An Apple for the Teacher

I’m having fun with my watercolors, especially with my watercolor warm-ups.  That’s how I begin my day when I come into the studio each morning. Oh, I usually do spend a little time reading blog posts and responding to comments on this blog. I find it inspiring to see what others artists are doing and to share thoughts about posts I’ve made here.

This blog puts me in a marvelous place. I can help others by sharing my experiences — both the failures and the successes — and I can encourage those of you who, like me, have always said “I’m not an artist. I can’t draw.” Yes, you can. If I can, trust me, anyone can learn to draw, and in the same way, anyone can learn to paint.

That’s the other advantage I get from this blog. I can visit other artists and learn so much! I am grateful, indeed, to Janet Weight Reed for the time she’s taken to share tips and make suggestions on the process of watercolor painting, and I’ve been following her warm-up suggestions.

But here’s a question. How, precisely, should one warm-up in watercolors? With piano practice, there are lots of drills — scales and arpeggios — to practice. There are composers who are best known for their exercise books. Think of Hanon, Czerny, Gurlitt, and Heller among many others. Warm-up exercises are important.

MacFarrenSadly, I don’t have a little book of “101 Watercolor Drills” or “A Dozen a Day Watercolor Exercises” or a watercolor equivalent of MacFarren’s Scale and Arpeggio Manual. Maybe someone should write one. Maybe someone already has. If so, I haven’t come across it.

That means it’s been up to me to make up my own watercolor warm-up drills. How much time should I spend drilling each day? Should I focus on learning brushstrokes? Should I concentrate on colors? Should I… should I… should I…?

I tend to over-think things. As often as not I over-complicate things that are supposed to be simple and fun. And believe me, nothing can suck the fun right out of anything more than over-thinking!

So, I threw out all the rules and decided to “drill” by just doing whatever I wanted, so long as I covered a big sheet of newsprint. I can slap on colors. I can make splatters. I can do whatever I want. And whatever I want includes drawing with my watercolors.

On Janet’s blog, she gives ideas for drawing and painting an apple. When I was learning to draw, I used to draw an apple a day. I drew apples because apples were one thing I could draw reasonably well. My apples weren’t great, but they were recognizable as apples, and that was all that mattered.

So with watercolor warm-up drills, I took Janet’s suggestion and started drawing apples in watercolor. My first attempts were rather sad looking, but this was just for practice, just for warm-up, just for fun.

And then I painted an apple that I like. It’s sitting on an imaginative table on the corner of my newsprint page for the day, and I’m proud to present it to my teacher. Janet Weight Reed, I hope you like my apple.

Apple on Sheet (2)

In case you missed Janet’s post from last week, here’s a link again. Her art is gorgeous, colorful, exquisite, and magical.

Starting From Scratch — From My Life as an Artist — Janet Weight Reed

This warm-up page with its little apple taught me a lot — not just about painting apples, but many other things, too. It taught me about trusting myself and letting go. It taught me, too, about blending colors, and it taught me about different watercolors. I have different sets — from very, very cheap to very costly M. Graham watercolors.

I’m exploring the differences now from one to the other, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts in upcoming blog posts.

Enjoy your apple, Janet! I had such fun painting it for you.


    1. I painted more apples today! They’re fun to paint, and they’re really helping me get a sense of what I’m doing… sort of developing a “feel” for it, for lack of a better way of explaining. I’m learning a lot about letting go and loving the imperfections and unplanned ways colors blend together. You’ll see more of my playful, colorful apples next week. 🙂 (I had one here in the studio this morning. It was delicious!)


  1. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is what we say in my country! LOL!
    Now we can say an apple a day is on the artist way ! I like your approach. When I started to take drawing lessons it was mauch about bottles and apples. One bottle with two apples, two bottle with one apple, one bottle and three apples, only apples without bottles…

    Thanks for the link to the Janet’s page, I’ll look into them.

    And for the watercolour warming exercises maybe you can write that book which is missing …have fun and keep posting your work and thoughts thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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