In the spirit of transparency and in an effort to not waste your time, I’m not a watercolor expert. In fact, I’ve had no art training whatsoever. However, I am experienced, after five years, in finding inexpensive ways to enrich my life, while spending my days in bed, with osteoarthritis in my hands and several chronic illnesses, which keep me house bound and sometimes bed bound. Just in case you’re here looking for actual artist tips, I thought I’d be upfront with you as I don’t want you to be disappointed.
If you’re new to chronic illness or are bedbound or housebound for any other reason, you may be looking for things to do with your time. Let’s face it the days can become tediously long without much to do and after a while it really starts to wear on you. As some of you may know when I was first chronically ill I tried to learn crochet. It was fun, and with the literal step-by-step guidance of YouTube tutorials (and heavy use of the pause and rewind features) and stitch markers (brain fog), I made some neat blankets and little bits and bobs, but as with everything else in life, I learned a few things along the way. The thing about crochet is that, obviously, each project takes yarn, some take SO much yarn! I’m no longer able to just jump in the car and get new yarn (I’m no longer able to drive; my car was actually sold.), so I resorted to buying it online, but being rather new to yarn I never really knew if I was ordering the right product. Also, there’s an expense there, and I didn’t, and still don’t, have the money coming in to buy yarn. So, every purchase meant asking for money to do it, and then you struggle with the thought of ‘is this a need or a want’. Blah blah blah…if you’ve been there you know exactly what I mean. And lastly, my shoulder froze up and I had to stop, so that was the end of crochet for me. I have made a few little bits since with leftover yarn and hope to make another blanket someday but for now, I’m holding off. I will say, it’s a great project for those of us that spend our days in bed! It just helps to have a bit of knowledge about yarn, or the ability to get to the store to pick out your yarn, and a crafts income. So, without crochet I set off to find a new project. I’d wanted to take a watercolor class before I got sick (I’d never tried watercolor before, but I find it beautiful!), so I thought, since I’d learned so much about crochet through YouTube, that watercolors might be just the thing.
For my birthday that year I received a starter watercolor set. It had almost everything I needed. It contained: paint, paper, watercolor pencils, so many brushes, a color wheel, a small easel, and a few other things that I still have no idea what they are for. 😊 I started out by watching a few watercolor tutorial videos and realized that this was going to be a ‘learn as you go’ experience. I tried following along with a few tutorials but always felt like my work fell drastically short of the outcome of the artists. Actually, I still feel that way. So, I decided to just do my own thing. (Including a photo of my first attempt at watercolor here, and honestly, I’d hoped to get better over time, but don’t really feel that I have.)
I learned right away that the little wooden easel was awkward and hurt my legs, so I found a soft bound watercolor book to paint in as it provides the hard surface needed, while still being small, lightweight, and manageable. I will add that I only do bits at a time. My hands cramp up and pop in and out of socket (I know, weird) so I have to allow them to relax, and had to learn to pace myself. Pre-illness I was a blaze-from-one-project-to-the-next kind of person, so this was a big hurdle for me. I keep all my supplies within arms reach and the only thing that requires me to get out of bed is getting fresh water to rinse my brushes. The most recent addition to my watercolor journey has been an artist lamp for my nightstand lamp and it’s been a big help. It has a variety of brightness settings and it twists and turns in all kinds of directions. So that’s a bit about my journey, and below are a few things I’ve learned along the way, numbered in case you like to skip to the numbered parts (I don’t judge I’m totally guilty of doing this too to save spoons 😉):
- You can get a beginner watercolor set, which includes nearly everything you’d need to get started.
- Watercolor paint lasts seemingly forever! I’m still using paint from the original kit I received three years ago. I have received a few other paints as gifts, but I haven’t had to buy any new paints in three years. Don’t get me wrong, you can spend tons of money on paint if you want, but for me I don’t need fancy paint as the whole process is just for fun and healing.
- I’ve only had to replace one brush. Lesson learned on that one as I didn’t know you shouldn’t repeatedly leave your brush in water overnight. Oops, live in learn.
- The only real reoccurring expense has been paper, which isn’t really that much. It’s like $12 for 48 sheets and I order it on Amazon Prime. The watercolor book I use is pictured.
- Some people use easels on a bed tray or table, but I’ve found that the watercolor art journal provides enough backing to draw and paint without needing further support. Lifting my arms to the easel hurt my arms and neck but with the book I can rest my arms on pillows and the book in my lap. Another great thing about the books is that you can keep them on a book shelf to look through or pass down.
- It’s important to take breaks! Maybe start with your doodle, then in a couple hours or days, go back and start to fill in your doodle with color. Watercolor loves layers so it’s a perfect craft to spread out over time. Just don’t push so hard it becomes too painful or tedious.
- Have fun! A lot of MECFS people are very driven people. Try to keep in mind, you aren’t trying to make it a museum, you are relaxing your mind, body and soul. You are escaping chronic illness for a little bit, which helps relax and sooth your brain. There have been numerous studies showing the positive effects of art on the brain. I can tell you from personal experience it helps with pain management.
- And lastly, there are quite a few ‘spoonies’ on Instagram sharing their art. I would strongly encourage you to join in on a social media art community! All skill levels are welcome, trust me I’ve tested those waters, well actually I test them with nearly every post. 😊 It’s fun to join in and see what other people are working on and share a common interest with people from all over the world.
That’s about it for today folks. I thought I’d share what’s helped me over the past few years and explain to you all just how economical and low maintenance it is. I like to think that someday my grandchildren will be able to look at my doodle books and have a good giggle too.
And with that, a few more of my doodles below as I follow along with the July prompts on World Watercolor Group. Some of them are reposts as my energy levels have been lesser this week. If you have any tips or thoughts please share them in the comments! Hoping wherever you are in the world, your day has unexpected happiness. 🌼