Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, watercolour painting

Setting up my bullet journal for September: hedgehog theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing well and finding plenty of time to explore your creative side. For next month’s bullet journal spreads, I took inspiration from our garden again. I mentioned a while ago that we have a cute night time visitor who we have started putting biscuits out for each evening (specially formulated little hedgehog ones I should add!). We love getting all wrapped up and sitting on our patio watching him (or her) feed. My husband bought me a wildlife camera for my birthday and so I now have some gorgeous photos and videos of our spiny friend in addition to my creative journaling page records. I hope you enjoy looking through my hedgehog themed pages and I can’t wait to see what you have all chosen for your bullet journal spreads this September.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

For my cover page I wanted to have a go at a little watercolour painting. As my current bullet journal is a Leuchtturm 1917 and the pages don’t hold up too well with paint, I decided to use watercolour paper and then scan and print my finished art work to stick in.

My original watercolour painting. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative.
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Next is a motivational quote that I found on Pinterest. It’s there to remind me to keep working towards my goals a little each day. I didn’t want to take the focus away from the words so chose not to add an illustrations.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve just bought a circle making tool and I’m having great fun using it. For my calendar, I decided to go with a completely different layout, a circular design which fits on one page. What I think is great about it is that the space needed for the dates and days is minimal and there are no empty boxes like on the month on two pages grid that I usually use. I drew a relaxing hedgehog in the centre and added autumnal elements. You’ll notice that I’ve done the picture on a while piece of paper and glued it in the centre – this is because I wasn’t happy with my initial décor so I started again.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Even though Autumn officially doesn’t start until 22nd September, the weather is certainly getting cooler and it looks pretty Autumnal outside already. It feels like Summer is over and it won’t be long until we get those gorgeous shades of red, yellow, orange and brown that we all love to see. I had a little space at the bottom of my calendar page so decided to take the opportunity to do some lettering.

Next are my habit trackers. Some of them are a continuation of last month as I want to make sure I’m keep up with my studying and blogging and also finding regular time to be creative. I’ve got lots planned for my Etsy shop and so will have to make sure I put the hours in to achieve my goals so work on my business is on there again. The other two habits are related to my Level 10 Life goals where I’m aiming for a tidier home and even more exercise by making sure I get a decent walk in each day.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

My next page was inspired by one of vlogger and bullet journaller Caitlin Da Silva‘s September spreads where she created a Fall Reading List. I thought it looked really cute with the little book covers (which I rarely get to see as I generally read on my Kindle Paperwhite) so decided to make my own. I went for a nice mix of fiction and non-fictions and all of the authors are completely new to me.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

It’s been a while since I had a monthly expenses tracker in my bullet journal but I decided that I’d like to be more aware of my spending habits so I drew up this simple spread. I covered the left and right edges of the page with washi tape temporarily whilst I drew the lines of Tombow pen to keep it looking a little neater.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

That’s all of my main spreads for September. I haven’t done any fitness trackers this time as I’ve not really kept up with them this month and they became a bit of a chore. I may do a running list of my workouts which I can add to as I do them. I’m also debating adding a Pinterest stats page as I’m using the platform to advertise some of my Etsy shop items and I also pin all of my blog posts on there.

Until next time,

Posted in art, creativity, watercolour painting

7 simple but effective watercolour techniques using the wet on wet method that you just have to try

A few weeks ago, I shared my experiences of using the wet on wet method for watercolour washes. Today, I’m going to show you the results of some really cool wet on wet techniques using a range of household items which you should already have readily available to you. Let the fun begin…

Applying cling film

This technique is so easy to do but creates some really amazing effects. Simply wet your paper with water and then apply either a single paint colour or blend several together. Next, apply your cling film over the top, allowing it to crinkle in various places. Place a weight over the film e.g. a heavy book and leave it to dry. Remove the cling film and admire the weird and wonderful results (left hand image).

You can also work a different way where you place the cling film flat onto your table, add some clean water and then apply pools of paint directly to the plastic wrap (you could try maybe two or three different colours. After doing this, place your watercolour paper directly on top of the cling film. Flip it over and then either leave the plastic wrinkled where it is or move it around slightly to disperse the colour. When you’re happy with your creation, carefully remove the cling film and leave your paper to dry (right hand image).

Salt

For this one, you need to search for some salt in your kitchen store cupboard or pantry – any kind will do but I used some coarse sea salt which we had in our mill. I attempting this technique quite a few times and I got different results, some more interesting and effect than others. Begin by wetting a small piece of paper with clean water. Now paint the area with one, two or three colours. Ensure that the area is damp and shiny but not too wet. Dry off any excess with small amounts of kitchen towel if you have any puddles. Add a small amount of salt either by pinching and sprinkling it or using a mill like I did. Let the paint dry and leave the salt to work its magic. Brush off the salt with your hand or use a small ruler to gentle scrape it away.

Applying rubbing alcohol

This was one of my favourite techniques. Rubbing alcohol AKA surgical spirit is usually part of our first aid kit (I use mine to clean my silver earrings too!). But did you know, you can use it to create some interesting effects on wet watercolour paint? Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol into a dish and put aside for later. Wet the area of your paper you want to work on and then add some paint. Now, dip your finger or a cotton bud (I used a cotton bud for the first example) into the surgical spirit. Tap your finger or the cotton bud onto the painted area. Repeat as many times as you like. You can also use cotton wool balls for larger blobs (as shown in the second piece).

Lifting paint with paper towel

This is also a good technique to use if you make a mistake in your work or you have excess pooled paint or water on you paper. Mask off the edges of your paper for a clean line around the edge. Wet the whole surface until it is shiny and then apply a wash of colour. Use a scrunched up piece of kitchen towel to blot away the colour. As you can see, I made little cloud shapes in my mid blue sky wash. Doesn’t it look great?

Feathering

You can feather the paint in a range of different ways. The first example (on the top and bottom paper) involves wetting a section of the paper and then applying a single stroke of slightly diluted paint in a downwards motion. This causes the colour to spread to create a feathery effect. For the second examples (number two and three on the top paper and in the middle of the second paper, I applied a strip of pinky red and then applied another colour in the same shape, touching the very right hand edge of the first colour. This causes the first colour to feather into the second and vice versa. The wetter and more diluted your paints the more it feathers. For the final example on the second piece of paper, I applied yellow paint and then rain a strip of pinky red down the centre.

I thought these techniques would be good for using to create variegated tree bark and petals. Do you agree?

Blooms and drop colour

Another really simple but effective technique is to drop colour onto a pre-wetted piece of paper. You can either apply lots of drops using a large brush to blend the colours or you can drop small blobs of paint and watch them bloom. Again, the wetter the paper and more diluted the colour, the more the paint will spread.

As you can see, I had a little bit of a problem with the paint leaking under the masking tape on the second one. I’m not sure if I applied too much water or if the cheap three rolls of tape for £1 didn’t help the situation!

Splattering

I covered this technique in my wet on dry post but as you can see, the splatters look different when applied to wet paper. On this example, below, the paper was wetter in the centre and so the splatters there spread further than those at the very edge of the area.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my watercolour experiments. I had great fun exploring the different techniques and found it really calming and relaxing. If you’re looking for something creative to do during lockdown I would totally recommend giving it a go and I think it would be something great to do with kids too.

Posted in art, watercolour painting

Getting to grips with wet on wet: Watercolour basics

Last week, I wrote a blog post all about wet on dry watercolour including basic washes and fun techniques you can try to get interesting effects. This week, I’m exploring wet on wet washes and cool effects. Again, I’m sharing what I have learnt and some photographs of my actual work which I hope you will agree, isn’t too bad for a beginner!

What is ‘wet on wet’ (or wet into wet)?

As the name suggests, wet on wet refers to using wet paint and applying it to wet paper. It is also used to describe the addition of another wet colour to wet paint which is already on the page (commonly known as charging).

The wet on wet method is great for creating smooth transitions between colours, gradient effects and soft lines and edges. Artists typically use it for painting landscapes, simple skies and soft, flowing washes. Wet on wet can be a little unpredictable but that is what makes it so exciting as you are never absolutely sure of what you are going to get.

What are the issues with using the wet on wet method?

There are a few things that can go wrong when using wet on wet so it’s a good idea to explore the technique using small pieces of cheaper watercolour paper like I did before embarking on a larger piece. You will definitely find that you run into a range of issues along the way when you are experimenting but that’s part of the learning process and the fun of working with watercolour paints.

As you are working with very wet paper, one of the issues that can arise is paper buckling or cockling. This is more common (or pronounced) with thinner paper but can happen regardless of how thick your paper is. So why does it happen and what are the problems with it?

When the paper fibers absorb water they expand lengthwise, and they take on a more random alignment. When the paper dries, the fibers contract again. But to some extent the fibers retain their irregular alignment. This change in the structure of the fibers is what causes raised ridges and low valleys to form on the surface of the paper which we see as buckling… ridges and depressions… make paint flow difficult to control. It’s a nuisance which all watercolor artists have to deal with. This is pretty annoying because as you continue to paint, pigment tends to run into the low valleys and settle in pools. Stretching your paper is the common solution.’

Anthony @ Watercoloraffair.com

The method I used for stretching my paper was to soak it by immersing it in a tub of water for 5 minutes until it turns limp. As my cheaper watercolour paper is only 200 gsm this is all of the time that was needed because the thicker the paper, the longer it needs. I then fastened the wet paper to a plywood board and taped the edges with masking tape before leaving it to dry overnight. Unfortunately, the masking tape I have is pretty cheap stuff and so it doesn’t particularly stick very well.  

Another issue can occur if you use too much water. If you soak your paper and use heavily watered down paint, you can end up with ugly marks on your paper. I’ve seen a range of names for these including ‘blooms’, ‘blossoms’, ‘backruns’, ‘cabbages’ and ‘cauliflowers’ but they’re caused when the paint runs to the edges of a pool of liquid. You can avoid these by controlling the amount of water you have on your page by wetting your paper evenly all over until it has a nice sheen to it and then only slightly dampening your paint with a small amount of clean water. If you do find that water collects on your paper, you can use a dry brush to soak it up or a small amount of kitchen towel to absorb the excess. You especially need to check the edges of your work where you have affixed the tape as liquid has a habit of collecting there! I found the best way to learn is by experimenting to see what works best. I bought a few blocks of 10 A4 sheets of cold press paper, then cut each sheet into smaller pieces.

The final issue I want to mention today is the opposite to the previous problem – not using enough water. With the wet on wet technique, it’s very important to ensure that your paper is nice and damp. To ensure your work surface doesn’t dry out you should mix all of your colours first before wetting your paper. You also need to make sure you work quickly which can be hard when you first start out as you are concentrating on ‘getting it right’. This is why it helps to do some exploratory pieces with cheaper watercolour paper so you can get used to how the paint behaves.

Wet on wet washes

Using the wet on wet method has the advantage over wet on dry because it prevents lines of paint being seen. This ensures your wash is smooth and even whether you are creating a flat wash, graduated wash or variegated wash.

For the flat wash, first prepare your puddle of paint by adding a small amount of water to your pigment (you don’t need a lot as the water on the paper will dilute it further). Next, wet your paper all over with clean water. I used a large flat wash brush for this as it enabled me to work quickly. When you are applying the paint, you don’t need to be as careful as with the wet on dry method because the mixture will spread easily. You do, however, need to ensure that you are not left with any excess watery paint so remember to use a dry brush or small amount of paper towel to mop up any excess moisture so you don’t get those backruns I mentioned earlier.

For the graduated wash (also know as gradient wash), you should make a puddle of barely diluted paint then wet your paper evenly as with the flat wash. Then take some paint and sweep from one side of the paper to the other (if you read last week’s post, you’ll know that I suggested working from right to left if you are left handed like me). Then for each new sweep, you’ll need to add a little more water to the mix or to the brush each time. When you reach the bottom of your paper, the wash should be almost completely transparent. It helps to have your board on a slight incline for this to encourage the paint to seep down the wet paper.

Finally, for the variegated wash, create two fairly concentrated puddles of paint in your palette. Then, wet your paper as before. If you want a smooth transition between colours, you may want to tilt your board again. For this, sweep your first colour on in horizontal strokes either to the end of the paper or to somewhere near the centre. Then, rinse and dry off your brush a little on paper towel before adding the second colour to the still wet paint. Because the paper is wet, the two colours will blend together to create a variegated effect (Image 1). If you want a more random mixing of colours, you can simple tap colour onto wet paper in whatever pattern you like so it blooms and spreads (Image 2). Then do the same with your second colour. You can use as many different paint colours as you like but I recommend sticking to about 3 so that you don’t end up getting muddy brown colours when they bleed into each other. Like with the other washes, look out for pools of paint that you need to soak up with a dry brush or paper towel to avoid backruns.

That’s all of the wet on wet techniques I’m going to share today because I’ve run out of watercolour paper and have decided to order some more online to enable social distancing! I’ll post the results of my experimentation either next week or the week after depending how long it takes for my order to arrive. Hopefully, I won’t get as much cockling with my new paper as it is quite a bit thicker than what I have now.

Until next time, keep finding space in your life to be creative during this lockdown period and if you have any finished projects to share on your own blog, let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to check out your work.

Posted in art, creativity, watercolour painting

Wet on Dry washes and 5 Super Fun Wet on Dry Techniques to get you started with the Basics of Watercolour Painting

A few weeks ago, I shared my vision board for the lockdown period in which I set some things to work on whilst we are social distancing and spending more time at home. One of these was to do more watercolour painting. A while back I started an online 7 day challenge but unfortunately, circumstances dictated that I didn’t get it finished. I got myself all stressed out about doing it and it basically became a chore when it was meant to be enjoyable (sometimes I get too serious!). This time around, I’ve done a lot more research (to develop my confidence), binge watched lots of YouTube videos and read lots of information on various websites (some were much better at explaining than others. I’ve also made notes on what I have learned. In this post, I want to share with you some wet on dry techniques that I tried out and really enjoyed. Hopefully it will encourage you to have a go yourself. I’ll be doing wet on wet techniques soon so look out for that popping up on my blog.

So what is Wet on Dry?

Also known as wet into dry, this technique involves using dry paper and applying wet paint to your page (which is demonstrated here). It also refers to adding wet paint to a dried area of paint already on the paper using layering (something I will explore at a later time). Wet on dry is regularly used by artists as it allows plenty of control over the paint. There are lots of wet on dry techniques and I loved experimenting on small pieces of watercolour paper. I actually split up a few large sheets into sections using masking tape and then left them to dry and used my paper trimmer to make little labelled cards showing the different examples.

Washes

The first technique I tried was washes. These basically involve adding paint to your paper in a smooth uniform way. There are three main types of wash – flat, graded and variegated. With a flat wash you apply the same colour and tone across the whole of the area you are working on. With a graded wash you graduate the colour from a light to dark tone or from dark to light. And in a variegated wash the colour and tone changes in various places of the work area.

With the flat wash, I wet my brush in clean water and then half loaded it with paint. Starting in the top left hand corner, I swept horizontally to the top right hand corner. I then repeated that action adding more paint for each stroke all of the way down the marked out piece of paper (I used masking tape to get neat edges). As you are working wet on dry, you need to work quickly to ensure that the paint in the wash area you are working on stays wet. You also need to slightly overlap your brush strokes so you are working into the bead of paint that forms at the base of each line. If you find when you get to the bottom that too much paint solution has formed at the end, you can mop it up with a paper towel dried clean brush to avoid streaking or a back wash being created which is where the solution bleeds back up the paper and creates an unwanted blooming effect.

For the graduated wash (also known as a graded wash), I started with a little water and lots of pigment. I then did one sweep horizontally like in the flat wash. For the second sweep I added a little more water. You then continue adding more water to lighten the colour until you have very little pigment on your brush by the bottom of the page to create a very gradual change in tone. As you can see with my example, you can sometimes see the brush strokes which I guess is one of the drawbacks of using a wet on dry technique.

You can also do a graduated wash in reverse from light to dark by adding more pigment to your paintbrush each time but I found this much more difficult and so have not included the results here! I’m sure some of you would be quite happy to see my failed attempts but I’m afraid I filed them in a special place under my desk 😀 ha ha!

I found the variegated wash the most difficult and again, had a fair few failed attempts. In the end, I found the best method was to start with one colour at the top of the page and graduate to the middle and then repeat the process in reverse with another colour from the bottom of the page. I then blend the colours whilst they were still wet in the middle. This may not suit everyone and I may find I develop my technique differently as I become more proficient with the medium. I would recommend experimenting and finding what works for you personally.

You can vary the density of the colour in the flat wash by using a lot of pigment and a little water for an opaque wash or a small amount of pigment and lots of water for a lighter translucent shade as shown in the second photograph. Whatever kind of wash you are doing, it’s a really good idea to use small pieces of cheaper watercolour paper to play around with different washes so you can develop your technique. As I said before, I found I needed quite a few goes at the variegated wash before I was happy with the results.

Since doing my washes, I’ve found a watercolour tips website which suggests that if you are left handed, like me, you might be better off working from right to left (as I sometimes wish I could do when writing!). I will be sure to try this next time as I think it might make things a little easier.

Dry brushing

As the name suggests, this technique involves using a dry brush and wet paint. However, it is a good idea to wet the brush and then dry it off on paper towel so it is a little bit damp before you start. I experimented with a flat brush working with the very edge and then the whole brush in a downward motion to create different effects. I then used a pointed round paint brush and kind of smooshed it onto the paper and then used a vertical wiping motion at the bottom of the paper. I think these techniques would be great for adding texture to clothing or buildings in a painting.

Splatters

Next I had great fun trying different splattering techniques, The first method involved flicking the bristles gently with my finger. I used a flat brush for this and it produced a fine splattering which I could control pretty well. I’ve actually used this before in my Autumn tree painting which I shared as part of my bullet journal set up for October 2019. The second method involved tapping the handle of the brush. For this one, I used a round brush and had to load quite a lot of slightly watered down paint onto the full head. I tried tapping with my finger on the handle and then using another brush handle which I found was easier. Both got quite messy so I would recommend covering any areas of paper you don’t want to work on and using a plastic cover on your table!

Another way to create splatters is by blowing. This can be done using your mouth only or using a straw. With both methods, you need to apply a blob of paint to your page and then blow in the direction you want the colour to splatter. I found that I could get much more control when I used a straw and didn’t need anywhere near as much puff!

Pulling

This technique involves adding a fairly concentrated area of pigment to your page and then using a wet brush to pull the colour in different directions. I created kind of flower shapes by adding a blob of paint and then using a wet brush I lightly touched and pulled the colour outwards from this central point. In the second example I used a more controlled pulling method to create five petal star shaped flowers by placing blobs of paint to mark the very edges of the five petals and then pulling into the centre, again using a brush wetted in clean water. I much preferred creating the looser flowers and definitely need more practise with the detailed work. For the detailed pulling, I found it hard to create an image in my head of where I needed the five petal points to go.

Feathering

I really loved this technique which involved using dry paper but a kind of wet into wet technique to make the paint bloom. For the first one, I painted a line of highly pigmented paint vertically to my paper. Then I touched the paint gently with a wet brush on either side working downwards to create a feathery effect. For the second example, I repeated the process but this time using different colours of paint. It’s a really cool effect isn’t it!

Drips

This technique involves adding a splodge of paint at the top, lifting your paper at an angle and then dabbing into it with a water and paint solution to create a bead. Eventually the bead of paint will become so heavy that gravity will cause the paint to drip down. Depending on how much solution is added and how much the paper is lifted the drip may even run off the page. I used masking tape at the bottom so it created a straight edge but you could leave the paper un-masked and allow the paint to run as far as you want. I found a great little watercolour piece using the dripping technique here which I might try at some point soon.

That’s all the techniques I tried using wet on dry. If you want to find out more from real artists who have played with watercolour a lot more than me, here are some great websites and YouTube channels I came across whilst perusing the internet.

– Anthony shares tips and tricks here for complete beginners and has really good explanations and photos. He goes into depth about washes and how to improve your technique.

– Shelby goes over basic techniques and also provides lots of ideas for using watercolour paint in your bullet journal. Find her at https://littlecoffeefox.com/ I would love to do perfect my techniques and be ready to do some spreads in my BuJo but I’m certainly not at that stage yet!

– Hieu (AKA kelogsloops) who is an aspiring artist from Melbourne in Australia, provides funny but informative demos on this part of his YouTube channel He uses thicker paper than me but as I’m just a beginner, I figured cheaper stuff was good enough for now and better than nothing!

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my wet on dry watercolour work. I really encourage you to give them a go as you might find a new favourite and relaxing hobby during this lockdown period. I’ve got quite a collection of brushes and paints and a couple of blocks of relatively cheap watercolour paper now but you don’t need much equipment to get started. I began with a couple of brushes, a travel tin of Daler Rowney half pan paints and a gummed pad of coldpress watercolour paper.

Let me know if you fancy giving these techniques a go and which you think might be your favourites to play around with.

Happy watercolouring,

Posted in Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions, watercolour painting

Setting up my bullet journal for May: Succulents theme

Earlier this month, whilst picking up some watercolouring supplies from The Range, I found a Dovecraft sticker book full of cacti and other succulents plus little plant related phrases. I decided these would be perfect for decorating my May bullet journal quickly and easily.

I’ve set up my spreads over the last few days and thought I’d share them with you. I’ve kept it quite minimal with a cover, monthly overview on two pages and a double page fitness tracker which is something I wish I’d started last month as I’ve been working out in different ways almost every day.

For the cover page, I decided to get out my watercolour paints and create my own image. I searched Google for step by step succulents and came across an amazingly simple tutorial from Dear Ann Art who can be found on Instagram @dearannart I also learned, after I’d followed the step-by-step that she has her own YouTube channel jam packed with tutorials and even her own book which I’m definitely adding to my wishlist.

This is a close up of my version of the cactus and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

After painting on cold press watercolour paper, I photocopied the image onto regular printer paper and added May in brush lettering. I then trimmed it down and placed it in my bullet journal using double sided tape.

For the calendar page, I stuck to my usual format and decorated with lots of the stickers. I think it looks really bright and cheerful.

On the exercise tracker, I intend to do a bar chart showing my daily steps count as recorded on my FitBit. I’ve been ensure I do at least a 30 minute walk each day and also get lots of steps on doing my aerobics routine.

On the calendar part of the tracker, I intend to record each time I do a yoga routine, my daily LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) walk and my aerobic workout. I’ve been following an old beginner’s routine from Instructor Live which I found for free on the NHS website.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for this month. I haven’t included any weekly plans because I don’t actually make any in advance as I prefer to create daily plans which I sit down to make in the evening or first thing in the morning after breakfast.

Have you done your bullet Journal spreads for next month yet? Have you picked a theme? Let me know in the comments and include a link and I’ll go check it out.