3 More Tips From a (Month-Old) Artist

Some incidents can instantly ruin your day. A spilled cup of coffee? Horrible accident. The tip of the pencil broke off while you were using it? An inconvenience, for sure. Need to fetch clean water to dip your brush in? I’m so lazy.

Accidents and inconveniences happen in all aspects of life. What matters is how you react and what you learn from them. It’s been a week since I posted my three tips for new artists; I have since learned more.

I can’t give up watercolor. In the past when I tried this medium, I didn’t understand the magic. I didn’t realize watercolor was not the same as acrylic; I was using the colors incorrectly and getting the wrong results. Now that the Internet has shown me useful tutorials, I have been able to love the watercolor palette.

just a little chat by me

Here are some bits of advice to follow, even if you do not watercolor. If you’re taking up a new hobby, some useful things to keep in mind are:

1- Embrace the Accidents

There are accidents that we can call convenient.

For example, I was painting a page of red birds to learn control of brush and color. Accidentally I mixed this perfect, cloudy-day gray. It’s the gray you’re supposed to get by combining Burnt Sienna and Cadnium Blue, then adding a lot of water, but when I tried doing this last week I could not get this gray. I’ll keep practicing until I am able to access this shade when I need it.

Embrace the accidents—they are kindling to keep you on the learning path.

2- Time, Time, Time!

I learn a lot more by spending an hour at the table practicing mixes than I would by sitting down for five-minute sessions. That’s not to say the five-minute sessions won’t teach me anything—only that there are more productive ways to use our time.

I did not learn this from watercolor so much as I did from my piano lessons. I have made it a military habit to sit down for at least half an hour of practice, almost always at 4PM. Now I enjoy playing music for my family.

I know that when I’ve settled into a similar habit with painting, I’ll understand color better.

a fuzzy cardinal by me

3- Artists Sketch

I’ve noticed while reading comments on Facebook that a lot of beginners made the mistake of believing that all they needed were the paint sets and brushes.

The truth is, you’ve got to know how to sketch the bones of your painting before you add the color—at least when you’re beginning—or the color will be all over the place. If you’re like me, painting without sketching could lead to a disaster that doesn’t look like anything–not even Picasso’s weird art.

I already knew how to sketch, but have since become determined to improve with the humble art of pencil-to-paper. I am learning cross-hatching, shading, and how to create animals using simple shapes. When I cannot paint, when there’s not enough space to lay out the palettes and ink, I grab my sketchbook and draw a flower during commercial breaks.

This applies to everything else in life. You need to know the sketch before you work on the project. Learn the rules before you break them!

So if you’re a baker, learn the recipe by heart before modifying it by replacing sugar with honey (which really works, I promise, and it’s tasty.) If you’re a writer, pay attention to the critique offered you, even if it hurts your pride. Become familiar with the bones of your project before you add the garnishes.

What do you think could be added to this list?

3 Surprising Facts About Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved books, a true classic. It has been adapted into cartoons, movies, and audiobooks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who does not know at least part of this tale.

More fascinating than this story is the man who wrote it. Charles Dickens was an artist, a creator with hundreds of characters inside of him. His stories, which were published in serial form, were read by people all over the country.

We can’t cover Dickens’ story with all its marvelous chapters in a blog post. Several biographies have been written about him, if you want to know more. However, in a blog post I can collect facts, adding color to the creator of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Here are 3 facts about Charles Dickens.

1- His Wife was an Author

Charles Dickens’ wife, Catherine, was also an author—though she published her books using a pseudonym, a common practice for women at the time who dared put words to paper. Even her husband tended to write with a pen name.

Catherine’s pseudonym was Lady Maria Clutterbuck. Her book was about kitchen recipes and menu ideas for meals that would serve up to 18 people.

Catherine Dickens Portrait

2- He had a Troubled Childhood

As an adult, Dickens found himself under financial strain with 10 children to support. He was quick to anger and vented it on Catherine, blaming the situation on her.

His struggle with debt must have reminded him of his dark childhood. Charles was one of eight children with a father unable to maintain his family. When Charles was twelve, his father John Dickens was sent to debtors’ prison, dooming his son to work in a factory to bail him out.

Charles’ complicated past surfaces in his literary works. It was too much for Charles and Catherine Dickens’ marriage. Eventually he sent her away, throwing himself into his work.

3- He was a Self-Taught Writer

Charles Dickens had a second job as a legal clerk. It did not captivate him as much as storytelling. The art of writing was self-taught; the first story that Dickens published was The Pickwick Papers.

All of this he achieved without having had a formal education. It goes to show that, when someone is born to do something, there is nothing that can stop them. Now Charles Dickens is one of the greatest names in literature; people still love his characters.

Many great authors had happy families and comfortable lives; others found themselves in survival mode from childhood. Charles Dickens was an imperfect man in the end. This does not take away his genius.

Charles Dickens used his childhood haunts to give us characters that we love, writing tales into which we can escape from our imperfect world.

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!

Two Colorful Weeks Into 2022

My aim for 2022 is to learn about myself and what my place is in God’s story. Other years I would have started planning the two novels I intended to write.

In 2022 I have yet to trouble my literary muse, allowing her time to breathe while expressing myself in other ways.

In two weeks, I have–

  • Discovered that baking is a fantastic way to calm my nerves and feel I’m doing something wholesome.
  • Learned that watercolor is like poetry with paint–the color can go anywhere. Though this can be frustrating at times, there’s relief in knowing I’m not in control of everything.
  • Enjoyed a book about Napoleon titled The Invisible Emperor, taking my time to read it. Now I am reading a book about Shakespeare. I hope to tackle the history books in my library. If I were to speed-read my history books, I’d risk missing important details.
  • Remembered that I enjoy sketching. I’m not as bad at it as my inner critic always told me. Last night, I filled a page with bunnies.

I have begun to accept myself for who I am and what I have achieved. I am excited to see where my hobbies will take me a year from now. I’m grateful that I’ve decided to try new things.

I have been showered with blessings in two weeks. These are too personal to write about in detail. I want you all to know–God is paying attention. He looks after us. When I am holding a paintbrush, I imagine Him painting the beautiful sunsets He gifts us daily.

I know that 2022 will help me to know myself better. There remain many people in the world who are ill and suffering. No year is without its opportunities to grieve and sympathize.

However, playing with color has shown me that we should not feel guilty for finding joy.

What have you learned in the first two weeks of 2022?

3 Ways I’m Decluttering For 2022

You know that desk drawer where you toss in junk that goes forgotten for years? At the end of 2021, I felt as if I had opened that drawer and been shocked by how much was in it. I was anxious, unable to focus or find ways in which I could improve.

A new year is a fresh start, a clean slate, but I could not clear my mind in order to begin 2022 on the right foot.

The first week of January has made me aware of ways I can clean my ‘mental drawer.’ I looked not only into my room but also at my computer and phone. I couldn’t believe the clutter that had gathered in so many corners of my life. There were projects I’d never finished, ideas for sketches I abandoned, and quote pictures I’d saved on impulsive.

In the days that follow, I will be trying three things in order to deal with the clutter in my life.

1- Put Away My TBR Pile

I’ve developed a habit of gathering books I intend to read in one spot, regardless of how soon I’ll be able to read them. This is not a pretty shelf of eclectic novels! It takes up a lot of room on the desk or even on the sofa. It also hinders my reading, making it difficult for me to focus.

These books are returning to the shelf until I finish my current read and can get to them. Aside from making my desk more functional, it will reduce my temptation to speed-read books without enjoying them.

2- Clear My Photo Library

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need 1,000 memes on your smartphone! In my case, I don’t save memes. I don’t need 1,000 pretty pictures of buildings I intend to sketch ‘some day.’ When we fill our libraries with unimportant things, pictures that matter are pushed back.

Life is lived outside of the computer. I’m going to clear my photo library of things I intended to sketch. If I save a few, they’re going in a folder. I’ll write quotes in a special notebook and delete the images on which I found them. I want to have an album that reminds me of who I am and what I love.

3- Set Prayer Time

We all waste time staring at the wall, thinking about our problems. This does not solve the problems or make us feel any better.

Prayer does.

I will shake this habit of panicking and spend more time in meditation, filling my mind with God’s promises rather than my own worries. I’ve memorized Psalm 23 to pray when I am anxious; I will memorize more. I’ll write in a prayer journal about the things that trouble me, because honest prayer is heard.

I’m going to empty all of the junk drawers in my life. I am inspired by the blank page, peaceful and loaded with promise. If you also want to clear out the junk in your life, try these things—or find other methods to help you face the year with a fresh mind.

3 Hobbies I’m Learning In 2022

While I did not make any resolutions this year, I did choose activities and pastimes to focus on. Previous years have seen me dedicated to writing, rewriting and editing the same story. While none of this work was a waste—the practice helped my writing style to improve—it left little room for other hobbies.

In 2022 I have allowed myself some breathing room to explore other things. While I will continue to write (it’s my passion), I won’t be spending as much time on it.

One week into the new year, I have found enjoyment in hobbies that I have long wanted to try. Some of these hobbies include:


When I’m baking, I feel nostalgic. Baking has been a well-loved activity for centuries. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents—go all the way back—have been involved with baking in some way. If they didn’t do the baking, they enjoyed the results, a homemade cake or loaf of bread.

I have not gotten to the homemade bread phase, though I want to. However, I have memorized the recipe to make sugar cookies that my family loves. Nighttime is the best time to bake, especially in the winter. I’ll make a batch of twelve cookies and there are only three left half an hour later.


I admit it: Part of my desire to learn watercolor stems from the trend it’s picking up on the web. With the virus, people are looking for things they can do with their hands—away from screens.

Of all the hobbies I’m taking up, watercolor is the most frustrating because it’s hard to pin down. It is poetry in color, a freestyle poem or a strict sonnet that cannot be modified without losing what it is.

It’s also the activity I have least experience in, which means I’ll be practicing for a while before I like my work. I am happy to report that I can paint a loose flower. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll create a still-life of a flower vase.


During the month of December I did not practice piano at all. Despite this, I forgot nothing of what I learned during a summer of practice sessions. Unlike with watercolors, I have enough experience with the piano that it isn’t a frightening prospect to sit down and play. Rather, it’s satisfying to note my improvement.

I have been practicing Christmas songs such as O Christmas Tree and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. This particular songbook used to be difficult for me; now the notes are not such strangers.

I’m not confident enough to record myself playing for Instagram, but maybe one day that will change.

Maybe you didn’t set resolutions either; which hobbies are you hoping to sharpen during the new year? Are they activities you have done before, or are you a newbie? Comment and let me know!

And remember—you can do it!

3 Creative Ideas For Your Bullet Journal

2022 is here! I am grateful for a new year; it provides a fresh start and motivation to set goals. I have to admit that I’m also ready to prepare for autumn again, learning new Christmas cookie recipes meanwhile.

If you keep a bullet journal and are new to it (like me), setting up a fresh one can seem daunting. Those images on Pinterest with flawless, straight lines and Shakespearian calligraphy can be dispiriting. Setting up a calendar by hand takes practice and calligraphy is a literal art form; you won’t get there in a day.

Bullet journaling shouldn’t be a source of envy. When opening your new dot-grid journal, make sure you’re not out to copy others. It should be a source of inspiration, a promise that you’re about to chronicle your year while expressing your own creativity.

Look forward to what you can do, rather than comparing yourself to others.

If you want a colorful bullet journal but are not an artist by nature, here are some ideas for you to make it look creative anyway.

1- Stickers, Stickers, Stickers!

With the rise of bullet journaling came a rise in beautiful, detailed stickers. They can fill in that blank space on your journal page, giving it a splash of color alongside your to-dos and journal entries. There are even ways for you to print your own stickers, if you can’t find anything that suits you.

For Christmas my mom got me The Antiquarian Sticker Book, and as I page through it, I get the sense that I’m scrolling the vintage art category on Pinterest. For old souls, this collection of stickers is a real treasure. You have an entire alphabet to choose from, flowers, old-fashioned magazine sketches, and more!

2- Recycle Old Books

A lot of bookworms cringe at the thought of using an old book for scrapbooking, but here’s the thing. I have asthma and can’t read books with an overwhelming smell. However, I still can’t resist grabbing someone’s old poetry collection at a yard sale!

A page I inserted into my own BuJo!

I’m more likely to read the poetry if its pages are scattered in my journal. Those books will get fresh life if you learn how to tape them into your BuJo as additional pages. The poets who wrote the pieces you’re taping will thank you for having found their work used it to grace your memories.

The book itself? I can’t imagine it’ll complain much. The alternative is becoming a decoration or gathering dust in an attic.

3- Delightfully Minimal

If you don’t want clutter in your BuJo but seek elegance, you can opt for a minimalist layout. Using really good pens, you can make the pages in your bullet journal gorgeous by showing off your handwriting.

I might try this myself sometime—but I want to work on my handwriting. A goal of mine is to have an old-fashioned, elegant hand that would make a grocery list look great!

Isn’t this minimalist spread gorgeous? Source

These are only three ideas to get you started on your BuJo for the year. I’ll be searching the web for more inspiration and BuJo hacks as I work on my second bullet journal.

Do you keep a bullet journal? If so, what’s your ‘style’? If not, what’s stopping you?

My Resolution For 2022

If I had to pick a word to savor in 2022, it would be slow.

Does that sound odd to you? By slow I mean to pause and hear the silence—to stop measuring my life by what I have not done yet and what I mean to do—to read a book without caring about the Goodreads challenge—to read a poem and taste each word because poetry is watercolor in writing.

I am older now than when my dreams and goals sprang to life; they have changed and matured with me. I’ve written dozens of drafts and none of them are published. I sped through them, and the books I was reading, and the moments I shared with others. Even though I keep diaries, I will live with the nagging feeling that I missed something.

If I only read 10 books in 2022, that’s fine by me. I’m at 99 books for 2021 and I’m practicing now: I don’t care to read a 100th.

I’m learning new things that take time, such as baking cookies (you can’t speed through baking!) and watercolor (it forces you to wait for the water to dry). In my bullet journal, each day will have a page of its own and I will happily doodle, write poetry, and express myself in ways I never did before. Maybe I’ll finish my TBR list; maybe not.

Slow. Gentle. Attentive. Contemplative. Patient. Patient.

What is your word for this new year?

Series: Romance on the Orient Express

I’ve been quiet lately! A terrible case of Blogger’s Block meant I was at a loss for what to post. I know now to be careful with my projects in order to avoid burnout. Thankfully, the winter months are coming—and I tend to be most inspired when it is chilly out!

I have been enjoying the Romance on the Orient Express series. Aren’t the covers lovely? The Orient Express has such a rich history. Agatha Christie’s excellent mystery book made it more famous still. The four authors of this series have switched the theme to something more heartwarming—love.

So far I have read two of the four books and not been disappointed. They’re not very long, but they make me wish there were more pages! Characters are vibrant and funny, the love stories are clean, and both of the books I read have had happy endings.

Song of Salzburg by Jen Geigle Johnson was the most recent I finished. Freya’s adventure in Salzburg attending music school—and falling in love!—was a breath of fresh air. The world-renowned Salzburg Maestro rarely takes students; as a result, little is known about him. When he calls in all of his pupils for in-person lessons except her, Freya begins to wonder if there is something wrong with her. In time she will find out that she knew him all along.

Wrong Train to Paris by Jennifer Moore was great fun! Julia Weston wants to prove to her overprotective father that she is a responsible, grown-up woman, capable of going on trips by herself. She fails at this when she boards the wrong train, missing the Orient. She finds herself somewhere in the country rather than Paris. Doesn’t this sound terrifying? Thank goodness for happy endings—some mistakes become our greatest memories.

I’ve been reading the series out of order but, happily, you don’t need to begin at book one to enjoy the others. You can choose any of them and still become lost in the story. I’ll post proper reviews of each book when I’ve finished them all. For now, I am lost in the Orient Express for the chilly months!

Which of these covers do you think most lovely? I can’t decide—they’re perfect for the breathtaking tales they contain!

Book Review: The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy

The Butterfly Conspiracy is a historical mystery with the undertone of an adventure novel.

Miss Merula Merriweather is different from other girls. She has an unconventional family life, not knowing what became of her real parents or who they were. She isn’t the prettiest of ladies, relying on a spotless reputation to secure her future. She puts that spotless future in danger by pursuing her passion: zoology.

Merula has a special interest in butterflies. Her uncle allows her to use the greenhouse as a place to raise imported creatures from their cocoons. She has an impressive collection of butterflies, but one of them—the largest—is her pride and joy. She has raised it and seen it hatch, and makes the decision to let it out during a zoological lecture.

When Merula’s prize butterfly lands on a wealthy woman’s arm, the woman dies immediately. Blame is placed on the insect, which is killed by the butler. It was heartbreaking to read about Merula’s butterfly being disposed of mercilessly, but under the circumstances, what else could they think to do?

Lord Raven Royston was present during the scene at the lecture. He knows that Merula’s butterfly was not the cause of the death, and he wants to bring justice. He helps her rescue the last cocoon of her butterfly species, escaping a greenhouse that has been set on fire. He introduces her to a chemist friend who collects bizarre creatures such as scorpions and giant spiders. When it becomes clear that police are after her, he gives her shelter at the home he hasn’t visited in twenty years.

Merula and Raven are a great team. She isn’t the fainting sort—after all, she worked with insects for fun—and does well under pressure. He is a deep thinker and willing to try explanations that seem absurd. Together, they work out what happened to the woman. If the butterfly did not kill her, and Merula insists it isn’t venomous, what did?

Rarely do I come across a book and realize from the blurb alone that I need to read it. This was the case with The Butterfly Conspiracy; I cheated my October reading list in order to devour the mystery. The characters are very well developed, the mystery seamless, and the ending satisfying.

There is even an air of steampunk to the world described here—I was waiting for the mechanic creatures to come out!

I had already found a great mystery series in the Lady Hardcastle books, but now I will be looking out for these books too. If you want to try a new mystery series, or if you like visits back in time, The Butterfly Conspiracy is a great book!