Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't Carpet Your Rut #2

Any form of repetition can be a rut: technique, subject matter, perspective, lighting or paint colors.  The quote, “Don’t carpet your rut”, reminds me not to get too comfortable doing the same thing. Painter’s can get in a rut because we want a successful outcome every time. Anything that’s repetitive is playing it safe. If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small. 

If you find yourself in a creative rut…start climbing out! I begin by thinking, What if? How many ways can I sketch or paint a subject differently? The answer is countless.

The more effort and imagination I put into exploring a new approach the better the experience will be. The object can be quite simple.  The images don't need to be very big, 4x6 or 5x7 inches will do. I sketch the subject numerous times mixing drawing and painting techniques. This is a great way to explore new ideas by investing a small amount of time.

Pens: Bamboo Reed, Fountain, Disposable, Ballpoint…
Ink: waterproof , soluble, colored…
Drawing Tools: Pencil, Charcoal, Markers, Brush…
Papers: Watercolor (cold or hot press, rough) pastel paper, Japanese papers…
Paint Colors: Regular Palette, Triads, Tonal, Warm or Cool… 
Painting Techniques: wet-into-wet, flat or graduated washes, glazing…

The examples are numbered in order completed. Each drawing took less than 3 minutes and were painted in 10 minutes or less. For me it is important to keep the exercises quick and fun.

#1 Drawn with a bamboo reed pen dipped in liquid watercolors. Painted with regular palette of Daniel Smith Watercolors.

#2 Drawn with a fountain pen dipped in sepia waterproof ink. Value study with sepia pencil and painted with Lunar Black.

#3 Drawn with pencil. Painted with regular palette and Payne’s Blue Gray. The new Payne’s Blue Gray mixed beautifully to create rich glowing darks in the background.

#4 Drawn with a fountain pen with blue waterproof ink. Painted with the 8 new colors from Daniel Smith.  I love putting these new colors to work!

Now it’s your turn. Once you start, you’ll see endless possibilities. I’m sure you can add a few of your favorites to the list! See more examples here.

Happy Sketching! 


  1. Great post Brenda. Spot on! Congrats too for being selected as one of the top watercolor blogs!

  2. “Don’t carpet your rut”, never heard that one before, but I love it and your article.
    The awareness that one can end up in rut “because we want a successful outcome every time” is an idea I think many miss. Great exercises and example on how to keep moving creatively. Ty

  3. What great ideas here Brenda. I love finding your blog again. Now I need more time to explore all these great ideas. first tho are the little paint chips you create. I'm looking for another idea for all my color charts.

  4. Dear Brenda,

    just like to tell you how much I love your work and that you are a real Inspiration to me. Thank you. I saw your post on Instagram with the 4 cups. I had a very tiring day at work but I want to sketch something. I had noch idea. Now I have one. Thank you

    1. Regina, It's nice to hear when my words help inspire. Thank you πŸ’•

  5. Not only your words: Your sketches, your videos, your paintings, your story, your smile....

  6. I have wanted to be an illustrator/writer all my life. Now at 70, I am going to give it a try, but I will have to learn to be less perfectionistic with my artwork. This is a great lesson--thank you so much!

    1. Louisa,
      Perfection can take the joy out of creating. Give yourself permission to play...for the fun of it!
      Happy Sketching!

  7. Like the idea of not throwing that carpet over it - those ruts can get pretty big! Also "What If?" is a great mantra -- thanks for the inspiring article!

  8. Great ideas for climbing out of the rut Brenda. Thank you for sharing these - wonderful subject you chose too. Have a great weekend.