30 day watercolor challenge

Marian Parsonscrafts, Painting & Refinishing

Hang in there with me while I experience my own personal renaissance!   I am just having such a wonderful time allowing my creativity to spill into other mediums.  This seems to be what happens to me…

Music and theatre were always my creative outlet when I was younger, but when I finished college and decided not to pursue a career in performing, I needed a new outlet.  So, I started working on my home and learned how to sew, paint, refinish furniture, and became obsessed with all things decorating.

I picked up decorative painting when we lived in my in-law’s basement, as Jeff finished his undergrad degree, and I didn’t really have a space to decorate.  I picked up cooking and baking when our first townhouse was painted and decorated and I needed something to learn and work on.  It was hard core.  I made everything from scratch.  I mean, everything.  Salad dressing, bread, baked goods, fresh pasta, sauces, spreads, soups, granola, everything.

I’m now in a season where decorating, designing, photography, writing, and painting are my business and, while it’s all creative and I absolutely love it, I find my creative brain wants to work on some things that don’t have deadlines or parameters or expectations.

Sketching and watercolors have sucked me in and they are holding me captive.  It’s a busy season for my family and my business, so I don’t have a lot of free time to devote to it, but I’m stealing away time here and there to work on “lessons” and “assignments” I find online.  (If you’re interested in seeing the tutorials and paintings I’ve found inspiring, you can follow my Watercolor Pinterest Board.)

Since I love landscapes, I’ve been working on clouds.

Here’s my first attempt…


The good news is they do look like clouds!  The gray got away from me a little, though.

I took that practice and worked on a landscape of an orchard and mountains…


I sort of fell in love with this one and plan to frame it.  It looks so much like my neck of the woods in Adams County, PA.

And, then I got ambitious and tried a cow.  And…well…


I really wanted to throw this one away and I really, really didn’t want to post it, but I feel like I need to share ones I love and ones I’m not happy with.  I botched the nose, the face is asymmetrical, the trees in the background are a mess.  But, I’m not going to throw it away, because it’ll help me get better!

Since I’ve just been painting what I pick, which means everything is blue & green and landscapes and cows, I decided to try a 30 day watercolor challenge.  I found this one on Pinterest and, while I don’t like everything on the list (especially #18), I am going to use it to push me out of my comfort zone.  The scary places are where we grow.

30 day watercolor challenge

(I couldn’t find the original source for this list.)

A fun thing is that my youngest son, Calvin, has been painting the “challenges” along with me.  Well, he treats them like a race, so he’s on #14 and mom is only on #3, so he’s winning.  Mom is left in the dust.


Day one was “morning coffee”…


Day two was “sandwich”, but who honestly wants to paint a picture of a sandwich, so I took some artistic license and painted a sandwich cart…


And day three was vegetable…


If you want to follow along, I’ll be sharing each painting on Instagram.  If you want to “paint along”, just hop in at day one at any time and use #30daywatercolorchallenge on Instagram, so we can find each other.  You can also just paint along at home for your own enjoyment!

In addition to working on technique, I’ve been working a lot on color.  I thought I knew a lot about color, having mixed colors for my paint line, for goodness sake, but I’m learning a whole lot more!  I’ve been trying to spend a little time mixing and painting swatches each time I have the paint out and it’s been such a great learning experience.


Some of you have asked about the paints, brushes, and other supplies I’m using, so I thought I would share.  Now, I’m just learning, so I’m just sharing what I’m using.

I started with the Windsor & Newton Cotman Pocket Plus with 12 colors


I didn’t want to spend a lot of money until I learned more.  I soon wanted more colors, so I bought the Windsor & Newton Cotman Pocket Plus with 24 colors.


The nice thing about these sets is the colors pop out, so I can use the large palette and swap out colors with the smaller palette if they are exhausted.  Or I can pack my frequently used colors in the small set for traveling.

I’ve been reading a lot about watercolors and saw several suggestions to buy the best paint you can afford.  So, I’ve been buying some professional Windsor & Newton watercolors tubes here and there.  They are really pricey!  I keep reminding myself it’s just the initial investment and I’m using them a lot, so it’s worth it.  I also bought a larger palette that seals and I’ve been using that for the tube watercolors.


I may have champaign taste when it comes to paints, but I’m all bargain beer when it comes to artist brushes!  Now, I don’t like cheap brushes when I’m painting walls or furniture, but when I’m doing decorative painting, I tend to love the cheapest brushes.  The synthetic, bargain, brushes-in-a-pack kind of brushes!  So funny, isn’t it?

When I started my mural business and was painting a lot (with acrylics), I bought all sorts of beautiful, high-end brushes, and I didn’t like them as much as my cheapies.

So, I’ve been using this Royal & Langnickel round brush in a 4, 6, 8, and 10.  It actually says it’s for acrylic, but I love how well it holds watercolors and how fine of a point it makes.


I’ve also been using Aquash Water Brushes, which are great for lettering.


And a few other watercolor brushes, like a mop, scrub, etc.

And I use a small, heavy mug of water when I’m at home, since the boys are often painting with me and things tend to get sloshed around!  I have to change out the water a lot, but it’s better than big spills.


I’ve been building up my other craft supplies, too…


Not only has this all been enriching for me personally, but it’s come at the perfect time for my business.  The projects I’ve been hinting at all involve a lot of design work and I need a way to “communicate” what’s in my head to other people, so sketching and painting have given me a way to do that.

Even if you’re not into painting, sketching or watercolors, I hope you’re inspired to try something new.  You never know what new talents or passions you will unearth…

30 day watercolor challenge

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