Art goes through stages – inspiration, mistakes, creation and more in the process. Sometimes that isn’t a linear process, either! It can be discouraging when the road is long, but don’t give up. Push through!

That happened to me in the creation of what would, in the end, be a simple watercolor sketch. But it was almost a week in the making! I got to the final stage and decided to film the end result – a very simple real time watercolor!

A note about pinterest

Before I get to the rest of this post – I’ve been doing a couple new things this year already, one of which is actually uploading things to my Pinterest page. I’d gotten an email from Pinterest reminding me I had over a million views a month on stuff that was old….until a month or so ago I hadn’t added anything over there since maybe 2015!

But….I’m not looking back to beat myself up. Just going to move forward. And create graphics for each post in 2023+ and they’ve beem getting a little more attention too. I hope to figure out some best practices and create more interesting content over there too. Baby steps though!

If you’re a Pinterest user, I’d love for you to pop over to my page occasionally and repin some of your faves! I made a board with all the classes on it, so if you’ve taken one, feel free to repin it with a comment about what you liked about the class!

Alrighty. Let’s get on to today’s tutorial!

Real Time Watercolor: One painting’s crazy journey of inspiration, mistakes, creation

This video is about the watercolor painting; for further info on the pencil piece, join us over at Patreon.

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!

Explore composition options

These are only a few ways to adapt a photo to make it your own:

  1. Tilt the image, move it to one side, what happens if it’s off the page?
  2. Change the orientation – portrait/landscape. Add context.
  3. Alter lighting – direction, strength of highlight/shadow
  4. Add personality in some way
  5. Push any of these a step or ten further!

That crazy side trip

A number of folks see a drawing like this one that I didn’t like, and only wish they could do it – but remember that’s an apples and oranges comparison. You’re comparing your capacity and abilities at your level to someone else’s capacity and abilities at their level.

This past weekend I posted a speed video of this drawing along with my struggles, what I didn’t succeed with. Something I mentioned in the discussion:
I sometimes think I understand, in a way, how a guy who saves a puppy in a flood feels when called a hero. “I’m just doing what anyone would do in the circumstance, I’m no hero.”
I’ve never saved a puppy – but I’m making art that anyone at my level would make. And I’m not better than any of them. I’m no hero.
Having people shout that my muddy gouache painting is the best they’ve ever seen makes me less interested in overcoming the muddy mixes I’m getting – because clearly no one else sees the mess that I know is right in front of me. I question whether getting good at clean mixes is worth the effort.

At the end of this post I’ve included some suggestions for giving artists feedback.


Become a patron to join in the mentioned discussion:


Back to the drawing table!

I followed the advice of an artist who said, “When things go wrong, go back to what you know.” He’d had a tragic start to a painting and was ready to just quit art he had so much doubt. But he decided to go back to what he knew. He knew this shadow should go there. He knew that shape should be rounder. He knew that one brushtroke should…..and so on. One decision at a time.

So that’s what I did! Back to the sketchbook. Explore the idea a little more. Where else could this go?

I had to make sense of the librarian. We needed a bag for books since an alpaca has no hands. Needed a library patron…sitting on a bookshelf?

Maybe this alpaca  librarian needed to get out to her patrons. And try on some other colors? The interaction here made me very happy!

While I was simplifying, attack the color scheme too. The olive canvas bag made more sense – and has things like a rolled-up cover to protect the books.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

Once I went through the crazy pencil drawing (discussed further on Patreon), I went back to the drawing board. Or the sketchbook! I quickly sketched out some options to start building on the alpaca librarian idea – and loved the simple sketches enough that I realized it was watercolor that would express the whimsy that I wanted in the piece anyway.

Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Because I’d convinced myself that what I wanted was the fur technique – no, that wasn’t going to be what makes me happy. The overall result of the piece, now THAT is what delights me!

Do you struggle with pieces that just don’t work?

It’s not abnormal at all! Most artists strive to do their best work; and sometimes something that appeals to us doesn’t click with others – and other times it clicks with other people, but we just aren’t satisfied!

When we dismiss an artist’s honest critique, we can stymie their growth by convincing them there’s nothing to improve. They might stop trying to learn perspective or improve shading consistency or a technique with their medium. “If everyone says it’s amazing, maybe I’m just being picky.”

But if you as an artist are not satisfied with what you created, it’s important to embrace the learning curve and grow from it. Figure out what you want to improve, and find a mentor, a tutorial, or a class that’ll help you conquer it!

***I’m not talking about those who are dealing with poor self esteem – this is about those who share that they’re learning and they’re hitting some tough spots they want to grow in. 

Give feedback to artists that encourage growth

Be sensitive to artists who post something and say there’s a thing or two they didn’t like. You may honestly not see what they were unhappy with – but that doesn’t mean bulldozing over their feelings of dissatisfaction is always the right thing to say.

It IS great to encourage – but some replies that help people grow:

  1. Affirm that it’s good that they shared something they’re struggling with.
  2. Thank them for the bravery it took to post something they weren’t super proud of.
  3. Tell them something specific you really DO like (a color selection, a particular element of the art, or how the piece made you feel).
  4. Let them know you’re learning from what they’re learning, too. We all grow when we all grow, right?


Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

  1. Sketchbooks:
    • Bee Paper Mixed Media Sketchbook AMZBlick
    • Alvaro Castagnet Sketchbook (not available publicly, purchased from the artist)
  2. Artist tape 3/4″ 
  3. Brushes:
  4. Watercolors:

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1 Comment

  1. Gab

    This is so pretty


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