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Back To The Basics

I’m enjoying my sketchbook more and more these days.


Now, honestly, sometimes I rant in that thing. I wouldn’t dare pollute your eyes with what I write on those days! Or maybe make you laugh. My rants are so PG. The poor journal bears the brunt of my bad days though, I fear.  But, it also shares my triumphs. So, it’s not a total crap deal.


That bit up in that corner with all the black and white…you would never want to know what that says. But those little studies around it are pretty okay for me.

I believe there’s merit in jumping head first into a medium in order to see what all you can learn on your own about it. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing.  But, once you’ve done that, if you find yourself continuing with it, it might be helpful to know a little more about it-so you can exploit it! So, I’ve been hitting up bookstores and the web with whatever I can find out about this watercolor business.  One of the exercises on the opposite page in that photo is from Watercolor For Dummies by Colette Pitcher. I hate going step-by-step with anything anymore after following so many instructors in school. Teachers have different ways of working and after about the fifth one tries to impart their peculiarities to you, it gets to be somewhat bewildering with all the conflicts. After a stint in a painting program, I usually find myself not painting for a long time. But with this beast, I figured, it couldn’t hurt to add a few more teachers after all. Besides that, trying to make work in a vacuum normally doesn’t work. You need peers or folks to look at that are interested in the same things and bounce ideas around with sometimes. Even if the folks are in books…

For instance, this was another exercise from the book.


It helped to see just how much the background was dulled down. I normally deal with watercolors more heavy-handedly, I think. This exercise was nice because I got to see just how much water I needed to create that background and make it sit way behind the trees and grass in the foreground.

I’ve got quite a few more exercises in there to go through. That may have something to do with the fact that I jump around from one source to another though.

I found a Skillshare class on watercolor called Watercolor’s Full Potential: Exploring Fluid Painting by Angela Fehr. Now, it’s going to be a long time before I see any kind of fluidity in any watercolor painting, if I ever will. I don’t believe I’ve ever been a fluid painter. I can appreciate that kind of flow in others’ paintings. It just doesn’t seem to be my personal sensibility.

The first project was something simple. So, I did an apple that I had for lunch.



I used a new-to-me brand of paint for this apple. Yes, I tried another. 


This cute, little box is by Sennelier and I love it! The colors seem so juicy to me. They’re scrumptious! Brilliant and luminous paints.

This is a close-up of the first little sketch I did with these paints from the photo above.


And some little grapes I tried to paint on the other side.


I’m working on remembering to plan for the highlights. 

I liked these colors so well, I ordered a larger set.


It comes in a tin much like the Lukas set that I got a few weeks ago. So, I can add a couple more colors to round it out.


The manufacturers probably leave that space so that you don’t mix colors. Whatever. I’d like a warm yellow in this one and a lighter blue. So, they’re on their way.

I still like the Lukas set though I find they tend to appear drier when they’re done than the Sennelier watercolors. I used the Lukas set to do this painting and the doodle on the facing page in the first photo of this post.


They’re still nice paints to me. But, I may have been compromised now, lol.

This was another I did with the Lukas paints.


This one would have been after the It’s Just Stuff sketch and before the Cherry Nom and apple sketches. I could not for the life of me think of how to keep the highlights in that flower! And it didn’t help. It just kept wilting and wilting. By the time I got finished the watercolor sketch, I felt like it deserved a curtain call for how dramatically it fell limp on the table…so I drew it too. It looks so worn out. As if it was doing all the work! This was actually the sketch though that led to me want to read up on the basics of watercolor. Trying to leave the white of the paper is like a mind trip for me. In oils, you can just lay the paint on. But, with watercolor, no can do.  You have to plan the end from the beginning in some ways. Not my normal at all. After this flower, as I referred to earlier in this post, enlisting the help of some more experienced watercolorists was definitely necessary.

Besides the Skillshare class and the Watercolor for Dummies book, I really love the book Artist’s Journal Workshop and its accompanying blog by Cathy Johnson.  She’s so inspiring! She seems to be able to relay her love of the process whenever I read her notes on sketchbook journaling. Every page looks amazing and she has interesting ways to bring a page together so that it looks like it evolved as a whole. Can’t say that about all of my pages. Sometimes I just plop stuff down…like my latest word dump.


I’m loving her date and headline suggestions too. It makes a page feel more complete. And it doesn’t hurt that her watercolors are awesome eye candy.

Another artist that writes books on watercolor is Claudia Nice. I’m currently reading Watercolor Made Simple and Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor. I like her technique.

I’ve found a couple other books by other artists as well that I haven’t really cracked open yet except to look at the photos.


Can’t wait to read some of this. Amazon didn’t even have this book anymore so it must be good! I believe he uses ink and watercolor in his sketches as well…and lots of squirrels, I’ve read.

Never once in my art classes were we ever restricted to using watercolor. Acrylic, yes. Gouache, yes. Oils, yes. But never watercolor. While I can’t say that it’s still not a challenge, I can say, I think I’m making some headway.

Yep. Back to basics.


  1. mamadestroy

    I love seeing people’s sketchbooks. I find them endlessly fascinating little glimpses into their brains. Thank you so much for sharing yours. The mixed media and techniques you use creates some really gorgeous pages.

    • jackbrownletters1

      What a great compliment! Thanks!

      I love to see into sketchbooks others make as well. All kinds of them. I think they’re so revealing and yet so mysterious. I always walk away thinking of how interesting it is to see another perspective besides my own or what an artist chose to record that day…or how they solved a problem in a way I would have never thought to do…or even just how they arranged a page or not. Then, sometimes they feel a lot like suspense novels where the questioning always starts with, “Why did he/she do that?” I’m not always smart enough to figure out why. But it’s all fascinating to watch the process and progression of thought in a sketchbook.

      Thanks for visiting!

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