Coffee and Watercolors

Every studio day starts with a bowl of Cheerios on the stairs while I watch the birds eat their breakfast at the bird feeder.

Then I grab my coffee with just a splash of half and half and head to the art studio.

Before I get to any projects or paperwork I do my “Quick Mini Morning Sketch”.

The reason I started doing this is simple and selfish. I wanted a guarantee that everyday I would get to do at least one fun drawing that I didn’t over think or over work.

When I started I gave myself some parameters to keep the whole thing fresh and stimulating, much like my beloved cup of coffee.

I started with a list. I love lists.

I got this one from a talk Dan Santat did at the NESCBWI Conference.

I believe this was a list of good things to have in your portfolio if you are illustrating for the children’s market. Perfect.

So I wrote all of these words down on slips of paper (I have since added new words) and folded them up and put them into a little pinch pot. Every morning I grab a folded slip as a prompt for a sketch. The surprise keeps me from over thinking. I have to come up with an idea on the spot.

I have some watercolor paper cut into small pieces so I can’t work on it for too long or make it too precious. Also this paper will turn into a soggy cocktail napkin if it gets too wet.

If you want to give yourself limits I recommend watercolor. Once you make a mark that’s it. You’re stuck with it. I use a travel set and travel watercolor brushes because there is little to no set up time. I just open them and go.

It’s a lot of fun to work in a medium that you don’t know how to use.

I used to be afraid to use watercolors because it seemed like you had to have the painting all planned out if you didn’t want a muddy mess. Turns out you can be spontanious with watercolor…and bonus, you will make a muddy mess.

I draw the first somewhat useful idea that pops into my head. Sometimes it is a memory or related to something I saw recently. Other times I’m inspired by what I see out my window.

When I’m done I post them on Instagram and twitter.

Posting the picture means I’m done and I can get started on my other projects in the studio.

So far this has been a great way to start the day, almost as good as my coffee.

Almost.

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