How Loose is Too Loose?

I’m having a great time playing with watercolors. To celebrate my recent art “anniversary” I couldn’t resist gifting myself with a few beautiful new watercolors from M. Graham, including a dioxazine purple. Lately, purple seems to be one of my “go-to” colors when I pick up a paintbrush.

Along with exploring different colors and subjects, I’m also trying out a variety of styles. I guess in a way, it’s a little like trying on new clothes. Eventually I’ll find something I like, and something that fits, too.

I’ve done skies. I’ve done faces. I’ve done mountains and trees. I’ve done abstracts, too. What next?

How about animals?

Animals? Really?

I’ve always found animals difficult to draw. I’ve all but given up on ever drawing a wolf, and I’m not much better at dogs — except for the stuffed variety. So far, cats seem to be my best animal subjects. I love the “cat eyes” from the scratchboard project I did last month. It was unfinished, and after seeing it posted, I decided to leave it unfinished. I started — and completed — another scratchboard cat for the class.

Cat ScratchUnfortunately my second cat didn’t fare too well. Without realizing it, I picked up a different tool than I’d used for the first, then struggled with the drawing, not understanding why it didn’t look the same as before.

I inked over and re-scratched several places, and in the process I managed to get the poor cat’s nose a bit disjointed. One eye looks a little askew, too.

But I like his ears, and the whiskers turned out all right, too. That nose, though. I can’t help but laugh every time I see it. Poor cat.

I’m not sure if “Cat Scratch Fever” — the name I’ve given to the fellow — is better or worse than the first cat I drew last summer.


The CatI hated this cat when I started working on it. I was immediately convinced it was going to be a complete failure. Later, I looked at it again, and realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

In fact, by the time I finished, I was rather proud of “The Cat”, and for several months this little graphite drawing hung on the living room wall where I could see it each day and think, “Hey, I drew that cat.”

After a while, as my drawing skills improved, I replaced the cat with another drawing. I’d learned a lot of new drawing techniques at that point, and I’ve said several times since that if I were going to draw that cat again today, I’d do a lot of things differently.

So, when I decided to try my hand at painting an animal, guess who leaped into my mind? Yes, I dug up my original reference photo and pulled out my paints. I knew, of course, that I couldn’t paint this cat with all his whiskers and fur in a realistic manner. I’ve been trying to “loosen up” a little with watercolors, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

So, here again, for your, ahem, viewing pleasure is “The Cat”, done this time in “loose” watercolor.

Green Eyed Cat

I love this cat’s eyes. The rest of it? I don’t know. Lately I seem to have reached a point where I have problems assessing my own drawings and paintings. I don’t think I care much for the rest of the cat. Is it because of the “looser” approach I took? Or is it simply a bad painting? As with my fanciful abstract a couple of days ago, I’m not really sure how I feel about this cat.

  • Is it loose?
  • Too loose?
  • Not loose enough?

More questions I can’t answer.

  • Am I getting better?
  • Am I getting worse?

Green Eyed Cat (2)I don’t know. Maybe I should give up drawing animals for a while. Or maybe I should draw them more often.

Or…I know! Maybe I should just draw cat eyes!




About Judith

As an artist, author, and musician, I celebrate creativity and personal expression through all that I do. I invite you to join me as I explore many different aspects of life, love, beauty, and nature.


  1. My suggestion would be to get a cat and draw it from life – when they are sleepy they are so easy to draw (though of course their eyes would be closed!). I like your watercolour of the cat though, but of all of them I like the one with the wonky nose…apart from that you have got the fur just right!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I rather like it. I think the softness of the paint hints at a suggestion of the cat’s body and the fluffy texture of its coat while maintaining focus on the eyes. My favorite, however, is the scratch board cat. I love the texture you’ve achieved in that piece and the details in the fur. So what if the nose is wonky. If we wanted perfection we would use a camera.

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  3. I think painting fur is tough too. Charlie does a great job with it, and Tori posted a beautiful ink and wash hare this morning that I may need to study. I thought your scratchboard cat eyes was terrific, Judith. These all look good, too; I guess it’s like everything else, practice makes perfect! I think painting animals is much harder than drawing them. Which makes sense, I guess. I think cats are harder than dogs, but it may just be me. Hmm, not sure this helps you at all but those are my (slightly sleep-deprived) thoughts. Keep going, I’m looking forward to your progress with animals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know the sleep-deprived feeling 🙂 I’ve been up most of the night so I’m barely coherent. Last year, it bothered me because there were so many things I couldn’t do with art. Now, I’ve come to realize that if there’s something I can’t do, it’s all right, because I can practice and learn how. I don’t have to know everything or have all the answers at once. Eventually I will learn to paint fur…at least, I hope I will 🙂

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      • Cathy Johnson’s books are really helpful, Judith, not sure if you’ve discovered her yet. And John Muir Laws as well. He has a great book all about rendering birds and then recently came out with another one about nature in general. Does art keep you awake? Rather be painting? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, I was working on other projects in the middle of the night. Now I can barely keep my eyes open, so I think I’m gonna have to head to bed. I will check Cathy Johnson’s books. Thanks. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Those eyes are amazing Judith! Way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Best of all I love the cat’s eyes. ❤ But I also love the other cats. You definitely shouldn't give up drawing animals. 🙂

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  6. You are DEFINITELY improving. The eyes on the watercolour cat are WONDERFUL! And I love the loose/abstraction. It doesn’t lose anything by having that “loose” definition on the rest of the cat. It’s amazing to read you were apprehensive about trying animals. My big art “scare” has always been human faces. I have NEVER been able to draw a human face well. Well, until very recently, I didn’t think I could draw ANYTHING well.

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    • Thank you! I really do like those green eyes on that cat. They actually look like cat’s eyes. I’ll have to work a bit more on fur though. Yeah, I was really apprehensive, especially with watercolor. I just decided to try it and do my best. My new philosophy is to just be bold and go for it! If I can’t do it now, I can learn. 🙂 Faces can be scary, too. In fact, anything can be scary when we first try, so just jump in and do it. We can always erase 🙂


  7. dawnmarie

    I like the wonky nosed scratch board cat. Pretty impressive Judith. Don’t give up practicing cats because one day you could be the leading cat artist. People loooooooove cat pictures. There was a website, don’t know if it still exists, but it is just cats in sinks…bath tubs…that kind of thing. The water color was your first try right? Do it again and again!!!! You will have that fur figured out in no time and then you can be a fur expert and paint furry things to your hearts content. Eyes to me are the most important thing and you do nice eyes. I do love that scratch board…nose and all. He has character. His girlfriend can have a smaller nose if you want.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like all the drawings! My fave is the loose cat. I love it! I want to celebrate this post so I blocked off all your questions and hesitations. Apologies….but hmm maybe a happy dance is necessary. 😀

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  9. I love each of your cats you did! I’d say, keep going! Practice does make PURR-fect or at least it helps! 😍 The more drawing I do, the more I start to enjoy it and find I’m less critical of my work. I think enjoying the journey is important too! 💕🎨 ((((Judith))))

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Jill. I’m going to keep right on drawing cats, and other animals, too. You’re right. Practice does make us better. I see improvements every day, especially with my watercolors.


  10. Judith I think your art is fantastic. It is art and who is to say whether its good or bad? Right or wrong? Do you like it? Does it please you? Are you having fun? All questions I ask myself. We are all our own worst critics. Just keep on and have fun with what you are doing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much. Your comments are very interesting to me…and you’ll see why if you drop by to visit tomorrow. I have a post scheduled that focuses on a lot of the questions you’ve mentioned. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I like your assessment and openness, a sign of growth and direction even though it might not feel like it. Your cats each have a positive area and I like to always focus on the positive and move on. 🙂 I really love your loose cat, softness is there, the eyes are wonderful but I don’t like to get into picking apart things because I see the essence and feeling of the cats, especially the last one. I really like the suggestion to draw some real cats, that will help you to get into that groove and feeling of cats. Knowing cats and seeing cats we all have that privilege but until you observe and draw them from life, it takes it to a whole new level….try it, you’ll see. I feel that you are improving and getting better and you are moving into new territory…..embrace it and have fun!

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  12. It is good to experiment and I really like these cats. they have a naive flavor but the eyes tell the story!!! And most of all, in your own distinct style.

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  13. Your animal paintings are really good. You can tell you’ve put a lot into it. The eyes on your cats are beautiful. I’d say keep going – your pretty close! I think the trick with watercolours is leaving areas of light or unpainted areas rather. Your eyes pop because the tones are there and the ‘light’ reflects nicely. I haven’t tried painting fur but maybe look for areas where light hits and leave those unpainted? I dont know I may be thinking in terms of painting hair but It’s worth a try I think. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I always have problems leaving the white of the paper, which is probably what I should have done. It’s a starting point, and I’ll know to do things differently next time. I have a lot of problems with value in watercolor. I never get a good range of shadows or highlights. Knowing my weaknesses will help me in the future, though. For me, learning to do something right usually involves first figuring out how to do it wrong. 🙂

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  14. Hi Judith, Each of your cat portraits shows your growth & progress. Each is done in a different medium therefore they are unique and hard to compare to one another. All are lovely! Because I am bias towards watercolor, that one is my favorite. The eyes are beautifully shaped and glisten as if they were wet. I wouldn’t fuss over the fur to much but if that is your goal (to have realistic fur) then all you need is to practice. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lorraine. In learning watercolor, I’m not sure where the lines go between “loose” styles and “realism.” I’m trying to find a sort of “happy medium”, I guess, still trying to figure out what “my style” will be. I’m so glad you visited and shared your thoughts. Yes, I will keep practicing on all aspects of watercolor. 🙂


  15. I like the cat’s eyes. In my opinion, the eyes are always the most important. You can go loose with the rest of the drawing/painting but always try to work on the eyes, especially if the subject is looking at the “camera”. Also, I think the graphite drawing is cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I made that drawing last summer after I’d been learning to draw for about 6 weeks, so at the time, it was a major accomplishment for me. I really do like the eyes on my watercolor cat. Excellent advice about always working to get the eyes right. I will remember that in future drawings and paintings.


  16. ClaudeDraws

    I love your cat pictures, fabulous!:)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Funny how we are all so different! I love drawing animals more than anything else, but I really struggle with cats, especially house cats. The face seems flat when looking at it straight on, but of course it isn’t flat at all and it’s hard to give it depth and make it look right! I think it’s also because we are so familiar with them, so as with human portraits any little random thing can make the whole thing look off. I would definitely say you’re improving and should keep at it, your loose watercolour is very nice! The eyes really stand out and this combined with the darker shadow around the right side of the head give it a very nice composition and feel. Well done, keep up the good work! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much. I’m learning a lot with each painting I do, and I was really pleased with those green eyes. Even the color came out right 🙂 I had to pat myself on the back for that one. The fur…:( Gotta keep working on that.


  18. I love the finished piece and i sympathise with all these tormenting questions
    – i am a beginner amateur and i struggle a lot, half the time ready to give up-
    so i know the feeling but looking at the Cat i think all these questions are only
    relevant to the initial sketch and expectation, but if one was to assess the
    finished version without tying it to its origins, to my eyes it’s a screaming success
    of which i would have been thrilled had it been mine… but of course i am
    a well depth of levels below your skills. I say, keep on going… cannot get worse,
    eventually the brain gears up to the expectations and follows them by practise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I know it can sometimes be a real struggle but don’t ever, ever, ever give up! When I started learning to draw last summer, I was at that point so many times, wondering why I was even bothering to try. I’m so glad I didn’t quit. I still have discouraging days when I think “I’m never going to be a real artist” but I also have good days where I’m amazed by what I’ve accomplished, days when friends come up to me to tell me how much they love my paintings, and those days make it all worth while.

      Liked by 1 person

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