What to draw?

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Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?

If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?

I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.

Sketch some detail of your day:

I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.

My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.

My first sketch journal entry – December 10, 2018.

However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.

Use lists of art prompts:

I first printed out the monthly list of things to draw from Doodlewash.com in May of 2019 and have responded to those art challenges for many months.  

There are pros to doing this:

  1. You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
  2. When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
  3. You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.

Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).  

Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.

Set up your own list of prompts:

When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.

There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.

Work on areas that need improvement.

As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.

Work on your art business

At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.

Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.

And some days I just feel the ned to get back to my roots and sketch my day. This from a walk we took on Sunday, May 16, 2021.

The Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible – Review

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The Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist by Claire Waite Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My newest art book is the gorgeous Watercolor Flower Artist’s Bible: An Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist, edited by Claire Waite Brown.

This is quite a comprehensive volume. It starts out with a section on watercolor supplies and explains the most common techniques watercolorists use. Several tutorials encourage practice with these, e.g. “Combining wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry,” “Using Masking Fluid” and more.

An analysis of flower shapes follows. Here the text explains the look and structure of the various flower shapes (like bell, trumpet, cup and bowl, etc.—eight in all), delving into how they appear foreshortened and reflect light from different angles. Of course a real flower example is used in each case. (For example, in the trumpet section, a Daffodil is the example).

A Directory of Flowers section follows that. In this part you find a picture of each flower and a link to the instructions on how to paint.

You can also find flowers by color in the colored garden section that follows the directory (“The Red Garden,” “The Pink Garden,” “The Yellow Garden,” etc.) that ends with “Berries and Leaves.” Each garden color chapter is introduced with watercolor paintings by accomplished artists. These are followed by details of specific flowers in the color family and include color swatches of the particular flower’s blooms and instructions on how to draw and paint one example.

To help you even further in finding the flower you want to attempt, you can go to the comprehensive Index at the back, where each flower is listed (alphabetically) and linked (in the Kindle edition) to its page in the book.

This book is chock-full of information and tips. However, my favorite aspect of it so far is the artists’ paintings that begin each colored garden and are sprinkled in other spots throughout. Talk about eye candy and inspiration to improve!

I purchased the Kindle edition of the book, which I read on my iPad. It’s easy to use propped on my desk during painting sessions with no need to fight stubborn book binding. Also I can enlarge the images to my heart’s content.

I’m sure this book will be one of my most used painting references in the months ahead.






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Everyday Watercolor Flowers – review

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Everyday Watercolor Flowers – A modern guide to painting blooms, leaves and stems by Jenna Rainey © 2019.


One of my favourite art teachers, particularly of watercolor, is Jenna Rainey. A couple of years ago, her book Everyday Watercolor introduced me to the wonderful medium of watercolor (reviewed here). Her newest book Everyday Watercolor Flowers came out in 2019 and my Kindle edition is well used.

The book begins with an extensive introductory section on watercolor basics including materials, colors, color mixing, hue, and value. In this section Rainey also gives a brief explanation of flower anatomy, leaf types and shapes, and demonstrates brush strokes that make those shapes.

The main chapters describe flower painting projects and are organized by flower shapes (star, circle, bell, bowl, trumpet, and combination) with four projects in each.  That’s 24 projects plus a section on combining flowers into wreaths and borders…so lots to paint here. The projects in each category come in two types: loose and realistic (botanical). In the star-shaped chapter, for example, the cherry blossoms and anemone tutorials describe painting these flowers in a loose style (with little or no pencil drawing to guide the painting), while the clematis and orchid are painted more realistically (begin with a pencil drawing and adhere closely to the details of the plant and flower).

Loose Cherry Blossom flowers from the Star-shaped flower chapter.

The book is beautiful! Rainey’s skill with paint and brush shines through each illustration. The instructions are clear, easy to follow, and interspersed with pictures of the project’s steps. Though the text does feel wordy at times (it would be easier to follow if it were in point form), its tone is encouraging and laced with tips and hacks. If you’ve ever visited Rainey’s YouTube channel you’ll recognize her voice, which comes through here in her writing.

I think beginners and intermediate watercolorists would enjoy these projects. If you’re looking for a book that is designed to help you gain skill in analyzing flowers by shape and has projects that are both loose and realistic, Everyday Watercolor Flowers is a great choice.

Some projects from this book that I’ve done: loose Sunflower, realistic Clematis, loose Dahlia, realistic Ranunculus.

15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces – review

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If there was ever a great time to learn about art, this is it. Not only is the internet full of videos and online class possibilities, but books are easier than ever to purchase and use. For art instruction I love Kindle books. On my iPad they have a built-in stand (I don’t have to fight with stubborn pages to keep the book open while I’m using it) and the illustrations can be enlarged with a couple of finger swipes. One book I downloaded some months ago is Anna Koliadych’s 15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces. It is full of simple and fun watercolor projects.

The book begins with a section on watercolor techniques and exercises, and then is divided into chapters that name various categories: “Beautiful Landscapes,” “Dreamy Galaxies,” “Elegant Plants and Foliage,” “Flowers,” “Fruits and Sweets,” “Adorable Animals,” and “Fashion.” There are six to nine projects (paintings) in each chapter so lots of possibilities.

The paintings are explained step-by-step and include a list of materials, swatches of the painting’s colors, how to mix them, and illustrations of the project as it progresses.

The book ends with a list of supplies and a few hacks from the author in chapters titled “Supplies” and “Tips and Advice.”

This is a colorful, fun book. The instructions and illustrations are easy to follow. Though I wouldn’t call my projects “masterpieces” or art I would want to frame, they introduced me to a variety of techniques and subjects. They usually took me longer than 15 minutes because drying time was needed. But they were quick and a wonderful way to squeeze in a bit of art every day, even when I didn’t have much time for it.

Here are some of the projects I completed from Anna’s book.

“Mysterious Forest” and “Autumn in a Circle”  are projects from the “Beautiful Landscapes” chapter. “Leafy Branches with Berries” is from the “Elegant Plants and Foliage” chapter. “Wreath of Flowers” is from the “Flowers” chapter.

Author Anna Koliadych also teaches watercolor online offering courses on her website. She is @dearannart on Instagram and her feed is full of short instructional videos.

Everyday Watercolor by Jenna Rainey (review)

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What strange days we’re living in! Here on Canada’s west coast signs of spring are poking out and blooming all over. The coming of spring usually buoys my spirits immensely and this year is no different—and yet it is. For the black Covid-19 cloud looms on the horizon and we’re all living in obeisance by “social distancing” and, if returning from abroad, living in actual isolation. Closeted in our houses, condos, or apartments, we go out only for necessities and short walks, avoiding each other like the plague (which, we fear, anyone can be carrying, unbeknownst to them). It all feels so bizarre and unreal.

It’s gratifying to see how the online world has stepped up to fill work and recreation gaps. Lately I’ve heard more than once that this is a great time to spend unexpectedly free hours learning something new. My interest in art has familiarized me with that sphere. There, artists are offering all manner of online courses and tutorials, many free.

Another option, if you’d like to try your hand at art, specifically learning to paint with watercolor, is books. One I worked through last year was Jenna Rainey’s Everyday Watercolor – Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days.

Everyday Watercolor – Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days by Jenna Rainey

This is an excellent book for a beginning painter. Rainey starts with the basics in sections called “Techniques” and “Form, Perspective and Light.” Her explanations of theory are followed, at every step, by projects. These range from making color swatches to completing complex scenes. I worked through the whole book and along the way learned about wet on wet and wet on dry painting, value and tone, light to dark layering, light source, shadow, and much much more.

Bookstores in your area are probably closed but no problem. You can purchase this book online, in fact, have it on your device in minutes as an e-book. I bought it that way and viewed the book’s projects on my iPad as I worked on them.

As a teaser, here are some of the Everyday Watercolor projects I completed. (The ideas and designs are © Jenna Rainey.)

You can also follow Jenna Rainey on Instagram, where she posts painting instruction videos. Can you watch her work and not fall in love with watercolor? I doubt it!