by | Feb 27, 2019 | Art, Artistic Endeavors, Oil Painting | 37 comments

My whole oil painting journey started with a challenge.  Michelle Wooderson, a watercolor artist I took a class from through Jeanne Oliver’s artist network, started the #100meadowsproject as a way to dive into oil painting.  I really wanted to learn and I figured the best way was to put paint to canvas, so I joined her. Another Instagram friend, Page Ellis, took on the challenge as well and the three of us encouraged each other and shared our research, trials, and victories.  I sent them so many pictures of bad paintings and they always found something nice to say!  Anyway, I learned a lot during that project…  everything from the discipline of creating daily to how to handle the paint better.

I followed it with the #100oilstills challenge I set for myself.  And I learned even more from my mistakes and successes, as well as from online classes and art books.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on painting my online class assignments and some projects for licensing, but I haven’t been as intentional about painting every day.  So, when Page suggested a new challenge for the three of us, I immediately committed.  She had three sets of vintage tickler file index cards, numbered 1-30/31.  She suggested using them as the substrate for small paintings, doing one for each day in March.

I have been wanting to spend some time on landscape and color studies, so this would be a great way to do something small every day.

In order to prep the cards to receive oil paint, I applied two coats of acrylic gesso.

It’s funny… the three of us didn’t talk about how we would gesso the cards and when we compared, we each had gone a different direction.  That’s the awesome thing about art…same products, same index cards (although mine are blue and theirs are green), and each artist made unique choices.

I painted mine in little rectangles, leaving the blue border all the way around.

Page taped off the top edge of her cards…

And Michelle opted for a stylistic smear of gesso across each card.

And these choices perfectly represent Page and Michelle.

Page is detail oriented, meticulous, patient, and technical.  Look at this gorgeous still life she worked on for months…

Michelle is the model of beautiful creative messes.  She is relaxed, efficient, and embraces the process with paint on her fingers and a brush stuck in her bun.  She just goes for it without overthinking.

Both are talented and I’ve enjoyed having their contrasting creative voices in my ear.

For my cards, I’m going to focus on color stories and landscape studies.  I want to work on clouds, composition, color, light, relaxing my work, and maybe discovering more about my style.

Perhaps that’s a tall order for 30 index cards, but I’m just working towards progress!

I have recently been studying landscapes I’m drawn to and the colors used and then I spent some time mixing up custom colors and I have found a palette I love and want to explore some more.

This project will be a good way to explore, refine, and expand that palette even further.  (These are all mixed colors with Ultramarine Blue Green Shade, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre Pale, Cadmium Yellow, Ivory Black, Titanium White, and a tiny bit of Pthalo Green and Alizarin Crimson.)

I already cheated and painted the first card to use some pretty paints left on my palette and so I would have an example to photograph.

I strung some twine along my chalkboard to clip the cards to as the dry. (Inspired by Michelle, too.)

I’ll share my progress on Instagram stories mostly, but I’ll give updates over here now and then also.

Also, for those who have asked, I’m working on a resource page for art supplies, books, and online classes, so it’s all in one place.  It’s not completely finished, yet, but the information is there if you want to check it out.  You can find it HERE.  (I’ll also be working on them for home, furniture, and creative business.)

If you’d like to join us in this art project, we’ll be using #indexcardartproject to share on Instagram.  You can use any medium you want and any kind of index card.  The point is to just practice art!


  1. Rachel Going

    I am very impressed with your desire and ability. It has been wonderful to watch your growth! Amazing for sure!

  2. Lisa

    You amaze me. Even with a bum shoulder… you’re still like the Energizer bunny. 🙂

  3. Debbie Nisson

    Thank you for the art sources! I’m dabbling and I want to dive in but family demands have kept me from it. My husband does woodworking and I have asked him to build me an easel. I’m letting him do the research and figuring it out. I’ll post a picture on IG when he does it!

  4. Rowena

    I have been painting for years and that is cool to put it on index cards. Awesome I think. Your doing great.

  5. Rebecca

    I, too, am so impressed with your perseverance! Thank you for the suggestion that any one of us could join in. I am considering doing that, although I’ve never painted with oils. How long does it take for them to dry? And do they smell? Such silly questions, but ones that I’m wondering about.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, programs, pictures and paintings. You are so much fun!
    Hope you are doing well….

    • Marian Parsons

      OIls take a few days to dry to the touch, depending on how thickly you apply them. They really don’t smell when you’re just using them. The thing that smells is the solvents, but I use Gamsol, which is a quality low-odor solvent. Use baby oil to clean your skin afterward and murphy’s oil soap to clean brushes. Put any paper towels used to wipe brushes in a ziplock bag filled with water and then in the trash. Those are the simple ways to use and clean up oils.

      And it’s not silly! I was most intimidated by the cleanup and that prevented me from using them for a long time. They are a joy to work with, though and so forgiving. Because they dry so slow, you can wipe them off, brush into them, brush over them, blend, etc.

  6. Cathy Gillette

    ok, gonna give this a try! still working full time but I do some sort of art or craft every evening as part of my winding down. Granted, this is going to be done on the couch with my feet up, so not perhaps so conventional. I am off of work for two weeks after some surgery on my right arm, so trying drawing with my left hand. the results are really interesting. it is like I am looking more carefully and results more accurate because I am teaching myself again, and have less “learned patterns” on how to to something. not driving so sending my sweet hubby out to get me some cards at 99 cent store…..thanks Marion for sharing ! this looks like fun!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I’m so glad you’re joining in, even without your right arm! What an inspiration. 🙂

  7. Dana

    Yeah for perseverance! You have accomplished much and I for one am impressed!

    It is also nice if you to share what both of your friends are doing along with you and the difference in your styles.

    Your friend Michelle’s piece is stunning also! Thank you for sharing all of yours and their talent with us! Happy Painting!!

    • Marian Parsons

      She is so talented and I just love her style. She’s also a very generous teacher.

  8. Dana Wall

    This is so cool!! How cute and clever <3

  9. Heather Braun

    Those are so beautiful! Jeanne Oliver is so amazing! I was on an Art and Faith retreat in Bellagio, Italy and she was one of the teachers. She lives here in Colorado where I do. She is such a talented, fun, amazing soul. I love that you painted these on old file folders, I am going to have to give that a try.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, Jeanne is such a talented and awesome person. I’ve had the chance to meet her a few times and we were fast friends. I take a lot of the courses through her site.

  10. JC at the uncommon pearl

    Small achievable projects! Such a cute idea!

  11. Meredith MacRitchie

    You describe Mish’s style perfectly… beautiful creative mess. I started following her probably 8 years ago when she was into her paper crafting, and she has been a constant source of inspiration in my own work. And I’ve so loved watching her as she delves back into fine arts and seeing her process put to canvas. I admire her loose style, and how it all has such a perfectly Mish look… I guess I should be telling her that! 😂

    I’m excited to see this project as it comes, from both of you. Paintings on index cards is SO appealing to me (Mish helped me discover my live of all things stationary). I was looking at your Society 6 page yesterday and thought that your style is really evident in your pieces, and I love the soft and almost chalky appearance a lot of your paintings have (landscapes mostly, I suppose). Your skill is evident and your hard work is definitely paying off. I’m so glad your arm is allowing you to paint again!

  12. Jeanne Bell

    I LOVE Paige’s still life…..stunning. I have followed your blog for ages and love it. I have taken numerous art classes and the last one for the past 4 years, but have never reached the level you have. I really liked your sheep and bunnies. I think you could do anything you put your mind to. Thank you for taking us along on your journey. I am anxious to see your list of supplies and classes you have taken.

  13. CONNIE in GA

    I’ve never tried to paint (except walls and furniture!), but I have enjoyed following your artistic journey. I’m so looking forward to seeing the index cards every day! I already love the different prep methods y’all used. It should be fun to watch!!

  14. Marlene Stephenson

    You are doing better and better, there’s so much to learn and you are learning. It’s nice that you have a group who can help each other, that makes it more enjoyable and helpful. I have been following you on ins. and will be looking forward to more.

  15. Deb Packard

    I heard somewhere,
    ” Progress make you happy”

  16. Karen Peterson

    I showed my husband, who’s an artist, your friend’s still life. He asked if I could find out the size of the painting and the medium.
    I, unfortunately, am NOT an artist; though I long to be one. I love your work. Thanks in advance for the info.

    • Page

      Hi Karen, this is Page, the artist of the still life. The thread painting is 11×14, acrylic on canvas. I have since moved to oils but I tend to swap back and forth depending on what I’m working on. Thanks for asking!

  17. Shelia P.

    Hi Marian! You are truly such an inspiration to me. I can’t wait until I can get to my paints again so I can give it another shot! When I saw your color palette my jaw dropped! Those are my colors as well! That is why I’m so drawn to your paintings, aside from the fact that they’re really good, lol. I FEEL something when I see your work, it moves me. Seriously! All the colors in your pallete are colors I adore! I use them in every aspect of my life, from the way I decorate my home( which is in a shambles at the moment), to the clothes I buy. I just so love those colors. Here’s another idea for you , I used to do a lot of art journaling, and I used those oversized luggage tags they sell on Amazon. 100 for just a few dollars. They’re made out of card stock so they’re better than the index cards and they’re great for practice work, to plan out a pic to paint etc… they hold up really well and they’re also very cute, lol. The ones I got on Amazon are a little bit bigger than an index card so they’re the perfect size. Just a thought. Your two friends are very talented! I wished I could be more relaxed in my painting like your one friend. I’m such a perfectionist and I won’t to rid myself of that! That’s what makes it so hard for me to paint. I am constantly trying to be perfect and it just stifles me to no end! I hate that! I just way over think things, its a constant struggle. I guess I’m going to have to give in and get on social media or at least Instagram, so I can follow your progress. You inspire me so much, I just can’t tell you. Keep up the good work marian. Enjoy your day tomorrow! 😊

    • Sue Anderson

      Oversize luggage tags? Tell me more! I couldn’t find that on Amazon…

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, what a great idea! Yeah, these index cards are very thick…more like very heavy card stock or thin cardboard (like a cereal box).

  18. Sue Anderson

    Positively brilliant. But don’t the paints dry out overnight? You are definitely an inspiration!

  19. Page

    What a wonderful post! Thanks for your kind words, Marian. It’s so nice to share this project with ladies who have different approaches but share a love for painting. I learn so much from you and Michelle! Can’t wait for tomorrow:)

    • Mimi

      Page, I love your painting of the crochet thread. Do you have an outlet for selling your work?

      • Page

        Hi, Mimi! Thank you so much. I usually post my work on Instagram @openfieldmercantile and some pieces in our Etsy shop of the same name. I’m a pretty slow painter unlike Marian;) That’s one of the things I hope to work on with the index card art project. The thread painting is not for sale but I was considering a limited edition print of 25 since I have had some inquiries. Thanks again!!!

  20. Chris Moore of Seattle

    These are my favorite posts! I love LOVE LOVE the still life with the crochet thread/napkin/bowl. I love your things too Marian. Esp the ones where I can see how much progress you have made. You have such a great eye, it’s nice to see it manifest itself in painting.

    I also love your antique shopping trips where we see what you have bought. Do you have a shopping excursion coming up?

    Also-and maybe I missed this-what happened with your retail/wholesale trip to China? Is that going on or are you doing something else or am I crazy? (LOL)

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you, Chris! Yes, actually my mom is coming to visit next week and we’re going to hit a new-to-me antique shop while she’s here. I’ll also be going to Junk Bonanza in April and I’ll be looking for a few things. Since I’m no longer selling retail, I don’t have a reason to shop as often!

      From the trip to China, I designed products for them for over a year and several ended up in retail locations.

  21. Ruth

    I’ve followed you for years. First as a retailer for your paint line, furniture artist and home decor seller. I have rented spots in several locations and just retired at the end of December. Spent January cleaning up my studio and just got back from a month long trip to escape the Minnesota winter. My work space is almost ready to for me to start working on art again, so this is a very timely subject. This time I have removed the object of selling my art and only have the motive to improve my skills. Not quite ready to start yet but putting April 1 as my target date.
    Since you love blue so much, my suggestion is to bundle up and photograph some snow scenes. Different times of the day produce some gorgeous shadows on the snow. You are an inspiration!

    • Marian Parsons

      Thanks, Ruth, and so nice to hear from you! 🙂

  22. Cynthia


    Your color palette doesn’t surprise me ~ Have fun with your painting challenge!!

    C <3

  23. MaryLisa

    So talented. I was blown away by Page’s still life. I hope she reconsiders selling it. Its so full of depth..

  24. Judi Yingling

    I’m just amazed at everything you do.
    everything you touch you do so well. I fell in love with the cow that you painted and talked to my husband and told him how much I would love to do something like that or to work with water colors. I remember on one of your blogs you talked about a watercolor class that you took online but I can’t seem to find it. is that something you can share again. My hubby bought me as a surprise starter water color paint set with it little easel and everything. now I just need to learn how to use all that stuff and hopefully will be able to paint some of my garden flowers..

  25. sheila cohen

    Through your inspirational article of Artist Magazine, I I was captivated to find Alfred Sisley’s gorgeous works from our local library in Litiz , PA. I’ve done 2 watercolor paintings in my journal
    pages a little larger than an index card.) .. very motivating….. I discovered him and
    instagram,……. Thank you so much Michelle ,Marian and Page for inspiring the artistswho have experienced your brilliant ideas.

  26. patrice

    These are wonderful. Are they for sale?


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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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