Last week I hit both a deadline and a wall – on the same day….and ended up creating an intuitive abstract watercolor to get myself out of it.

As an independent artist, I set myself project deadlines, it’s all in my Google doc so I know what my tasks are, tracking completions and tasks, and planning for the future. And for World Watercolor Month, I wanted to release a few new classes. In the past I’ve had ONE class featured, but since my student base stretches from beginner to advanced, I wanted to have something for everyone – so they can all participate in the fundraising.

That was, of course, quadruple the workload I usually pile on myself! Which led to a couple necessary down-days, as I hit that wall. My body just screams UNCLE and gives out!

Tutorial: Intuitive Abstract Watercolor

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

You would think I’d know better by now. That crash and burn has happened to me many times over the years. You might guess that I’m a type-A personality, and I push and push and push til I can’t push and collapse.

Unfortunately that affects my art, too. The collapse generally means I don’t want to sit in my workspace. I don’t even want to look at it. Laying on the couch, walking the dogs, and making food is about all I can deal with.

That has to come to an end at some point though, and sometimes it ends by just muscling my way into the studio and diving in head first. Other times, tippytoeing in with hopes of getting a sketchbook page out as a warmup.

This time, I had the added complication of needing to get the last ATCs (artist trading cards) finished so I could mail out the final envelopes in the Dot Card Fundraiser. (MANY THANKS to everyone who participated, they’re all gone!) I originally hadn’t planned on making 125 ATCs; I had about 50, but as I started packing more envelopes, I realized I wanted everyone to get an ATC treat inside, and busied myself making some. Often it was cutting up an old piece of art that had a few good rectangles in it….but at the end I opted to make the piece you’re seeing today.

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Intuitive Abstract Watercolor

Layering the hues for color as the base, and adding 3 different kinds of watercolor ground, I was able to create a large piece that could be broken easily into small and interesting rectangles. I paid attention to creating horizontal and vertical axes as well as some angled directional lines, letting the grounds be thick in some places, more washy in others.

A few tips:

  1. Look around your studio and your home to see what you can find to paint with that’s NOT your normal brush. Or if you have a brush you never use, try it out! Try a comb, a fork, a tool from the garage.
  2. Make marks you normally never make. You might discover some that you want to include in your representational work too.
  3. Layer from the background forward; if you want high contrast as I did, and you’re using black, be sure the lighter values go down first and dry completely before adding darks. If you want lighter on top, use grounds or acrylic or gouache on top, since you need more opacity.

What’s an Artist Trading Card?

I posted a deepdive last fall on ATCs – but basically it’s mini art pieces traded among artists. 2.5″ x 3.5″, stored in sleeves or page protectors. or framed, or whatever you’d like to do with them! As I sent out well over 100 of them, I do hope some folks decide to send one back, too. It wasn’t a requirement in the fundraiser but a girl can wish, right?

Have you tried abstract art?

Are you an artist who normally paints abstractly? What do you think about while making marks on your paper? Does painting this way make you feel a particular way?


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  1. ATC storage:
    1. Individual ATC sleeves
    2. 9-card page protectors
  2. Daniel Smith Watercolors
    1. Aussie Red Gold Blick | Amazon 
    2. Moonglow Blick | Amazon
  3. Daniel Smith Watercolor Grounds
    1. Mars Black Blick  | Amazon
    2. Pearlescent white Blick  | Amazon
    3. Iridescent gold Blick  | Amazon


  1. Sharon Howard

    What happened to the 6th water color, Thank you Journal? I have been trying to follow along. I was starting to paint every day. I know you are very busy, don’t mean to rush you, but I just wanted to finish this series.

    • Sandy Allnock

      I don’t know what you’re talking about?


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