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?

Nala’s Adoption Story

I believe reflection through journaling helps you become more attuned to the things that change your life. Everything, no matter how big or small, has an impact. One thing that has definitely influenced my life is when I adopted my cat, Nala, three years ago this week.

Cat Journal Page

Art Journal Page – “Crazy Cat Lady”
Supplies: watercolor, crayon, collage, gel pen, marker


I became a full-fledged transplant in the summer of 2011, leaving my hometown in South Jersey to live the dream in corporate America. There was a lot of excitement around this new life, but it was (and continues to be, in some ways) very lonely. A few of my co-workers and long distance friends recommended getting a cat. As someone who’s only raised goldfish, this was completely foreign territory!

I eased into it slowly and soon the extensive research progressed into compulsively visiting the animal shelter website. Every day I would check to see what new friends they had and one day I found myself inside the shelter. It was supposed to be an exploratory visit—a “look, but don’t take home” kind of visit until…

“Can I help you?” asked a shelter employee.

“No, just looking,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking about getting a cat.”

“Oh, well we have plenty! Just look around and if you have any questions, let me know. If you find one you like, we can help you meet with them.”

“Thank you! I haven’t had a pet before, so this is all new,” I admitted as I began to browse the cattery. I cheerfully peered into each cubby, every step pushing me closer to pet ownership.

Nala the Cat

I selected three cats to meet with separately. The first was a (very) large, playful white cat named Snowball and the second was a serene, blue-eyed tuxedo named Mr. Teddy. Adorable as they were, I wasn’t convinced the fit was right. And then there was Nala, a 1-2 year-old brown tabby recently surrendered to the shelter.

She caught my attention when I approached her cubby. She meowed, reached out her paw, and purred. She was friendly and affectionate as I cradled her in my arms. When I set her down, she poked around the room, stopping to warmly rub her head against my hand. I hadn’t planned on taking a cat home that day, but I’d fallen in love and it was far too late.

The next few months were definitely an adjustment for both of us. I became familiar with feeding, hairballs, and other fine aspects of cat ownership. She adapted to my constant cuddles and attention. The decision I was extremely nervous about became the decision that couldn’t have been more right.

Nala the Cat

Suddenly my days became less lonely and I felt a little more grounded. We had our home together and we were friends. Our relationship has been the subject of many art journal pages and my daily journal is filled with the crazy cat stuff she’s done. I can’t imagine my life without her and I truly consider it changed for the better.

Artfully Megan Signature

Have you adopted a pet? What was your story and how has it changed you?

Art and Life: An Unbreakable Link

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve slowly started sharing with the people in my life that I blog. I’m finding that it’s difficult even though most of these people already know that I’m into art. I think the difficulty stems from the fact that I keep most aspects of my life heavily guarded and private (it was hard enough to share my lifelong resolution), but to me, art and life are joined by an unbreakable link.

Art Journal Page - Creativity Takes Courage

Art Journal Tile – “Creativity Takes Courage” (Henri Matisse)
Supplies: rubber cement, watercolor, black pen, gel pen

Admitting that I keep an art blog is intimidating because art can be a place to be vulnerable. It’s a place where I put myself out there. It’s a place where I can freely experiment without judgment or consequence. It’s a place where raw emotion meets a tangible surface in a beautiful, expressive collision. For me, it’s not only a place where I learn and discover new techniques–it’s a place where I learn about and discover myself.

Creativity certainly takes courage–not just the courage to make, but also the courage to share. When I look at my story and why I chose to start blogging in the first place, it gives me the courage to continue. Letting the creativity back in has transformed my life and I’m hoping to make a connection with those that feel the same way.

Do you find it hard to share your artwork and/or blog with others? 

Artfully Megan Signature