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Older Watercolor Exercises

Recent crafty doings:

  • Started cutting the vintage sheets, but I haven’t gotten very far (at all)…
  • Made a bunch of gel prints, but haven’t done anything with them, yet…
  • Nothing else.

With little else of a crafty nature to write about, now seems as good a time as any to post all the photos of older watercolor “exercises” (doodles, attempts, etc.) accumulated in my file of photos.  Some of these photos aren’t the best, but they’re better than nothing, and I’m too lazy to want to try taking replacement photos.  

Why post these at all?  Documenting what I’ve done, I guess.  They might be interesting to look back at, if I ever practice enough to see noticeable improvement.  Some of them are fine for what they are—just a chance to play around and see how different colors interact.  

Most of these are from sometime last year, but some are from years before that.  I’ve tried to group the earlier ones at the top of this post.

At some point (last year, I think), I came across a tutorial for a technique known as neurographic art.  It was originally developed as a type of therapy or therapeutic / meditative art, but I just thought it looked interesting.  (And easy.)  

If you’re interested, you can find tutorials online with a quick search, but essentially, these are the steps:

You’ll need paper and a pen or marker.  (If you’re going to be using watercolors later on, use a waterproof pen/marker, like a Sharpie, and try to use thicker paper, if not watercolor paper.)  The ink can be any color, but black is a popular choice.

Without thinking too much or planning ahead, draw a series of lines across the page.  Start on one edge and let the line trail off another edge.  Meandering or pleasingly soft, curving lines are typical, but do whatever you like.  Loops are nice… Lines can overlap or not, as you choose.  

Next, draw circles or other geometric shapes on the page, overlapping some of your lines.  You can trace a shape, if you prefer, as I did with the circles below.  (Lids to jars, medicine bottles, etc. work well.)

Don’t worry too much if some of your lines aren’t always smooth or even.  As you can see, mine were far from perfect!

Go back over your lines, with either the same pen/marker or a thicker-nibbed marker.

Make the lines thicker, evening them out as you go.  Going for a thick-and-thin look is an easier approach than trying to make it all a uniform thickness.  Just do whatever gives you a pleasing result.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  

(For this step, I took a photo of a different drawing I made, because I forgot to take a photo of this step in the first one!)

This is where it starts to look more interesting, in my opinion!  

Use your marker/pen to soften the lines wherever they intersect.  Draw a little curve joining the two lines and fill that space in.  You can make the curve small or large, as you wish.  (If this step isn’t clear, try watching a video tutorial.)

The result should be a more organic look.  Be sure to check your picture for any missed “intersections”, because it’s easy to overlook one or two!

(Back to the original project again!)

Now the fun really starts!  Fill in the “cells” of your drawing using whatever art materials you like.  I used watercolors (and watercolor paper), but you can use crayons, color pencils, markers or anything you prefer.  You could even keep it monotone and fill in the cells with different doodle textures, but these are usually made to be colorful.  

Use whatever colors you like, wherever you like them.  Take your time and relax while you color…

This step is optional, and I don’t usually do this, but if you want, you can go back over your coloring and add some extra details for more texture.  

(I imagine this works better with watercolors than with waxy media like crayons.)

Here, I added some curvy lines just to the blue “bubble” shapes, and I also included the “intersection bulges” where the new lines joined the old.  

And that’s it!  You can make your version much more complex and less abstract, if you like, by incorporating other types of shapes into your drawing.  I’ve seen people create stylized images of trees, flowers, and spiders, for instance.  The whole thing about “don’t think too much when you draw your lines” is optional.  That’s probably a good way to start, but you can definitely make carefully planned designs.

I found it a lot of fun, and the results look more complicated than the process really is. 

(This style of art makes me think of the 1960s/1970s and psychedelic art.  Anyone else?)

I ended up making quite a few of these neurographic art projects:

After making a few in the “bubble” method, I borrowed an idea I saw online and added a triangle, which was a fun way to change things up.  Curvy lines paired with straight lines!

I borrowed another idea to make more of a “crazy quilt” style drawing and doodle on top of the differently colored cells.  As you can see, I didn’t smooth out the line intersections on this one.  

I don’t like this as much as my other attempts, but it can be pretty.  (The inspiration was much nicer than mine.)

I decided to try for an “oil slick” type of doodle.  No intersecting lines here.  Just layered organic shapes.  It looks a bit like a topographic map, or maybe something under a microscope…

Then I went back to something more like the original style, but with more of a grid layout for the background lines, an elongated triangle for the focal point, and tiny circles in clusters and lines around the triangle:

And for this last one, I did a grid, but left off the triangle and just added clusters of the tiny circles inside the cells, along with some circles that I filled in with black marker.  

These tiny circles make me think of a fizzy drink or parts of a cell in a magnified image…

I really love the organic feel of this style of art!  

Let’s see… What else do I have in that folder?  

Here’s an attempt to follow an abstract watercolor tutorial I found online.  I was less enthused with how this turned out… My version just looks like a mess.  But that’s okay!  It was still fun to try something new.  

I guess for these next couple, I was just doodling rough shapes in watercolor (leaves/plant shapes and butterflies), then going in with a pen and adding details.  

I like some aspects of each, but am less pleased with others.  The overall effect is kind of messy and cluttered.  But again, that’s okay.  I had fun making them, and they were made for fun, not with some grand plan in mind. 

This one is more abstract.  Just circles of watercolor on a pastel background, then marker details added after it had dried.  This definitely has that “microbial” look. 

(Showing a handful of adoring fans through my latest art exhibit…) “I call this one ‘Pond Life’, though I hear that my critics have oh-so-amusingly dubbed it ‘Dull as Ditchwater’!”

Then I was just doodling and made this…  And I thought it was fun to do, so I made it again in a couple different palettes.

With this one, I wanted to layer some basic abstract shapes on top of a roughly painted background. 

That’s what I did. 

(And there’s very little more to say about it… I guess I can point out that sometimes the color sneaks under the edge of the tape I’ve used to hold down the paper, as you can see happened with this one…)

For this last one, I just started painting dashes in flowing lines and curves.  It turned out better than I would have expected—not perfect, but if you were a little more careful, this could be pretty. 

It reminds me of a mosaic…

And that was everything in the folder!  

Maybe next time I’ll have more to show, in the way of quilt-related progress.  We’ll see.  I feel stuck, with this sheet project.  I don’t feel motivated to work on it, yet I think I should get it out of the way before I start anything else of any size.

Recent listening:  

Listened to talk radio a bit while making gel prints.  Was reminded that there’s a reason I stopped listening as much as I once did.  (I get enough daily exposure to stupidity and annoyance with the world just by looking at Twitter.)

Maybe I’d be happier if I listened to more like this:  “Fall Porch Ambience”.  It’s not too soon to start counting down to October, is it?


I’m Michael (a female Michael, to remove any doubt).  I live on the Alabama Gulf Coast with my husband, Donald, and our crazy American Eskimo Dogs. 

I love to fill my spare time with various crafts and other hobbies, and this blog is where I share photos, record my progress, and ramble endlessly.

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