Out of Darkness

Available for purchase. See below.

Good things come to those who wait.

Would you believe I started on this painting around two years ago? I suppose it took me that long to build up the courage to complete it. At that time she had only started out as a very light sketch on my Arches Aquarelle watercolor block.

At the time, other inspiration hit and I found myself needing to peel her off the block to allow myself access to a fresh page. I tucked her away on a flat surface and then forgot about her. On occasion I would think about her in moments of recollection, or when I found myself digging around in the same drawer she was stored in, but I would still decide not to proceed.

She sat in the dark for far too long until at last I started feeling inspired enough – or perhaps capable enough – to tackle her and let her shine in full daylight.

Part of what lit a fire under me to get her completed was being lectured by many acquaintances – new and old – to start selling my art. I would groan that I couldn’t because the vast majority of my art is tucked safely away in sketchbooks. Selling an original from a sketchbook would mean I’d have to destroy the book plus lose what art was on the back of the intended sale.

Let this be a warning to those of you who do most of your art in sketchbooks. If you feel like you’d like to sell it at some point, it’s going to cause some difficulties.

While I addressed some of the issues of my art residing in sketchbooks by scanning and selling prints, it still did not resolve the issue of my not having any originals available for sale. One new acquaintance told me flatly in his own way “go big, or go home.” Meaning, tiny art isn’t exactly what art buyers are looking for. They want something sizable for their spaces.

“But what about printing copies of my art on large canvases?”

“No. They want originals.”

Okay, I’m listening. I get it. I understand.

So the girl tucked away in a dark space came back to the front of my mind. Part of why I shied away from working on her was that she resides on a 12″x16″ piece of paper. Twice or even four times larger than what I’ve grown accustomed to working on. But that’s a nice “starting” size for me for larger artwork.

Side note: I do admit I did do something even larger than this painting. It’s a 30″x40″ canvas of gorgeous fall leaves hanging above my bed. I felt daunted by how long it took me to complete it, but I certainly enjoyed the final result. And with the new inspiration I’ve had around selling my art, I’ve even come to a place of being willing to part with it. But I’ll give that piece it’s own attention in another post.

Let’s get back to this pretty girl.

Decision finally made to complete her, I brought her out into the light and attached her to my orbital desktop easel. If that doesn’t say “I’m going to finish this” then I’m not sure what does, because the easel takes up space and isn’t exactly convenient to move out of the way when I need my desk space for other things. (PS – despite what sounded like complaints, I love my easel. It’s extremely easy to tilt and rotate as needed and was the perfect tool and size for this painting.)

I proceeded to finish up the pencil outline first. Easy enough. But then came the moment of panic. What colors should I use? What colors should her eyes be? Her hair? The flowers? This is where art for me comes down to faith and trusting my current preferences. Lately I’ve been drawn to the combination of blue and red. The two colors compliment each other nicely. Red was an easy choice, as well, for the roses in her hair.

Choosing the paint brand was easy. I decided I wanted to play some more with my QoR watercolors. I love their personality and the way they jump across the page in wet on wet techniques. I’m a big fan of their vibrancy, as well, and how they don’t shift quite as much as other brands do when they dry.

I opted to go with a limited palette to keep the decision-making with colors far less stressful, as well. I chose to work with Cerulean Blue Chromium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Paynes Gray, and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Primrose to help create the green leaves and to add some depth to the antlers. While it’s not technically watercolor, I also used QoR’s Titanium White (which is more a gouache) for some of the highlights in her hair. This was an important addition else her hair would have lacked depth and interest. My final additional special touch to the piece was to use Finetec watercolors in silver for the chains draped across the antlers and the special highlights in her face paint. I used Prismacolor Premier colored pencils to fine-tune some of the details in her eyes.

Decisions made, it was time to get to work. And really there’s not much for me to say about the process. She was a typical watercolor painting, building up layers over layers until she finally looked complete. I started off with an underpainting of the blue and went from there… the first layers looking rather alien (especially when doing a portrait), but each additional layer saying “Hey – you could stop here if you want… but… just think if you added a couple more layers! How cool that would look!”

I admit I had fun texting progress photos to a couple of friends who would “ooh” and “aah” over them and ask if I was finished yet, to which I’d answer “Not by far!”

I really enjoyed working on the roses – or how they turned out at least. At times I was feeling like they were looking “off”. But part of that, again, was just the simple fact that they needed just one more layer of red over the top to really make them amazing, or just a little more contrast to give them proper depth.

Yes. Contrast.

I pride myself in not being afraid of contrast. I think that’s a pitfall many new artists find themselves in. They put down light layers of color and feel happy with what they’ve got so far, yet know if they really want their piece to pop they have to add some extreme contrasts – and I fully admit that’s scary stuff. You think if you get too heavy-handed with the contrast you’ll ruin all that pre-existing work you’ve done. Be brave, my friends. Embrace the darkness (at least in your watercolor paintings)! You’ll be glad you did.

I would estimate a good 10 accumulative hours were spent on this painting, not including waiting for layers to dry (although at times I helped the drying along with my handy heat tool.)

It was so, so satisfying when I finally peeled off the painter’s tape that had been holding her to the easel’s board. Seeing the clean edges just gave her such a beautiful, finished look.

My favorite part of the finishing process was taking some photographs for my Instagram feed. While the art is beautiful in person, there’s something aesthetically pleasing to how the camera pulls everything together. Especially when you add a few props for whimsy and context.

Would you like to have her in your home? Well you can have her several ways. Prints are available at my Redbubble shop.

However, if you’d like to give the original a loving home, she is available for sale right here for $592.00. Contact me to arrange for purchase. (Price excludes shipping and handling.)

Out of Darkness
Day of the Dead-inspired watercolor painting

12″ wide x 16″ tall
QoR watercolors on Arches Aquarelle cold press watercolor paper

$592.00 +shipping and handling
PayPal only
Contact to inquire about purchase

Thank you again for your support and patronage and following my continued artistic journey. I hope to have more originals available in the future.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Arches Aquarelle Watercolor Block
Orbital Desktop Easel
QoR Watercolors
Finetec Watercolors
Prismacolor Premier colored pencils

Buy prints!

I’ve been asked over the years “where can I purchase a print?” To which, embarrassingly, my answer was always “I don’t have any prints for sale yet.”

I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally stepped into the realm of sales for my art. If you see something you like on my blog, there’s a good chance I’ve uploaded it to my Redbubble shop:


RedBubbleI’m in the process of finishing up scanning the majority of my art, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for, there’s a chance I haven’t uploaded it yet. Check back often as I’m adding new work almost daily.

You can also drop me a message, noting which piece of art I’ve featured that you cannot find on the shop 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. If you want a piece of that love in your own space, you can have it now!

30 Days (or thereabouts) of Watercolor Flowers

img_8594I finally hopped back into—and stuck with—another 30 day art prompt on Instagram.

During the month of April, I joined the #drawriotdaily challenge which consisted of painting or illustrating 30 different flowers. You could design the flower in any way you chose – a lot of people used mixed media, for example. I decided to go primarily with watercolor.

This was a stretch for me, which is interesting to say, when I think it was two years ago I participated in #the100dayproject and created something just about every single day for 100 days. I have definitely stepped back from such intense creative endeavors for quite a while now.

I admit with this current challenge I was getting fed up at times having to bend my schedule around on weeknights and weekends in order to squeeze in another painting (sometimes two!) However, in hindsight, I’m glad I did it. I received far more practice this way in a short time period compared to my sporadic 2 to 5-ish paintings a month.

I did the majority of these paintings in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, although the first five or so were in my traditional pocket Moleskine sketchbook. I used them as a quick means to filling and completing that particular sketchbook, and that was the overall goal for the watercolor sketchbook, too.

I still really, really dislike the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, but after so many paintings in it, I finally grew accustomed to (painfully) working with the awful paper and was for the most part able to accomplish what I was looking for more and more often. Still, I will be glad to be done with that sketchbook once it’s completely filled. I have around 20 more pages (front and back) to fill, though. *cries*

I figured I’d share all my illustrations/paintings from the project for your enjoyment.

As I mentioned previously, I started off with some sketchy paintings in my pocket Moleskine sketchbook. At this point I was trying to find a “style” that I wanted to go with. There was a lot of experimenting, and for several of these I utilized colored pencils (Prismacolor Premier) to fine tune the details since the paper in the pocket Moleskine is definitely not made for watercolor (and I understand this, so this is why you won’t hear me crying about how the traditional Moleskine paper doesn’t do well with watercolor.)

I also jumped around with different watercolor palettes. You may recognize the Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolor palette in the crocus photo, which was the palette I started with. I then utilized my set of QoR watercolors for a time period, then eventually jumped over to my “beast” palette which contains 48 half pans with mixed brands ranging from more QoR watercolors to Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, and Mission Gold.

By working with so many subjects in so many different colors, I got to discover a few favorite shades to work with. Particularly, I really enjoyed using Daniel Smith’s Lunar Violet. It was fantastic for grey tones and I just loved the granulation it provided. (I received a tube of it from winning an art contest a few months ago with Artists Network.)


I accompanied each flower painting with some brush lettering listing the flower name. Not sure I totally care for having that text there, but it is helpful for looking back and recognizing what the flower was for each particular painting. I primarily used my Faber-Castell PITT artist pens for the lettering.

On about my last painting in the pocket Moleskine, (the poppy), I was starting to feel like I’d found a “style” to try and stick with. I was going for kind of loose but with detailed line work around the main shapes. I decided to try the outlining with a metallic marker and then added highlights with white gel pen (sometimes Uni-Ball Signo, sometimes Gelly Roll.)


Pocket Moleskine finished, I reluctantly pulled out my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook thinking “By God, I’m going to finish this dang thing and these paintings will help me get through it!”

I did more experimenting at first. I used the metallic marker some more (Sharpie brand), but then my tax returns came (huzzah!) and I immediately splurged and purchased a set of Finetec Pearlescent watercolors. I’m glad I did because WOW those made a huge difference. Those are some seriously shimmery, beautiful colors.

Towards the end you’ll see that I didn’t outline all of my paintings. Some I felt like they were detailed and defined enough and adding that outline would have just detracted from the image rather than enhance it.


First painting with the Finetec Pearlescent watercolor outlines.

I did attempt to be more loose at first, but as you can see, while I progressed, my style “tightened” back up. (You loose watercolor artists are amazing.) It was fine, however. As long as I was making recognizable flowers, I was happy.

I think I had some of the most fun playing with the backgrounds. A lot of the time I utilized salt and squirts with a fine-mist spray bottle to create texture. A couple of times I even used cling wrap. Vague backgrounds are fun to do – they can remain abstract so there’s not a ton of pressure to get them “just right”, unless they get so busy they start to compete with the main subject of the painting.

I feel I had a few misses with my paintings – some I didn’t care for too much, or some that didn’t come out the way I was hoping they would. The tulip, dogwood, and fritillaria in particular come to mind. But that’s all part of the process. Sometimes you have some real wins, and sometimes you don’t.

final-19final-18img_8684img_8693My favorite paintings, however, definitely had to be the hellebore and the echeveria. Not surprisingly, these were towards the end of the 30 days so my skills had improved a bit by then (not to mention I finally got into a groove in figuring out how to deal with the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook’s paper.)

I was happy with the details I managed with the hellebore, plus I really admired the gradient colors found in their petals. In fact I was enjoying working on the hellebore so much that I took my time with it and didn’t complete it fully until after two or three days from when I started (it put me behind on the challenge, but so what!) I’m particularly proud that in this painting I didn’t feel like I needed to pull out my colored pencils to finish off any details. It’s 100% watercolor, baby!

The rose and the peony get honorable mentions. I liked the closeup aspect of them, especially with the rose.


I admit I didn’t do three particular flowers. I found that I really disliked working on any flowers that were made up of tiny little clusters of multiple flowers and petals. I did push through most of such flowers, but when I got to a prompt for snowball I decided not to do it. I’m an impatient artist, and tiny flower clusters are labor-intensive in my mind – mostly on the part of sketching out the line drawing. Too many parts! haha


My grande finale was the echeveria (succulent). As you can recall from a previous post, I’ve painted one of these before, and I had just as much fun painting this one as I did the last. This one in particular was fun to add the Finetec embellishment to, as well. It just worked perfectly for the edges and those little blemishes you see on the plant. I just love all the colors found in these beautiful plants, and bright, colorful things are my favorite.


The echeveria was also another reminder to not give up at the start. The colors were looking so crazy at the beginning after I’d applied the second layer on top of my initial wash. I was looking at it thinking I’d screwed up. But I decided I needed to add more shadows and depth and I’m glad I did. Those final layers pulled everything together.

Now the question is, what will I do next? I am going to be out of town for the weekend, so I don’t see myself participating in any particular new challenges just yet. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping I’ll at least be able to get in one or two paintings while on my trip  (not sure, though—it sounds like I’m going to be pretty busy!)

In the meantime, I did start working on a small mandala in my pocket Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook. It just felt so freeing to be working strictly in ink. No pulling out paints, preparing water and washing my brush in between areas of the illustration. Just straight ink right down onto the page.

Alas, I know watercolor’s siren call will pull me back, however.

Just what shall I do to fill up the rest of that darn Moleskine?

I hope you feel inspired and the art brings a smile to your face!

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.

Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album
Moleskine Art Plus Pocket Sketchbook
Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Hardcover Sketchbook
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
QoR Watercolors
Mission Gold Watercolors
Uni-Ball Signo Broad Point Gel Pen
Sakura Gelly Roll Pen, White
Sharpie Metallic Permanent Marker
Finetec Pearlescent Watercolors
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Faber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pens
Daniel Smith Watercolors

Watercolor sketchbooks – the fantastic, the okay, and the downright unpleasant


Preface: I think everyone has to experience a product for themselves to see, ultimately, if it’s going to be the right fit for them. You don’t know until you try. Even for me, when I watched many professional watercolor artists give demos and their professional opinions on the best paints, brushes, and papers, I still took their advice with a grain of salt and had to experiment with the products myself so I could have real-life experience with them and see if they fit my needs.

This is not a push to get you to invest in an expensive watercolor paper, but a recap of my experiences using several different brands/types.

Once upon a time, I received a 12″x16″ block of Arches Aquarelle watercolor paper as a Christmas gift. If you’re an experienced watercolor artist, you’re likely nodding your head sagely, thinking “Yes, yes. A very nice gift.”

I used it occasionally, but, I feel, not under a heavy degree of layering and washes. I enjoyed the paper enough, but I was still pretty new to my whole watercolor journey, so I feel like the paper’s quality went under-appreciated by me.

About a year ago I discovered a brand new appreciation for the Arches Aquarelle watercolor paper. I was partaking in Angela Fehr’s Watercolor Summer Challenge (now since closed), and for the particular challenge I worked on, I decided to pull out the Arches paper as I wanted to work in a larger format than what I’d been doing previously in my smaller 5″x8.25″ Moleskine Watercolor album.

It was a hallelujah moment for me. After slugging through my Moleskine for a few months on various watercolor paintings, the Arches paper was a dream come true. And in comparison, now, I really have to say it…

Moleskine’s watercolor paper is absolute crap.

I was annoyed I’d been fidgeting with it for as long as I have (and, being a glutton for punishment, I’m still working through the awful thing to this day—trying to fill it up as quickly as possible following daily art challenges on Instagram. Once I’ve finished filling it, I don’t intend to ever waste my money on a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook again. The only caveat to this oath is that when I first purchased this particular Moleskine, I had also purchased a pocket version. Ugh. Since I don’t want to waste it, I’ll likely drag through that one at some point, too, although I might use different media in it than watercolor.)

So why do I detest the Moleskine paper so much? So many artists use this very sketchbook all the time. It can’t be that bad, can it?

I cannot speak for other artists and assume I know their reasons for using the Moleskine. Not every artist uses the sketchbook in the same way I use it. In fact, in a lot of cases, the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook is a very good, practical solution for many people. Just remember, I’m relating my own personal experience.

I find the paper in the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook is extremely unfriendly to any layering/glazing. The paper is not very absorbent, so the pigments don’t soak into the fiber like they do in artists-grade papers. They seem to just kind of sit at the surface like it’s non-porous, which turns into a real disaster when you’re wanting to go back over it with another layer of color. The pigment activates again and depending on how wet your brush is, you either end up moving the pigment all around or you end up lifting the pigment altogether. The word “frustrating” is putting it mildly.

Detail of a painting in the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.
The significant warping found in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

The Arches paper, however, does not do this. The water soaks in and disperses evenly, pigments lay down smoothly and settle into the fibers. Once dry, they do not reactivate and move all around or lift as though they’re sitting on a non-porous surface. You can reactivate the pigments and lift them to a degree on this kind of paper, but it’s done under your own control. There’s far less guessing if something’s going to start moving on you.

Arches watercolor block.
Detail of painting on Arches paper.
Detail of painting on Arches paper.

So, what is the difference between the Arches paper and the Moleskine paper?

I’ll put physical dimensions aside for this and focus on the makeup of the papers themselves.

Arches Aquarelle cold press paper:
100% cotton
300 gsm / 140 lb

Moleskine waterclor album cold press paper:
25% cotton
200 gsm / 135 lb

The obvious differences here are the paper’s cotton content and weight.

You would think a 5-pound difference wouldn’t be that big a deal – but it’s huge. The Moleskine’s paper is comparatively lightweight, and it warps and buckles significantly under moderate amounts of water. The percentage of cotton used in the paper also plays a role in how much water the paper is able to absorb, as well as how much it will buckle.

To be fair, where the buckling is concerned, the Arches paper I have is on a watercolor block, meaning all four sides are actually glued down on the edges, where the Moleskine is only secured on the bound edge. Having all edges secure helps reduce buckling, and yes, even the Arches paper buckled a bit under heavy washes of water – but it certainly took a greater volume of water to get to that buckling point than what the Moleskine would have taken.

Let’s throw another watercolor paper into the mix here. I would call this paper an intermediate-level. It’s not as good as the Arches paper, but it was way more forgiving than the Moleskine: the Strathmore 400 series paper in their Watercolor Art Journal (I finished filling one of these about a year ago.)

Srathmore 400 series watercolor art journal cold press paper:
100% high alpha cellulose (wood pulp)
300 gsm / 140 lb

As far as how paint flowed on these papers, I feel the paint flowed similarly between the Moleskine and the Strathmore (most likely because of the wood-pulp makeup of these papers.) The Arches paper just had a different feel to it, probably because the paper would stay wet longer than either the Moleskine or the Strathmore.

The Strathmore paper buckled far less than the Moleskine, however, and I think that primarily had to do with the weight.

Painting in Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal.
A look at the minimal buckling on Strathmore’s heavy paper.

Let’s look at one more watercolor sketchbook. One that I’ve been loving. The paper behaves like the Arches paper because it’s made of 100% cotton artist-grade Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. This sketchbook is named, quite appropriately, “The Perfect Sketchbook.”

I hate to dangle this one out there because it’s not available for purchase. It was a kickstarter campaign and a limited number were created. There wasn’t really a decent return on investment for them after the project was said and done, so I’m not confident they will make another batch of these again. But I want to put this sketchbook in the mix as an example of what a difference good watercolor paper makes, and hopefully, someday, someone else will figure out how to mass-produce something of this caliber in the future.

The Perfect Sketchbook cold press paper:
100% cotton
200 gsm / 135 lb

In this sketchbook, I still have buckling issues like I had with the Moleskine, but not quite as pronounced due to the paper being 100% cotton. Best of all, I absolutely have much better paint-flow on this paper than what I had in both the Moleskine and the Strathmore, thanks again to that 100% cotton make-up.

Painting in The Perfect Sketchbook.
Painting in The Perfect Sketchbook.
Detail of painting in The Perfect Sketchbook.
Fabriano Artistico paper featured in The Perfect Sketchbook.
A look at the warping in The Perfect Sketchbook.

So what will I do once I fill up my Perfect Sketchbook? Will I go back to using the Strathmore?

No. In a perfect world, I’d find a watercolor sketchbook made out of 300 gsm / 140 lb 100% cotton paper.

Since I’m not currently aware of one of those out in the market, I see a new homemade coptic stitch watercolor sketchbook in my future…

UPDATE: May 2, 2018 – I found a shop that carries Arches Watercolor Sketchbooks! Oh happy day! I will share their info after I receive my shipment. It’s a smaller art store, so I’ve not had any experience with them and how careful they are when they ship items and what their customer service is like, so I’m going to hold off on sharing the shop details until I’ve received the sketchbook and it’s in good shape.

From top to bottom: Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal, The Perfect Sketchbook.

List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album
Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal
Arches Aquarelle Watercolor Block
The Perfect Sketchbook

Completed Moleskine pocket sketchbook Flip-through

At long last and well over a year of use, I finally finished filling in my second Moleskine pocket sketchbook. I can’t believe how long it took me to complete the sketchbook from cover-to-cover.

To be fair, if I’d put every piece of art I’ve worked on over the past year into it I would have finished that sucker up in like a couple of months. However, I keep alternating between sketchbooks and art journals, depending on my mood and what mediums I’m using.

What finally pushed me to fill it was jumping in on another daily art challenge on Instagram. This one is for the month of April by Tori Weyers of @drawriot, a very gifted mixed-media artist whose completed sketchbook/art journal collection is a thing of envy.

Her challenge for the month was various flowers every single day. I decided to join in since flowers are not too intimidating and because they’re just plain pretty.

Not much else to say about this one. It was great to close up another sketchbook for good. Always a great sense of accomplishment in doing so.

Watch the flip-through below, and I’ve included some various still shots of the work I put in it since October of 2016.

I hope you feel inspired and the art brings a smile to your face!

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.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook, Pocket
Sakura Brush Pen
Sakura Micron Pen
Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors
Mission Gold Watercolors
Daniel Smith Watercolors
QoR High Chroma Watercolors
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Watercolors
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Pentel Aquash Water Brushes

Completed Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Journal and Flip-through

I’m having a bitter-sweet beginning of May.

I’m supposed to be in Hawaii right now, visiting with friends and enjoying the ocean air.

But I’m not. I’m home, instead.

About a couple weeks ago, I contracted a nasty upper respiratory infection, and it was stubbornly hanging on. To make it worse, the more stressed I got about getting well by the day I was supposed to fly, the worse I felt. (We probably all know how well stress and illness go with one another…)

I made the difficult decision to cancel my trip at the last minute and instead use my already approved time off from work to just stay home and rest up.

It’s been a blessing in disguise. I am still shaking off the last remnants of the cold, and I was certainly verifiably ill enough on the day that I was supposed to fly to feel pretty justified in my decision to cancel my trip (the thought of spending nearly a full day of traveling in flying petri-dishes was certainly a determining factor for me to stay home.)

But, wow, I sure needed this down-time. Along with just resting and relaxing, I was able to leisurely catch up on chores and errands that had gone neglected during the peak of my illness. I even managed to transplant a couple basil starts and get my containers ready for my tomatoes.

Best of all, I had time to complete the last painting I was working on in my Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Journal (link in materials list below). I’d been working on it for what felt like at least a month (between work, other obligations, and being ill.) I’m really happy with how it came out, too.

This one has a story behind it, too. Corn isn’t exactly something I ever feel compelled to paint. I barely even eat it. But I was introduced to this type of corn, called “Glass Gem” by my work. I was actually almost given the opportunity to create the piece specifically for my job, but one of our established (and way more talented) botanical artists heard we were going to be featuring this corn and really wanted to do it, so we gave her the commission.

I was still very intrigued by the corn, however, after seeing photographs of it, and decided I wanted to do a composition just for my enjoyment. I’m very happy I pushed myself to complete the painting (it sat as just a line drawing in my journal for at least a couple weeks as it was.)

And with the completion of that painting also came the completion of the watercolor journal. Huzzah!

If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you know how satisfying it is for me to complete a sketchbook from cover-to-cover.

What’s even more great is that because I’ve had all this time off, I’ve also had time to record and post a flip-through on YouTube, plus I actually have some time to blog about it. Whoopee!

This watercolor journal took nearly a year to complete. In no small part because I obviously jump between other art projects, particularly focusing on filling up other sketchbooks, like my pocket Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook, and now my current pocket Moleskine sketchbook.

As you also know, while I love watercolor, I don’t like to be completely obligated to using just that single medium so I often work in different mediums. When I felt the urge to just do a watercolor piece, I would jump back to my Strathmore watercolor journal and do it in there (and that was also if I was not in the mood to gesso pages in my Leuchtturm1917 or Moleskine sketchbooks.)

Overall, the Strathmore was a very nice journal to work in. (I’ve just swapped over to Moleskine’s equivalent watercolor journal, and I’m admittedly already feeling a bit disappointed with the Moleskine’s paper quality in comparison – it’s far less heavy, so it warps pretty quickly. I’ve also discovered that paint easily bleeds through the binding, as well. Drat!)

The Strathmore’s paper was nice and heavy—300lb—and the binding is nice and tight so there was never any problem of paint bleeding through the binding to other pages. I actually did already purchase another Strathmore watercolor journal to work on in the future. But that will come after I finish up this new Moleskine.

It was fun to watch my flip-through, however, and see how my art continues to progress. I’ll post up a few photos of my favorite pieces in the blog, although if you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen these images before.

In any case, very happy to share this with you.

I hope you feel inspired and the art brings a smile to your face!

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 Watercolor Art Journal
Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album
Sakura Brush Pen
Sakura Micron Pen
Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors
Mission Gold Watercolors
Daniel Smith Watercolors
QoR High Chroma Watercolors
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Watercolors
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Pentel Aquash Water Brushes

“Bohemian Rhapsody”


It’s been a while since I’ve posted in regards to an actual art journal page.

You know I’ve gotta feel this one is special if I’m doing it now!

Yesterday I found myself digging around online for ideas for a bedding set. I recalled a long time ago I came across these gorgeous, colorful—and extremely pricey— bedding sets that would sometimes be sold at Macy’s. I couldn’t remember the name of the company that provided them so I spent a great deal of time googling “colorful bedding”. This lead me on a wonderful journey of gorgeous bright colors particularly under the style of bohemian.

Eventually I found the name of the company whose bedding I adored: Natori. And I even found a photo of one of their sets that I’d fallen in love with (which is currently not available any longer—sadness.) Just look at those colors!

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Gorgeous Natori bedding set.

By the time I found the Natori bedding set I’d remembered, my creative mind was totally saturated with bright, beautiful color combinations. I was just itching to smear down the colors of this set and then it all took on a life of its own from there.


Once the colors were down I had to add some pizazz with gold stamping. I was almost tempted to leave the layout as it was, but that is typically difficult for me to do. I really wanted it to have a focal point so I decided to draw a mandala over the background.




I’m so glad I took this risk. I love how the page turned out. This is the first really colorful mandala I’ve ever done, as well. All my other mandalas are straight black and white. There’s a couple I did over the top of a messy watercolor background, but I didn’t actually color any of the components of the mandala itself.

This was pretty straightforward, however. I used Artist’s Loft Acrylic Paints in Crimson, Deep Magenta, Yellow Ochre and Turquoise. ColorBox Gold Metallic Pigment Inkpad was used for the stamping, and then I used my Sakura Micron and Uni-Ball Signo pens for the black and white detailing. The final touch was to scribble down a brief sentiment, which I did using a dip pen and Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink.


Hope these colors make you as happy as they make me feel. Now I just have to get my hands on a bedding set like the one that inspired this design.

In case if you didn’t get enough, here are some more juicy details with eye-blinding, happy-making colors!

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Hope you enjoyed the layout. Please leave a comment, like or share the page, and be sure to follow me on Instagram where I post other miscellaneous projects and sneak-peaks of future layouts! Thank you!


List of materials:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Ranger Dylusions Dyan Reaveley’s Creative Journal
Artist’s Loft Acrylic Paints
ColorBox Gold Metallic Pigment Inkpad
Sakura Micron Pens
Uni-Ball Signo Pen
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink

2016 – Year in Review

Is that right? 2016 is over? Or just about…

I am typing this out the evening of New Year’s Eve and I may have this finished by the time midnight strikes. (Nope, not a New Year’s Eve party-gal here. Staying indoors, nice and warm, keeping my cat company and setting up for 2017.)

Every year, like a lot of people, I tend to set goals for myself. Actually, I like to think of them more as aspirations as that word just gives me needed wiggle-room. I find if I set actual goals and do not accomplish them, I use that as an excuse to be unkind to myself, and I really don’t need that in my life. I am certainly trying more and more to accept life and myself as is – imperfections and all.

Kudos to you type-A goal-setters and achievers out there. You will certainly have me cheering you on—but don’t worry that I’ll be chomping at your heels trying to out-do you anytime soon.

That said, at the end of the year, I find it enjoyable to look back at my aspirations that I’ve written down and see how far I’ve come, if at all. Actually, I’ll do this periodically through the year as curiosity arises. But overall, my aspiration list sometimes turns into a “set it and forget it” type of exercise. I don’t constantly monitor the list and fret over it all year long.

I had several aspirations for 2016. Several of which are personal on the spiritual level, and I’ll choose to keep that information private. This is an art blog, after all – not a philosophical spirituality blog.

In addition to those personal, spiritual aspirations, I also had several aspirations regarding my creativity, however, and I was able to check a few of those aspirations off my list by the end of this year.

I get odd satisfaction out of discovering my accomplishments after not having looked at my aspirations for the majority of the year. It kind of gives myself a sense of having achieved them without actually trying. It really does feel like the universe just works with me. Ask and ye shall receive…

Here are a few creative aspirations I accomplished this year:

Continue perfecting my handwriting.
Now, I don’t know why I wrote the word “perfecting”. I’m done with ever expecting perfection out of anything I do. “Improving” would have been a better word. And I feel I’ve really managed to do that. Most especially along the lines of brush lettering. This is a huge deal to me, as not long ago, I continually found myself envying those people who did such beautiful brush script that I would see everywhere. I definitely have not “perfected” anything, but I have certainly improved. I believe this aspiration will make it onto my 2017 list, as well.

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Practice watercolor skills.
If you’ve been following my blog, or especially my Instagram account, I’m sure you’re well aware that I tend to do quite a lot of art in watercolor. So yes – I have definitely stuck to my aspiration to practice watercolor skills. This will be another aspiration that makes my 2017 list. It will probably remain on my aspiration lists for the rest of my life. This is such a fun aspiration, too. I just love working with watercolors.

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Finish a full art journal by the end of the year.
Now, this one I’m gong to give myself a little leeway on. When I first wrote this aspiration, I was envisioning a full mixed-media art journal. As my art journey has progressed, I’ve found that I’ve stepped away from doing a lot of mixed media art journaling in favor of doing more specific art layouts. Most of which were in single-media. When I started doing daily art challenges on Instagram, I found myself favoring single-media layouts, as they were simpler to work with all around. Far less time-consuming. Mixed media requires pulling out a lot of different materials, and when I’m trying to whip out something in just an hour or two in my spare time between my full time job and other commitments, sticking with a single media was far more practical.
So, while I did not finish a full mixed media art journal this year, I did, in fact, finish three sketchbooks this year. I’d say I met that aspiration and then some.

Try video-recording my art layouts.
I did this with one art layout thus far. It was for a piece I did in my Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook that was called “My favorite color is October.” I found by doing this, that I still have a long ways to go where recording and sharing my work goes. This first trial run only made a 45-second run on my YouTube channel. That was because I could really only get 45 seconds of useful footage out of the entire session. The rest of the time, I was either creating out of frame, or my head was smack in the middle of it. I really don’t know how other artists do these recordings without their heads getting in the way. Maybe they just have better eyesight than me, but I really need to put my head over the top of my work, for the most part, to be very clear about what I’m doing. Will I try to do more? I really don’t know. I don’t think this will make my aspiration list for 2017. I just don’t think it’s that important. At least not at this point in my art journey.

Get an art journal flip up on my blog.
Done. Not once, not twice, but four times I shared my art journals and sketchbooks as a video flip through on my blog and YouTube channel. Not much more to say about that aspiration, as it’s pretty straightforward. Do know it’s my intention to continue filming and sharing flipthroughs of completed art journals or sketchbooks when they’re ready. You can go here to see my blog posts about three of them (for some reason my tag isn’t functioning for my Moleskine flip.)

What did I not complete?

  1. I wanted to really spend a good chunk of time practicing human face and figure drawing. It is still an aspiration of mine to be able to draw people without having to reference photographs. I can draw people that way just fine, but that brings up the tricky line of making sure I’m not violating a skilled photographer’s copyright on a beautiful photograph of a model. Yes, I’d love to draw people straight from my imagination. I didn’t get around to working on that in 2016. Clearly 2016 was not the year to do that. This will make my 2017 aspirations list, however. Maybe when 2018 rolls around I’ll surprise myself with this. Or maybe it’ll end up back on the list with no progress.
  2. I wanted to have my art published again in another publication like Art Journaling. I think I could have made this happen, but this is really an issue of my not taking the time to submit my art for consideration at all this year. I think this will go back up on my aspirations list, however. It’s good to put myself out there.

So I met five out of seven of my creative aspirations. All without looking at my list constantly and fretting about it. They just happened organically. And for that, I am grateful.

What other art experiences did I have this year that I enjoyed?

Well, I gave bullet-journaling a good six-month try. I ended up dropping it around mid-August. I am going to try to take it up again, but with a few adjustments. I’m not going to keep trackers on it (like a checklist of how many times during the month I vacuumed the floor, or whatever other nonsense I put on my tracker.) Again, the trackers were just an opportunity for my perfectionist to see problems and berate myself for them instead of use those “gaps” as opportunities to do better.

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Trackers are not for me.

I also disliked how time-consuming these were to set up and work on. I think I may still find this to be an obstacle. Especially when setting up a brand new month.

Why have I decided to give bullet-journaling another chance, then?

Ultimately it was because I really enjoyed flipping back through the pages, especially my monthly memory pages, and being reminded of special little events that I would have otherwise forgotten. A favorite of mine that I came across was a little note and doodle in reference to an experience I had in the spring rescuing a baby bunny from one of my parent’s deep window-wells. I had almost forgotten all about it until I came across that memory in my bullet-journal.

What I think I’ll find challenging about bullet-journaling is my desire to doodle and then share those doodles on social media. While this particular blog entry may seem like a huge tell-all, I really am a pretty private person where my daily life is concerned. The world does not need to be privy to my doctor appointments, waking and sleep times, family events, when the oil in my car needs to be changed, etc. I know there are a lot of people out there who seem completely comfortable with sharing all of that information on social media, but not me.

What is difficult, however, is that I do like to share my art with everyone. There’s something I just find fun and cool about journal pages that share hand-written notes with pretty doodles, scribblings, colorings, etc. I feel like a jealous miser when I flip through my old bullet-journal pages, admiring how pretty they are, but not sharing them with the world. I guess that’s just something I will need to learn to be comfortable with. The world doesn’t have to see every little doodle and scribble of mine.

Another experience I really found rewarding in 2016 was participating in daily Instagram challenges. This activity lead me to create something new for around 200 days straight. It still boggles my mind that I managed to do that.

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Processed with MaxCurve

I started giving the daily challenges a break around August, as well (something apparently broke in August, haha!) But that doesn’t mean I stopped creating entirely. Again, if you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve been continuing to create on a regular basis. Just not every single day. And that’s perfectly okay. But again, that was a wonderful experience to have.

I finished a full-size painting. This girl has graduated to actual canvases now. Well, I don’t exclusively work on canvases. But I’ve done a couple now, and doing one that was 40″x30″ was quite the experience for me. It was definitely an exercise in patience. Coming from creating something daily within an hour or two every day, being accepting of a piece taking a few weeks to complete was a big deal. I was extremely proud to have completed the painting, however. It now hangs in my bedroom above my bed. I have a lot of other big white walls in the house to cover, so there may be more large-scale paintings in the future for me.


Finally, another fun experience was selling a few coptic stitch commissions. It’s still so fun to imagine those sketchbooks getting filled with other artist’s creations and ideas. I hope for future commissions on those, for sure.

Final product ready for beautiful art to be created inside!
Final product ready for beautiful art to be created inside!
Sketchbook with Manga-themed colored pencils and pens.
Sketchbook with Manga-themed colored pencils and pens.

So that’s 2016 wrapped up all nice and neat. It was a wonderful, creative year.

What’s ahead for 2017?

Well, you’ll just have to make sure you follow my blog and my other social media accounts to find out. I don’t have a crystal clear picture of all my latest aspirations yet. Some I shared with you—I may end up with even more. You’ll find out with me when it’s time!

Happy new year everyone! Thank you so much for reading. I hope the upcoming year is full of happiness and wonderful experiences for all of you.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook flip

Another six months have passed and I have another completed sketchbook flip to share!

Most of you may remember that I announced that I had decided to use a pocket Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook this time around while I participated in various Instagram challenges, and worked on my own ideas. This sketchbook contains art from #dndchallenge, #sealemon, #worldwatercolormonth, and #inktober. I really enjoyed flipping through it and seeing how my work continued to progress through the year, as well as observing so many different focuses, approaches, styles and techniques.

I enjoyed working in this sketchbook for the most part. It’s a little larger both in size and in page numbers than the comparable pocket Moleskine sketchbook, and the paper is actually white versus the Moleskine’s offwhite, cream-colored stock.

The only real downside I found to the Leuchtturm’s paper was that it did not interact well with wet mediums. I tried watercolors, Dr. Ph Martin’s Bombay India Inks, and Faber-Castell Gelatos in it and I had issues with the paper absorbing the wet medium quickly and bleeding through. Where the Gelatos were concerned, the paper pilled up when I took the approach of using a baby wipe to distribute and blend the colors.

This was all remedied in later layouts by preparing my pages with a layer of gesso if I knew I wanted to use any wet mediums on them. The gesso step was sometimes an inconvenience, however, if I was really wanting to just get moving with a painting.

That said, the paper did take well to pencil, colored pencil, ink pen, and Faber-Castell PITT artist brush pens. I just saw a little bit of feathering on the straight ink drawings, but there was no bleed-through or ghosting to be seen.

This is yet another proud moment for me—seeing another sketchbook through from cover-to-cover.

I hope you enjoy the little tour.

Thanks for dropping in to check out what I’ve been up to. Remember to follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to see my latest creations.

Have a fantastic day!


Materials used:

Contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more info.

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Sketchbook
Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors
Sakura Micron and Brush pens
Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Liquitex Gesso
Pentel Aquash Water Brushes