This and That — Having Fun in the Studio

Art is messy.

Recently I blogged about setting up my new art studio. Oh, how lovely to have a place for everything — and everything in its place. That was last week. This is now.

Messy Studio

Yep. It’s a bit messy, but it’s a good mess because it’s a fun mess, and though it’s a bit frustrating when I have to look around for something, for the most part things are close at hand, and I can still easily find what I want.

Oh, by the way, in case you’re curious, yes, that is a new oil painting in progress. I know I said I was setting my oils aside for a time, but then I saw a photo I liked on Pixabay and couldn’t resist painting it. It’s in a rough stage…blocked in with values, just starting to put down a bit of color.

Along with the mess I’m making in the studio, I’ve also taken over what was intended to be the sewing table.

Sewing Table

Here you can see projects I’ve been working on, a bit of this and that, and I wish I could say this was the extent of the mess, but let’s get real. Art is messy, even more so when I’m the artist we’re talking about.

Of course, I’m having fun playing with my watercolors, trying lots of different things, liking some of the things I’m trying, and not liking other things at all. I’m dabbling, dripping, dribbling, washing, rinsing, sponging, drying… hey, why not? I’m trying out different watercolor brushes, and still trying to learn how much water is too much.

For now, I’m mostly playing with colors and shapes. I was actually rather happy with the looseness and casualness of this little “Orange Flowers” painting. I’m not good with stems yet, but I’ll eventually improve.

Orange Flowers (3)
Nederlandse Oranje

Here’s a look at some of the little watercolor doodles I have on my easel. I consider all of these as “works in progress”. Where I’ll go with them remains to be seen.

IrisesFirst, there’s Irises. I didn’t paint them with the intention of them being irises, but the color reminded me of the irises we had growing around the house — the old house.

We do have a few irises here at the new place, but with the cold weather we’ve had, they’re not yet blooming.

My husband loves irises, and we’re planning to set a lot more out.

Maybe if and when I do more with this doodle, I’ll try to carry on with the iris look, adding in leaves that look like iris leaves, doodling in a few iris-like details like little frillies around the edges.

Or maybe I should just leave it alone and enjoy the colors!

I’m calling this next one Aurora Borealis  because that’s what comes to mind when I see it. The colors are similar to my iris doodle.  Aurora BorealisHere I’ve just played with the colors, letting them run down the paper, turning it all around, and letting them run again.

I’ll probably use this Aurora Borealis as a background for a doodle of some sort. Or maybe I’ll just play with paint splatters to create something similar to my Cosmos oil painting.

Faded FlowerNext up is one of my not-so-successful watercolor doodles.

Once again, you’ll see what’s close to a similar color scheme to the others. Originally this one had a lot more yellow, but after doodling petals of a flower — using black watercolor — I’d made quite a mess of it all. I didn’t like it, so under the faucet it went. Oh, having that big sink here in the studio is so nice!

I washed away as much of the paint as I could, gave this the title Faded Flower, and put it back on the easel. I’m not sure there’s much I could do with it — other than follow Janet Weight Reed’s suggestion about using old paintings as material for warm-ups.

One of the reasons I painted the flower above was to get a feel for how watercolors dry. Earlier I’d done a simple wash, but when it dried, the color had faded to nothingness. So, I took a rather heavy-handed approach with colors and created a sort of floral-like underpainting. But, as I said, I didn’t care for it after I tried adding doodles. Oh, well.

Delicate TulipsAnother floral work in progress is Delicate Tulips.  I’m still working on stems as you can see. This was an attempt to actually paint tulips, and they do resemble tulips, I think — but that one on the right is looking a bit wilted and sad.

For this exercise, I wanted to be very delicate. So I chose delicate colors, a delicate subject, and for the stems, a small, delicate brush. But not small enough, obviously.

I do like that I was able to add a touch of shading to the blooms. Playing with colors this way is helping me see how I can create subtle effects.

Once I get the hang of drawing thin stems, I might be able to create some lovely, loose florals.

But, not everything I’m doing involves flowers. I’m venturing off to unknown realms and playing around with various design elements.

This piece — called Ugly Orange Wallpaper — was created with sponges first and then washed over with orange. What will I do with it? No idea, but it was fun to play with. In the photo it appears more pink than orange. It’s really orange. Really. Orange.

Wallpaper (2)

And then, there’s this little monstrosity.

Alien Vegetables (2)

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this doesn’t look like much, but weird as it is, I’m in love with this painting. The name? I was calling it Alien Potatoes, but now I’m seeing turnips and beets in there, too, so I guess I’ll have to change it to Alien Vegetables.

It came from outer space… no, really, it came from playing around with shapes and colors and splatters. It started as a little practice exercise for wet-on-wet color blending. I enjoyed making strange shapes, adding two or three colors, and letting them mix together. Then, when I went to add a few splatters… oh, my! I had lots of water in the brush, and lots of paint splattered everywhere. Those splatters almost resembled leaves or stalks or vines or something plant-like.

And so I fell in love with this. I fell in love with its weirdness. I fell in love with its colors. I fell in love with its totally unplanned being-ness. I do have much more I want to do with this illustration, and I want to play with color-blending more. Don’t be surprised if you see more alien creatures in future doodles.

So that’s where I am right now. It looks like watercolors have exploded throughout my art studio, and I’m just getting started!





  1. Hint for the stems: you need more water. Either use a very wet brush and only touch the very tip to the paper so you get a fine line, practice that first, lots of times, try varying the line, from thin to thick. Keep your arm loose, don’t do it too slow. You could do the stem first, swinging your arm as if doing grasses and then adding the flowers. The other method is to get a quite intense (but still wet, but not as wet as the first method) very fine line and then touch that with a damp brush all along, if you used enough water both in the first line and the damp brush, but not too much, it should bleed out nicely graded(paper type will make a huge difference here as to how much time you have). And then you can do some negative painting if you need to hide the wobbles! The alien veg shows the effect of the first method in the tendrils, a darker outline (Bridget Woods explains and demonstrates it very well and calls it edge acutance, Jean Haines calls it the seaweed effect) where the pigment gathered at the edges as it was very wet and had time to do its floating about before drying. You need a very wet mark that makes a ‘dome’ on the paper, I usually have my paper flat or at the most at a shallow angle, if too steep your ‘drop’ may just run. Don’t use a hairdryer!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the tips! I spent one warm-up session practicing lines with all my brushes, and I was able to start making better ones. Your suggestions will be very helpful as I practice to get the right techniques. Today I’m playing “Red and Yellow Make Orange” — mixing various reds, crimsons, scarlets, with different yellows. It’s going to be quite a time-consuming project, one that will probably take me months to complete! This morning I looked at all my reds (7 different ones) and all my yellows (6 if I include yellow ochres and gamboge). Next I used only “Light Red” from my Grumbacher set and went over it with each different yellow. It’s interesting to see the varieties of “orange” I came out with. My favorite so far is Light Red with Cadmium Yellow. In some ways, I’m not sure how much I’ll gain from doing all these mixing exercises, but it’s fun even if it is a bit frustrating to have so many possible choices. For me, though, it’s not so much about the colors I get as it is about learning mixing techniques. How much water? (That seems to be a constant question for me with watercolor). Does it matter which color I put down first? I don’t know the answer there. Today I did all my swatches by putting the Light Red down first and then going over it with the various yellows. It’s a good warm-up, and even if the project is a bit tedious, it’s still fun to watch the colors mixing on the page.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As to orange: yes it matters whether you put red over yellow or yellow over red. The effect will be different if you glaze them, mix them in the palette or let them mingle on the paper. But you’ll have a hint of the kind of orange you get and where that may be useful, you don’t always need a bright orange. Maybe try all the various ways with one combination. And don’t worry, how much water is something I still am working on. All I can say that usually it is far more than what you think is a lot already. It’s not just about what red and yellow make a good orange, are they otherwise useful colours (for the kind of things you want to paint) and do you like painting with them, do you get good results when you use them not just in a little square. Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn all this before you start ‘properly’ most of it I have picked up along the way when I needed it or when I bounced up against another hurdle.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Interesting thoughts here… about mixing on palette or paper. I never really thought much about it, but that could make a big difference. In my “playtime” this morning, I’m playing with what I call “Dancing colors” — using lots more water than I think I should. I’m saying over and over, “If the colors aren’t dancing on the page, then I don’t have enough water.” It is giving me some good effects on the little doodles I’m working on. Trying so many different things makes playtime endlessly fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a post coming up next week which shows how some of these little watercolor doodles ended up. I hope you’ll check back and see them!


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