Watercolor Painting for Dummies

When I say “dummies”, I include myself in that category.  I have always loved the appearance of watercolor paintings but never quite figured out how to use the medium very successfully.  When I was younger, I would get unbelievably frustrated because I could never paint a perfectly even blue for the sky.  Clearly, I did not understand that watercolors aren’t meant to be perfect, and that is the first step to creating a watercolor masterpiece.  Once I realized this, I figured it was time to give watercolor another chance.

To start, I decided to find a tutorial, but as I looked up watercolor tutorials, I realized there were so many that I wanted to try!  I picked three that looked especially promising and started painting.  Now that I’ve finished, I’ve given each tutorial a brief evaluation to help you decide which paintings you might like to create.  I’ve also shared the link below for each tutorial. 🙂

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Materials Needed:

  • Water
  • Watercolor paints:  Any type of watercolors will work.  For this demonstration, I used Prang Professional Semi-Moist Watercolors.
  • Watercolor paper:  If you don’t have watercolor paper, other thick paper will work.  However, it will not absorb the water as well and might wrinkle when it dries.
  • A fine-tipped paintbrush
  • Something to mix paints in:  I used a plastic palette, but a lid or small container would work just as well.
  1. Easy Autumn Tree Watercolor Painting (click here)IMG_0343This was a great tutorial for a beginner watercolor artist like myself! The steps explain exactly how to mix each color, a skill that will be extremely important in all future paintings.  Also, this tutorial helped in the mastering of color combination.  While the paint is still wet, you learn the best way to blend various shades of yellow, orange, and brown.  Finally, mistakes only add character to your tree so it’s nearly impossible to mess up!  Here’s how mine turned out.FullSizeRender (44)
  2. How to Paint a Pear (click here)pear
    The simplicity of this design appealed to me, and the process to create it turned out to be fairly simple as well.  This tutorial has easy-to-follow, specific steps that show how to use various tints of the same color to create a three-dimensional appearance.  Unlike the tree, the pear uses the technique of painting a layer then waiting for it to dry before applying another layer.  This painting turned out to be my favorite!FullSizeRender (47)
  3. How to Paint a Loose, Expressive Lily in Watercolor (click here)FullSizeRender (42)I loved the look of this watercolor lily, but I wasn’t sure if it would be too difficult.  Although the design was definitely more challenging and the instructions were less detailed, it gave me a better idea of what creating my very own watercolor might be like.  This tutorial might be better once you’re more comfortable with the skills involved in the first two paintings.  Still, the challenge can definitely be fun!FullSizeRender (46)

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If you want to start painting with watercolors, I would strongly encourage you to try out one of these tutorials!  Just remember, a watercolor painting doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.


More Than Cereal Necklaces

When we were in elementary school, the idea of “homemade jewelry” usually consisted of Fruit Loops strung onto a piece of yarn.  Even when our jewelry evolved to plastics beads on a string, it was not much more attractive (and definitely less appetizing) than a cereal necklace.  Eventually, however, time in class became too important to waste making crafts, and jewelry became something to simply buy at the store.  However, this does not have to be the case.

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You could probably guess that I love necklaces based on this picture.  Over time, I have accumulated quite the collection, but it’s not all from stores.  I love to make my own jewelry because it allows me to personalize each and every piece.  Today, I’m going to share how to make a simple, beaded necklace.Page Break

Materials Needed:

  • Round-nose pliers
  • Wire-cutters
  • Eye Pins: These can be found in the beading aisle of any store that sells craft supplies.
  • Beads: The type of beads is completely up to you!  For this demonstration, I am using colorful beads made from paper.
All you need are these four materials and a little bit of creativity.
  1. Start by putting a bead on an eye pin.FullSizeRender (30)
  2. Next, cut the eye pin about a third of an inch from the top of the bead.FullSizeRender (31)
  3. Bend the wire 90 degrees at the top of the bead.FullSizeRender (32)
  4. Grip the end of the eye pin with your round-nose pliers, and twist the wire so it wraps around in a complete circle.FullSizeRender (33)
  5. Now this piece is done!FullSizeRender (34)
  6. Repeat steps 1-4, but leave your final loop open.FullSizeRender (35)
  7. Link the loop into the loop of your first bead, and use the round-nose pliers again to close the loop.FullSizeRender (37)
  8. Your necklace is well on its way!  Continue linking beads in this way until you reach your desired length.  Then, connect the two links remaining to finish your necklace.FullSizeRender (39)

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As you can tell, making your own necklaces does not have to be difficult.  Once you get the hang of it, here are a few more ideas get you creating some unique jewelry!

  1. Be Creative with Color:  Necklaces give you a chance to be bold and add a statement to your outfit.  Pick your favorite colors to create a necklace that is 100% you.  I personally have always loved the rainbow, and I made this necklace in elementary school.  Even though I’m older, I still love its playfulness and the color scheme that reminds me of my childhood.IMG_0214FullSizeRender (28)

  2. Use Neutrals:  Especially during this fall season, earthy tones make a great, versatile necklace.  Here, I used some beads that my Aunt Denise (If you haven’t read it yet, see last week’s post!) gave me to create my favorite necklace.  I especially love the mixture of earthy tones and harsh metals.IMG_0241FullSizeRender (29)

  3. Add a Ribbon:  A necklace can easily be embellished with a ribbon!  I folded a necklace I had created in half and then ran a ribbon through the two links at the ends.  By tying the ribbon at the end, I made a bow that rests on the back of the neck.  This adds a new touch to a simple necklace.IMG_0234IMG_0229

  4. Try Something New:  Once you’ve made some necklaces, try something new!  Here, I made a shorter necklace by weaving wire each time after I strung a bead.  As you experiment with different designs and bead combinations, you will create jewelry far more unique than anything sold in stores.IMG_0238IMG_0228

The art of jewelry can be whatever you want to be, and I encourage you to go make a necklace for yourself.  And you know, if that “homemade jewelry” happens to include cereal, that’s really not such a bad thing. 🙂

Breathing Life into Forgotten Gems

A broken ceramic plate.  A pile of sweaters that didn’t make the cut when you last cleaned out your closet.  Miscellaneous stones and pebbles.  A bar of plain, unused soap.  A few random buttons that seem too strange to ever be especially useful.

Looking at a pile of these miscellaneous items, few people would find this collection very special.  The shattered plate would be swept up and thrown away, and the sweaters relocated to a bag labeled “donate”.  The rocks must go outside where they belong while the bar of soap takes its rightful place next to the sink.  Finally, those random buttons are dropped carelessly into that one drawer in the house that has no specific purpose other than to hold all sorts of useless junk.  That is, unless you’re my Aunt Denise.

“I breathe new life and purpose into forgotten gems.”

-Denise Milito

With one look at the shattered pieces of the plate and various rocks, my aunt will already have a vision for her next mosaic creation.  Those tired, old sweaters and odd assortment of buttons appear to my aunt as the beginning of an exciting pair of new mittens.  And that plain bar of soap?  Well, there’s no reason soap should ever be that boring.  With my aunt around, it will soon be recycled into art as well.


You see, my Aunt Denise is an artist.  Her incredible creativity allows her to see ordinary objects in a different way, and she uses this talent to create art that is not only stunning, but also functional.

“Making practical use items in an artistic manner excites me.  I start by upcycling discarded materials into gorgeous, useful products such as mosaic floors, walls, and mirrors.  My mittens start as sweaters.  My soap is an example of manipulating materials into an artistic expression.  I love creating the unexpected.”

-Denise Milito

Indeed, it is the unexpected that she creates.  With one look around, you will most likely see walls surrounding you and a floor beneath you.  This isn’t uncommon.  But to walk into a room with a floor entirely covered with a mosaic?  That’s unexpected.  Using tiles, broken dishes, and other mixed media, my aunt transforms the structures that we overlook every day into remarkable works of art.

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Sweaters are another one of my aunt’s preferred mediums.  After scouring secondhand shops, my aunt finds sweaters, perhaps no longer attractive in a fashionable sense, but still possessing a potential for beauty.  With these sweaters and some buttons, she creates original mittens.  Along with their creative design, they are especially warm, and I never leave the house in the winter without my favorite pair.

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To my Aunt Denise, soap becomes something more than just an essential component to good hygiene; it becomes art.  Taking an otherwise simple, plain product, my aunt manipulates her creations to make new designs and scents.  I love the creativity she brings to something seldom considered as art.

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My Aunt Denise inspires me.  I admire not only her amazing artwork, but also her ingenious ability to discover new purposes for objects and bring art into the usually dull aspects of life.  As I grow, I hope to learn to see the world as she does. After all, there are so many forgotten gems out there to be discovered.

Masterpiece: The Art Auction Game

“Going once.  Going twice.  Sold to Sophie for $450,000!”  I have always admired this particular work of Picasso titled Sylvett (Portrait of Mlle. D.), and I am thrilled to now have it in my possession.  However, after closer inspection, I realize with dismay that the painting is only worth $200,000, less than half the amount I just frivolously threw away.  But there’s still hope, and I maintain a straight face, hoping another player in this board game will buy it from me later.

Pablo Picasso, Sylvette (Portrait of Mlle. D.) 1954
Pablo Picasso, Sylvette (Portrait of Mlle. D.) 1954

Yes, it’s a game.  Unfortunately, I have neither the financial means nor time to devote my life to purchasing and reselling famous paintings.  However, I have found the board game Masterpiece as an excellent substitute for this extravagant hobby.  Playing this game has also helped me become more familiar with famous artists and their works of art.  I love this game, and if you enjoy board games at all, I strongly recommend you add this one to your Christmas list.  Once you have the board game, here’s how you play:

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  1. Find three to six players, around age 12 and up.FullSizeRender (11)
  2. Prepare for the game by placing the board in the center.  Each player selects a piece and places it on any position on the circular track.  Shuffle and place the value cards (which show how much each painting is worth) face down.  Shuffle and place the painting cards (which each show a famous painting) face down.  Each player starts with $1,500,000 (Fake money, unfortunately.)  Each player also begins with one painting clipped to a value card.  Only the owner of the painting may look at the value of the painting.

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    A painting can be worth any of the amounts above.  Each will be paired with a value card, indicating the amount.
  3. Players roll the die to determine who goes first.  The person who rolls the highest number goes first.
  4. The players then take turns rolling the die and moving around the board in a clockwise direction.  The spaces in the board are labeled and indicate different actions to be taken.IMG_0131
    1. COLLECT: The player collects the indicated amount of money from the bank.
    2. PRIVATE AUCTION:  The player to the left picks one of the players paintings to put up for auction.  The player then sells his or her painting to the other players in an auction.  The player cannot bid on the painting.  The highest bidder then buys the painting from the player and sees how much it is worth.
    3. BANK AUCTION:  The player draws a painting card and a value card (without showing anyone including themselves) from the piles on the board.  He or she then auctions off the painting.  The player can bid on the painting.  The highest bidder then buys the painting from the bank and sees how much it is worth.
    4. BUY A PAINTING:  This space will indicate whether the player may buy from the bank or choose one owned by another player.  There will be a set amount that the painting will cost if the player chooses to buy the painting.
    5. INHERIT A PAINTING:  The player receives a free painting and value card from the piles on the board.
    6. SELL A PAINTING:  The player has an opportunity to sell a painting he or she owns.  Once a painting is sold, the painting is no longer in use and the value is revealed to everyone.
  5. Once the last painting and value card are drawn from the board, the game ends.  Players add up their cash and the value of the paintings in their possession.  The player with the highest amount wins.

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While it might be hard to tell just how fun this game can be based on a set of rules, I hope you take my word for it.  For those less familiar with famous artists, this is a great step toward the true appreciation of art!  Here are just a few of the incredible pieces of art featured in this game.

Grant Wood, American Gothic 1930
Grant Wood, American Gothic 1930
Marc Chagall, The Circus Rider 1887
Marc Chagall, The Circus Rider 1887
Rembrandt Van Rijn, Harmen Gerritsz can Rijn (Rembrandt's Father)
Rembrandt Van Rijn, Harmen Gerritsz can Rijn (Rembrandt’s Father)
Pierre Auguste Renoir, On the Terrace, 1881
Pierre Auguste Renoir, On the Terrace, 1881

The Seven Elements of Art

If you have ever taken an art class of any kind, you have likely learned about the seven elements of art.  While these elements are quite basic, they are extremely important components of all artwork.  Line, shape, value, texture, space, color, and form are used in various combinations to make what we interpret as art.Page Break

  1. Line – A line is defined as the path of a point moving through space.  There are numerous kinds of lines including straight, swirly, wavy, jagged, dotted, dashed, broken, thick, thin, zigzag, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, curved, bold, parallel or perpendicular.  In one assignment for my introductory art class, we explored the different types of lines by creating animals.FullSizeRender (4)
  2. Shape – A shape is a two-dimensional flat enclosed area.  Shapes fall into one of two categories: geometric or organic.  When you first think of a shape, you likely imagine a geometric shape.  These types of shapes include circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, and other shapes with straight lines.  Organic shapes include free form shapes that are typically found in nature.
  3. Value – The value is the lightness or darkness of an object.  A tint refers to adding white to a color to make it lighter, and a shade refers to adding black to a color to make it darker.  In artwork, value is very dependent on shadows and lighting.  In my art class, we used ripped paper that we painted with different tints and shades of gray to create a portrait.FullSizeRender (5)
  4. Texture – Texture is how something feels or the way something appears to feel.  A real texture is the name for when a texture really exists.  For example, a fuzzy blanket, sandpaper, and glass all have real textures.  An implied texture does not actually exist, though it appears as though it does.  When an artist draws a fuzzy blanket, sandpaper, and glass, they will have applied textures.
  5. Space – Space is the emptiness or area around or within objects.  Positive space is the part of the artwork that holds the main focus while negative space refers to the background.  In my art class, we completed a project that explored the use of positive and negative space.  You will see that it is drawn in one-point-perspective, creating the illusion of being three-dimensional.FullSizeRender (7)
  6. Color – Color is by far my favorite element.  As I talked about last week, I love the way color means something different to each person.  The scientific definition of color is the reflection of light, but in art, it functions as a way to manipulate the mood of artwork.  A color is made up of three components: hue, value, and intensity.  Hue refers to the actual color, value refers to the amount of white or black added to it, and intensity is its brightness.
  7. Form – Form refers to objects with three dimensions.  A few examples of forms include spheres, cubes, cylinders, and cones.  For learning about this element, my art project assignment was the create an object out of paper grocery bags.  FullSizeRender (6)

Page BreakNow that we have learned about the seven elements of art, we are well on our way to creating some amazing artwork!

Telling a Story with Color

Green is the color of envy.  Passion can be seen in the boldest shades of red, and many consider purple the color of royalty.  Yellow signifies happiness, and light blue exudes a calmness.  Clearly, these colors have universal meanings.  But what if we want to put our own words to color?

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I start my story with a charcoal gray tinted with green.  It is the color of an impending storm and the agitation that comes with transition, yet there is something calming about it.  It is the color of my family’s most reliable companion during road trips: our old gray van.  Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and more make themselves destinations of the hazy shade.  With my head propped against the window, objects pass by in a blur.  As we move, the sky moves with us, and the variations of blue and wisps of white swirl together.


This blended appearance, like paint not fully mixed, transports me to another place at another time.  I glance at the sky that has become a work of art itself before my gaze returns to the worn down, but well-loved, grass of the soccer field.  As I run around in circles, my five year old, carefree mind does not realize how important this place will become to me someday.  No, then it was just a soccer ball and an orange shirt bursting with excitement.

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That particular hue is now too bold for my taste, and the shirt is much too small.  Instead, I find myself picturing my prefered shade of orange.  A touch of golden light, faded orange, and scarlet burst throughout as the leaves fall to the ground.  I rake outside with my family, and the crisp air warms up with the combination of exercise and enjoyment.  My mom calls it fun family bonding time, and maybe it is, though we’ll never admit it.  The vibrant colors flicker, and now I see a campfire.  I sit near my family, and charades and s’mores bring even more amusement to the day.  It’s not long before we are laughing at my brother’s crestfallen face as his marshmallow lies melting in the fire.

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At the sight of the white marshmallow, I find myself in the midst of the winter and a flurry of pure snow.  My sister, brother, and I shiver, but instead of letting the cold stop us, we invite it to join in the fun.  Together, we build imaginative snow forts and dig lengthy tunnels.  I feel the wind in my face as my brother pulls me around in a sled; the harsh red is striking against the pure white snow.

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I remember when my favorite couch held a red of similar intensity, but years of sun and faithful use have softened it into the most comfortable hue for reading.  Enveloped in that color, I finish another book.  I feel satisfied, yet there is a hint of disappointment that it is truly over.  I struggle to remove myself from the story I have completely immersed myself in.  It is a feeling of conflicting emotions, and I feel as though I am between worlds, between destinations.  And once again, I find myself back in the stormy gray of the van.

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You see, different colors convey so much more than a list of predetermined meanings.  They find a way to hold memories and emotions for each of us.  Throughout art, colors help convey feelings and thoughts that words struggle to reveal.  In a way, it’s like telling a story with color.

Is there a color that means something special to you? If so, I encourage you to leave a comment and share exactly what that unique color means to you. 🙂

Art Through My Eyes

I absentmindedly brush my hair back from my eyes before carefully applying the finishing touches on my masterpiece.  A flick of my wrist adds to an empty corner, creating a sense of balance.  A final splash of color, and it’s done.  Standing back, I smile before adding my name, writing the S backwards, perhaps to invite further questions of the meaning behind my artwork.  At the young age of four, it was clear I was destined to become a famous artist… Or maybe not so much.

 Sophie Johnson, Untitled 2000
Sophie Johnson, Untitled 2001

While I did indeed throw together an assortment of paint onto a white sheet of paper, the artistry behind my work is somewhat questionable.  The use of fly swatters and the haphazardly splattered paint might not strike some as true art.  But then again, didn’t Jackson Pollock create art in the very same way?  (For those of you unfamiliar with his work, you will notice a curious resemblance to my preschool artwork.)  This brings us to a question: What makes art, good art?  Or better yet, what even counts as art?

Jackson Pollock, Convergence 1952 http://www.jackson-pollock.org/convergence.jsp
Jackson Pollock, Convergence 1952         Image found at http://www.jackson-pollock.org/convergence.jsp

Art is entirely subjective.  Defining it is nearly impossible, but merriam-webster.com tries its best.  Here is the feeble attempt to put words to the abstract concept:


noun \ˈärt\

: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

: works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings

: the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.

First, notice the use of the word “beautiful”.  Trying to define “beautiful” is just as difficult as defining “art”.  Now, consider the definition of the words “important” and “artists”.  All of these concepts differ depending on each individual’s personal opinions.  Therefore, one definition will never perfectly convey everyone’s view of art.  While there isn’t one right answer, I have my own opinion on the matter.

Art has always been a significant part of my life.  Along with my Jackson Pollock imitation, I completed numerous art projects in my childhood.  Most of my drawings included a wide array of carefully chosen colors and almost all contained butterflies, flowers, and rainbows.  I also found a love for creating crafts using paper, beads, wire, and other mixed media.  The process of bringing a vision to life brings me immense joy.

The way I view art extends far beyond my own creations.  My true fascination in art comes from appreciating the work of others.  I love to wander through art museums until I get lost in the identical rooms, distinguishable only by the various pieces hung upon the otherwise bare white walls.  I can lose track of time standing in front of an intriguing piece of art, questioning what the artist must have been feeling.  Most of all, I cannot help but wonder what thoughts have helped shape each piece of art that couldn’t possibly be translated into words.  Those are the moments when I truly know art, the moments when I feel art.

By sharing some of my own art and reflecting on the art of others, I hope to give you a glimpse into my perception of art.  It’s a different view for everyone, but here’s what art looks like through my eyes.