loosen up

by | Feb 1, 2017 | Artistic Endeavors, Watercolors | 33 comments

I haven’t had much of a chance to paint recently and I found I was really missing it, so last week, I set aside some time to put brush to paper.  I picked blueberries as my subject and started.

I got to an “almost finished” place and realized I just hated it!  It was too stiff, structured, and boring.  It just wasn’t working.

On a whim, I filled the brush with water and smeared it all over the small painting.  It looked like self-sabotage for a moment, but the pigments started to run and bleed, blurring all of my stiffness and amateur strokes.


Once it dried, I added a little detail back in, but I learned my lesson from the first “draft”.  I loosened my choke hold on the brush and let the strokes be more suggestive and less literal.




I’m so happy I stuck with this one and saw it through until I liked it.  I’m learning that art is like furniture.  There is always an ugly stage and you have to push through it and all of the insecurities that it brings out, so you can get to the place where you love it.  Or at least until you don’t want to throw it on the nearest bonfire.


I did list this piece in my Society6 shop, if you’re interested in purchasing it.

And, speaking of art…  I really don’t have the time to take an in-person class, but I am craving instruction!  I finally decided to take a big step and sign up for one of Jeanne Oliver’s online courses.  I’m taking Radiant Watercolor Portraits, mainly because painting people scares the daylights out of me.


(This portrait is by Christie Drahnak, the instructor.)

I think it was the all-blue portrait that coaxed me into signing up.  I can get behind an all-blue portrait, because then I don’t have to worry about mixing the proper skin tones!

And you know me and blue…


  1. JeanFB

    Love it! Yes with watercolor I find you truly need to let go, which is difficult for me also. Your blueberries are awesome. And I’ve also taken some Jeanne Oliver online classes and love them – she has a wonderful style, as do all of the instructors she collaborates with. Glad you’re having fun!

  2. Marian@CMShawStudios

    I find that often the thing I am most afraid of creatively is the absolute best direction to go. Well done. And I hear you on the blue vs. the skin tones.
    The Other Marian

  3. Amy Greenan

    Oh yes, absolutely on the “ugly” phase of a painting. I call it the “adolescent painting” at that stage. I love that you pushed through – I myself relish in the washing things out, wiping things out, and going back in. Thanks for sharing your process! (Have a look at my website if you’re interested in seeing my paintings – I think you might like my houses!)

  4. Jackie Beardsley

    Love the blueberries! Why don’t you sign your painting? I’m always reminding my daughter to sign her artwork. I think everyone should.

    • Kim


      Marian’s Mom 🙂

  5. Debra Packard

    Love your Blueberries, and Thanks for introducing us to Society6, I got a few items posted, it is fun even if I never sell anything. Seeing some of my watercolors as products boosts my self confidence. Cant wait to see your art class paintings.

  6. Joan

    Dear Marian!
    Hi !
    I’m so impressed with your watercolours, it’s obvious to me that you have a natural and true ability, it’s apparent in each one, you definitely have that feeling for how to use them! I love your style! Your painting is really beautiful and it shows your gift.
    Classes will be fun, it’s neat to see and learn more, all the little tips that you can pick up from stretching paper, all the techniques that have names, lol, ( which as you see certain techniques explained, you’ll probably think to yourself, I’ve been doing that all along but didn’t know there was a ‘term’ for that!)…I wanted to try watercolors on my own after only having had painted with acrylics to start with, so to start, to get basics, I went to a couple of classes ( with a professional artist in my community) MAINLY so that I could learn how to mount the paper so it wouldn’t curl and bend while I painted on it ! HA HA>>>obviously, wayyyy before I had a computer to ‘simply google’ anything! I was a young mom with 2 small boys and I painted late through the night after my first class/the artist painted a barn and grass in front of us from start to almost finish in one evening! I was so impressed, and thought, Hey I think I can do that… LOL, and so that night, being so inspired I completed my first painting after Winslow Homer which turned out to be quite cute…!!! a little farmboy, awww… heheh, I also know what you mean about flesh tones, I painted a portrait from a faded photo, so almost no flesh tones, they kind of look like underpaintings…and I LOVE how underpaintings look ! (they can be tricky though, but you’ll learn alot!…You’ll have fun! Learning new things makes you feel free-er…lol lots of eeeee’s… feel freeand have so much fun!!!!! ENJOY!!!!
    Thanks so much for all you share!

  7. Cindy in Oklahoma

    This might be your best so far!

  8. Sarah

    This is my favorite you’ve shared. Great job!!

  9. linda okane

    So beautiful! You made me smile with the reference to the ‘ugly stage’ in furniture painting, so true! Wonder if it applies to people too? Good luck with your painting course, I am sure you will be a brilliant student.

  10. Ruth

    Hi Marian! If you really want to grow as a watercolor artist you should take a workshop from a professional. Several days or even a weeklong workshop where you stay at the location and literally eat, sleep and drink watercolor. I know you said you don’t have time and I believe you, you busy lady. But this is something you do for your artistic soul. I have taken several and you grow beyond your own belief. I would come home with my head spinning and sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable. Because I was making myself think outside my comfort zone. One day you’ll be painting and the light bulb goes off that is a skill you learned from—. I highly recommend it. Watching your skills develop on your blog is making me want to get back to watercolor myself.Thanks for the inspiration ?

  11. Sandy

    ten four with what Ruth says ….I see a valentine’s day gift from your husband in your future 🙂 I have taken a class once a week for about fifteen years now and still learn something in every class. I kept thinking of that blueberry painting on some fabric…..maybe there will be Miss Mustard Seed fabric in the future! Beautiful

  12. Tanya

    My son gave me the class as a Christmas gift. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to it, as I so very desperately want to be able to put what I see in my head onto paper, but I don’t even consider myself a beginner. (Is there a term for pre-beginner?)

    It wasn’t until I hit my 40’s that I finally decided to throw off the “I am not a creative person” mantra I’ve been living with my whole life. I love how accessible Jeanne’s classes are for those of us who can’t travel or need flexibility. See you in class! 🙂

  13. Cheryl Licht

    I love, love, love the blueberries. So perfect. And the whole lesson of loosening up, always something I have to work at. Good job on pushing through. I think every creative endeavor goes through an ugly ducking stage. When I was in high school and college I would often abandon my sewing projects whilst 3/4 of the way through. Then I started learning to push through the stage of “it’s not gonna turn out”, and most of the time it turns out better than imagined.
    Thanks for sharing as always!

  14. wendy

    Thats so wonderful Marian – I love Jeanne and hope you love the class
    Wendy Front Porch Mercantiel

  15. MaryLisa Noyes

    It really looks great! The muted colors look natural and give it depth!

  16. Melissa Mundy

    I belong to art tutor. Art tutor.com. They have tons of lessons, easy learning methods and I love it. Check them out too.

  17. Joan Dorrill

    The blueberry painting is beautiful.

  18. Cheryl

    Wow, love the final picture!!

  19. Cindy

    Love your blueberries… I also try to loosen up when doing watercolors. It’s best to let the water do its thing, right? Your final is wonderful.

  20. Jessica | Petal + Ply

    You blueberries turned out perfectly. I love the blur that was created during your flooding of the original design. So pretty!

  21. Fran Gospodarek

    Marian, your blueberries look juicy!

  22. Debbie

    That’s the beauty of watercolors…the blurred, watery lines. I’ve never painted, but always thought I’d take a class just to try….and my choice would be watercolor. Beautiful job, Marian….and, yes, you should sign your work. I did counted cross stitch, countless pieces and samplers, and I’m so glad I signed and dated them!

  23. Mary

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the blueberries!! Very Cool!

  24. Tonya

    Love the blueberry painting, I think it’s my favorite so far too. I agree you need to sign.
    Maybe I will get the inspiration to start painting

  25. Karen

    See you in class!

  26. Christine

    What a great idea with the water mixture. Quite nice!

  27. Jenni

    Oh my goodness – the ugly phase – thank you for articulating this for me. I don’t think my husband understood all of the insecurities my brain was throwing at me when I was working on stripping our coffee table and then deciding on how to finish it. I had to recruit him to help me sand it at one point because I didn’t think I could push through the frustration, but now I am happy with it. Every step of making things often feels like a leap of faith!

  28. Tori carver

    I just completed “Close to Home, a watercolor landscape journey” with Michelle Wooderson from Jeanne Oliver’s sight and LOVED it. Thanks for sharing your watercolor journey. I thoroughly enjoy it!

  29. B Folk

    Really like the blueberries, and I have been waiting for you to announce that you will be rolling out a Miss Mustard Seed fabric line:-) Remember to sign everything!

  30. Debbie Applegate

    Wow! This is one of my favorites of what you have shown us so far in your watercolor journey. Thank you for sharing and for being transparent with what you consider boo boos and what you are proud of. You inspire all of us to create !

  31. Di

    I recently attended Jeanne’s class in person! I loved it. Oh my goodness it was fun. I am a beginner but having a great time learning, Have fun. Di


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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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