30 day watercolor challenge

by | Sep 2, 2016 | All Things Home, Art, Artistic Endeavors, crafts, Tutorials, Watercolors | 85 comments

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…


  1. Cindy in Oklahoma

    Who knew how beautiful a carrot could be!

    Your cup and sandwich cart remind me of Susan Branch…

    • Kellene Ellexson

      I thought the same thing about the cup!

  2. Sandy A

    Wow..so much talent…and I Iove your cow! I play around with paints, and tho I am really not very good, it is so relaxing. I’m going to try some of your 30 day challenge ideas. Can’t wait to see what you create this month…

    • Penny


      I love the cow too. I think you’ve done really well picking up the art of watercolors, well done. And thank-you for as always your encouraging, informative post.

  3. Sylvia

    I love them all. I have zero talent/ability so I really admire your talent. The cow isn’t a mess; it is very sweet.

  4. Angela

    Your cow painting took my breath away as I scrolled down to it.

  5. nancy w.

    I suggest you hold onto your “rejects” put them in a pile and take them out 6 months from now and look at them again. You might like them better. I find I am most critical when I first attempt something and in time can view it with a less critical eye.

    • Char

      I completely agree!! I am the same way.

  6. Susan Erb

    I love your intro to this post – may we all keep having new experiences that can ignite us and keep us happy and healthy and hopeful. Good for you – and your paintings are lovely. I just love the serene quality of watercolor.

  7. Jo

    I’m new to watercolor as well, and so badly want to get good at it. Have you checked out Jeanne Oliver’s watercolor class Close to Home, taught by Michelle Wooderson? It’s fantastic. You can check Michelle out on Instagram also @mishwooderson. She’s an excellent teacher.

  8. Arlene

    You’re too hard on yourself, the cow is fabulous. They all are. Watercolor is on my bucket list – too many hobbies at present.

    • Mary Beth

      I agree with you, I’d be thrilled if I was able to paint any of these!

  9. Lana

    My father was a commercial artist with a fine arts degree. He also did watercolors as a “hobby” but it pains me to say that I like your subjects better! My dad would paint while we were camping and sometimes a subject would be the gray pillars of a big ugly bridge!
    You are very talented.I know how difficult watercolor work can be.

  10. Linda @ q is for quandie

    I’m going to just reiterate what many others said in their comments. You are selling yourself short (but I know we all tend to be most critical of our own work). Your cow is adorable!

  11. Sara

    Wow, actually that cow is my favorite. Something about the greenery in the background is just so peaceful to me! You should definitely start listing these for sale in your shop!

  12. Kim

    Wow, for a “novice,” your work is just beautiful. Goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what medium you use, when you’re an artist, it always shines through. I’m not interested in trying watercolor myself, so I love it when others are out there doing a good job for me to enjoy!

  13. Terri

    oh, to have your talent…I am so intimidated!

  14. deb

    I dug out my watercolor satchel, I look at my watercolor paintings I had in there and thought, not to bad, , my paints seem good. So I might be joining, after the weekend.

  15. Gloria

    Do not throw the cow away please. I love love love it. if you can’t send it to me save it for your
    children, but please do throw it away. you are selling yourself short.

  16. Sheila

    You should definitely keep your “yucks” and date them. You will be able to see the progression of your improvement over time. Love the cow, by the way.

    • Sheila

      Are there any Craftsy classes on watercolor?

  17. Cindy Rosborough

    That cow deserves a good home… meaning not-in-the-trash! And your carrot is gorgeous! You’re inspiring me to get my watercolors out again. I just might take up the challenge.

  18. Denice Hicks

    Gosh!! If I’d painted that cow I’d be boastfully showing everybody who would look!! Everything is just beautiful. I don’t have your gift, but I really think I’d like to lean up against a shade tree with a tall glass of iced tea and watch you work ; ) That seems like such a lovely and relaxing thing to do (okay, maybe not so much for you…)

  19. Addie

    COME ON!!!! This is unfair!!!! When they passed out talent…..YOU got it all!!!!
    I loved the cow!!!! I even thought…WOW!!! a beginner???? You GO GIRL!!!!

  20. Shawna

    I LOVE the cow!! Moo, Moo…said the cow!! 🙂

  21. Kathy

    Love your passion for your new medium. I admire the way you dive in and push yourself to learn more, even beyond your comfort zone. You are an inspiration and your talent is boundless.

  22. Julie

    Thank you so much for sharing. I love water colors. I was scheduled to take a class, and it was canceled. Anyway I think all of your paintings are wonderful!! Such talent. The cow looks perfect 🙂 Looking forward to more.

  23. Anne

    I love the ‘morning’ pic…so happy…it made me smile !…Anne

  24. Pamela

    Ok… so you need to duplicate these and sell them… I want the morning coffee & the carrot for my kitchen!! I am so envious of your talent… keep up the great work!!

  25. Kellene Ellexson

    I am inspired do my own 30 day challenge. I am such a procrastinator and I think it would help me work on some ideas that are rattling around in my head!!! As always you area inspiration! Thanks!

  26. April Thompson

    Hi I love your watercolors. I am a professional artist and work in all the mediums, so I very much appreciate your efforts as I am self taught. Keep painting girl!

  27. Ginger Valdes

    Aw, c’mon! Seriously? That cow is great! I’d buy it in a heartbeat! I sure hope Cindy Austin is saving her money 😉

  28. April

    Lol, I love the comment above that Denice would show everyone the cow painting if she had painted it.

    So cool and very inspiring. I am signing up for the beading class I was considering today!

    For everyone who feels Marian received more than her fair share of talent, don’t despair. God (The Creator) created each and everyone of us in His image so we are all creative. Some of us just practice more. 🙂 You are wonderful and talented too! Embrace you!!

  29. Jean

    If you had painted the sky this AM in Lakewood, WA, you would have needed only black. Poured rain, but clear blue now.

    Loved the carrot, too, try radishes, they come in great colors. And I love the cow as well.

    Enjoy! and happy Labor Day weekend to all.

  30. Karen

    How inspiring! Thanks for sharing the pictures and the challenge. DON’T get rid if your cow. She’s great!

  31. Loretta

    Marion, you are too hard on yourself! There is a lot good about that cow, and it’s only your first one in watercolor right? I think you love the learning and experimenting process as much as the finished product.

  32. Rose Constable

    Congratulations for trying something new. And I agree with Loretta that you are too hard on yourself. I LOVE the cow — I can imagine driving by and seeing one just like her. I think you should keep her, but if you don’t want to, many of us in blogland would be very happy to take her. Keep up the awesome work (with the watercolours, as well as the inspiring blog.

  33. Marian L

    Beautiful Marian! You are such an inspiration for us to try new things, thank you! I cant wait for you to design a line of cards, I will be first in line to purchase them, along with original prints!

  34. Elizabeth

    You are very talented in the arts… I hope you keep trying different things, because you’ve done well in all of the creative activities you’ve tried. Your first water colors all look beautiful — including the cow. In fact, she’s my favorite.

  35. Karen U

    Please don’t throw that lovely cow away! I’ll take it! She’s so sweet! How lucky you are to have found another creative outlet that suits you so well. You are already so talented! I wonder how amazing it will be when you think it’s good enough. I wish you could see how wonderfully talented you are in this medium already and what an inspiration you are to all of us. You’re not afraid to try new things. I’m still frozen about some of the things I want to do in my own house, but slowly…. so slowly, I’m moving forward. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to move into another creative outlet without such fear of not being good enough. But until then, I have a dresser that wants painting….

  36. gina

    Funny …. the cow is my favorite.

  37. Ming

    Love the cow, reminds me of Eulalie (sp?)… I’ll take it :).. Good job!

    • Kim Wagner

      I love it too. Her Mom

  38. Pamela Groppe

    I know what you mean about needing a creative outlet that is just for yourself. I, too, turned my hobby into a blog and business, though I still enjoy it, it does come with those dreaded deadlines and expectations.
    So I am now taking a painting workshop that is just for me, Impressionistic Painting. Being I am a decorative painter with all the defined strokes it is a reach and definitely stretches limits but I am so enjoying it!
    Keeping the cow in your painting journey journal is the best idea. I have some of my very first stroke flowers from 18 years ago and that practice piece is still hanging in my studio to show me how far I have come, it is one of my favorites to this day (the flowers are horrible but still in pretty colors) and my impressionistic learning pieces are going to hang right next to it!
    Happy Painting!

  39. Lori Owen

    Are you familiar with Cheap Joes? It is a website with art supplies at decent prices!
    Have fun!

  40. Mary Borgsmiller

    Marian, I’ll buy the cow…..I love it!!!!! PLEASE! It would be so great to have a piece of yours!!! I think it is perfect!

  41. Sherry

    These are awesome! Especially the cow! The trees in the picture are perfect and the colors are beautiful! You need to sell these or have prints made! I love the colors and humbleness of your paintings and would love to get one!

  42. Sheeba m

    What wisdom in those words in havinh courage to find hidden talents…i need to be reminded on that alot these days esp. Wen life seems on a roll. Love ur water colors, so tastefully n carefully done.

  43. Karen Baumgardner

    Hi, Marian,
    Love your blog and work. I was surprised to learn your location soon after I subscribed to your blog, as I grew up and lived in Hanover until I was almost 30 and still have friends and family back there (I’m in the Chicago burbs now).
    Anyway, I wanted to pass along a site for you I’ve used in the past as I have an art background myself. artacademylive.com – the tutorials are great. I’ve personally taken classes with Tom Lynch and enjoy his work very much, but there is quite a variety of styles to choose and try out! There are little snippets and then longer videos. I think they are soon revamping their site.
    Loved your “carrot”, and remember, we are hardest on ourselves and others are quite happy with our work when we are not lol.
    Watercolor is not an easy medium to master…oils are much more controllable but I love the look of watercolors, too.
    Best of luck to you, and keep having fun – that’s what it’s really all about after all.

  44. Neana

    You are so talented! I admire you!

  45. Tracy

    Love all your paintings, even the cow. I used to raise Charolais cattle and she kind of reminds me of one. They are white but they have pink noses. Would love to see you paint one with a pink nose. 🙂

  46. Jackie B.

    I am in love with the orchard and the carrot. I have a lovely garden and my carrots look just like that! Watercolors are my favorite and you are inspiring me to take up this form of painting. Thank you for all you do!

  47. Naomi Shelton

    I think I read somewhere that everyone’s face is asymmetrical. So that probably means it’s normal for a cow to have an asymmetrical face, too, don’t you think? I think that cow is quite lovely and you must keep her. I think her nose is okay, too. After all a lot of us don’t have perfect noses.

    I’m glad that your watercolor painting is making you happy and feeling like you are stretching your creative talents. You really are doing fabulously for a “beginner.” (pat, pat on Marian’s back.) I can’t wait to see what your next paintings are. Maybe an black and white cow? They’re my favorites. In fact I have started a little collection of them in different forms. And I also love the carrot! Great carrot!

  48. Barbara

    I have to jump on the “I love the cow” bandwagon. Actually, all the paintings are remarkably good for a novice. Can’t wait to see what you do with a little more practice. So sweet that your boys join in too!

  49. Debbie

    I think you are doing a great job. I love the cow and would certainly buy it. I can’t wait to try this. Thank you so much for all the great info.

  50. mary

    Thank You❤ You are always an encouring and inspiring spot in my day! I have watercolors waiting for me to try them out. Thank you for the push❤ I would also like to buy a print of your sweet (a little sassy too) cow. Love her! Add me to the growing list! Have a Blessed day and thank you Again for blessing mine!

  51. Krista

    I loved your cow! Your art work is really inspiring, I’m so glad you share it with us.

    • Lisa

      Seriously Marian my first reaction to the watercolor of the cow was, ‘she’s good’
      . You have talent my dear keep at it! Inspiring.

  52. Lisa

    Okay, okay, I give up! I have been resisting breaking out my art supplies for some months now but I will do it today and start with the 30 day challenge. I put everything away a few years ago when I completed art school (relationship with a competitive artist, long story!), but the desire to paint again has been tickling at me again since the relationship ended. Seeing your work and hearing your excitement has just pushed me over the edge and I’m going to wet my brushes. Today!

    Thank you for being you and for sharing, Marian. <3 <3 <3

    • songbirdalicia

      I’m holding you to that! I’m hitting 69 soon! Let’s hear it for enjoying imperfection!!!!! AND, I too love the cow with it’s imperfections.

    • songbirdalicia

      Lisa, I hear you. I’m gonna dig into my trunk that holds the relics of my college art classes and go for it! I like that “wet my brushes.” You go girl!

      Thank you again, Marion, for being used by God to inspire so many. He is using you.

  53. Jennifer

    LOVE THE COW! Once you hit 60 you let go of perfection and enjoy the imperfection!

  54. Michelle

    I like the cow but I love clouds so that one is my favorite. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics! Thank you for sharing and being such an inspiration!

  55. Maureen P. Ryan

    This is really exciting! Thank you for sharing your artwork and getting us, your enthusiastic readers, involved in the creative process!

  56. Hannah Rose

    Definitely your own worst critic… I thought the cow was super cute!

  57. Notneededtoday

    Hun, if you sold that cow painting I would probably buy it. Seek perfection but don’t be so critical you can’t see the beauty even in what you don’t like. Your practice is paying off and the pieces are looking great!

  58. Kathleen

    I think the carrot is great/the best one, though you should feel proud of all the paintings!! It’s easy to see your improvement by the DAY!!!
    I’d like to mention something our Professor in my watercolor classes said ~ “…never use the white.” We were to leave areas unpainted in order to define whites in watercolors! It’s difficult, and requires planning, but it’s very satisfying learning to do so!
    I am amazed at the many things you are able to accomplish! You are one talented lady!

  59. chiara kuhns

    this is a true inspiration…can I join u? I’ll have to start at #1… so ur winning! THANK YOU!!!

  60. Susan NJ

    When I saw the cow, I thought she is beautiful and what amazing amount creative talent you have. I also loved the orchard landscape.
    You will be having a one women show before we know it.
    I really enjoy following along.

  61. KitsyKeelSmith

    OK girl, you are on your way to a totally new and different line of merchandise. If you keep at this, you will definitely be asked to start selling your work. It it is reasonable enough, I will definitely be interested in buying. You never cease to amaze me, so much talent in one special person.

  62. Aleshia

    Oh my gosh so cute Marian! You’re so talented!

  63. Vicki

    Give watercolor pencils a try…they are great fun too!

  64. Jenny Riley

    I love all of them and would buy them, esp the cow!!! Please tell me you will sell your watercolors some day!!! 🙂

  65. Kathy

    I love the cow. Don’t throw it away. Someone would love it.

  66. Debbie rodnry

    First of all, no ones face is symmetrical and some guys have big noses. It gives them character. So I like your cow. We are our own worst critics. I love the cup and sandwich the best. I never met a blue and green and white that I didn’t like.

    I paint in Acrylics. Water colors have long tempted me, but I tend to get scattered so I have resisted them. You are making me rethink that.

  67. Bess in VA

    Marian, I LOVE your cow and would enjoy having her in my home…hint…hint!

  68. Carolina

    Hi Marian you are doing a great job with your watercolors I love them! I s a long time I haven’t comment but I follow your journeys from the beginning! I have been very busy with my Blog I am sure that you remember me! That’s what I do too I am an artist and I express my creativity with different mediums. I have been painting since I was a kid but last July I participated to the “World Watercolor Month July 2016” a 31 days 31 paintings challenge if you like you can see my gallery here https://yesterdayafter.com/my-doodlewashes/world-watercolor-month/ also you can see more of my watercolors here https://yesterdayafter.com/my-doodlewashes/ I wish you could join our facebook group “World Watercolor Group” it is great to interact and connect with other artists from all over the world! Sending love and hugs! Carolina

  69. songbirdalicia

    I am inspired! Although I am only a general art major and haven’t the fine art touch, I’m inspired when I see the watercolor paper, the palettes of color, the water cup, the brushes. I still have a few supplies from college in my trunk. I’ve commented before that as a 68 turning 69 retiree I wonder if I can finally venture into the arts. Since I discovered your blog several years ago I’ve tackled making slip covers (with stripes) for a wingback armchair, a sofa, a matching love seat, and doing a psuedo-reupholstery job on two matching armchairs! I have some odds and ends furniture I want to give a 2nd chance to and before the year is out they’ll be ready for a new home (i.e., haven’t started yet). But I keep following your blog and I remain encouraged. I’ve had a mental picture of me even setting up my redwood easel from college with a canvas and breaking out the Liquitex acrylics (some are still good after 40 years!!!) and brushes and see what I can come up with! I was terrible at water colors but admire what others, like yourself, can achieve. Again, you motivate people like me! And I love your cow but must say your carrot is outstanding! I like the little “splash” you added to the white space! And what’s not to love about your cow. I’m excited to see more. You’ve evolved so much – that is an encouragement in itself!

  70. Olivia

    I love the cow! And what kind of paper do you use? I’m ready to give it a try… I love the soft colors!

  71. Edith Umstead

    Hi Miss Mustard: Thank you for sharing all of your thought and aspirations about sketching,watercolor ingredients and using this medium to communicate your thoughts and ideas. Love the 30 day watercolor challenge. I got away from painting a few years ago as fabric and crafty arts have pulled me away from the drawing board. I will post on FB as I go and see what feedback I get. I’ll be in touch with my results:)

  72. Holly Call

    Love these! Will you be making any of them available for us to purchase? I love the peanut print!!! As always, you inspire 🙂

  73. LuAnn

    Your paintings are really lovely, Marian! I do love your cow painting—I have a warm spot in my heart from growing up on a dairy farm.
    I had a very wise watercolor instructor, many years ago, who only let me purchase about 8 tubes of color (and to purchase the “artists/professional” version, rather than the “cotman/student” colors), and to buy the best quality paper I could afford. I was really nervous working with expensive materials when I was just learning, but after trying out the less expensive/lower quality materials later, I could clearly see the difference, and why she insisted on this approach. She taught me to learn color mixing first, with the limited number of colors she instructed me to purchase, so I could see for myself how many colors I could mix from these 8—it was amazing to find that I really didn’t need to purchase so many tubes of paint. I’ve really only expanded on her original list by about 4 or 5 other colors over the years.
    You’ve inspired me to get out my paints again after so many years. Please keep sharing what you’re doing with your watercolors!

  74. Berlyn

    Hey there! Your watercolors for the challenge are so beautiful! I wanted to say hi because I created that watercolor list for myself years ago. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your beautiful paintings.

  75. Judi Turner

    Good, cheep, sable brushes can be found at Target of all places. Happy painting, I have recently started with oil painting, then took a year for mixed media and am now exploring clay. All art is good art!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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…


Subscribe today

and receive a FREE e-version of my planning sheets!


Articles by Date


our sponsors

Bliss and Tell Branding Company