Progress Report: My 12 favorite paintings from 2019

This fall I started playing with watercolor markers and fell down a rabbit hole after doodling the flower above and going, “Holy crap, I actually like this!”

I’ve been painting almost daily since then and although there’s been plenty of room for improvement and happy or less happy accidents, I am really proud of the progress I have made. It’s been really rewarding to teach myself something new.

Here are 11 more of the finished paintings I am most proud of.

Looking forward to learning and growing more in 2020!

Learning Something New.

Earlier last month I got the urge to pull out my watercolor brush markers again. I started playing with various watercolor markers and pencils, etc. this year and mostly found myself annoyed with it not looking how I saw the pictures in my head. Either there was too much water or not enough – the paper pilled (especially when I wasn’t using watercolor paper) or the colors wandered. Or it just sort of looked like an eight year old was playing with markers. I lost interest. I’m not an artist.

Then I got bored enough one day to try again and somehow luck and timing resulted in something I actually liked. What??

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Finally finding success with the medium, I had to see if lighting could strike twice. It took a few tries, but eventually I did make another one that was good enough to please my inner artist.

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Of course in between these two pretty flowers were a couple of other pictures I didn’t like as much, but now I was intrigued enough to keep going. I started painting something every day – sometimes a couple of pictures a day. Especially if I didn’t love the first one. I tried to end with something I liked, at least a little. Eventually I filled a notebook and had to buy more paper. At this point I think we can safely say I have a new hobby.

There are still things I don’t love about basically all of these pictures. There still seems to be a fair amount of dumb luck when they come out good enough to post to social media. There are still so many happy accidents, or less happy. But look at me discovering a new hobby and suddenly becoming less likely to say, “Whatever, I’m not an artist.”

Side story:

Two days ago I went to one of those Paint Night events with a friend – you know the ones where you order a glass of wine (or a glass of cherry coke if you are a light weight like me who has to drive herself home later) and an instructor walks you through painting some gorgeous and totally intimidating looking painting. I’ve gone to several of these now and I freaking love them. Even though up until a minute ago I would never call myself an artist and possibly five minutes from now I might do it again because imposter syndrome is strong in this one – I still always manage to bring home a painting that I am proud of.

Anyway, after a month of playing with watercolor, it was weird going back to acrylic paint. I was a total newbie all over again, following the instructor step by step and step by step going “What?” or “What direction should I hold my brush?” or “Wow that wasn’t what I meant to do,” or “So that just happened,” or “I think my brush is like wrong and broken,” or “Am I doing this right?” I’m a real whiny painter. My friends must love my company.

And to be honest, when I finished painting and took my picture up to be photographed with my painting partner and crime / gal pal (People still say Gal Pal right?), I wasn’t really thrilled with it. I was still looking at all the things that didn’t go according to plan and they weren’t happy accidents yet – they were just normal, boring mistakes. I was telling myself what an amateur I am and look at all those other painters who “did it right.”

Still I went home that night and shared the pictures on social media because pics or it didn’t happen and I’m owning my own process and all that. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to several nice comments and hearts and likes and I thought awww my friends are so sweet. Then I looked back up at the painting and did a super humble double take because somehow overnight my mistakes had turned into happy accidents… you know, like they always do, and I realized I actually like my painting!

And the moral of my story is, own your progress. Keep trying the things. And remember, as the great Bob Ross would tell us over and over and over, we don’t make mistakes. We make happy accidents.

 

 

Teaching myself how to watercolor.

I have not historically been a very artistic person. But after a few fun nights out with friends at those Paint and Sip events, I have started dabbling in other mediums. The most recent has been watercolors or more specifically watercolor brush pens.

I’m still not at a place where I feel super confident with the craft, but I can see improvement slowly but surely and more importantly I’m still having fun with it.

A few of the things I’ve learned:

  • Paper thickness is super important. Non-watercolor paper will definitely curl and warp after it gets wet.
  • The watercolor pens blend better than the pencils or at least take less water to blend. The colors are also deeper.
  • If the paper starts to pill, it’s getting too wet.
  • Fineliner markers work great for small details.
  • The watercolor brush pens I have do not work great for handlettering.

Here are some of my recent masterpieces. They’d probably be more impressive if I lied and said my 9 year old made them.

One of these days I’m going to buy some actual watercolors and see how they compare. What kind of hobbies are you doing these days?

Easy Last Minute Advent Idea: Holiday Jokes and Puns

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We have a beautiful advent calendar that was handmade for us by my sweet and talented step mom or Meme as my kids call her. It’s one of my favorite Christmas decorations but sometimes the stress to fill it with Pinterest worthy goodies / activities / treats / toys can be overwhelming. But why make things hard for ourselves?

Because my Super Mom Skill is delegating like a boss, I’m using the powers of Google and my laser printer and taking advantage of some clever bloggers who came before me. I decided on a theme – basically dad jokes holiday style – and then told Google about it and Google said, “Of course it exists already!” There are a lot of choices but these four were my favorites:

Four Free Printables for Advent / Holiday Jokes

Lindsay at Artsy Fartsy Mama whose adorable holiday themed jokes printables are so freaking adorable! Lindsay also shared 24 non-candy Advent ideas recently if you are looking for more great ideas.

Bianca at A Little Delightful shared holiday jokes to fill Christmas crackers a few years ago. They print out nice and small, about the size for a fortune cookie so if space is limited, these are perfect.

Leandrea at Coupons are Great shared some more adorable holiday jokes to tuck into your little ones’ lunch boxes. So even if you aren’t worried about Advent calendars right now, lunch box notes are another fun way to use these jokes!

MJ and Modern Parents Messy Kids has a whole advent calendar printable using, you guessed it, holiday jokes and puns! Apparently I’m not the first one to come up with this idea. If you don’t already have an Advent calendar and your looking at the calendar right now like OMG – just head straight here and download their printable and you are GOOD TO GO.

Does your family use an Advent calendar?

What are you filling your Advent calendar with?

What are you drinking while you fill it?

Adventish: A Holiday Idea Box

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Sometimes the holidays stress me out. Some years I don’t care about the mayhem and I pinterest my heart out coming up with fun activities and covering the house in glitter and ribbons and twinkle lights then other years I’m like, “What if we didn’t decorate for Christmas at all and we’ll just wait and see if Christmas happens anyway?”

I’m feeling somewhere in the middle this year but with Advent starting on Tuesday, the pressure is on to either get prepared or pretend we forgot Advent was a thing and see if the kids notice (they probably won’t, don’t worry). I have a beautiful advent calendar that my step mom made the kids a few years ago and I love putting it up but have a love / hate relationship with filling it. Coming up with 24 creative ways to say “Yay! Christmas!” can be exhausting or expensive or cavity filled.

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This year I filled our advent calendar with those little stickers that come on the ends of the personalized name tags that charities send you around the holidays when looking for donations. You know, the guilt labels that you end up keeping whether you donate money or not because why would you throw perfectly good address labels away? And the stickers have been piling up for nine years now at least, so I had a pretty hefty collection of them.

I kind of wanted to an advent activity thing, too, and put in fun activities to do each day but that just stressed me out again because what if I don’t end up wanting to do that thing that day – or you know, life happens so I don’t want to put something particular on a certain day only to have that event canceled and the advent calendar turn into a liar because I forget to change it. I worry too much, it’s okay. Also I couldn’t come up with 24 activities. But I had ten activities that are totally repeatable and can mostly be done with minimum or no prep at all and that’s where this strange little idea of mine started.

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To make the box: I grabbed an old tea tin that just ran out of tea that smells all amazing and cinnamony. Then I went to picmonkey.com, my graphic making / photo editing website of choice, and created this cute graphic. I knew my tin was 3 inches by 4 1/2 inches on each side so I went with those dimensions after googling pixel to inch conversions again. DPI continues to confuse me and my graphic is actually like twice as big as necessary, but that’s okay – I threw it in a word document, scaled the image size and then copied and pasted until there were four of them on one page and printed. I cut the graphics and wrapped them around my tin with some scotch tape to hold it all in place. Do I really need to tell you guys how to tape a piece of paper on a tin box? Probably not. Sorry.

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To fill the tin: I decorated some popsicle sticks that I’ve had lying around my office as long as I’ve been a mother. I bought a box with like 1,000 popsicle sticks in it a million moons ago and I think I will have this box until the day I die. I took those charity address label stickers and stuck them on the tops of the sticks to look decorative and wrote activity ideas on the side of the stick. So fancy. (Pro tip: I filled the tin with gift bag tissue paper first because ten tiny popsicle sticks don’t really fill the tin and they looked sad. The tissue made the sticks kinda stand up and look more impressive.)

Here are our activities:

  1. Watch a holiday movie.
  2. Read a book together.
  3. Dance party!
  4. Family Game Night.
  5. Make paper snowflakes.
  6. Drink hot cocoa.
  7. Sing Christmas Carols.
  8. Family Compliment Day – tell every person in your family something you love about them. Enjoy all the feel goods.
  9. Christmas Craft Time
  10. Have a joke telling contest!

Feel free to steal my idea. I know it’s kind of amazing. What activities would you put on your popsicle sticks?