The most relaxing watercolor exercise (no really)

You’ve probably sat down to paint at some point, excited to relax and let your creative juices flow. You set up your brushes and paint, get fresh water, grab your paper towels… and an hour later you’re in hell.

Been there, done that.

Even after years of painting, I still have days where everything I make turns to mud and nothing goes my way. Which has only strengthened my bond with the coffee mug exercise.

Imagine sitting down to watercolor, and suddenly, there is no “right” or “wrong”. And, instead of slogging through one painting for a whole weekend, you get to finish a painting every few minutes. Hello, catharsis.

Welcome to the coffee mug exercise.

The goal?
Paint a coffee mug in as many different ways as you can.
You will need:

  • A coffee mug
  • your watercolors, colored pencils, gouache, Sharpies, crayons, etc.
  • 15-20 small pieces of watercolor paper (I use scraps)
  • some good tunes to zone out to

And, go! At first it may feel clumsy and weird.
How many different ways can there be to paint a coffee mug? By the end though, you’ll have a dozen paintings, none of them will be wrong, and you’ll have completed a pile of paintings.

And for the love of god, don’t let yourself fixated on a single painting for twenty minutes! If you’re going to struggle with fixating on one, set a timer for 5 minutes.

And if you’re having a hard time getting going, here are some things to try:

This exercise is my favorite way to try new things, loosen up, and sink back into the pure enjoyment of painting. It’s like taking a wander through art.

Go forth and relax.

❤ janie

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