Playing with Watercolor

By Kate Riley July 20, 2015

I was feeling extra irritable this weekend, restless too, and for no apparent reason at all. Usually a trip to the gym gets that out of my system but after that I still felt out of sorts, so I turned to another source of distraction: painting. Out came my brushes, paints, and tray, I had some ideas and I wanted to play around with them.

brushes paints and tray

I’m drawn to the beauty of an authentic brushstroke, whether the source is a child, an amateur like me, or a professional. I’ve taken a few art classes in my life but don’t consider myself an artistic painter by any means, I do like to dabble in it for therapeutic reasons, also it’s a sensory thing.

I like swirling around paint and combining colors, it relaxes me. Sometimes my efforts work, sometimes not so much, but whatev. I find the process more important than the result.

plaid brush strokes


ferns sample


watercolor sploches

“Pinterest Perfect.” It’s a phrase now, one we are keenly aware of, from the bloggers who make their living being creative to the moms just trying to do their best. I know, I’m both. It’s a tired conversation for me “Everything is so perfect on Pinterest” and we hate that yet as DIY bloggers that’s always nagging in the back of our minds. Is my backdrop textured and inventive? Did I style the photo well enough so that visitors Pin it for future reference? Because my income/clout/future opportunities may depend on that. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud, but it’s real.

I do a lot of thinking whenever I’m involved in the creative process. Will this idea work? Will it succeed or fail? Am I doing it for a good reason? Who defines failure or success? Social media or me?

watercolor paints and brushes


The answer is me. Or you. Or your child/husband/best friend etc. Sure social media is powerful, but even the best of them are vulnerable to less influence. I get how important social media is, it’s how we share information in the modern world. But I do get weary of the constant demand for attention from others so I wonder how much should I promote myself? How much time should I be spending on social media? And then I always fall back on this: log off, live your life, and if people want to see what you’re up to, they’ll stop by and visit the blog.

abstract watercolor brushstrokes

Frankly, there are websites/blogs that bother me with their constant interruption in my feed, those headlines that overpromise to get clicks but never deliver. Then there are people (designers, artists, do-gooders) doing amazing quality work who should be recognized, they are the ones that deserve attention, we should highlight them.

watercolor stripes


washi tape grid

Did you know washi tape (or repositionable artist’s tape) is great for creating white space when you’re painting? When you peel back the layers (like with people) you reveal something imperfect and beautiful.

peel back washi tape

‘You never know until you try’ is the old adage and it’s true. Flowers, ferns, botanicals, I never tire of them, but I didn’t know I could paint them until I tried.

watercolor botanicals

It’s so important to extend yourself, to try, to play, regardless of whether you succeed or fail. A little effort outside your comfort zone? That’s where growth happens. Next, I want to paint peonies and pansies and palm leaves, time and practice will make it so. For now simply mixing colors in an abstract way will satisfy.

watercolor swirls

My efforts led to a few charming note cards with a hand painted personal touch.

set of watercolor note cards

I used my scanner to import my simple watercolor paintings into Photoshop Elements, then layered them together (dots, leaves, etc.) and added font to create note cards.

add font in photoshop elements


scan layer leaves in PE



trio watercolor note cards


note cards watercolors

You can download them at the links below if you’d like to use them for yourself, just print them on 8 ½ x 11 cardstock and pair them with an envelope:

watercolor grid blank card / botanical leaves thank you card / watercolor thinking of you cardblue stripe hello card / watercolor dot happy birthday card

My priorities remain the same and I don’t see them changing: to blog on my terms, to keep myself and my family happy and healthy, and to provide you all with a little inspiration from time to time. Thanks so much for reading and for sticking around. :)


  1. Your photos look so pretty and eye catching against the white backround of Your blog.I can tell You’re very talented with Your art and the computer. I’m an old Grannie just entertaining Myself with blogging and I’ve made several “pen pals” through the Years. Blogging and My arts and crafts also help free Myself of the problems of this life as You spoke of. Blessings to You and Yours.I enjoyed Myself here visiting with You-Denise

  2. First, I love how your note cards turned out! Second, I really appreciate your thoughts on social media. It’s something I struggle with a lot as a newbie DIY blogger. The constant self-promoting makes me uncomfortable and I haven’t done much of it. But I also feel like if I don’t do it at all, nobody will ever find my blog. It’s a tough balancing act.

  3. Very well said. I have been playing around with the idea of starting my own blog, but I hold back for fear of having to neglect my family and home more than I should. Do I put something out everyday, three days a week, four?? This helps to know that it can be done. There is a balance to be struck between the demands of home and family and of satisfying one’s readers/followers. I would guess that is something that one figures out along the way after diving in the blogging world!

  4. I like the idea of blogging as meaning you live your life, but just blog the highlights! No need to share everything or every day. If we all remain glued to our lap tops, we’re not really living. I often feel refreshed taking a step back from social media & redirecting my focus back to my family & what really matters. Spending too much time online, for me, means that I’m being a passive observer of other people’s lives.

  5. Good post. First of all, it’s nice to be reminded to creativity should be playful rather than a humorless pursuit of perfection. Your watercolor pieces are charming and even if they weren’t, so what! Second, I find a lot of the interior design blogs boring and contrived with ever so artfully arranged, forced-looking, phony ‘vignettes.’ I’m more impressed when someone can put together a whole room or house that’s comfortable & stylish and actually looks like humans live & function there. There, that’s my two cents! :-)

  6. I really love your thoughts on this post. I often think about the same things with regards to social media. Trying to find that ever elusive balance!

    Thank you for sharing these stunning prints – the thank you card is my favourite! I will definitely be using that one for the next friend that needs a special thanking.

    x Kristi

  7. Your notecards are beautiful! I just recently came back to my blog after about 6 months and I was floored at how much I enjoyed looking back on the things I’d done…after I’d told myself repeatedly that I was done blogging! And right there I decided I blog for me–I hope that doesn’t sound selfish. I spend every waking minute sewing, cooking or gardening for my family. Blogging makes me slow down, organized my thoughts like a journal and helps me keep track of what I’ve done. I humor myself that maybe years from now, my kids might look back at it as well (do these things ever disappear?). And if I can inspire/help anyone else in the process, it’s a huge bonus. I don’t do any of it to for income; I respect those that do, and can imagine the stress that would put on it but I just don’t think anyone should have to “force” any of it or “cater” to what might make more money while compromising their own time, creativity, etc. Personally, I snap quick pictures and call it good. But again, I’m not in it for income.

  8. Love the topic! I had a little blog for a short bit of time. I started it to give myself a forum for writing, I didn’t promote it in any way. I felt each post had to be excellent and a great read. Frankly, I couldn’t live up to my standard! I practice law and didn’t need the extra pressure of what to blog about next. So, I stopped doing it. I suspect many don’t realize how much effort it takes to put together a well executed post. Of course, just doing that doesn’t create a following. That’s a whole other game, one I didn’t really aspire to. I find your blog a lovely break from my day. You bring more to the table, not just in terms of design ideas, but in thoughtful comment. I see so many blogs go from good to nothing special. They start out as interior design and the next thing all they are about is gift guides for the next upcoming holiday. Keep up the good work!

  9. That’s very kind April, and thanks so much everyone else, very sweet comments today :)

  10. Wow, it’s amazing to me that you have those days too where you wonder “should I being doing more or doing something differently to move my blog forward?” You are one of the most successful bloggers that I know and the one who introduced me to DIY blogs and why I now have my own DIY blog. I’m probably the only blogger who doesn’t have a Facebook page and I rarely post on Instagram but every time I think about doing those things I feel in my heart that now is not the time….maybe in 3 years when all 4 of my kids are in school? I follow my gut and not what everyone else is doing and I try to focus on connecting with my readers on my blog and providing them with excellent diy and interior design inspiration. I definitely have those days too though when I second guess myself. Thank you for sharing this post! You are amazing and so inspiring!! Just keep following your heart!:-)

  11. I have been following your blog since 2008, I believe. That is when I started my own blog, originally as a means to promote my Etsy shops, although that was never really what I did. I promoted other peoples’ shops more than my own! You were still practicing law at that time, I think. Anyway, I have always loved your ideas and designs and can’t imagine that you would need to do anything differently to promote your blog. I have a paltry 120+ followers and I am very happy to have those since my blog is not a design blog, doesn’t host parties or fit into any nice little genre and I disappear from time to time when life throws me a curve, as it often does. I keep thinking that one day it will become something all together different that will attract viewers and have them begging to pay me for ad space. Ha! In the meantime, yours is one that is always a lovely and interesting place to visit.
    Your artwork is lovely, your free downloads were thoughtful and your words were interesting. Thank you for never disappointing!

  12. Love your creations, they are the kind of cards I like to receive – heartfelt and handmade.

    I want to shout out….Amen Sister! :-) on your thoughts on social media. I especially liked what you wrote about the websites/blogs with their constant interruption in your life, whose headlines over promise to get clicks but never deliver. They never ever deliver. It is all hype with a set in stone marketing script to get clicks to their next sales pitch. I stopped looking and clicking and have learned to not waste my time when I see an over promise. I can now spot them right away.

    Just keep doing what you are doing and you will stay successful and happy.

  13. As a blog reader for a long time, not writer (since the beginning of blogging). I have seen blogs evolve from whoever, whenever, journal type spaces to more of a magazine style with people self-promoting, and advertising. For me I read blogs not for magazine type inspiration, but real people, real life inspiration. Somehow over the years you have continued to produce high magazine quality articles, but that still feel personal. I never feel like in reading an advertisement because someone sent you free stuff to review. Keep up the inspiring good work. Yours is one of my favorite blogs to read!

  14. I am in awe of your creativity and design know-how and how much you accomplish! Thank you for sharing all of your ideas and for being such a humble, down-to-earth woman. Love this post and your take on social media and reaching a balance in your life.

  15. So true!! I used to write a cooking blog. But the truth is, it stopped being a fun creative outlet. A commercially successful blog is a full-time job and requires far more time, funding, and energy that I was willing to put into it.

    I work 40 – 60 hours per week with some overnight travel, and I wasn’t going to buy a $600 camera and a $700 (or whatever) Photoshop package for my little blog. It did what it needed to do – I long-distance taught my best friend, my sister, and a surprising number of strangers how to make my favorite recipes. I’m impressed with you and the other bloggers I read regularly – it’s hard work. And I’m glad you do it, and share your great ideas with so many of us!

  16. Loving your balanced take on the importance of social media in building & maintaining one’s own personal brand. I discovered you & your blog around two years ago & am a huge fan of you writing style & your projects.
    I’m about to embark on a blogging journey of my own to build the brand awareness for my events company & I wondered if you might have any other insights to share regarding blogging, social media, & keeping things in perspective for a newbie?

  17. Fantastic post, as always. Great reminder to evaluate, sort priorities, and keep it all in perspective. I suspect a lot of folks feel overwhelmed with the way Social Media incites the Be Everywhere, All the Time mantra. This is a nice reminder to set a practical pace, and make it work for you. And I also love that you’re evangelizing the beauty & simplicity of watercolor! Your cards came out terrific. Keep painting!

  18. Those paintings were inspiring!

    I had to chuckle, though. You were just painting to relax, but you set up great photos for a post while you were at it. That must be the blessing/curse of blogging: always thinking of life moments as blog-post worthy moments.

    I admire the fact that you fight for the time to have real, non-blog moments with your loved ones.

    Thank you for always putting out quality posts.

  19. Very pretty, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I understand and feel very similarly about blogging. I love pinterest and try to keep a healthy reality of it and use the images as inspiration, for the fun daydreaming part of it and not comparison which turns into pressure and the feeling of having to be better. You are one of the true blues out there Kate, and that’s why I keep coming back again and again!

  20. I absolutely loved your post today. I’ve been struggling with the ‘Pinterest perfect’ syndrome. Seeing your honest post made me think of a human behind the screen who has the ups and downs like we all do. The constant demand to be ‘visible’ has put a strain on my life and I’ve chosen to retract from
    the social media pressure. After having a little one in the last year, my life is Unpintresty. No where closer to the colorful displays or the thoughtfulness of vignettes, eye catching trinkets, etc. . I am always in awe of your color schemes and use off patterns. Even in this disturbed wave of mind, your use of colors show purity of soul. Thank you for sharing this side of yours.

  21. It sounds like lots of bloggers came away from Haven with the same feelings and even some who didn’t attend are echoing similar feelings! Maybe it’s a mid-year review type feeling. Your blog is lovely and you don’t need to change a thing. I’d love to get into painting more and a definitely amateur level and would love it if you shared anything you know!

    • Thank you again everyone for your very kind comments, how nice to know many of you feel similarly about the pressures of blogging and social media. :)

  22. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing :-)

    Live your life, indeed. I love that you are doing things to nourish your soul. Thank you for the reminder. Signing off now!

  23. I think you are my new hero. I frequently feel overwhelmed by what I see on Social media sites (that counts Pintrest too) along with the countless emails about what I need to do to sell my product that is my passion. Heck, I’m almost 50 and not even sure what my passion is….anyhow, your words were so “hit the nail on the head” right AND I’ve been dabbling in making watercolor cards. So, can you picture me with my touchdown arms up? Thank you so much!

  24. I don’t believe in coincidences, just little moments that God sends us when we need them. Your thoughts have been my thoughts lately, as I start my own blog. Perfectionism, fear, stress, insecurities – they love to pop up and squelch my creativity! Thanks for writing what obviously is a struggle with so many of us! I love your blog and this post says it all – thank you for that!

  25. I love this post, the painting as well as the writing. Your paintings turned out beautiful! Your post is o so true on so many levels and thank you for remaining real. I do believe we rely to much on social media ( I am guilty as well) and feel its our duty to always check it, pin to it, instagram, twitter etc our life. Its just added stress and guilt we put on ourselves, that is not needed and can be prevented. We should all step away at times and be refreshed with the lack of SM and the internet. Not everything needs to be documented and shown to complete strangers all of the time. You are allowed to pick and choose and show what you want. If people don’t like it then they are not true or readers/followers you want.

    Your post says it all my friend and thank you for sharing it.

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs

  26. I love this card project! I am a total newbie to Elements 12, just learning to use it to edit my photographs. Is there a web link or book that shows how to do this the way you did it? Thank you Kate!

    • Hi Andrea, I scan the painting then crop it, if necessary I isolate the painted areas with the Magic Wand tool, then select Inverse under Select and use the Paintbrush tool to clean up any white areas. Once you isolate the painted areas you can crop them or move them to suit your design. I learned it all just from playing around with the tools that’s my best advice!

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