Watercolor Floral Workshop with Holly Anna Calligraphy

Saturday, October 14th, I attended a Watercolor Floral Workshop with Holly Anna Calligraphy taught by Kylee Blackburn. A painting of Kylee’s hangs on my living room wall.

Sitting in the PICU in the spring of 2016, I began to feel the ache to create. At home my hobbies were big: upholstery, painting walls, painting signs and sewing curtains, pillows and bunting. What could I do in the restraints of that room? During one walk I encountered Arch Supplies. The saleswoman directed me to a travel set of watercolors.


I knew watercolor from Mr. Dennis’ high school art class, but nothing more.

I started sketching.


The details were not much to look at, so I decided to try simplified flower shapes.

I purchased the set and went on my way. The price of thank you cards inspired me to give away the little paintings I created.

The book, 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip, helped immensely. I drew with pencil and painting over, then outlined with ink in some cases.

Like macramé, once Peter was discharged from the hospital, there was little to pull me back to the activity.

Then I encountered the Four Friends Market, Holly Anna Calligraphy and Kylee Blackburn’s work.

And, oh, what Kylee can do…


I signed up. Because of other expenses, I contemplated canceling. I recalled the calligraphy workshop and the space, both the physical space filled with natural light and bougainvillea and the mental space of time away from everything. Like a walk away from the hospital. I knew I needed it.

When I walked down the alley, I breathed in the beauty. Opening the door, I knew my way. I felt outgoing and at ease. Thumbing through the book I read about color theory and delighted in the blue watercolor words used for headers in each section.

Kylee explained her method and her rules. The water makes the watercolor work. My mind created Venn diagrams of her technique and Ron Stocke’s from M. Graham, who I watched demonstrate watercolor techniques at Arch Supplies. He is trying to change the field, to show you can intentionally use the paint from the tube with incredible results. His paintings are a testament to that.

But what do I want to paint? I want paintings that are attainable to me. I want paintings that help me breathe a little better when I paint them. Those are the paintings by Kylee.

I could not be more pleased with what I took away from this workshop. I learned how to form flowers, how to work with the brush, which brush to use, how to create definition in the painting, and how to paint flowers. Kylee walked from table to table so we could see her make the strokes made up close. I asked her to paint roses again. Our goal was to paint a floral wreath.



I liked two of my practice flowers and used them for the wreath. I wish I had not been too afraid to start fresh. I thought I could not reproduce them.


With any new art, a big factor in success is to not be afraid, to put faith in the words of a good instructor who tells you to go for it, dip in the water and push hard on the brush. There is still practice and experimentation to be done.

Sometimes with these workshops, all I can think is, “my goodness that’s a lot of money for two hours.” Then I remind myself…

it is double in San Francisco.

It is not just that. The ease of having the recommended materials provided saves a lot of trial and error. Art supply stores overwhelm me with their options. Watching is key to learning, as is practicing. Small, personal workshops provide both opportunities. Youtube videos are helpful, but when I have a question regarding what I am doing right or wrong, they fall short.

Then there is the escape from life and responsibilities to soak up something new.

Returning to life, now when I paint with me daughter, I have a better idea of what I am doing, which inspires her to always keep learning.

Just for fun, here is my masterpiece from last year:

Sketch of Peter which created much laughter.

I receive no compensation for this review. 

New Adventures: Beginner Modern Calligraphy

A little adventure this time: a Beginner Modern Calligraphy workshop with Holly Anna Calligraphy.

Handwriting has been my nemesis. It is too slow for the speed of my thoughts. So I typed. I have relied on typing since 5th grade.

My hand-writing languished. Penmanship was taught but not enforced. Second grade, we competed to see who could write the smallest. Cursive was punishment. In the end, only I could read my scribbles. Now, some days, if I am actually writing my thoughts, it seems I cannot do that.


My thinking penmanship
Day to day penmanship
When things are looking good


A couple weeks ago, in a memorable bout of good mothering, my daughter and I transcribed a poem onto a piece of paper and painted the rest of the paper with images we imagined from the poem. I wished for some way to elevate my penmanship. Fortunately, this workshop was just around the corner. The kindness of the teacher, Holly, made me feel comfortable to such a commitment. It seems I often have to cancel last minute because of some Peter-related issue.

Workshop day arrived! I left the kiddos with my parents and drove off apprehensively to Modesto. Would I feel comfortable? Would it be too difficult to be away from Peter? I already spent the morning away from him. My thoughts swirled with worries about Peter, the heat, and my parents’ energy levels. I thought of Celeste how long it was since I visited the cemetery.

I found the location easily, next door to Vito’s, once Oceania, where Kyle and I spend a couple dates gazing lovingly into each other eyes. Down a narrow, paved walkway with branches of bright pink bougainvillea dropping dried petals like a flower girl there stood the chalk board sign which read, “Calligraphy Workshop.” I seemed to arrive with the early crowd.

Opening the antique glass-paned door, a burst of cold air welcomed me inside from the 104-degree outside, afternoon temperature. A handful of women sat around plastic folding tables ornamented with white paper bags, cream colored tags tied with ivory ribbon. Each tag was decorated with a name, our names in gold ink calligraphy. I thought of my wedding place cards and how we printed them on the computer using Apple Chancery. I thought how pretty they would have been like this. I thought of how long that would take. I thought, better not to regret, and instead, I observed the room.

To one side were products, beautifully created prints with watercolor flowers and words of wisdom scrolled across their centers. A gray couch, a punch of distinctive lighting overhead, and the easy manner of Holly meeting and greeting participants as they entered made everyone new to her feel as though this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“We’ll start on time!” she said, to honor those who came early. Everyone was there by the starting gun and off we went, peacefully thumbing through the workbook she created. I laughed out loud at the collective gasp of joy when Holly announced the paper in the Rhodes book provided was see through. We could trace the workbook letters, no need to soil it with our attempts to learn.

We started by learning about our tools and drawing lines, then strokes.


Every letter is a combination of strokes. It becomes manageable when you see it that way, even the “m’s.”

After tracing and repeating, building our muscle memory, I began to experiment with names.


I wrote Celeste’s name over and over again. I made me feel close to her as if I were creating something for her. Like a junior high girl doodling her name with her crush’s last name. I tried to flourish a heart around Miriam’s name and draw a train around James’ name. I think of the term “fail forward.”

Never did I think my handwriting could be beautiful. Never did I think I could write that lovely handwritten note Mrs. Post is always talking about. But I did. And I can.

This is the benefit of learning from another person, and along side people. While I could have looked online and studied some strokes, signing up for a workshop means someone who has tried the field of materials gives me her most-recommended pieces. I need not hunt around for the best price. She refilled my ink pot before I left. I asked for help on the flourishes. She gave me her perspective. She gave her alphabet.

In modern calligraphy, there are no strict rules. You are presented with the information and you make it your own. It is a project that looks much better to every other eye than yours. It is forgiving. I need that in life. This is something I can do.

I already have my first card reading to put in the mail.

(This is not a sponsored post).