Buy prints!

I’m happy to announce that you can purchase prints of my art. If you see something you like on my blog, there’s a good chance I’ve uploaded it to my Redbubble shop:

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 11.06.26 AM

If you’re looking for a specific piece and can’t find it in my shop, drop me a message, noting which piece of art you’re looking for and I can see about getting the art loaded up.

Thank you in advance for your patronage. Art is a serious love-affair for me, and I love sharing it with the world. Getting something in return for that love makes creating art doubly rewarding. If you want a piece of that love in your own space, you can have it now!

Completed Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook Watercolor Sketchbook Flip

Happy Spring, everyone. 2020 has been a surreal year thus far, as I’m sure you know. I’m writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic that’s been sweeping the world. As of right now, I’ve been voluntarily quarantined since mid-March, and it’s almost mid-May now.

I’m blessed in that I have a job that allows me to work remotely, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I also feel blessed that I have a great stay-at-home hobby to fill my down-time: ART!

I actually managed to finish this sketchbook around the end of March but just didn’t get around to finalize editing the flip-through I filmed at that time until now.

If you already follow my blog, you’ll know I posted a separate review of what working in this sketchbook was like here: Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook Watercolor Sketchbook Review. Hop on over there if you’re curious at all about my thoughts on the quality and paper.

In this sketchbook I took a bit of a different turn. When I first started working in it, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by anything. I didn’t have any subjects in mind – I just wanted to play with color and shapes. So that’s what you see through the first few spreads. It’s definitely a step away from my usual stuff. Later I decided to stick with a series of paintings that are monochromatic leaves done in negative painting style. I really enjoyed how they turned out. It’s my first time really choosing a theme and sticking with it through several consecutive paintings.

Finally, I also decided to do only spreads through the sketchbook, with, I think, just one exception.

What will be my next sketchbook? Right now I’m trying to finish filling my original Perfect Sketchbook from 2017 (before Etchr took over the brand.) It’s a bit of a bear to work in only because it’s a larger format sketchbook than what I typically work in. But I would really like to finish filling it before I move on to another sketchbook. After that, I picked up a Strathmore Watercolor Travel Journal that uses 100% cotton paper. I was excited to find another brand offering 100% cotton paper, so I’ll probably try working in that.

That’s enough from me. Grab yourself a nice cozy drink and enjoy the flip through. Some highlight paintings follow the video below.

And if you see any paintings you like, check my Redbubble shop as I’ve been uploading prints from this sketchbook there for sale.

Some of my favorite paintings from this sketchbook:

Be sure to follow my Instagram account @kellyro77 to stay up-to-date on my creative endeavors.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Etchr The Perfect Sketchbook – Size A5
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Binder Clips
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors
Daniel Smith Watercolors
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors

Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook Watercolor Sketchbook Review

I’m happy to say at long last I’ve finally finished filling out my Etchr “The Perfect Sketchbook” and I’m feeling ready to post an honest review.

Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook A5

If you’re a fan of The Perfect Sketchbook, you’ll know that in the summer of 2019 Etchr Lab took over production and the name. This “The Perfect Sketchbook” is not to be confused with the original that came out at least a couple years previously under the care of Bynd Artisans and Erwin Lian. The original Perfect Sketchbook was developed using Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton watercolor paper. They began first as a Kickstarter campaign with a smaller 9x14cm sketchbook. After the success of that campaign, they ran a second one, this time with Indiegogo, for a larger B5 sketchbook.

Ultimately, while extremely popular, the return on investment was minimal. I would be surprised if they managed to break even after producing and shipping that second batch of sketchbooks.

Fortunately, Etchr and Eriwn managed to get in touch with one another. Etchr being a larger business was able to take over The Perfect Sketchbook and they eventually came out with their own line. In 2019, they ran another limited launch of the familiar “Perfect Sketchbook” tagging “Signature Series” onto the name. Same high-quality Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton paper, but a faux leather cover.

In addition to the Signature Series sketchbook, they developed two of their own more budget-friendly sketchbooks. The Perfect Sketchbook, and the Etchr Sketchbook.

I have all four versions, and I am admittedly still filling in my original 2017 Perfect Sketchbook (via Erwin Lian), so I have yet to post a full review of that sketchbook. If you’re used to following my work, you’ll know I usually tend to work small and a B5 sketchbook is larger than I’m used to using, therefore it’s taking me more time to fill in.

So, now that I’ve hopefully cleared up the confusion on what the difference is between The Perfect Sketchbook, The Prefect Sketchbook Signature Series, Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook, and the Etchr Sketchbook (do you have a headache yet?), on to my review of the Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook.

I remain to be a pretty picky watercolor Sketchbook Artist. If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know I’ve lambasted the cheaper ones that use cellulose-blend paper. I hate, hate, hate trying to do watercolor on paper that is not 100% cotton.

My advice to those who are new to watercolor, if you are to splurge on anything, splurge on the paper. I know that seems boring. Should’t you splurge on the paint, instead? No. Because no matter how awesome your paints are – even if you spent hundreds of dollars on a brand like Sennelier, your painting experience is going to get severely hampered if you’re trying to paint on cheap watercolor paper.

I am convinced that student grade cellulose-blend watercolor papers are the reason why so many people think painting with watercolor is hard. They try to achieve smooth blends and beautiful glazes like they see professionals doing, and then the paper prevents successful attempts at those techniques, and then new artists think to themselves “Why can’t I do what that person demoed?? I must suck!! Watercolor is too hard!”

There are those among us, of course, who power through. We’re bound and determined to paint with watercolor regardless the surface its on. I’ve painted over gessoed paper, on student-grade paper, even on standard sketchbook paper. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if you just enjoy experimenting, then no harm, no foul. But now that I’ve had lots of experience using 100% cotton paper, I don’t ever intend to go back. 100% cotton paper is just so much easier to work on.

Given that Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook is made with 100% cotton watercolor paper, you’ll probably see where this review is going to go.

I really enjoyed working in this sketchbook. Even though the paper origins are unknown (the paper in this is NOT the Fabriano Artistico found in the Signature Series), the paper is still very good.

It is 300gsm 100% cotton paper. I particularly like this paper because of its weight. Warping is minimal, and I know this for sure as I decided to use this sketchbook for a series of negative paintings where I flooded the pages with a decent amount of water for each layer of my painting. I even took the paint edge-to-edge (not something I usually do.) I really appreciate the minimal warping, and this is something Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook has in advantage over even the the original Perfect Sketchbook’s paper. The paper in that sketchbook is only 200gsm, so unfortunately it warps.

Minimal warping! Yay!

Can I paint on both sides of the paper? Yes! And unlike the Winsor & Newton sketchbook I last reviewed, there is minimal difference between the front and back side of the paper, which means it’s the same experience on both sides.

If you’re a fan of heavily textured paper, I’m afraid to say you’ll be disappointed in this sketchbook. The Winsor & Newton sketchbook has the upper hand there. While the paper in The Perfect Sketchbook is cold press, it has pretty minimal tooth to it. Fear not, your granulating colors will still shine, however.

Close up of beautiful granulation.

I honestly admit that I didn’t do my usual testing of other materials and techniques in this sketchbook until I began writing this review. I got super-focused on doing a couple different series of paintings which didn’t utilize all my other occasional techniques and materials. Fortunately I had a couple blank pages left at the back of the book where I was able to test them so I can say how the paper performed with those, as well.

I’m happy to report that pretty much all my usual materials and techniques performed just fine on this paper. My micron pens still skipped on this paper because there is still some minimal tooth to it, but I didn’t feel like I was risking chewing up the nib with them like it was like in the Winsor & Newton sketchbook.

Testing materials and techniques.

I was mostly happy to see that the paper fibers didn’t rip up with tape like they did in the more budget-friendly Etchr Sketchbook which uses a cheaper grade of 100% cotton paper. Masking fluid did just fine, too.

Salt and alcohol also performed as expected.

This review sounds kind of dull in ways “everything performed as expected…” but that’s the point of all this. That your materials and techniques perform as expected so you’re not hit with a nasty surprise half way through your newest masterpiece.

So overall, this sketchbook gets a passing grade from me, with just a couple negatives that I wish to share.

First, I encountered some odd vertical lines on some of the pages I was painting on. I think this had something to do with the manufacturing process. But it was a bit disappointing to see a dark line emerge in a couple of my paintings. This wasn’t on every single page, but I don’t see how you can preempt this occurrence because the paper looked just fine before applying pigment to it. So it feels like a bit of a gamble painting in here when you don’t know if the page you’re going to be working on is going to end up with those vertical lines.

If you look closely, you can spot some vertical lines running through the painting.

Now, I got these sketchbooks at the very beginning when they first launched this line. Hopefully Etchr has addressed this problem with future runs of the sketchbook. If you have a newer sketchbook, I’d love to know if you’re experiencing the same problem or if all is well.

My second issue with these sketchbooks is that I experienced bleeding through the seams and punctured areas where the book was bound. I really don’t think this is actually a fault of Etchr. This is just normal physics. These pages aren’t glued together at the bound edge so there’s naturally going to be a slight gap and there’s naturally going to be a small opening where the stitches puncture the paper. Being that water is so darn… fluid… it finds these openings, small as they may be, and will seep through, and if there’s pigment riding on the water, it’s going to come, too.

So, be aware of this and unlike me (who only figured this out when I was just about finished filling all the pages), take necessary precautions to preserve your work that’s on the opposite sides of signatures, etc. by putting down some washi tape to block the bleeding that’s going to happen if you’re painting from edge-to edge and doing full-page spreads.

Finally, the other hurdles I have with these sketchbooks, the same as the Etchr Sketchbooks, is that they only sell them in bundles of three which makes for a higher out-of-pocket cost up front. Also their obscene amount of packaging (a package within a package within a package), and that they ship from China – which means they can take quite a while to get to you. Shipping is free, however, so that’s a bonus.

So, would I recommend this sketchbook?

Absolutely. This is a wonderful mid-range 100% cotton watercolor sketchbook. In addition to the great paper, this sketchbook features the other perks usually found in good sketchbooks. It has a hard cover using faux leather that feels nice and supple. The darker cover is probably a relief to those of you who cringed at the white canvas covers featured in the Etchr Sketchbook. The Perfect Sketchbook has an elastic closure, a back pocket in which to stuff your business cards or notes, etc., and a ribbon bookmark.

While somewhat expensive, this sketchbook isn’t as pricy as the original Perfect Sketchbook but the paper is a step up from Etchr’s budget white canvas-covered sketchbook.

The Perfect Sketchbook comes in two sizes, as well. The smaller A5 size, and if you like to work larger, it also has an A4 size.

I have another one of these waiting to fill as I write this, and I look forward to working in it again. This was definitely a lovely sketchbook.

100% cotton paper
Heavy 300gsm
Reasonable mid-range price
Lays flat
Free shipping
Mystery vertical lines on some pages
Can only be purchased in bundles
Excessive packaging
Ships from China

Have you used Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook? What are your thoughts on this little book?

Stay tuned. I’ll be posting a flip-through of this sketchbook soon!

Be sure to follow my Instagram account @kellyro77 to stay up-to-date on my creative endeavors.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Etchr’s The Perfect Sketchbook A5
Etchr Sketchbooks
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors
Etchr 19-Well Mini Palette
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors
Meeden Tin 48 Half-Pan Watercolor Palette

Completed Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal Flip

It’s a cold, frosty day here in Colorado. We had a significant snow storm a few days ago and the weather has remained so cold that none of the snow is really melting. This weather makes for nice cozy days spent indoors and I took advantage of staying home from work and my Thanksgiving vacation to quickly fill up the last pages of my Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper Journal / Sketchbook.

I’m very happy to have completed another sketchbook this year. I believe this one marks three completed sketchbooks with filmed flipthroughs for 2019. Woohoo!

I’m not planning to put a lot of pressure on myself to finish one more this year, although I suppose if I really put my nose to the grindstone I could finish filling my Signature Series original Perfect Sketchbook by December 31. I’m about half way through that, but I honestly don’t feel the urge to pressure myself like that.

In viewing this sketchbook flip, you’ll notice a pretty significant difference in that I didn’t paint both sides of the paper like I usually do.

If you’ve previously read my review of this sketchbook you’ll know I’m not particularly fond of the back side of this paper. I did a few paintings on the back, but not with any particular intent to cover every surface.

Read my review linked above for my complete thoughts on this sketchbook.

I also stuck with a limited palette all through this sketchbook. You can read more on that limited palette here. It was fun to work with as the colors were bright and cheerful. However, I plan to go back to being less limited with my colors when I start work in my next sketchbook. At least, that’s the plan for now!

What will be my next sketchbook? I’ll be using the Etchr Perfect Sketchbook. I’m eager to give it a try as I haven’t painted in it yet since I got my bundle late summer.

That’s enough from me. Grab yourself a nice cozy drink and enjoy the flip through. Some highlight paintings follow the video below.

Some of my favorite paintings from this sketchbook:

If you watched the video, you will have no doubt caught that I painted this rose upside down in my journal. There was no reason for that other than that I was paying absolutely no attention when I started on the piece that I’d set it up to paint on it upside down. That’s life – sometimes you realize you’re completely backwards and flipped around.

Be sure to follow my Instagram account @kellyro77 to stay up-to-date on my creative endeavors.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal
Etchr Perfect Sketchbook
Pentel Aquash Water Brushes
Dr. Ph. Martin’s India Ink
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Binder Clips
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors
Daniel Smith Cascade Green Watercolor

Staying creative – Tip Nine: Practice Gratitude

I had an idea pop into my head the other day to do a series of blog posts about my experience with keeping the creative juices flowing—or how I do it.

It would be easy to center these posts around “Artist’s Block”. I am no stranger to this as I’ve experienced it many times in the past, and it’s a particular bear when your entire career depends upon you manifesting new and fantastic, amazing designs that impress people continually.

I want to try to focus on the positive here, however. Let’s not focus on blockages. Let’s focus on how to keep the creativity flowing.

The universal Law of Attraction says that in order to “get” you must “give”. If I want to “get” creative, I must “give” it out through doing. You know… Use it or lose it.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Congratulations! You’ve made it through to the last tip in this series of posts!

Tip nine: practice gratitude

How fitting that a post on gratitude makes its appearance the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. I really didn’t plan it this way, but it’s so freaking cool watching the universe align things into perfect order. Serendipitous, indeed!

You’ve tried all my previous tips in this series and maybe you’re still not feeling that creative mojo.

At this point I want to ask you how grateful are you? I’m not asking if you’re grateful for feeling creatively-blocked. I’m asking how grateful are you for the rest of the things in your life?

Did you know stress is a real creativity-killer?

Sure, there are some artists out there who capitalize on their angst. All the more power to them. But ask yourself – do you really, really want to be unhappy your whole life just to support your art?

If you create amazing things while miserable, think about how amazing your art can be when you’re in a state of joy.

All I can say is that if I’m walking around in a state of anxiety, fear, and cynicism then my art suffers. Big time. In fact, being creative is the last thing I want to do. I want to sit down and mope and try to curl up into a ball and disappear.

Maybe you don’t honestly have any problems going on in your immediate surroundings, but you still feel miserable. It’s the state of the world. These politicians are making you crazy. That commercial reminded you how your teeth should be whiter. Why is your neighbor’s grass always greener than yours? People keep doing horrific, dumb shit on the news.

When you keep focusing on externals, especially on negatives, then that’s what you’re going to continue to bring into your world.

“Oh, that’s just Law of Attraction BS. It’s pseudo-science. It’s not real.”


I dare you to try it.

If you enjoy the misery, go ahead and focus on that one little thing that’s been nagging you for some time. Do an internet search for other people bothered by the same thing. Converse with them about your shared unhappiness. Remind yourself every day how awful it really is. Sit down and have a pity party. Complain to anyone who will listen to your woes. Watch them either hop on the bandwagon with you and make the problem even more pronounced, or, in turn, upset you by distancing themselves from you because you just complain all the time.

Take notes. How were you feeling and how big was the problem before you decided to give it your laser-like focus? How big is the problem now that you’ve dedicated the majority of your waking hours to it?

Tired of the misery?

Then it’s time to shift focus.

It’s that simple.

What’s a great way to shift focus away from misery?


Take a new look around you. Take note of all the things that are going right in your world. You have a roof over your head. You get to eat every day. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Your favorite niece just gave you a huge hug and told you she loves you. You have the eyes to read this. You actually know how to read and write. You have an internet connection that allows you to access this. You have friends and family in your life who love you. You’re living and breathing at the moment.

This list can go on and on.

So now I dare you to try making a gratitude list for the next week. Every day. Pull out a journal or a note pad and write down 10 things you’re grateful for at the beginning of the day and 10 things you’re grateful for at the end of the day. If you want extra brownie points, try not to repeat anything.

Notice how things shift for you. How suddenly you’re starting to become focused on noticing the good things because you want to add them to your list. You start to feel lighter and more free. People are friendlier around you. You actually want to be friendly to them.

Take notes. How were you feeling before starting the week of gratitude and how were you starting to feel after?

If you want to give yourself a leg up on this practice, I also encourage you to not watch or read any news for the duration of the experiment. In fact, if you can manage it, turn off the TV completely for the week. If you really MUST watch or read something, make it something creatively educational and inspirational. (NOT educational in the sense of learning how the planet is coming to an end. Educational in the sense of learning about a new species discovered on a remote island, or how the universe was formed, or how toothbrushes are made, or how to bake a cake. THAT kind of education.) Mute those TV commercials, however – they’re there to convince you that something is wrong with you – that you and your life are incomplete without their products.

Now, the key to this, for me, is to not stop after my experiment in gratitude. Keep doing it. Build it into a habit by stretching the exercise out for a whole month. See how you feel after that month. Are you enjoying the results? Then don’t stop. Ever.

I participated in a gratitude experiment last year that asked me to write down 30 things I was grateful for each day for 30 days and to not repeat anything. During that time frame, I also didn’t watch any TV or read any news. I identified my stress triggers and sources of negativity and toxicity and stopped allowing those things into my life. This included un-following friends on Facebook who complained all the time – even if I agreed with their views in principle. The complaining was just not acceptable. I also ceased posting to a message board where inevitably the conversations would turn into fights and complaining.

The gratitude list seemed quite daunting at first. Sometimes I felt like I was sitting with that notebook and pen for quite a long time trying to think of things I was grateful for. I’d even get up from my desk and walk around the house trying to find things I was grateful for.

Staying away from TV and my usual sources of toxicity made me fidgety at first, too. What to do with all that extra time? (Hint, that time often got filled up with… can you guess? Art!)

The changes and gratitude list were difficult at first, but by the end of the exercise, I found the gratitude just flowed.

Sure, I inadvertently repeated a few things through the month, but overall, I came up with almost 900 things I was grateful for that month. 900! And honestly, I bet there were more things I could have been grateful for, too, had I given the exercise more time during my days.

What changed for me? I just felt happier overall. The things that were bothering me lost their importance.

I have a friend who said to me once “All my problems die of neglect.”

That’s what a gratitude practice does for me. It shifts my focus away from my problems and nine times out of ten those “problems” resolve themselves. Whodathunkit? And the other problem that didn’t get resolved? Well I was able to approach it with confidence and calm when I took care of it.

If any of this gratitude stuff sounds intriguing and fun to you, then I also want to take a moment to point you over to the book Thank & Grow Rich by Pam Grout. She’s much more eloquent with her wording (and just crazy funny), and she actually outlines a whole bunch of fun exercises you can do around gratitude beyond a gratitude list. She truly knows how to bring joy into a person’s life.

So how does this help with that creative mojo? Well, you’ll just have to do it and find out.

I just know for me when I’m in a state of joy and gratitude, art comes easier to me. More things inspire me and I just feel like being creative.

I actually feel like daily gratitude is not separate from but an actual part of my creative practice. I know I can say that I am always so thankful for being able to sit down and draw or paint. I’m grateful that I have the skills to do so. I’m grateful for the wonderful materials I have on hand. I’m grateful for the beautiful colors and lines and shapes. I’m grateful for how my work turns out each and every time.

I hope this final tip turns into the “big one” for you, as it has for me with my art.

Do you practice gratitude? What things do you do to bring gratitude into your life each day?

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this series of tips has been helpful for you and you’ve found something that creates the urge to go forth and create!

Happy art-ing, my friends!

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Staying creative – Tip Eight: Take a break.

I had an idea pop into my head the other day to do a series of blog posts about my experience with keeping the creative juices flowing—or how I do it.

It would be easy to center these posts around “Artist’s Block”. I am no stranger to this as I’ve experienced it many times in the past, and it’s a particular bear when your entire career depends upon you manifesting new and fantastic, amazing designs that impress people continually.

I want to try to focus on the positive here, however. Let’s not focus on blockages. Let’s focus on how to keep the creativity flowing.

The universal Law of Attraction says that in order to “get” you must “give”. If I want to “get” creative, I must “give” it out through doing. You know… Use it or lose it.

So let’s get started, shall we?

(Check back each Friday at noon MST for the continuation of these tips!)

Tip eight: take a break

Sometimes we just need to rest and re-fuel. We’ve been burning the creative candle at both ends, so it’s no small wonder that sometimes we just fizzle out. Even the thought of picking up a sketchbook or paint brush or any other creative tool just sends us into a fit of “Don’t wannas!”

If you’re to that point then you just need to allow yourself a total break.

It’s time to do something different that has absolutely nothing to do with art at all. If possible, however, get that right brain going and do something you don’t usually do.

Sure, if you really want you can sit and binge-watch your favorite series on Netflix (I mean, have you seen the Dark Crystal prequel yet?) But for this tip, we’re looking to expand our horizons a bit beyond the living room couch.

Go for a hike on that trail you keep hearing about. Recruit some friends you haven’t seen for a while and go have lunch. Try out that new coffee shop. Take a trip down to the city. Take a trip out of the city. Check out that new mall. Take some salsa lessons. Volunteer your services. Play a board game with the family.

The point is to fill your cup with different experiences and allow your creative mind a chance to rest and regenerate.

Our lives are filled with the necessity to rest. It’s a package deal. Every day our bodies and minds ask us to sleep so they can heal and restore. If you’re familiar with having an exercise routine, you probably know that you need to give your body a break every week for a day or two, and every couple of months to allow yourself an extended rest of several days so your muscles can repair and you can come back stronger and more energetic than before.

We all need vacations from our full-time work or lives where we can just enjoy some down-time with no pressure or responsibilities.

So, too, does our creative muscle need a little rest on occasion.

If you find yourself just feeling overwhelmed or stressed when it comes to art, do yourself a favor and don’t add more pressure by forcing it if you really would rather not. Allow yourself a little break. But do promise yourself you’re not going to stop so long that you don’t come back to your art for another year. If you’re really in tune with your creative muse, I’m pretty sure you’ll hear it whispering in your ear soon enough. If you don’t honor it and you keep suppressing it, it’ll visit you less often. And that’s a real drag when you know you want to make something but have no motivation behind it.

Have some favorite pastimes you do when you need to give your art a break? Share them below.

Staying creative – Tip Seven: Take a Class or Tutorial

I had an idea pop into my head the other day to do a series of blog posts about my experience with keeping the creative juices flowing—or how I do it.

It would be easy to center these posts around “Artist’s Block”. I am no stranger to this as I’ve experienced it many times in the past, and it’s a particular bear when your entire career depends upon you manifesting new and fantastic, amazing designs that impress people continually.

I want to try to focus on the positive here, however. Let’s not focus on blockages. Let’s focus on how to keep the creativity flowing.

The universal Law of Attraction says that in order to “get” you must “give”. If I want to “get” creative, I must “give” it out through doing. You know… Use it or lose it.

So let’s get started, shall we?

(Check back each Friday at noon MST for the continuation of these tips!)

Tip seven: take a class or tutorial

Sometimes when I’m getting burned out or honestly feel like I want to do something creative but have no motivation on a subject I find doing a tutorial or taking a class helps.

The bonus to doing either of these is that I perhaps get to learn something new. A new technique, a new way to use my brushes or pens, a new style, etc.

YouTube is full of amazing free tutorials to start. Find an artist whose style speaks to you and follow along. Or, you can go even further and find an artist whose style is completely different from yours and follow along that way.

A lot of YouTubers also have Patreon accounts where if you join them they have more in-depth classes to share with a subscription. Some also have their own web sites and side businesses where they teach, so be sure to check their web sites outside of just their YouTube and Patreon feeds.

If you’re not finding what you want on YouTube, then Skillshare is the next place to go for online courses. Now, I have no experience with Skillshare. I can only go by what all the YouTubers keep suggesting. But I’d definitely like to try out a course at some point. Note that these are paid courses, although often you’ll find a YouTuber is being sponsored by them so you might find free trial subscriptions that way.

Screen grab of Skillshare web site.

Finally, there’s live, in-person classes you could take. Do a Google search for the kind of course you’re interested in and find one in your local area.

I recently took an in-person watercolor class for a month. While I think it was geared more towards beginners, I did take away a few interesting approaches from the class. The instructor had a more deliberate approach to painting than I typically do, starting very light then building up color (instead of me where I sometimes like to throw down intense near mass-tone color from the get-go.)

I worked on the cute squirrel below as part of my in-person class. I finished him at home.

Live classes give you the added benefit of socialization. You get to meet new people and also exchange ideas that way.

Don’t feel stuck with not knowing what to do. Take a class or tutorial or several and reap the benefits of being creative while learning at the same time.

What’s your favorite source for tutorials and classes? Leave a comment below.

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal Review

I’m not quite sure how long Winsor & Newton has been on the paper production scene, but I feel like it’s fairly new within the last couple of years. I believe for a while they only sold their paper in sheets, but they’ve entered the spiral-bound “journal” market fairly recently, which, of course, made me pretty happy.

Not happy in the sense that I’ve used W&N paper for a long time and am familiar with it so love it. Just happy that another 100% cotton watercolor paper sketchbook was out on the market for me to try. No more being stuck with only cellulose-blend student-grade sketchbooks to choose from – and that’s a good thing.

As of my writing this review, I’m a little over half-way through this sketchbook. I was at first only going to paint on the front side of the pages because I wanted to fill the sketchbook quickly, but later decided I should try a few paintings on the back side, as well, to see how it performs.

In my humble (*cough*elitist*cough*) Sketchbook Artist opinion (yes, I invented a new type of artist), I feel that both sides of the paper in a sketchbook should be usable. This isn’t always the case with watercolor paper.

As I’ve said in previous posts about watercolor sketchbooks, technically, you can paint on both sides of any watercolor paper. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and any skilled artist can adapt to differences in texture and sizing and still create beautiful work. It’s really a matter of preference for a lot of artists.

You’ll find some artists insist that the front and back sides of the paper are exactly the same. However, some artists say they prefer the texture and performance on the back versus the front or vice-versa (which tells me both sides are not the same…)

Watercolor artists: “Both sides of the watercolor paper are exactly the same, but I prefer to paint on the back side.”


I think the texture and sizing on both sides of the paper really depends on the paper manufacturer, to be honest. The Etchr Sketchbook, for example, had very little difference between both sides of the paper. In fact the difference was so minute, I didn’t even factor that in as something to discuss when I reviewed that lovely sketchbook.

For a sketchbook, I look for the paper to perform the same way on either side.

So is this Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal a true “sketchbook”?

In the sense that it’s a bunch of paper bound together that you can flip through like a book, yes, I feel this can be loosely categorized as a sketchbook.

I feel, however, that this is really meant to be more of a sketch pad, because each page is perforated for easy removal.

I think this is why W&N decided to call this a “journal”. Probably to avoid “it’s not a sketchbook!” complaints from people like me.

What’s un-sketchbooky about this, I feel, is its cover. The front is card stock with marketing text and images on it. The cover can easily get bent or damaged (you can see from my previous photo that the cover was already starting to get a little bent on the lower-right). The back is naked heavy chip board.

When I think of a sketchbook, I think of something with sturdy, finished covers. A sketchbook, to me, imparts the feeling of being able to safely travel with or store it without risking its contents getting damaged because of a flimsy cover.

Other ways this differs from a typical artists sketchbook is that it doesn’t have a back pocket, a ribbon bookmark, or an elastic closure that perhaps a lot of us are familiar with from manufacturers like Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, Etchr, etc.

Again, think spiral-bound sketch pad.

Now, does this make this sketchbook something one should avoid? Not necessarily. It gets the job done, just in a very simplified and probably cost-saving way. That job? Providing a bunch of pages to do your art on.

And this is where I feel this sketchbook shines.

Well. Sorta.

This sketchbook is made of cold-press 300gsm 100% cotton paper.

When I did my first painting in the sketchbook you could definitely color me impressed. I really enjoyed the paper. This is cold-pressed paper and it’s got a heavy texture to it (heavier than my previously reviewed Etchr Sketchbook.) When you run your fingers over it, it almost has a sort of sand-papery feel to it. That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but when compared to the paper in the Etchr, this definitely has tooth.

My first page in my sketchbook is always an experiment of various techniques and mediums including ink, etc.

This is perfect for watercolor application, and fantastic if you like working on cold-press paper. One thing I’d caution about is using micron or any sort of felt-tip pens on its surface. I feel like the texture would chew through the nibs pretty brutally. I actually find it difficult to write my little “KR” signature on the pages because the paper texture grabs at and/or pushes away the nib of my little micron pen when I’m signing my piece.

I’ve put down ink on a couple of other pages, including the front page, but for those I resorted to using my Pentel Aquash Water Brush filled with Dr. Ph. Martin’s India Ink. The paper is much friendlier to a wet brush pen than my Pigma Micron pens.

The paper got a passing grade from me for its performance with wet-in-wet washes, glazing, etc. I’ve used rubbing alcohol, salt, plastic wrap, and masking fluid on it with great success. The color looks bright and beautiful. I didn’t have any unexpected lifting / re-activation issues between dried layers, and the paper stayed in tact when removing any masking fluid or washi tape edging.

This paper handled negative painting well, also. I had some issues with doing negative paintings in my Etchr – I think mostly because I was working quickly and only using a heat tool to dry my page instead of waiting an extended period of time for the paper to dry completely. I suspect that while the surface was dry to the touch, the deeper layers were still damp so I had bleeding issues.

When I experimented with negative painting in the W&N sketchbook, I put it through the same paces as I did the Etchr, as I wanted to see how it would do. This meant I worked just as quickly and used my heat tool for drying. I found the paper seemed to dry better, so I had no bleeding issues when I went back in and added layers.

The thickness of this paper is another plus for me. The thicker it is, the less warping you’re likely to experience, even under heavy washes, and that was definitely the case with this sketchbook. I did still clip down the edges of my pages with binder clips, just in case, so I’m not sure how much the paper bends and warps with the edges not secured.

I also enjoy the size of the paper. I like working on smaller paintings, and the 5″x7″ size is pretty perfect for quick little pieces. This smaller size also helps reduce the previously-mentioned warping.

So why did I say this sketchbook “sorta” shines?

We’re back to that whole debate about whether both sides of the paper are usable.

Yes, for all intents and purposes, you can paint on the back side of the paper. But it most definitely has a different texture to it, and I’m not sure if it’s the texture itself or maybe the back isn’t treated the same as the front, but I feel my paint behaves differently on the back, as well. The water either soaks in super fast or it pools up if I’m not watching what I’m doing. The pigments kind of slide around over the surface because of the pooling, or soak in super fast in the areas where the paper is drying faster than expected. This lead to unexpected backwashes and blooms in my test paintings.

I’m absolutely sure about the difference in performance, as I’m using the same Princeton Neptune brushes and sticking to my limited QoR and Daniel Smith Cascade Green palette through this entire sketchbook. It’s not a question of the properties of a certain pigment reacting differently. It’s the paper.

Read more about my limited palette here.

I feel the backside does fine if you’re after singular layers, or you’re doing a heavy abstract-type of painting on it. I had no real issues, for example, when I did a galaxy painting on the backside. It’s even good for just plain swatch testing, checking color mixes, etc.

All the photos below provide examples of art on the back side of the paper.

But if you’re looking to do a more cohesive, intentional piece, just be warned that you’re going to have a different experience with the back side of the paper compared to the front.

I’m not particularly fond with the back side’s performance. This makes this sketchbook doubly-expensive in my eyes. Various sites list price this sketchbook at roughly $20. If you’re paying full price for this (never mind possible shipping charges on top), you’re paying 75¢ per 5″x7″ sheet. (That’s 15 sheets of high-performance paper.) If you’re perfectly fine with the back side, therefore using both sides of the paper, then you’re paying a more reasonable 38¢ per sheet.

As for the paper itself – I could totally see using Winsor & Newton watercolor blocks, for example. With watercolor blocks, I only paint on the front side of the page, and the front side performs extremely well. This is most definitely really nice paper. In fact this could possibly be a good, less-expensive alternative to Arches watercolor blocks.

One final drawback to this sketchbook is that it has spiral binding, which means if you’re fond of doing panoramic landscapes or other compositions that span the entire width of the book when it’s fully open, you’re out of luck – unless you’re going for a diptych painting, instead.

The spiral binding is nice, however, for providing a completely flat surface to work on when you’re concentrating on one page at a time. No having to try to force your book to lay flat. But a good, premium case-bound sketchbook will lie flat, too.

Long story short. Would I recommend this sketchbook? My answer is complicated.

If you’re looking for the sketchbook experience, then no. The cover, the spiral binding, the perforated pages and the differences of the paper from front to back lead me to suggest to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a premium sketchbook.

If you’re looking for small sheets of really nice watercolor paper and you only want to paint on one side, OR you’re not picky about the back side being different to work on, then yes, this is a nice little sketch pad full of premium 100% cotton artist-grade paper.

100% cotton paper
Heavy 300gsm
Budget-friendly if using both sides of the paper
Sprial binding allows book to lay flat
Perforated edge for easy removal of pages
Spiral binding prevents panoramic paintings
Paper makeup is different from front to back
Flimsy cover
Expensive if you only use the front side of the paper

Have you used the Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal? What are your thoughts on this little book?

Be sure to follow my Instagram account @kellyro77 to stay up-to-date on my creative endeavors.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Journal
Etchr Sketchbooks
Pentel Aquash Water Brushes
Dr. Ph. Martin’s India Ink
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Binder Clips
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors
Daniel Smith Cascade Green Watercolor
Winsor & Newton Watercolor Paper Blocks
Arches Watercolor Paper Blocks

Staying creative – Tip Six: Copy a Master.

I had an idea pop into my head the other day to do a series of blog posts about my experience with keeping the creative juices flowing—or how I do it.

It would be easy to center these posts around “Artist’s Block”. I am no stranger to this as I’ve experienced it many times in the past, and it’s a particular bear when your entire career depends upon you manifesting new and fantastic, amazing designs that impress people continually.

I want to try to focus on the positive here, however. Let’s not focus on blockages. Let’s focus on how to keep the creativity flowing.

The universal Law of Attraction says that in order to “get” you must “give”. If I want to “get” creative, I must “give” it out through doing. You know… Use it or lose it.

So let’s get started, shall we?

(Check back each Friday at noon MST for the continuation of these tips!)

Tip six: copy a master

Did I just say “COPY”?

No! Sacrilege! Don’t you DARE copy someone.

REAL artists don’t copy, anyway. They make up everything from their imagination and execute it perfectly. No practice needed.

Believe it or not, that’s some people’s opinion. Usually, I find that kind of opinion comes from people who are NOT artistically inclined or who’ve never made much of an effort to sit down and draw or paint something.

Copying for the sake of learning and practice is perfectly okay. Where it crosses the line is if you copy someone’s work, don’t give any credit to the original artist, and try to pawn it off as your own.

Many fine artists are encouraged to copy a master’s work. It gives them insight and understanding on how the artist achieved certain colors or perspectives or depth or mood.

Image from
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One of my favorite artists is Georgia O’Keeffe. Small wonder since I tend to do a lot of plants.

I love her contemporary style and close perspectives of the botanicals she painted.

I haven’t copied her art exactly, but I do know I’ve done a few pieces that emulate that up-close style.

If you’ve ever taken any kind of an art class, think back to what the teacher had you do occasionally. Yes. Copy.

I even look at drawing and painting from reference photos or even “life” (plein air, urban sketching) as copying because you’re essentially replicating what is already there.

It’s all great practice to get comfortable with your drawing skills, your command of compositions, and use of color and values.

If you’re feeling stuck, look up art from someone you enjoy and try to emulate their work. Copy it exact, even, to gain an understanding of their style and how they perhaps achieved a certain technique or appearance to their work. Or challenge yourself and copy a work that is not your usual style.

Just remember – if you share your copied work, credit the original artist. That means if they have a presence online, link back to their social media feed or web site. But be clear that your work is a copy – not your own concept – and that you’re studying someone whose work you admire.

Be polite, too. The person may or may not be flattered with your sharing a copy of their work. If they ask you to take it down, do so without complaint. Remember. It wasn’t your original idea in the first place.

Have you tried copying favorite artists? Did you feel you learned some valuable skills or knowledge by doing so? Share your experience below.

Working with a print reproduction-friendly limited watercolor palette

Over the last month or so, I decided to challenge myself by sticking to using only a limited palette in the sketchbook I’m currently filling. (Currently that sketchbook is a Winsor & Newton Watercolor Sketchbook).

I was playing around and found a limited palette that I just adored. I loved the beautiful, vibrant shades I was getting so decided to stick with it.

This goes a touch beyond what most would call a limited palette in watercolor – which usually means three primary colors only: a red, a yellow, and a blue. The three primaries I chose were QoR Nickel AZO Yellow, QoR Quinacridone Magenta, and QoR Cobalt Teal.

In addition to the three primaries, I added a dark – QoR Payne’s Gray, and then because I was just so in love with its character, I also added Daniel Smith’s Cascade Green (I just can’t get enough of the tricks its granulation plays – oh it’s blue-green. Oh wait. No! It’s green. No! Wait, it’s blue!).

The results? Just… wow. If you like bright, vibrant colors, this is the palette for you.

But wait, there’s MORE!

If you’re an artist who converts their art to be ready for mass print reproduction, then you know the agony of swapping out your vibrant scanned or photographed RGB image to CMYK. The brilliant blues in your ultramarine suddenly go gray. Your vibrant cadmium reds flatten out.

What. The. Hell?

Okay, it’s not exactly “what the hell?” for me, because my primary background is graphic design with a heavy emphasis on print. The hit color can take when transitioning an image from RGB to CMYK is not exactly a surprise to me.

What is RGB and CMYK?

RGB = “Red, Blue, Green” and it is the color space commonly used for digital media – meaning anything that’s going to be viewed on a screen. Be it your television, your computer monitor, or your smart phone screen. RGB are the primary colors of light.

CMYK = “Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black” and it is the color space commonly used for print media meaning anything from newspapers to book covers, to magazines, billboards, take-out menus, posters and more. CMYK are the primary colors of pigment.

When you combine all three RGB colors, you get white. When you combine all CMYK colors, you get black (or what is referred to in print terms “Rich Black”.)

There’s a multitude of web sites out there that explain the differences between CMYK and RGB color spaces far better than I could. If you want to know more of the details, I suggest a Google search on it.

I point you in that direction because I don’t feel like I’m an expert on it. I’m one of those people who understands “it just is” so I work with the “is” instead of fussing over the whys.

But here’s why I’m skipping around doing the happy dance with this particular limited color watercolor palette.

When I convert my RGB scans to CMYK for print reproduction, the color doesn’t shift! If there is a color shift, it is extremely subtle and I’ve actually yet to catch it.

Why is this?

I suspect it’s because the colors in this limited palette are extremely close to the print primaries of Cyan (my QoR Cobalt Teal), Magenta (my QoR Quinacridone Magenta), Yellow (my QoR Nickle Azo Yellow), and Black (my QoR Payne’s Gray.)

Photoshop isn’t spending a bunch of time trying to work out how to convert my preexisting colors into print colors because they’re already a close match to those colors.

There’s a special rule when working on print projects in graphic design – and that’s to work from the start in the color space your finished product is going to be represented in.

If I’m building a web banner that’s never going to see a printer, then I build that web banner in RGB. If I’m making a postcard that’s going to have to hit the presses, I start at the beginning building the postcard in CMYK. This way there are no nasty surprises if I build something in one color space and have to convert it to the other. (Note, this is really more of a problem of converting an RGB image to CMYK. Converting CMYK to RGB does not cause problems because RGB can replicate any color there is because it’s based on light.)

Because I like to have a lot of my art available for print reproduction on products on my Redbubble shop (which requires images be in CMYK), it only makes sense that perhaps finding a palette that gives me CMYK results from the start while I’m working on the piece of art is a wise direction to go.

Will I now forsake all my other colors? No. Definitely not. In fact I imagine that I’ll get tired of working with this particular palette after a while because maybe I’ll want to migrate to something more moody and muted.

But this palette certainly saves me from a lot of extra work and settling for less-than-vibrant matches when converting my watercolor paintings for print reproduction. There is far less color correcting to have to do, and that is really nice.

Giclee prints versus mass-reproduction print

I wanted to make a special note here that giclee prints are often superior to mass-reproduction prints.

Giclee prints are often used by artists selling small-quantity prints of their art because of the superior color, inks and choice of paper stock.

Giclee prints are superior to mass-reproduction prints because they utilize more than just CMYK colors to produce their prints. In fact, when submitting art for giclee, you do not convert it from RGB to CMYK. CMYK art is a huge no-no. Giclee printers can use up to 12 different colored inks, so there’s less of an issue with colors shifting and not being representative of the original.

If you’re planning to run limited prints of your art, or even just single prints for special buyers, then giclee prints are probably your best route. And if that’s the case, there’s absolutely no need to concern yourself with finding the right color palette that’s going to support printed reproduction of your art. Simply said, the sky’s the limit where your color choices are when doing giclee printing.

I convert my art to CMYK for Redbubble because it is their requirement as they do mass reproduction, or rather utilize printers that better support CMYK color space over RGB.

Do you convert your watercolors for print reproduction? Have you found a palette that gels well with the color conversion to CMYK? Share your discoveries and thoughts below.

Be sure to follow my Instagram account @kellyro77 to stay up-to-date on my creative endeavors.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Sketchbook
QoR Cobalt Teal Watercolor
QoR Quinacridone Magenta Watercolor
QoR Nickel AZO Yellow Watercolor
QoR Payne’s Gray Watercolor
Daniel Smith Cascade Green Watercolor