• Emma Bijloos


Updated: Jul 17, 2019

30x30 Direct Watercolor is a Facebook-based participatory art project hosted in 2019 by Uma Kelkar and Marc Taro Holmes. The challenge is to paint 30 watercolors in 30 days, from June 1-30 2019, as directly as possible. That implies minimal underdrawing, (or none at all), and working wet-in-wet with as few after-action touches as possible. Here we go!

May 31 (Announcement)

I’ve decided to join the #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 challenge again this year, creating 30 direct watercolor paintings in the month of June. My aim is to strengthen my sense of values by working in monochrome – using only one (dark) pigment to yield a range of lights and darks.

In her urban sketching handbook Shari Blaukopf mentions often returns to monochrome to restore her sense of values. According to Shari:

"You can’t really talk about sketching in color without talking about values – the colors’ relative lightness or darkness. Lights and darks inject contrast and variety, and they create a focal point – a place that draws and rewards the eye."

Sounds worth the challenge to me! Shari also recommends creating a basic value scale to practice control over your washes, which I did here using Ivory Black by #schminckewatercolor. 🖤

"This is a great 'back to basics' attitude. Perfect for these kinds of self-teaching challenges :)"

- Marc Holmes via Facebook

June 1

Part of the view from my window. In her urban sketching handbook Shari Blaukopf writes:

“As you observe your subject, compare one portion to another to see which is darker. Keep in mind that a light object in shade (like a white house) can sometimes appear darker than a dark structure in sun (like a red-tiled roof). This form of fine observation can be challenging at first, but will eventually reward you with color sketches that contain a full range of tonal values.”

Indeed, working in monochrome is making me more aware of the colors’ relative lightness or darkness. Have you ever tried painting in monochrome? What was your experience?

"Love that overlapping brush work in the sky contrased with the clean white windows. Great control here Emma."

- Marc Holmes via Facebook

June 2

It’s the hottest day of the year so far and I’m at home with the flu. I felt so sick this morning I didn’t think I would be able to paint at all, but luckily after a long nap I’m starting to feel better. I didn’t want to leave the house, so I sat in the garden and painted the shed. It was clear the window contained the whitest white and the darkest dark, but I wasn’t sure about the tonal value of the wood – if you’ve seen my previous posts, you’ll know it’s a light orange. In hindsight, I might have painted it a little darker. Do you agree?

"Prachtig! Net als de vorige."

- lindatoolsema via Instagram

June 3

Just when you think you’ve picked a fairly ‘easy’ subject… This was my fifth attempt at painting the little garden bouquet my mother gave me this morning.

I was reminded of the flower studies I did exactly a year ago as part of the same challenge. At the time I was very much inspired by the work of Charles Reid and Dutch master Kees Verwey.

Who is your favorite painter when it comes to flowers? Any suggestions or tips on how to approach this particular subject?

June 4

In yesterday’s post I referred to American watercolor artist Charles Reid as a source of inspiration. A little while later I learned that he recently passed away, on the 1st of June. The words of his daughter Sarah @charlesreidart resonate with me:

“It is with profound sadness that I announce the death of my father Charles Reid. He will be missed for his talent, his wisdom, his sense of humor, his courage, his grace and so much more.”

In my copy of Painting flowers in watercolor with Charles Reid, I find him explaining about tonal values. Reid mentions that shadows closest to the light part of the bouquet are the darkest. I immediately put this into practice for today’s painting (the same bouquet I painted yesterday), and really like the effect! Very grateful to this legendary master for sharing his thoughts with the rest of the world in this way.

Are you familiar with Reid’s work? How will you remember him/his approach to watercolor painting?

June 5

In my copy of Painting flowers in watercolor I find Charles Reid explaining about a form of contour drawing in which you keep your pencil on the paper, and use a single line. I used this form of drawing as a basis for today’s painting, getting closer to the principle of direct watercolor.

I also tried to stay focused on the whole and avoid getting lost in detail - those flower petals! - by turning the painting upside down.

Personally I would have liked a little more variety in shapes and values on the right side of the bouquet - it’s too much a solid dark shape right now. However I like how this version is already very different from the ones I made earlier.

What’s your impression? Any thoughts on how this particular painting could be improved?

June 7

Red paprika, watercolor study in monochrome (#schminckehoradam Ivory Black). It’s not a direct watercolor as I allowed myself some pencil lines for reference.

Already we’re one week in with this challenge! How are you all holding up? I’d expected to be a little bored by now with painting in monochrome, but I’m finding it very interesting. Curious to find out what the rest of the month will bring. 🖤

June 8

Stormy weather in The Netherlands!

As a result at least 150 trees were felled yesterday in the center of Amsterdam alone. Apparently, this has something to do with strong winds coming from different sides at once. I’m a little anxious about the big tree in the back of our garden – check out my stories for a little video of it swaying in the wind! I tried to capture the top branches in front of the cloudy sky.

Hold on everyone!

June 9

This small branch of English shrub roses is all that remains of the garden bouquet I painted earlier; the rest has already withered. Inspired by Charles Reid’s approach to painting flowers in watercolor, I restrained myself from adding too much contrast and detail to retain the simple shapes of the rosette blooms. Reid’s words “Flowers are not made of steel!” kept going through my mind.

Painted using Daniel Smith’s Jane’s Grey.


- chiaradiosa via Instagram

June 12

Garden roses on a glass plate. Watercolor study in monochrome, made yesterday when I was visiting my grandmother. A love of flowers runs in the family… 🙂

Painted using #DavidSmith’s Jane’s Grey.

June 16

The sun was shining today so I picked up my easel and went out into the garden to paint again! My eye fell on these little red and white flowers – it was a challenge to not get lost in detail, with so many leaves and petals to marvel at. I also drew another wooden boat (see yesterday’s post) – check out my stories to see the result! 🌸 What’s your favorite flower?

June 17

The same bunch of flowers I painted yesterday. Still trying hard not to get lost in detail and focus on the whole. Perhaps I should try capturing these in monochrome to focus more on values instead of colors. Any suggestions or tips?

June 18

Small iron folding stool standing on the stone path in our garden. The perspective isn’t entirely right – such an intricate shape and I had to work fast to capture the moving shadows. Enjoy the sunshine everyone!

Woow Em! Deze is zo knap! Blijf er naar kijken!!

- jobettink via Instagram

June 22

A classic cottage garden staple, hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) bloom mid-summer with numerous flowers on tall spikes. That’s why in Dutch we call them ‘stokrozen’, literally meaning ‘stick roses’.

The flowers in my painting turned out a bit messy due to too much fussing and not enough contrast or variety in values. Something to practice on for the remainder of this challenge!

Have a nice weekend everyone! 🌸☀️

June 23

Boats at the harbour of Amsterdam’s Sloterplas. I’ve never painted boats before, and now that I did I’m glad I signed up for Shari Blaukopf's workshop during the upcoming Urban Sketchers symposium. In her workshop description Shari writes:

“Drawing watercraft and their ever-changing reflections can be daunting! Their proportions can be difficult and their details complex. But that’s what makes boats both a satisfying and challenging subject to paint: the complex shapes of the hulls; the messy tangle of masts, ropes, lines and buoys; the full range of values from light to dark, all closely jumbled together; and finally, the movement in the water that causes reflections to be slightly different each time you look up.”

💙🙂 Looking forward to learning more about how to approach this particular subject. Are you attending the symposium? Which workshop are you most looking forward to?

June 28-30

The last weekend of June was very special: together with a small group of other artists I spent a few days on the country estate 't Medler in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Check out my blog (in Dutch, but with lots of pictures and paintings): Schilderweekend op Landgoed 't Medler.

June 30

These pretty bell-shaped flowers were part of the bouquet I received from my new colleagues at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. July 1st was my first day as Assistant Relations & Philanthropy – as you can see I’m very excited about this new opportunity! 😊 • That’s it for this year’s #30x30DirectWatercolor2019challenge! Thanks @marc_taro_holmes and @umapaintsfor organizing this - it’s been a fun and inspiring experience!

Inspired to see a view that is dear to you turned into a painting or drawing? As an urban sketcher I’m experienced in drawing (and painting) on location, capturing what I see and hear from direct observation. I'm a fly-on-the-wall during events, meetings and workshops, creating a live documentation in the form of on location drawings. For more information, check the About page, or send me a message – I would love to explore the possibilities with you!

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