Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Beginner Resources

30 minute watercolour poppies

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally

30 minute watercolour poppies I love that you can finish a painting in well under 30 minutes.  The actual painting time for these 30 minute watercolour poppies is considerably less than that. The rest of that time is spent watching the paint and water mingle on the paper - waiting for the right time to add something more.

Painting wet in wet is a bit of a game of chance. I love it. You put water on the paper. You put paint on the paper. You sit back and see what happens.

It is part intentional painting part imagination - just like looking for shapes in clouds.

Once you find the shapes in the painting then it is a matter of patience.

If you add refining details while the paint is still too damp they will disappear into your shape.

If you wait too long those added details can sit on top of the painting like an afterthought.

The only thing to do is to practise, practise practise.


Painting flowers in Watercolour with Fiona Peart

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Painting Flowers in Watercolour with Fiona Peart

Painting Flowers in Watercolour with Fiona Peart

I have a rather lovely little book called Painting Flowers in Watercolour, by Fiona Peart. It is a part of the 30 Minute Artist series.  Since I love flowers and am terribly impatient it only makes sense for this month's series  to be 30 Minute Flowers.

The first steps in the book are about getting to know your materials and your palette. An early exercise was to do this by making a big splashy page of puddles of colour... you don't have to ask me twice!



Then we start painting flowers with watercolour by using easy brush marks and lots of negative painting to create simple shapes.

I have a Stillman and Birn Journal which is just divine. It is a hardbound journal and the paper is 270gsm. However, I had a bit of thing for hot press paper when I purchased it because I do love drawing on the silky surface with ink and coloured pencil etc. I  used hot press paper for my Flower Face series and loved it. For a clean illustration the smooth surface is lovely. But if you want to use watercolour in a more traditional painterly way, the cold press surface is far more forgiving. So obviously now I want to trot off and buy a cold press Stillman and Birn journal....



I repeated some of the paintings from the journal using cold press paper - not sure you can see the difference in the photos. The cold press paper handles more water, so I seem to have more cauliflowers appearing with smooth (hot press) paper than I do with the more textured cold press paper.

Using cold press paper, I had a go at Fiona's painting, Orchid (page 19 if you are following along in the book!).  It's a bit different from the flowers I painted in my Watercolour Flowers series because there was no pencil drawing to begin with (eek - brave!)

Fiona advises building the painting up looking at the shapes like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Lots of fun.  I decided this would be the first in the series. Can't wait to do the next one.



I am really enjoying this book. My one frustration is its size, however. The paintings are so lovely and there are step by step instructions for the projects in the second half of the book that include thumbnail photos. Given that the book itself is about A5 size these thumbnails really are jolly tiny! Bigger ones would have made life much easier.

The book is still a delight, though. Big thumbs up.

Texture in watercolour

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texture with watercolour I'm finally back to my Fast and Loose watercolour series for this month.  Number 7 comes from the third lesson in the Udemy course I am taking.

This time it is all about texture - so much fun. I used wax from a candle, kid's wax crayons, splatter from the brush, salt and a bit of scratching with a knife. I meant to use the edge of an old credit card to scrape out some more interesting marks but in all the excitement I forgot about it. Ah well... something to include next time.

Fast and loose!

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Fast and loose no 1 arttally New year, new month, new series. They roll around fast, don't they?

I am taking a Udemy course entitled 'Watercolour - Fast and Loose!' with Andy Walker. So far, I'm loving it.  Since patience and precision are really not my thing I couldn't go past a course with a title like this. In each of the lessons, Andy chooses a watercolour impressionist and a key painting technique to be learned from the artist. So this month my series will be Fast and Loose Watercolours.

This first lesson is based on the work of Frank Webb. The painting technique offered is the approach of using a single colour wash over most of the painting as a very first step. This initial wash shows through all of the other colours and gives the whole painting a sort of glow.

The painting we are studying in this lesson is called 'Bill's Lumberyard'. Fast and Loose no 1 shown above is my attempt at replicating Frank Webb's painting.  I love the abstract blocky shapes, and Frank Webb's slightly unexpected colour choices make my heart sing.  Funnily enough, when I first saw the painting we were to emulate in this lesson I wasn't all that taken with it.  Now I can't think of a single thing about it that I don't like.

Andy Walker's course makes the painting a simple process. Almost feels like a paint by numbers experience. Frank Webb did all the work in creating the beautiful image in the first place. Andy Walker breaks it down into easy painting layers. Having painted many a painting that concludes somewhat unsatisfactorily I can't tell you what a joy it is to complete the process and find that it all just works.

Try Twinkling H2Os for some festive bling in your artwork

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Mandalas with twinkling h2os

I have had a small set of Twinkling H2Os watercolour paints in my stash for a while.  If you have never come across them before you might want to check them out. They are cute little tiny pots of paint that 'twinkle'. They really do - a sort of metallic finish if you like.

Initially, I resisted buying them since you can add iridescent medium (which I obviously already have in my stash of course - this one) to any watercolour paints and you have 'twinkling' paint. I tried to tell myself that it was therefore unnecessary to have a separate set of sparkly paints.

I know. Madness. Conventional sensibility does not apply to art supplies. They are all necessary. Of course I need a separate set of twinkling paint.

There is one little trick you need to know to avoid disappointment with Twinkling H2Os. You need to open up all the little pots that you might use and give them a jolly good spritz of water and then let them sit for a minute or two before you begin.  If you don't you will have a hard time getting enough paint on your brush and you will be misled into thinking the paint is weak and the colours insipid. They really aren't. They are glorious. But you do need enough water and time for the paint to absorb it in order to enjoy them.

Of course, iridescent medium works too, and you can control  the amount of bling you are after by altering the quantity of medium that you add to the paint.  The downside of the medium is that it can be a little smelly and you have the extra step of mixing it into the paint as you go.

For a bit of fun festive bling you can't go wrong with the instant gratification of the Twinkling H2Os. I'm loving them. I wish I had a few more colours. I hope Santa knows how good I have been...

Water soluble oil pastels that smell of childhood

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water soluble oil pastels arttally

I seem to gravitate towards the cooler colours so this time I opted for a change.  I used my Portfolio water soluble oil pastels by Crayola to add the colour here. There is something delightfully reminiscent of childhood about using a chubby stick of waxy crayon. The fact that it then turns to smooth paint with the addition of a bit of water and a paintbrush is just one of the wonders of modern art supplies. Aren't we lucky to have them.

If you fancy trying them they are not too expensive, good for kids of all ages. The colours are quite glorious and you can use them with or without the addition of water.  Bear in mind though, if you are of the mixed media persuasion that if you try and add some pen lines on top of them you might run in to a spot of trouble.  They are oil based crayons so it is best to do any pen work first otherwise you may not be able to make marks over the top of the pastels.

So much fun. They even smell of childhood.

Intuitive painting, intuitive writing - lessons in surrendering

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intuitive painting, intuitive writing There is something utterly delightful about the idea that you don't have to know exactly where you are going when you start a creative project. The important thing is just to start and trust in the creative process to get you where you need to be. I suppose it is a lesson in surrendering.

I'm not sure I realised that you could simply begin a story and let it lead where it may. I did learn that you can paint this way - any one who has had a go at intuitive painting will know exactly what I am talking about.

If you haven't you might want to check out two of my favourite teachers of intuitive painting, Alena Hennessy and Flora Bowley. Even if you don't fancy painting yourself it is a fascinating thing to watch Flora Bowley's paintings emerge - you can see her in action here.  And she explains her whole process in her book Brave Intuitive Painting. Love it.

The best way to learn to write is to write

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The best way to learn to write is to write I have come to the conclusion that writing, like a lot of things, is something you really  have to learn by doing.  In the beginning it is frustrating. Progress is slow. Probably occasionally mortifying. Okay... often mortifying.

Lots of books have been written about writing and I suspect most new writers have read many of them. But when you start writing it doesn't feel like any of that preparation helped much. But if you persist a marvelous thing happens. All those abstract concepts you read about, like point of view, story arc, and the rule of 'show don't tell', suddenly make a whole lot more sense.  I'm not sure you can really get to grips with any of it until you are actually trying to apply it. The best way to learn to write is to write.

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that you don't have time to get stuck. I know very well that if I had been writing this without the clock ticking down and that graph of my word count progress constantly accusing me I would have got myself stuck trying to solve one of these technical problems. But during  NaNoWriMo you just have to make the best of it, perhaps make a note to come back to it later and move on.  In doing that you put in the practice hours that are the only way to get better at writing. Sure you will have to come back to all those sticking points at a later date, but it is better to press on in the meantime than to simply draw to a grinding halt.

I am surprised by how often things end up resolving themselves.  Perhaps it is those hamsters on that wheel inside my head that manage to nut it all out while I am drawing, sleeping or doing those endless loads of washing a family is capable of conjuring up daily.  Either way, it seems if you leave those mole hills alone for a time, they get to remain mole hills instead of turning into the mountains that might completely block your path. Who knew?

Even one of the things that worried me the most - that I didn't have the imagination to come up with an entire story for a novel seems to be getting easier. Now that for me is an enormous relief.  I am happy to report that I (so far) concur with Philip Jose Farmer who says,

"Imagination is a muscle. I found out that the more I used it, the bigger it got."

A series of illustrated quotes on writing

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on writing no 7 Did I mention my series for the month? I expect that in all my excitement to get writing a novel (!) I might have neglected that.  I know you may have probably already figured it out, but this month I am doing a series of illustrated quotes on writing.  Its a good series for me because I love quotations  and it is giving me a chance to use Photoshop a bit more.

Have you tried Photoshop? I find it as frustrating as it is amazing. It does so many awesome things but I often find trying to do the simplest task can be infuriatingly difficult. My first in this series I did with Canva in the end. If Photoshop is frustrating you, or you don't have access to it, I highly recommend giving Canva a go.  Quite simple and lots of fun.

After the first in this series On Writing, I have been trying to be strict with myself about using Photoshop. Like everything, it is easier every day. Here is the link to the whole series on one page.

Just start - the muse will be along shortly

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Just start Sometimes the best way to begin is just to start. Too much priming, preparation and research can be immobilising.  It opens the door to the inner critic before you have even made your first move. Whether it is a writer facing a blank page or a painter in front of a blank canvas the feeling is the same.

What if it turns out to be terrible?

What if I can't think of anything?

What if I don't do my idea justice?

What if I am actually no good at this? 

You have to give yourself permission to try - and give your creative product the chance to be however it is going to be. Good, bad or otherwise.  But as Louis L'Amour tells us, nothing happens unless you open that faucet. Don't be waiting to be 'ready'. That may never happen.

Don't wait around for inspiration. You have to get going, the muse will follow. Elizabeth Gilbert has a heart felt TED talk on this - check it out here.

Whatever it is that you are planning to do... go ahead - just start! You will never find out until you begin.

Wouldn't you rather be reclining like a cat on a mat?

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cat on a mat arttally If I am honest, I am getting a little bit tired of painting cats. But I am persisting. What good is a self imposed challenge without a bit of self discipline? It is always quite fun once I get into it, but I am finding that I seem to have a bit of reluctance to face the page at the moment and put another cat on it.

The beginning of a project can be a bit easier. There is a bit of novelty, it's all rather exciting. But once the initial excitement subsides you have to decide whether you have the determination to keep going. If the 'why' behind your project is still clear to you, and still important, that will help you keep going.  If you sit around waiting to feel inspired, or to just 'be in the mood', your project's chance of success diminishes drastically.

Creating something new is hard. Don't get me wrong - it's fun too. But when it is hard, you need to remember that the only way to get beyond that beginner stage is to keep going, whether you feel like it or not. Steven Pressfield calls this 'Turning Pro'.

There comes a point in your creative endeavour when you have to make a decision to stop approaching your project as an amateur and treat it as a professional practice. Even on days when you would rather just be reclining like a cat on a mat (as opposed to painting one).

"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp." W. Somerset Maugham

A new adventure called Nanowrimo

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a new adventure called nanowrimo arttally Cat no 10 in my watercolour cat series for this month is a happy little chap out exploring the world.

I can relate - I am exploring too. In fact I'm off on a bit of an exciting adventure next month. I say next month in a casual sort of way, but I realise that is only a week or two away. And I say 'off' like I am going somewhere but there is no travelling required. I decided to sign up for Nanowrimo. Have you heard of it?

Nanowrimo is the National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November and it is totally free to join. The deal is that you sign up to the website and then commit to writing 1667 words every day for the month of November. If you manage that, you have a 50 000 word draft of a novel by 1 December. Now doesn't that sound fun?

I always wanted to write some sort of fiction but I worried because I never managed to get a working plot idea. In fact, that is exactly how I found Nanowrimo in the first place. My solution to everything is to do a bit of research (hazard of my former occupation). My research led me to a book written by the founder of Nanowrimo, called No Plot? No Problem!

The author, Chris Baty, describes it as a "low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days".

Low-stress, Chris?... hmm... we will see.

Worst case scenario I will just be doing extra drawing and painting to calm myself I suppose. I have already had to do a bit of that, since I only have Chris's word so far, that embarking on novel writing without a plan is not a problem. Feels like flying blind to be honest, however to me, that still seems preferable to tediously cranking out a plot beforehand. Frankly, I feel quite relieved that someone has give me permission to attempt it.

I'm mad for a creative challenge (as you may have already gathered) and this one definitely has my name written all over it. How about you? Will you join me?

Go on... you know you want to. Chris's book might tempt you - it is very encouraging...

Getting past the 'ugly' stage of a painting... or not

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getting past the ugly stage of a painting arttally I painted my first cat today without my Crazy Cat class - which I am rather missing, to be honest.  Actually I also painted my second cat without Miriam's help. And the second is the one I am showing you. The first one is beyond redemption I fear.

All paintings go through an 'ugly' stage as we like to say. Usually you can get past this stage if you just persist. However, I think it is also wise to know when to quit. Let's call it letting go and moving on as opposed to quitting, shall we?

I used to think that moving beyond the ugly stage with a watercolour painting was impossible. In that regard acrylic is much more forgiving as the paint dries fast and is opaque, so it easily covers whatever it is placed on top of. Watercolour is transparent, and some colours stain so lifting out colour can be harder in some instances. Considerably more patience (or a hair dryer) may also be necessary as watercolour paint behaves differently on dry, damp and saturated paper. Not only do you need patience - you also need some experience to know how the paint will behave in each of those instances. The only way to gather that experience is to get on with making more paintings, whether they be good, bad or ugly.

I have learned that you can experiment, tinker and correct watercolour paintings far more than I once believed possible. But sometimes all you need to do is take a deep breath and find a new sheet of paper.

Ok, I know I have now made you more curious about the painting I 'let go of' than the one I posted up here. The question is... am I brave enough to show you....?

getting past the ugly stage arttally

... oh alright... here it is.


Let's not speak of it again.

Learning to draw is good for you

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learning to draw is good for you This is Redford. He is my fourth project in the Crazy Cats class with Miriam Schulman.

This project felt a little more daunting than the others, somehow. It felt like it required a lot more drawing. I procrastinated a fair bit before I started this painting, and I think it was mostly because of the drawing aspect. That's the thing with watercolour, isn't it? Most of the time you really need to be able to start with a decent sketch, so if you are uncomfortable drawing it makes watercolour painting really hard.

Funnily enough, the part I enjoyed the most with this painting was the drawing.  Having to spend a little more time on the sketch gave me a chance to remember that I really love the process of drawing.  It is one of the most relaxing creative pursuits I can think of. If you can stop worrying about how it is going to turn out, and surrender to the process of careful observation and mark making, time slips by.  You can escape the world for a moment and just be in the present, enjoying the tactile experience of marking textured paper with graphite.  Taking the time to appreciate lights and shadows, shapes and lines.

And then as an added bonus when you are done you get to splash colour and water all over it. Can't think of a better way to pass an hour or two...


Painting white cats

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Painting white cats arttally Today, I am painting white cats.

Painting anything white with watercolour can be a little tricky. Essentially the idea is not to paint the white object, rather to paint its shadows, with the palest of greys and blues and purples. The last time I did this it was for daisies, and the whole thing got me quite philosophical.

Today Miriam is helping me again. This particular cat is Frosty. He (or she?) is the subject of the second project in the online class called Crazy Cats. Still haven't quite got the hang of the fine white whiskers... but I'm working on it!

New month, new series.... cats!

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new month new series... cats It's the start of a new month, so it's the start of a new series. This month is going to be all about cats. I am doing another class with Miriam Schulman over at the Inspiration Place, called Crazy Cats.

This month I am going to paint a daily cat in watercolour on 300gsm paper. I am going to miss painting flowers, but at least I get to paint eyes again this month - one of my favourite things!

If you are interested in taking Miriam's class, it starts out with some very well thought out drawing lessons using various drawing materials. Don't think cats are too hard to draw - Miriam makes it easy. The next part of the course involves drawing cats from reference photos and then painting them in watercolour. Step by step instructions for everything. Fun!


Learning to paint peonies in a vase

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learning to paint peonies Peonies are so romantic, aren't they? I think I might love them even more than roses.  This painting is another one that is inspired by the lovely Miriam at the Inspiration Place.  It is from Miriam's Watercolour Secrets class. I loved her painting so  much it made me a little reluctant to attempt my own version. I needn't have worried. Peonies are so delightful it's hard not to enjoy painting them.  And Miriam makes the whole process seem very manageable - thanks, Miriam!

Painting white flowers can be a tricky business

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painting white flowers Painting white flowers can present something of a challenge. White watercolour paint will just not do. Painting white flowers on white paper leaves you with little option but to paint them by not painting them at all. You have to paint the negative space around them leaving the untouched part of the paper to make the outline of the white flower.  Then you can improve its shape and form by adding in some shadows.

It's a fascinating idea to have the daisy represented more by the space it takes up and the shadows it casts than by its own form. It makes me wonder if that is a little like the way we live our lives. Our impact is felt by the space we take up, and the imprint we leave behind.  We can't help but be shaped by the way the world treats us. In equal measure, we leave our own mark on the world. Our environment and the people around us are changed by our presence. Hopefully for the better.

Occupy your space in the world proudly. Cast happy shadows. May the imprint you leave behind today be as joyful as the daisy's.