3 Step Leopard Nails

I’ve been growing my nails out for the past couple of months and have been having a lot of fun playing with nail art. Since I have to paint both hands myself, I need to keep the designs simple so here’s my latest – one of my favorite patterns of all time – leopard!!

There are only 3 steps and you only need 3 nail polish colors.


1. A light colored base coat – I used Wisp, by Sinful Colors

2. A darker color for the inside of the spots – I used Tan Lines, again from Sinful Colors

3. A clear topcoat

4. A black, round tip nail art pen.

5. A wooden toothpick



1. Lay down your base color. Let fully dry.

2. Using the toothpick to pick up little dabs of the second color, make little flat circles on your base color . Let these dry fully as well.

3. Make the characteristic black border around the spots with your black paint pen. Once this is dry, seal with the clear topcoat.

Oh wait! There IS one more step: impress everyone with your gorgeous manicure!! ?

I hope you try it for yourself! If you do, share your pics with me on Instagram using the hashtag, #gracerajendranworkshops

Remember, most of all, to have fun!


Little Things Got You Down? : Or The Power Of Perspective

My morning started off in a rather – no, VERY – irritating fashion. Not feeling well, I wanted to stay in bed until the last possible moment. My cat wanted to create a ruckus until I got up to play. She won – as my apartment walls are thin and I didn’t want to punish my neighbors as well.

This, I could have dealt with. My bathroom overflowing in a horrible manner and forming one of the Great Lakes – I just could NOT deal with. This badly-behaving bathroom only tends to do this when I’m on my way to work too! Many, many towels and a few choice words later, while I was in the middle of a WHY ME???? tirade, I stopped to reflect.

What am I gaining from this foul temper? The answer – just a bad mood all day – wasn’t pleasing or acceptable to me. It wasn’t helping now and it certainly won’t help later because I’ve set myself up with the mindset that every little thing today will just bother me more and more.  That’s the way irritating Little Things are. I read once that tiny constant annoyances are worse for our stress levels than dealing with one big thing. Maybe because the tension from those small things keeps building up since we think they’re actually too silly to deal with properly.

Back to this morning. It’s been a very busy, harried few months, both at work and at home, so I know that I’m more irritable now than I normally would be. Rushing around tends to do that to people. So, my mood was understandable but it still wasn’t doing me any good.

While I was squeezing the water out of the fourth towel, I thought back to a conversation I had last night about the horrible and heartbreaking homelessness  problem in this city. That jolted me into perspective really quickly.

And I repeat – this advice is for all the little things that bug you in your day, not for major illness or loss. For those, a grieving process is necessary and essential. In my minor case, I just STOPPED that flow of negative thinking, took a breath, and reversed that negative trajectory I was on.

Instead of listing all of the bad things, I thought about all of the things I was grateful for. A simple switch of words.

Horrible plumbing? Well at least I HAVE a bathroom.

Can’t sleep in? At least I HAVE a cat that can’t get enough of me.

Stressing over missing my bus to work? Well, at least I HAVE a job.

Sounds too easy – and somewhat too much of a cliche – to work. But you know what, it really did! And my dark mood lifted, I feel more optimistic about the day, and here I am, writing this post!

With the Holidays upon us, we are all going to start feeling extremely frazzled and rushed. Our fuses, quite naturally, are going to be short. When you start feeling like things are rapidly  going downhill:

1. Pause

2. Breathe

3. Reverse

Watercolor Leaves Workshop

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I taught my second watercolor workshop last Saturday and, since this is the season of fiery autumn leaves, that was the subject that I chose!

If you checked out my last post, EVERY LEAF A FLOWER, you would have seen the hyper-realistic leaves that I’ve been painting lately. Well, since I’m teaching children in the first session and predominantly art novices in the second, I thought it might be a little overwhelming if I presented those pieces for the class project!

So, I came up with a simpler example (the painting above) and put together a lesson plan and materials. As always, I gave the students a brief overview of watercolors, went over fundamental techniques, and guided them every step of the way. I was actually amazed at how well they did! Here are some photos of the set up, as well as their phenomenal work!


When Every Leaf Is A Flower

My two favorite times of the year are Spring and Fall – the temperature is perfect, Nature is entering a period of growth and change, and there is an abundance of color everywhere. An almost psychedelic amount of color in fact!

Spring, a period of renewal and excess, when flowers burst forth from every little nook and cranny, is probably the perfect opposite of Fall, when everything is cast off and life enters conservation mode. However this annual dying off of the leaves brings much beauty and vibrance to the environs, with the reds, the ochres, umbers, and siennas- all swirling and dancing in the electric, autumnal wind.

In the words of Albert Camus, “Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower.” How true! I have been having such a lovely time this Fall, combing the ground for interesting leaves – no two ever the same. Where I live, there are many beautiful Maple trees and so there are brilliant bursts of red all over the place.

Can any artist ask for more? These leaves that I’ve been collecting are making their way into my paintings and I even taught a watercolor Fall Leaves workshop over the past weekend (more in a later post.)

Here are a couple of my most recent pieces, next to the leaves that inspired them. Almost a wordless eulogy for their last days in this world – I feel honored to have witnessed their beauty before they left.


Watercolor Autumn Leaves Tutorial


Fall is in full bloom here in the Pacific Northwest. The trees are a symphony of colors : yellow, ochre, sienna, and rust. It’s an artist’s dream! I’ve been collecting leaves in my neighborhood and doing some still life paintings – you can see those in my post from a few days ago, EVERY LEAF A FLOWER .

Naturally, with all of this great inspiration around, I decided that my second workshop should feature Fall Leaves. Please see my previous post, AUTUMN LEAF WORKSHOP, for a recap of the fun details.

In THIS post, I will show you all the same technique that I taught my students at the workshop. It’s a really simple way to achieve a realistic autumn leaf, full of vibrant colors and textures.



1. 140lb cold pressed water color paper.

2. A medium round brush (size 4-8) or whatever will easily fill the area of your leaf.

3. A pencil with light, soft lead, such as an H.

4. A soft art eraser.

5. A palette of colors. I created my piece using the Sennelier Aqua-Mini travel set. This set comes with : Primary Yellow, French Vermilion, Cinerous Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Light Green, Burnt Umber and Paynes Gray. I used the yellow, phthalo light green, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, vermillion, and gray for this project.

6. A thumbtack with a sharp, long point.

7. A thinner round brush to paint the shadows and stem.



Draw an outline of your desired leaf shape, stem, and shadow. Press lightly, using a hard lead, so that you can easily erase any lines you wish to and you don’t have to worry about smudging.



There are many ways to suggest veins in leaves. This time, to make it easier on my students- who are all brand new to the world of painting – I decided to go with the scratching or etching technique.

Using the thumbtack, I scratched in some veins, as many as I wanted to, making sure I branched them out in an interesting manner.





Using the smaller brush, start painting the shadow with a mixture of grey and blue.

Also using the smaller brush, paint the stem. I used vermillion for most of my stem, ending off with a tip of yellow, as this combination was common in most of the maple leaves that I had studied.



Now, this part is amazing and will BLOW. YOUR. MIND.  At least it did with all of my students! 🙂 Using the Wet (paint) on Dry (paper) technique, load your brush with some paint ( I started with the green) and start painting anywhere on the leaf. And just magically watch those etched-in veins appear!!

WOW, RIGHT??!! It’s that simple!



Now, take a second color – I chose yellow- and while your first color is still wet, add another color right next to (but not overlapping much with) the first. The goal is to maintain crisp, pure colors throughout the leaf, rather than mixing colors together. It’s ok, and encouraged, for the borders between two colors to blend into each other though. Remember, no hard edges.



Now do what you did in the previous step – have two colors meeting – using all of the colors, except for the Paynes Gray, which we will use for the final accent details.

The great thing about this project is that you can be as loose as you’d like and use whatever combinations of colors you find pleasing. Like I always tell people, if looking at what you’re creating brings you joy, then you’re doing it right. That’s all there is to it! Trust your instincts when it comes to laying down paint. Even if you don’t believe it right now, your brain will know when things are working. Believe in the process.

Artist Tip: strive for balance in your piece – don’t overwork one side but make sure to distribute tonal values evenly. It will make for a more pleasing composition.



I can’t stress this one enough. Once you are pleased with the way your leaf is looking ( and you WILL know- just trust yourself!) – STOP PAINTING!! More watercolors have been ruined by overworking than anything else.

Artist Tip: Watercolors can get muddy really quickly and there is no really good way to fix that. That’s why it’s important not to mix too many colors or overwork them. Part of the beauty of transparent watercolors is that the white of the paper shines through the paint, giving it a luminescent glow. So, when you are pleased with the way your paint is looking, put down that brush!!!

Artist Tip: Watercolors also dry to a less vibrant finish than when they are wet, so take this into consideration when you decide how strongly you want to pigment the piece. If you are a complete beginner, I would recommend playing with your paint on a separate piece of paper so you can see this effect for yourself. Experience is your greatest teacher.



I like to go in with a darker color, either while the paint is still slightly wet ( if I want a more diffuse effect) or while it is dry (if I want a more precise result) and add some blemishes to my leaves. Again, pick up some leaves and study them if you need inspiration – there are so many little spots and variations that will add interest and texture to your final piece.

I used spots of Payne’s Gray in this piece.

I also did this while the other paint was still slightly wet – see how my spots became more diffuse and less precise? You can do it either way – they will both provide lovely effects. In fact, if you’re just learning all about watercolors, it might be a fun idea to try both ways!





So, that’s how to paint some fun, easy, vibrant autumn leaves. I hope you found some useful tips and, at the very least, some inspiration in this tutorial. Go out and collect some leaves – study their beauty and let them guide your art! And remember, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! If you’re on Instagram, I’d love to see your creations – so do share your work using the hashtag #gracerajendranworkshops


I’ll leave you with the beautiful work that my workshop students did. For manu of them, that class was their first time experimenting with watercolors and the youngest participant was 8 years old- didn’t they do an AMAZING job?!

Since I was asked to conduct another workshop soon, stay tuned for exciting class news in the next week or so!  Until then, let’s create some beautiful art!

Three Steps For Dealing With Setbacks

Setbacks happen to everyone. Whether you’re building your own business, trying to lose weight, or fostering better relationships with family members. Things can’t go smoothly all the time, that’s just a fact of life, but don’t get so caught up on the ‘downs’ that you forget the many ‘ups’ that got you to where you are at this point.

However, just because setbacks happen doesn’t mean it’s the end of your dream. The key is to stop thinking of setbacks as failures and see them, instead, as a natural part of the process and a real opportunity for growth.

Here are some ways to deal with setbacks:


You just faced a setback! This means that something happened to derail plans that you’ve been working really, really hard on. That’s harsh and deserves a suitable period of mourning. Give yourself that time to feel bad for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. But, and this is key to achieving anything, make that time finite. Set yourself a limit and then start the rebuilding process.


When things don’t go well, our emotions go into overdrive and it’s difficult to see things as they really are. However, although it’s really painful to see things that we have worked really hard for not go according to plan, now, more than ever, it’s important to stop for a while. Do nothing on impulse, don’t succumb to the pressure to ‘fix things now’ , and step back from the situation. When you’ve cleared your head and can see the facts without emotional bias, that’s when you can truly start figuring out your next moves. Ask yourself what went wrong. How did you and other factors contribute to this? What could you have done differently? What can you do to help things now -objectively, not emotionally. Write these things down so you can see them concretely in front of you.


It’s important, when we have goals, to look at the big picture. The better health a year from now, the publishing of your first book, or a happier home life. These things can keep us going. However, sometimes it helps just to think of getting through things a day at a time. Don’t think of how hard a year of waking up early to write your book, or a year of changing your diet will be – just tell yourself you just need to make it to tomorrow. If you’ve just been thrown a huge setback, ask yourself what you can do to make things better tomorrow. And then, the next tomorrow. And the one after that.  Soon, you’ll be back in the swing of things again!

And above all, remember this : only people who take risks, work hard to follow their dreams, or even just HAVE dreams to begin with, face setbacks in the first place! It means you’re out there working towards something. And THAT is a good and brave thing.