30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, and Reaching for Quiet with Art

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

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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
how to get more painting time into a tight schedule
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5 thoughts on “30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, and Reaching for Quiet with Art”

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

  2. 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

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