If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I recently started really getting into watercolors. I got my first real set of watercolors
this fall for my birthday, and I’ve started spending more and more time painting (and maybe a little less time blogging.) So I’ve decided to share a series of posts about learning to paint with watercolors. This unusually long and personal post is the first in the series.
The past couple of months, I’ve really enjoyed being aimlessly creative. As a blogger, I sometimes feel limited in my creative endeavors. I feel like every project that I take on needs to be something that would make a great blog post. I try to share projects and tutorials that are generally quick, require only a few supplies and special skills, and are recreatable. Lines Across is both my hobby and my business, and because I rely on it to help support me and my family, it’s so easy to get caught up with questions of how to make money and make the most productive use of my time. However lately I’ve really enjoyed painting and experimenting with no specific goals in mind… and I’ve learned something. Being aimlessly creative has made me into a more authentic blogger… even if I’ve been away from the computer.
I’ve also found that there are a lot of people out there like me, who really want to learn to paint with watercolors, so I thought I would share my experiences and advice for people just starting out with watercolors, as well as some of the tutorials and resources that have helped me along the way.
First let me share with you my artistic background (ahem half of my life story): As a kid I was much more creative than artistic. My dream job was to be an inventor, and I was always trying to come up with new ideas and inventions. My parents are math people… basically we are a family of nerds. My mom has a PhD in Statistics and spent my childhood teaching me fractions and math games instead of sewing and cooking. And I loved it. Looking back I wish she had taught be both math and sewing, but I’m not sure I would have even been interested at the time. Both of my grandmothers were very talented amateur artists, but I never spent any time painting or drawing with either of them.
In middle school I had this really amazing art teacher who taught me so much about drawing and painting, but I still wasn’t particularly interested in art in general. In high school I took an art history class that I loved, although I was still more of a math person and probably enjoyed memorizing dates and names more than anything. Then later in high school I took a photography class and a painting class. Even though both classes were short, I feel like I learned a lot about photography and painting that I use and apply every day. My senior year I took another art class that was amazing and really started to get interested in art for the first time. We got to explore a lot of different mediums from oil paints, to acrylics, to stamp carving, and print making. We even did a little watercolors.
I had a lot of trouble deciding where to go to college and what I wanted to do with my life, but since I was always a math person I ended up at Rice University studying mechanical engineering. I really wanted to take an art class or two, but at Rice you usually had to be an art major or a junior or senior to get into any art classes. There wasn’t much time in my schedule for any classes outside of my engineering courses. So after 2 years I ended out transferring to Santa Clara University just outside of San Jose, CA. I ended up majoring in History because once again I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, but I really enjoyed taking all different kinds of classes. I was even able to take a couple of painting classes there, and I really got into acrylic painting. I especially loved Pop Art and even wrote my History thesis on Andy Warhol.
However, right after graduation I got married to Grant, my high school sweetheart… and about 10 months after that we had our sweet son Benjamin. I found that for some reason being pregnant messed with my creativity… probably because I was always so tired and nauseous. Plus, it took a lot of time, space, and energy to set up a work space to paint. Then of course 16 months after Benjamin was born, we had little Lyla. I actually started Lines Across when Lyla was just a few months old. At the time I didn’t really even know that creative blogs existed and I started my blog to share some funny stories (like this one), pictures, and maybe a few of my favorite products for babies and toddlers. Very quickly though one thing lead to another and I “discovered” all sorts of amazing creative blogs and started sharing a few of my own tutorials. (This was my first creative post.) And now three and a half years later, Lines Across is my creative outlet, my own business, and what has allowed me to stay at home/work from home with my (now 3) kids. It has been such a joy being able to share my little projects and tutorials with you all. I’ve made so many wonderful friends and found great inspiration from other bloggers and artists. And yet, I really have missed painting.
As someone who knows what it’s like to not have a lot of free time, extra space, or money, most of the projects I share here can be completed in about 30 minutes, don’t take a lot of space, and are made with supplies you probably already have or a $5 trip to the craft store. And while in the past I had written off watercolors as being too complicated and requiring a lot of natural skill and practiced talent, I’ve come to learn that there are so many different quick and beautiful projects you can create with watercolors, even if you’re not an experienced artist with a lot of special tools. Now that my kids are a little older as well, they LOVE doing watercolors with me. So I’m able to spend great quality time with them AND pursue something I’m passionate about at the same time. WIN WIN!
One of the things I love most about watercolors is how simple and accessible they are. I have a little bin filled with some brushes, a pencil and an eraser, and a couple of watercolor sets. I can quickly pull out my watercolors and paint for fifteen minutes here and there.
I want to challenge you to BE AIMLESSLY CREATIVE. Spend the morning painting flowers, or doing that craft you saw on Pinterest, or just coloring pages from a coloring book because you’re a grown up and you can! Being creative in one way or another is good for your soul and will make you a happier and more well-rounded person.
However, don’t just compare yourself to others. Everyone is skilled and talented in different ways, and being creative isn’t a competition. It should bring you more joy than frustration. Of course you will make a lot of mistakes. I can’t tell you how many pages of watercolors I’ve painted recently that were total failures. And yet they weren’t failures because I learned something from each one.
If you really want to be successful in a creative endeavor like watercolors, you should take the time to start at the beginning. Make sure you have the right supplies. Play around with some basic techniques. Watch a few You Tube videos of skilled watercolor artists just to see how they do it. Follow some simple tutorials for beginners. Play to your strengths. Work harder on your weak points. That’s what this series is really about.
Have you ever wanted to learn a new craft or skill but felt guilty that you could be doing something more productive with your time?
Here’s a look at some of the upcoming posts in this series:
1. Basic Watercolor Supplies
2. Where Should I Start?
3. Watercolor Techniques
4. Watercolor Projects for Beginners