Tag: painting tips

Impressionist’s Approach …painting water

Impressionist’s Approach …painting water

Rules. Basics. Secrets. More rules…..

For the beginner watercolorist, it can be, all very overwhelming to try to remember it all!

You don’t have to.



Painting Water

My thoughts on painting water.


Keep it super simple.

For Beginners:  Short easy sessions,  that you focus on just one technique at a time are the key.


Just one process you want to get down.

Not the  whole shebang at once. 

You can have a lot of fun, keeping it simple,  learning to paint water. 




Impressionist Approach

Keep it nice and loose.

Carefree.  Fun.

In an   Impressionist’s approach. 




impressionist approach painting water, watercolor land and water easy techniques, debiriley.com
Impressionist Moods of Water


Its really about Your impression of the subject you paint.

Its more about how you are feeling about the subject that makes the difference.

Its how you personally are interpreting it, what dialogue you have between the two of you… that counts most.

Just let us know,  show us.



paint emotion, impressionist watercolor, mist on water, Northwest inlet watercolor landscape, debiriley.com
paint emotion



Sometimes the water appears bright and tropical,  fun and summery. Light and easy.

So.  Paint it that way.

Utilise white sparkles of the paper shining through,  to accent and highlight this point.

Don’t allow it or yourself, to get all bogged down and tight; the work filled with hard edges won’t capture the fun loose and carefree vibe.




Sometimes the water appears dark.  Choppy.  Moody and Sullen.

Well,  paint that feeling!  cool, stormy colors with short choppy strokes will evoke this sensation.


beginners impressionist watercolors, painting water in watercolours for novice painters, debiriley.com
practice…water techniques




Leaving white of the paper is a big help.

Painting a few squiggled lines for ‘ripples’ is another fast and simple method that works quite well many times.

Graded washes,  light -mid – dark tones in your water,  is another key factor to remember.


The other thing to remember about water, is that the farther away it is –   white waves will be ‘greyed off’ not stark white,   and the less detail, the less color intensity,  the less contrast,  the less strong dark deep tones it will have.

That right there,  is worth jotting down!



beginners watercolors painting water techniques and ideas, debiriley.com
water techniques


Beginners Watercolors

Beginners at watercolor,  may find it useful and easier,  to begin with simpler designs.

Simple basic easy shapes.

Starting right at the beginning.


Nothing too complicated or complex, no matter how much our minds are leaping to do so.

I know.

We are yearning to…. paint that busy harbour scene filled with action.

Boats, sailors, shipping lines, cargo carriers, seagulls in flight, reflections shimmering, sailboats flying in the wind.



But,  I have discovered, small steps.

One thing at a time, works.

Sinks in.


So that week by week,  month by month we do see incremental improvements.

Then, we can paint the more involved scene.

Such as the shadowed fir trees reflected in the misty early morning waters of the Pacific Northwest.





follow on posts….

Watercolor water 

Watercolor loose and free and easy 

Watercolor Impressionist  –   John Peter Russell    





Where, Do You Paint?  … my kitchen counters

Where, Do You Paint? … my kitchen counters

I have a studio, with 2 art tables and easels.  I have 2 art tables set up on the patio.  And still,  many, many times I paint on the kitchen counter.

It doesn’t really make sense.

Especially to the someone who has gone above and beyond to assemble said studio, those tables and the gear for this ‘persnickety’ artist.





What is it, about the kitchen counter?

What does it have, that the other places…. don’t?


I’ve never paused to contemplate this until now.

Til the post of yesterday, “How much do you paint?”

This post,  it made me think, it caused me to question things.  How? Why? Where? When?


All great questions, insightful, if we dig our way to the bottom of them.




Where, do I paint?

It does have a little bit to do with Light and yes with space too;  but more than those, its about:  Feeling.  

When I’m in the art studio, I am  in isolation.

beginners watercolours getting started in the art studio debiriley.com
 art studio …. tidied up! 


I’m cut off from the other rooms, from whats going on elsewhere.

I’m not part of the rest of the house.

And that sensation fosters a tightening up.





When I’m in the kitchen space, I’m perfectly at ease.

All rooms connect.  I feel Free and in the zone.


I paint when no one is home, so there is a feeling of aloneness, but not, loneliness.

That is a huge difference to me as I create.




The kitchen area, its not a big space.

Nor is it infused with an abundance of natural light.

Its not the best lit room of the house.

its adequate.

But it comes down to how I feel, when I’m creating in that space  vs  when I’m in the other spaces.

I will always paint better, create better, when I am comfortable.

At ease.




I do love to paint and create out on the lawn; sitting near the rose garden.

I feel free and loose and at home there.

There is no sense of being cut off or isolated.

I’m part of the whole.

Thus, painting is easy there.



I guess, the bottom line is that we just need to paint, create in the space  – wherever  it may be  that makes us the most comfortable.

How many of you, paint at the kitchen table or counter?




Hints, of blue….. its ‘key’

Hints, of blue….. its ‘key’

Four acrylic mixed media abstracts; all with the power of blue.

Harnessed together with opposing forces of tonal values.

Discover how you can effectively use these intriguing differences: high key and low key.




Light and Shade

Light and shade, or as I term it, Tonal Values.



High Key

With a “high key” painting, the prevailing dominant ratio of tones will be on the Lighter end of the scale.

Perhaps, about   75% – 80% Light Tones.


Tips for  High Key Watercolor: you would use more water with your paints and, leave a lot more of your paper – White.

High Key Acrylics and Oils:  you would increase the amount of white to all the paints you use, and in many places use nearly straight White out of the tube.


Second Tip:

when we are trying to learn and cement a specific skill, we really will learn it faster, if we focus on that skill.

And lessen the pressure to ‘do well’  with the all  rest of the skills.


By limiting my colors ie to blue and focusing on the Key, I’ll increase my speed of learning and proficiency.

And thats what we all want to see.

Evidence… of Progress!




A High Key painting creates the feeling of space.

Of Freedom, movement, breath, light, air, action.


It is lighter, breezier, cheerier.

It uplifts, and is much more joyous.


hints of blue, high key painting, bleu ocean beach abstract acrylics, debiriley.com
High Key, hints of the blue



high key blue abstract painting, using texture tone and color in art, debiriley.com
High Key, in blue


In both of the above images, the Light and Mid tone percentages are greater than the much smaller percentage of Darker tones.

This is what gives the paintings the ‘airier’ lighter feel compared to the paintings below.







Low Key

These paintings below, have a higher percentage of darker and mid tones.

The mid tones and dark tones dominate the image.

Rough estimate 75% or so.   Give or take.


The Low Key paintings create a more somber feeling to viewers.

There is a sensation of being more contained,  but it also can have nuances of foreboding at times as well.


abstract acrylic on board, low key painting, diagonal patterns, debiriley.com
Low Key painting, Cerulean with black,  abstract on board panel




blue abstract on board, heavy texture, darkness to light painting, debiriley.com
Illusion of the darkness of space, A low key painting  in blue




When you wish to convey summer, celebrations, joy, movement, spaciousness, etc.  you now have a definite tool to rely on.

Simply ‘High Key.’


Same thing when painting to express the opposite.   Use,  ‘Low Key.’


Awareness of our options, gives us the strategies and the power to execute them –  as the subject and mood dictates.





High Key  –  Watercolor Mountain

This is my rough estimate of  the painting’s tonal value ratios….

Light tones 40%

Mid tones  50%

Dark tones 10%


Additionally…. with a Vertical, format rather than a traditional horizontal, it provides us with an increased sensation of movement, of implied action.

Of Space and of Depth.


Staining watercolor paints, prussian blue pb27, Impressionist watercolor landscape mountain, granulating paint manganese blue, cerulean blue, debi riley watercolor, debiriley.com
Mountain Prussian Blue watercolors, full sheet 22×30 


I included this at the last minute, because it illustrates nicely the ‘sensation’ of high key using vertical format.

And to show you how you can ADD Light Tones (white,)  by using light white matts to increase the light ratios, if, that is what is required.





Watercolor Paper: gorgeous

Watercolor Paper: gorgeous

Paper Love, or  shall I say “paper-philia?”

Printmaking, Asian papers, watercolor, pastel and handmade papers… I do love good paper.


Gorgeous Papers

Watercolor Loose and Easy  began its first session yesterday at Atwell Gallery, Perth.

It was fabulous.

Discussing watercolor basic materials,

and the many types of Watercolor papers,  those most beneficial to beginners, was a priority.


watercolor papers, Saunders cold press textures, Daniel Smith greens, zoisite, impressionist watercolour landscapes mountains, debiriley.com
Saunders 100% cotton Watercolor paper;   in detail,  close up


Selecting 100% Cotton paper

With pure cotton, your results are smooth.  Lovely transitions and merging of beautiful colors.

The added bonus: 100%  cotton papers are a dream when you make a mistake and need to rinse/lift it off.

Student grade papers

(made from cellulose ingredients not cotton)  are very difficult, not beginner friendly in this regard.


Yes, they are cheaper!

But, I’d rather not pull my hair out in frustration with that cheap paper.



I’ve recommended Saunders Cold Press 100 % Cotton Rag.

With the proviso, if they so chose to go the luxury route, Arches CP or Rough was a very, very good paper. 


Arches cold press debiriley.com
Arches watercolour paper Cold Press debiriley.com



I’m also personally fond of using: Masa, Fabriano Soft Press, Fabriano Rough, Fabriano Esportarzione,  Twinrocker Feather Deckle and Yupo.

Usually, it is anything that is going to provide lots of texture with a lovely soft cotton ‘feel’ to it.


Winters Glow, watercolor landscape, reflections, debiriley.com
Winter’s Glow  amethyst on Masa… debi


Though the Yupo is quite slick and plastic like in its feel and handling.

But, I like it and so do many of my students!


yupo watercolors abstract blue orange debiriley.com
yupo  creativity workshop with watercolour –  Victoria




Close up of Saunders

When you look at this watercolor study close up,  you can see the exquisite textures within the Saunders paper.


I’d like to point out, for beginners, that it is the combination of:

  • Plenty ie  surplus…. of Water and
  • the good paper  and
  • the granulating paint pigment
  • that will allow this perfection of textural effects to shine through.



I have used  Daniel Smith (green)  watercolors in this impressionist mountain study:

zoisite,   green apatite and serpentine.


Zen.   They blend harmoniously.

And the textural qualities these pigments lend to the painting are sensational.


zoisite, zoisite gemstones, Daniel Smith watercolor primatek paints, paintings inspired by gems, debiriley.com
Zoisite the gemstone


Zoisite, the gemstone

Its so lovely to get to see, what the pigment originally was.

Before it was ground fine as dust, mixed with gum arabic and squeezed into a paint tube.






All Things Watercolor

All Things Watercolor

What do watercolor beginners want to know? What do beginners  need  to know?

I think we all wish to spend a little less, create a little more, and see greater improvements in our work.

That’s at the heart of our watercolor wants.   

So,  what can we do and what do we need to learn in order to make these happen for us?

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor, debiriley.com
watercolor beginner basics –  simple easy loose landscapes


All Things Watercolor

Its about your selection of the Brushes, the Paints, the Papers.

Choosing the right material to accomplish the task as successfully as possible.


Beginners want to know

How To Get Started with Watercolors.

Watercolor Brushes 10 Tips   

A New Brush,   testing….

beginner Watercolor brushes, Hake, Rekab 320s #2, rigger, debiriley.com
Watercolor Brushes

Watercolor  –

Its a whole different ballgame to oils or acrylics.  In those, we are actively trying to ‘cover up’  the support, the canvas surface.

And in oils/acrylics we do, with gusto!


impasto Acrylics with palette knife debiriley.com
Buttery super Thick, Impasto Acrylics


The trouble comes, switching over to watercolors with that same idea.   That, then becomes a problem.

It creates mud.

Thicker, heavier wc applications aren’t so great. Neither is covering up the entire paper surface with paints, not leaving any white of the paper visible.  This, dulls the painting making it appear tired and over – worked.

Not ‘sparky’ or lively at all!



Watercolor Paint Colors – Absolute Beginners!

  1. Cobalt blue pb28       2. Permanent Rose pv19       3. Winsor Lemon py175
Watercolor easy color mixing chart, Beginners watercolor mixing, debi riley art, debiriley.com
Watercolor Chart:  Just 3 Tubes = Hundreds of Mixes            debiriley.com ©


Just for Beginners –   3 Tubes  to get you started,   its less overwhelming.

Plus, cost is less.

And you get less mud.

And you create a more unified painting.

Win Win!

Simple Greens back to Basics 

Watercolor Browns 

Watercolor Green Leaves 



Watercolor Tips

Lunar Black Daniel Smith watercolors, Debi Riley art, mixing green, debiriley.com
Colors of the Sea – pigments flow, merging
  • Watercolor likes to be diluted, to run free.
  • Let its pigment particles sink, flow, flare, merge &  To Create!
  • Think along the lines of ….  “WATER -color.”
  • Make the  emphasis on the Water.
  • Allow the Water to be the vehicle, that carries the Color, as it runs, sinks, melts.



Papers for Watercolor

For well over 25 years, I’ve been a strong advocate (bordering on compulsive?)  of Arches Rough 100% cotton watercolor paper for The Beginners especially.  I’ve written a few posts on Arches paper for beginners.

I still firmly believe the paper itself, is exceptional.

BUT, in Australia, the importation costs of Arches paper has now, in my opinion….  escalated Beyond any justification I can possibly come up with.


 (USA  Jerrys online art shop)  Arches 300 gsm paper pack of 10 $54.50

making each sheet  $5.40  – Which is reasonable.

However,  in Australia    ONE  Sheet of Arches 300 gsm   is      $17.50 +

A sheet 22×30 of 640 gsm Arches is   $38.70     


Therefore, I’ve changed  my recommendations for watercolor paper. 


Saunders   is a very good paper – and is now my Watercolor Paper Recommendation.

impressionist watercolor landscape, simplifying the subject, limited palette, debiriley.com
Impressionist Landscape –   Saunders Watercolor Paper


It is absolutely 100% cotton rag  and that is the foremost important consideration.

The Cold Press or the Rough surfaces will work well for beginners.  It will allow for enough lifting and rinsing off mistakes to resolve most faux paux.


Fabriano 100% cotton rag Rough is sheer delight for the intermediates, the Soft Press and Hot Press great for intermediates as well.

The Cold Press will be fine for beginners.

Winsor and Newton is a great paper, if you can get your hands on it.

But the Cold Press is a dream, and wonderful for beginners too.


Winsor & Newton Cold Press paper watermark Debi Riley
Winsor & Newton cold press paper –    the watermark


The book that is my favorite reference guide is  Watercolor Paper Handbook… Werner Mertz

Well worth the trouble of ordering.

Twice,  as it happened in my case.


Watercolour Handbook Werner Mertz, debiriley.com
Watercolor Handbook Werner Mertz




My thoughts

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Start off nice and slow;  and easy.
  • Build your skills and techniques,  over time. 
  • Set yourself goals.    Goals…. are good.
  • 1,2, 3, 6, 9 month goals.  1 year  2 years  3 years
  • Look at this progress… that you have made.  Not Sue, not Bob!
  • Find some good spots, in each art work you do. Every time. Its important.   






Classes. Museums.  Books/magazines.


Generally, my first recommendation for Beginners is to take watercolor art classes.

Look for an encouraging, instructor with a like minded philosophy.

Research who is in your area. Make the calls and emails. Check them out in advance.

You’ll want to paint from physically tangible, touchable items.

You learn more and faster this way.


Art museums with the Masters would be a second suggestion.


Books and magazines. ….  many ‘beginners how to’  don’t meet criteria for accuracy or being adequate.

Using online sources to copy ie   “Pinterest” art –  This is a minefield, for a plethora of reasons.


Reference sources need to: teach basics and creative Self expression

If they teach replication, that isn’t truly helping us to fully engage and  ‘learn.’

How then, will the student learn how to design/simplify/create a painting all on their own,  if they’re not shown the basics of how these processes are thought out and done?


If the references show a painting with poor tonal values, poor edges, poor center of interest, poor aerial perspective and pass it off as  “ok”  –  How will the Beginning student learn the correct art basics?


The Australian Artist magazine,  The Pastel artist magazine,  The International Artist magazine, The Southwest artist magazine typically show high calibre professional work.

They combine the art basics with these critical factors…. Self expression, Creativity, Imagination, Interpretation.

They’re Great places to look and study art techniques. Not copying.

  (Online art Piracy,  is rampant.  Its not ok.

Painters are the same as writers.  A painting is the same as a book.  We… spent our money and our time, creating a product for purchase.)   And yes.  Its happened to me.


Tony Smibert …. any of his art books are simply fabulous.

Edward Seago,  we all can learn from him in watercolor and in oils.



Finally – The Featured Landscape

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor, debiriley.com
watercolor loose landscape

My featured watercolor painting, while not perfect, does show some lovely watercolor attributes.

The flow and merging of paint pigments has been allowed to happen, without coercion.

The edges around the borders are so soft and blurred. It creates a calm and leads the eye inwards.

Only 2-3 paints were used. Some warm golden tones in front to infer its nearness. The colder colors receding, into the distance. Provides a sense of depth, even to this semi abstract landscape.

And lastly, the amount of white space was deliberate.

The viewer is now free to interpret the sky and foreground areas as they wish.

Its up to them.

This open ended invitation to the viewers, I think makes art so much more accessible. More Embraceable. Well, for me, it does.



watercolor landscapes 3 tips  

loose untamed watercolor 

watercolor hills 



Watercolor Secret, its in the ‘kiss’

Watercolor Secret, its in the ‘kiss’

Watercolor Secret….. It is simple and Quick!

Just allow your loaded up watercolor brush to lightly ‘kiss’ the paper surface.

Think of your paper as if it were a delicate butterfly wing you don’t wish to damage.

But to  – merely touch with the gentlest of touches.

That is it.

Nothing complicated, just simple.


watercolor landscape techniques, impressionist watercolours, using minimalist brush approach painting trees, debiriley.com
impressionist watercolor minimalist landscape


Watercolor Secret

In this serene, impressionist watercolor calmness prevails.

With a warm, well diluted Naples Yellow watercolor applied as the all over wash first to set the tone.

For my darker areas, I needed deep rich tones of burnt sienna and burnt umber.

The hints of tree trunks were created randomly, with the tip of a skewer.


I did, have several of these on the go this session.

It helps me.  It prevents me, from fiddling with watercolors.




There’s been no heavy handed, rough harsh use of the brush.

Just enough  brushstrokes, to accomplish the task intended – no more.

And then the pause.


A time for Reflection….

Stopping.  Assessing.


Understanding –  that yes, enough was said and done.





Watercolor responds best, when it is  understood. 

When you Know, what each paint, each pigment you use, will and won’t do.


When the artist is fully able, to direct the brush and the pigment with that oh so delicate ‘kiss’  upon the paper.



Watercolor’s pet peeves and her loves ….

I have avoided any rubbing, scrubbing paint color in, dobbing and dab-dab-dabbing of the brush.


Watercolor dislikes intensely the dobbing and dabbing one could skate by perhaps, with oils.

Watercolor thrives under a more sensitive, softer, lighter handed approach.


The brush, fully loaded,  just meets  the uppermost top layer of the paper’s surface.


Is what Watercolor loves most.


That is when you get the best results out of watercolor.





It makes life easier, in this endeavor, when the brush you use is not a synthetic blend. They foster, the stiffer dobbing brush strokes.  The 100% natural hair brushes, sable, squirrel, etc.  provide a fluidity watercolor loves.



Now, I have to duck out real quick.  The art shop is having a sale……..


Creativity…. pass it along

Creativity…. pass it along

The Creative Zone.

It doesn’t really matter which form of art we’re pursuing- fashion, acting, music, sculpture, painting, writing – to create well we need  to be in that zone.

We need to be feeling it….. Feeling the Creativity within us.

Did you ever think to yourself, maybe, people were having a harder time these days Being creative?

I have.


And then, of course, I Googled it.

As one does.


creativity crisis, reclaim your creativity, art lessons debi riley, debiriley.com
Finding Creativity

Creativity – crisis


Dr. JK Kim Professor at William and Mary has written about this subject,

  “The Creativity Crisis.”  


As many of my readers already know, the topic of  creativity, is one I am passionate about.

I  pretend  at work to teach watercolor, oils, acrylics.

But truly its  – Creativity of  The Individual –  that all my classes are always centered around.

I read Dr. Kim’s article twice.

Its well written, each point summed up, citing references to studies and sources.

It made me think.


There is one particular point in her article, that I keep returning to in my mind.

That when our ancestors first arrived here,  they were risk takers.

They had to be.  They had to be inventive.

They had to “Make do.”

Those early pioneer settlers had to Create things from “out of the box” tools and resources.

This fostered a culture of creativity and inventiveness that was passed down quite a few generations.   They became more and more imaginative, innovative, self reliant. They worked hard, put out effort and spent the time to do what was needed to get the task accomplished.

They were, Creative.




But…. Do We Do the Same?

Don’t we, opt for the Easy;  for the right Now;  for the comfortable; for the zero risk?

Don’t we often opt for that subtle peer pressure, to ‘conform’  to fit in;  to NOT stand out?

Don’t we want to continue in our soft and easy ways, making few waves, blending in, getting liked, staying in the comfort of our places?

Of course we do.



Creativity Demands…. Courage of the Inner Self.

Courage to be unique. To speak and express with our own voice. Our own words.

Courage to go beyond what is liked, popular, on trend.

Beyond the limits imposed and set our own rules.


Perhaps, these days,  we have not been ‘working out’ enough in those areas.

Should we have Creativity Gyms?

I think, we should.




The Creative Zone  

My home, The Creative Zone. 

I didn’t always live there, though.

Its crept up on me, bit by bit, until one day I just realised that its not my holiday house anymore.

I’m always there.

It’s my home residence, now.



We are Not, All Like You Though!

Ahh,  I can hear that thought from many of you all the way to Perth!

And you’re right.

I bet you’re pretty glad about that too, with all this –  ART art art art art…..

Color, shapes and tones.  Repeat. On a loop.


Doesn’t it ever,  shut Off?!

I find that,  difficult.

flower poems, Edwin Curran, pink gentle sweet flowers, macro photo of flower, debiriley.com
Music in Pink… Art, color, shapes, tones…    They are What I See

Degas, it seems,   saw beauty, music, art, color, shapes, tones, wherever he turned his eye. I don’t think he could shut it off.

You can not create like he did, without living and breathing art and creativity.

Degas pink and cobalt teal dancers, flowers dance, macro flower photography, debiriley.com
Degas, pink and cobalt teal dancers  – more color, shapes, tones

Imagine  –  Think. Outside the Box


“Accessorise Your Mind, with passions,  Inspirations  and  Imagination”  by Angela Clare,  Perth W.A.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be loaned this book, by the author’s mother, a student in one of my classes.

The book is available at Amazon.com  


Clare’s book, though I’ve yet to completely finish reading, is one I plan on recommending to art students.

Two chapters in.

And its helpful suggestions, can benefit artists. Art Students.  (well, people in general actually.)


Students, Artists, Creative People who are caught the doldrums. You know, left flat and motionless in the waters.

Those who need some guidance, some suggestions on how they might push beyond their current boundaries into more advanced work.

To become More imaginative, more creative.

Clare has great insight with pages and pages of steps, of how to ideas and tools,  I found quite relevant and helpful to build the Imagination and Creativity.


I read this poem of Angela Clare’s, I enjoyed the expressions, the visuals brought to mind, the inspiring nature of the poem.


An Excerpt from page 19   titled,    “The Journey”

Time   has brought me to this place,

Unrelenting in its pace;

My mind conceives, My thoughts collide,

Take a breath

for here we ride.


Lets speak through mirrors

and see through sands,

Move through mountains and desert lands,

Find the Magic of our lives,

Feel the Freedom in our eyes.


You can find Angela on many social media sites;  and check out her website:   Angela Clare at wordpress  


Art Creativity – Beginnings

How does it start?  How did it start?

School is a potential problem, to our creativity and imagination. Maybe a bit less so, in some schools, right now.  But in the past, school structuring had adverse effects for many.


At school.   I followed the rules.  Stayed in line.

Absorbed every new rule, like it was The word.

I colored and stayed in the lines; in thick dark lines,  I outlined my objects;  my skies were most definitely BLUE;   and the grass was sparkling…..Green.

Just like the rules at school told me to do. Just like the school master, told me to do.

Trouble. Never found me.

I was risk averse.


night photograph, clouds swirling, creativity, debiriley.com
By night, comes the Tooth Fairy


Then fairies arrived.

Oh.  I should clarify. The tooth fairy.

SHE.  Started It!

She left magical rewards in the night.

Porcelain miniature tea cups in floral motifs,  tiny glass animals in exchange for a tooth.

My mother described the tooth fairy with grace and infectious enthusiasm!


The clouds in the sky became a source of creativity for us, as my mom pointed out people, angels, poodles and sheep, dragons and flying horses.

It was our canvas.

We each painted in our minds, to pass the time, as a bit of fun.  We didn’t have smart phones, ipads, devices. And the television… was  “for the evenings, after dinner.”

In the car on our weekly drives, we played games. We connected.


We invented fun ways to pass the time.





There was no Time, to be Bored

I don’t remember being bored.

Or ever sulking and telling my parents, “I’m so bored…..”


We were encouraged to use and to build  our imaginations.

So I did.


I wrote stories and poems, then illustrated them.

I read voraciously. Every horse book.  Encyclopedias were grand.


Biographical novels…. Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Pericles,  Aspasia: biography by Taylor Caldwell,   works by Thomas B. Costain.

Filling my imagination.

Filling my mind with questions.

Then…. asking innocently, inappropriate questions my parents couldn’t quite bring themselves to answer a 10 year old.

Well, at least they didn’t censor my reading, leaving that to the public libraries’ board of directors.


Often I’d play the lone adventurer outdoors, studying the habitats of birds, rabbits, deer, chipmunks. I felt no need for followers or to follow, out there. I was bold and fearlessly exploring this imaginative, yet real realm.


My sister and I created indoor sleds. For the stairs. Its Amazing, What speeds  just a bit of cardboard and plastic will allow, careening down those flights of stairs.   No broken bones on these encounters. Save that, for the horse activities.


52 frog pick up.

Yes. Live jumping, leaping frogs.

ooops….. it was, in  Grandmother’s kitchen. THAT was so, exciting for everyone.



Creative Imagination was encouraged at our house.

Not once, were we punished for those. Even when it resulted in messes we were told to take responsibility for and do the clean up.


So that’s how it  began.

Over time though, with jobs, relocations, children, work deadlines, life……. you know!   That Creativity slid into the background.

Then into the basement. Then it got buried, under the basement.

Probably the same as many of you.

I know it happens all the time.



Time.. to Reclaim Creativity

All that buried treasure,  creativity, lay hidden away.


We decide to reclaim it.


Bit by bit.

Pushing away those rules.

Ignoring the trends, the commercial, to be the popular,  most liked.


Fighting for individuality;  to express  my own words, my own voice.

It is a fight.

That is a given.


It  goes against what the crowd wants from us.

What their expectations are and have been.

Indeed, perhaps what our own expectations have been.


The battle is for individuality.  For  Creativity.

To express my own self.

Not to parrot what someone else does. Or says.


Parroting is faster.

Echoing another is easier.

Copying is less risk.

True, when you parrot – If the audience doesn’t like it,  you are off the hook.

You…. were only repeating what X said or did!


To expose your real thoughts,  your real words and voice….

makes you vulnerable.




But if we are serious about moving forward in our art, this is exactly what we must do.


Blue veil gouache and watercolor, debiriley.com
The Blue Veil – veiled unveiled exposed



Ever listen to a singer who echoes the words correctly but bland, sings the words, but there is zero connection to the song content?

Then you hear a singer, passionately SING with so much feeling poured into the words, everything stops.  Just to hear more.

One takes a risk and becomes vulnerable.

One is too risk averse.


The singer Adam Lambert singing Mad World on American Idol, is a case in point.

I had never liked that particular song, before….  I’d turn it off or down.

But, Lambert’s  inflections,  the tones,  the emotional power, the vulnerability in his voice….completely changed my mind.


I still don’t like listening to the original, or other singers try, to sing it.

That one breathtaking rendition. Connected emotionally.  Why?  Because Adam Lambert took a risk.

Allowed his creative interpretation to have free rein.


Adam Lambert shared his creativity with us.

Thank goodness.

Or else, we all,  would have missed out.





nature photography, pond reflections in color, blue and purple tree reflections, debiriley.com
Upon the waters  –    a creative interpretation of the lily pond – thats Not, how it really was


It takes Courage.

To be your self.   To express with your own words.  To be, Creative.

It is difficult to not care excessively,  if the ‘crowds’  boo you,  if they don’t like you.


It takes Courage to be a risk taker.

To think how it will all work in the long term.  To play the long game.

To Imagine and to Create.



Creativity is ours to share.

Creativity is for us to … pass along.   





my 3 Creativity “shares”

  1.  Angela Clare  “Accessorise your Mind”

2.  Dr. JK Kim   “The Creativity Crisis”

3.  Adam Lambert  musician “Mad World”