Free Watercolor Demo

In my previous post Striking a Balance I introduced some of my favorite watercolor books, including "Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor" by Soon Y. Warren as well as a free online demo from the book made available by the publisher. Here is another free online demo from the book that shows you how to use complimentary colors when painting objects from nature arranged against a background with a complimentary color.

Free Download: Soon Y. Warren on Using Complementary Colors

Simple Stunning Flowers

photo by yellowgoatdesign on flickr - creative commons license

If you have a little extra money to splurge, my favorite choice is peonies. A few blooms will making an amazing display. But if you are on a tighter budget you can still making some very tasteful arrangements using everyday flowers from the grocery store.

photo by tanakawho on flickr - creative commons license

A simple bouquet of yellow solidagos and blue statice can make a stunning, but inexpensive and very full display. And the best part is that they dry really beautifully - in fact the blue statice will not fade and looks stunning against the mellow dried solidagos.

The solidagos and blue statice are set in a inexpensive rustic vase I found at a local rummage store

The same concept can be applied to other inexpensive flowers. As long as you avoid the mixed bouquets which are often rather tacky and opt for one big splash of color by using only one or two types of flower, even those who claim they don't know how to arrange flowers can make a fancy looking arrangement.

Use unconventional containers as vases, such as small colorful glass bottles for a simple arrangement in the bathroom or even canning jars for - GASP - baby's breath :) Baby's breath will actually look charming as long as you don't use it with a mixed bouquet or roses.

Sometimes flower arranging is about thinking outside of the box and stretching the budget to go a little further.


I take a deep breath and dive, always amused at how different things look underwater. It is a Wednesday afternoon and we almost have the local pool to ourselves. We used to work conventional 9-5 jobs. It seem a lifetime ago, and it wasn't always 9-5, especially for Tim.

The boys attended school like most other kids up until 5 months ago. So I can confidently say that we get to spend a lot more time together now than we used to. I think more than most families who balance work and family life outside the home. It is just another of the many benefits of home schooling and working from home.

Emil took this picture of Esben and me

But I guess as is so often the case with people, before we try it and see the benefits we tend to weigh all the cons. Before I had children the responsibility and hassle of raising kids seemed like a much bigger deal than they turned out to be once I actually became a mother. Likewise, the most common reaction when people find out that we home school is "WOW, I could NEVER do that!"

Emil making muffins with Tim

I used to think that way to. Well, I didn't really realize that it would benefit me too, not just the kids. I mainly thought of all the work, wondered whether I would be qualified and consistent enough. In fairness, I will say, I am fortunate to share the work with Tim. And the joys. Homeschooling is not just sitting at home doing work sheets or giving lessons. There are activities with other families that home school, a few classes they attend in subjects we don't feel we can teach and lots of sports. This means everyday they get to socialize with kids in addition to playing with the neighborhood kids. Much of my work with the boys right now involves reading together, discussion things we read, researching, experimenting, going on field trips, going swimming, baking, watching a movie about something we are studying and so on. And questions, lots of questions. Sometimes questions that totally stump me. Once in a while we do play hooky. We just take a day off. Which we can afford to do because we carried on learning throughout the summer.

Over the summer the boys have practiced their freestyle and can give us a run for our money. I take another deep breath and let myself sink under water. For a moment I feel myself melt into the blue as I am filled with contentment. A second later I am tackled by Esben, who has figured out that bouncing up and down underwater is a lot of fun. Emil is focused on doing his laps, determined to swim more than Tim once again.

Maybe in a later post I will reveal a few of the pitfalls of home schooling and working from home ... although I confess one of them is still being on the computer at 2 am, when I should be snuggled up in bed.

Striking a Balance

Click on the photo for an online demo from the book Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren

Most people think of watercolor as a medium best suited and usually used for quick, fluid compositions. But like any other medium, it can be used to create amazing detail, elaborated planned and executed paintings or quite simply paintings that spring alive. Finding this balance can be hard.

When I first started painting with watercolors as a child I mainly painted the Scandinavian landscapes where powerful skies, rolling hills and life by the sea lends itself very well to less fussy, quick paintings. Frankly so did my personality. Only with maturity did I learn some measure of patience. And techniques for improving my watercolors. Combining the fluid, almost zen like confidence of eastern brush painting with carefully painted, layered details is now my preferred style. One such example was the watercolors I painted for the card titled "Mandarin Ducks", although when I paint for the ecards I tend to paint backgrounds separate from the objects of the painting so that they can be animated.

Click on the mandarin duck to see the card "Mandarin Ducks"

There are a number of great watercolor books but I will just mention a few of the ones I have found most inspiring and helpful.

Light Up Your Watercolor Layer by Layer by Linda Moyer is more helpful for somewhat experienced watercolor artists who want to take their painting to the next level in my opinion, although it is apparently geared to even novice painters with coverage of some more basic things like color theory and studio setup. The techniques described will take some practice and lots of patience to master but are well worth it.

Watercolor Depth And Realism: 5 Simple Techniques For Adding Dimension To Your Paintings by Laurie Humble is another favorite of mine. I think the cover almost speaks for itself, but again best for intermediate watercolor artists.

Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren is another advanced book that merges some Eastern aesthetics with western watercolor techniques. The publisher has given access to a demo from the book, so you can get a taste. The layering of washes of primary colors shown in this demo illustrates one of the most important techniques I learned to take my paintings to a new level.

Ode to Peonies

"Peony Profusion" by Jean Cole

The paintings of watercolor artist Jean Cole shows just how powerful watercolor paintings can be. Her stunning work titled "Peony Profusion" is one of my favorites. Click on the link under the photo to access her website and see more of her work.

Photo by ballookey on flickr

Peonies are grand, magnificent flowers. Little wonder then that they have inspired myths and folklore and are revered in the East as a symbol of good luck, romance and honor. And little wonder that artists continue to find fascination with this subject in paintings and photographs - even in ecards as my card "Peony" illustrates :)

Photo by ballookey on flickr

Photo by ballookey on flickr

Soap Beautiful

photo by Thomas Hawk on flickr

As an artist I am incredibly sensitive to color and my surroundings. I love fresh flowers and little touches in my daily life that give me joy to behold. And when the urge comes to spruce things up a little, it doesn't mean having to splurge or repaint the whole house. Here is a simple idea for making the bathroom a little more attractive.

I recently stumbled on this fantastic little wooden pedestal stand, a vintage piece from Japan that was bought rather inexpensively locally (less than $10).

I use it to hold extra soaps in the bathroom. I have a favorite olive oil soap I like to use, but the packaging is anything but beautiful. So instead a cut strips of decorative paper and wrap them around each soap, securing with a small piece of tape. The result looks luxurious and pampering. You could use a big glass jar as well to hold soaps, natural sponges and wash cloths - or ceramic plates or bowls - just make sure they are placed somewhere they will not be knocked down. I keep my towels and this soap stand on a an antique wooden teak towel stand outside the bathroom, which also eliminates any issues with moisture.

The Art of Origami

photo by cedison on flickr

As you have probably realized by now, I like origami. I like the fact that you can take something as humble as a piece of paper and make something really beautiful, functional, imaginative and expressive simply by folding it. Now, I say "simply" by folding it, but honestly, it is not always simple.

photo by etringita on flickr

Sometimes even when an origami designer has gone through all the trouble of coming up with an amazing design and has outlined each step carefully, people like me, who don't seem to possess the origami kind of mind get confused, little pebbles of sweat appearing on our brow as we unconsciously stick our tongue out and to the side of our mouth while we wrestle with this humble little piece of paper that just WON'T submit to us.

Photo and design by polyscene

So my hat's off to all those frontier breaking origami designers who continue to come up with new ways of using origami to make clothing, fabric, home decor, art, etc. etc. etc.

Amazing crane designed by Roman Diaz and Daniel Naranjo

check out the Octuple Helix Compass Rose Jar from the fitful flog origami designer Philip Chapman-Bell

Teach your kids, it will increase their patience and small motor skills while having fun at the same time. With this in mind, you can look forward to another card planned for the holiday season which will feature more paper folding arts with instructions on how to fold it yourself.

photo by Markybon on flickr

In the meantime, you can send the three cards I have already created about folding paper

Click on a thumbnail to preview the card.

You should also check out these fascinating blogs about origami which might even inspire you to get started folding away as well.

origami tessellations by amazing designer Eric Gjerde
fitful flog by origami designer Philip Chapman-Bell
polyscene works by Polly Verity

Some books to consider are Origami Art by Michael G. LaFosse and Richard L. Alexander, Advanced Origami: An Artist's Guide to Performances in Paper by Michael G. LaFosse and Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art by Robert J. Lang. There are of course many other basic books on origami, some of which will be more suitable for beginners and kids. It should be noted that the design of the butterfly in my first origami card was by Michael G. LaFosse and used with his permission.

Hot Off the Press eCard

I am delighted to announce our 60th card, called "Hot off the Press", which is suitable for many different occasions. With wonderfully detailed hand painted watercolors and animation, this card is set in sepia tones and lets you print your very own "headline" and special message on the front page of a newspaper. You can even include a photo with the card - black and white photos work especially well - to round out the effect and making a big front page splash.

Hot off the Press

We are sorry that the link of the ecard "You've Got Mail" in our last newsletter went to a different card. Below is the correct one!

You've Got Mail

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An "every day should be Father's Day" brunch

Sunday brunch was something I always looked forward to when we lived in New England, especially on those blustery days when you could barely get yourself to take the first cold dip out of your cozy warm bed.

While we will have to wait a few more months before the weather starts getting anywhere near cool here, nonetheless it has cooled off enough that cooking brunch doesn't have to feel like being a short-order cook in a blazing hot inferno of a greasy diner.

So this past Sunday I let Tim sleep in while I whipped up a nice brunch, the boys went to the shop to fetch the paper and set the table.

Ojolie customer service gets to sleep in late on Sundays :)

I do happen to agree with those who say that everyday should be .... (insert your own choice of Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentines, etc.) - and not just because I make ecards ;) And not just because Tim actually helps out with all the responsibilities that come with raising and homeschooling two boys - although I AM grateful for that - but also the joys of playing a game of cards together, going for a swim, or planning our next camping trip.