by Bonnie, Bookseller

On my last day at the store before we closed I bought a set of watercolor paints and some watercolor paper on impulse. My thought process was essentially, “Well, no better time than the apocalypse to pick up a new hobby.” Of course, after I made the purchase it occurred to me: watercolor is hard! In fact, notoriously so; working with such fluid paint lends the art form a certain unpredictability—as it turns out, water just flows where it wants.

On top of that, because the paints are translucent (ya know, because they are mostly water and water is clear), errors are very difficult to correct—you can’t simply paint over it because the pigment of the mistake and the pigment of your attempted correction will muddle together when wet (and there is no such thing as “dry watercolor”). This is not to mention the fact that although I am somewhat artistically inclined, I always avoided watercolor because I had never had a knack for it and it frustrated me. Yet two months ago I found myself driving home with a very nice watercolor set (that I had spent $30 on and could not return) and absolutely no idea how to use it.

“Bonnie!” you might say, “Why are you writing about this? Watercolor does not sound fun and it doesn’t sound like you enjoy it and I’m also not really interested in reading a blog post about your frivolous spending habits at your own workplace.” Well, dear reader, this is that part of the story one might call a reversal, a turn of events, a real kicker: it turns out watercolor is fun and I do enjoy it and the watercolor set wasn’t a frivolous purchase after all! “Fine, that’s all well and good,” you might grumble, “but what has this got to do with me?” I’ll get to that! I promise.

Something I discovered thanks to my impulsive purchase is that making things means something. Technically, this is something I already knew. As I mentioned before I am somewhat artistically inclined, one of those “creative types”—I write; I draw a little; I make collages; I cross-stitch sometimes; I knit (very poorly); I hoard miscellany under the guise that I will eventually use it for a DIY project I have not yet thought of; etc. I understand the power of creating, and that power has always acted as a force in my life, both consciously and unconsciously. It moves me.

But sometimes, you forget things you know very well! You know these things so well you don’t have to think about them and so you don’t remember to think about them and not remembering to think about something is, functionally speaking, the same as forgetting. I needed a reminder, and watercolor popped into my life to fill that role. Maybe you need a reminder too: creating is magic. You (yes, you!) can make something very cool out of almost nothing; and that, dear reader, is basically witchcraft.

For me, trying watercolor out was a form of alchemy. It was a series of experiments I carried out with very little facts on the matter. It was finding out how to take an idea and concoct it into a reality in front of my eyes. It was teaching myself paint-physics and the personality of water. It was something to learn, not just for my mind but for my hands. I spend so much time staring at a screen now, or reading/watching the brilliant work of creators I admire, that I forgot creation is not just a thing I can watch others do. It is a thing I can do too.

And not just me! You too. I’m here to encourage you to make something, anything. You can bring something beautiful/amazing/poignant/introspective/wild into this world if you want to. In confusing times like these, the world could use more beauty/amazement/poignancy/introspection/wildness. So be your own alchemist and make something.

And show me what you make! Post your creation to Instagram with the hashtag #booksmithmakes so I can see your alchemical creations.

Everyday Watercolor

Everyday Watercolor

I said earlier that watercolor is tricky, and I meant it, but once you learn a few basic tips and tricks it is a really fun medium! If you enjoy experimenting with different techniques and testing your skill with a bit of a challenge, watercolor is a great art-form.
The Art of Basic Drawing

The Art of Basic Drawing

When I first tried out sketching and drawing, a friend told me, “train your eye and your hand will follow.” I’m still a drawing novice, but that advice really helped me learn and be patient with myself. Visual art is all about observing and translating your observation to the page. A book on drawing techniques can act as a sort of dictionary, giving you a method to translate what you see.
The Collage Workbook

The Collage Workbook

My favorite thing about collage is that pretty much anyone can do it with materials you probably already have at home. All you need is scissors, glue, and some pictures. It’s also a soothing practice—cutting things out is very meditative, and you get to flip through a magazine, newspaper, or old photos and pick out whatever it is you find visually compelling. It’s all about curating your own collection of inspiring images!
Feminist Cross-Stitch

Feminist Cross-Stitch

Cross-stitch is super easy and fun! All you have to do is sew little x’s onto a grid, and you can make a ton of fun and interesting designs. Maybe you associate it with those corny pillows or framed wall hangings you generally see at thrift stores or your grandma’s house that say stuff like “Home is Where the <3 Is,” but that’s not what all cross-stitch patterns are like. There are tons of creative, funny, and subversive versions out there for you.
Crochet

Crochet

In my opinion crochet is like the easier, faster cousin of knitting. With just a hook and some yarn you can learn a bunch of different stitches and make tons of stuff, from hats and scarves to adorable stuffed animals. It’s easy to learn and a nice activity to keep your hands busy while you’re binging your favorite show on Netflix or listening to an audiobook.
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