3 Tips from a (Month-Old) Artist

You’ve got to start somewhere, Mariella.

That’s what I remind myself when I am trying to paint something and it looks (in my opinion) like something a first-grader would draw. I then remember that, in reality, when it comes to watercolor I am a first-grader.

the earth sleeping by me

I’ve focused on literature, painting pictures with words, for twenty years of my life. I can write a novel, poem, journal entry, or blog post. I can edit articles for people; I have been rated a 4-star freelancer. I’m accustomed to using words to put images in the minds of my audience.

Creating with color is new to me.

And yet—and yet—

I page through my watercolor sketchbook and see things I cannot believe were created by my hand. That bird looked like a smudge when I was struggling with the wet-on-wet technique. It is stylishly decent when I look with fresh eyes the day after.

Houses are always clumsy in my landscapes, and I wish I could make them more elaborate. However, when I don’t focus on the house, when I look instead at the big picture, I see I’ve begun to understand how this medium works.

If you’ve chosen to take up a hobby and feel pathetic with your attempts, remember we are like babies when we start out. Twenty years of writing to one month of watercolor? The writing will dwarf the paint every time. Whatever it is you have decided to try learning, I ask you join me. We can together be patient with ourselves.

untitled out of focus

I see my progress at the piano as an example of how practice and consistency make a difference. Grandma taught me the basics when I was a kid. I did not develop a love for the instrument at that age, but in teaching me the basics, she planted a seed that’s blossoming during my twenty-eighth year.

From this, we can learn three things.

1) If you’re trying to teach someone and it doesn’t work immediately, it doesn’t mean the message will never sink in. I am grieved to think of the frustration Grandma felt when she did not see me approach piano lessons with the enthusiasm she wanted. I regret that my interest in it sprang up after she left.

2) Blue and yellow make green. That note on sheet music, you know the one? That’s Middle C, and it can be found there, and it’s useful for finding your way through a song. The basics, things you learn as a child in first grade, are not without value. These are seeds that blossom into passions when you reach adulthood.

3) Keep calm and carry on: you don’t have to show your first paintings to anyone. You don’t have to play music for them. In the learning phase, it is perfectly fine to keep your progress to yourself. Do not allow your journey to be soured by the urge to impress others.

Consistency and joy—these are the things I’m finding most useful in getting through the process of learning a new art form. If I’m not painting, I’m sketching. If I’m not playing the piano, I’m examining my schedule to find a time when I can be playing it.

blue things by me

Develop a routine and be consistent. If you can’t set aside an hour to paint, sketch for fifteen minutes. Most of all, find joy in what you’re doing. Don’t let it become a chore—because then you’ll want to quit where you are, in the first grade.

I hope 2022 is treating you kindly so far. Tell me about what you’ve achieved so far!

30 thoughts on “3 Tips from a (Month-Old) Artist

    1. Thank you! I’m becoming fond of my paintings as well–slowly–the secret is, again, consistency!

      I want to keep a watercolor journal per month for a year and see how each one differs. What a wonderful project that would be!

      When we find a place when we are happy with our work, I don’t think we should feel embarrassed by our first paintings!

      Thank you for the comment <3

  1. This: “Most of all, find joy in what you’re doing”. That is the most important thing. The rest of it will follow as you practice. You have a light touch which is good with watercolours.

    1. Thank you for your commentary on my style! Since I am teaching myself I never quite know when I am doing it right!

      I do find so much joy in this. I find freedom in the colors!

  2. I love this! I have been thinking recently that I need a new creative hobby but I’m not sure what, as I know how frustrated I get with myself when I don’t do it “right.” These will be some great tips to keep in mind once I find what I want to do!
    P.S I adore your little blue bird – it’s so cute!
    Saph x


    1. Thank you for the comment on my bird! A lot of people seem to like him, but I can’t figure out how to paint him again; I’ve tried. He was a lucky strike!

      You definitely should try at least one new thing. It’s a wonderful way to explore the world.

      Thanks for the comment <3

  3. I’m not doing watercolour – I am doing computer graphic art. I’m not giving up on hand-done art (I usually use pencils), but I am enjoying some of the things computer graphics provide. Also, I have done a Cover Reveal and am in the last seven or so chapters of Sorceress of the Dryads, editing-wise!

    1. I have thought about trying computer graphic art, but my eyes are so sensitive to the computer light–I can barely be on my phone longer than necessary, and that with the light turned really low! I have seen beautiful computer art though and admire it. I also think part of my fascination with watercolor is because my grandma did oil painting. It makes me feel connected to her. Thanks for the comment <3

      1. I can definitely understand that sensitivity.

        I, personally, find that art done in physical mediums has a very, I don’t know, personal, intimate, these are all the wrong word, but there’s a feel to it that I don’t get with computer graphics. But computer graphics are really convenient for some things, and just perfect for some things, and right now I just discovered a tool that actually works and so I’m sort of binging on it. Eventually, I’ll work out a balance.

        That’s … nice about feeling connected to your grandma.

    1. There certainly isn’t a timeline for being good at something. What would life be if we could just find a way to skip to be talented? The fun is in the learning–and the frustration makes it all the more rewarding. Thank you for the comment!

    1. Thank you for the feedback! It always makes me smile to read what others think of my work because I haven’t been an artist in the past and I’m literally just learning what my strengths and weaknesses are through your honesty. Thank you so much for that gift, and for that comment! <3

    1. It’s impossible to be instantly good at anything–and anyway, what is the criteria for saying we are good at something? The classic painters probably hated some of their works that we loved! I think the point of art should always be to enjoy and express ourselves. Thanks for the comment! <3

  4. As a hobby collector, and a new doodler, I can totally relate to this post. I’ve also just picked up cooking and baking, so I understand how it feels to want to default back to writing as my comfort practice too. Great insights. Thanks for sharing!

    1. This is a good point–I have at times thought about giving up and going back to what I already know. I haven’t written more than journal entries and blog posts this year so far; I’m letting that writing muscle rest. I hope that when I start writing again, I’ll have a better style than ever, having practiced so much with colors! Thanks for the comment!

  5. So true! It takes time to develop those talents and we often forget that. Your watercolors are lovely, by the way! Keep going; I can tell you have an eye for it.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement–I need it! I try to paint at least one thing every day so that I don’t let the technique slip. My sketchbook is so full of color! <3 Thanks for the comment!

  6. Ohh that’s a beautiful post!
    It’s the kind of things that I need to remind myself; you can’t know how to do it right away, you need to learn first.

    You need to trust the process!

    1. Yes, you need to keep pushing through, even when you’re frustrated that your work doesn’t look like it does in the tutorial. Sooner or later it will look just like the tutorial–only better, because it will have your own personal style! Thanks for the comment!

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