Using Joyce Hicks’ art as inspiration…

When I say “using” I mean “copying”… but I think it is different enough that she will be happy. Go check out her work at It is lovely. So light and airy and beautiful. I really want to learn to paint as freely as she does, and you can tell from my attempt that I HAVEN’T! But it is only my first attempt. I’m confident I’ll improve.

DaVinci watercolor has a new palette with colors she inspired, including Joyce’s mother green, which you can see through this link: (I am not affiliated with Davinci, I just enjoy their paints and find them both quality, and affordable, which is nice!)

I purchased her palette, and after swatching the colors out, wasn’t terribly interested in it, to be honest. Then I ran across a little tutorial Joyce offers using the palette… This tutorial was not what I expected. AND it was easy to do, and fun. It got me wondering about some of her other things, so I pulled up a couple more tutorials to watch, then found a painting of hers to attempt. Once I started, I realized I really didn’t know what I was doing. But I completed it, (using her palette!) and I’m really happy with it. A friend wanted a painting of a house with the word “prosperous” on it, and I thought she might really like this, so I added it when I did the finishing touches, cropped it to 5×7 ( for convenience for her, but also happy to crop out a mistake or two)

I learned a lot from this painting. It is hard not to just focus on the errors, but there are things I like too, and I really like her layering techniques. I’m so glad I tried something I didn’t feel ready for, and hope to do more.

I’m afraid I didn’t think to take photos of the different stages.

Almost done.
After darkening the shadows and bushes, and adding the sign.
The cropped image, 5″x7″
In a plastic sleeve, ready to mail out!

There are glaring mistakes, I know! But still, isn’t it cute? Joyce Hicks is good! I will keep trying to learn from her.

The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project

Anyone can submit a sketchbook to the Brooklyn Sketchbook Project… you simply go online to Brooklyn Art Library to view the sketchbook project information

Visit their page and find out more about it. You can order your sketchbook (it has to be purchased from them to be included) and can even have it digitized. Each participant is sent the same 5×7″ blank sketchbook to complete and return, and it will become part of the worlds largest collection of sketchbooks. Each book will also spend some time in the traveling bookmobile project (WHAT in the ENTIRE WORLD is more fun than a bookmobile??? NOTHING, that’s what! Except POSSIBLY a sketchbook bookmobile??)

So I’ve spent the past couple of week’s madly trying to complete this sketchbook so it could be included in the next tour… only to find out two days after I finish it that due to covid-19, tours are temporarily cancelled. But… the deadline got me moving, so it’s all good.

I’m having trouble parting with this book! So I’ve posted a sketchbook tour on my NEW YOUTUBE CHANNEL (shameless plug… could you go subscribe pleeeeeease??? This would be a super-thrill for me and would make my day/week/month. I may actually even post more videos sometime!) (click the left hand title in the video below for a subscribe link. Maybe. I think.)

So what do you think? I love it!! Except the cover, which I rushed just to be done. But it’s good enough. It’s a good feeling to start and complete a sketchbook so quickly. Thank you for sharing in the fun with me!

Finally painting and sketching again! 3/8/2020

I’m not even sure what happened, but since the new year (and my heart incident!) I haven’t done much art. I’ve missed it, to be sure, but I have stayed busy with other things. But I’m trying to make it a habit again… plus… I have projects I’ve promised people that I need to get on with!

I used my “new” porcelain palette, FINALLY. New?? I got it this fall. A REALLY excellent price (I can’t remember where… I think Cheap Joe’s?? Like… under $20!! It’s big, with large wells, and a clear plastic cover to keep newfie hair out. -It tries, anyway) For some reason it just put me off. I think because it’s so large! (??) I had fun choosing colors, then never used it! Just stared at it on my drafting table as I did lots of other things. And watched old seasons of Survivor.

But this week I painted a birthday card for my sister, and made her a little heart origami bookmark, too (in JMU colors!)

I also had a “spring” swap due out (on … if you enjoy crafting, arting, and pen pal-ing, check it out!) so I decorated this envelope:

(blocked out the addresses but you get the idea)

And finally, I started a project for a book illustration for my niece:


I did NOT use only my large porcelain palette for this… I also used my new Roman Szmal watercolors! but…that’s the next post!


Watercolor Lightfast Testing…opera… 2/1/2020

When I started with watercolor, my head was SPINNING from everything there is to learn. Granulation, transparency, tube vs pan, manufacturing differences, lightfast ratings. It was so much for me to take in! Over time, I have become more familiar with terms and characteristics of watercolor. If you are new to watercolor, don’t despair! Soon it will be easily understood! Let’s discuss lightfast rating just a little bit…

In 2018, I set up a miniature “lightfast test” of my own. Pretty simple, not scientific at all, but good enough for me. I tested only three colors… opera rose, carmine, and mayan blue dark. Let me first try to explain the idea of lightfast ratings a bit. (If you are not new-ish to watercolor, skip down to the other photos! This might be boring for you!)


The pigment which paint manufacturers use (they are mostly all the same pigments, with some exceptions) have a lightfast rating from the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), but the individual paints (which are made up of one or more pigments, combined with different binders, and sometimes other fillers) have a lightfast rating which may differ from the pigment rating because of the way it is created, or the pigments or other things it is combined with… I’ve made it clear as mud, right? This rating tells the artist that a paint should retain its color and vibrancy for x number of years… generally a top rating, “excellent”, will last over a hundred years, a color rated “very good” should be stable for at least 50-100 years, those rated “fair” should last 15-50 years without change, “poor” will last 2-15 years unchanged, and “very poor” (or fugitive) less than 2 years. It gets more complicated than this, though, because these ratings also take into account sun exposure, which part of the world, time of year, etc. Also, some companies break it down into more categories, some into fewer. But generally, the idea is the same.

Several artists I follow use opera pink, knowing it is fugitive, but they love the intense brilliant color. One of them insisted its fugitive nature really doesn’t make a difference that she can see. She even sells her work! This got me wondering about opera pink, (which I have never even used because of my fear of its fading) -But also about other favorites I have that are labelled II for lightfast instead of I. Paint companies say their top two tiers are both perfectly acceptable for artists to use. But… are they?? (And why the heck am I so intimidated by these lightfast ratings??)

In September of 2018, in an effort to calm my fears about lightfastness once and for all, I made a little swatch of my only opera (Schmincke’s opera rose… a brand I certainly trust), and another swatch of Carmine (Daniel Smith, another great company… this is the pink/red I was using at the time, only because I received two free tubes of it, and liked it fine.)

Schmincke’s Brilliant Opera Rose, PR 122,  has a  fluorescent additive, rated “fugitive” by Schmincke, as any fluorescents are by other paint companies. Schmincke paints, generally, have high lightfast ratings. You won’t find many fugitive colors in their line. The fact that these well respected companies still sell fugitive colors makes me think, well, artists still want them.

The term fugitive, relating to watercolor paint, means this color will change or even fade completely away quickly if exposed to light , humidity, etc. says to consider a fugitive color as temporary.  Opera rose has that fluorescent additive, giving it a beautiful unique vivid hue, but in my mind this means “Caution! don’t paint with this!”… But honestly, I am giving up some beautiful colors with this thinking. (Although… if you saw my watercolor collection… I’m quite greedy and you would quickly realize I have plenty of colors to choose from… and really, now I wish I only had 24 or so. Because I quickly develop Indecision Painting Freeze when looking at all those very similar colors. But. That’s a discussion for another day)

The other paint I tested, Carmine, PR 176 , is rated II by Daniel Smith,  which is the second highest and considered “very good” by the company. With my limited experience, I have still been wondering whether the difference between I and II is enough to worry about. I mean, the paint manufacturers say it isn’t. And lots of other things I’ve read also say, use paints rated Excellent or Very Good with the same confidence. So. Here’s what I did. (spoiler: it wasn’t sufficient)

I swatched both opera rose and carmine, on quality watercolor paper, then 6 months later in March of 2019 I added a swatch of PB82 Daniel Smith’s Mayan Dark Blue, … because I love it but I had read it might fade. I cut the sheets down the middle. I placed one half of each, labeled with the color name and date, in a closed security envelope, and the other halves I taped to my studio window. This window faces south and we live in Virginia, near the ocean. It is exposed to sunlight most of the day, particularly in the afternoon. I have no idea really how this affects my test but I know it DOES.


I checked my original two swatches after 6 months, when I added the mayan dark blue to the group, and saw little change in the carmine, but did notice a change in opera. Not as much as I’d expected, though.

One thing I DID learn… washi tape, left on a sun exposed window for over a year, does not like to come off. 😦 Yeah, do this a different way.

(I took this photo today, to show you my washi tape error. I don’t want you to think the swatches weren’t in the sun, though… today it’s quite wet and overcast… it is generally sunny in this area. Trust me, these swatches were sun-exposed… sometimes I feel like our weather in Virginia is like Camelot… and if you get that, you may be a musical theater geek like me… post the reference in the comments!)


Also, don’t tell my husband about the window.

Today I checked them…

Carmine :


Carmine lightened all the way down. Particularly noticeable where the paint is more diluted.

Opera Rose :


Opera Pink lost its brilliance, and basically changed color. Maybe that’s what PR122 looks like without the fluorescent additive? Also, it occurred to me the fugitive control swatch may have changed even in the envelope?? So I did a quick fresh strip of color on the swatch to compare:


You decide. Looks the same to me?

Mayan Dark Blue :


Pretty good at its most intense, saturated level. Obviously faded, though, where more diluted with water. This color seems like a nice replacement for another I love, Indigo, and generally indigo, pure indigo, isn’t very stable. BUT, Daniel Smith’s Indigo  is a hue… a mix of two other pigments, lamp black and indanthrone blue, (one of my favorite blues, by the way) and is rated I for lightfastness. (Did I mention there is also some controversy over whether you want to use a single pigment color, like mayan dark blue, or a blend of two or more pigments, like DS indigo?? Which is why I considered the mayan dark blue… it really isn’t going to matter, though, except when mixing colors, and you will learn as you experiment with your colors what works… so DON’T worry on this account)  I didn’t test it… but my assumption is DS Indigo would have faded less or not at all (I told you… this wasn’t a very scientific test.)

Another thing I didn’t test… I’ve heard that if you blend a fugitive color with a lightfast color, you have to worry less about a color shift. I have to be honest, this doesn’t make sense to me. The lightfast color isn’t going to change, but isn’t the fugitive color still as unstable as ever? I suppose if you use mostly the lightfast color…

The fading of the “Very Good” colors, when used in a diluted manner, surprised me. I expected the opera to be significantly more altered and the other two to remain unchanged. As I mostly paint in journals, for myself, it won’t affect my work. And also won’t matter for any prints I sell. I will be honest, though… as I use up colors, I may look more at replacing with those rated Excellent as opposed to Very Good, so I don’t worry about it. Except my favorites. Of course. Like Da Vinci red… which I can’t imagine painting without. After all… I won’t be hanging the paintings in my studio window…

My recommendations, based on this teeny tiny test: Find good quality paints, and trust their colors. Within reason. Use the colors you love… pay attention to the lightfast rating, but don’t stress over it. If you love a color, use it.

And… I think I will test some of my “Excellent” paints this year and see how they hold up to those harsh conditions. If they fade at all, I can stop worrying about the difference.

I’m listing a few of my favorite brands here… I can’t find an Amazon link for Da Vinci, so I linked to their site. Those tubes are generally by far the most reasonably priced, and I love their colors. AND… watch for a sale, they had one in December which I missed but the watercolor deals were spectacular. If you purchase anything from Amazon using these links, you should know I will get a tiny percentage back, and thank you for supporting the blog! I will only link to something I absolutely love, so know that if it’s listed, I enjoy it. Happy painting!

Schmincke color selection one,
Daniel Smith’s introductory set
Da Vinci’s original watercolor palette, reg $112, on sale now $56
Qor introductory earth set, on sale $20.99
M Graham starter set


Inktober Challenge Completed! (In November. Does that count?)

Inktober’s challenge completed in mid- November?? Well, I’m counting it. I didn’t complete the challenge as it was set forward, but I also don’t still have it hanging over my head, either unfinished, or worse:  totally unattempted!

Day 26 Dark:


My dogs are extremely dark. Blacker than this sketch portrays them, for sure.

Day 28 Ride:


Wouldn’t it be fun if we could still have a nice safe plastic Big Wheel as our ride??

Day 29 Injured:


Day 30 Catch:


Day 31 Ripe:


Ta-daa! Done. Somehow I do feel BETTER.