Where does inspiration come from?

It seems like everyone is talking about Marie Kondo's show "Tidying Up," and our home is no exception. I learned that you don't actually have to get rid of clothing if you can do a better job of folding it, and lately when guests come over, I love to show them my dresser drawers. They are so TIDY! 

In the process of tidying up, I found my high school art portfolio, and it includes the very first watercolor paintings I ever did, and they are terrible; truly a testament to the power of practice. It's not magic that got me to this place where I love what I create, but many years of building skill in technique and experimenting to get closer to my heart. 

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One thing I noticed as I flipped through the portfolio pages was that I was painting with the belief that the good in the painting came from the subject. I leaned heavily upon finding the right reference photo and working to match it with my paintbrush, thinking that if I made my painting look like the photo, I would have a good painting. While matching the photo was a good way to build my technical painting skills and learn to control watercolour, I've since realized that the good in the painting comes from the artist.

Technical painting skills give us the ability to paint, but if we are not using them to express who we are, we've missed the point. We start to paint because there's something in us that wants to be released onto the paper, but in the pursuit of the knowhow to be able to do so, we forget about our original motivation in the quest to "get good at watercolour."

When you start to want more for your painting than copying a photo, you know you are ready to begin the bigger quest; that of finding your artistic voice and really setting it free.

Make your painting sessions a safe place for creativity to flow.

Are you making time for play and experimentation in your artistic practice, or is every painting accompanied by the pressure to succeed?

We would consider it grossly unreasonable to expect a pianist to play a song perfectly the first time they try it, yet we often expect ourselves to be able to paint a new subject successfully the first time we attempt it.

We post new work on Facebook and fill the description with a litany of its flaws.

We consider paper wasted if the painting doesn’t turn out.

When are you allowing yourself the freedom to learn and grow?

I make time for “free play” every time I paint, and sometimes I feel guilty that I’m having so much fun.

Sometimes I think I’m having too much fun to be a “serious” artist.


I could be embarrassed about this, that in playing with paint and paper, I’m creating artWORK. And that I’m teaching professionally when most of my painting time is playful. And that there are so many professional artists out there doing serious work, swatching out paints and analyzing compositions and dissecting colour theory. They are doing good work, but I get claustrophobic when I try to fit myself inside that space.

If the good in my painting comes from me being me, I’m going to spread out, and make as much room as possible to be the best me I can be. To get that inner me out on paper.

I’ve learned that I’m a girl who loves ice cream and red shoes, winged eyeliner, and breaking into song when someone accidentally says a line from a song I know. I’m learning also that my playful painting style is another way of showing my joy in the little things, and in giving myself permission to be all of the things that make me happy, I get to love my art for being so unashamedly me.

We’re exploring inspiration and getting creative together from February 4-25th in my Watercolour Workout course. Enroll and join us!