For our prompt of “Underwater” today, I made a sketch of a betta fish in a fish bowl. I certainly think a lovely fish like this deserves a much larger home, but this was the only way to fit everything in my sketchbook. Indeed, some days, I have so much on my plate that I too start to feel a bit stressed and confined. Though I don’t have the ability to breathe underwater and am not, in fact, stuck inside in a bowl, there can still be a nagging sense of feeling trapped. In these moments, I simply take time to breathe deeply and consider literally anything else in my mind. Not only do I feel more relaxed while I’m visiting that alternate headspace, I usually come up with a few new creative ideas to try at some point. It strikes me that this is a vicious cycle as trying to DO all of those creative things at once is what landed me there in the first place. Yet, I’ve learned that I’m happiest when my head in swimming with new ideas, and sometimes, simply having a new project that I could try one day is its own sort of comfort.

Each time I finish a new book or create a new illustration, there’s an equal feeling of victory and loss. I love the act of creating and the idea of something being “complete” just feels too final. It’s like when I’ve found a particularly amazing book and finally reach that last sentence on that last page. The accomplishment of completion is paired with a tearful goodbye that always feels like it came a bit too soon. While I’m in the “zone” of creating something, time stands still and I get so lost in the process that completing something I’ve been working on can often feel like coming up for air. But, it’s that very feeling of getting lost in a project that brings me back every time. Manifesting a story or an image that didn’t previously exist is a rather thrilling feeling indeed. And, though I’ve written and illustrated thousands of posts by this point, showing up and doing so has always felt like it’s “worth it.”

Of course, when I’m still splashing around color and it’s nearing time for dinner, I have to find a way to come to some sort of completion. Philippe has been rather patient with me over the years, but my puppy Elliott finds my painting time far less amusing. Elliott will lay on his pillow behind me while I paint making it look like he’s perfectly content. Then come the low grumbles and wildly dramatic heavy sighs that exceed even the intense exasperation expressed by teenagers. Thankfully, I paint very quickly, though I’m sure Elliott would say that even 45 minutes is too much time spent doing something that doesn’t implicitly involve him. Taking that time to create, however, is how I clear my mind so that I’m more present when I spend time with both the insatiable puppy and my far less demanding husband. There are so many things to do during a single day, but a creative break isn’t an optional task only when time permits. It’s a required function that’s perfectly instinctual and yet still manages to feel magical, like a fish breathing underwater.

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About the Doodlewash

Sketching Stuff Coloring Set – Da Vinci Watercolors: Charlie O’Blue, Quinacridone Red, Hansa Yellow Medium, Opus (Vivid Pink), Ultramarine (Green Shade), and Indigo. ZIG Cartoonist Mangaka Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note and I’ll add it to my shop!
Betta Fish In Glass Fish Bowl Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail

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23 thoughts on “Breathing Underwater

  1. I’m awed by the number of things you get done. That feeling of being trapped is something I’m familiar with, but I tend to get it when I’m doing something mundane, like housework or cooking. Yes, we have to eat but I have paintings to paint! Doesn’t the world understand that? Why haven’t the brownies arrived to do take care of those things for me. I’d be glad to supply them with bowls of cream (although, it would be hard not to take a sip or two along the way!).

    1. I know what you mean! I manage to get a lot done, but there is still SO much that feels unfinished. I guess that’s a good thing… when we ever think we’ve done everything we’d ever want to do, there’d be little point then! hehe 😃💕

  2. Gorgeous fish, Charlie! Feeling a kind of “self inflicted” stress too as I delve into another new creative activity. My Doodlewash painting time is “sacred” time because it does seem to help me relax and get lost in just the painting. Makes it easier to focus on the things I need to get done when I’ve finished my Doodlewash break.

  3. This is so gorgeous, Charlie. I had gold fish as a kid. My kitty got a couple of them. 💜 I think even just reading you feel sadness when the book ends. The characters become so real. That’s the awesome part of reading and creating. 💜 You’re awesome, Charlie! Sending you love and hugs!

  4. Hello Charlie,

    That is a gorgeous gorgeous betta fish. I love all the bubbles in the water too. 🙂 And I so get that feeling of being stuck or trapped inside a bowl… I’ve been that a lot lately. Hopefully my new career will come to me soonest. You have a great week ahead Charlie. Sending you loads of love and a big hug,


  5. I’m always amazed, and frequently frustrated, at the challenges I have using WATER color to create the look of water! Your work looks so carefree, yet, at the same time, purposeful. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Aww thanks so much, Nancy! 😃💕 Yeah, I was frustrated at first as well, but it’s fun to play and try things… some work, some don’t as well… and eventually, I hit a place where I thought, “yep… that looks a bit more water-ish”! 😉

        1. I know what you mean. I made a perfect rose one time, using negative spaces. Perfect. I tried many times and could NOT do it again and finally a higher artist (than I) said it is almost impossible to replicate after you’ve done a perfect one.

  6. Cackle. I just did it another way, by lifting colour to create the look of negative or almost negative spaces between the folds. A damp Q tip works great (gently or the paper comes off). I figured no piece of paper is gonna outsmart me. I would like to use the negatives though, however, we do what works. Let’s keep on keeping on, like my writing mentor says.

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