Art Always Finds its Way Back

It’s been close to a month since I last posted regularly, but what can I say? I’ve been busy with all kinds of things in my time away. Life lately has been a whirlwind of love and loss and work and responsibilities and exercising (I’m still hanging in there!)… But even though “life” gets in the way, art always finds its way back.

The other day I stumbled upon a package of origami star strips. I remembered I used to like making them as a teen, so my creatively-deprived fingers quickly went to work. It was both relaxing and stimulating–it made me remember all of the things I liked to do, but wasn’t giving myself time to do. Folding each star was slowly pushing me towards balance.

Origami Stars

Few people know about my love of visual art, but I think even fewer people know that I like to write. Or I liked to, anyway. The last time I recall writing something (outside of daily journaling) was 2012 and before that, 2010. I don’t really know why I stopped, but the truth is that I miss it.

As I try to open this part of me back up, I’ll hopefully get to sharing some of my old writing along with any new snippets that come up. The following is something I wrote when I was in high school. I thought it appropriate given the inspiration for this post!

Wishing Stars (2005)

Published: In Relief (Mainland Regional HS) & Grimoire (La Salle University) literary magazines

I bought the narrow, glossy strips of folding paper from a small shop on the street corner, next to a bakery that sold pork-filled, steamed white buns and slushy fruit drinks with gummy tapioca pearls that settled at the bottom. I picked up a pack, attracted to the shiny swaths that glimmered like diamonds underneath the flickering fluorescent lighting.

“Those are wishing stars,” said a woman standing behind me. She wore a friendly smile on her face, her almond-shaped eyes almost disappearing in the amiable gesture. I realized she had been watching me all along, as she probably did with so many people day after day. I read the plastic name tag that was safety-pinned to her chest. Mi Yeon, it said, a spicy and exotic name.

“Wishing stars?” I repeated, turning the package over. Neatly tucked into the package was a set of directions depicting how to fold the stars along with explanations tidily typed in Korean.

“You fold them,” Mi Yeon explained. She pulled a strip of similar paper out of her pocket. Like a clown making balloons at a circus, she began to fold and twist the paper. Like a child at the circus, I watched in awe. I hardly realized that my mouth hung open as she pushed in the sides and pinched, forming five perfect points that gave birth to a tiny pink star. Mi Yeon placed it in my hands. “You fold them like this, pinch the ends, and you have a star. When you’re done you wish on them. You can give them to someone if you like. They make great presents.”

The performance had me sold and I walked out of the store with five packages of folding paper. I didn’t care that I hadn’t picked up on anything that Mi Yeon had shown me. I didn’t even care that I couldn’t read Korean. All I could think about were the potential wishes I had tucked away in my purse.

Artfully Megan Signature

Is there anything you feel like you should be getting back to? What is it and how to you hope to get there?

I Miss Journaling Circles!

I think many of us can agree that moving to a new place is scary. It’s not just adjusting to a new place and learning where all of the essentials (i.e. – grocery store, police department, post office, best pizza place…) are. It’s also about meeting new people and keeping in touch with those you left behind. Even though I’ve been living in Pennsylvania for almost 4 years now, certain aspects of my current lifestyle and the natural drifting apart make it hard to have the social life I wish I had.

It was this feeling that necessitated a change that drove me to join, a site where people with similar interests can coordinate gatherings with one another. I tried a few here and there and since I knew I was into the arts (though not actively practicing at that time), I went to my first Journaling Circles meetup in 2012.

Art Journal Page - Garden of Secrets

Art Journal Page from Journaling Circles – “Garden of Secrets”
Supplies: marker, gel pen, chip from old artwork


I can’t begin to express the impact it’s made on my life. The first way it’s changed me is that it’s helped me to release some of my inhibitions. Something I know I need to let go of is the need to always please others and be “perfect.” There’s a certain freedom that comes with going into a restaurant, pulling out your art supplies, and just going to town. It’s helped me understand the importance of “play” and experimentation in making art. It’s something purely for me and my own happiness and growth.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet other artists, which really helped to fulfill a social need–even if we met just once a month. There’s something special about meeting up with those that share your passion. I was exposed to different ideas, techniques, art supplies, and ways of seeing the world.

Sharing our journaling pages like we do at the end of every session was a tremendous help to me, too. I’m typically one to keep things bottled, mostly because I think no one’s interested and I find other people much more fascinating. But the more I came to Journaling Circles, the more I learned that everyone has a story to tell and knows things worth sharing–including me. It’s something that I still remind myself regularly, but opening up a little bit more about my own life and experiences has become a lot easier compared to when I first started attending.

Lastly (and potentially the most important), through Journaling Circles I learned to let my passion guide me. When art is such a deep part of you, you cannot and should not deny it. Being in a positive, encouraging, and creative environment has really helped me to focus on nurturing my inner artist and letting it be as big a part of my life as possible. I’m creating more artwork than I ever have before and rather than hiding the majority of it, I’ve shared many pieces on social media and with friends and family. It drove me to start this blog, which I hope to grow into something wonderful someday.

This is the first Monday of the month I won’t be attending Journaling Circles. The facilitator, Rosemary Augustine, will be moving out of state and embarking upon a grant new adventure. I wish her all the best and wanted to let her know how much I’ve enjoyed being part of the group. I know it’s not good-bye for any of us, but I’m forever thankful to everyone I’ve met through Journaling Circles for the inspiration and support!

Artfully Megan Signature

One-Color Watercolor: An Instructional

Now that my fingers have thawed out from the brutal temperatures and snowfall, I can properly share what I’ve been doing over my short hiatus! I think such is the life of any art hobbyist–“life” takes over, things get busy, and we can’t always do all of the things we intend. But I’ve been making the most of the time I’ve had these past couple of weeks and have managed to crank out a couple of pieces. Today’s post is going to be dedicated to the one-color watercolor!


When I was first learning how to use watercolors in high school, we were asked to complete this exercise. For me, this exercise was most beneficial in helping me learn how to control the medium.

One Color Watercolor - Warmup


  • Watercolor paper – Any kind will do as long as the surface is at least as large as 8″ x 10″ to give you room to practice. I chose my watercolor sketchbook.
  • Pencil/Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Watercolor – Choose one color. I chose black, but you can choose any color you like.
  • Brush – I prefer a flat shader brush, but use whatever you’re comfortable using.
  • Water


  1. Create a row of squares across your watercolor page with your ruler and pencil. I suggest giving yourself at least 1.5″ x 1.5″ so there’s enough room to focus on the colors. When I did it, I ended up with a row of 10 squares.
  2. Dark-to-Light: The first exercise is to move from dark to light. The goal is to progress from the strongest concentration of color to the weakest concentration of color. The leftmost square should be as dark as you can possibly get it (hint: the less water you use, the better!) and all subsequent squares will become lighter (hint: add more water!) until you reach the last square. The last square should look as though there is almost no color at all.
  3. Light-to-Dark: The second exercise is to move from light to dark. The goal is the opposite of the previous exercise–you’ll be moving from the weakest concentration of color to the strongest concentration of color. The leftmost square should be as light as you can possibly get it and all subsequent squares will become darker until you reach the last square. The last square should be the darkest concentration of color.

If you’ve done it correctly, you should end up with a spectrum ranging from very dark on one end to very light (almost non-existent) on the other. I haven’t done this warmup in a while and admittedly need more practice–a lot of the shades in the middle look alike!

The Result:

As you practice, you’ll be able to create one-color pieces with a variety of different shades. To me, using the variation in intensity feels a lot like when I do pencil drawings. The piece below was done on an artist square with black watercolor. The subject (as most of mine are these days) is a vintage photograph of Liza Minnelli I found while browsing the history boards of Pinterest.

Liza Minnelli fanart

I often like to section off a 0.5″ – 1″ border with painter’s tape. This serves 2 purposes: 1) to keep the watercolor paper from curling up when I paint it and 2) it often prevents pieces of the work from being cut off if I decide to mat and frame it. I also happen to like the clean look it has when the tape is removed.

Artfully Megan Signature

What has your experience been with watercolors? If you try this out, I’d be interested in hearing your experience!

Art Journal Page – Seasons of Life

While snowed in last week, I watched Frida, a biographical movie about Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. I’m not thoroughly familiar with her work, but I’ve liked everything I’ve seen and I enjoyed learning about her life. I really like her style and the personal nature of her work. She’s been quoted as saying: “I am my own muse; I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” Her words struck me because it’s a lot like what I try to achieve each time I sit down with my art journal. This art journal page is a result of some of that self-examination.

Art Journal Page - Seasons of Life

Art Journal Page – Seasons of Life
Supplies: watercolors, markers, pens, gel pens, colored pencil

A few years ago, I started listening to motivational podcasts. Many of the podcasts focused on the idea of asking for what you want—a concept so obvious, but so foreign. I wanted to give it a try so I asked. And I asked. And I asked! Doors closed and doors opened, but things were still changing very slowly or not at all. This year I suddenly find myself receiving many of the things I had been asking for all of these years. Am I ready for it? Do I even want it anymore? Maybe I’m just surprised that it’s actually happening… I certainly have a lot to journal about these days!

I started this page with an ink and colored pencil drawing. Then I laid down a background of watercolor and markers. I spruced up both backgrounds with patterns done in gel pen (check out my review on Gelly Roll Souffle gel pens—they work great on dark colors!) and fine point colored pen. The text I chose is from “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, a song I’ve always liked and continually feel is appropriate. I’m not yet comfortable with decorative writing, so I based the way I wrote it on a computer font. I added a drop shadow with grey pen to help it stand out a bit more.

Artfully Megan Signature

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by getting something you really wanted? How has art helped you to cope with changes?

Getting Back into Watercolors

I still remember when I was introduced to watercolors in high school. I wasn’t sure I was going to like them because of their reputation that they’re hard to control. It didn’t make anything better for me that I was issued a very basic 8-pan set. If I wanted any other color outside of the basics, I had to make it myself. But somewhere along the way, watercolors grew to be my favorite medium. They went from being among the hardest to control to being one of the easiest—and surprisingly one of the most forgiving. As my understanding of color theory grew, the “limited” palette became a welcomed challenge rather than a hindrance.Artfully-Megan-Landscape-Watercolor

My recent use of watercolors has been limited to my art journal and mixed media projects. I have been trying to get back to my old favorites—landscapes and portraits. I like to take my time with these subjects, but I don’t always have that time. This is probably the reality for every creative and I’m still learning how to nourish my inner artist in the face of these time constraints.

I’ve been trying to set myself up for success by choosing projects I know I’ll be able to finish. I purchased a pack of artist tiles and they’re probably among the smallest surfaces I’ve worked on. I’m a fan of small brushes, so it was a treat trying to work the detail into a smaller area.

Artist Tile - Portrait

Over the next several weeks, I’m hoping to get some posts together about how I learned to love watercolor. I’d like to share some of the techniques I thought really helped me to grow as an artist. Hopefully it will inspire some of you and I’ll get to learn new things, too!

Artfully Megan Signature

Do you like using watercolors? What are your favorite ways to use them?