Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

figure drawing

How to add a watercolour background to your paintings

art tipsKerrie Woodhouse

Choosing the right background for your watercolour painting can make or break the whole painting.

Don’t be alarmed though - even though the background is important, it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are lots of options available to you and once you know what there is to choose from I am sure you will find the whole process far less vexing than it might once have appeared.

Let’s review your options…

Managing anxiety with a trip to the beach

Series of the MonthKerrie Woodhouse

A beach holiday is definitely my favourite kind of holiday.

A chance to step out of your life for a bit and watch the world go by for a bit instead of hurrying to try and keep up with it.

Days filled with time at the beach and the pool and no more complicated decision to make in each day than what to have for dinner. Bliss. This always gives me a bit of perspective on my life. 

Beach Holiday no 2 - Boys will be Boys (Watercolour on paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 2 - Boys will be Boys (Watercolour on paper, 8"x11")


I like to walk on the beach at sunrise and sunset. I love the way the the rising tide smooths all those footprints and holes and leftover sandcastles. It clears the deck ready for the new day.

I always think that all the fretful, worried or anxious thoughts I have had that day are just like those mounds and indentations on the beach.

They are not permanent, they are just thoughts. They can be swept away and I can choose new ones, if I try… 

Beach Holiday no 1 - A Girl and Her Sandcastle (Watercolour on paper 8 x 11 inches

Beach Holiday no 1 - A Girl and Her Sandcastle (Watercolour on paper 8 x 11 inches


I love to watch my children, totally absorbed in this moment, this wave, this sandcastle - right now.

That’s more like it.


Anxiety and depression are symptoms of being worried about the future and stuck in the past, respectively. Personally I have known them both, perhaps you do to. ( I read the other day that one in three Australian women and one in five Australian men experience anxiety, so it's not just us).  This is why learning to be present is so important - a way to avoid these both.

Beach Holiday no 6 Seek the birds (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 6 Seek the birds (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")


It's funny how starting out with such well meaning intentions, like trying to be prepared can end up in a panic state if you don’t notice what is happening. Because that is where my anxiety comes from - always trying to be ultra prepared.

To me this means running all the possible worst case scenarios I can think of so as to come up with a possible solution. I am naturally risk averse, which I then compounded by becoming an auditor which is really just intense training for figuring out what could go wrong.

By now, I am pretty brilliant at it. 

Beach Holiday no 7 Mini seascape (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

Beach Holiday no 7 Mini seascape (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")


90% of the thoughts you have today are the same ones you had yesterday, apparently. So if most of those were worst case scenario sort of situations and these are the thoughts that are constantly repeated, a sense of impending doom is bound to be colouring your entire view of the world. 

Beach Holiday no 3 Family Walk (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")

Beach Holiday no 3 Family Walk (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x11")


So I picture the sea, or even better I paint it, and remember that I can let those thoughts be washed away. For every worst case scenario that crosses my mind I am now trying to train myself to come up with a best case version. For every ebb, there is sure to be a flow.

Beach Holiday no 4 Can't Catch Me! (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x 11")

Beach Holiday no 4 Can't Catch Me! (Watercolour on Paper, 8"x 11")


One of the most helpful things I found is a hypnosis track that came with a book called Control Stress by Paul McKenna - I have had it for years. The best line for me in the whole thing is the part where he says he would like to thank that part of my mind that worries for all the good it is trying to do. Funny that such a simple acknowledgement from a voice on recording should bring such relief but it did.

Beach Holiday no 9 Mini Beach (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")

Beach Holiday no 9 Mini Beach (Watercolour on Paper, 2.5"x 3.5")


Does it make you feel better? 

I hope so.

Because given my realisation that it is my worrying about the future (aka things that haven’t happened) that creates the anxiety I find it is easy to start feeling a bit foolish about what would then seem a self inflicted problem. Acknowledging that it came from such a good place helps me feel less ridiculous.

In this hypnosis track, Paul McKenna not only thanks that part of the mind that is worrying but also thanks the mind for coming up with new ways of doing this good work that don't involve worrying. He even says you don't need to know what those ways are. Seems a bit odd, but somehow it really helps. 

Beach Holiday no 8 Twins (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")

Beach Holiday no 8 Twins (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")


If you are curious, this is the link to Paul's book on Amazon (affiliate link). The book comes with the hypnosis track that I have been talking about.

Beach Holiday no 5 Jump! (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")

Beach Holiday no 5 Jump! (Watercolour on Paper 8" x 11")


Of course, my favourite anxiety buster (beach trips aside) is painting.

Best therapy ever.... please give it a try!

If you need a little help getting started with your own painting adventure, I have a free supplies class for beginners

If you are already a painter and just need a little inspiration or a few more tips you might like one of these….

Keep the heart of childhood

Series of the MonthKerrie Woodhouse

Did you ever read that piece about learning all everything you needed to know about life in kindergarten? I don't remember who wrote it, but there was a lot of wisdom in that.


I think that we begin our little lives as the purest and best versions of ourselves. Then we have to negotiate the challenge of holding onto that as we grow into the adult versions that we think the world expects us to be.


Children are a subject matter that calls to me so often for this very reason. There seems to be something so fitting about capturing a little of the spirit of childhood in paint.


It's not just that painting is a childhood pleasure. That's part of it, but it's more because of that joy you see in children who are absorbed in play or lost in their own little world. That joy is not so easily described in words but it is so utterly enticing. 


I think that because of this reverence in which I hold the very idea of childhood, and the fact that drawing children means drawing people, it is a subject that can be as terrifying as it is attractive.  


I set out with the intention of approaching this series of watercolour kids with the wisdom of a five year old.

Just do it.


Five year olds don't paint in the hopes of praise or to demonstrate accomplishment. They don't worry about why they are painting in the first place or even wonder if they are any good at it.

They paint because it's fun. They choose their subject because they love it. Simple.

Wouldn't our lives be easier if we could approach more of what we do with the fearless zeal of childhood?


I have always thought parenting is something of a do-over. You get a second chance to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Once more the door to a place of endless fascination is opened to you.


Laughter comes easily and often. You remember that things can be simple if you let them.


Moments lost in play are not  considered wasted time.

Memories are made and friendships formed rather effortlessly. 


Perhaps this is a part of ageing gracefully - to gather the wisdom of experience while retaining the heart of a child.

Always keep the simple and loving heart of your childhood
— Lewis Carroll

Dance in the Rain

Series of the MonthKerrie Woodhouse

This month I have been playing with an entirely new medium - Brusho. New art supplies are an inspiring treat and always offer something new to learn. I always feel as if the medium and the subject work together to bring me a message. As is so often the case these days, this one seemed to be about control.


Brusho is about as wilful as I am. It is powdered pigment which you sprinkle across your page. Add some water and it springs to life. I have little to no control of either the pigment or the water I spray over the page. Much like life. Stuff happens. May as well just go with the flow.


Even better, make it a mission to seek out the joy in whatever is going on. Just like children do when it rains. While the grown ups wait with tight lips and furrowed brows for the storm to pass the children race to fetch their bright umbrellas. It's a chance to dress up in shiny macs with big wellies for safe, snuggly toes. 


The uncontrollable and unexpected can be delightful if you let it. Puddles are for jumping in, splashing is fun.


Raindrops pattering onto your umbrella sound lovely. In fact under your umbrella is your own little world. A private space for you and your thoughts. 


Cleansing rain washes down the streets and houses and feeds the plants. Let it soothe your soul too. It is a message from the universe - a reset. A reminder to really notice the world around you. To take a moment and be here, now. In the real world with clouds and showers - not the one with notifications and smartphones. 


Run through the rain and feel alive. Or sit peacefully for a while and watch the world go by.  


A little bit of rain is inevitable. How dull would our lives be without the contrast of storms and sunshine?


Each has their place. But we needn’t wait for the storms to pass. Every moment is precious, even the more challenging ones. Don’t wait for time to pass, holding off for something better, or wishing for things to be different. 

Delight in what is. 

Dance in the rain.


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Yoga Values

Beginner Resources, My art journeyphoenixarttally
Yoga Values No 3 Upward Dog arttally

Yoga Values No 3 Upward Dog arttally

This month I am drawing value studies in pen. I have chosen yoga poses as my subject because I love drawing figures and I  am a something of a new convert to yoga.

I took a course with the lovely Julie Johnson over at the Jeanne Oliver Creative Network (a place of many lovely art classes, if you are looking...). This course is entitled Scribble Art, and was a marvellously fun way to study and practice the all important values.  Here is the first one I did, Tree Pose.

Yoga Values No 1 Tree Pose arttally

Yoga Values No 1 Tree Pose arttally

I loved using loose and messy scribble to bring form to this figure in a pose that is known for bringing stillness. Rather apt, it seemed. We take our messy, scribbly jumble of thoughts and emotions into yoga class, and hopefully leave with a little more stillness and calm.

The second pose I tried was Warrior III. Somehow I couldn't help but add a little bit of coloured pencil. I had originally thought that I would leave these black and white - just pen and paper. But the muse suggested some subtle colour. Who am I to refuse?

Yoga Values No 2 Warrior 3 arttally

Yoga Values No 2 Warrior 3 arttally

The third pose I tried is  Upward Dog, shown at the very top of this post. My favourite so far.