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 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!

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?