Posts in studio
2018 -- a Year in Review

Reviewing a whole year is a hard thing. Once you sit down to do it you realize how slippery the days can be. How difficult to contain with words or even photos.

I had my fair share of failures, mistakes and frustrations in 2018, but I don’t want to focus on them here. We can learn from our mistakes and I’m certainly using those lessons as I plan for the new year, but my focus for today is celebrating the good stuff.

I am so grateful to be doing what I do. Making art. Writing this blog. Teaching. I’m grateful for you, whether you’re a customer, student or simply pause here on occasion to read my words.

Even though it can be tricky condense a year into a definable whole, I find it satisfying to look back and remember all I’ve accomplished. (You can see past posts on my old blog for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). Maybe you like to do it, too? If you feel as if you’re moving forward at a snail’s pace it can be helpful to look back and see how truly far you’ve come.

I chose PRESENT for my Word of the Year for 2018. I’m not sure how successful I was at remaining Present throughout the year, but it was a good reminder that I continued to turn to. I never did manage to make meditation a habit, but I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Mindfulness is something I’ll continue to carry with me into 2019.

I began 2018 with a Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity (and a typo, since fixed, in my image for it — pondering mistakes and missteps in the beginning of the year was good for me and my business, I think).

A Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity -- Crafting a More Creative Year

My intention was to be more creative throughout my days, to focus more on making all the time and to be able to wear me-mades as much as possible. It’s easy to let creative projects slip for lack of time or energy and I wanted to try to turn that on its head. Sewing and crochet were two things I wanted to tackle in part because I already had a lot of fabric and yarn stored away in my studio closet. This push didn’t really have anything to do with my business, but it had to do with me as a person, which in turn affects all areas of my life.

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Looking back I did tackle (and finish) a lot of personal projects in 2018 and I want to do more in 2019. I’m still dreaming of a way to integrate art-making and crafting as part of my business. Fabric design is part of it, but I want to take it a step further. Stay tuned!

As for fabric design, I created a new a fabric collection in 2018.

Into which I added one of my absolute favorite designs, also created this year (and available in a larger scale than seen below).

I love how it turned out and so did lots of other people. It was voted a community favorite on Spoonflower and it’s sold very well. I updated my designs from past years with new dates and they’ve been popular, too.

Because I loved creating these tea towels I decided to share my process in a class on Skillshare.

In total I filmed and taught four new classes on Skillshare in 2018.

I began teaching in person this year, too. I taught three series of watercolor classes at the library in town (where I also work part time). I had no idea how teaching in person would go, but I ended up really enjoying it (and learning a lot from my students — many thanks to everyone who took classes with me this year!).

Through the month of February I had a little exhibit of my paintings at the local library.

Paintings by Anne Butera on Exhibit at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin in February of 2018

I’ve had some paintings on display at Matthias’s shop in town this year, too.

Anne Butera's Art on Exhibit at Mac Help in Viroqua, Wisconsin

My art got some nice recognition further afield in 2018.

Anne Butera's Art Was Featured in Publications Around the World in 2018

My nasturtiums painting was on the cover of The Essential Herbal Magazine in September/October. One of my illustrations was included in Flow Magazine’s 2019 Tear off Calendar. I was a featured designer on the Pattern Observer Blog in November. And perhaps, most exciting to me, my 2019 desk calendar was featured in Cottages and Bungalows Magazine!

Printing last year’s calendar was so frustrating and I knew I needed a change in how I did things. This year I had my calendars professionally printed. It made things so much easier for me and allowed my 2019 calendars to be my most successful yet.

Something completely new for me this year was my first time on a podcast. I was interviewed by Angie Noll on The Not Starving Artist Podcast in May.

Sketchbooks continue to be an important part of my art practice, although my work in them often comes in ebbs and flows.

This year I started another collaborative sketchbook project with Dana Barbieri.

a page from the second collaborative sketchbook by Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri

We aren’t sharing our pages the way we did with the first project and that has made working in the sketchbook feel very free. In 2019 I hope to hang onto that free feeling and dive even deeper into my own sketchbooks.

One big change this year: I moved my blog from blogger to my website. In a lot of ways I wish I had done it earlier. It feels good to have everything in one place. I’m not entirely certain which direction I want to take with my blog in 2019. Any thoughts from a reader’s perspective?

The backbone of everything has been, of course, my watercolors.

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Looking at all these paintings makes me look forward to 2019’s gardening season and having ample subjects for my watercolors.

2018 was a weird year in the garden, but I wish I had taken more photos. Even in their imperfection the photos I did take bring me so much joy (especially when everything out there is frozen solid).

A View in My Garden in 2018

The beauty about a garden is that each year we get a chance for a fresh start. It’s also the beauty of this time of year. When January rolls around we get a fresh start with our lives, a chance to think and plan and decide what’s most important for us in the new year.

I hope that you are looking to 2019 with excitement and hope. Here’s to a joy-filled, beautiful, creative year for us both! Thanks, again, for spending time on this journey with me. See you again in 2019!

Stealing Calm Amidst the Chaos

This has been a chaotic week. Or maybe I should say, my studio has been in chaos. I’ve been filming my next Skillshare class and somehow my studio always ends up looking like a small tornado has passed through whenever I’m filming. Having my sewing table and ironing board set up in the room hasn’t helped matters. I have a few other projects in the works (including preparing for an exhibition!), and I haven’t been making as much art as I’d like.

For the most part I keep my studio fairly neat, but I also know that when I’m in the middle of projects, it will get a bit messy. I’m ok with the in-process chaos most of the time, but right now it’s like I’m working in an obstacle course. Packaging customers’ orders has involved a bit of juggling of piles of sketchbooks and supplies, too.

My Messy, Chaotic, In Process Studio

My messy studio is a good metaphor for life. We’re busy. We’re juggling multiple priorities. It’s messy and often feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Deep breath.

Hoar Frost on the Roses in My Winter Garden

This week I stole some time. Just for me. I sat at the kitchen table in my pajamas, drinking coffee, eating a rice cake and writing in my journal. Matthias had already left for work. The house was quiet. I’d spread peanut butter on the rice cake and drizzled a little bit of honey. It felt so cozy. I savored the stillness. I decided I wasn’t going to let myself get carried away in the rush of the day. I gave myself permission for slowness. For quiet. I had a list of things I needed to do, but I knew there was enough wiggle room to give myself the morning. A bit later I went up to my studio and worked on a couple sketchbook pages. Just played with paint and did some drawing. No pressure. No rush. No need to worry about the outcome.

Winter is a time for slowing down. For quiet. For being cozy indoors. Often we don’t honor this slowness, but instead carry on like usual, often at an even faster pace with the busyness of the holiday season. I know I’ve said before that this disconnect is difficult for me. I try to remind myself that slowing down is not only OK, but natural. And we’re allowed to make our own choices. I’m allowed to choose what is best for me. You’re allowed to choose what’s best for you.

A Sketchbook Spread from My Upcoming Skillshare Class

For me that’s meant slower mornings. It’s meant brewing loose-leaf tea. It’s meant snuggling up with books and cats. It’s meant pajama mornings and pajama days. It’s meant a weekend away with friends. I’ve been shifting to more contemplation, dreaming, working in my sketchbooks. I haven’t been as present on Instagram.

But unplugging is hard. There’s so much pressure to Accomplish Important Things. I feel guilty if I don’t have “something to show for myself” at the end of the day. Isn’t calm an accomplishment? Aren’t ideas important?


So here’s a reminder (if you need one). Slowing down is good for you. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your creativity. It’s good for your relationships.

Here’s to a lusciously slow weekend for us both!

Making Do and Making Art

What are your barriers to creativity? What keeps you from making or doing on a regular basis? A lack of:

  • time?

  • space?

  • money?

  • materials?

  • tools?

  • knowledge?

  • skills?

  • inspiration?

  • energy?

  • confidence?

Or is it something else?

I think most of the things on this list challenge all of us at one point or another. I know I’ve struggled with them.

Sometimes we put limits on ourselves based on imaginary constraints. We even use language making our limits sound hopeful or dream-inspired instead of constraining. I caught myself thinking “when I have time to reorganize my studio, I’ll set up a permanent sewing table. And then I’ll be able to sew more regularly.” I even started fantasizing about the thrift-store table I’d find or repurpose. What I was really saying was “I can’t sew right now because I don’t have the right space to do it.”

Was it true? No. And I finally realized it. I brought a folding table up from the basement, shifted things a bit and brought my sewing machine out from the closet.

I set up my sewing machine on a folding table in my studio

It might not look pretty and the table bounces a little when the machine is going full steam, but it works. I even crossed a couple sewing projects off my list this week (although one was a bit of a fail as I shared on Instagram).

A pillow cover sewed with my fabric design in Spoonflower's Celosia Velvet

I love my new pillow* and wish I’d done this sooner.

I wonder about some of the other constraints I put on myself. Are they true?

I’ve been dragging my feet on a few projects, putting them off for various reasons. If I look closely at the reasons, I see there are ways around them. I can make do and then get on with the business of making art.

Don’t have enough time? Fit in a few minutes of making. I was able to fill a page in my sketchbook on a day when I only had about ten minutes to work.**

Don’t have the right space? Rethink the space you have.

Don’t have a lot of money for fancy supplies? Use what you have. (My blue roses fabric design was painted with one color of paint).

These sketchbook roses were painted with one color of paint and eventually became one of my favorite fabric designs

Many of our constraints can be overcome. We can shift our thinking. We can look at our situations creatively. We can listen to what we’re truly saying and combat our fears. We can make do and make art.

Lately I’ve been telling myself that winter is my uninspired season, that without my garden I can’t create any serious art. Yes, it’s true I often hit a slump during the winter, but it’s also true that I’ve created some pieces I love during the winter. (My blue roses were painted during the winter and all of these paintings were created during the winter, too).

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

Although I’m still working on overcoming my slump, I’ve been focusing on playing in my sketchbooks instead of creating “serious” art (whatever that is). Perhaps my art, like my garden needs a bit of rest in order to begin growing again.

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

It’s amazing what ideas come out of sketchbook play. Giving myself time and space to experiment and dream is just as important as other types of making.

Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find your working.” Figuring out ways to rethink our restraints and restrictions, to pull apart the barriers to our creativity is important work.

What about you? Is there something holding you back from being creative? How might you reframe your situation so you can begin making?

*I sewed the pillow cover with my small scale Watercolor Rose Garden in Blue design in Spoonflower’s Celosia Velvet fabric. The fabric is vibrantly colored, so soft and was easy to work with. You can find it here and learn more about the fabric here.

**It’s also important to remember that we all have a lot of time each day and how we fill it is up to us. Prioritize what’s most important and leave the other stuff out. (Bonnie Christine shared some interesting thoughts about this on Instagram the other day).

Being in the Middle

When I sit down to write to you it’s usually with a plan that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I usually start writing about a week before I’m planning on posting. I have lists of topics. I have a schedule. But sometimes things don’t go as planned.

I think it’s important that we (as artists, but also as people) admit that life can be messy and that things don’t always go the way we hope they will. It’s easy to share the successes, less so to share the fumbles. But if we don’t share our messes, our struggles, our failures, we end up projecting inaccurate, picture-perfect stories of our lives.

Today I planned on sharing a studio tour and writing about cultivating a creative space of your own. I recently rearranged and cleaned my studio and I thought it would be perfect timing.

The view into my rearranged studio. Although it looks pretty good here, it's still unfinished and not ready for a full tour.

But the fact is, although my studio is rearranged (and looks pretty good in the photo), it’s not finished. I’m hunting for a couple pieces to help me organize some supplies and so far I’m not having any luck finding just what I’m looking for.

Ordinarily I’d simply skip to another post idea from my list. But none of those projects are finished, either. I’m stuck in the middle.

Working on carving a block inspired by my collaborate sketchbook with Dana Barbieri.

The middle is an awkward place. It’s unfinished. It’s messy. It can be uncomfortable, chaotic, confusing.

This is true no matter what the middle might be. The middle of baking a cake. The middle of organizing your closet. The middle of creating a painting. Middle school. Middle age.

But the middle is also a place of magic. It’s filled with possibilities and growth, with dreams and ideas.

I’m feeling in the middle not only with the projects I’m working on, but with my art in general and with my business.

I have a whole list of unfinished sewing project. This tea towel calendar* is just one of them.

I have a whole list of unfinished sewing project. This tea towel calendar* is just one of them.

And that’s ok. The more I think about it, the more I realize that nearly all of life is lived “in the middle”. Once I get where I’m going it won’t be long before I begin another journey.

So hang in there. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or awkward keep going. If life feels messy or chaotic or constantly unfinished, don’t be discouraged. We’re all in this together. Enjoy the process. Savor the details that makes life so magical.

Flowers and Leaves from My Autumn Garden in My Studio

*Now through Thursday, November 8 all fat quarters of my fabric, including my three tea towel calendars are 50% off at Spoonflower! Which means I’ll be adding more unfinished projects to my list.

Why trying new things and even making mistakes is good for your creativity

When you're learning how to do something or if you're building up a business, it's important to focus your energy in one direction.

When I first started teaching myself to paint I didn't do that. I sewed. I crocheted. I was selling handmade purses and jewelry on Etsy. I was trying all sorts of things and learning and experimenting. Eventually I came to realize what I wanted to do more than any of those other things was paint.

At first I didn't want to "give up" everything else. Even with the advice I kept running across, I was hesitant to focus on just one thing. But over time I saw how valuable such focus could be. Focus allows you the most growth. It gives you purpose, direction. It makes everything clearer.

And so I painted, letting go of my other projects, narrowing my attention to art. It made a huge difference to my development as an artist and it brought some wonderful opportunities.

I'm a naturally creative and curious person, constantly overflowing with ideas. I have so many projects I want to tackle and things I want to try, but I also know I can't do everything.

Despite what it might look like sometimes on social media, no one can do everything. We must choose how we spend our time and that means something always gets left out.

While pondering this I went back to my old blog and found these words in a post written about three and a half years ago

"I've come to realize it's not abandoning dreams that's happening when we let go of ideas and desires which aren't right for us, it's refining an understanding of who we truly are."

Isn't that a powerful thought? It's beautiful to imagine this clarified understanding. To me it sounds filled with self-love.

On Instagram I'd seen a few people mention Lilla Rogers' new class on Creativebug. It's called Treasure Hunt Your Artistic Style. When I first heard about the class I discounted its usefulness. I know what my artistic style is; I don't need to hunt for it. But I was curious and yesterday I watched part of it. 

It's so interesting to look at what I like and dislike. To nestle in to what I love and think about why I love it, about how what I love and who I am influences my style.

Flying Pigs on a Shelf in My Studio Bring Me Joy Each Day

But what does any of this have to do with trying new things and making mistakes?

Both trying new things and making mistakes help us refine our understanding of who we are. More than that, trying new things keeps us curious. It keeps us moving forward. Almost two years ago I went through a long creative slump. Since then I've thought a lot about creativity, inspiration and creative energy.

Creativity is not a static thing, but sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Although focus is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes lead us into the rut. Being ok with the idea of creative ebbs and flows helps a lot, but so does being open to new things. Experimenting. Changing gears. Having fun.*

Reminders in My Studio

The "It's supposed to be fun" note came from Ria Sharon, a gift in one of her newsletters. It's a great reminder not to take things to seriously, a reminder I often need.

Although it takes time and energy to try something new, we need to remember to hold onto the fun.

I recently started crocheting again in the evenings. Instead of hemming and hawing I simply chose a pattern (the hardest part for me) and got to work.

A Top I Crocheted Using One Dog Woof's Wildflowers Tunic Pattern

It was a simple pattern, but in picking up crochet I challenged myself to try something different and to learn something new. The pattern taught me a new technique which started with quite a bit of mistake-making, but ended up empowering me with a new skill.

Last weekend I pulled out my fabric stash, unearthed my sewing machine and sewed a top. Trying a new sewing pattern, looking at fabrics and matching them up, thinking about future projects... all of those things stretch my creativity. They help me problem solve. They open me up to new ideas and possibilities. This carries over into my art, too.

A Top I Sewed with the New Look 6284 Sewing Pattern

The tomato and eggplant pieces I painted last week were a change of gears for me. A slight shift of subject matter, yes, but also a change of format -- square -- and a change of paper type -- cold pressed after painting mainly on hot. Doing something different doesn't have to be BIG, but it can open up big possibilities.

Trying something new can help you face your fears, too. I never draw or paint people, in part because I find it a bit scary. But I think in order to continue to grow as an artist I need to stretch myself and face those fears. I've been dipping my toes into those waters with Charlotte Hamilton's 31 Days of Faces Creativebug class (talk about making mistakes!).

A 2 Minute Marker Sketch Portrait Created with Charlotte Hamilton's Creativebug Class

It feels good. All these creative experiments. All this play. 

Trying new things gives you a different perspective. It makes you ask the question "what if?". Like the question I asked last week: What if I roast eggplant with taco seasonings and use it instead of meat in my tacos? I did that this week, too.

My focus has not changed. Watercolor is still my passion.

A Watercolor Painting of Dahlias in Progress in My Studio

I might be sewing and crocheting in my free time. I might be drawing wonky-looking people in my sketchbook. I might be experimenting in the kitchen and even making soap, but I'll still be painting every day. I think my paintings will be enhanced by all my other creative play.

So what about you? Have you tried anything new lately? Or maybe come back to something you love but haven't done in a while? The changing of the seasons and beginning of the school year is a perfect time to embrace "back to school" thinking. I'd love to hear about it!



*Working through my own creative slump and pondering it afterwards helped me to create a Skillshare class designed to help you break out of a creative slump

Watercolor Sunflowers from Start to Finish

Sunflowers embody the spirit of summertime. Of buzzing bees and hazy days. Shrill cicadas and fluffy white clouds floating in blue skies. They're some of my favorite plants to grow in my garden. I love the flowers, so many shapes and colors and sizes, but what I like even more is that they feed the bees and the birds.

My garden is filled with flowers calling me to paint them, but right now it's the sunflowers I couldn't resist.

It's been a while since I've painted a larger painting, one that takes many hours to finish. It's nice to paint small and quick, but there's something much more satisfying about a larger piece. It's more difficult -- takes more concentration, more patience -- but the end result is much more substantial.

Each painting starts the same way. I wash the old paint off my palette. That in itself is energizing. A fresh start.

Washing My Paint Palette to Prepare for a New Painting

One of my favorite parts of the painting process is mixing my colors. I study my subjects and decide which colors I'll need and try to re-create them with paint. I do this mostly intuitively, but I also consult my sketchbooks where I've painted swatches and made notes on color mixing.

In My Studio Mixing Colors on My Watercolor Palette in Preparation for Painting a New Piece

When I was first learning to paint I was impatient to get started and saw things like practicing color mixing as "busywork". So not true. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolor spend as much time as you can mixing and testing colors. I find it to be soothing and meditative. It's a bit magical and the colors always bring me joy.

Once my colors are mixed I make some rough sketches in my sketchbook, trying to figure out my composition. And then I make a very light sketch on my watercolor paper.

In My Studio Sketching out a New Painting

(Can you spot my studio assistant hard at work?).

I don't start painting right away. I prefer working with the paint once my mixed colors have dried on the palette. I'm able to get a much broader range of tones working this way. Using the wet mixes there's so much water that the colors end up very light.

Once the paint is dry I get started. One petal at a time, letting each dry before painting an adjacent petal.

The First Stage of a Watercolor Painting of Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I layer and blend colors while the paper is wet and then go back to add more layers and finish it off with fine details.

The Process of Painting a Sunflower with Watercolor Involves Many Layers

The details are what bring the painting to life. 

I Paint One Flower at a Time, One Petal at a Time, Finishing Each with Fine Details

It helps to have the flowers on hand to refer back to, especially when adding the details. I noticed that the base of each of the petals of this light-colored sunflower was a brighter, warmer yellow. When I went back and added some more yellow it made all the difference. I wish I had a "before" picture to show you, but when I'm in the groove, I often forget to photograph. Below you can see the contrast in the next flower between the petals with details and those without.

Notice the Difference Between the Petals That Have Gotten Details and Those That Have Not in this In-Progress Sunflower Watercolor Painting

I am constantly rotating the paper when I'm working on a painting. Sometimes I knock things off my table in the process, but it makes painting so much easier. When I film my classes for Skillshare I struggle with trying to make sure I keep the page in the view of the camera and in-focus. Trying not to move the page is SOO hard.

Painting Details on the Back of a Sunflower is Just as fun as Painting a Flower From the Front

The rules of composition suggest that an odd number of flowers is more pleasing than an even number. Maybe it's the rule-breaker in me, but I often paint an even number of flowers. In this case there are three different varieties of sunflower so perhaps the two smaller flowers are acting as one.

The finished painting feels balanced, but not in a boring way.

A Finished Watercolor Painting of Summer Sunflowers by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Although there were times throughout the process that I doubted everything coming together, my mantra was "you've got this". Each day I was excited to get back to my painting table and pick up where I'd left off. And the finished painting (now available in my shop) is so full of joy. Looking at it I can just about hear the buzzing bees and droning cicadas.

Now what should I paint next?

How I use My Garden Part 1: Creating a Portable Studio

A friend recently mentioned she was curious about how I use my garden and the things I grow in it. Her question got me thinking.

She's right, it's interesting to learn how other people use their outdoor spaces. And I love seeing garden bouquets that combine unusual plants and flowers and reading garden-fresh recipes.

I talk a lot about the fact that my garden inspires my art, but I don't really explain how that happens. So I'm planning a series of posts along those lines. If there's anything in particular that you're interested about, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Morning View in the Garden of Botanical Watercolor Artist Anne Butera

Oh, and while I'm mentioning comments, have you had any trouble leaving one? I had an email last weekend from someone who did. I tried to troubleshoot it and I did a lot of tests, but couldn't recreate her problem. I'd love to know if it's an isolated event or if others are having trouble, too. If you've had trouble leaving a comment can you let me know?

Now back to the garden!

A Gardenia Flower Unfurling in the Garden of Botanical Watercolor Artist Anne Butera

Today I want to talk about using my garden as an extension of my studio and specifically, how I've created a portable studio I can take with me when I want to make art outside.

In truth I don't usually paint outdoors -- I find it difficult -- but I do work in my sketchbooks, write and read in the garden. And I'm often photographing plants, flowers or wildlife as possible reference for future paintings, too.

Simply being present in the garden gives me a chance to slow down, to pay attention and to observe what's going on around me. It's the only way to notice things like the caterpillars growing in the parsley, the hummingbirds visiting the runner bean flowers, the toad hiding beneath the fence or the hummingbird moth hovering around the scented geraniums.

A Garden Toad

I've read that for a gardener a bench in the garden is never really for sitting down because gardeners are always too busy. Perhaps I'm a lazy gardener, but I always make a point of having time to savor my space, not just work in it. The weeds aren't going anywhere, but the perfect days of blue skies and puffy clouds won't last.

I usually drag out piles of books, my computer, sketchbook and other "necessities" when I'm spending time in the garden, even if I don't end up using them. Sometimes I get more from simply sitting still and tuning all my senses to what's around me than from drawing or writing about it. 

An Impromptu Outdoor Workspace in the Garden of Watercolor Artist Anne Butera

But I do like to be prepared. For being able to capture the curve of a flower stem or the ruffles of a petal or the pattern made by overlapping leaves. I like to have books handy for inspiration or just for the joy of escaping into stories. If there's computer work I need to catch up on, like sending emails or writing blog posts, why do it inside if I can do it sitting on the patio with my laptop instead?

Over the years I've created and re-created portable studios. Bags or baskets to carry my stuff outside and in. Boxes of essentials at the ready so I don't have to keep running up to my second-floor studio for something I've forgotten.

I recently found a wicker picnic basket at the thrift store that is perfect as my portable studio.

A Wicker Picnic Basket Makes the Perfect Traveling Studio in the Garden of Botanical Watercolor Artist Anne Butera

Here are some ideas of what you might want to include in your portable studio:

  • a sketchbook or sketchbooks
  • a journal or notebook
  • a pencil and pens for writing and drawing (Microns are my favorite to draw with)
  • colored pencils
  • markers
  • a travel set of watercolors and a water brush
  • watercolor or Inktense pencils (these are NOT my favorite, but I've been playing and experimenting with them lately) and a water brush
  • books and/or magazines
  • a camera or smartphone*
  • a laptop*

*being outside is also a good time to unplug. If I don't bring these things with me, I won't be distracted by them. The choice is entirely up to you.

Of course, you don't need a basket to hold your traveling studio. A backpack, messenger bag, tote or suitcase would work just as well, or better, depending on how far you need to carry it.

Outdoor Marker Sketches in the Sketchbook of Botanical Watercolor Artist Anne Butera

Even if you don't plan on creating in your garden, a portable studio is useful for when you're traveling or if you don't have a dedicated art-making space in your home. It's also great to take with you on a hike or a visit to a nature center or botanical garden.

My Instagram friend and fellow artist (and gardener) Eva Shorey recently shared the bag she made for nature walks. I think I'll have to do some searching around the internet for other artists' portable studio ideas, too.

What about you? Do you take creative supplies with you when you're out and about? I'd love to hear about your version of the "portable studio".