watercolor herbs

by | Aug 17, 2016 | All Things Home, crafts, Tutorials | 19 comments

When I get into something, I get into it.  I don’t mess around.  If I get into a TV show, I will binge watch.  And, yes, sometimes I get impatient and read the synopsis for episodes ahead of where I am, so the suspense won’t be so intense and I can go to sleep at a reasonable hour.  This is one reason why I don’t read very often, although I love reading.  I just get engrossed and irresponsible!

As I shared last week, when I took the watercolor class at Haven, it clicked for me.  I haven’t found a paint I loved so much since I started working with milk paint.

In many ways, they are alike.  What makes them different is also what makes them wonderful and challenging all at the same time.  When you get them, though, and use their quirks and unique qualities to your advantage, magical things happen.

I am just a little bitty baby when it comes to my experience with watercolor, so I’m not about to share a tutorial or anything, but I thought it would be fun to share my journey with you and what I’m discovering along the way.

I shared this in my keynote presentation at Haven – Part of the charm of blogs is when we simply share what we’re doing.  It doesn’t mean we’re an expert or leading authority on the issue.  We’re just sharing and maybe our journey will encourage others who are in the same place we are.

So, in my limited experience thus far, I’m learning that I like watercolors best when I build them up from light opacity to dark.  I start with a light wash, almost sketching the design.


…and then I’ll come back in with more intense and opaque layers.  This builds a lot of depth and aspects of the subject look closer or further away.


I’m also learning that water colors are very forgiving.  You can be a little wayward and messy with them and it’ll still look good.  I don’t think I could get away with these messy brush strokes with acrylics, but with watercolors, it works.


My favorite part so far, though, is how you can use the water to spread color in an organic way through a painted area.  I painted these leaves green, but when they were still wet, I dabbed some yellow into the water, allowing the color to spread through the green.


You can also direct where you want the color to be concentrated to simulate light and shadow.



I’m also learning how to add detail to make a painting really pop.


On a whim, I made the decision to draw a faint blue shadow around each herb, just to lift it off the page a little.  It’s a subtle thing, but I love how it turned out.  I was afraid I mucked it up on the first one when a hint of green blurred into the blue, but that ended up looking intentional.  That’s what I mean by forgiving.


Even though I’m new to watercolors, I have been doing decorative painting for a long time, so I do think that being comfortable with a brush has made this easier for me to pick up.

And now I want to water color everything.

See?  I get engrossed.

While we’re on the subject of herbs, I want to show these beautiful herb markers by Ariana Ost, a designer based out of New York.


She sent them to me as a gift and I thought they were just the prettiest things.


My herbs (and all of my plants/flowers) are in a tragic state due to the lack of rain in our area (and my neglect), so watercolor herbs will have to do for now.



Hopefully, gardening will go better next year and I can use these little beauties in some pots…


  1. Caro

    I’m not an experienced watercolorist – I just love to make messes on paper with watercolor. One of my favorite ‘messes’ is that I love sprinkling a little salt on my watercolors – while it’s still damp, but not puddling. This chases away some of the top color and leaves little flower-like shapes on the pigment beneath. Also a tiny drop of alcohol works in a different, but similar way. I also like what’s left behind when I use paper towels, or bits of old fabric to soak up puddling.

  2. Deb

    Lovely, so fresh. I have dabbled in watercolors by taking classes at a local community center, we would trace or lightly sketch design on the paper before painting. Also, you should check out Bobbi Becker from New Oxford, pa.

  3. Katy

    I could see thus leading somewhere!
    I have a huge portfolio of pressed botanicals from the 1920’s. They measure about 10 x 14 and there must be 50 of them. They are in a large homemade portfolio, but they are actually loose, no binding. Could be good inspiration, or a great background for photos.

    • Katy

      I forgot to say, let me know if you are interested in seeing them. I can send pic.

  4. Kate

    I have a friend in Virginia and I roll my eyes when she complains about the “lack of rain.” I live in California and I have to water my garden Every Single Day in summer. We haven’t had rain since April. My kids missed their flight back to college yesterday because the freeway was shut down because of an out-of-control wildfire. Living in CA is not all 90210.

    Anyway (sorry for the vent), you make me want to try watercolors! Are framed watercolor prints going to be a new decorating feature with MMS?

  5. Shannon@Belle Bleu Interiors

    Such beautiful pictures. You are so talented, and make me want to try my hand at painting. I can picture those painted herbs framed like botanicals and displayed on a wall.

  6. Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    You are doing so well with water colors! I am like you, I become obsessed and it is hard to think of or do anything else. I guess that is just part of the creative mind. I look at my creative life in phases (i.e. the knitting phase; painting; paper crafting; sewing etc…). I still do all of those things but they have given way to the newest obsession.

    I love those herb labels. Gorgeous!

  7. Candice Hope

    Fantastic job! I recognized the herbs by sight right away! love these and cant wait to see how you display them!

  8. Debbie

    Paynes grey make a really nice shadow when doing water colors. I have just started painting and I love it. Not good at it but I like doing single things like a cherry.

  9. Jan

    I’m quite embarrassed to say that I graduated college with a BA in Fine Arts and Art Education and watercolors always were a challenge for me. I would sweat bullets when I had to do a unit on it with my students. We did techniques like wet on wet and resist etc. and got thru it with good results…thank goodness. I even took a class at night school for watercolors to be more confident with them and told no one I was an art teacher. The instructor could see I was not a rookie with a brush and was very complimentary of my efforts but I never let on. I applaude your early efforts and look forward to seeing where this takes you. I have all the paper, paints and brushes and am feeling inspired to give it another go. I do love the soft impressionistic quality of watercolors and how they lend themselves so well to experimentation. Its amazing the effects you can create and understand why you are finding this so enjoyable. I had a saying in my art room…embrace those happy accidents…and so much of what happens with watercolors is like that. Enjoy the journey!

  10. sally stansfield

    I teach watercolor classes. I wish you were closer so we could have fun together! You are doing a great job. Watercolor is one of the toughest mediums to master. Enjoy playing. When we grow up we lose that attitude of just playing and having fun. Painting should ALWAYS be fun! If you are even in Northern NJ let me know and you can come for tea and paint with me.

  11. Mayanna

    I am a professional watercolorist. You are off to a great start. Try not to use tube or pan greens. Instead use Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue with yellows and Burnt Sienna. Fun and more like nature. Manganese Blue and Burnt Sienna make a green that is great for sunflower leaves. Cobalt and Cad Red Medium make anything from violet to gray depending on the amount of blue and/or red.

    • Stephanie

      Where do you find these colors? I’ve heard these before. Is it a brand?

    • Linda

      Are these from a particular brand?

  12. Mary

    I LOVE these. I can’t draw a square with a ruler, sadly… 🙁

  13. Naomi S.

    Very nice herb portraits. Now can you please paint me some watercolor sheep grazing in the pasture?? Just kidding, but I do love those sheepies from the one dresser–or was it two? I know there were cows, too, but have lost track of which dresser had which animal!

    I have always felt intimidated by watercolors. It seems to me that they are really hard to control. But I”ve really not worked with them in a serious way. Only with the grandkids on yucky paper. Maybe I’ll try them again someday. Right now I am into some other things like collage and lamp painting.

    Nice to see what you are doing currently and how your process progresses. Paint on!

  14. Stephanie

    Your leaves and herbs are beautiful! I, too, love watercolor like I love milk paint and see the similarities. Yeah I get the obsession – most of my furniture and decor is milk painted. I am very interested in taking a class. Unlike you I don’t have the natural drawing and painting artistic skill, but I’m dying to learn!

  15. debbie delosreyes

    You just taught me something. Great job, enjoy!

  16. Sue at Blu

    I think Lucy’s was my favorite class this year! I need to make time to dabble with the techniques she shared. You go girl! Your herbs look wonderful!!!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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