Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way – Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAY

Psssst …. I genuinely love this book!  Read my review below to find out why and don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the bottom! (Expired 6/12/2020)

Summary:  Love the look of watercolors but think you lack the skill?  Think again!

With Watercolor the Easy Way, you will learn all about color mixing, brushstrokes, and more.  Then, you will find a vast selection of 50 stunning pictures to paint.  Each of the 50 tutorials is broken down into key steps so you can clearly see how to begin your painting layer color, and add detail.  Also included are hand drawn patters that can be traced onto your water color pad, brush recommendations, helpful tips, and color palettes.  Best of all the projects can be completed in 30 minutes!

Experience the magic of watercolor, spark your creativity, and discover your inner artist with this book.  (Summary from back of book – Book Images from Sarah Berrenson & Better Day Books – This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  I know what you’re thinking…

How can a BOOK teach you to watercolor?!  
Don’t you need a class for that?!

I thought exactly the same thing when I first saw Watercolor the Easy Way.  I have always assumed that real watercolors were way out-of-my-league as an art medium, but this book and its “made easy” claims tempted me.  After all, what better way to try something new than in the comfort of my own home (that I can’t leave anyway #thanksCOVID19), where I can fail spectacularly without fear of public ridicule?  I took the plunge and accepted this book for review deciding that if I was awful at it I could quietly slink away from the easel and no one would be the wiser.   It took a few weeks after the book’s arrival for me to ‘gather supplies’ (translation: work up the courage), but I finally picked up a brush and got to work.

watercolor9d - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAY

In a world where book blurbs often exaggerate their awesomeness, Watercolor the Easy Way delivers on its promises with stunning tutorials that incorporate basic watercolor techniques in a simple, easy-to-follow format.  Before jumping into the tutorials, the book offers fourteen pages of instruction that covers watercolor basics like mixing colors, layering, blending, detail work, lifting color, washes, and the difference between ‘wet on wet’ and ‘wet on dry’ painting.  I was skeptical before I got started, but the artist/author does a fantastic job of breaking it all down into easy to follow steps and which techniques to use to achieve the desired effect.  She also gives color suggestions, brush recommendations, and even when it is time to walk away and let things dry for a bit.

While I suspect that all the tutorials are beginning level, some did look more slightly complex than others, which leaves room for growth and new challenges as your skills and confidence improve.  For the purpose of this review, I selected several projects that appealed to me aesthetically and that I thought might be the easiest for me to recreate without embarrassing myself (too much).  I expected to be stressed out, but the experience was surprisingly relaxing and strangely cathartic!  I enjoyed watching the things blend and loved learning how to make the colors go where I wanted them. And do you know what?  I think I did rather well for a straight up novice.  (See photos below)


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watercolor3 - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAYwatercolor4 - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAY
I have gained enough confidence in the basics that I have even started passing along what I’ve learned to my eldest daughter.  We started doing the hummingbird tutorial using the book and she was so encouraged by her finished product that she rubbed her hands together, grabbed the book, and said “What else is in this magic little book of yours?!” Now, she is working on the lemon and the watermelon with very little input on my part. Apparently, the book is a better teacher than I am, which is fine by me.

watercolor9 - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAYwatercolor9b - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAY

Now, for those who become utterly skeptical in the face of a glowing review, I do have one criticism….or at least a clarification.  The estimated project time frame of 30 minutes is actual painting time and does not include drying time.  Most of the tutorials include steps that require you to walk away for a bit to let the project dry.  Depending on how much water you use, dry time can be as little as ten minutes or more than an hour.  The concept of walking away from a drying project can be rather terrifying for a mother with four feral children roaming the home, but I worked through it (read: threatened them with chores).  Other than that small detail, I have zero complaints.

I had a great time learning how to paint with Watercolor the Easy Way and I came away with a new skill that I wouldn’t mind pursuing further, which is a total win in my book!

My Rating:  5 Stars
For the sensitive reader:  You’re all clear.



It is ridiculously easy to enter to win 
Watercolor The Easy Way

1bookcover - Freeform Friday: Watercolor the Easy Way - Sara Berrenson + A GIVEAWAYSimply answer the question: 
Which of my watercolor projects do you like best?  

Comment with your answer 
on our FB giveaway post 
(This is best if you don’t want to
 leave your email)
leave a comment* on this post 
(*comments are moderated, and you will need to leave your email so we can contact you if you win.)

Optional extra entry: Like and share our giveaway on FB.

Good luck!

Giveaway is open to US residents only.  
Giveaway ends June 12, 2020 at 11:59pm.


Watercolor the Easy Way by Sara Berrenson, Better Day Books, 
128 pages, $24.99, available at

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.