making a mess

I had jury duty earlier this week, and the one silver lining to the whole process was that I could stop at the nearby art store and pick up some rice paper which has been on my list for a while now. In the aisle with the rice paper, and I met an older gentleman who inquired if I’d used rice paper before. I told him I hadn’t and asked if he had any advice. He gave me some suggestions and even pointed out the cheapest pack of paper as a good one to try out.

My hopes for the rice paper were that it would be absorbent and translucent like tissue paper, but would have a little more strength to it so it wouldn’t actually disintegrate and tear almost immediately, like I’ve experienced with tissue paper.

I started out by painting a few lines on the rice paper, and before I knew it, I’d filled in almost the entire sheet with watercolor. Well on my way to making a total mess, I finished the process by painting all the way to the edge of the paper.

making a mess

I was very pleased with the look of the sopping wet rice paper, but as I looked down on it, I suddenly realized what a mess I’d made! I had laid the sheet of paper directly on the table. I decided it wouldn’t be a great idea to let it dry there, so I carefully transferred the paper to some cardboard to dry.

Quite a bit of watercolor was left behind on the table, so it was a good thing that I’d moved the paper.

making a mess

The table was plastic, so the clean up of the wet paint was easy, but I was concerned that if left on the surface long enough, the pigment might actually stain the table. I’ll have to figure out a better surface to work on if I do this again.

Once the paper was dry, the color was a lot more subtle, as often happens with watercolor. Curious about how translucent the paper would be, I drew a couple of abstract patterns on some bristol with a pencil. After cutting out water drop shapes, I glued them to the bristol in two similar rain-inspired arrangements.

light rain

sudden shower

The rice paper is quite translucent, even with the added watercolor. I think the effect would be yet more obvious if the lines of the background were darker, maybe drawn with a heavy hand if using a pencil, or with pen.

Overall the rice paper was pretty strong and flexible when dry, and although fragile when wet, it’s a lot tougher than tissue paper. I have a few more experiments planned to see what rice paper can do, but so far so good.

Sketchbook Look

One of my sketchbooks has been hiding in my purse for a few months. I started drawing in it this summer, and intended to sketch in it when I was out and about and had a spare moment. Either I didn’t go to many places, or when I did, I didn’t have time to sketch, because it’s been mostly unused since the end of July. I found it again when I was switching from my summer purse to winter purse, and decided to sketch in it the other night.

I had finished quite a few sketches in the book during the summer, and the thought of scanning them all in to share seemed rather tedious, so I decided to make a short video where I flip through the sketchbook and talk about the different sketches a little bit.

I hope you liked it.

I’d really love to hear your feedback about this, so let me know what you think. Would you be interested in seeing similar videos of my sketchbook after I’ve drawn in it some more? Should it be shorter? Could you see the drawings well enough? Any feedback is very welcome!

begonia pattern

I’ve been trying to get back into drawing from life again lately. I have a little sketchbook that I keep in my purse so it’s with me wherever I go, but I find I don’t draw in it as often as I thought I would. Instead, I’ve started sketching in it at home. Yesterday I sketched the branches of a tree that I saw through the window. I don’t love the cold weather that winter brings, but I do love the shape and pattern of bare tree branches.


Once it got dark outside, I sketched a small potted begonia that sits on the coffee table.


After drawing the begonias, I had an idea for a stylized drawing.


I still referenced the real plant to draw the shapes of the blossoms, but I simplified the petals a bit where I needed to and arranged the blossoms in a chain.

The next drawing I did was based on a few doodles that I’ve done before, but haven’t yet scanned.

stacked triangles

Maybe there was a little influence from the tree branches as well?

As I was working on the last two drawings, my Sketchbook Project theme was definitely on my mind. What can I say? I’m hooked on my theme (lines & grids) and can’t wait to get my sketchbook!

The chain of begonia blossoms seemed like it would work for a pattern, so I played around a bit in photoshop.


I like the look of the gray and white, but I couldn’t resist adding some color, also in photoshop.

bright magenta

I tried out a ton of color variations in photoshop, and posted a few of them flickr if you want to check them out.

lines & grids

I finally made up my mind about what theme to choose for the Sketchbook Project, and more importantly, I actually, officially signed up! For a long time I had my eye on the theme, “Make Mine a Double,” but could never quite take the plunge. Recently I checked out the website again, and that theme wasn’t available anymore. I was a little bummed, until I saw one that hadn’t been available when I was first checking it out. “Lines & Grids” is the theme I went for, and I’m really happy about it. In my opinion, it’s one of the most neutral themes I’ve seen, and I feel like there is so much that I can do with it.

After signing up, I kept coming up with all kinds of ideas for what I could do for the sketchbook, but I know that it’ll be a while before I get the actual sketchbook in the mail and can start drawing in it. Not able to contain myself any longer, I painted a plaid pattern on a small card with watercolor, and then cut out the shape of a heart.

I glued the cut out heart onto a plain sheet of paper, and continued the lines from the heart onto the clean background with pen.

too much plaid

I found it confusing and a little overwhelming when I was done. It seemed a little funny to me, but I cut it out again!

plaid heart

Ahhhh. Much better. The busy plaid needs the contrast of the plain background.

Not one to waste scraps, I also scanned in the background on its own, which also looks pretty good.

plaid background

Maybe something like this will end up in my Sketchbook Project sketchbook?


I have paintings & print-outs & copies & sketches of butterflies all over my desk right now. It all started when I was inspired to paint one of the butterflies that I have on my bedroom wall.


I thought it would be a good challenge to use my new Daniel Smith watercolors to paint something representational for a change, and I was really attracted to the blues, greens, and dark grays of the top butterfly.

two butterflies

I ended up painting both butterflies, and I’m very happy with how they turned out. I learned a lot, and had a really fun time drawing and painting them.

In my original pencil drawing, I neglected to draw the vein details on the wings. I’ve considered going back to add them to the watercolor paintings, but I’m nervous. I try not to think of art as “precious,” and generally if I have an impulse to adjust or add something to a painting or drawing, I go for it–even if I’m not sure how it will look. So I feel a little silly admitting that I’m afraid of ruining this painting! If I’d added the details while drawing the initial pencil lines, it would have been easy to correct any mistakes; drawing over the painting won’t give me that luxury. I think I might just add some antennae and call it finished. The colors are so rich and luminous, I’m definitely going to be framing and hanging this painting, whether I add the veins or not.

I recognize that even when I draw representationally, my drawings tend to end up at least somewhat smoothed out and stylized. As I drew the “realistic” butterflies I learned their shapes and proportions. The next step was to draw a butterfly that was a little less carefully rendered in terms of matching the realistic look of the butterfly.

As a side note, I want to mention that I was asked to participate in the Twitter Art Exhibit that will take place in Norway in December, and I thought it might be fun to paint a butterfly for my submission. When drawing my first “less careful, more stylized” butterfly, I sketched out the shapes with pencil on a 4 x 6 card (the requested size for the exhibit).


I still drew it carefully and symmetrically, but perhaps you notice some of the subtle differences? I intended this to be the drawing that would become the final painting for the exhibit, but as often happens, the process unfolded in an unexpected way. I added the detail of the flower border, and then scanned the card. In photoshop I isolated the butterfly and printed it out to try out another idea i had for a background.

butterfly with dots

I like the dots, and I might work with this type of background in the future, but the floral border was very charming, so I left it as it was.

After carefully drawing the stylized pencil sketch, I realized that it was still very carefully rendered, which hadn’t been my initial intention, so on another 4×6 card, I quickly drew yet another similar butterfly in pen, just to see how it would turn out. With pen there is no chance to correct any mistakes, but by the 3rd drawing I guess I had learned how to draw this butterfly pretty well. I added a similar floral border as the pencil sketch, also in pen.

I wish I could show you the original pen & ink drawing before it was painted, but alas, I didn’t scan it because I wasn’t expecting to do much with it.

I do have a scan of another butterfly, also drawn using pen only, so at least you can have an idea of what I started with.


The only reason I painted the pen drawing at all was to try out colors and painting techniques before working on the “real” painting. I didn’t expect it to turn out so well, but I really love it, so I’m going to use the “trial” as my submission for the exhibit.

butterfly, final

If you happen to be in Norway in December, go check out the Twitter Art Exhibit. Looks like it’s shaping up to be an eclectic show!

hush, smooth, & smile

Waaaayyy back in June I participated in the Creativity Boot Camp. The idea was to make one piece of art inspired by the day’s theme on that very same day. The whole thing was supposed to be finished in the 2 weeks of the boot camp. I got delayed while working on the second theme, “picnic” because I ended up drawing 5 different things! I realized I wouldn’t finish all the themes in the allotted two weeks, but I decided to continue working at my own pace until I’d drawn something for each of the 13 themes. I finished up 10 of the themes in a timely manner, but the last three lingered on my to-do list. This weekend, about 5 months after the challenge started, I decided to finish it up.

I lost my momentum when I got stuck on the 11th theme, “hush”. I had a really hard time coming up with an idea of what to draw (obviously). As the weeks drifted by, I would occasionally try to think of something for the theme, but nothing grabbed me. Finally I thought, “well I could just do something calm and muted”. I thought of water, and how the drawing for the “fluid” theme might have worked for “hush” so I decided to do another water-inspired drawing.

hush, original

I’m not sure how successful the final drawing is in terms of the theme. The “water” might be a little too choppy, and the outlines might be a little too strong for “hush”, but it’s a pretty pattern, so I’m happy with the results.

The 12th theme was “smooth”. I already had this one worked out as a sketch, but I wanted to post the themes in order, so I held off finishing it until now.


I doubt that this drawing would conjure up the word, “smooth,” on its own, but I like it for the theme because of the idea behind the drawing. I first drew the lines, and then smoothed out some of the angles with a curved line and shading.

The final theme was “smile” and I was pretty much dreading it, truth be told. Every idea I had seemed terribly cheesy and made me cringe a little bit. Lucky for me, I watched Alice in Wonderland this weekend.


As you might imagine, the Cheshire cat inspired this pattern. Maybe it’s still a bit cheesy, but I also think it’s a pretty cute pattern and one of my favorite drawings from the whole boot camp. I certainly wasn’t expecting that the theme I disliked the most would have such a fun solution!

Today I gathered up all the finished drawings and arranged them on the wall above my desk. In all there were 13 themes, and I completed 20 drawings in total. “Picnic” had the most drawings at 5. “Ivory,” “multilayered,” and “heavy metal” each got 2 drawings, and for all the other themes I drew 1 drawing each.

all Creativity Boot Camp drawings

For reference, here is a list of the themes that correspond to the image above, top row to bottom row, left to right:
ivory, ivory, picnic, picnic
picnic, picnic, picnic, multilayered
multilayered, heavy metal, heavy metal, grow
fluid, fly, ornament, drizzle
full bodied, hush, smooth, smile

If you click through to flickr on the above image, you’ll find that it’s tagged with the various themes with links to the original full-sized drawings. Also, if you want to check out the blog posts about the previous 10 themes, you can find them on my old “anika mari” blog.

All of the drawings were done on 6 in x 6 in bristol. When I started the challenge, I had decided to use only pencil and/or Prismacolor markers. A few minor exceptions that snuck in were a silver sharpie that I used for the silver and pink “heavy metal” drawing, blue ink that I used for the outlines of the “ornament” drawing, and black ink used for details on two of the picnic drawings. For “full bodied” I used black ink and watercolor. I really don’t know why I used watercolor. I’m sure I could have colored it with marker, but I probably just wasn’t thinking!

It took me a while, but I’m so glad that I followed through and finished all of the themes.

Would I do it again? It’s hard to say right now, after just finishing. Those final three themes were looming in the background for months, and it kind of stressed me out in a mild, consistent manner. That said, overall I really liked the Creativity Boot Camp. The best part was creating some really nice drawings that I never would have come up with if I hadn’t had the themes to work from. It was a challenging creative exercise that got me to approach making art in a different way. Maybe in a year I’d be up for it again?

calendars with color

I’ve been drawing more calendar sketches in my spare time. I’ve had some new ideas, and wanted to hone some of the original sketches as well.

calendar sketches

I’m really happy with the redraw for February, and I like the new drawing for September. The November texture is also pretty interesting, so there’s potential there, even if I did run out of space on this sketch.

Last night I added color to some of the existing sketches.

calendar sketches

I’m not a big fan of the color. I was a lot more fond of them when they were black and white line drawings.

There were only two months that I added color to that I liked: a new drawing for May, and the existing September sketch.

calendar sketches

Color works for those particular drawings because they were relatively simple and repetitive and achieved balance with the surrounding white space. The color functions as an accent and doesn’t overwhelm the piece.

Taking into consideration some of the sketches where color doesn’t work, my best choice is going to be to stick with black and white only and rely on line details and texture to add interest.

It was worthwhile trying out color on these sketches, even if the result is that I decide not to use it. I love color, so it’s often not a conscious choice on my part to incorporate it into my work. Although I’m a little surprised to find that I prefer the drawings without color, I’m also a fan of the simple elegance that’s possible with the use of only black and white.

calendar sketches

Yesterday was election day, and my nieces (6 years old) and nephew (8 years old) didn’t have school. I volunteered to hang out with them, and when we get together art, among other fun things, is always involved. I usually set them up with their supplies at the dining room table or the kitchen counter, but if I have to spend any time in my studio to do computer work, they eventually all migrate in there and spread out all over the floor. By the end of the day there were papers and crayons and markers everywhere.

When they paint with watercolor they have to sit at the counter because it has the potential for major mess, and since they like to be where I am, I took some time and sat at the table next to them and worked some sketches for a 2011 calendar. I was close enough that all they had to say was “hey Anika look!” and I could “ooooo” and “aaaaaa” at what they’d painted.

I made sketches for each month through August before their attention spans had run out. After they’d left to go back home I needed some time to decompress, so I sat infront of a crackling fire and finished up September through December.

calendar sketches

calendar sketches

I highly recommend that you click on the images which takes you to flickr. There you can view the large sizes and see more of the detail of the various months.

As I was working, my drawings got smaller and smaller, which you can see in the above photo. On the paper to the right, you can see the size I started drawing with January, and by the time I got to December, which you can see in the center paper, the drawing was almost half the size! But that’s ok. These are sketches, and I still have more work to do get to final drawings that I’m happy with.

I’m going to make a grid template to help me draw the dates in a somewhat regular fashion, and I’m going to try out more borders until I find just the right ones.

I like the black and white drawings, but it’s very likely that I’ll at least try out color to see how that works.

Do you have a favorite?

watercolor collage

I’ve been painting quite a bit with my new watercolors over the past few days. I’m still getting used to the new colors, but so far I’m loving them. I mentioned the test sheet I made when I first got all my new colors, but other than being very colorful, I didn’t find it all that useful.

watercolor dots

I didn’t know what all the colors would look like on the paper as I painted them. When I was done, I realized I would prefer to arrange them a little differently, so I decided not to use sheet for a reference.

Since the colors and textures looked so nice, I thought I might as well make something out of the sheet, so I cut the dots apart.

watercolor dots, cut up

I thought about arranging these cut up dots as part of a collage, but then I got the idea to cut out small rectangles of just the colors.


It’s a simple collage, but I really love how colorful it is. I have enough little “chips” to make one more stacked tower, so this isn’t technically finished, but I wanted to share what I have so far. If inspiration strikes after the three towers are in place, maybe I’ll add some other drawn details.

After finishing the collage for the night, I didn’t want to set it aside where I might forget about it. I took down the painting that was hanging above my desk and affixed the collage, along with several other recent paintings, to the wall with some removable adhesive putty.

above my desk

I haven’t scanned any of these latest paintings because they are all just a bit too big for my scanner. I might be able to trim some of them down just a bit so that they’ll fit, so you may be seeing full size images of them soon.

I’d been meaning to figure out some way of having an “inspiration wall” and this seems to be a good solution. So far it’s been really nice to have some of my work actually up on the wall, rather than tucked away in a filing drawer.