Tag: Wabi Sabi

watercolor feeling… Serenity

watercolor feeling… Serenity

Yes,  this Impressionist Landscape is another watercolor  “re – do.”

As I paint, I find it relaxing to realise, Yes  we can return to our painting efforts later. Sometimes, much later.

We can change that painting and it can be improved.

Our painting efforts are not, “all flops and failures, and no good!”

I’m sure that this  statement will resonate with many readers, many of you who are just beginning your watercolor journeys and are often frustrated.

Take heart.  Tuck the painting into a little storage shelf or box.

For “Later.”




watercolor landscapes tree reflections, painting morning on the water using watercolors, creating mood with paint, debiriley.com
Serenity with Watercolors



There is Serenity

There is a peacefulness in knowing that sometime later, you will have the skills.

That in due time, you will have the knowledge to make the required alterations to a painting in order to showcase it to its full potential.


I don’t worry, or stress anymore about adding an image to my now quite large ‘Later’ box file.

I actually find it comforting.

Its my reserve box, full of bits and pieces, that I can select from at will when I want to paint, but not have to start right from scratch.




Later isn’t always procrastination

A secret…. The featured watercolor painting I’ve shown, was originally begun 10 years ago.



When we File our paintings  in the “Later” Box we might at first feel guilty. Or frustrated.

But,  this is not procrastination.


This is a valuable lesson in persistence, discipline, and self kindness.

So what if you end up with a box with 100 or 500  “later” images.

That only means you have 100 -500 opportunities down the track to try new resolution methods.




Recapturing the Freedom

Many times, those gathered from the “Later” box  are the ones that have the vigor, the passion, the freedom we can’t fake in our more recent works.

We can’t manufacture an authentic enthusiasm that doesn’t exist.

We may have been trying, striving too hard.  Trying to get a great painting.

Trying to get one that’s “Good Enough.”


Best to take the fresh painting with all its  many faults and do just a wee bit of tweaking, altering.

And allow the painting’s fresh youthful vitality & impulsive quirkiness, carry the day.




Perfection or Serenity?

Technical brilliance and perfection should not  always be the number #1  goal for our  art efforts.


We want the image to have spark, and Life.

And as we  know, life isn’t always ‘perfect.’   A painting effort, an artistic expression that reflects Life, gives the viewers something.

Something Real.


By showing an imperfection or two, we allow the viewer to actually feel more at ease. At home.

More calm, more peaceful, more Serene.


When something is pristine, without spot blemish or wrinkle,  ‘completely perfect’…. it tends to make many of us feel somewhat on guard.

We instinctively don’t want to do any thing  to  ‘mar’ that perfection. Nor to somehow ‘mess it up.’


We are not Serene …. in that environment.




watercolor contemporary landscape, cobalt teal blue pg50, abstract watercolor landscape, debiriley.com
Magical Mists  Burnt Umber Cobalt Teal Blue


Magical Mists watercolor with cobalt teal blue, cobalt violet and Burnt Umber.

This isn’t a “perfect” painting.

But even so, one can become lost within the branches, the textures, the subtle color transitions.

With the thin, lone sapling twisting from the marsh shorelines and the cobalt teal to insinuate sky and water… this is a very soft diffused painting.

Without technical brilliance.

But instead, it does have feeling.  It has a sense of magic and serenity that lures us in.    That works for me.



Pause when Uncertain

Back to the Featured Painting “Serenity.”

And so, once again, like the previous painting Magnolias this is an older painting.

Not new.  Not fresh off the press by any means!

But, because I had been  unclear at the time as to exactly what to do to make the improvements – I left it alone.

I put it aside.  Into my “Later” box.


Then recently, bringing it out for some alterations and remodeling.

With alot of rinsing, scrubbing and lifting to get the light back, I now feel pleased.

Now it has the emotion I wanted from it.

I feel…..  Serenity.




colors used

Burnt Umber PBr7  Maimerblue        burnt umber,  prussian blue, green earth    

Cobalt Violet PV49 Daniel Smith

Ultramarine Blue PB29 Daniel Smith

Raw Sienna PBr7  Maimeriblu



Learning Outcomes

  • limiting the palette;  3-4 paints really are plenty
  • watercolors can still be lifted off, even after 10 years
  • many so called failures, are merely efforts that are   “just not yet resolved”
  • with time, with experience, with dogged persistence, so many things can be resolved
  • cobalt violet mixed with ultramarine creates a great shadowy purple
  • for me, serenity holds more value than pure technical perfection




Tearing It Up…collage

Tearing It Up…collage

Wabi Sabi:  (1) Imperfect  (2)  Unfinished  (3)  Impermanent

Wonderfully, Yes.

Each of those three, sum up the Tearing It Up collage in blue!


tearing papers, collage, mixed media, work in progress, wabi sabi imperfections, debiriley.com
Tearing It Up, collage

Collage WIP

So much patience is needed.

This collage has been an ongoing work in progress for 10 months.

That. Is a long time for me, to still be unfinished.


I’ve only shown you a small portion of the image in the post. The latest part I’ve worked on.

Overall, its quite a large piece.  And intricate.

Did I, perhaps bite off more than I could chew?  I’d have to say yes.  Especially, if… I’d intended to have this done in my usual time frame.  One day. Two at the most. That’s the normal way I work.



Resisting Temptations…

I’m tempted to gesso over the whole thing.

I’m tempted to quit.

I’m tempted to cut the canvas up into sections.


My oh my. I don’t think this will ever, be finished.  

Its certainly, Imperfect.   

And if I keep tearing it up – the impermanence part, well… that is going to be hastened along much sooner!




Persist.. for the Promise

But I persist. In increments.


I see the underlying ‘promise’ within the whole piece.


It may not, be ready yet.

I may not be ready yet.

But  there will come a time when  everything falls beautifully into place.




How do I know?

By experience.

I can and do, trust in myself in this.

By the feeling I get when I look at it.


It holds promise.  



So, its safe.

From gesso. From the scissors and knives.  From the trash bin.




I tell you these things, to encourage you.

To let you see, that you can too can use a similar attitude, a similar approach to thinking about art.

That even when its taking too long, or  its not ‘perfect’ and you are getting frustrated, that there are ways … to navigate around those obstacles.




Another…. snippet,  seen Previously.

creative collage, blue and purple papers, debiriley.com
Creative Collage, debiriley.com



Wabi Sabi is just a word

Its just struck me … I don’t think many readers out there like, the word Wabi Sabi.

Is it because it sounds too much like the ‘Burn Your Tongue,’  ultra hot,  “Wasabi?”

Or sounds like, Khemosabi?


But really,  Wabi Sabi  is just a word that explains and describes something useful to us.

That something is –  a different way of perceiving art. 

Looking at things in ways we’d not imagined them before.

That beauty…. can be discovered in a so many more forms than what we have ever, in the past,  limited our minds to.


Beauty can be found in an unfinished line drawing;  or the rough broken ragged torn edges of papers.

It can be in the impermanence of melting ice sculpture or the crumbling turrets of the sand castle.


In the very imperfections we groan about… there, we find Beauty.




Wabi Sabi.  IT so eloquently describes the grace and beauty of everyday life.    

And thats an amazing thing.




Tearing it up, ripping and shredding papers, art paintings, old poems, and books.

Layer by layer by layer.  Month after month it goes.

So slowly, we create a loved and aged work of art.





Great Partner Posts

Collage in watercolor strips of green 

Canvas Collage 

Collage Saturday 


Bones of Time Zen Wabi Sabi    

this is part of my 7 Days of Zen Series



Cobalt Teal Blue – Entwined

Cobalt Teal Blue – Entwined

Cobalt teal blue paired with its complement of warm red-orange in those entwining imperfect, spheres.

Acrylics. Simple Square Format.

Pure wabi sabi.

Wondering, What I am talking about?  I’ll explain!





acrylic abstract wabi sabi, cobalt teal blue, using complementary pairs painting, debiriley.com
Entwined Cobalt Teal


abstract on the beach oil painting, cobalt teal blue pg50, debiriley.com
Surf Sand cobalt teal




teal bowl Chihuly, explosion of color, debiriley.com
Cobalt Teal Bowl, Chihuly



Painting…. Choices


What Could we learn, from this featured image?




wabi sabi

The idea of imperfect, unfinished, impermanent was front and center in my mind as I first gathered my materials.

No zen stroll today.

So the next best thing, of course would be a zen like approach to art.

Wabi Sabi with its depth, and beautiful sense of imperfections and character and uniqueness; and a decidedly  “non-plastic” sensibility to it, is exactly what I aim for.





There is something…. about simplicity, about Less, that creates a sense of More.

This is a feeling I subconsciously strive for every time I paint.


How to paint the scene, create the emotion, tell the story – with the minimal amount of brushstrokes possible.

More, just clutters it all up.

Adds more noise.

I’m going for less noise, and more clarity.



watercolor abstract simplicity, light red, debiriley.com
Simplicity  –    Cobalt Teal +  Light Red





Cool teal, refreshing.  Background that recedes.

It is telling you something… imparting bits of the story.


Entwined,  the 2 spheres in warm red orange come forward to the surface.

But they are not perfect entities.

They’re not precisely  drawn circles.

No. Both, with lumps and broken rough edges.

Oh so Imperfect.  So, Wabi Sabi. I love it.


Still this information seen, reveals just part of a story.  The top has been unfinished.

The top sphere not completed for the viewer to see it all.


And it is here, that we now must really engage and wonder, think… what,  has come before?

Why is it unfinished? What was going on up there anyway?!  Was it more of the same, or was there some oddity? Did the artist make a mistake?  The goal for the artist, the creator, is to always somehow, get the audience “Engaged.”


And That, is what I mean, by ‘content.’



Still Life pink coral, patterned bowls, graphic design, debi riley art, debiriley.com
Its Still,  Life


An example of this was  “Its Still.. Life”

I have infused the image with a message. With ‘Content.’


5 Bowls all the same size and color.

But each is unique.  With their own leanings, their own patterns and traits.


The 5 Bowls are   Entwined.

They are linked and connected.

And where they meet, interconnect there is a change of pattern.


There is a stronger pattern overwriting  the individuals’ own patterns.

This effectively Unites the 5 into 1 entity.

The 5 become stronger as 1.




This,  is what I am suggesting to you when I speak of adding, of using, “Content”  in your art works.





complementary pairs

When I want to use a very limited palette of just 2 colors, many times I prefer to use complementary pairs.  United, they sing.

(1)  yellow and purple            (2)  blue and orange       (3)  red and green

Remembering to use these pairs is such a great way to create a powerful impact…a strong painting.


watercolor landscape blue mountains, Ultramarine Blue pb29, impressionist, colorful painting of nature, debiriley.com
Ultramarine Blue Bluff – Watercolor Landscape

Ultramarine Blue Bluff illustrates the Blue/Orange pairing



easter sunday, passion flower, debiriley.com
passion flower

Passion flower is a great example of how the Purple/Yellow combo suit each other.





square format

I think that this format works well for me in many of my paintings.  It seems to, anyway.

The square is even and its balanced on all sides.

It is solid and provides a stable foundation.  It doesn’t suit every thing,  but it does work for many images.

The square can lend an air of modernness and a contemporary feel to a painting that the traditional rectangular shapes may not.




Believe it or not, the Feature Painting, a small and simple image is filled with contrasts!

At first glance, it seems a very simple design with not a lot going on.

But, when you look closer at the weave, at the textures, at the brokenness  of the spheres… you start to see how the contrasts are playing a role.

I had to make sure there were enough contrasts, as this image was one of the more simplified designs.


  • Cool and warm.
  • Light and dark.
  • Smooth and rough.
  • Closed solid lines and broken lines with ‘gaps’.
  • Flat and raised surfaces.
  • Separate individual shapes and entwined shapes.






Some abstracts do have an intended meaning that the artist meant to instill.

Some, were just plain fun splashes of random color and shapes and tones.

contemporary art for offices, abstract art painting, acrylics, debiriley.com
Random….       Abstract in Green debi riley


Both are valid expressions of art.

I always like to ask the artist directly, if… there was something on their mind or if, they were playing a particular song, etc.  when they were creating the painting.

Not just with abstracts either. Any painting that has spark, atmosphere, passion and emotion running through it – has a story to tell.

There’s nothing wrong with guessing what the artist was thinking.

Sometimes just allowing the painting to take over and being immersed into it provides you with the information that you need and suits you at that time.

Many times, the artist is happy with just that outcome.



Its great though,  if the artist has documented their thoughts and ideas while they were painting.

Useful information right from the horse’s mouth, for art critics, docents, lecturers to go by when talking about an artist’s work.

But most of us artists, do not record, nor document via the pen.

We usually, leave that for the brush and paints to do.







What You Get…. (Benefits of watercolor paint test strips)

What You Get…. (Benefits of watercolor paint test strips)

Testing…. test strips for Watercolor.

What’s in it for you?

The relevance, the value, The Benefits of having a Test Strip at the ready every time you paint.

It may not sound like fun at first but it certainly can be.


watercolor test strips, color mixing, debiriley.com
watercolors, a Favorite….. Test Strip


Watercolor Mixing and Testing



Learning Points about Test Strips 


Things that I’ve learned & gained from consistently having  and Using  test strips when I paint:


  • using more paper as a Test Strip  (ie 5×7) is truly,  not a waste
  • use the Belly of the brush to test… Not the Tip


  • the belly gives more accuracy, the tip will be too tiny and,  too falsely dark
  • its a great way to warm up before you start painting


  • testing the tonal value, how light or dark the color is prior to application is a life saver
  • checking the color out first on the test paper, means you get it right the first go


  • it saves you time, materials and a whole lot of frustrations
  • accidents,  hmm, “wayward” paints happen…… let this occur first on the test strip and then see if you can harness that waywardness to your advantage!
  • in other words,  turn accidents into Assets



watercolor mixing, lunar black mixes, naples yellow daniel smith watercolor, prussian blue pb27, debiriley.com
Lunar Black, Naples Yellow +Prussian Blue





  • very frequently, I find…. snippets emerge to make lovely little mini paintings
  • colors on the test strip allows you to try several various glazes on it later,  because that color is there already and it is a ‘safe’ place to do so



watercolor mixing, test strips, lunar black, prussian blue pb27, daniel smith naples yellow, debiriley.com
The Mountain




A student’s oh so lovely, Test Strip!

test color first, color mixing for beginners, watercolour test strip, watercolor paint color mixes, debiriley.com
Color watercolor test strip






Partner Posts on Watercolor and Color Mixing….

Watercolor Tips 

Watercolor lunar black

Watercolor 7 Ways   color mastery





In Golden Ambers and Topaz

In Golden Ambers and Topaz

Such brilliant colors, my words will certainly fail to do justice.

The yellow gold raining down as I looked into the branches –

captured me.

And it was so easy to become lost within the cascade of golden ambers, citrine and topaz.


nature photography, canon 600d, relax outdoors, debiriley.com
Sun Gold autumns leaves


Finding Gold


The man watched. Surreptitiously.

I stood beneath his tree long enough. I wonder what he thought.

After the first 15 shots, he must have had some thoughts going on. Wondering about me and why I took 100+ photos.



I noticed him glancing over every so often, a curious expression on his face.

Can’t say as I blame him… I was there an awfully long time.


But he remained anchored and silent in his driveway.

And I remained under his tree.  For nearly 30 minutes.


Lost in the beauty.

Lost in the Moment.


nature photos, autumn gold leaves, yellow tree leaves, debiriley.com
Looking up

Pause and relax


I could tell you, that I needed a break from my so very strenuous hike and that’s why I paused for so long.

We know better, of course.


As mentioned in my last post  “In Fuschia”  – the walk was merely Around the block. To the local park.

So there was no aerobics going on whatsoever.


No.  It was pure relaxation.

Glorious. I should do this more often.


I’m biased, but I’m thinking that’s much better for me, than silly aerobics!!

Running by things so fast I’d never be able to properly  Look at them.  Never mind paint or photograph them.

What?  Did,  I hear … slackard?!

No!    I prefer    “thoughtful,  selective prioritisation of energies and time.”  

canon 600d macro, nature photography autumn foliage, debiriley.com
Zen Stroll, finding gold




golden yellow fall foliage photographs, walking in nature, debiriley.com
Autumn Ballet





fall foliage, golden yellow autumn tree foliage photographs, debiriley.com
Golden Sunburst, Fall Foliage





golden fall foliage, golden autumn tree color, autumn photography, debiriley.com
Gorgeous Gold


Standing beneath the tree filled with golden leaves….

Like I said,  I got lost.

Within the gold.


It was lovely.

And I was perfectly ….. Content.


That is a good place to be.

So I stayed awhile.




fall foliage in rust and reds, photography of autumn, debiriley.com
lovely and perfect,  this background





golden leaf in fall photo, nature walks, debiriley.com
Subtle Hints of light red, within the background



I hope you enjoyed my zen stroll to the park and back!


Autumn Ballet  is my favorite photograph.  There’s a sense of softness  and openness that is so very appealing.

What are your favorites…. I wonder why?




My short journey to the park and back was more rewarding than I’d expected.

I found my cascade of gold, along the way.




Blue Skies and Sea: in acrylics

Blue Skies and Sea: in acrylics

Time was a definite factor in this Impressionist Seascape in Acrylics.

Yesterday’s post, Sea Sensations inspired me and I really couldn’t forego art altogether. I decided regardless of time issues,  I would paint Something!

I didn’t get my oils out,  nor that massive roll of  lovely linen canvas.

However, I did take a quick 10 minutes to paint up a storm. So to speak.

acrylic impressionist seascape painting, palette knife art, debiriley.com
Blue Skies and Sea


The Painting

We don’t always have 2 hours or half the day to play around with our paints. Don’t let that. Stop us!


I’ve learned to take the minutes….. and make each of them count.


Disregard all thoughts of the final outcome.  What I produce,  is in fact, immaterial.

To Paint  – is the relevant thing.

So I did.




Acrylic paints:  lots of white,  ultramarine blue, cerulean, a tiny dash of naples yellow.


The canvas was a medium small one I’d already textured with a lot of gesso.   It had had an old painting on it, that I’d covered up.

That’s a great thing with acrylics on sturdy canvas. The previous “oops” is a bonus texture for the upcoming next painting. That, is just so handy!


The size is  5×7″   which makes it very easy to do in 10 minutes.

Thats what I needed.

Easy…… And Quick.


I used a combination of palette knife, brush and my fingers (to smooth areas out.)



References and ‘Helpers’

Before I started, I had a quick look at my Molding Paste sample here.

It gave me hints and suggestions of  color and tone that I might use in my painting.


I wasn’t going to look at any of my sea photos at all, just rely on my ‘sea shore memories’  to provide me with what I needed.

Obviously, my final image looks nothing like the molding paste sample, but I was influenced by its textural, sculptural qualities.

cobalt teal blue pg50, textural effects and techniques, cobalt teal painting, debiriley.com
Molding Paste textural effects, debiriley.com



The Blue Wild Sky

The wildness of the sky brings the emphasis towards it and away from the sea.

I didn’t intentionally do this.  Thats  simply the direction the painting wanted to go in.

I allowed it to do so.



I was on the clock.

No time to fight, argue, or stress with it!  I went with the flow to get her done.




Final Thoughts

It may not be the most sensational piece I’ve done in my life; its an alright image.



I like to remind myself of something.


As creative Artists we don’t paint  to create Masterpieces.

We paint to express…

To communicate.  To let go.



In that, I am content.

That, is  my ‘happiness.’





Of All Places….

Of All Places….

The Zoo.  A place to go for “lions, tigers and bears.”

Ok, snakes, zebras, penguins and kangaroos, too.


nature photography, zen strolls, Perth zoo, contemplative photography, debiriley.com
Invitations to the zoo


Busy Perth Zoo

The crowds are large.






Tailgaters every where.

Its not just the roads they’re on anymore.

I wonder,  at their big rush… at the zoo.

Of all places.

Curious at such burning need for speed that their need, excuses their tailgating “incidents and accidents.”



Zen Time,  Zoo Time

The enjoyment for me is to take my time and not be rushed, here at the zoo.


Smell the roses.

(Violets in the case of Perth Zoo.)


Doing it all, in one afternoon is overwhelming.

And sucks the enjoyment out.

Photos are horrible.

Feet are sore.

Things get grumpy.

And, I never really get to  “know”  ie get a personalized view on any of the subjects.




Choose a Focal Point

In life, as it is in art.


I like to choose a target area and spend most of my time … at that location.

That’s my “Theme.”

I’ll spend some time getting acquainted with the exhibit, the subject, the location.


Yep. I know.

That – is the artist, coming out in me.


I just keep in mind,  that next time, I can choose another area to focus on.

Simple, really.



nature photography, trees and foliage in greens, zen moments, debiriley.com
Zen Greens at the zoo




Simplicity and Zen – at the Zoo?

Yes.  It is possible!



I thoroughly enjoy searching for the unexpected and the unlikely in places that you wouldn’t typically link together.

Looking for, the something that is that little bit  Different.


Finding zen at the zoo.

Of All Places.


It is my way, of finding calm,  of creating calm from out of life’s chaos and busy 24-7 we’re all now lodged firmly within.


Not all my zoo pics are plants and zen. I don’t have a photo shortage of emu, giraffe, koala, zebra and numbats, etc. Not at all.

Far too many……  But thats part of the enjoyment of going too.


calm in the midst of chaos, nature photography, finding serenity, Perth zoo, debiriley.com
zoo meditations





Perth Zoo, Western Australia     a wonderful, easy to walk zoo.

Surrounded by beautifully green shade trees. There is enough to do and see to inspire me to have purchased my annual pass.  Once, certainly is not enough.

Spring and Autumn are lovely. I do enjoy the Winter days as well, on a warm sunny afternoon, it is perfect!



contemplative photography

finding calm, creating calm, soft greens

the quiet joy of nature 

Perth zoo the Violets…. 

Choose a Focal Point, a center of interest 

close your eyes for just a minute 




I chose these 3 photographs because of the light;  and that sense of  “invitation”  was just fantastic.

This, was just meters from the front entrance.

I loved it. With those deep jade greens that were brightened by the beautiful branch of light gold green… beckoning.

Zen at the Zoo.

Of all places.