Something as Beautiful

I was so totally struck by the perfection of my infant children.  It made me want to paint!  I even wanted to sculpt their sweet faces in clay (I wonder if anyone can relate?).  It is clear, even in just the blog world, that I am not the only one inspired by motherhood.  I wanted to see what it was like to create something so beautiful.  Not a perfectly rendered copy but I wanted to document what I saw and understand it deeper than you can from just seeing.  The way taking notes helps you remember material from a lecture or book.

Their proportions are so cute.  Their skin is so squishy soft and features so delicate.  They way they position their bodies.  I made lots of these paintings after work and on the weekends during a very productive time before becoming pregnant with my second.

I created a nice little portable and economical kit and process for myself.  Portable because if you want to draw and paint from life you must do it where the action is!  And economical because quality art supplies can be expensive!  I can use it at home and take it with us anywhere!

Portable watercolor (gouache) studio

My palette; as you can see I put white in 3 wells (2 that I can get a little dirty and one I keep clean)

  • An old tote-bag to keep everything in
  • Several full sheets of hot pressed watercolor paper: I love the smooth finish!  Currently Dick Blick has Arches 90lb full sheets for $4.79/each.  I then cut them down to 5 1/2 X 7 1/2’s (works out to 30 cents a sheet).  This is much cheaper than watercolor blocks and you won’t have to worry about wasting a sheet here and there.
  • Small plastic portable palette: Mine is about 5 X 10 inches with a hinging lid and mixing trays.  It also has a thumb hole for holding which is nice for a portable palette.  Here is a similar one of nice quality (no hole though).
  • Gouache set plus extra white: I like this set of 12 from Holbein.  I use the gouache like watercolor but if I make a mistake or want to change something I have the option of building up the paint as opaque.  I find Holbein to be a good value.  I add the paint to the palette, let it dry out, and use it over and over!  Some of the colors do tend to break up when dry.  I cut a piece of cardboard which I sandwich in the palette as I am closing it which prevent the broken chunks of paint from escaping their wells.  I think a custom cut piece from a foam tray would work even better.  I have yet to find a watercolor palette with sealable wells!
  • A clipboard for a work surface (or 2 so you can get started on a second while the first is drying).
  • Drafting tape for taping down your paper; I add a full length piece on all 4 sides to keep the sheet from buckling.  Drafting tape is a little less sticky than regular masking tape and won’t damage your paper.
  • A small assortment of brushes and a large ziplock bag to keep them in:  For as small as I work, I still use a pretty big brush.  I like to work fast and a big brush allows you to do that.  About 90% of the time I use a number 10 watercolor brush.  I also have a 1 inch flat brush for washes, a number 6 for details, and a small number 1 just in case.  Just make sure they are good quality!  You want them to hold a lot of water and form and hold a nice point.
  • An HB pencil with a eraser tip
  • A plastic dish for water
  • Some paper towels or reusable material for blotting (squares cut from an old t-shirt work great)

How I work…

First I tape a piece of paper on my clipboard.  I do about a 5 minute drawing from life lightly with my pencil starting with the child.  The environment can be pieced in after.  It is best to catch small children while they are sitting and focused on quiet play.  You will have to put up will small movements, maybe you get the head from one post and the arm from another but if you work fast you should be able to capture the overall gesture.  Once you have your drawing you can take your time with the painting.  I add a few drops of water to each well to reconstitute the paint.  Then I simply color in my drawing!  After that I add some simple shading and tone variation to creation depth.  Then I let it dry on the clipboard to avoid buckles entirely.

Want to see another?  I posted one on my Facebook fan page.  Oh and while you’re there please like Doodles and Jots on Facebook if you haven’t already!

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How has becoming a mother inspired you?  Please share!


I'm a practical mom inspired by nature & I enjoy sharing ideas that encourage kids' innate curiosity & creativity. Interested in subscribing? Check out the blue box at the top of my sidebar. I'm also a wannabe author/illustrator & product designer by day. Let's connect! If you purchase through my Amazon links I get a small commission at no additional cost to you (thanks for supporting Doodles and Jots)! And remember to always credit your source here & elsewhere on the internet.


  1. I love this peep behind the scenes of your artist life! I’ve never taken an art course and I know almost nothing about it, but with your setup description, maybe I can try it out for me and my kids sometime…
    Elisa | blissfulE recently posted..7 quick takesMy Profile

    • Thanks I’m glad you like it! You know if kids are participating I would change some of the supplies and the process just a little. Maybe I will add a follow up post – thanks for the idea. Portable art for kids!

  2. Ann: Thank you for taking the time to explain how you work and make it portable! I love the tips. Love both the pieces you did. I appreciate the kind comments on my blog. To answer your question, I haven’t done any step by step posts yet, but will do so soon. I never thought to do that. Thank you…. I was given a set of watercolors in tubes, I will break them out soon. I was very intimidated by them.
    Winnie recently posted..Say "Happy Birthday" with Butterflies!My Profile

  3. I love this post and I love that painting. I work in a similar way, using artist tape to attach my watercolor paper to my board. My watercolor set of choice is Yarka St. Petersburg pan colors. I found a terrific deal at an art store in college (now out of business, sadly) but they sell the set on and I get my replacement pans from there.

    I haven’t used gouache in years but this post has inspired me not only to want to do some paintings from the viewpoint of motherhood, but also to try my hand at gouache again. I think mine may all be dried out by now, so I will need to buy some more.
    Krista recently posted..Week’s EndMy Profile

    • Neat! Thanks, Krista! Me too!!! You might be able to salvage your paint by peeling off the tubes and putting the chucks in the wells with a little water. It is worth a try since they are so $$$.

      Those replaceable pans are so great. I do wish they sold good quality gouache that way because I hate how it breaks up.

    • Thanks! Not so sure how much it actually looks like her. Fascinating to create the study, though.

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