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Basic Watercolor Painting: Getting Started with Supplies

I’ve been watercolor painting on a regular basis for the past year and a half. I had some old supplies from college but have had to freshen my supplies and add new paints and brushes. Below is a list of items I have in my ArtBin and you can find another post about the paint colors I use:

  1. Palette – I started by using paper plates – one for each painting but then it got out of hand as I had 5-6 paintings going at once. Then I purchased “The Watercolorist’s Answer Book, edited by Gina Rath and tip #34 suggested using a butcher tray palette so I purchased one and it’s worked great. I’ve only had to reload my paint once over the past 1.5 years.
  2. Brushes – the brushes I use the most are a large brush for applying water (even a hardware store paintbrush works), a large round brush (Princeton #16 round I’ve had since college), two angle brushes work well for skies and ocean – 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch (Silver Brush 6806S-034 Crystal Golden Synthetic Filament Short Handle Brush with Brown Tip and Nickel Plated Brass Ferrules, Angle, 3/4-Inch), and some small brushes for fine detail or fur and feathers, 0 or 1 round. I also like this one for hair or grass – Princeton Artist Brush Neptune, Brushes for Watercolor Series 4750, Script Synthetic Squirrel, Size 1.
  3. Paint – Some of my paint is almost 20 years old but I’ve updated my stock with Winsor & Newton Cotman water colors 12 tube set and then individual tubes as needed. I find that even a 5ml or 8ml tube will last several years. I’ve added some Daniel Smith Luminescent watercolors as well – Iridescent Moonstone and Iridescent Antique Copper to provide a fun and unique look. I do also have a tube of white gouache paint that I’ve only used once or twice on ocean waves.
  4. Paper – I mostly use ReadyCut Strathmore 140 lb cold press paper in 8×10 and 5×7 but have been branching out into larger sizes and block painting. I typically order a few of each size and I am set for the year, depending on how much I will be painting or any orders I’m working on.
  5. Boards – I use clipboards or sketchboards. I started out using cardboard and cutting out what I needed from my Amazon boxes!
  6. Phone/tablet and stand – I usually use images saved on my phone as a reference for painting but sometimes need a large image so use my iPad. I did purchase a gooseneck tablet holder but don’t use it too often.
  7. Painter’s tape – I use good old Scotch blue painter’s tape in .7 inch width to tape down my paper to my boards. It’s hard to find in that narrow width but it works the best for me.
  8. Jar/Tupperware for water
  9. Paper towels or washcloth
  10. Scanner – I have the Epson Perfection V600 Photos and scan each painting I finish in two sizes (just to be sure I guess). I use these images for prints and cards.
  11. Masking fluid – if you want to keep your white areas white when doing a colorful background liquid frisket can be handy. I have a specific cheap brush I use for applying it so that I don’t ruin my good brushes.
  12. White gel pen – works well for adding snow capped trees or building or whiskers.
  13. #2 pencil and eraser
  14. Micron pens – I use these for pen drawings or for adding in detail such as black whiskers.
  15. Portable Painter – I was gifted a pocket size portable painter for traveling and I’ve used it a few times. It comes with a paint brush, palette and a place for water.
  16. Transfer Paper – if you do want to trace an image from reference you might need transfer paper.
  17. Salt – adding salt to wet paint can add some fun, snowflake like patterns – make sure your paper is loaded with wet paint and then add the salt sparingly or go crazy and see what happens.

Where do I purchase my supplies? Mostly Amazon.com. I do find some specific items at my local art supply store as well as my frames. Amazon has everything just about and sometimes has good sales so watch for those. Some artists have specific stores on Amazon where you can find the brushes and supplies they use. Happy shopping!

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Basic Watercolor Painting: Wet Into Wet Background

  1. Start by identifying the reference photo you’d like to use for your painting. I try to use an image that’s about the size of my paper choice.
  2. Choose your paper size. For this painting below, I used a pre-cut Strathmore 140 pounds cold press 8×10. I use painter’s tape to create a clean white edge and to secure my paper to a clipboard. I chose the vertical page orientation for this painting.
  3. Prepare your work space. I use a jar of clean cold water. My palette is a butcher’s tray with my paint around the edges and my color combinations in the middle. I’ve used this for over a year and never wiped it. I just continue to re-wet what I need and mix any new color in an open space or one that’s a similar color. My brushes and paints are kept in an ArtBin for easy transport. I typically paint at my dining room table with light from windows and a chandelier plus a desk lamp if needed.
  4. I use a simple mechanical #2 pencil to lightly draw my subject. I draw free hand without tracing usually but tracing can also be done especially for large pieces.
  5. Once you have drawn your subject and the areas of dark/light that break up your imagine, it’s time to paint!
  6. Wet into wet. I usually use a wet on wet technique for my backgrounds with a lot of bleed of the wet paint into the already wet areas. Sometimes I use a mask (liquid frisket) but usually I just apply water around my subject, careful to stay on the lines.
  7. Once my paper is thoroughly wet, I use a large round brush (Princeton #16 round in this case) to add paint to my background. For this I am using turquoise and french ultramarine. I get the dried paint pretty wet but then make sure I have a good amount of paint on my brush. Then I begin to outline the subject with the thickest paint at the line as it bleeds out onto the wet paper.
  8. I also added some green and darker blue to the other areas of the background (Prussian blue, indigo, . You can continue to gradually darken the background by adding more paint; however, you may also muddy the paint or if it dries, it could create lines and add shapes (unfortunately that’s what happened to this one (image 10).
  9. Let this paint dry completely before working on the subject(s).
  10. I went to far and didn’t stop so it lost it’s unique bleed look. I will try again!
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Giving in Faith

The widow who gave her last “two very small copper coins”, perhaps the last she had, gave in faith that God could use it (Mark 12:42). That story has always stuck with me. In college and just after college, money was tight. I remember pulling the last few dollars out of my purse and hoping and praying that God would use it.

Although I’m not in that situation now, I compare it somewhat to how I feel about the situation we are in with the pandemic. I may work for a local government entity but I am not an “essential worker”. I may help with finances at church but I am not leading a small group or a whole church or on the ground providing “hands on” ministry. I am not leaping into the fire or running into the burning building. I am doing what I need to do to get by but most days it doesn’t feel like enough. I’ve prayed, what is God calling me to do? Be a mother? Be a supportive wife? Participate when called on? What can I give? Why during this emergency do I feel inadequate and somewhat unwilling to jump up?

Then it dawned on me – I can give! I have the ability to give financially in faith that God can use it! God can use whatever we can put forward. There are people who are physically fighting and reaching out to those in need who need our financial support. If you can’t physically go, or mentally go, then maybe you can give and help support those who are doing the work. Let’s keep them employed and doing the work we may not be called to do right now.

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Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

I don’t know about you but I am a worrier. Yep, you read that right – worry-er not warrior. I’m a planner who is way out of her league right now during this pandemic. Every day brings new challenges and new worries. But one thing that is constant and never changes is the love of God. God is always there and will always provide for me. I take refuge in that.

I read Matthew 6:34 tonight and it stuck with me as it reads,
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:34

I think it was the last sentence that made me pause. Last night I felt anxious, like I couldn’t sit still. I was fidgety and my mind would not slow down (and it wasn’t caffeine overload!). I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It wasn’t anything specific but just the general anxiety of our situation right now. Turn on the news, Facebook, emails…it’s everywhere. But as I laid down to sleep, with the help of a backrub from my husband, I realized that once I fell asleep, the worries of the day would fade away. Tomorrow would be a new day (even if it were filled with more anxiety) with a fresh start. I am thankful for this verse that reminds us that we can start fresh every morning. Let go and give it up to God to fight the fight – that’s already been won! We (I) worry over nothing. Right now I can’t plan (really anything!) my day but it’s okay. God’s got this.

Sleep, Sweet Sleep

So tonight I will fall asleep, not worrying about tomorrow but praying that God will help me fire all those synapses and seize the day! Instead of worrying, I want to make the most of this situation and find the answers to our problems, no matter how small or large they may be. God, make me a warrior not a worrier. It’s time to put me in, Coach.

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Finding Time When There Is None

A year ago today I started painting again. I’ve always been an artist but hadn’t focused on drawing or painting anything in a long time. Before last October, I had drawn a few roses and began to paint them over a few years but something always got in the way – I had “no time”.

So, what happened last year? We had been in our new house just a few months so I was searching online for artwork to hang on our bare walls. Then, after endless hours of trying to find just the right decor, I realized, why don’t I just paint my own? Conveniently, I knew right where my art supplies were in the garage since we hadn’t finished unpacking. My supplies had been in tubs for years. I consolidated my supplies into one large tab. Then I got to work painting a goldfinch and a cherry tree.

I found a photo of a cherry blossom and a picture of the bird from a bird book and went to work, using acrylics. For some reason watercolors seemed too difficult or complicated so I stuck to acrylics. I ordered some canvases online and a few tubes of paint. Even my daughter, got into painting, creating a flamingo, a chick and a toucan! I finished my painting but didn’t feel it was good enough to hang up. Then I found a few more ideas on Pinterest – one of a girl and her cat on a swing in the moonlight. I finished that and prepped a few backgrounds. Acrylics were fun but they didn’t flow like I wanted and also didn’t allow me much detail.

So, somewhere along the line in November, I switched to watercolors. I had some paper and all my tubes of paint. I made palettes of paper plates for each new painting. I found precut watercolor paper online. I even found a whole set of paint I had never opened. So I got to work creating some Christmas gifts.

My sister-in-law loves decor featuring royalty and the Queen of England so I painted her a picture of a cup of coffee with the British flag as the background. I painted a bee for my mother-in-law for Susy B’s Quilting, and a scene of Mt. Jefferson for my mom. My daughter liked having me draw an animal for her to fill in with paint. She loves the salt effect on wet paint. So she painted a few to give away for Christmas gifts as well – a hummingbird for her aunt and a chameleon for her grandpa. We found some frames at Hobby Lobby and felt so proud and so cheerful giving away our creations.

Now I have sold one painting at the local gallery’s community show in Albany and donated two paintings for charity auctions. I’ve finished over 50 paintings and have many in various stages of completion.

I tend to like birds and landscapes. I like to paint from real photos. Once in awhile I’ll come up with a creation from my mind but I feel that I do my best work when working from a photograph.

I started an Instagram profile (@art_by_aurae) in order to showcase my work and follow fellow artists. I’ve joined in many weekly challenges of landscapes, which push me to complete a painting in less than a week.

How do I do it? How do I find time when there is none? I make time. I dedicate an hour 2-3 weeknights a week plus an hour or two on the weekends. I paint at the dining room table. My unfinished paintings are displayed in the dining room; they are visible for me to see and reflect on. I paint with my daughter. I paint alone after she goes to bed and before watching TV with my husband before bed. I don’t force myself to paint but try to encourage creating that space each evening. If I’m not feeling creative then I don’t paint. If I’ve had a tough day, I do paint because it helps me relax and refocus on being creative. I look through Instagram for inspiration.

I think that’s how I got hooked on watercolor in the first place. I saw one artist on Pinterest who posted a photo of the four stages of her painting. I tried to replicate it – a circle, half moon holding a mountain and a barn in the snow. She helped me realize that a painting can be completed in several manageable steps. I’ve also watched videos on how to paint certain settings. I enjoy Anna Mason’s painting videos and have learned about lights and dark tones and then working on the medium tones. Sometimes painting don’t turn out or I lose interest or no matter what I do, they don’t feel finished. My favorite ones are the ones I can finish in one or two settings! I struggle with black and getting tones deep enough. I’ve tried to mix grays and blacks.

I’ve pieced my artist methods together and feel successful. I feel like it is something I can maintain. My favorite things are my butcher’s tray that is my palette, ordering pre-cut paper online and realizing just how far a tube of paint can least. My husband bought me a nice scanner for my birthday so now when I finish a painting, I excitedly wait for it to dry and then scan it, saving my masterpiece for future use. I have two portfolios filled with finished paintings. I hope to share the beauty I’ve created by giving some away as gifts, making photo cards and prints and someday working on commissions. I would like to try commissions as long as the stress or pressure doesn’t ruin the creative spirit for me. It would be great for friends, family and even strangers to find a photo that they treasure and see what I could do with it using watercolors.

I’ve created a gallery of the majority of my finished paintings on this website so that I can start sharing my creations.

I encourage you to make the time even when there is none. Start planning and chipping away at the excuses. Just start and see where it leads you.

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Taking the High Road

Taking the high road is tough. Imagine the incline. The canyon walls jutting sharply into the cyan sky, contrasting in red, orange and rust. Stretching each muscle, reaching and securing your footing at each step. Gravel and rocks move under your feet but you find your stable footing, and you open your eyes to look around. You realize you’re soaring high above, the wind whips your hair and you breath in the fresh, crisp air. It is treacherous of course, a slow and steady climb. But as your eyes search the valley below, studying the winding stream, the quaking aspens, the chipmunk and squirrels scurrying about, you feel the wave of peace wash over you. The peace invites you to continue higher. As you ascend, you feel accomplished and a slow smile spreads across your face. You see the top of the trail ahead, reaching and pushing yourself to the summit. Up here there is no time to wallow, all attention must be focused on moving ahead. One slip and you’re back to where you started, or worse. You are determined to stay on course, to reach the top, to feel the success. You feel empowered, ready to conquer the next mountain!

But once at the top, the overwhelming sense of peace and awe hit and you stop to take in this moment. You, my friend, have survived! You believed in yourself. You did not let the situation, the circumstances, the elements get to you but rather stayed the course. You set your mind to the goal and did not let go or look back. You trusted yourself and the path. You are free!

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Don’t Hold Back

Today I felt a feeling of freedom as I drove away from one chapter of my life. Until I felt this freedom, I hadn’t know I was holding something back. It was a moment of clarity. With any change or major decision comes a moment of questioning – did I make the right choice? No matter the number of prayers or hours I have spent thinking through my choices, I tend to question my decisions; that is until I have a moment of clarity when I know that it is right.

I’m so glad that I have my faith and trust in someone greater than me who knows all. It’s freeing to know that there is already a plan for life, that the book or page of my life is written by an amazing author. God already knows what choices I will make, good or bad. I just have to have the confidence and trust to know that it everything I do, I make the best choice for me.

Today I know that my choice to change jobs is right. It’s right for me, my family and my values. Lately I have felt lost, without direction and drive in my work. Although I had an amazing job, working with an amazing team, I felt that there was something missing. I felt that I could not be my authentic self all the time; I could not do the best work that I know I am capable of doing. I was held/holding something back. Oppression is too strong of a word but perhaps more suppression. Although I know I always have a choice to speak up for myself, sometimes the situation and the actors conflict with my personality and I hold myself back. My only regret is that I do not fight or stay to fight but rather I choose to honor my gifts and share them with those who will also appreciate and honor me. Rather than waste my precious time proving myself and my worth, it’s time I share just exactly what I can do with those are more open and appreciative to what I have to offer. I will not hold back.

I hope that anyone else who is like me, those who feel that another or others have put them in a position that holds them back or that they feel they have to hold back will realize that they are worth it; you don’t have to prove it to anyone. Rather than stay and try to prove yourself to someone who may never see you or your worth, find someone who will appreciate you for you. Do what makes you happy. Find that thing that makes you light up when you talk. Today I saw this in someone else – when talking about something he loves to do, the passion lit in his eyes and I could feel that he was not holding back. In my head, I was thinking, “this is awesome! keep going!” but the time was up and the conversation ended. It was so powerful to see how passionate someone can be when talking about doing something they love – something that motivates them to do better for others and in turn, they better themselves. It’s that reward we all seek in our work. It was fascinating to watch and I felt so touched to see this person not holding back.

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Time to Write a Book

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book for years, probably since I could read. I’ve actually written books (when I was a kid), blogs, articles and reviewed books as an editor. I’ve probably written enough words to fill many books. I just read a blog post that explained how to write a book in 10 easy steps – okay then! Let’s get busy. I’m working on the concept of Building a Career in Health Information Management and all that goes with it.

  1. What is Health Information Management
  2. Emerging Careers
  3. Education
  4. Experience
  5. Practicum/ Apprenticeship
  6. Networking
  7. Interviews and Resumes
  8. Learning About Yourself – Developing Your Career Development Plan
  9. Interviews and Things Every Graduate Wish They Had Know

This blog post is now at 122 words and counting. If I write 200 words a day, I could write a 75,000 word book in just over a year, but with weekends and time off, I could whip it out even sooner. My goal is to finish this by the end of my term as President of OrHIMA (Oregon Health Information Management Association), which is June 30, 2018. Here goes nothing! Oh and that is now 186 words. I’m so very close to 200!

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When God Intervenes

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Sometimes I just get myself going on something, good or bad and I can’t be stopped. It’s like I have a one-track mind or a record playing and skipping back to that same place, playing over and over. Sometimes this helps me cope and pull through with a bright idea when I’ve been stuck on something or I’m working on a project. But other times, there’s just nothing good going to come from it, mostly because I haven’t stopped to ask God or to listen for God. My thought pattern the past few days was one of those times. And today God stopped me in my tracks as I barreled forward on one of those tracks. I wouldn’t describe it as hitting a wall but it sure did make an impact. The events of today make me realize that I’m thankful for the wake up call and a reminder of how much I need to really open up and include God. I don’t know what would have happened if I had continued on my track today without intervention but I don’t think the result would have been as positive as what I am thinking now. I think to myself, if I had really taken the actions or said what I really wanted to say, what would the potential good outcome have been? And then there’s silence (even though yes it is silent as I am talking in my own mind!). I do remember thinking, “I should pray about this” but then never taking the time to really pray. I kept getting distracted or not being able to get the noise out of my head. I kept over-talking God!

So today God picked me up and put me on another track, His track and I am reminded of how powerful, awesome and might He is! We don’t have to wait to ask for the big things but need to have a constant, continual relationship and conversation with our God. Sit back and enjoy the quiet and listen for God. He is there.

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Communication Vortex

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Do you ever feel like you’re in this vortex world where no matter what you do that day, it just feels like you can’t do anything right and everyone is criticizing you? Yeah, well, I do. Today is one of those days. Maybe it’s because I’m communicating with others via email and messages instead of face to face or on the phone. I used to think I was a good communicator via email until recently. Sometimes I just can’t seem to get my point across or the story is so complicated that it’s really hard to relay via email. There are some topics that just need to be discussed in person. But sometimes those people who need to know are not available face to face or by phone. I’m trying to wrap my head around it and figure out a better way to communicate via email when I have to. I can try to save the topics for an in-person conversation but I know that the conversation will not happen for a long time or the issue needs to be addressed right away. I’ve never been a good phone person even though I know that picking up the phone to discuss a topic can be so much easier, and shorter. I always remember my dad making comments about not understanding why people don’t just pick up the phone or walk to the other person’s office. Maybe it’s my generation.

One tool we’ve started using in the workplace is the SBAR tool – situation, background, assessment, recommendation and when used properly it can help give the receiver the information needed to make a decision or weigh in on a particular topic. But if not used regularly, the SBAR tool can be clunky and cause more work than is necessary to use. I’ll have to explore other options that might be useful. I typically write in such a narrative manner that it can be hard to get the point across sometimes without feeling I’ve left all of the context and details out. But I can understand from the receivers point of view that when you’re busy and being asked for your input, you really just need the concise details. I also think that sometimes I’m not quite sure of the actual question I want to ask and am circling around it in email. I’ve been known to shoot off emails and then have further thoughts afterwards and send multiple followup emails. I know that this is annoying and can be viewed as a waste of time; it’s something I’m working on. I’m just so quick in my initial thoughts that I have an itchy trigger finger. I’ve started waiting to respond to emails and think through my response but it doesn’t come naturally to me.