Painting an abstract is harder than it looks!


My abstract painting sat unfinished for longer than I care to admit. I thought it would be so easy, but after I painted the background colors, I was stumped. I even tried to get my faithful readers to vote on how I should finish it. Needless to say, they were as uninterested as I was!

Finally, I’m ready to bite the bullet, and just finish! I have to admit I have been itching to buy new canvases to start a couple of new projects. But, I am forcing myself to finish a couple of the outstanding paintings: the abstract, the jellyfish, and (I can’t forget) the bike! Okay, so I may not finish all of them!

I did a couple of sketches (freehand and on the computer) to determine a direction for the abstract painting. I am most interested in #1, the bird on the branches. I’m going to search online for a stock photo, to use as reference for my tree.

4sketches canvas

I found an image I liked and started painting. The branches were a lot more detailed, than in my sketches. Every time I work on a drawing or painting of a tree, I notice I tend to make the branches going in a similar direction. To compensate for this, I’m turning the canvas, every so often. I like how it is coming out so far, but I think it needs more branches! Leave it to me to turn an “abstract” into a detailed painting of a tree. I just can’t help myself!

I finally got the hang of painting branches. I applied the blunt part of my square brush onto the canvas. I got a much more realistic limb, than when I was doing strokes with the brush.

step1 step2 step3

I’m almost there. I just need to fix a couple of the branches that look weird because they get thicker, further up the tree, which is probably physically impossible! I could add branches forever…time to stop!


The final step is adding the bird. I’m nervous about where to place him! In the end, I don’t think this painting qualifies as an abstract! But, I’m happy with how it turned out. (And that it is done.)


Having fun with watercolor in my sketchbook!

Day two and I’m really enjoying painting with watercolor in my sketchbook.

This was my breakfast.


This is what I WISH my breakfast was!


And, I’m when I need to mix colors, I’m using a small piece of tinfoil, to keep my palette as clean as yesterday!

Adding Watercolor to my Sketchbook

I was sketching every other day, until recently. I was getting bored and running out of things to draw. I decided to add watercolor to my sketchbook, but first I had to do a little housekeeping. I did what I’ve wanted to do for a while – scrubbed my watercolor palette. I was starting fresh.

Keeping to the arrangement of the color wheel, I added a dollop of paint to each section. I mixed a few of the colors, that I didn’t have in tubes. It’s been a while since I’ve used watercolor. Some of my tubes would not open. The tubes twisted and paint squirted out from all sides. It was a bit of a mess!


I know the sketchbook paper isn’t ideal for watercolor. It will wrinkle, if it gets too wet. But in my mind, my sketchbook is meant to be quick, no pressure, play around, keep the creative juices flowing, and get my skills “in shape.” So, I’m not worried about the paper.

Once I got started I realized I missed watercolor! There is so much you can do! It is fun to wet sections of the page and let interesting things happen, let colors blend. Or add detail to a dry part of the paper, with a dry brush and paint that is directly from the tube. And in between these two techniques (wet on wet and dry on dry), are tons of other options! There was a time that I painted exclusively in watercolor. Here are a couple of my older paintings.

centralpark dogwoodwatercolor

For my second watercolor sketch, I first drew (in pencil) a few flowers and leaves from the Burpee (plant and seed) catalog. There are beautiful pictures in there! I wet the background area, then added in wet paint and let it run. After the background dried, I painted the flowers and leaves, using a combination of wet painting and finally, dry details. It was fun! And “sketching” in watercolor might lead to ideas for paintings – watercolor or acrylic.



Paper Quilt – No sewing required!

When I saw a paper quilt on the Country Living magazine website (from Linda & Harriett – see links below), I knew I had to make one. I have always wanted to make a quilt, but I can’t sew! I wanted to go to the craft store and get paper, but it was pouring out, so I decided to use what I had, including pieces of a gift bag.

The Country Living quilt calls for 2″ squares of paper in 4 different styles (20 squares of 3 styles, 21 squares of 1 style). I have a 1″ square punch, so I decided to use that and make my quilt with 1″ squares. I drew out a grid of 9 rows and 9 columns, so I could plan my design and play with different paper options. Since I was unsure of which papers to use, I decided to follow the Country Living design. I wanted to use mostly greens, because St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner.

I selected 4 paper styles and punched out my squares. I also punched out shamrocks. I placed the squares on the grid, following the Country Living design. I took a photo and swapped out one of the papers. I tried a couple of options, taking photos of each one, so I could compare. I decided to go with the last option I tried.

paperquilt1paperquilt2 paperquilt3 paperlast

Since the grid I drew wasn’t perfect, I got a new piece of paper to glue the squares on. Using a glue stick, I started in the corner, using the edges of the paper as a guide to keep everything as even as possible. After it was done, I trimmed off the unused paper. I mounted my quilt on a piece of card stock.


I couldn’t be happier with the results! It is going on my mantle! What a fun project.


Visit my Etsy shop for downloadable clipart:
St. Patrick's Day Watercolor clipart | leprechauns pot of gold rainbow shamrocks

and invitation borders:
St. Patrick's Day shamrocks invitation border printable invitation card

Order some St. Patrick’s Day flair in my Zazzle shop!

St. Patrick’s Day #patricks #day #pins #hat

Create an Irish Blessing sign with this downloadable pdf and transfer tips.

Irish Blessing Free Download. Info on Citrasolv transfers.

Country Living
Linda & Harriett

How my office turned into my studio

Recently, I started hanging my finished paintings in my “studio.” The studio was originally “the office,” until the easel arrived. Then, I started calling it the studio. Makes me feel like a real artist! I feel proud when I glance over and see what I’ve accomplished. The wall motivates me. Plus, the wall, was a plain, boring thing, before the paintings brighten things up!


Another benefit to hanging my work, is “seeing” my development. I try to learn from my mistakes, but not to fixate on them. What’s done is done. I love the orange I painted awhile back. Shortly after it, I tried to follow up that success with limes, but I don’t like them as much. The limes are too flat looking. There isn’t enough shading to make it 3D looking. When I look at my apple, I feel like I made a giant leap forward.

orange limes apples

One thing I need to do, is sign my paintings! My drawing teacher, Eva, always stressed, “Sign your work!” Before the Tootsie Roll painting, I hadn’t signed most of my paintings. I didn’t feel confident signing with a paintbrush. I knew it was a mistake, to not do it then, because I had all the colors mixed and ready. Now, I’m not sure what color I’ll sign them in. Do most painters sign in black? Awhile back I signed a couple of paintings with a paint pen and immediately hated the way it looked. It wasn’t loose enough. You could tell, I didn’t use a paintbrush. When I finished the Tootsie Roll, I practice with a couple of small stiff brushes, and was able to do a decent signature. But, I still need practice. Nothing finalizes a painting, like signing your name!

I’ve also been organizing the office (I mean the studio!). It’s therapeutic to clean, organize and get rid of the clutter. I feel inspired looking through my old stuff and it reminds me of projects I was interested in, but didn’t pursue…yet.

I have a bulletin board that runs the length of my counter top. I’d like to better utilize it as a “project board,” and include reference photos, notes, and inspiration for current and future projects. I spent time on the project board this morning, and I’m already, loving the results! Notice, front and center is the bike, which I have yet to complete. Hard to forget about it now!

Spending time on my workspace, helps me work more efficiently. It clears my mind. Now, I feel ready to get to work!

project board 2

Painting Candy

Happy Valentine’s Day! When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of love…just kidding…I think of candy!! I love candy. I love sweets. I am a sugar addict. Recently, I was looking through my artwork and I had to laugh at all the sweets I’ve drawn and painted.

Colored pencil:

gumball machine cupcake

Acrylic paint:

hard candy

My favorite candy is Tootsie Rolls. Years ago, I started a painting of Tootsie Rolls and of course, never finished. I decided to dust it off and finish. Sometimes it’s hard going back to an old project. I’ve learned a lot since I started this painting. If I was doing it from scratch today, I would paint it differently.

Tootsie Rolls tootsie1

I decided not to over think it, and move forward with what I have. It was an ambitious project, from the beginning, trying to paint the lettering correctly. That is probably why I put the project aside – I got to the hard part. Originally, my plan was to print something to use as a stencil for the lettering. I’ve decided not to do this, but to do my best, and freehand it. I wish I had a bag of Tootsie Rolls to inspire me!

I used a small stiff brush and white paint, that wasn’t too heavy. I decided to sketch in the placement of the letters and then, fill them in. I realized my Tootsie Roll shape was too long, but as I said, I’m trying to do the best with what I have.

tootsie2 tootsie3 tootsie4 tootsie5

I also realized that, there are letters all over the painting, not just on the primary Tootsie Roll. Ugh, I don’t think I’m going to do those too. I’ll have to tone down the Tootsie Rolls in the background. So, they are not so obvious. I’m also going to have to mix more brown paint, whether I want to or not. I stacked my canvases, probably not a wise idea, and they stuck together in spots. When I separated them, the paint came off.

This project reminds me of the artist who paints in Walmart. He literally pushes his supplies around in a shopping cart and stands in the aisles painting. I especially love his close up paintings, of different packaging.

I filled in the letters a few times, then I mixed brown and refined the edges of the letters. I applied the brown all over, then, mixed a lighter shade to put on the front side of my Tootsie Roll. I used a brownish white for the “Roll” letters on the farther side of the Tootsie Roll. I went over the main Tootsie Roll letters on the front side again. I was getting a little crazy with it. I knew it wasn’t perfect. I tried to remember the “Walmart” artist, and how he paints the logos very loose. I put a brownish wash over the letters to tone down the white.

tootsie6 tootsie7 tootsiealmost

I had to touch up one area, of the letters, that was driving me crazy. Okay now, here is the final painting. It’s probably the Graphic Designer in me, but I find packaging interesting. An idea for the next painting – a can of Redpack Tomato Puree. How very Warhol that would be!


Procrastination and Painting

Today was the first day, in weeks, that I’ve had a quiet house, all to myself. The kids were at school, and my husband was at work. Perfect day to paint, right? Right! After a second cup of coffee, it was time to get started.

But, first I had to clean out my pocketbook, throw in a load of laundry, clean my palettes, find tissues, and search for ‘8os music. What? It seemed like I was doing everything to avoid starting. And the ’80’s music? I have no idea, where that, came from. But, after I got a pandora station playing ’80s alternative music, I was a happy camper and got to work. (After I found hand cream and cleaned the papers off my desk!)

Over the weekend, I painted a purple/blue medium tone for the base coat of my jellyfish painting. As I mixed the color, I thought, “How much should I mix?” Ironically, I had to mix the color, no joke, four times. I, obviously, underestimated how much paint, the raw canvas needed! The color wasn’t the same every time I mixed it, but the base color will be covered, for the most part.

As I worked, I focused on being neater. I took the time to set up the area around my easel. Each time I work with the easel, things go smoother. But, the easel is still a little unstable. Could it be that extra screw, I didn’t use?! Read my recent post and you’ll see why I don’t read instructions! Part of my homework for next time is to fix this problem.)

As I was mixing my colors (from thalo blue, cadmium red, and cadmium yellow), I realized that I may not be able to achieve the electric purple in the photo. I may have to incorporate a premixed color. Not only was I struggling with the background color, I was struggling with the color of the jellyfish. I printed a reference photo and marked a simple grid on it. On my canvas, with painters tape, I marked the same halfway points. I wanted to make sure that the jellyfish, were in the correct spots. I “sketched” the shapes of the jellyfish (using paint).


I may have procrastinated starting, but time flew as I worked. I painted for almost two hours, and I think I accomplished a lot. I didn’t achieve the bright purple background color, but I’m happy with the color I have.


I was so focused on cleaning up, that I almost forgot to write my plan for the next day. Through the process of writing this blog, I’ve come to realize how important, for me, a plan is. For the jellyfish painting, my plan is to work on refining the color of the jellyfish. Since I’ve been struggling, I’m going try using the eyedropper tool, in Adobe Photoshop, to help me pinpoint the colors in the photo.

Is my astrological sign affecting my painting?

I had a bit of an epiphany, while I was working on my apple painting. I’ve written, several times, about how I get anxious on day two of a project. As I wrote in my last post,

“(On) day one, I’m excited and enthusiastic. Day two, I’m reluctant, anxious, intimidated…I have to push myself to continue with a project.” I forced myself, to get back to work on the apple painting, and as I worked, I came up with a plan for the next day. “I realized having a plan, made starting up easier. I didn’t feel as intimidated. Also, I know from experience, once I get started, I’m usually fine. I now know, that, before I step away from I project, I need to have a plan for the next day.”

I decided to search online, for traits that apply to my sign, Aries. I’m not that into astrology, but I couldn’t believe how dead on the description of Aries (on Huffington Post) was.

Aries motto is “Ready, fire, aim!” It may be backwards for others, but you’d rather figure out what to do while you are doing it. Impulsive actions, however, can bring you your share of trouble. While others are gathering information to make informed decisions, you are already on your way. As such, you could suffer from false starts. In fact, you Aries are so good at starting things that you can be off onto your next project before completing the previous one. As you Aries mature, you learn to slow down your reaction time in order to think about the consequences of your actions.”

That is totally me! Whenever, I try to put something together, and hit a snag, my husband will say, “Did you read the directions?” I, of course, am like, directions? Who needs those?! Obviously me, that’s why I’ve hit a snag!

The part about starting projects, but then moving on, really hit home. Since I started, I’ve been forcing myself to finish projects and it has been really satisfying.

For me, the “Ready, fire, aim!” motto, is so true, and may be the reason, I had all those unfinished paintings. I start a project, but get to a point, where I’m not sure how to finish. Instead of working through it, I put the project aside. This just reaffirms how important “a plan” is (and yes honey, those instructions). I will no longer, step away from a painting, without thinking about what the next steps are.

Today, I finished my apple painting. Words can’t describe how good it feels. I was a little nervous finishing, because I felt so close, and I didn’t want to ruin it. But, I had a plan (to add paint to the stem and the area behind the stem) and I executed it. Yeah me!


I also started the jellyfish painting, that I’ve been planning, since I took this photo. I covered the canvas in a medium tone blue/purple. The plan for next time is, to sketch in (with paint) the jellyfish and then add the water around them. I’m excited!

jellyfish basecolor

Check out your sign’s traits at:

  • Select your sign
  • Scroll down to “about the sign”
  • Enjoy! Let me know if anything rings true for you!

I wish there was an “undo” button, while I’m painting

I was very excited to try out my new easel. I was less excited, to continue painting my apple. I need to coin a phrase, to describe the feeling I get, on day two of a project. Day one, I’m excited and enthusiastic. Day two, I’m reluctant, anxious, intimidated. Whatever the word, I have to push myself to continue with a project. Do other creative people feel this way?

Regardless of how I was feeling, I got to work on my apple. I set the easel up near the window, for natural light. Logistically, it was a nightmare. I was so far away from my palettes, with my mixed paint. And even further from the computer, where my reference photo was on the screen. (The color is never as good when I print it.) I stood at my easel, and every time I tried to get closer to the painting, I’d kick one of the legs and the whole easel would tilt.

I was working on the bottom quarter of the painting, the table, where the apples sit. In order, to be able, to paint the bottom edge, I turned the painting upside down. My acrylic painting teacher told me, to make an area (like a table) less flat looking, paint it dark to light or warm to cool (or the reverse of either). I decided to darken the table as I got closer to the apples. I also added in some greens, for the stem and the area around the seeds.

I was, feeling all over the place (literally), and I was in a rush, as I had to leave the house at a specific time. As I was adding a bit more paint, before I left, I literally said out loud, “I have to stop, I’m ruining it.” Before I left, I turned the painting right side up.

While I was out, all I could think about, was that I ruined the painting. I loved it the first day. Maybe I shouldn’t have done the gradual darkening of the table? Maybe I should have left it “flat” looking? Isn’t that a painting style?

I wish there was an “undo” button. When I work, as a Graphic Designer, any time I don’t like the last couple steps I’ve taken, I just click “Edit, Undo.” There is also “Edit, Step Backward,” and “Revert to Saved.” Basically, there are tons of ways, to go back to where you started. Sometimes, while painting, I wish I had one of these options.

A funny thing happened when I got home. I turned on the light, saw the apple painting on the easel, and thought, “Wow, it looks good!” I was so surprised.

A couple of days later, when I had time to paint, I knew what area I wanted to work on. I realized having a plan, made starting up easier. I didn’t feel as intimidated. Also, I know from experience, once I get started, I’m usually fine. I now know, that before I step away from I project, I need to have a plan for the next day.

Working with the easel, was much better, the second time around. I printed my reference photo and hung it near the easel. I brought my palette to the easel, instead of walking back and forth. Be prepared to laugh. I realized the curved area on either side of my easel, is so I can comfortably hold it! I sat on a stool and didn’t kick the easel once!


As far as the painting itself, I darkened the background directly behind the apples. I added details to all the apples. The only thing I need to finish, is the stem and the area behind the stem. That is my plan, and I am excited to attack it next time!


The Five Minute Sketch

I am proud of how, I have kept, my creative resolution, this past month. I spent a lot of my creative time, painting in acrylics, which is something I’ve wanted to focus on, for a while. In a short amount of time, I’ve refined my skills and I’m happy with my progress. I plan on continuing with acrylics, in the next few months.

Another part of my resolution was, filling my sketchbook, which I’ve been lax about. I’ve done 12 sketches, which might sound decent, until I admit that, four of them were done in one day, and most were done right after the first of the year. If my resolution was dieting, I surely wouldn’t be losing any weight!

Yesterday, I did a quick sketch. As I sketched my running sneakers, I decided to renew my resolution to sketch more, and decided I would do quick five minute sketches. It’s an experiment in “what can I accomplish in a short time?” It also feels like, less of a commitment, if I only have to pick up the book for five minutes. I don’t want projects, in my sketchbook, “hanging over my head.” As I’ve mentioned before, I’m great at starting projects, but it takes real effort, on my part, to finish them. I just want the sketchbook to be, practice time or a way of keeping track of ideas.

sneaker sketch

For the past month, I’ve kept my sketchbook on my nightstand, which has been a great reminder. I’ll continue to do this, but now I plan on picking it up more often! I’m interested in hearing from you! How do you guarantee you spend time on your projects? Do you allocate a certain time each day, or week? Do you work on a project from start to finish or in bits and pieces, like me?

My sneakers caught my eye yesterday, because, drawing shoes, was one of the first projects in my first drawing class (several years ago). My teacher, Eva, was a thin, fragile, soft spoken, much older woman. The first day of class, I hate to admit this, I looked at her and thought, is she 90? Am I going to learn anything?

Needless to say, Eva proved me wrong. Within a week or two, I had an “aha” moment and my drawings went from outlines to shaded, three-dimensional looking objects. I loved Eva, she taught me so much and was so supportive. I enrolled in her class, several times and was very sad when she retired. I certainly learned not to judge a book by its cover!

When Eva asked that we bring in a pair of old shoes to draw, I chose my son’s worn baby shoes. I went on to draw my daughter’s first ballet shoes and much later, my other son’s soccer cleats. I think Eva thought worn shoes were a great subject, because of all the nooks and crannies. There is so much shading and detail to add. I think shoes are hard to draw! Getting the perspective and foreshortening to look right, is a real challenge.

babyshoes balletshoes cleats

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