric samples. Recently I designed a new one with watercolor smiles on it. It’s what I miss about going to the supermarket – you can’t see anyone’s smile. You can check out my fabric designs on Spoonflower here or visit Spoonflower and design your own! Not sure how to create a repeating pattern from your artwork? Read this post.
I miss teaching the kids at the art studio! We are all stuck home trying to stay motivated and creative. The positive in all of this is I’ve had time to develop a new watercolor lesson specifically for beginners with kids, and the young at heart, in mind – Watercolor Ice Cream Cones!
In this video painting lesson I’ve broken down the steps for painting ice cream cones. I introduce each step and then explain it. Kids can follow along, listening and watching, and then pause the lesson to complete that step. At any point they can go back to watch a step again.
At any level, the results of this painting project are beautiful! It’s fun to complete the lesson more than once because with different color choices the final watercolor ice cream cones paintings will be quite different!
Throughout the lesson participants will learn the difference between wet and dry painting, as well as several watercolor fun techniques!
The lesson is an afternoon of painting fun and learning watercolor! The running time of the video is 20 minutes, but there are three places where the paint needs to dry before moving on. (Twice for 15 minutes. Once for about an hour.)
After you purchase the video lesson, download the pdf file made available to you. It contains the link and password to access the lesson, and the list of supplies. Help the kids gather the supplies, access the video and they will be on their way to a fun time painting!
I would love to see their final paintings! Tag me on Instagram @eileenmckenna.
If you are new to watercolor – welcome! Watercolor is one of the most fun mediums. When painting with watercolor, aside from paint, water is the key ingredient. Water on the paper, how much water is mixed with the paint, and how much water is on your brush.
Water on the paper. If your paper is wet, the paint you add will spread quickly and even bleed into areas you didn’t touch with your brush.
Tip: Wetting your paper before adding paint, is a fun technique which leads to interesting backgrounds with colors blending into one another. Avoid too much water that leads to puddles on your paper. When puddles occur soak up the excess water and paint with a dry brush or paper towel.
Water mixed with paint. The more water you mix with your paint, the less saturated the color will be and the more transparent it will be on the paper.
Tip: Always test your brush on scrap paper before touching your painting so you aren’t surprised by the results.
Water on your brush. A brush dripping with water and paint will spread easily even on dry paper. A dry brush will not spread smoothly, but will go on more irregularly – missing some areas of paper.
Tip: To dry your brush blot it on a paper towel and soak up the extra water.
Experiment! Try out the different ways water changes how paint interacts with paper. You may feel you have no control with watercolor, but the more you know and can anticipate how the paint will react to situations, the more control you have.
For a while now I’ve been frustrated with my watercolor skies. If I don’t paint them lightly, they end up looking weird. It’s hard to describe but the paint looks funny – like a pattern of little blooms. Instead of smooth, they have a texture. I’ve wanted to seek help on this issue, but I was having a hard time articulating my problem.
A search on Pinterest for “watercolor skies” led me to Susan Chiang’s blog where I saw the phrase “granulating pigments.”
This is my issue!
Susan says, “When picking your blues, take note of granulating pigments. This will vary based on the color and manufacturer so the best way is to test it out yourself on a piece of paper.”
Now I know it’s a characteristic of the paint that is working against me and the look I want to achieve. Progress!