More Art Play Makes Better Art Work

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

I spend a lot of time urging you to repeat yourself, to focus on exploration, and to luxuriate in the joy of the process. Today I’d like to illustrate what that looks like for me in the hope of inspiring you to push further in your own process.

Image by Jenny Schneider

I made these overlapping circle explorations last fall during my live retreat,  Watercolor Wonder . Notice how I’m not afraid of “wasting” paper – the process is joyful – and leads me in new directions – that’s a good use of paper.

As you can see I was exploring different color combinations, levels of color saturation, and seeing what would happen if I allowed the paint to dry more and less before adding the next circle.

Then on my artist residency a few weeks ago, I wanted to explore an image I had seen of nested bowls – but in abstract watercolor. It’s related to the other circle explorations, but different too.

As you can see, I’ve worked into one or two of them with pen already, which is really fun. I have no idea what they are “for” or where they will end up, but that’s the point – to work openly, luxuriating in the process of open discovery.

And on that note, I wondered what would happen if I explored some warmer colors and grays as well. I was running out of paper – so I did these smaller ones, which turned out to be really fun.

Again, I don’t know what they are “for,” but they can spur on exploring what different elements are like layered together. For example, I’m letting this sit on my desk:

And in another exploration, I had started making teensy circles on a large watercolor pattern.

I couldn’t figure out where it was going, or if it was going. So I split it into four separate pieces. Here’s two of the pieces that have come out of it. I’m feeling happy with them. It’s always an adventure to watch the work develop when I approach it as play. The funny thing is, the more I do art play, the faster the development of my art work. I see this happening for my students as well.

If this way of working with watercolor and mark making lights you up, but you aren’t sure where to start, I’d love to invite you to my upcoming live online retreat: Watercolor Wonder.

Join me for two creative, luxurious afternoons of exploring and dwelling in the flow of watercolor paint, April 27 and 28th. (Live on Zoom!) You’ll get to know your paints and brushes through exploratory exercises and create blooming, bold clouds of color, and gentle washes and marks that will set the stage for your slow drawings and mark making to pop.

This retreat is best for folks with less familiarity with watercolor paint. you can learn more and grab your spot here.

What do you love about art play, especially with watercolor? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Creatively Yours,



  1. Kathi Hilborn

    I am so drawn to your exploration of nested bowls and especially the colors you explored with the grey. The practice of play is so freeing.

    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Kathi:

      Oh yes, I have always loved round forms – nests, bowls, eggs. Play is so needed. xo

  2. Christa Young

    I love how water spreads on the paper. It is finds the ‘veins’ of the paper. I love that it flows on the paper.

    • Amy Maricle

      Oh yes, Christa, the movement of pigment on the paper really speaks to me too! XO

  3. Heather Albrecht

    Thank you for finding more and more ways to communicate this message that play, endless curiosity, what ifs, repetition… supports us in making better work. I can’t hear it too often and I think it is finally sinking in. I especially love it when you show us your process, as you have here, it’s inspiring to see you play and makes me want to play too.

    • Amy Maricle

      Heather, your comment makes me so happy – mission accomplished! Thanks for being here! xo

  4. Barb Jordan

    Watercolor how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!! You are subtle and bold, soft and defined, smooth gradation and wild explosion of blooms (aka mistakes ) which become an art form all your own.
    You are potential in a tube waiting for the addition of water to set the magic free! You take me on amazing journeys if I am willing to be along for the ride and not the controlling task master.

    • Amy Maricle

      What a wonderful ode to watercolor! Thank you Barb for adding color to these comments. XO

  5. Erica

    Oh la la! I love these beautiful watercolor circles. When I first started making art, I worried that I was “wasting paper”. Now, I better understand the value of creative play and practice.

    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Erica: I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m thrilled to see that you have absorbed the idea of creative practice and how much you are worth in art materials. You are worth so much. And there are so many great ways to re-use your materials. If you haven’t already, I invite you to join our community here: xo Amy

  6. Rose

    Thank you: I am trying to understand creative play…I’m drawn to it, and enjoy messing…but then also can feel confused or inhibited as if I’m wasting my time, and supplies. But you showing -in pictures – how playing does take you into new and unforeseen ideas, is quite ground breaking for me. Very excited by this. Thank you again. I’d previously thought you needed to have an end point in mind, to be preparing something in particular.

    • Amy Maricle

      HI Rose: I’m so excited to see what this has awakened for you! If you haven’t already, I can lead you more step by step through this process in my free class:
      The Guide to Creative Self Care. Cheers!


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