If you are suffering from a creative block and your sketchbook is looking sad and empty, today I’m sharing art projects for when you are bored and don’t know what to paint. Whether you are blocked, if you are a beginner and don’t know where to start, or you just want to fill up your sketchbook, these are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and make art fun again.
Be sure to watch today’s video for more details and examples:
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For all of these projects, I’m using my Strathmore sketchbook. I love it because you can paint on both sides of the paper and it is just the perfect size. Mixed media means we will be using something in addition to the watercolor paints - and today that is going to be a white gel pen.
We start by painting four imperfect squares across the two pages. I am using a very earthy palette with a sea-green gray, brown, a yellow ochre, and of course another gray. Once the squares are dry, I’m using my white gel pen, the Uni-ball Signo, to do some fun floral doodles on each square. They can be as intricate or as simple as you want to give you a nice contrast of shapes.
All of these projects are great for trying out some new color palettes. They are perfect for experimenting and finding new favorites.
For this one, I have mixed a nice sepia brown (brown with black) that is very saturated. I’m using my favorite pointed round brush to practice my brushwork. It has a very fine point for thin lines for the petals and flowers and then I use the belly of the brush to drag it across the page to create the darker leaves. I like sable hair and synthetic brushes and am using both for these projects. Again, I’m painting on both pages and treating the watercolor a lot like ink, by focusing on the line detail.
Rules for this one are to use one color, think about doing things in different sizes, and leave some negative space. The whole thing will come together beautifully and be very sophisticated.
The first step for this one is to choose your color palette. With the watery paints all mixed, I can play with color and form on the page. I paint rounded shapes and by letting the corners touch you can see the blending and overlap. Try not to overthink it and just have fun with the shapes.
While the underlay is drying I’ve mixed very dark black paint to do a silhouette over top. Of course, I chose botanical, but you could do anything on this one. It could be some abstract shapes, a scribbled line drawing, or a silhouette. Using my pointed round brush, I used the tip for the delicate lines and stems and dragged the belly of the brush across for the leaves. Work out a loose and lovely silhouette for a beautiful finish.
If you aren’t comfortable with the black watercolor or your brushwork you can use another medium. Try ink, brush pens, or even a sharpie or marker to draw your silhouette.
This one is probably my favorite of these projects. I start with a frame of washi tape to keep the edges nice and clean. This time, choose your color palette with a watery theme in mind: any shades of blue and green. I am using a teal, dark navy, and a lighter blue-gray. Grabbing from the three colors, I start at the bottom of the rectangle and make a random shape across the page. Letting it be thinner in one area and getting thick in spots will keep it more natural. Leave some negative space so the white of the page adds highlights as well. As I get to the top of the page, my lines get thinner and I use more of the light gray.
In the top section, I use peach to add a sun just peeking over the horizon line. The sky is light pink and has some fluffy clouds that you can only just see. The best part is taking off the tape to see that crisp white border. It is such a simple piece, but sign it and date it or give it a little title and you could include this in a gallery wall.
If you are just getting into painting with watercolors or painting flowers and leaves, this one is great to practice. It is all about loose flowers that are very simple to paint. I chose a simple color palette of peach and pink for the flowers and a warm brown for the leaves. The peach flower is simply a swirl or circle and the pink is four loose petals. By putting them right next to each other, the colors can blend and mix as well. Dragging the brush out creates some very simple leaves. I keep everything loose, let it blend, and don’t add any details.
Once it is dry you can use a black brush pen, like a Koi or Tombow, to add detail. I still want to keep it very light, adding some dotting or lines for the stamens and one line per leaf. To tie it all together and make it pop, I add some black leaves. The brush pen works in the same way so you can drag it to create a thicker line for the leaves.
This is another variation of the silhouette, with messy splotches of color and the simple silhouettes overtop. Experiment with your color palette and play with the watercolor paint, try blooms or wet into wet to see what happens. Whatever you end up with, you can then add your line drawing or silhouette over top.
I like doing the botanical silhouettes, using the tip of my pointed round brush. Again, you could use that brush pen or a sharpie if you aren’t comfortable with your brushwork yet. I chose four stems, overlapping slightly but keeping it very delicate to create a nice vertical piece.
Experiment! These exercises and filling your sketchbook is all about practice and experimentation. It’s the perfect time to try some new techniques when you are keeping things simple.
Sun and Moon
My last project is a popular sun and moon design. I chose pink, peach, brown, and gray for my color palette and have them ready so I can use all of them at once. Start with a washi tape rectangle on the page and put your sun on the bottom edge. I am making sure that each of the rays goes right onto the tape, that they are not quite uniform and the colors do not follow a pattern. By switching it up and by making some mistakes, it will come together really nicely.
On the opposite page, I am doing a moon phase painting. Starting with the full moon in the center I am adding the waning and waxing moons on either side. I keep it symmetrical and simple and it is the perfect pair for our sun.
When you don’t know what to paint, painting something that you can feel confident in is a great way to get back into being creative.