Watercolor Basics ~ Paper (5 Tips)

It’s Back to School time, so I thought it would be a great time to go back to basics, Watercolor Basics. Let’s talk about paper. When I first started out in watercolor I was using the wrong paper. Watercolor paper is specially designed for watercolor paint – it has texture, absorbs the paint, and can withstand a good amount of “working” at your painting before the paper starts to break down.

I resisted at first because I wanted a very white paper. I was using a paper that had a coating on it and the coating was preventing the paper from absorbing the paint. Eventually I found watercolor papers that were the cool white I wanted. Once I made the switch I realized what a difference the paper actually makes. 

I now use cold pressed paper. What does that mean? According to watercoloraffair.com,

“In a nutshell, the terms “hot press” and “cold press” refer to the paper’s surface finish or texture. Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish. You will also hear artists talking about the tooth of the paper.”

The paper I use most often is Fluid Easy Block Fluid Watercolor Blocks, most often the 9″ x 12″ size.

Watercolor Paper Tips:

  • Always use watercolor paper or a multimedia paper – this is the multimedia sketchbook I use.
  • Before I paint, I trim my paper to 9″ x 11″. This creates a painting that fits nicely in mats and frames for 8″ x 10″ artwork. Before I started trimming the paper my paintings were too long for the mats and too much wasn’t visible in a standard mat. I use this mat set for 8″ x 10″ artwork. It includes the mat, backing board, and a clear bag to protect your matted artwork.
  • Always tape down your paper to a board using painter’s tape. I use the cardboard back of old art pads. The cardboard needs to be larger than your paper.I use a painter’s tape like this one. I prefer tape that is less than an inch wide. The reason for taping down your paper is that water and paint causes paper to buckle. Taping your paper to a board helps keep the paper flat.

  • It is important to use the correct side of the paper. The side facing up when you take a sheet off the pad. If you have trouble keeping track – make a small pencil x mark on the back side of the paper.
  • Even though the paper is made for watercolor — Don’t rub your brush too hard or the paper will start to come apart. This can also happen when you overwork a section of your painting.

Other Watercolor Basics posts: 
Brushes: What types of brushes should you use?
Paint: What type of paint should you use?

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!
Watercolor Basics ~ Paper | What type of paper should you use and other tips for painting with watercolor

Just 10 Minutes

Back to painting in watercolor

Sometimes life gets in the way of creativity and we are running around doing other things. Between teaching art and finalizing my new Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide, I haven’t had time to paint. Well maybe I’ve had time, but not the motivation. Every time I walk past my paints – set up at the family room table – and see the blank sketchbook page I think, “I have to paint today,” and then I keep walking.

Today is the day. Just 10 minutes is enough to get me back into painting. Now I’m excited. I have plenty of reference photos on my phone – things that have been inspiring me, including surf from the recent tropical storm. I’m halfway to my paints already.

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

For the Love of Watercolor

For the love of watercolor   | watercolor for beginners how to guide

Over a decade ago as a young mom, I took a drawing class followed by a watercolor class. A few years later, I got serious about creating everyday and started my blog. I set out to explore every medium in search of my thing. The early days of my blog involved pencil sketches and working with acrylics. Then one day I decided to add color to my sketchbook and pulled out my watercolors. BAM! It hit me – I loved watercolor! I never put them away again.

Over the last few years I have developed watercolor painting projects and other learning resources in PDF and video form. Today I’m super excited to announce my new guide called “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

Ready to get started in watercolor? Check out “Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises and projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor

What’s in the downloadable pdf guide: 5 chapters, 5 painting projects, 50 pages.

The exercises and painting projects walk you through and build upon the fundamentals of watercolor. 

The 5 painting projects include:

  1. Starfish Painting
  2. Birch Tree Forest Painting
  3. Ice Cream Cones Painting
  4. Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake Illustration
  5. Seascape Painting

Start your watercolor journey today! Learn more here.

What is holding you back from creativity?

Often 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. So you can move forward.

Since I was young I 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 became stronger than the things holding me back.

Before I started my creative exploration journey, I took stock of all the things holding me back. One worry I had was about other people judging me and anything I might create. I realized creating wasn’t about how others viewed my abilities and “talent.” Creating was about me, and how it made me feel. 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!

Are you ready to get started? The first step in my book “Creative Exploration” is Creative Reflection. Uncover what I’d holding YOU back so you can start YOUR creative journey. Start now by clicking here!

Creative Exploration | How to be creative How to start an art practice
Start your creative journey today!

What is holding you back from creativity? Start an art practice Explore creativity

A Project to Motivate and Inspire

Watercolor poppies

I need a project to motivate and inspire me. Something to break up the routine and dull-drums of the week. Without a project I’m bored.

For me, a project doesn’t need to come from someone else. I’m just as motivated by my own projects and challenges. A deadline certainly helps, even if it’s self imposed.

Right now I’m embracing the freedom to work on anything now that my “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” project has wrapped up. But I also need something to get me excited to create and to hold me accountable.

I took a trip down memory lane to review some of my bigger projects:

  • This Blog – when I started it and it was new, it was so motivating! I finished so many projects just because I wanted to post the final product. “Finishing” was a skill I had to learn.
  • Designing one fabric a month. In the early days of the blog I was so intrigued by surface design! I now have a collection of fabric designs on Spoonflower.
  • Month Long Challenges – I participated in several, back to back challeges – InkTober, a month of World Watercolor Group’s prompts (food), and my own Countdown to Christmas. These focused months led to me dedicating myself to…
  • Painting Watercolor Seascapes – Originally a month long project it lasted well beyond that (a year?, 2 years?), and is still a focus of mine. I’ve just launched an watercolor seascape painting online lesson to share all I’ve learned.
  • Acrylic Seascapes – I dedicated a month to exploring seascapes in acrylics. I learned so much and progressed so much. I’m dying to get back to acrylics!
  • The 100 Day Challenge – I participated in the 100 Day Challenge and focused on illustrated map making, something I was curious about for years. The project was great, but map making was a side interest that took over and 100 days was way too long. I didn’t make it to the end.
  • Finalizing my book on creativity. Since the early days of the blog I had ideas for a book. Finally I committed to finishing it and hired an editor as the accountability I needed to finish -> Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.
  • “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” – After our trip to Paris, I was so excited to paint what inspired me. I decided to invite others along via a paid email series. The program included four weekly emails with watercolor tips, a Paris theme, specific prompts with details and links to learn more, reference photos, and videos of my process painting each prompts. Turning the idea to paint Paris into a shared experience pushed me and motivated me so much! I dove much deeper into the theme than I would have if I painted alone. But I almost bit off more than I could chew – painting and filming and editing five videos a week was a lot even without the technical issues I experienced. But, I learned so much.

A project is great because it gets you excited and forces you to focus, but it’s important to remember that saying yes to one thing is essentially saying no to other things. I want to be intentional about picking my next project. In the meantime, I’m painting poppies. 🙂

Start your creative journey with:
Creative Exploration book -
Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life
– Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

ONLINE LEARNING
easy watercolor online lesson for beginners fun project Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners

Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!

Take control of where you are headed in the new year and reach your goals!
Sometimes we coast through our days, time passes, and we find ourselves no closer to reaching our goals. This year be intentional, set a goal for the year, and focus on that one thing. Set yourself up for success by creating a plan.

Write it down! What is your goal for the year? Be specific!

What steps are necessary to achieve this goal? If needed, do research to help you answer this question.

Schedule time to work towards your goal. Even a small amount of time adds up. When will you work towards your goal?

Invest in your goal – buy running gear, art supplies, a camera, or whatever thing supports your goal. Making an investment will motivate you to stick with your plan. What item will spark excitement and help you reach your goal?

Check in with yourself regularly about your progress and what you are learning. I write daily in my notebook about my creative projects. This helps keep me focused and on track. When will you touch base with yourself on your progress?

Hold yourself accountable. Ideas include asking a friend to be your accountability partner, and posting about your goal and progress online. How will you hold yourself accountable?

Celebrate milestones. A goal can be a huge daunting thing. Breaking into down into manageable tasks makes it more approachable. Celebrating milestones in your journey to continue to propel yourself forward towards the bigger goal. “Celebrating” can be an actual activity, a purchase, or simply the act of recognizing the completion of a task. What milestones could you celebrate? How will you celebrate?

Challenge yourself. Over time the same thing can get boring. When you start feeling bored, challenge yourself with new things within your goal – a new type of exercise, a race, a class, a daily or weekly commitment like a drawing a day or making a new recipe each week. Keep things interesting!

Expect ups and downs but commit to sticking with your goal. It’s normal to be initially excited and motivated about your goal. But over time, the daily work towards a goal can be less exciting. Expect that you will lose enthusiasm at times. During these period keep the bigger goal in mind. Imagine how good it will feel to arrive at that place! Keep going, don’t give up! Forgive yourself when you have an “off” week and recommitment for the next week. Make a commitment to yourself!

I‘ve created a Goal Worksheet to help you create a successful plan! Download it in my Etsy shop here.

Need help gaining focus with your ideas? Try my Creative Ideas planning worksheet – Download it in my Etsy shop here.
Creative Ideas Planning Worksheet pdf for when you have too many creative project ideas

Want to be creative on a regular basis and experience the joy that creativity brings? Explore mediums and subjects, in search of your thing? Learn about my new book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point.

Creative Exploration book -

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day

The path to regular creativity is to simply draw, paint, craft, or whatever interests you, for 15 minutes almost every day. If you schedule the time, and plan for it – even if you are busy – you should be able to manage 15 minutes of creative time most days.

These brief creative periods reinforce your creative priorities, and allow you to get in the creative mindset – which will lead to more creativity, and longer creative session when time allows.

Carving out 15 minutes of creative time says, “This is important to me.” And it is calming and meditative. As you work creative ideas and plans may form – write down your ideas!

Regular creativity opens you up to inspiration, even during other parts of your day.

Want to explore creativity? My new ebook takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Draw Paint Craft 15 Minutes a Day the path to regular creativity

How to Find your Thing – Art Medium, Subject, Style

How to Find your Thing - Art Medium, Subject, Style | Creative Exploration | creative process discovery
A while back I read an article about an artist who used mannequin parts in her work. I was so inspired by the story! (Not to start creating with mannequin parts.) I was so intrigued that this artist had arrived at a place where this was her thing. How did she get there?

At the time, I had been dabbling in a few continuing ed art classes, but was ready for more. What would I work on if I was totally free to work on anything? If I was free from teachers and classmates, and even the confines of a classroom, what would I create?

It was with this curiosity and excitement that I made My Creative Resolution – the commitment and the blog – and began my creative journey. I was filled with so many ideas and possibilities. I began to create regularly and explore.

In the beginning I wished my work was more cohesive. I was all over the place. Now I know, that’s how you start – by trying everything that interests you – subjects and mediums alike.

Some things are passing fancies, others become common themes that connect your work. The more we persist with a medium, the more time we put in, the more our unique style and skills emerge.

Here is how to find your thing – medium, subject, style:

  • Commit your time to pursuing it.
  • Put in the work regularly.
  • Follow what interests you and try different things.
  • Focus on the mediums and subjects that appeal to you.
  • Continually put in the work.

Ready to find your thing? “Creative Exploration” takes you step by step through the process for introducing regular creativity into your life, finding inspiration, and exploring mediums.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

Creative Exploration book -

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Your Creative History and a Free Worksheet from “Creative Exploration”

“What experiences in your life have shaped your attitude towards creativity and your own abilities?

What has held you back?

What is your biggest creative fear?

Many of us have had experiences where comments from others have affected our confidence and our feelings of worthiness regarding creativity. I was considered pretty creative in my younger years. I loved art class in elementary school. When Mrs. Kareska pushed the cart filled with art supplies into our room I would be bursting with excitement. I recall a project where we were given tissue paper to use to create Christmas cards. The tissue paper was to mimic stained glass. Immediately I had the idea of a wreath with berries on a door. I remember the thrill of realizing my vision.

In high school art class I became aware that other people were more “talented” than I was. One girl, Peggy, drew the most amazing pencil portraits. The shading was incredible. Thinking back on it now, I know that I couldn’t have created those with the skills I had at that time. But it has dawned on me that if I had practiced and learned shading and other techniques, I could have created my own version of portraits that would have made me proud. At the time, I just assumed Peggy could do amazing portraits and I couldn’t.”

Think about your Creative History –> Download a free worksheet about Creative History by clicking here. It’s a sneak peek inside the Creative Exploration ebook.

Learn more about Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life by clicking here.

how to be creative | creative exploration | regular creative practice | creative worksheet your creative history

This post contains affiliate links to products/brands I use and recommend. I earn a small commission whenever you buy using these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!