Whatever Works

As artists, we each have our own approach to drawing, painting, and other forms of expression. We have our own methods and our own rituals. We also each have our own unique learning style. What works for you might not work for me, and what works for me…well, it would probably make you laugh, the same way it made my husband laugh when he discovered my way of painting.

I was working at the kitchen table — where I always do my watercolors — and my husband came over to admire the painting. He glanced down, noticed the printed pages I had beside my palette, and read aloud.

Birch Tree Recipe

Yep. You read that right. I have recipes for painting. I thumbed through the pages on the table and showed my husband my “art” cookbook, as I call it. I have recipes for skies, for water, for mountains…all those things I’ve been diligently practicing. I have an autumn tree recipe, a winter tree recipe, and many more.

It makes sense, really, when you know me and my love of cooking. But I didn’t set out to consciously create art recipes. It happened more or less by chance.

I was watching an online tutorial one evening, and I wanted to try following along. The problem is that my computer is here in my art room, and my watercolors are in the kitchen. That’s where I do my painting because of the lighting.

I would watch a minute or two of the video tutorial, and then I’d go to the kitchen and try to follow along. Sometimes — I hate to admit this — I’d forget what I was supposed to do by the time I got to the kitchen. Or maybe I’d remember what to do but forget what color to use, or maybe I’d forget a little bit about the technique used. Another big problem was that a lot of the tutorial involved wet into wet applications, and by the time I went back and forth between art room and kitchen, my wet paper was no longer wet.

After a bit of frustration, I started typing out the tutorial instructions. I watched the entire tutorial, wrote out all the directions, and then printed them out. Armed with those directions, I headed back to the kitchen and began by gathering up my ingredients and my utensils. In other words, I assembled my brushes and palette and prepared the paints I would need.

Then I followed along step by step. I was pleased with the results. So, I returned to my art room, found another watercolor tutorial and repeated the process. At once, I saw my watercolors getting better. I was enjoying the process more, and I loved looking at what I’d begun calling my recipes.

For me, painting with a recipe works. It’s the best way for me to approach watercolor. I was the little girl, remember, who loved digging out cookbooks and planning huge meals. I was the little girl who loved her first cookbook…and whose love of cooking continues to this day.

Because I began learning to cook at such a young age, I think my brain naturally adapted to the step by step approach found in cookbooks. Of course, when I was starting out, I was careful about measuring ingredients exactly, using only the specific ingredients called for, and dutifully following every direction to the letter.

Now, though, I rarely measure anything, feel free to make many substitutions, and am always changing the recipes I use for cooking. I’m comfortable in the kitchen. I know what I’m doing.

I think it will be the same way with watercolor. Right now I need that one step at a time recipe to follow. I need specifics — such as whatΒ brush to use and the proper consistency of the paint — much as a beginning cook needs to know what size pan is needed and how high the oven temperature needs to be.

In time, though, I think I’ll be able to make substitutions, stop “measuring” precisely, and trust my own judgments with watercolor. But I’m in no rush to get there. I’m thoroughly enjoying my art cookbook and the many recipes I’ve collected, such as that Birch Tree Recipe my husband noticed. It comes from an video tutorial by Edo Hannema.

I was very pleased with the result.

Watercolor 160620 Birch Tree (2)

If you happen to watch the video, you’ll notice that I did vary a bit from the original, but mostly I followed “the recipe” as closely as possible. I liked the result so much, I used the same recipe a second time and painted this birch tree as a present for my father-in-law on Sunday:

Watercolor 160622 Tall Birch

In the end, you might laugh a little at the idea of painting from a recipe, but it’s what works best for me. So I’ll go right on collecting recipes and improving my watercolors.

We each have our peculiarities and quirks. We have ways of learning that work for us, and those that don’t. I was lucky to find what works for me. I hope you’re able to do the same.

What works for you?


    1. It might sound silly to some folks, but it really works for me πŸ™‚ I’m collecting all my “recipes” in a binder. That’s my “Art” Cookbook, complete with illustrations πŸ™‚ I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your painting turned out so beautiful! I love the idea that you work from a “recipe!” That is going to be one of my goals in July – MAYBE – to get more disciplined about it – but then maybe not – we’ll see where the wind blows me! LOL! I hope to check out the video later. I do sometimes very much enjoy following video tutorials!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Dawn, looking good! I like the bold colors in this, they pop off the page instead of fading into the background. Maybe a tablet would help you when you’re doing your tutorials. I don’t have a PC where I paint either, but the iPad helps immensely! Love your recipe idea too. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Laura. I’ve tried using my Kindle in the kitchen, but once I hit on the “recipes” idea…well, that seems to work for me, so I’m sticking with it. πŸ™‚ Of course, I can always do both…follow my “recipe” and watch a tutorial at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What ever works is so true because the most important thing is to show up and do it. Love the second one. I can see a real difference even though you used the same recipe. Wonderful post Judith. Very helpful for the rest of us trying to find our way! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Beth. I hope my experiences as I learn about art can benefit and inspire others. Finding what works best for us can make a big difference in anything we do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To me going by recipe makes sense and then later on doing your own “substituting” will come into play more and more as you gain confidence. Your second painting shows confidence, boldness and looseness! All three showed up…..so wonderful that you nailed it, this will help with confidence, knowing that you have. I am so happy for you! I know that you wanted to do this in regards to trees. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margaret. I loved painting that second tree for my father-in-law. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things. We were getting ready to drive down to the farm, and I thought…why don’t I do a painting to give him? He really liked it, and that made me feel good. Gradually, I think I’m starting to find a bit of “my style” and figuring out what makes me happiest with watercolor. And I bought my first “expensive” brush a couple of days ago. Oh, my goodness! How do I love thee, brush? Let me count the ways!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a Winsor-Newton “Cotman” series brush #1 Rigger. It’s synthetic, but better than anything I’ve ever used. My blog post tomorrow is all about brushes. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your art recipe idea. If it works for you then by all means you should follow it and later on substitute it with your own set of ‘ingredients’ and measurements. πŸ™‚ I used to write what I call formulas in my idea notebook for sometime but as I go along my journey I veered off that idea and continued on with no guideline. The only guideline I have is the sample picture I have of what my current project. Was it the right choice, I don’t know. But I am more relaxed that way. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whatever works! We have to have the proper mindset when we approach a creative project. We have to be comfortable, most of all, and whatever helps us achieve that is good. People talk about getting out of the “comfort zone” once in a while, and yes, once in a while that’s a good thing. It keeps us from getting too comfortable and complacent, but especially when we’re starting out and developing a set of skills, it’s very important to be comfortable, I think. Relying on something familiar — like my love of cooking and recipes — lets me really enjoy what I’m doing with my art. If your way keeps you relaxed and at your creative best, then that’s definitely the right choice. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So much depends on if and when we’re ready to get out of that comfort zone. Sometimes staying in a safe place is more rewarding than taking unnecessary risks. The key is knowing where we need to be at any given moment, don’t you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I do! I seldom go out of my comfort zones, out my formulas because I do not want the necessary stress that comes with it. I just add a little of this and that from time to time to add spice.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree so much with you. Yes, we need little “pushes” sometimes, but we don’t need to be pushed to the point where we’re uncomfortable or frustrated. That doesn’t serve any purpose at all and just sets us back. I like to “push” myself in little ways, trying new things, or doing something a little differently. I think maybe what we’re doing isn’t so much stepping out of our “comfort zones” as making expanding our comfort zones. Does that make sense? If it works, it’s good, and that’s what matters.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. Just… wow. The colors really pop out! Looks like you’ve found a process that really works for you. Very nice. I especially like the second one. The soft background and the sharp foreground… I love it!

    I’ve never tried making a recipe before (I use my tablet when following tutorials so I’m free to move around the house), but I guess I’ll try it doing it your way some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! But no need to try my way because your way works fine for you. And did you see the Inka-Dinka-Doo post yet? I’m really hoping you’ll join in and do an “ink blob” …your imagination could conjure up all kinds of weird things!

      Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s