finishing up my month of painting focus

When I set out with my idea for the monthly Make & Do Creative Challenges, my intention was to be able to try new things and to continually work through, check off and "complete" the things on my creative to-do list. I had visions of clothes I would sew and new projects with clay, practice with hand lettering and calligraphy, lino-cut prints, more handcrafted soaps and bodycare products... the list goes on and on and on.

I also wanted to inspire YOU to be able to do the same (and I've enjoyed reading about what you're trying in the comments). I wanted it to be a fun adventure of experiences and play. And in some ways it has been. In January I made a hand bound book and while doing so I played around a little with taking the images of my paintings and adding them together to create a pattern. It was fun and it was challenging but by the end of the month I realized that I was craving simplicity and focus and paint.

watercolor logo for make and do creative challenge

This month, although I wasn't trying anything new by painting, I did, for the first time, create paintings for the express purpose of manipulating them to use on my website. I also broke out of my usual way of painting to add a bit of imagination and whimsy when I painted some fantasy terrariums (for that painting I was also working for an assignment, something that is rare for me). I had a few breakthrough epiphanies along the way. I realized that I can work through painting ideas with rough watercolor sketches in my sketchbook (I do have a watercolor sketchbook that I was using only for color swatches) and on "scrap" pieces of paper. Before that I would (mostly) work through even my practice paintings from start to finish only testing colors on a separate piece of paper and very occasionally working a small test of a flower or other aspect I was uncertain of how to create. Working out sketches of a painting isn't a new concept, but for me it was a new way of working and very freeing (I guess I'm a slow learner). I also practiced working from photographs, not my favorite way to paint, but something I realized I need to be able to do if I want to do more commissions and custom paintings.

photo collage of watercolor paintings

All of those things are wonderful and I'm happy with the paintings I created this month (even those lilies which I thought I was going to scrap). I am so glad that I decided to focus my energy on painting this month.

What I did not expect from this project were all of the thoughts and feelings that have come up as I considered the challenge and pondered the direction I want my creativity to take. I expected my challenge to open my creativity to many forms of expression, but as first one month and then another passed, I realized that I craved the opposite. More and more strongly I desired focus.

I'm not saying I don't still want to sew clothing or make sweaters or create batches of soap, because I do want to do those things. What I've come to realize, though, is that some of the things I feel attracted to trying, book binding, for example, take a lot of effort and skill. To be able to be truly good at book binding I would need to devote many hours and much of my focus to gaining the necessary skills. Do I want to devote that much time and effort to it? If I am completely honest with myself, the answer is no.

I keep coming back to a comment that Dana left on my book binding summary post. She said, "I took a bookbinding class years ago and I was really frustrated. It was a hardcover with a spine, using all the correct things and I learned that it is totally not for me." I envied of her ability to look at an art form and realize it wasn't right for her. That is so hard for me. I want to try everything and sometimes (ok, often) I'm in denial about whether I truly have the skills and the desire to actually succeed. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. He said something about how he finally realized he was never going to learn to play an instrument and he had put aside that dream. At the time it made me very sad. How could someone abandon their dream?

I've come to realize it's not abandoning dreams that's happening when we let go if ideas and desires which aren't right for us, it's refining an understanding of who we truly are.

I'm not letting go of my Make & Do creative challenges. I have a plan for next month and I still do want to encourage and inspire YOU. I want to hear about what you're thinking and what you're creating and what you're trying. Maybe my pondering will inspire you to ponder a bit, too.

I'll be back on Monday to share my plan for March.

Enjoy your weekend!


  1. You have shared some truly wonderful paintings with us this month Anne. Your work has evolved considerably from those early days when you took up watercolour painting. I have started to limit some of my creative choices as I know a lifetime isn't long enough to explore them all! I would still like to try bookbinding but perhaps it won't be 'my thing' either! I am looking forward to Monday to read your plan for March. Have a lovely weekend too!

    1. Hi, Simone. You've been on most of this journey with me, so you certainly do know how far I've come. I think what we need to do is to be open and be realistic when we're thinking about our creative choices. Being open is easy for me; being realistic is the hard part. I hope you'll keep trying new things and enjoying the process!

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing Dana's words.
    It is true, sometimes we have to let something go. We did this, this past Autumn. We had an Esty shop, we had so much fun with it. At the same time we did not have the time to commit to it in 2015 with some new dreams in the making. We closed it for now, but it was hard. Yet, I am excited for the new dreams...more on that coming up :-))
    xx oo

    1. Knowing our limits is really important and being able to let go of the things that we don't truly have time for is hard, but important.

      I'm excited for your new dreams... best of luck with them and I look forward to seeing where they will lead you!

  3. I believe February was a very productive month for you, Anne. Both in your creativity and in your self-realization. It's interesting to see how your thoughts and feelings are evolving. I also think you are spot on with your need to be comfortable with painting from photographs. As the wife of a professional artist, I see how this is absolutely crucial for commissions and custom art -- which comprises a considerable amount of Dennis' work. I like what Dana had to say, and that is precisely what I would say about my own creativity. I want to have the freedom to quilt, write, garden, craft, whatever. . .in the way that fits my style. I'm so much happier that way. And, after all, creativity is meant to bring us joy through the freedom of expression. Never should we feel in bondage to any craft. (Pondering as I write.) Hugs, dear Anne ~ Nancy

    1. You're so right, Nancy. Doing our creative things in our own way is the only way to be truly happy and to be able to express ourselves creatively.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And thanks for coming with me on my journey! (and for the hugs! Hugs, back!).

  4. Beautiful paintings and inspiring and wise post!

  5. You had a great month of painting. Yay! And good for you for your realizations you've had. Things change all the time and you never know you may change your mind about bookbinding and want to devote the time to it someday. But it is good to try many things even if its just find out if really like it or not. I still want to try my hand with clay. Something I wanted to do since I was in high school. We had a ceramics studio in the school but I was unable to take the class and then I signed up for a night class there after high school and then it was cancelled. I guess it just wasn't my time. Maybe someday.

    1. Thanks, Dana. Sometimes it feels as if I'm walking through molasses with my art and my thinking. Ah well.

      I loved ceramics when I took it in college. I've always wanted to go back to it someday. I never did learn to use a wheel and I'd like to try. I also would love to take more metalsmithing classes. The one a took a couple years ago was so much fun. Not sure if I'll ever have a chance again, but you never know.

      Things do change all the time and I tend to go from one thing to another and get obsessed with each one in turn. So far, though, watercolor is the only thing that I've had a consistent and ever growing passion for. You never know, though, things may lead me in another direction. I'm open to inspiration.


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