This turned out OK, but it had me worried for a while…

Hi friends! Yesterday I wanted to paint a still life of the succulent my hubby bought me for mothers day, isn’t this plant lovely? Too bad its days are numbered. When you are an artist who struggles to keep plants alive you tend to paint them as soon as possible LOL!

Here is how the painting turned out. I put the original painting in my shop in case anyone is interested.

Now, sit back (or grab your paints!) and enjoy this longer-than-average tutorial! Do you like shorter or longer tutorials better?

Supplies (Affiliate links used)

Want more?

If you are interested in learning how to use watercolor crayons effectively on their own you might like my Watercolor Crayon Workshop. You will learn how to create eight beautiful paintings step by step while mastering watercolor crayons. Or, if you’d like more long-format mixed media tutorials like this as well as the opportunity to upload your work for feedback you will love Critique Club! for $5 a month you have access to over 80 real-time lessons in a variety of media (plus 2 new tutorials added every month!) as well as monthly creative prompts! Click the link above to learn more about either class! Thanks for painting with me today and til next time happy crafting!

I love artsy experimenting!

Hi friends! I was preparing some background samples for the Michaels online class I am teaching this Thursday and I decided to dry watercolor on black mat board that I primed with clear Liquitex Gesso. I didn’t know if the gesso would hold the watercolor but I was curious so I applied some Derwent pastel watercolors and Inktense pan paint to it and I loved the effect! You can use black watercolor paper as well but I know many of you have the black matboard and clear gesso from the plum project so I wanted to see if it would be compatible. I think it turned out great and the texture remains so adding colored pencil on top worked great!

I was so excited after making this background that I wanted to draw on it. I filmed the whole drawing process and narrated it in real-time so if you want you can draw with me!

Supplies & Resources (affiliate links used)

I think today’s tutorial is a great warm-up for the live online class on Thursday, May 19th at 8pm ET where we do a totally different technique to draw a different dragonfly and explore lots of time-saving background options. You can join me for this class by enrolling here. The cost is $20 and when you sign up you will be emailed a pattern to print on copy paper and have with you for class. Don’t transfer it before class because we are going to do something different but you want it printed and ready to go. You can see the supply list on the sign-up page but don’t worry if you do not have the exact products I am using, you can substitute for the pencils you like and the black paper you have. You will also be emailed a recording of the class so you can follow along again if you want. The focus of the class is ways to speed up your colored pencil process with special techniques and mixed media. If this sounds interesting I hope to see you there! Happy crafting!

Pure Watercolor Poppies

Hi friends! I have some exciting news, although, to be fair it is really future news… what the heck, I’ll tell you now. I am developing a watercolor brush set that will be released in July. The last step of the project is the artwork for the box so I thought it would be fun to record the creation of it to share with you!

You can also find a real-time version of this lesson in Critique Club. For only $5 a month you can enjoy dozens of advanced, real-time narrated art tutorials in a variety of media with 2 new tutorials posted each month. You get a new creative prompt every month and you can even upload your art for feedback from me. You can learn more and see the full list of lessons included in Critique Club here.

Supplies *Affiliate links used

I hope you enjoyed this time lapse with tips and tricks and info about the art and I hope it inspires you to create! Happy crafting!

Sat Chat! A fun week!

Hi friends! I hope you are having a good weekend. It is hot here in Maine and our AC is on the fritz, good thing I like the warm weather. Too bad hubby doesn’t. We have a heat pump and it has always worked great as AC but it is being a crank today! I have been sitting out on the deck painting and sketching today and I love being warm. The weather has been great all week, you have to grab these days when you can! Anyway, I don’t need to type all this, that’s what Sat Chat is for!

Stuff I mentioned:

Have a great weekend and til next time happy crafting!

Painting a rooster with new Gucai Metallic paint

Hi have 2 videos for you today, first a review of the new Gucai metallic watercolors from Paul Rubens and then a tutorial of a rooster painted with them!

First up, the review of these new paints!

I have been told there will be a 15% off deal on the Gucai watercolors from May 9, 2022, 12:00 AM PDT- May 15, 2022, 11:45 PM PDT *several people asked about the fine mist water spray bottle, it’s very affordable and works great!


  • Size of pan (large Japanese gansai style)
  • Price
  • Easy to rewet
  • Lovely color variety
  • Variety of shimmer form pearl, metallic to glitter
  • Pans can be taken out of the palette easily to paint with without taking up lots of space or sharing in a classroom


  • Pans will probably be used up quickly due to their ease of resetting
  • Large footprint

How do they compare to the Metallic half pan set by Paul Rubens? These are less expensive than the half pan version but are also less dense so they probably won’t last as long. They are not different enough to need both. I’d choose the format you prefer. I use the 24 half pan set the most myself and that is what I recommend. That said the gucai set is cheaper per color and you might prefer the larger pan so pick what is right for you.

Now here is the tutorial of the rooster!

Supplies: *Affiliate link used

I hope this inspires you to paint. You can even try this on white paper with traditional watercolors. Have fun with it and til next time happy crafting!

Picking Paper for Colored Pencil & Mixed Media (Written Recap and Condensed Video)

Hi friends! The other day I did a free live class going over paper suitable for colored pencils and mixed media. Before the live class, I did a dry run and filmed it. You can watch that video below.

During the Livestream, I had many requests to repeat the names of different papers and ask for recommendations so I decided to create a written recap listing out the 6 different surface texture categories and what media they are best suited for. I hope it is helpful. Keep in mind that any good paper that gives you the effect you desire is the right paper for you. We all have different opinions on what is best. This is general paper advice that has worked well for me over the years and I hope you find it helpful. I have categorized the paper textures in relation to each other and not how the manufacturer may describe them. For instance, Strathmore calls the Art Again lightly textured but it is rougher than the vellum surface paper I consider lightly textured.

What is paper made of?

Paper can be made from a variety of natural and synthetic ingredients. When choosing art paper you want to make sure it is acid-free if you want your artwork to be archival. Acid can make paper turn yellow and brittle over time. All of the papers I am recommending below are acid-free.

  • Wood Pulp: Most economical papers are made from wood, also called cellulose paper. Art papers are usually made from virgin pulp but you can find some options with recycled content. Paper is said to be acid-free if it is buffered to bring the PH of the paper to neutral or slightly basic.
  • Cotton: Cotton paper is made from cotton linters (the seed fibers under the cotton puff) and it can also be made from leftover cotton from fabric manufacturing in the case of handmade cotton paper. Cotton paper is more expensive than wood pulp due to the cost of materials and processing and also less environmentally friendly due to the amount of water needed to create the plant and the paper. Cotton paper is the most archival so work done on cotton (providing archival materials are used in a customary way) will last the longest. There are many brands of 100% cotton watercolor paper to choose from. As long as you stick with a reputable brand, Arches is a favorite, you will be fine. Paper is available in sheets, pads, and blocks (which is a pad bound on all 4 sides that is a bit more expensive for the convenience of not having to tape it down.) *You can also find blends of cotton and wood pulp such as Fabriano Studio watercolor papers which bridge the gap between the quality of cotton and the affordability of cellulose, their hot press is nice.
  • Synthetic: Paper can be made from 100% plastic such as polypropylene YUPO paper or it can be used in conjunction with cotton fibers to help a paper lay flat when wet such as Strathmore Aquaris 2 paper.
  • Eco Friendlier options: The most eco-friendly paper you can use is what is already in your stash but if you wish to purchase a greener paper there are options. Hahnemuhle has Bamboo mixed media paper and an Agave watercolor paper that are lovely. They will take a bit of getting used to if you are accustomed to 100% cotton paper but should pose no issue if you are used to cellulose papers. You can also find paper with some recycled content like Strathmore Art Again paper.
  • Other: There are other specialty papers that I am not delving into today because they are not generally used as a substrate for colored pencils and mixed media. Rice, mulberry, and other organic papers are beautiful for collage on your work but are delicate and would be torn up easily under the pressure from the colored pencils. Stone and resin paper is new interesting material but I am not very familiar with it.

White or toned?

Choosing the shade of paper you work on is a personal preference. Your artwork will generally appear brighter on white paper but if you like to use opaque media a toned surface can make your work go faster and be exciting to create on. I really love toned tan surfaces but that is a personal preference. Colored cardstock is an economical way to try toned surfaces and due to the popularity of scrapbooking there are a lot of archival options. That said since scrapbooks are designed to be kept in a book away from light some of this cardstock will fade when exposed to light. Your best bet is to stick with earth or muted tones as opposed to brights to limit the chance of fading.

Surface textures

Super smooth papers: This surface is best for use with pens or markers as it is gentle on nibs and usually will not feather. You can apply a limited amount of colored pencil on top to enhance a marker drawing but you won’t be able to get many layers without the pencil skipping or gumming up. Softer pencils work best on smooth paper. You can expect 1-2 layers of pencil on this paper but ideally, you are using colored pencils for accents over other media.

  • Yupo: A slick plastic paper suitable for watercolor, alcohol ink, India ink, alcohol marker, and pencil. Avoid using heat.
  • Marker paper: This thin, slick, and coated paper is best suited for alcohol markers and does not accept pencils well. *Thicker marker cardstock is more similar to smooth bristol.
  • Smooth Bristol board: This is a thick, smooth, sized paper that accepts all kinds of markers and ink and takes pencil very well. I have not seen much difference between Bristol from different companies so try what is convenient and affordable.

Smooth paper: Smooth paper has a bit more tooth to grab the pencil well, but because it is smooth it will not require a ton of effort to fill in the tooth. You can manage to get 3-5 layers of pencil on smooth paper in my experience.

  • Strathmore mixed media paper: this is my favorite smooth paper. It comes in white, tan, grey, blue, green and black. It is affordable and comes in a variety of convenient pad sizes. I love using this with marker and gouache for the underpainting and colored pencil on top.
  • Stonehenge: This is a 100% cotton printmaking paper that is available in pads or full sheets in a variety of muted tones plus white and black. I like the white version of this paper. *Note: There is also a Stonehenge Aqua watercolor paper with a cold-pressed (medium rough) surface available in black and white.
  • Derwent Lightfast paper: This 100% cotton luxury archival paper has a natural tone and is formulated to be used with Derwent Lightfast pencils to be archival. It is similar in feel to Stonehenge.
  • Strathmore toned tan and toned grey drawing paper: These pads are great for colored pencils but lack the tooth for pastel or charcoal without transferring badly to the facing pages. Fixative is recommended if you wish to use the dustier mediums. *Contains 30% recycled content.

Medium Smooth Papers: These papers have a bit more tooth so you easily apply many layers of colored pencils as well as use them for mixed media applications. Since there is more tooth you can use pencil, charcoal, and light pastel. Papers noted as “mixed media” will accept light washes of ink or paint without too much warping.

  • Briston Vellum: This paper has all of the attributes of bristol smooth but it will accept more pencil layers, yet it is still smooth enough not to damage your pens or markers. A wonderful all-around surface. It’s even smooth enough for rubber stamping.
  • Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media: This is a very sturdy paper that takes most mediums very well. The weight prevents buckling.
  • Other Mixed Media pads: There are several mixed media and drawing pads available. The Canson XL mixed media pad is a good potion, it features a vellum surface, it takes light washes, and most media adequately. It is quite affordable and makes a great sketchbook. It’s perfect for colored pencils.
  • Vellum Surface Drawing Paper: This is a great, no-frills, surface for dry media such as pencil, charcoal, Conte, and light applications of pastel.

Watercolor Paper (multiple surfaces) When you want to use watercolor, gouache, or water-soluble inks as a base layer watercolor paper is the perfect substrate as it is sized so it can handle lots of water without buckling or feathering. The most common weights are: 90# (thin), 140# (standard), and 300# (thick almost like chipboard.) Papers are available in cotton, cellulose, a blend of the two as well as synthetic, recycled, and eco-friendly options. 100% Cotton will be the most reliable, archival, and expensive. Avoid using alcohol ink or alcohol markers on this paper. Refrain from using pens on the rougher papers to avoid damaging the nibs. There are dozens of brands making beautiful watercolor paper for any budget and need. Mould-made papers offer a beautiful random texture. Machine-made papers (like the Strathmore 300 yellow pads which I don’t recommend) sometimes have a distinct texture pattern that I find distracting and unappealing. Handmade papers are typically very rough and unsuitable for colored pencils but lovely for other applications.

  • Hot Press: Smooth paper capable of taking lots of water, pen & ink, and water-based markers. Colored pencils and water-soluble pencils can be used well on this paper.
  • Cold press: Moderately textured, good all-around surface.
  • Rough: Heavily textured, you get a grainy look when using colored pencils on this paper.
  • Handmade: This is even rougher but the soft sizing of this paper gives it less bite and so pencils may have a hard time sticking to it. I don’t recommend it for pencils. Handmade watercolor papers come in hot, cold-pressed, and rough but are much more textured than their machine or mould made counterparts.

Medium Rough/Typical Pastel Papers

  • Canson Mi-Teintes: Dual-sided (smooth/rough) great all-around paper available in a lot of colors in pads or sheets. I recommend this versatile paper for all dry media.
  • Strathmore Art Again: 30% recycled textured paper available in sheets and pads of assorted colors. Acid-free, I checked.
  • Ingres: This is a thinner and softer pastel paper with a linear texture to it. I personally do not like it as much as Mi-Teintes but many artists do.

Coated or Sanded Specialty Papers

  • Canson XL Sand Grain Dry Mixed Media Paper: This is, in my opinion, the best value in paper for pencils or pastels. It comes in natural and grey and is a dream to work on. It s 90# but it will accept a watercolor wash and you can layer for days. Grab a pad and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Pastelmat: If you like to layer check out this paper. It is the most expensive paper I have showcased today but its ability for holding layers of pencil and working light over dark is unmatched. I find colored pencils to be very slow going on it tho so I prefer to use it for pastels. This is a great paper for ultra-realistic techniques.
  • UART Premium Sanded Pastel paper 400 grit. I really love this paper, especially for use with my harder pencils like Procolour. The pad states it is acid-free but there is a bit of controversy about this in the art community. It is available in 7 grits, I have used the 400 grit and really enjoy it. I hope it is indeed acid-free as the pad states it is.

A (not so) secret weapon!

  • Liquitex Clear Gesso! I have been priming matboard with this and loving the surface for months. It adds the ideal amount of tooth for colored pencils and is also good for pastels. You can even add it over a collage or watercolor/ink underpainting to bring in more tooth for pencils on top. This stuff is magic. You can paint it on your plain paper as well so if you have a paper you are not happy with, tape it down so it doesn’t buckle and apply a thin coat of clear gesso and see what you think. I have had great luck with Liquitex but other brands have not worked as well for me.

I also wanted to recommend all of the Strathmore Visual Journal spiral-bound pads. They are a solid choice and you can find just about all of the surfaces I mentioned above, except the coated/sanded versions, in these affordable pads. They are cellulose but they are still of excellent quality for the price. If you are on a budget or you just want a middle-of-the-road solid paper to experiment on that won’t break the bank you can’t go wrong.

I hope this paper rundown was helpful. I encourage you to experiment with the papers you have. If your favorite is not on my list drop it in the comments and tell us why you like it. That will help others who find this blog post in the future. Even if I don’t like a paper it doesn’t mean it won’t work well for you. Let’s all use the supplies we love to create! Happy crafting!

*Affiliate links used in this blog post.

Sat chat: We survived the plague

Hi friends, I just wanted to pop in really quick to post Sat Chat before heading out to watch the girls play softball!

Stuff and happenings:

That’s all for today! Happy mother’s day tomorrow to all the moms out there and til next time happy crafting!

Painting a hawk in Graphitint Pencils (watersoluble graphite)

Hi friends! Today I have a painting done in water-soluble graphite. This is a wonderful medium to bridge the gap between drawing and painting. The pencils I am using also have a tint of color to them so it is also a nice introduction to color if you have mainly been working in graphite.

If you don’t have water-soluble graphite feel free to follow along with watercolor pencils. Watch the video for step-by-step instructions.

Supplies (Affiliate links used)

I hope this project inspires you and til next time happy crafting!

Easy Poppy Tutorial (in the middle of a review)

Hi friends! I kinda forgot that I did a quick and easy painting tutorial in the middle of this review. You can find it at the 15-minute mark of today’s paint review video below.

I really need to change the video thumbnail to reflect that. I’ll figure out Youtube one of these decades. In the meantime enjoy the video!

I was very keen to try these Maimeri Blu pan paints because I liked their tubes in the past. This set had some unusual colors for a 12 pan set and we are going to look at them today as well as the old tubes I have on hand. In 2018 MaimeriBlu revamped its watercolors to mainly focus on single pigment colors. All of the half pans in this set were single pigment. I hasten to call this a review because I don’t think it is an accurate representation of their current line but it’s fun to see different paint sets so I thought It would make a good video.

Prices vary greatly for this paint so be sure to shop around and if you are considering purchasing a set be sure to look at what it contains to make sure you like the included colors. The tins are very nice. I have heard that some people get random colors when they order the tins from Jacksons (which has the lowest prices on the half pan sets) but my tin had the colors listed in the description. I am not sure where my tin came from.

Where to buy (affiliate links may be used)

Overview: I think they are a nice paint. Some colors are better than others. I’d avoid green earth. I suggest looking at swatches and pigment codes to determine if a color is worth it. The tubes are 12ml vs the normal 15 ml you might want to compare them to so keep that in mind when price shopping. Also, be sure to look at pigment codes because the names can get mixed up in translation. Here is the Maimeri website with clickable swatches with pigment info.

In other news, there is still time to sign up for my FREE Michaels class tomorrow night at 8pm ET. It’s all about choosing the right paper for your colored pencils and mixed media projects. Bring a pen and a notebook, it’s sure to be educational! Til then, happy crafting!