Art Lesson Book Review – “Modern Watercolor Botanicals”

A list of materials can be found at the end of this post. As usual, please note that any links to Amazon products within this post are affiliate links, meaning I make a minute commission should you choose to purchase something via the link. This is at no additional cost to you. That said, I appreciate your patronage by using the links to purchase products. While small, any amount of money helps me to keep making art and sharing it with the world.

Happy 2021 everyone. I hope you feel a bit more optimistic about this coming year. I know 2020 was rough for a lot of people. It was absolute hell for some, and I’ll preface this post with the acknowledgment that some people experienced horrible loss last year. If you are one of those people, I am deeply, deeply sorry.

I feel like I managed pretty well. I’m not fond of falling into the “victim” mindset that a lot of the world seems to perpetuate. I think that for a lot of people (excluding those I mentioned earlier, of course!) they’ve enjoyed having all-out pity parties when in the big picture, they’ve not had anything truly devastating happen to them.

I had much to be grateful for, instead: Healthy friends and family, a job where I could work from home, internet and telephones to keep me in contact with my colleagues and loved ones, a safe place to live, and all my needs being met.

Yes, there were a lot of negative circumstances going on that were out of my control. But that’s the beauty of it… they’re not mine to control. All I do get to control is this tiny little corner of the universe where I reside, and I can make it a lot better when I make conscious choices that put my health and well-being (both physically and emotionally) before all else.

Art played a lot into that personal well-being for me last year. I am eternally grateful that I have such a solitary interest that I love to participate in. Just me, some watercolors, a piece of paper, and a brush? Yep, that’s all I need.

I went on a bit of a hiatus at the end of the year, however. I think I tend to do that around the holidays. I get distracted with other things going on and art takes a back seat. As a result, I didn’t paint or draw anything from probably mid-November all the way through December.

However, that artistic break was not for long. Over Christmas I received a gorgeous book of watercolor lessons called “Modern Watercolor Botanicals: A Creative Workshop in Watercolor, Gouache, & Ink” by Sarah Simon, better known as @themintgardener on Instagram.

This book came at just the right time, as after such a long break from painting, I really wasn’t too sure what to paint. Lessons to the rescue! They give me an excuse to put some color down without having to dream up some brilliant composition.

So this blog post steps away a bit from my usual content, which is mostly discussing my artwork endeavors and reviews on art products and sketchbooks.

This book inspired one of the goals I set for myself for 2021, which is to take a lot of art lessons. It’s time to learn, learn, learn. I love learning new things, especially when its centered around stuff that interests me.

I’ll start off this review by first saying this book is gorgeous. It is approximately 218 pages with 16 lessons. I really enjoy the spiral binding, the little corner protectors on the edges of the hard covers, and the large pages with lots of photographs supporting the steps in the lessons. The spiral binding is nice because you can open the book completely and view an entire spread of lessons, or if you want, you can flip the book back on itself, making it more compact while you’re reading or participating in a lesson.

If anything, this book is just a great piece of eye-candy to have around. The book is peppered with lots of Sarah’s gorgeous artwork. What’s not to love about that?

Of course, I do have some personal qualms with the book.

As the subtitle of the book says, this book is really more of a mixed media art lesson book than a watercolor-only book. I feel the main title is a bit misleading where that’s concerned, unless you want to interpret “Modern” as meaning “Mixed Media”. This is opinion only, of course, because I know some watercolor artists consider gouache and ink to be acceptable companions to a watercolor painting. But if you’re looking for a purist approach to watercolor, then this book is not the book for you.

For the painting lessons, she uses a very specific set of student grade watercolors. I mean specific right down to the brand. This set of student grade watercolors has unique color names like “Peach”, “Violet”, “Medium Yellow”, “Deep Yellow”, etc. This is a bit of a drawback if, perhaps as a student, you already have a different set of student grade watercolors that don’t have these particular colors, (or rather the set DOES have the colors, only they’re named different). If you’re not really keen and knowledgeable about your colors, then you may have a difficult time trying to find a close match. And, of course, these odd color names aren’t much fun, either, when you’re an advanced watercolorist, but I think if you are advanced you have better understanding of colors and can find a close match among your artist grade colors, or mix your colors to create a match that way.

Because she’s using a specific brand and set, of course, there’s also the risk that you might not be able to find this particular set of colors. Again, more of a problem if you’re a novice. Not so big of a hurdle for advanced artists. For instance, for most of the lessons I just used my set of Roman Szmal colors and mixed the lesson colors using different “recipes” than what she had listed.

Another note on the colors in her lessons – a lot of her mixes utilize white (gouache), which, if you’re learning watercolor from the start, this could develop some dependency on gouache. This is not ideal if you’re wishing to learn watercolor on its own. Fun, however, if you’re not used to gouache and want to dabble with it a bit, which was the case for me.

I think more emphasis should have been placed on 100% cotton watercolor paper, too. She says using student-grade paper is acceptable. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – student grade watercolor paper does NOT behave like 100% cotton paper. It does weird, weird things when it comes to blending, glazing, etc. I feel that student grade watercolor paper gives a lot of novices the incorrect impression that watercolor is difficult. They watch a professional’s colors blend beautifully, not knowing the professional is doing their work on 100% cotton paper. They look at their own mediocre, failed attempts and think that they’re watercolor-handicapped and give up.

I hate the idea of students learning on cellulose-blend papers. Fortunately, more manufacturers have been coming out with decent, reasonably-priced 100% cotton watercolor papers. The Strathmore 500 Series watercolor paper comes to mind. I did several paintings in a sketchbook with that paper and it was great, plus it didn’t break the bank.

Moving on, as a breakdown of the book, Sarah provides a great list of tools, both “essential” and then “nice to have”. Essential tools, of course, are necessary in order to do the lessons in the book. The nice to have tools are additional quality-of-life improvements. For instance, in her “nice to have” list, she has listed a Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Colorless Blender – for blending out splatters and mistakes. This intrigued me because I’d never heard of using this tool as a means for cleaning up mistakes, so I had to buy a pair to try it out. (I haven’t actually tried it out yet, though, ha!) But of course, this tool isn’t necessary because you can also usually clean up mistakes just with a damp brush and paper towel.

She has a nice section about how to use and care for your watercolor brushes. Although I really disagree with her recommendation under “Priming your Brush” to press a brush’s bristles down flat against the bottom of a cup, both for activating a brand new brush (removing the protective coating the manufacturers put on the brush), and for getting your brush ready to start painting. I’ve been taught that the mashing down approach essentially shortens the life of your brush because you can ruin the point, break hairs, and if you’re submerging your brush in your cup so far that the ferrule is completely underwater, you could start to compromise the glue that the ferrule protects.

To prime your brush all you need to do is dip the tip into your water and swish it around for a few seconds. That’s it. And if you need to remove the protective coating from a brand new brush, rest assured, it’s water soluble and will come off – just swish it around in the water continuously until you see the bristles come free and when you touch it it no longer feels stiff.

She continues on to discuss typical watercolor techniques such as wet-in-wet, glazing, blotting, etc. There is a nice short section on color theory, detailing the terminology used such as hue, tint, tone, shade, value, etc. And she discusses color harmonies like monochromatic, complementary, and analogous.

There is a section about composition, and I think this is mostly focused on botanical compositions, but a lot of the principles she lists applies, really, to any successful painting, such as finding your focus, adding appropriate contrast and proportion, etc.

After all the introductory content is through, you then move on to the lessons, and they start from very basic like washes, all the way up to the final lesson which comprises of layering gouache over watercolor in a bouquet composition.

As you find yourself starting through the lessons, I do recommend you read each lesson through in its entirety before starting. If you follow her lessons step-by-step while painting at the same time, you’re going to find your paint drying on you while you pause in your painting process to read what’s coming next.

If you’re a beginner artist and you’re not confident with your drawing skills, she also provides several perforated pages at the back of the book where you can trace outlines of the art for the lessons. You can skip fussing over getting a drawing just right and jump straight into painting that way, if you want.

I didn’t use the tracing lines. I’m too set into trying my own thing most of the time. I feel uncomfortable outright copying someone’s work most of the time, even when it is in the form of a lesson. I did copy shape and color on some of the lessons so I could focus on the techniques being taught instead of trying to be unique, but even then I felt guilty and like a sham. That’s my own insecurity, however. Don’t let my bias sway you away from tracing the work! She encourages it, after all.

There was one lesson in particular (the terrarium) that I enjoyed so much that after following her basic composition I came back the next day and did my own interpretation of it.

I found that I ended up going through the book relatively quickly. By the time I got to the final lesson I was thinking “Shoot! That was the last one!”

I overall enjoyed all the lessons. Even the basic ones. She has some great beginner exercises that really can fill in as a good warm up exercise for advanced artists, such as creating small bleeds between color swatches, or painting stylized wreathes.

If you’re hoping to learn how to paint realistic flowers, this is not the right book. Her style is more suggestion and abstract. I wouldn’t call it loose painting, either, as a lot of the work is very tight – she tends to work wet-on-dry for most of her pieces, and of course, if you’re bringing ink into the mix, then you’re staying within the lines of the ink.

What techniques did I learn in the book?

To start, this was the first time I felt kind of compelled to utilize watercolor pencils for line work. It really is a smart way to make sure your sketch just disappears so you’re not left with dark pencil lines under your finished painting. I’ll have to play with watercolor pencils more, because one fear I have with them, too, is that they dissolve and my line work may disappear on me before I’m done needing it. I think that’s more of a conundrum if you’re doing something like a layered piece.

Another favorite technique I discovered I enjoyed was utilizing paper towels to dab and lift color to create highlights. This isn’t some new revolutionary thing to me, of course. I’ve known you can use paper towels to lift color for a long time. The thing is I’ve never bothered with it. I usually lift color just with a damp brush. However, because her lessons specifically had me using the paper towels I got a better understanding of just how effective they are.

The issue with lifting only with a damp brush is that the paper still stays wet under where you lifted. Where the paper is wet, color will inevitably flow. Maybe not as much as what’s around it, but it’ll still bend into that spot where you lifted with your damp brush. Throwing a paper towel into the mix, however, instantly had a drying effect to the paper where you touched it so the blending essentially ceases to happen in the spot where you touched down the paper towel. So, this technique really can create some beautiful glowing effects, especially if you combine the technique of lifting with a brush first, then hitting the spot with a paper towel.

I also found a great technique that she calls the “water drop”. This is a very fun way to force your paint to do even more interesting things (if it isn’t already!) If you’re going for an abstract kind of feel, then this means you could create potential blooms (which aren’t always a horrible thing). If your paper and paint are still very wet when you add the water drop, then it at least helps do some interesting blending of the paint. It’s pretty hard to describe. You just have to do one of her lessons and experience it for yourself. Particularly this technique was emphasized in Lesson 15 where you do a draping botanical composition and you utilize the water drop effect to create some beautiful highlights and contrast in your leaves and flower petals.

So, I feel like I’ve finished this book with some new skills and that my watercolor progression will be the better for it.

And while, perhaps, I’ve gone through the primary utility of this book, it still remains beautiful enough that it can be a great coffee table piece to flip through.

Have you tried this book? If not, will you, and do you have your own favorite art lesson book that you’d recommend? Leave your thoughts below.

To those of you who like my sketchbook reviews, fear not, I’ll go into more detail about the sketchbook I used with these lessons at another time. For now, I’ve linked it 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.

“Modern Watercolor Botanicals: A Creative Workshop in Watercolor, Gouache, & Ink”
Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Colorless Blender
Viviva Square Cotton Sketchbook
Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
Roman Szmal Watercolors
Arteza Gouache
QoR Watercolors
Princeton Neptune Brushes
Etchr Mini Palette

Debuting my first (and only?) painting video

Painting leaves in watercolor.

I hope you’re sitting down, my friends, because I’m about to announce that I filmed and edited an entire watercolor painting video.

It’s pretty surprising, I know, thus I wanted to make sure you were seated so you wouldn’t fall and hurt yourselves from the shock.

I decided to finally give this a shot because I’ve been receiving so many questions lately about my process with my watercolor leaf paintings that I’ve been sharing on Instagram.

The paintings haven’t made much of an appearance here on my blog yet, because the latest batch are getting painted in my Koval Sketchbook Pro. (If you’re new to my blog, I have a pattern where I’ll use a sketchbook from cover to cover, then post a review of that sketchbook if it’s a brand that’s new to me, then film and post a flip through.) I did do a series of these paintings earlier this year in my Etchr Perfect Sketchbook. You can find a flip-through of that video at this link.

Flip through videos have thus far been the extent of my journey into making and sharing videos.

I feel I have good reason to be hesitant about filming full process videos. Actually I have a few reasons, which I also touch on briefly in my video:

  1. I feel the role of amazing YouTube watercolor artist has been filled many times over on YouTube. I have no aspirations on becoming a renowned YouTube artist with millions of subscribers. Sure, the revenue would be nice, but I’m not sure that’s a sacrifice I care to make with my time.
  2. I feel filming my artwork is not very conducive to the creative process. I find the equipment is distracting and instead of enjoying the painting process, I’m running a script through my head: “What will I say here?” “Oh, I should mention why I’m doing this particular technique.” In addition to the script, I find myself continually checking to make sure I’m recording and that you can see what I’m doing in the frame.
  3. I am impatient by nature, and filming and editing slows everything down. Instead of creating a painting, snapping a couple photos, sharing them on Instagram and then moving on to the next, I’m having to pause, load the clips to my computer and then into the editing software, then spend hours and hours reviewing the clips. Trimming, speeding up, finding just the right music, and finally recording a voiceover and editing the voiceover to blot out stumbled words, and clean up the soundtrack. So, what would have been something I finished in a couple of hours instead turns into an hours-long process just to share what I’ve done with the world. YouTube creators with full-time jobs… you have my utmost respect for being able to post something consistently.

So, with the above reasons giving me pause on creating videos regularly, I hope this helps you to lower your expectations on finding more process videos from me anytime soon.

That said, I’m glad to say I’ve at least tried it. I’m curious to see the reactions I’ll receive from the video. In the long run, my primary hope is that the video is helpful to those who’ve been curious about my painting process.

I did try to trim the video down as much as possible… without editing it would have been around an hour and a half long. I managed to whittle it down to around 40 minutes. Because of how long this video is, I won’t be surprised if YouTube peppers it with dozens of ads. For that, I apologize. Especially if you find you’re viewing this during the election season.

So, enough about my experience with creating the video. You can watch it here for your enjoyment. After the video, I’ve also provided a brief written variation of what I’ve demonstrated in the video, in case you’re looking for a text-only walkthrough.


How I create these paintings:

A list of materials can be found at the end of this post. As usual, please note that any links to Amazon products are affiliate links, meaning I make a minute commission should you choose to purchase something via the link. This is at no additional cost to you. That said, I appreciate your patronage by using the links to purchase products. While small, any amount of money helps me to keep making art and sharing it with the world.

To start the painting, I mask off the edges of a page in my sketchbook with washi tape. I use washi tape because it’s fairly low-tack so it doesn’t run the risk of tearing the paper when I remove it.

I start off the painting as wet on wet, so I wipe the page down first with clean water then dab on the color. I allow the color to mix on the page, so there’s no pre-mixing being done on the side. I find I prefer this process as it allows watercolor to work its magic.

The colors I am using for this particular painting are: Daniel Smith Rose of Ultramarine, Amethyst Genuine, and Lunar Violet, and QoR Quinacridone Gold and Cobalt Teal. Finally for the accent leaves, I use Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors.

The brushes I use for this painting are all Princeton Neptune synthetic brushes. I love these brushes. They hold a lot of water, are incredibly soft, and are synthetic, thus cruelty-free and inexpensive. If you’ve not used Princeton Neptune brushes yet, I encourage you to give them a try.

The sketchbook I’m using is the Koval Sketchbook Pro with Saunder’s Waterford 100% cotton watercolor paper. It’s a nice, heavy 300gsm. I’m really adoring working in this sketchbook. I’m not ready to give a full review of it just yet. You’ll have to check back later once I’ve finished filling the sketchbook.

Moving on, after I’ve put down the first layer of paint, which I’ve also added texture to by sprinkling it with some saltwater and salt crystals, I allow it to dry completely. I then scrape off the dried salt and set to work drawing on the leaves.

I didn’t mention this in my video (partially because it’s evident by watching), but I don’t using masking fluid here. That might seem like an obvious technique I could be using instead of painstakingly painting around all the leaves and branches, but I’ll fall back to my “impatient” excuse. Waiting for masking fluid to dry is just not something I want to do. So I don’t use it, although I fully acknowledge that the time it takes me to paint around the leaves would probably be equivalent to the amount of time it would take me to put down the masking fluid and allow it to dry. “Six to one, half dozen the other” as the saying goes. This is just how I currently make these paintings.

After the line drawing is complete, I then set to work painting around the leaves and branches. I tend to try to paint over the top of any given color with the same color again, thus making the color more intense. So if there’s cobalt teal under a spot, I put more cobalt teal over the top.

I tend to do the interiors and smaller spaces around the leaves first, then I move on to the larger space surrounding the branches. I use wet on wet for this process, as well.

I allow the surrounding paint to dry completely, then move on to adding shadows to the leaves. I find this step is pretty important as it helps give the painting more depth. It really makes the leaves pop. The same rule of colors over colors applies here. If there’s violet on the leaf, I use violet as the shadow color.

After I’ve finished adding shading to all the leaves, my last step (aside from signing my painting), is to add the smaller accent leafy branches with my Finetec Pearlescent colors. I agonized over which color to use for quite a while on this one. Of course, I ideally want to use a color that will harmonize well with the rest of the painting. For this painting, I finally went with the deep violet color. I free-handed the leaves onto the page with a liner brush.

Once everything was dry, I removed the washi tape to reveal the clean edges.

And there you have it – a quick written break-down of my process for these leaves.

Do you think you’ll try painting them? If you do, please tag me to show me your work.

As a final reminder, if you love the painting but don’t want to have to do it, you can buy prints of it and many other paintings at my Redbubble shop:

Thank you for stopping by to read this post and for watching the video if you had the time.

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.

Koval Sketchbook Pro
Princeton Neptune 6 Quill
Princeton Neptune 12 Round
Princeton Neptune 2 Round
Princeton Neptune 1 Liner
Daniel Smith Rose of Ultramarine
Daniel Smith Amethyst Genuine
Daniel Smith Lunar Violet
QoR Quinacridone Gold
QoR Cobalt Teal
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors

Making a Watercolor Swatch Template

Re-swatching 100+ watercolors.

A couple of weeks ago, I took on what ended up being the monumental task of re-swatching all of my watercolors.

Probably the first question any normal person would have is “So, you already had them swatched out before… why would you re-swatch them?”

It all began with the purchase of a set of Roman Szmal watercolors. I’d watched a review by Denise Soden of In Liquid Color on these and thought I must get my hands on them because of their extremely active qualities. I love watercolors that move, like QoR Watercolors, so I knew I wanted to give these a try, too.

In no small fashion, I purchased a set of 24 colors. I don’t like getting smaller sets of colors because they often contain the same colors I have already from several other sets. Now, I suppose that’s true with larger sets, too – they also contain colors I already have, but they also usually include something different. In hindsight, I should have done myself and my wallet a favor and just purchased individual colors ala-carte. Or checked to see if there were dot cards available (so far, there aren’t any.) But oftentimes I honestly don’t know what I’m feeling like I’m missing until I have a color presented to me.

Case in point with this particular set, I’ve been introduced to a few glorious colors: Mineral Violet, Shadow Violet, Caput Mortuum, Aquarius Green, and Aquarius Black. You’ll probably see a pattern here that I’m a real sucker for multi-hued colors that granulate and separate.

So, of course this leads me back to color swatching. I try to make it a habit to swatch out all my new colors when I get them, so I set about doing so with my Roman Szmal colors. I don’t keep my swatches nicely organized in a binder with clear pockets or anything like that. I just have them stacked in color ranges and then held together with a couple rubber bands.

Because I’ve been slowly adding to my watercolor inventory over the course of several years (five to be exact), I’ve ended up with a bunch of swatches that were different sizes and shapes with various amounts of details to them. Some listed the brand and color name, some also included the pigment number. This inconsistency finally bothered me enough when I was swatching my Roman Szmal colors that I decided to take the plunge and create a consistent size and template for my swatches.

So here’s a little (or not-so-little) project for you if you find you’re continually acquiring new watercolors and swatching them and finding your swatches are inconsistent.

I created a template so when I get new watercolors I can paint on the template right away, and if I run out of pre-made template pages, I can easily re-create the template again without too much fuss.

Side note here: If a watercolor paper company would be so kind as to create a pad or block of paper with pre-printed, water-proof swatches on them, I’d be giving them my money in a heartbeat. Why has no company provided this yet?

Here’s the materials you’ll need:

  • Pad of watercolor paper
  • Pens of varying sizes with waterproof ink
  • Ruler
  • Lead pencil
  • Watercolors
  • Paint brush
  • Two containers of clean water
  • Scissors or a paper cutter

Getting into specifics, the pad I chose to use for this project was a 9×12-inch Canson Montval watercolor pad. I didn’t chose the paper for its quality (you know how much I hate cellulose paper for my art). I just don’t have the heart to use my really good watercolor paper, like Arches, for swatches. I selected this particular pad for its size, the spiral binding, and that the paper was 300gsm. Final deciding factor was price – I didn’t want to pay an astronomical amount of money for this.

For pens, I chose to use my Pigma Micron pens since they have waterproof* archival ink.

(*A word of caution here, I’ve found some of my Pigma Microns’ ink bleeds and isn’t waterproof. I don’t know if it’s because of a faulty batch during production, or a change in their formulation. That said, always, always do a bleed test of your inks before you do any kind of ink work that you plan to paint over. This goes for creating swatch cards or for creating your artwork. I do this by scribbling some ink down, letting it dry, then taking a brush with clean water over it. If it bleeds, then it’s no bueno and its not going near any projects where I plan to paint over it.)

For the brush, I’ll note here that I chose to use my Princeton Neptune 10 round. Now, that is how I prefer to work. I like using round brushes. That said, if you chose to make your swatches the exact same size, the larger the brush the better for nice smooth gradations on your swatches. It can be a flat brush or oval, too. Whatever you feel most comfortable using.

I won’t get into specifics with the rest of the materials, as pretty much any will work where rulers, lead pencils, etc. are concerned.

To create the chart, I first figured out how many swatches I wanted to have on a 9×12 sheet of paper. For me, I decided 25 swatches would be good, and they would be a decent size to work with. Not too large, nor too small. Dividing the 9×12 page into 25 sections made it so each swatch was 4.5cm x 6cm.

Using a pencil and a ruler I ticked out the line positions then drew my lines with a 08 Pigma Micron pen. I also wanted my swatches to include a thick line where you could see the opacity of a color so I drew those across near the top of each row of swatches with a Sakura Pigma 3mm graphic pen.

Once I had my grid laid out I tore it out of the pad and then labeled it as my “TEMPLATE”. The purpose of this is to have a quick and easy graph to use if I need to make more pages in the future. Using the template, I just line up the page at the edges and mark the locations of the lines in pencil at several points on a blank page then draw in the straight lines with my pen afterwards. This saves me the step of having to measure everything out again and again. I do not paint on this template. I just tuck it into the front of the watercolor paper pad when it’s not in use.

Next, I determined exactly how many swatches I was going to need to make. For me, that came to around 125. So I created this swatch grid on 5 sheets of paper in the pad. I included three more pages so that if I added additional swatches in the future, I wouldn’t have to create new grids for a while.

Pages of additional blank swatches ready for use.

The eventual intention is to have the entire pad filled with these swatch grids. And here’s praying that I have sense enough to not ever have to use every single blank swatch that I created. Haha! But it’s nice knowing they’re there and waiting for me whenever it is I get wooed by another new, fabulous color or brand.

On the inside cover of the pad, I created notes for future reference, as well. This includes the size of the swatch cards, what pen sizes I used, even down to the brush size I used for the swatching and how I put the paint down on the swatches.

How you swatch your colors from this point on is really up to you and your preference. Some people like to do a once-over approach and be done with it. I chose to try to make gradations as smooth as possible, then a single glaze line down the side.

The method I used to create my smooth gradations was to start at the top with a very juicy brush loaded with color. I painted wet on dry to start, painting from the top of the swatch to half-way down. I then cleaned my brush thoroughly and with a wet brush full of clean water, painted up from the bottom. I didn’t stop at the half way point where the clean water met the color. Doing this can often lead to blooms and I didn’t want those on my swatches. Instead, I kept painting all the way back to the top of the swatch. I cleaned my brush out again and this time went in with a slightly dryer brush loaded with color and again painted from the top down to the half-way point. This helped address any lifting that may have occurred when I brought in the clean water. Finally, to make sure I had a nice smooth gradient, I cleaned out my brush one more time, made it slightly dry so it would be thirsty and brushed up from the bottom of the swatch just until I reached the black opacity line. This way I would ensure I maintained the color’s mass tone at the top.

And that’s it. Just repeat with each of your colors (in my case 125 more times), until you have all your colors swatched out.

Depending on how many colors you have, I warn you this can be a long, time-consuming process. It took me several days to do all of mine. Yes, I probably could have taken care of it all in one sitting as an all-day project, but I don’t like working that way. I need to allow myself breaks, so I’d usually just swatch out a single family of one brand then tackle the next brand over the next day or two.

After finishing a single brand of colors. I took a break and started on the next palette the following day.

This also requires a lot of running back and forth to your sink to empty out your rinsing cups, as one will, of course, become really muddy, and the one that’s meant to be clean will eventually start to get contaminated, too. Needless to say, you want to be working with super clean water for your swatches so you’re getting a 100% accurate representation of what the color looks like. You don’t want your opinion of a color swayed because when you swatched out your lemon yellow your brush had a slight taint of cadmium red in it and it made your yellow look warmer than it really is.

It’s probably also worth recommending that you don’t paint swatches side-by-side. Alternate and leave a blank swatch between your colors so you don’t risk touching your new color into the one you just painted and having a sudden bleed happen that would ruin both swatches. Wait until all the alternating swatches have dried thoroughly (or help them along with a heat tool), then fill in the blanks after.

Finally, after the entire page dried, I went back with a fine Pigma Micron pen and wrote in the brand, the color name, and the pigment information. I definitely recommend you keep track of what colors you’ve painted where while making your swatch page. Have a notebook handy or whatever you feel will help you know that the paint swatch on the third row down, second column over was Sennelier’s Lemon Yellow, or if it was Daniel Smith’s Hansa Yellow. I partially avoided much confusion with this by using the paints I’d already squeezed out into my existing palettes and staying in order via how they were laid out in each palette. I always include a swatch chart with my palettes so I have a reliable reference on what paint is what while I was doing the swatching.

Sample swatch chart in my QoR watercolor palette.

I suggest only filling one page at a time with color and writing down the details on the swatches once you’ve filled a single page instead of painting all your pages then going back to the start and filling in the details.

Now, you have the option here to not tear out the swatches and just leave them in the book. You could get creative and dedicate a page or two to single colors, like yellows, greens, reds, etc.

I wanted my swatches to be moveable. If I’m ever figuring out what I want to put into a watercolor palette, I like to pull out individual swatches that I like then lay them out in the order I’d like them to appear inside the palette. I can’t do that if they’re part of a single sheet filled with other colors.

So, after I finished swatching and labeling everything, I removed each sheet of painted swatches from the pad, then trimmed them down. I used my handy Fiskars rotary trimmer to get quick, straight cuts, cutting out each column. After getting all the columns into single strips, I then just used my scissors and cut each swatch from the strip.

My final step was organizing the swatches by hue. There’s no rule to this. Just do what feels right to you. Just know the more watercolors you have, the more space you’ll need to lay out all your swatches while you’re organizing them.

After I had everything laid out in the order I felt made sense (and after I basked in all the beautiful colors and stood, astounded, looking at all the work I’d done), I then stacked the swatches up in order into two separate stacks and secured each with a rubber band. Just like how I had my old stacks. I might someday get some binder rings and punch holes in the corners of them and store the swatches that way. But for now I’m content with storing them as I always have. It seems to work fine. What’s most satisfying to me is that everything is now the same size so when I’m flipping through the stacks, I don’t have awkward tiny cards tucked in among larger ones.

My humble swatch stacks. Nothing fancy but they serve their purpose.

Have you ever taken on the task of re-swatching all your watercolors? Do you have a preferred swatching method? Share your thoughts below.

As a final bonus to you for reading (or at least scrolling) all the way to the end of this post, I am providing a printable PDF of the 9×12 chart for your use if you have a printer that can handle watercolor paper. Be sure the ink your printer is using is waterproof. This is designed to fit a 9×12-inch page.

Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve found something helpful in this post. Happy swatching if you’re going to go that route, otherwise, happy art-ing!

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.

Canson Montval watercolor pad
Pigma Micron pens
Princeton Neptune 10 round
Roman Szmal watercolors
Sakura Pigma 3mm Graphic Pen
Heat Tool
Fiskars Procision Rotary Bypass Trimmer, 12 Inch
QoR Watercolors
Daniel Smith Watercolors
Mission Gold Watercolors
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Watercolors
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors

Completed Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel Journal and Flip-through

Doing the happy dance here today. I’m grateful to share another completed sketchbook with you. I can thank September’s World Sketchbook Month for helping me fill this sketchbook so fast. I tell you, when I stick to a monthly challenge and make it a point to try to not miss too many days, it has a significant impact on how quickly I fill a sketchbook.

All in all, I enjoyed working in this sketchbook. I feel like the prompts for the World Sketchbook Month challenge also helped me try different things and maybe stuff that wasn’t my norm. I think my absolute favorite painting in the book is the one I did of my sleeping cat.

Painting animals intimidates me, mostly it’s because of the fur, and when they have a lot of color variances, stripes, spots, etc, my head goes into overload. It becomes that familiar issue of figuring out what details to include and what to exclude. I think this is also why I find landscapes challenging, too. If you’re familiar with my work, I usually tend to do fairly detailed stuff (take my iPhone painting I did in this sketchbook – photo further down in the post.) Backing off and trying to allow the mind to fill in the blanks instead of actually mapping out every little detail is challenging for me. That said, I feel the painting of my cat successfully executed this. Plus, he’s just so darn cute.

I think another reason why I liked this sketchbook was because it didn’t have a lot of pages. I think if you ever feel frustrated with yourself because you can never seem to fill a sketchbook, try to get one that has very few pages – you can fill it quickly that way, and maybe that will give you a little “can-do” motivation for sketchbooks with more pages.

If you would like a more in-depth review of this sketchbook, click here.

I suppose the other thing to note here was that I chose to stick with a limited palette through the entire sketchbook. I enjoy the challenge of only using four colors. I used QoR Green Gold, Mission Gold Permanent Rose, Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue Chromium, and QoR Paynes Gray. I specifically chose the Green Gold because I wanted an “odd” color to work with instead of a more neutral or warm yellow. There were just a couple exceptions to this rule. The painting I did of a blue water bottle used Daniel Smith Ultramarine Blue. There was just no way I’d get that intense blue with the colors of my limited palette. And the cover design was done using Dr. Ph. Martin’s India Inks. I wanted something that would feel permanent on the cover.

Swatch test page at the back of the sketchbook.

Also featured in all my photos is the Etchr Mini Palette (the 19 well version). I purchased one last year on a whim. This palette was the perfect size for the size of the paintings I was working on in this sketchbook. I might post a review of that at a later date.

What’s my next sketchbook? Well, I started working in my Koval sketchbook for the last few days of World Sketchbook Month, and I’ve been continuing to fill it to this day. It has Saunder’s Waterford 300gsm 100% cotton paper in it, and I have to say, I’m currently loving it. It’s a pricey one and I feel like it was a splurge. Especially considering it had to come all the way from Poland on top of it. But it’s a manageable size, I feel, and therefore that will hopefully mean I’ll be filling it up quickly, too, and will have another sketchbook review and flip-through in the near future.

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

And remember, 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.

Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel Journal
Etchr Mini Palette
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Binder Clips
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors
Daniel Smith Watercolors
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors

Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel Journal Review

A great, inexpensive 100% cotton sketchbook for first-time watercolorists

I’m excited to bring you another watercolor sketchbook review. I’m equally happy I could get to it so fast, thanks to filling it out during 2020’s World Sketchbook Month (which was a fun event all in itself!)

When I came across this sketchbook, I was pretty intrigued. I feel like I’ve had nothing but mediocre experience with Strathmore’s watercolor paper. Certainly their 400 series isn’t anything I care to put to regular use. I didn’t know they made a 100% cotton variation. Maybe this is a new thing for them – maybe not?

I found this sketchbook while doing a random search on Amazon for 100% cotton watercolor sketchbooks. Some of the usual brands came up, like the Etchr Sketchbooks, and the previously-reviewed Winsor & Newton Sketchbook. When I saw Strathmore I had to do a double-take. I’m used to them only having cellulose-blend papers. Of course I had to buy this new sketchbook and give it a try.

It comes in two sizes. The 5.5″ x 8″ variation, which I chose to purchase, and a larger 7″ x 10″. It has 20 pages with one signature.

When the sketchbook arrived, I’ll admit I felt a little disappointed – the cover wasn’t hardcover. I couldn’t tell what the cover was like from the photos on Amazon. I just prefer hardcover sketchbooks. They feel more sturdy and protective for my art.

The sketchbook does have a thick rubber strap that wraps around the book, however, to help keep it closed, which is a nice touch.

I think this sketchbook is designed to be slipped into travel journal covers similar to this one. In any case, as a standalone sketchbook, I’m not fond of its cover. Perhaps the bright side of the cover was that I felt completely okay with painting over it and decorating it. I haven’t decorated a sketchbook cover in quite a while, so it was a fun little project. I first gessoed the surface, then put around four layers of watercolor ground on it before painting it with India Ink then sealing it with Mod Podge. This also explains why all my photos of this sketchbook have a decorated cover.

If you’re looking for other typical features you find in popular sketchbooks, like a back pocket and ribbon bookmark, you’re out of luck there. I’m not personally bothered by these missing features, as I don’t really use either in any of my sketchbooks that have these things. They’re nice, but their absence isn’t a deal-breaker for me.

The stitch binding on this sketchbook is nice and tight, too, so in that respect, the pages felt sturdy. I regrettably didn’t do any full-page spreads where there would have been color going into the creases, so I cannot say how water-tight the binding is and if you’ll experience bleed-through at the bound edge.

So – on to the paper. How was it to work on?

I really liked the paper. It is kind of soft and reminds me in ways of the paper found in the white canvas-covered Etchr Sketchbooks.

It handled all my typical abuse very well, heavy washes, lifting, etc. I didn’t have any unexpected lifting / re-activation issues between dried layers. This paper handled negative painting well, also. There was one curious incident where some of my paint seeped through to following pages. I don’t know why that happened – maybe a sizing issue? I took a photo of the occurrence, but my subsequent paintings over it masked it out pretty well so you can hardly tell that weird bleed-through had even happened. But it is a little nerve-wracking, not knowing if it might happen again and next time bleed through over a painting that was on the previous facing page.

Paint bleedthrough from previous page.

Is it the same experience painting on both sides of the paper? I’ll say yes. The texture is a little different from what I assume is the front versus the back, but both sides handle paint exactly the same, which is something I appreciate.

Left: a comparison of a signature with the back side of the paper on the left and the front on the right. Top right: back side of a page. Bottom right: front side of a page.

My only other issue, aside from the aforementioned strange bleed-through was that I had the same experience with washi tape peeling up some of the paper fibers, similar to what happened in the white canvas-covered Etchr Sketchbooks. This almost, almost makes me think they’re from the same paper manufacturer. I cannot confirm that, and I’m not going to go on a deep-dive sleuthing project to further back my hypothesis.

Close-up of paper fibers tearing up with tape.

I enjoyed the thickness of the paper, too. While it warped a little, it wasn’t near as pronounced as in the original Bynd Artisan’s Perfect 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.

As usual, I also enjoyed the size of the paper since I like to work small.

Would I recommend this sketchbook? I’d say yes. In fact, I think this would be an excellent sketchbook for a first-time watercolorist to experiment in because it is relatively inexpensive. While I absolutely adore the Etchr sketchbooks, they’ve still got a steep price-point, especially if your only option is to buy them in packs of three. You can luck-out sometimes, and find an individual Etchr sketchbook for purchase, which makes them far more comparable in price, but that doesn’t seem to be the norm at my time of writing this.

In any case, this is a perfect product for a first-time watercolorist because they get to experience what watercolor painting is supposed to be like on 100% cotton paper.

Strathmore also offers this 500 series paper in watercolor blocks and pads, so if you want the paper without the sketchbook experience, you have that option, as well.

100% cotton paper
Heavy 300gsm
Lay flat binding
Rubber closure
Flimsy cover
Fibers tear with removal of tape

Have you used the Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel 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.

Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel Journal
Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Travel Pad
Strathmore 500 Series Watercolor Block
Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paper Journal
Etchr Sketchbooks
Dr. Ph. Martin’s India Ink
Pigma Micron pens
Pebeo Drawing Gum masking fluid
Binder Clips
Princeton Neptune Watercolor Brushes
QoR Watercolors

Completed Bynd Artisan’s The Perfect Sketchbook B5 Watercolor Sketchbook Flip

At long, long last, I have finally finished filling this sketchbook. I have worked in it off and on for three years. I can’t believe that, actually. Three years? Well, I have some other art journals I’ve been working in for longer than that, so maybe three years isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m glad to have another completed sketchbook to add to my collection, however. There’s always a blissful sense of accomplishment when I finish filling in one of these, no matter how long it takes.

This sketchbook took me a long time to fill for a couple of reasons. First, its size. I’m used to working in smaller sketchbooks, so all the extra paper space to fill sometimes intimidated me. I think I can chalk up my second reason just to having a sort of short attention-span. I’d find another sketchbook, typically in a size I’m more comfortable with, and then dedicate my time to filling the new one instead of this one.

I think probably part of what slowed down my process in filling this sketchbook was that I didn’t really utilize it for many month-long challenges. I did finally do that once for Parkablog’s A-Z challenge. This is where you’ll see a lot of flowers later in the flip-through. Again, I would have filled the sketchbook faster if I’d used entire pages for the flowers, however, once again, the size got to me and I wanted to do quick smaller paintings instead of larger, slower ones.

If you already follow my blog, you’ll know I posted a separate review of what working in this sketchbook was like here: Original Bynd Artisan The Perfect Sketchbook B5 Watercolor Sketchbook Review. Hop on over there if you’re curious at all about my thoughts on the quality and paper.

This sketchbook will definitely take you on a little journey where you can see how my art changes and evolves over the years. There’s some improvements, I think, and probably also some back-sliding, too. It’s all a part of this delicious journey called “art”.

You’re definitely going to be presented with a lot of different styles and subject matters. it’s not quite as cohesive as my earlier Etchr Lab Perfect Sketchbook flip through.

There’s also some un-finished work, and a few spots where I taped in other works, scraps, etc. because I just don’t want to share what are either some ideas I’m still formulating, or even something that I just was NOT happy with – at all. It’s pretty rare for me to actually hide something, but there you go. Even I get self-conscious about some of my art sometimes!

What will be my next sketchbook? I’m going to be working in the Strathmore Watercolor Travel Journal with 100% cotton paper for the upcoming World Sketchbook Month. I’m excited. I enjoy trying new sketchbooks. It only has 20 pages in it so I suspect I’ll spill out into another new sketchbook part-way through September. I have another new brand I’m eager to try after the Strathmore. So many sketchbooks, so little time!

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

And remember, 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

Original Bynd Artisan The Perfect Sketchbook B5 Watercolor Sketchbook Review

Some things are a long time coming. In the case of this sketchbook, that’s more like three years… to the date… in coming. It was not intentional, but when I went back to fill in the date ranges of my art in the front of the sketchbook, I was a bit blown away to see that my first painting in this sketchbook was August 18, 2017, and my last was August 18, 2020. Not sure why that happened, but it did. Regardless, I’m more about celebrating having finally pushed through this sketchbook.

I’m a little hesitant to give this much of a review because, honestly, this sketchbook isn’t even available any longer. Yes, Etchr Lab took over and has produced their own variation of this sketchbook, but it has a different faux leather cover, and the paper is 300gsm instead of 200gsm so it’s not exactly the same. (Although when I feel and compare between the two sketchbooks, the paper feels like the same weight. I suppose more will be revealed when I paint in the Etchr version.) Although it does, however, contain the same Fabriano Artistico paper, just a lighter weight. I suppose you can use this review as a semi-comparable review of the Etchr Lab Signature Series version, should they decide to produce it again.

Nothing has changed around my being a 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 despise trying to do watercolor on paper that is not 100% cotton.

So, you’re pretty sure I’m going to be singing high praises for this sketchbook then, right? I mean, Fabriano Artistico paper! I actually did really enjoy it when I first got it, considering there were few other options for 100% cotton watercolor sketchbooks just a few years ago.

However. After having completely worked through this sketchbook, I’m going to give it, or at least its paper for sketchbook purposes, a moderate score. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1=“I HATE this thing!” to 10=“I’m spasming on the floor in sheer joy over how wonderful this thing is!”, I’d give this sketchbook a 6.

Queue the bland “wahh waaaahhhh” horn tune.

I really honestly wanted to drink the Fabriano Artistico Kool-Aid and skip around for joy about how wonderful this sketchbook is. But it’s just not gelling with me.


I have one major issue with the paper in this sketchbook: the weight. Now, if this were 300gsm I’m sure I’d love it (and I’m crossing my fingers I’ll have that reaction when I use the Etchr Signature Series variation). But I have felt continually dissatisfied with the amount of warping this paper has done as I worked through the sketchbook. 200gsm just is not heavy enough for back-to-back work in a sketchbook.

There were even a couple occasions where some of my work actually bled through to a previous page. This is no bueno.

Paint bleed-through. This marred what was supposed to be a nice, clean, white background.

Now, I feel the warping might be less troublesome if I stayed to only one side of the paper, or used a facing page for minimal swatch testing and notes. I did that a few times and it worked fine. But on any pages where I’d already painted something on the opposite side, it felt like the warping got pretty bad. On some pages I could even see a ghost image of the painting that was on the opposite side as I wet the paper. That ghosting scared me because I was sure it was going to mean excess moisture might seep through and cause damage to the previous painting.

Because of that, I feel if I want to play it safe, I can only paint on one side of a page, not back-to-back. This approach makes this sketchbook extremely expensive considering you basically lose half of the pages in it – not that it wasn’t already expensive to begin with.

I really prefer to have a sketchbook where I can paint on both sides. So this is a lesson I’ve learned now several different sketchbooks in. Not only do I want the paper to be 100% cotton, but I also want it to be at a minimum 220gsm (which is the weight found in Etchr’s white canvas-covered budget sketchbook.) 300gsm is preferred.

That said, you can paint on both sides and not experience weird differences in paper texture and sizing, so that’s a plus.

The paper texture is pretty subtle on this one, too. I can live with or without that feature. I’m not someone who has to have extremely textured cold press paper. But again, if you want something with a fairly heavy texture, the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Journal is a better candidate.

As far as holding up to all my other usual techniques, this paper did very nicely. It handled heavy washes just fine, (aside from the warping and occasional bleeding). It layered and glazed beautifully. It handled masking fluid and tape without tearing. It also handled ink pretty well. Colored pencil tended to skip a bit over the subtle paper texture.

The sketchbook features are nice. As with most of your typical sketchbooks, this features an elastic closure, ribbon bookmark, and a back pocket to tuck your business cards, notes, etc. into. The binding allows the pages to lay relatively flat which is important for most artists.

If I had one other complaint its that the Fabriano Artistico watermark would sometimes get in the way and interfere with what would be an otherwise clean background.

Watermark subtly affecting a background wash.

Would I buy this sketchbook again? No. But then I’m stuck with a couple more of them because I ended up with two from the original launch, then purchased a bundle when Etchr promoted the Signature Series. I gave one of the Etchr ones away as part of the prize for last year’s World Sketchbook Month. I’ll be thinking on it and may end up giving away another in the future. If I do work in the original Bynd Artisan 200gsm version again, I’ll stick to just one side of a page and do nothing back-to-back. But as far as spending my money on another one at this paper weight, if they make it again, I’ll pass.

My personal preference aside, would I recommend this sketchbook?

Yes and no. If you have no other choice for a 100% cotton paper sketchbook, then you’ll want to get this over any sketchbook with cellulose-blend paper. If you don’t typically do heavy washes or if you prefer to only work on one side of a page, then this sketchbook is great and the paper handles these scenarios well. If you like to work on both sides of a page in your sketchbook and you tend to do a lot of layering and heavy washes, then I’d suggest you consider opting instead for the Etchr Perfect Sketchbook – the ones with the gray cover. I posted a review on that sketchbook earlier this year and it handled my heavy wash-abuse wonderfully.

100% cotton paper
Lays flat
200gsm paper warps
Limited availability

Have you used Bynd Artisan’s The Perfect Sketchbook or Etchr Lab’s Signature Series variation? What are your thoughts?

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

Announcement! World Sketchbook Month 2020 and Upcoming Giveaway!

It’s hard to believe it has already been a year since the announcement of the fist annual World Sketchbook Month. I’ve been trying to figure out some things I can do to help streamline the process on my end, as well as offer a giveaway that might be more appealing to a wider variety of artists since my last giveaway was pretty heavily geared towards watercolor artists.

How has your year been creatively? I’ve found it’s been a bit of an up and down year for me. Given the current climate with a worldwide pandemic and a lot (did I say a lot? I mean A LOT) of political strife here in America, I’ve found my creative urges have been pretty unpredictable. Some days I’m definitely in the mood. Others I’m not. I’ve found recently I’ve been starting a piece and then taking a week or two to come back to it to finish it.

It’s all good. I’m not going to stress over it. I will trust the process. But in the meantime, I have another giveaway with a month-long creative event coming up, so I’m feeling a little more urgency now to get back into the creative stream.

I did finish filling at least one sketchbook this year. I have another that I’m close to having filled, too. So that’s exciting for me. My tower of completed sketchbooks is continuing to grow and that’s always fun.

Here’s a little history on why I like sketchbooks so much and why I decided to host an annual event centered around sketchbooks.

I am a sketchbook junkie, in case you couldn’t tell. I have friends tell me that I need to do bigger pieces of work that I can sell on separate canvases, etc. And I agree with them—to a point. If people want to buy my original, then having that piece on a canvas or a sheet of paper makes it super easy to sell.

However, it’s just as easy for me to scan my art from my sketchbook and have it digitally reproduced for prints and placed on a myriad of products all available at my Redbubble shop.

While I nod my head and agree with the people who tell me to do large separate pieces of work, and I occasionally oblige, I ultimately keep going back to doing most of my art in my sketchbooks. Like I’m some sort of addict who just can’t stop. (In the grand scheme of things, a sketchbook addiction isn’t so bad.)

I have piles of sketchbooks, too. I’ve got several that are completed, a few that I’m actively working in, and then many more empty ones just waiting for me to get my eager hands on them to start filling them with art.

I love sketchbooks. I love filling them. I love their portability and simple storage solution to my art. Each time I fill one it’s like making a specialized album or a one-of-a-kind story book full of beautiful images. When I flip through them I find I’m flooded with memories around each piece of art. I did this one while on a little stay-cation. I did that one while visiting friends in Montana. I was listening to a great audiobook while working on another piece. So many fond memories and so many fun images to browse.

I have no-name sketchbooks, handmade sketchbooks, all the way up to premium sketchbooks. I have sketchbooks that are great for ink and pencil work and sketchbooks specifically made for watercolor.

So here’s the question. What should World Sketchbook Month look like? What does it mean to me? What can it mean for others?

Sketchbooks have such a long and loved history to them. They are often the starting points of many ingenious ideas. From Leonardo’s musings to Hollywood films, sketchbooks are a beloved tool used by millions of creatives.

There’s even a library in Brooklyn dedicated to sketchbooks. Check them out at

I’ve dedicated September to the worldwide love of sketchbooks.

Are you a sketchbook enthusiast? Let’s share our sketchbooks and love for them again this September. I’ve created a list of prompts for you to use to share on your social media accounts to get the word out about World Sketchbook Month (hashtag with #worldsketchbookmonth). Visit the official World Sketchbook Month web site for the list of prompts, and be sure to subscribe to the web site to get updates when I post more details about September’s event.

Where would I like World Sketchbook Month to go? I’d love to eventually see a charity that gets sketchbooks into the hands of children and aspiring struggling artists all over the world. Art and art supplies should not be available only for the privileged. Art and creativity are the catalysts for so many of this world’s great inventions and innovations. Let’s ensure future lines of innovators are equipped with tools for their amazing ideas.

Finally, I’m doing another giveaway this year. Because it’s just me right now and I’m starting small, this will be for United States residents only. (I will open this giveaway to participants around with world when this grows some strong roots and I get some sponsorships going.) The giveaway will be centered around Instagram, so if you don’t already have an account, now is the time to make one!

Want to help? Get the word out, please! Share this post with your creative family and friends and hop over to Instagram and tag your family and friends there, too. Let’s make this something big. It deserves to be!

In the meantime, be sure to follow my blog here, follow the World Sketchbook Month web site, follow me on Instagram @kellyro77 and follow @WorldSketchbookMonth on Instagram, too.

What’s going to be in the giveaway? Take a look! Rules and details will be announced on the web site August 31.

  • 1 (one) Arteza 3.5 x 5.5 in. Sketchbook
  • 1 (one) Etchr Sketchbook A6 100% Cotton Hot Press
  • 1 (one) Koval 5 x 7.8 in. 50% Cotton Hot Press Sketchbook
  • 1 (one) Strathmore Toned Tan 8.5 x 5.5 in. Sketchbook
  • 1 (one) Ohuhu 8.3 x 8.3 in. Alcohol Marker Sketchbook

Get excited, get your sketchbooks out, and get ready to show them some love. World Sketchbook Month starts this September 2020!