Tuesday, June 6, 2023

30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge Begins


6/1/23 Google street view reference photo

Not another challenge! With a couple days still to go of my 100 Day Project (final summary on that soon), I impulsively jumped into 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor! Led by Marc Holmes and Uma Kelkar, this annual challenge (now in its sixth year) encourages participants to paint with watercolors daily during the month of June – without an initial drawing before putting brush to paper. According to Marc:

What do I mean by ‘Direct’? Basically, with as little under-drawing or preparation as possible. Preferably none! Maybe just a gesture drawing. We believe that going into the white page with the wet brush guarantees a fresh, authentic experience of watercolor painting.

My recent bouquets painted with direct watercolor were so much fun that I got the idea in my head that I should try the challenge. Then I successfully talked myself out of it, telling myself I’d practice this year and be more prepared to participate next year. Then I gave myself a firm talking-to the way I’ve talked to others who have made similar arguments about why they weren’t taking on a challenge: What better way to “practice” than to take part in a 30-day challenge? With the encouragement of peers and plenty of online inspiration, it’s the ideal time to try something new and very challenging. OK, OK, Tina – you’re right (you’re always right)! I’m in!

As with this year’s 100 Day Project, although I’m committed to practicing each day, I’m allowing myself not to share daily on social media if I don’t feel like it. I’ve learned from other challenges that sometimes the pressure to post just adds to the burden. In addition, I haven’t put together a portable watercolor kit, so at least for this challenge, I’ll be using photo references or sketching things around the house.

6/1/23 Google street view reference photo

Conveniently, the first day of the challenge fell on a session of
Street View World Tour, the free monthly online sketching event hosted by Ellie Doughty and Jenny Adam. The special guest was Sue Heston, who demo’d how she sketches with a focus on “sky holes.” Our reference photos from around the globe included “holes” or other intriguing negative shapes.

I used my Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolor set (edited 6/9/23: which I reviewed at the Well-Appointed Desk). As I’d hoped, it was easy and convenient to dip into colors without having to mix. In fact, because of my laptop desk setup, if I want to be on a Zoom at the same time that I work, I barely have space for the paint box, let alone a mixing tray. I did have a water glass for rinsing my waterbrush quickly, but it was precarious right next to my laptop!

As for the paper, I used my last Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook that has just a few pages left in it. With watercolor pencils, I’ve always loved the Beta’s texture, and the sizing was sufficient for the degree of water I use with pencils. With the wet washes I used in these sketches, however, I was disappointed with Beta, especially now that I’m spoiled by Hahnemühle. You can see where the paper buckled, causing shadows when I scanned the images. It’s just as well that this is my last one – I won’t be buying more.

I’ll post my progress here on my blog occasionally. If you want to see what others are doing during the challenge, search for the hashtag #30x30directwatercolor on social media. Are you participating?


  1. I'm so glad you talked yourself into participating. I'll be following along to see what you do. I'm participating again. I checked and I've been taking part since 2019...so 5 years.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comments in the FB group, Joan! This is all new to me, so it's quite an adventure. I knew you were a veteran!


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