Pattern a Day December

December was certainly a crazy month in a lot of ways. I was still in Alpine, Arizona, and took a mini vacation to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Then I drove across the country back to Maryland, got home and got sick, and somehow managed to prepare for the holidays and celebrate them successfully! In the midst of all that, I created a pattern everyday.

I didn’t bother posting photos while I was staying in hotels with crummy lighting on my road trip home, but by working with simple tools–a watersoluble carbon block, a brush, and paper–I was able to stay creative every day, even after driving for 10 hours, or spending most of the day in bed with the chills.

Because of my choice of medium for the month, all my patterns were black, white, and/or grey. I know I already mentioned it in my December round up post of other artist’s patterns, but since I was only working with one “color,” I was especially glad that other people were making lots of vibrantly colorful patterns in December. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love black and white, especially in pattern form, but I also love a little variety!

One of the things that was most eye opening, especially when I considered the way I approached creating patterns in November, was how much the medium and color (or lack thereof) drives the way I create a pattern, and ultimately the imagery that I put down on paper.

In November many of my patterns had a lot of depth and complexity, while most of my December patterns tended to be more flat and graphic.

November/December pattern comparison

I don’t think either is necessarily better than other, it was just interesting to reflect on my processes over the past few months and recognize the difference!

At times I felt like some of the patterns I made weren’t my most creative, which is ok. This challenge was never about producing something ground breaking everyday, it is simply about creating everyday. I think as part of that, there will naturally be times when the work is excellent, while other times when it’s just so so. To me what is important is that I get in the habit of working with my hands everyday, as my natural tendency often leaves ideas stuck in my head for days or even weeks before I get around to getting them down on paper.

That said, there were definitely days I got excited about–especially the days where I tried out an idea that in my head I thought was a little odd or unattractive, but the results were sometimes quite striking.

Day 11 Pattern a Day December

Day 14 Pattern a Day December

Most of the patterns this month were abstract. Either focusing on form or the texture of the water soluble carbon.

Day 6 Pattern a Day December

Day 21 Pattern a Day December

I did manage to sneak in a few that were representational, and most of those were inspired by the season.

Day 9 Pattern a Day December

Day 22 Pattern a Day December

One of my favorites was the pattern I created on New Year’s Eve. Although abstract, it really captures the festive feeling of a New Year celebration.

Day 31 Pattern a Day December

I like to think of this as a good omen for the year ahead, which I hope to fill with even more patterns! I’m not necessarily intending to make this a year-long commitment, but you never know! Bit by bit, month by month, I might just get there!

See the rest of the patterns in my Pattern a Day December set on flickr, and check out the Pattern a Day group for more patterns and lots of inspiration.

Happy New Year!

Pattern a Day October

I know what you’re thinking: “Pattern a Day October? But it’s the end of November!” Well, my internet connection at the cabin is slow and limited, so I didn’t want to upload all the scans of my October patterns. I discovered that my laundromat actually has a decent connection, strong and speedy, so I brought my laptop with me last time, and uploaded a bunch of images while my clothes were washing and drying.

For October I worked with watercolor, and sometimes added details with gray ink that I filled a couple of my rapidograph pens with.

Before I started the month, I tried out my new mixed-media sketchbook with some colorful inks I had on hand.

Extra Pattern a Day October

I liked the different line quality I was getting with wet media, but I didn’t want to limit my color palette this month with the few colors of ink I had. I decided to use watercolor for all the color possibilities it would give me.

I completed the first few patterns while I was still in Maryland.

Day 2 Pattern a Day October

Day 7 Pattern a Day October

I left Maryland for Arizona on October 10th, so I created several patterns while I was on the road! I used a small travel watercolor set, so I had fewer colors to work with, but I still came up with some interesting combinations.

Day 12 Pattern a Day October

Day 13 Pattern a Day October

When I finally made it to Arizona, the daily pattern making continued.

Day 16 Pattern a Day October

Day 26 Pattern a Day October

Throughout the month, there were some days where I wasn’t 100% happy with a pattern I created, so I wanted to redo it, or I just wanted to keep painting, so I did! I ended up with quite a few “extra” patterns and paintings. Some were rather experimental or rough, and the explorations were a lot of fun.

Extra Pattern a Day October

Extra Pattern a Day October

You can see many more daily patterns and all the extras on flickr.

At the moment I’m nearing the end of another month of daily patterns, and although December will be full of travel and holidays, I’m planning to keep going for at least another month! Feel free to join me and make a pattern everyday (or so). Tag your photos on instagram and/or twitter: #letsmakepatterns and #patternadaydec

Yay patterns!

the art of “in progress”

I enjoy taking “in progress” photographs of my art as I’m making it, and sometimes I’m very good about stopping for a few minutes to take a quick photo. At other times I get completely engrossed in the art and neglect the documentation.

I’m learning that, like with most things, there’s an art to capturing a comprehensive view of art work in progress.

In my last post I shared the outline drawing I had started and planned to paint in.


As you can see, the painting is now finished. I had fully intended to take in progress photos but didn’t get around to it until the painting was finished. Oh well.

I started another painting immediately after finishing the last one, and before I had a chance to photograph the outline, I already started painting it in. Oh well again.


My intention is to photograph this at a few more stages before the final, but we’ll see what happens.

I realize that I have to be focused on my goal before I start painting. If I’m going to stop at intervals to take photos, I really should have my camera out and a photo area cleaned up and ready before I sit down to paint. Otherwise the effort of doing so while I’m already painting usually feels like too much of a bother. I’ll try this out to see if it will yield more step by step photographs. Wish me luck!

Another thing I realized while painting the pinks and reds, is that I think I’m trying to use watercolor more like gouache. I really laid it on thick, trying to get bright, vibrant hues, and I know that traditionally watercolor is intended to soak into the paper more. Maybe I just still have a lot to learn, or maybe I should stop painting on bristol, but I don’t necessarily mind the way I’ve painting. I like the texture of the thicker paint, but I wonder if there’s a more economical way to achieve similar results.

I haven’t used acrylics in a while, and even when I did it was for color studies in college, so maybe I should unearth them, try them out again, and see if they will fit the bill.

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.

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!

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.

watercolor on tissue paper

I’ve been thinking about making some videos to share, and I remembered that I had a couple that I made back in September. I never wrote about the experiments I did with watercolor and tissue paper, but I took some video of the process. It’s not the most exciting video, but they are relatively short, and pretty in a meditative way, so I hope you will enjoy them.

I was inspired after watching a short video about one-fold origami. I was captivated by the simplicity of the technique and by the beautiful shapes that could result.

My interest was piqued enough to try out an experiment. The idea I started with was to fold a piece of tissue paper once, drop watercolor along the fold with the help of a water brush, and see what would happen. I knew that the results couldn’t be predicted which appealed to my interest in chance operations.

I tried it a few times, and took photos of the result.

Watercolor on Tissue Paper

Watercolor on Tissue Paper

I was happy with the final look, but the photos couldn’t capture the best part–actually watching as the paint dropped, spilled, and spread along the fold and across the paper. On a whim I took a couple videos.

I was holding the camera while I was painting, so it’s a little wiggly, but I think they are neat to watch.

As I worked, I layered the pieces of tissue paper on top of each other, so in the end I had a small arrangement of different sheets of painted, once-folded paper.

Watercolor on Tissue Paper, Wet

Layering the tissue paper had the added benefit of the different colors soaking through the top papers, adding to the unexpected look of the final papers.

tissue paper & watercolor 1

tissue paper & watercolor 2

tissue paper & watercolor 3

tissue paper & watercolor 4

I haven’t done more with this technique since then, but it’s definitely fun to play around with, and there are infinite variations.

What do you think of the videos? Would you be interested in me posting more video content in the future, possibly with me talking, and if I’m feeling very brave, maybe with me on camera?

new watercolors

I just realized that I haven’t written anything about the new Daniel Smith watercolors that I got. I was anticipating them so much, and then they arrived, and I had a busy weekend, and the moment of excitement passed. But that’s not to say that I haven’t been fully enjoying all my new colors! So far they have been great.

I had plans to do very scientific color charts with mixes and tints and shades, and when I first got the paint I took the time to paint a circle of each color on a big piece of bristol, but that’s as far as I got.

Last night I worked on a little drawing and used a lot of the new colors. I experimented a bit by layering certain colors over others to see what they’d look like.


Click on the image above to go to the flickr page where I added notes to indicate which colors I paired together.

Although I was really happy with the color, I was a little disappointed by the lines I added. They are growing on me, and at this point I even kinda like them. I think it’s one of those cases where it didn’t turn out how I expected, so in my mind that equaled bad–at least until I had a chance to not look at it for a while and reexamine it later. After considering some options, I added more spiraling lines with a pencil, and then painted those in with a light wash of the top color.

bigger swirls

I like both versions, but I really enjoy the overlap and transparency of the now larger circles. So far the Daniel Smith watercolors have really impressed me. The colors are rich and bright, and they seem to interact with each other very well.

Now to rewind a little bit; before I got my Daniel Smith shipment, I’d been experimenting with some other watercolors that I rediscovered. My nephew was over one day while I was finishing up some painting, and he was curious about what I was doing. I had a kids set of watercolors for him to use, but he wanted me to show him how to paint with them first.

I drew a few shapes and showed him some of the basics of what I know–how to do a simple wash, build intensity with layers of color, first paint with water and then drop in different colors and let them mix, get interesting textures with salt or alcohol, dry brush, and lift up wet paint with a dry brush or towel.

petri dish

He was pretty fascinated, and the alcohol technique was quickly declared his favorite, I think because the results were so dramatic.

Once I’d shown him everything, we got out his supplies, and he and his sisters sat for at least an hour, happily watercoloring away.

I forgot about the little sampler I’d made until I was flipping through my sketchbook last night. Since it was just a spur of the moment exercise it hadn’t sunk in as, “ok, i’m painting. this is important. this is art!” but instead it was just a part of that day. It’s pretty neat how making art can seep into daily life.

wet watercolor & alcohol

The other day I was searching through the basement, looking for paint brushes, and I stumbled upon an old palette box that was filled with watercolor paint. I’d completely forgotten about the set that I’d purchased in Saipan about 7 years ago. The entire set of Pentel watercolors cost about $18. Probably not the best quality, but they still work.

watercolors in metal palette box

The Daniel Smith watercolors I ordered won’t be here before Wednesday, and after having so-so results with my last alcohol and watercolor test, I was itching to try out alcohol with wet watercolors. I found the forgotten paints at the perfect time!

Some of the names of the colors are very basic: purple, red, and orange. Others have more commonly used paint names: vermillion, naples yellow, and cobalt blue.

I squirted a few colors onto the palette side of the box and got started.

alcohol and watercolor paint, take 2

For each color, the stripe on the left is the straight alcohol mixed with paint. The next stripe to the right is watercolor and pure water, and the smaller stripe (an afterthought, so I didn’t leave enough room to properly experiment) is a combination of alcohol and water.

When I mixed in the alcohol, the smooth wet paint almost immediately curdled into small particles. When I painted the mixture onto the paper, it felt very waxy. Because the watercolor paint was wet, I was able to gather up more pigment on my brush to smear on the paper than when I tried to lift up pigment from the dry Daniel Smith sample dots. The resulting texture is very streaky and gritty.

As with the dried paint dots, some of the colors seemed more willing to mix with alcohol than others. The red was very stubborn about the whole thing, but red purple (second from left) almost seemed to like the alcohol. The prussian blue (far right) also mixed relatively well with the alcohol, and the purple and ultramarine fell somewhere in the middle.

I finally realize that watercolor paint isn’t made to be used with straight alcohol. It pretty much doesn’t like it at all, but that’s what makes the effect of adding drops of alcohol to watery watercolor interesting–the watercolor practically runs away from the alcohol.

However, just because watercolors weren’t made to mix with alcohol doesn’t mean the effect isn’t interesting. Although I’m sure some watercolor purists would probably disagree, it could have some applications in future paintings where a rough texture is in order.