a tiny portrait in watercolor of a girl's face, with chin length black hair, looking off to the distance over our shoulder

Creative Focus in Strange Times

My husband asks me how I’m doing. My reply: ‘I feel like I weigh a thousand pounds.’ It’s a declaration of sadness, or fatigue. This week, it’s sadness. So, I’m pulling myself up, from the news-induced tonnage, to reach for an attainable antidote in Marc Taro Holmes’ 30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge. Are you diving into watercolor painting this month too?

I planned to get so much work finished in this bright first week of June. We’re all ready to cartwheel out of this hibernation of Paused Days, health scares, and murder hornets. Bring on the festive, public mingling! But it’s still not safe out there, for other reasons, depending on where you live. Turning to art for solace is *always* a respite. So, let’s do that.

a small watercolor painting of a young woman with short dark hair
Painting small makes squeezing a little art-making time easier to grout between an already scheduled day.

Direct Your Attention

While staring slump-shouldered at the keyboard, willing myself to edit video footage for my Monotype course, I remembered the 30×30 challenge. I’m drawn to distraction in normal times, but these days call for a distraction deluge to rinse off the bad news for a few hours. Take a break.

You and I are invited to create one direct painting a day for the 30 days of June.  Direct refers to little or no drawing as a map underneath the painting. Dip the brush, and start painting. Snap a photo of each new painting, and post it in Marc’s 30×30 Direct Watercolor Painting group on Facebook. The whole purpose is to make you paint. Simple, right?

a tiny watercolor painting of a woman with bobbed black hair and a thoughtful look on her face
I got a little lost in the layering of sheer pigments. Time stood still, and my mind was swept clean of all concerns while I watched the paint particles settled into the tooth of the paper.

Painting Over Fretting

In my dullness yesterday, I pushed the keyboard away, grabbed the top sheet on my stack of small of watercolor paper, and decided – on the spot – to participate in the 30×30 watercolor challenge. With a cup of water, my travel palette and a brush, and told myself to just try to paint a watercolor each day this month.

Watercolor Painting in Small Format

Flipping through photos on my phone, I settled on one of my cousin J.S. I should have photographed the painting process. But I fell into a deep well of comfort; dipping my brush in transparent washes, mixing sheer color, layering it on brow and cheek – and I didn’t want to stop. 

My plan for this little portrait was loose and brushy – but once I got in the zone, I had no wish to climb out. So I kept going, and she’s a tight little painting… not very watercolor-directish when compared to Marc’s work.

I left no visible washes or naturally occurring pigment blooms – they got covered in layers and glazing. But painting her was a sweet respite (thanks, J.S.). I had fun testing myself. Could I really make a teeny face without drawing it first? I’ve never tried it.

What about you? What are you doing with your art supplies to soften the edges of national sadness? Some watercolor painting, maybe?

Tell me what you’re up to, and how you’re filling days with activities you enjoy. Thanks for your visit, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. You can peruse an archive of Marc’s first breakthroughs related to direct watercolor, which lead to his book on the subject. A good read.

a tiny portrait of a girl's face in watercolor
Jaime 3×3 Watercolor painting

May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream…

Mary Oliver, Blue Iris
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Manufactured to the highest standards of quality, this 100% cotton watercolor paper is externally and internally sized for balanced absorbency and superior resilience. Mouldmade, yet looks and feels handmade. Strong and stable, with a natural bright white
  • Price: $21.80
  • Strathmore Ready Cut Watercolor Sheets
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:The Ready Cut line features Strathmore’s 500 Series premium watercolor paper that has been pre-cut into standard-size sheets. This 100% cotton paper is archival, lignin-free, acid-free, and available in cold press and hot press finishes. - Strathmo
  • Price: $6.07
  • Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Paper
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:A Cold Press professional surface for intermediate and advanced watercolor students. Acid-free. 140 lb (300 gsm) weight. Deckle is on the 15" side of the 15" x 22" sheets and on the 30" side of the 22" x 30" sheets. - Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Pape
  • Price: $2.51
  • Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:A random-textured professional surface for intermediate and advanced watercolorists. The natural white color and cold press surface make it an ideal sheet for fine and even washes. The strong surface allows lifting and scraping applications. - Strathmore
  • Price: $22.50
  • Sennelier Watercolor Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Take these professional watercolor blocks into the field. The 100% cotton, acid-free, mould-made paper carries all the tradition and quality associated with the name Sennelier. 20 sheets of 140 lb (300 gsm) paper bound on all four sides. - Sennelier Water
  • Price: $17.67
  • Saunders Waterford Watercolor Sheets
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Professionals love this paper's superb performance and resistance to distortion. Mouldmade of 100% cotton, Saunders Waterford is gelatin sized. Neutral pH. Each sheet has two natural and two tear deckles. Endorsed by the English Royal Watercolor Society.
  • Price: $11.43
  • Legion Yupo Watercolor Paper
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Yupo is a compelling and unique alternative to traditional art papers. It's a synthetic paper, machine-made in the USA of 100% polypropylene. It is waterproof, stain resistant, and extremely strong and durable. PH neutral. - Legion Yupo Watercolor Paper -
  • Price: $9.72
  • Lanaquarelle Watercolor Paper
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Since 1590, the Lana mill has been supplying European watercolorists with the finest papers. Lanaquarelle is made on a cylinder mould machine, giving it the look and feel of a handmade paper, but with better consistency. 100% cotton with neutral pH. - Lan
  • Price: $7.59
  • Fluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Glued on the two long edges, the Fluid Easy-Block allows artists to paint right on the block without wetting or stretching the paper. Fluid Easy-Blocks contain 15 acid-free, cold press sheets. 140 lb (300 gsm). - Fluid Easy-Block Watercolor Paper Block -
  • Price: $8.26
  • Fabriano Artistico Traditional White Watercolor Paper
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Traditional warm white paper. They are mould-made of 100% cotton and are acid free/pH neutral. Sheets have two natural deckled edges and two cut edges. - Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper - 22'' x 30'', Traditional White, Cold Press, Single Sheet
  • Price: $15.55
  • Fabriano Artistico Extra White Watercolor Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:See your paintings in a new light with this extra white paper. Created without the addition of optical brighteners. Available in rough grain, hot, and cold press blocks. Paper weight is 140 lb (300 gsm). 20 sheets per block. - Fabriano Artistico Extra Whi
  • Price: $17.64
  • Canson Plein Air Canva Artboards
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:A combination of convenience and portability make Canson Plein Air Canva Artboards ideal for plein air or studio use. High-quality Canson papers are laminated to rigid, acid-free artboards to eliminate buckling, warping, and bleeding, then bound into a pa
  • Price: $24.71
  • Canson Montval Watercolor Blocks
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Canson Montval is a fine quality, acid-free, natural white, mildew resistant watercolor paper. 15-sheet blocks. 140 lb (300 gsm) Cold Press. - Canson Montval Watercolor Block - 6'' x 9'', 15 Sheets
  • Price: $10.82
  • Arches Natural White Watercolor Paper
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Arches papers aren't just for watercolors. Use them also for drawing, calligraphy, gouache, printmaking, acrylics, and even digital printing. Manufactured from pure cotton fiber, they are so durable they will remain vibrant for centuries stored properly.
  • Price: $8.17
  • Ampersand Aquabord
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Show off your colors like never before! An archival, acid-free textured clay surface that absorbs watercolors like a fine paper, Aquabord allows colors to retain their purity and vibrancy in a way that even the finest watercolor papers can't match. - Ampe
  • Price: $24.49
  • American Easel Wood Painting Boards
  • Merchant:Blick Art Materials
  • Description:Use this lightweight, professional-quality maple plywood board for taping down watercolor papers. The thickness of the board is 5-ply, measuring 1/2" (13 mm), for durability and warp-resistance. - Painting Board - 19'' x 26'' x 1/2'', Wood
  • Price: $34.39
how to get more painting time into a tight schedule
Visit here to take a free mini video course.

Save for later & Share!

5 thoughts on “30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, and Reaching for Quiet with Art”

  1. Pingback: 30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, and Reaching for Quiet with Art | Best ArtWork

  2. I too have been feeling heavy-thank you for sharing your positivity and beautiful watercolor! I will look into this challenge.

  3. Hi, Belinda,
    I am also exhausted and feeling dull from all the bad news the last couple of weeks, especially days.

    I’ve taken to trying to stick to mostly news about ART and painting / making. Like this post.

    I’m also trying to physically move (as I’ve fallen off my “normal” workout pattern) daily as well as PAINT. It’s ok to leave a few works undone, discontinued, etc. I just made a breakthrough this week and finished a weird for me Large piece!

    My husband and I avoid the news on TV at all costs…and are becoming more and more immune to all of the commercials that reflect the current news. I understand all about advertising and current events…but geesh whatever show that was giving a respite suddenly that respite is POOF GONE.

    I’ll be quietly joining your 30×30…with acrylics, lol.

    Cyber hug and smiles…

    1. Cyber hugs back at you, my friend. I agree that watching television hurts rather than helps. Congratulations on your large painting finish! I’ve been watching art tutorials on youtube in the evenings, and taking notes on things to experiment with… much more productive and distracting. I do ponder my ability to affect change in society, but I can’t think clearly about it while watching the chaos. Here’s to creative pursuits while planning for individual betterment. XO

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *