lesson two

a book of watercolor words


Starting lesson two is a fun exercise of filling an entire book (I used the Japanese Stab book I showed how to make in the bookmaking demo) with words written in watercolors using a variety of brushes and one color of paint.

You can start with large letters, using automatic writing (where you write without thinking, words pour out from your subconscious mind) to get you started. From there you can try different sizes and styles of writing, large to small, curvy letters to block letters, maybe even make up your own font.

Fill the whole book, working quickly, and not getting too caught up in what you are writing, but how. If you cannot think of anything to write start a gratitude list or a shopping list or write about a dream you had, anything, just fill the pages. You can always use the finished pages for collage if you’d like to cut them up.

Writing with Watercolors

{External Link For Download Here}


Negative + Positive Space Exercise


This is a straightforward, but fun exercise - focusing on positive and negative space. Simply put, you will first be writing out the word or phrase as you normally would, then using the same word or phrase you will fill in the space around the words, leaving them the color of the paper. You can use masking fluid for either/both pages if you would like. You can add patterns to the letters or background to make them more fun. Or try creating a gradient look on the second page, using two colors, allowing one to bleed into the other

Try out different fonts here. I typed in the words I wanted to see written out. I then took a screen shot of all the different fonts I liked and put them all together on a page to be printed out so I could refer to them as I sketched out my letters.

Negative + Positive Words

{External Link For Download Here}

Watercolor Poetry


After reading the poem On Turning 37 by Keeren Tayyar I was inspired to write a poem, one that reflects where I am at this point in my life. I was then inspired to turn the poem over to watercolors and write it out. For this exercise, I am asking you to do the same. Write a poem about where you are at this point of your life or just how you are feeling in this moment. Feelings shift and moods change, so what you write now might be completely different by the end of the day, but write it anyhow. It doesn’t have to be the best poem you have ever written, it doesn’t even have to be good or make sense to anyone but you. Just write it out.

Then find a place to write it on. This can be on a sheet of larger watercolor paper or in your journal. Write it out using a font that you create. Make sure your letters are wide enough to paint. Keep a few, if not all, letters consistent to make the finished painting cohesive. Once you have it written out you can begin to paint it in with two or more chosen watercolor paints. You can dilute the watercolors as much as you would like or work with thicker, more opaque paint.

On Turning 37

by Kareen Tayyar

Today you remind yourself that although Buddy Holly was 17
            When he first sang “Peggy Sue”,
And that Fitzgerald was 24 when he published This Side of Paradise,
And that Dylan was only 21 when he composed
            “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”
            In the studio while the other musicians shot pool and played cards,

Whitman was 37 when he wrote “Song of Myself”,
Rousseau was 40 when he first picked up a paintbrush in his Paris apartment
            And began creating those indelible images of the African jungles
            That were largely responsible for the birth of Modern Art,
And even J.F.K,
            He of that perpetual youth and beauty that signaled a departure from
            The grandfather-politics of men like Eisenhower and Truman,
Was 43 when he took the oath of office for the Presidency.

In other words,
Go back to sleep, buddy.
There is still plenty of time to climb the mountain,
And there is no reason to think that your best days are already behind you.


Words Within A Shape


For the second demonstration in this video, I decided to be more playful without an exact plan. I added white to my colors (Indian yellow + Cadmium red) to make them more opaque. I sketched the whole piece out with a colored pencil on cold press watercolor paper and then added a light wash of yellow overtop. Once the wash was dry I began to fill in the shapes with a thicker layer of paint.

At the very end, I pushed it a little too far by outlining it with black, but kept with it to make it consistent. Sometimes you learn the most by taking things too far, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

This exercise is similar to the negative + positive shape exercise, but this time filling in a particular shape with words that relate to that shape.

The first example I demonstrate is of a hand with a karate saying inside the hand (karate means empty hand). I wanted to emphasis KARATE-DO and keep everything else around the same size, changing the style of the letters for certain words. I used an L square to make the Karate-Do part straight. The colors I used for the first exercise were a mixture of indigo, payne’s grey, and ivory black. I then added a small amount of red to the plus symbol to add a little drama.

You will want to decide on a shape that pertains to the words you want to put within it. i.e. Maybe you have a quote about flowers, you can use the shape of a vase with flowers. Then decide on what words you want to bring more attention to and how you can go about doing that, with size, style, and/or color. Feel free to use as many colors as you would like or just one. Be sure to check your spelling before getting too far along. ;)

I recommend doing two versions for this exercise, one more exact and planned out and the other more spontaneous and playful.

Note to self


For this exercise, you will want to create a Note to Self. This can be any note that you wish to focus on or be reminded of. Choose a style of letters that feel appropriate for the message you are creating. If your message is lively and energetic you will want to add drama to your painting by using strong/bold letters and colors. If your message is quiet and calm you will want to use a style of lettering and a color palette that reflect that message. Add designs that compliment your message. You can work any size you would like, I always find it easier to work larger. I worked in an 11” x 14” Holbein Multimedia Sketchbook. You could make a journal just for “Notes to self” if you want to do multiple pieces for this exercise.

First, sketch out a mock design. Once you have your design worked out, draw it onto your watercolor paper. If you’d like to outline it you can do that now or once you have painted the piece and it has dried. The nice part about outlining the whole piece is erasing the pencil before painting. Next, paint your design in layers, depending on how intense you want your colors.


Qor Colors I used for this exercise:


Cadmium Red

Transparent Yellow

Favorite Pens: ARTLINE

Holbein Sketchbook

A great Podcast to listen to while doing this exercise:

Jack Kornfield - Uncovering life’s beauty with poetry and art.

My favorite Poem from the podcast.

Don’t forget you can try out different fonts here.

Words + Designs

nourish list.jpg

For this exercise, you will need to make a list (this could be anything from ways to nourish yourself, to how to be happy, to things that you are grateful for) or find a poem/quote you’d like to use as your words. Now pull together as many different designs from different sources of inspiration as you need for your piece. I think it’s always a good idea to get inspiration from as many places as possible. The focus of this piece should be the design, then the words.

I worked on 14” x 14” Hot Press Paper. I used the paints I made from the earlier demo on paint making.

Sketch out a mock-up design to get a good idea of what you want to paint. Then lightly sketch out your design onto your watercolor paper. Paint it in, layer by layer.

Take your time and enjoy this exercise. I worked on this piece for four hours and could have spent longer if I had time. Of course, all the little dots took me awhile.

Need something to listen to while working on your piece? Podcast recommendation: Ted Radio Hour: How to be better.

A watercolor tribute

My Species

By Jane Hirshfield


a small purple artichoke


in its own bittered

and darkening


grows tender,

grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,

my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart

I worked on 9” x 12” Hot Press Watercolor Paper.

I used Qor watercolors: Cadmium Yellow Light, Dioxazine Purple, and Hooker’s Green. I used a Neptune Watercolor brush by Princeton from this set.

Want something to listen to while working on this exercise? I loved this poetry reading by Jane Hirshfield.

The poem I used is from the book "The Beauty” - Jane Hirshfield

For this exercise, I used an image and poem by Jane Hirshfield (you can use any words and image you would like).

Find a poem, quote, or saying by someone you admire. Find an image of that person that you wish to paint. Create a mock-up of your design. Then sketch it out on your watercolor paper. Try using a color scheme you haven’t tried before. Keep it simple by only using a few colors. Once your sketch is ready you can begin to add layers, starting with the lightest layer and building up as you go.


They say, cleanliness is next to Godliness…

but sometimes watercolor stains, what to do? You can try my favorite two cleaners (for all household stains and cleaning brushes).

Bar Keepers Friend and Fels-Naptha Soap.