In July – A Soothing Online Art Class in Abstraction

geometric abstract art and a drawing compass on a book with sacred geomtry circles

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. But in this Online Art Class, we just might!


And to be honest, they’re usually right about not meeting heroes. But maybe you should artistically channel them?


One of my most soothing online art classes yet. This illuminating lesson is part of the absolutely stunning July issue of Studioworks.


Discover Studioworks Here


In this online art class in abstraction and sacred geometry, we spend some time inspired by the spiritual geography and the enlightening geometry of Hilma Af Klimt, the overlooked Swedish trailblazer of Abstraction.  That’s just my personal contribution this July, but there’s so much more, by an amazing collection of artists and creative souls,  and it’s deeply beautiful, resonant, and visually inspiring.


It’s funny, because I find myself wondering – did making this class inspire my work? Did my work inspire the class? My work of late has been pointing in the direction of increased abstraction, more symbolism, more intuition.
I was pointed that way before I was ever invited to engage with Hilma’s work in this class. And yet – SYNERGY. Like, so much synergy that rational skeptical me has to sort of shut up, sit up, and listen to the universe for a moment. Hilma (if you don’t know her, or her work, delight yourself with a little research on her!)  would be proud, I think? Is proud. I hope you join us and spend some time with this amazing artist and her inspiring work!


Till later, happy painting.


Yes, I am affiliated with Studioworks, so should you choose to join, it does benefit me, personally. I always like to be clear about that, but this issue is an offering I’m thrilled to be part of!

Budget Friendly options for Watercolor Paper – Canson Montval and Fabriano 1264 (video)

Canson Montval Vs Fabriano 1264 Watercolor Paper

In this video, we take a close look at the differences between Canson Montval and Fabriano 1264.

Why these papers?

Because a cost-effective paper that isn’t frustrating to use can be a bit of a unicorn chase for the budget-conscious artist! Has someone finally figured out how to balance price and performance?

Both of these papers seem to be in direct competition aiming to capture the attention of artists looking for a moderate price and moderate performance cellulose paper that fills the need for a study paper, while still offering better-than-student lifting and layering potential.

See how each paper holds up as I measure layering capability, durability, lifting capability and performance in painting.

Watch the Video

Lately I found myself wanting to sketch more freely, more frequently, and in a small and manageable format. I’m not really up for the pressure of a 100 a day project, but I did have visions of a small sketchbook, filled with 5×7 postcard sized landscapes in watercolor and gouache.

I didn’t want to be disappointed if some of the paintings in the book wind up awful, and I didn’t want to pay a lot for the ongoing foray into process, so I found myself considering two watercolor paper books at about the same price.

Why not get both and see which one I’d have told myself to get if I had a time machine?

Photo showing two watercolor paper pads, canson montval and 1264 by Fabriano on a woodgrain tabletop

So here it is: a look at both Fabriano 1264 and Canson Montval.

I’ve used the Montval before, but the Fabriano was new to me and I was hoping to love it.

What tests did I design to evaluate both papers?

  • Durability of the watercolor paper under tape and masking fluid.
  • Transitions between watercolor washes in a flat gradient
  • Ability to lift watercolor using a scrubber brush and absorbent dabbing.
  • Layering with wet on dry and integrity of wet on dry layers.
  • End-to-end painting of quick landscape studies.

Something I’ve noticed is that while my favorite watercolor paper is a cotton rag paper, the paper I use the most by volume is not. Without the ability to freely “waste paper” it would be impossible to develop skills, visual vocabulary, and different preliminary versions of an idea. 

(I’ve definitely talked about this before in this post – you might like to check that out.)

Reasons that watercolor is the way to advance your painting skills, even if you use other media

  1. Watercolor is the best for portability and convenience.

    While watercolor can rise to the occasion of large scale work, it’s essentially the best paint for portable, spontaneous expression.
    It loves pairing up with drawing, ink, and chalk – the most direct route to color in drawing.

  2. Watercolor is the key to really understanding color.

    Transparency and optical color mixing is key to understanding color, and watercolor demands our participation in understanding both. Working from light to dark and reserving whites may not be identical to how you set up your opaque paintings, but everything you learn about color layering and interaction will feed your skill set in opaque paint. You’ll be able to anticipate the interactions of transparent colors with a great degree of accuracy and you’ll develop an appetite for the unexpected interactions of transparent layers – in watercolor and beyond.

  3. Watercolor is fun and fanciful and keeps you painting.

    Even a neutral-obsessed moodypants painter like me can’t resist the prism-like color that you can get out of watercolor. Its un-mitigated out of the tube nature is frolicsome at heart, more so than anything else I’ve used. When you have fun painting, and when you let yourself have some fun painting, it keeps you going.

  4. Watercolor teaches you what you need to know about control.

    First of all, control is OK. There is nothing wrong with wanting control, and watercolor can give you the tightest of control. You can use watercolor with a dry brush and re-create reality down to its finest eyelash. You can also approach each painting as an event and an experiment, generated entirely by chance. You can paint somewhere in between.

    But watercolor is the best bringer of constructive chaos. Should you choose to go out of the constraints of tight control, you are playing in the realm of fluid dynamics. You’ll cement your relationship to surprises, and how much you like them or don’t like them.

  5. Watercolor has a democratizing tendency, and communal possibilities.

    A lot of art critics have always treated it as “the lightweight.” We’ll keep things G-rated here and call those people “gatekeepers” but I’ve got some synonyms.

    Watercolor has historically been accessible to hobbyists, women, and cultural “outsiders” when other media were less so. It’s reasonably safe for teaching and using around small children. It can be (and has been) brought to every kind of place – from cafes and parties, to outpatient infusion rooms, to active battle fronts, to schools, to the Antarctic research station (switching vodka for water.) If you want it to connect you to the workingest world of working artists, it will – it is the immediate human imprint – pigment, life, and water.

Whimsical Mixed Media Christmas Cards

Fun News! I’ve just added some art prints greeting cards and printable greeting cards you can print right at home to the shop in a great mini update.

There’s something for everyone based on my sweet collage-based Christmas illustrations – from print-it-yourself-at-home cards to detailed and lovely art prints. Enjoy this soft and sweet seasonal grouping of polar bears, christmas trees, and quiet nights.

Paint Your Heart And Soul 2021

Have you seen the PYHaS 2021 teacher lineup? Have you noticed my picture there? That’s right! I’m going to teach in that great online course next year!!!

Even better….. I’m giving away one FREE spot – keep reading for details!

EDIT: Thank you SO SO SO much everyone! Your comments are amazing, I will still be responding to every one of you. The spot has offically been won by one lucky winner!

Now is the best time to sign up, you can still get early bird pricing by using the links on this page. Thanks again so much everybody and I can’t wait to see you in class!

You might have already heard about this amazing course as it is one of the most popular art classes in our online art community. However, if you’ve never heard about it before – it is not just another online class! In a nutshell, this is a year-long fun and informative art course with weekly lessons, where you not only can learn how to create gorgeous art and improve your skills using different art supplies, but also to share your progress and interact with instructors and students from all around the world from the convenience of your own home and time.

Many of our students from previous years describe Paint Your heart and Soul as a “turning point in my art skills” “where everything finally clicked” and “I can’t stop painting!”

This course is great for everyone who is looking to learn, beginners and experienced artists are welcome! Explore, get inspired and add to your artist voice! “

 PYHaS2021 is the best edition yet! Better and improved, it includes at least 55 brand new amazing downloadable video lessons. We will learn how to create beautiful faces and figures, pets and birds, flowers and landscapes in many different styles! We will work with acrylics, oils, watercolors, encaustics, mono-printing and more!

We hope that by the end of the year you will develop your own style and feel confidence in creating with different mediums!

….And the price is amazing! Under $2 ($1.80) per lesson during our Early Bird special! Don’t wait – join now and save $70 from regular price! Click here 

I’m especially thrilled, because a lot of you absolutely BLEW ME AWAY last year – seeing the student work from my PYHAS class was a highlight for me, and I can’t wait to help you discover just what you can do!

This course is hosted by the wonderful, generous, amazingly talented Olga Furman and is a collaboration of 35 international artists.

All of us are excited to share our creative process with you, knowledge, tips and tricks, step by step, from start to finish.

We also provide a closed FB group where we all can communicate, share, receive support and meet likeminded friends. Being a part of the art community has a tremendous positive effect and makes this course even more exciting!

This course is geared towards individuals of all skill levels, ranging from a total beginner (no previous experience in drawing/painting is required prior this course) to an experienced artist!

In this course I’m going to teach an incredible synthesis of painting and drawing that you can use every day – to study, refine, grow your practice, and make beautiful, impressionistic, colorful work. Here’s a hint: you probably have some of the secret ingredient right now, if you do mixed media.

Click HERE  to find out more details about PAINT YOUR HEART AND SOUL 2021

This course starts January 2021, but the registration is now open HERE  for an early bird DISCOUNTED PRICE of $99 ONLY – save $70 from regular price of $169!

(Offer ends after the first 500 customers or October 27th, 2020, whichever comes first)

And what’s more – I’m going to give one of you a FREE spot in the course, please see details below!



To enter the Giveaway raffle, tell me the following in comments:

What is one thing you would like to put more of into your art?

I will announce the lucky winner on SEPTEMBER 25th.

*If you’ve already paid for the course and win the spot, you will get a full refund! 

I can’t wait to start creating together!

Free Watercolor + Art Journaling Class Lesson 3

Hi friends! I’ve uploaded another lesson for the week in our beginner-friendly art journaling adventure. These lessons are free – there’s nothing to do, download or sign up for – I only ask that you like, subscribe and pay it forward if you like the lessons.

In this lesson, we’ll explore negative space, or painting around the things on the page – it’s a really fun way to paint, a new way to see things, and a great way to make some art that surprises you along the way!

Grab some inexpensive supplies and take a peek! I’m using a kids’ watercolor set by Talens, Stabilo 88 fineliners, and Chartpak woodless pencils. (You can use anything you have, whether it’s from Sennelier or the office supply aisle at Walgreens.)

File under: art journaling, watercolor, low-stress drawing, heart art, love letters, bright colorful fun.

Free Art Journal Class Lesson 2 – Watercolor, Pencil, Ink

Hi Friends! It’s time for the second lesson in my FREE art journal class series on youtube – this time we’ll draw intuitively two different ways, learn a bit about composition, and continue with our watercolors.

Whether you’re new or just looking for a low-pressure session of drawing and decompression (now that’s poetry, ha!) come along and join the fun.

I can’t wait to see you there.

All you need to do is watch the playlist in order. At the end of each video there’s a link to the next section of the lesson. Enjoy, and let me know what you made.

Free Full-Length Art Journaling Class

Enjoy this free class for beginner art journals and sketchbooks

Hi, friends. I’ve uploaded a free class in art journaling using simple materials that a lot of us have on hand. This class is very much suited to the beginner in art journals and sketchbooks. It runs a little over an hour and is chock full of detailed explanation – if you’ve ever wondered why artists do certain things in their journals and sketchbooks, this video will probably clear some things up!

Is this art journaling hang out good for experienced artists too? I would say absolutely – with this focused back-to-basics approach you’ll reacquaint yourself with your most elemental and intuitive creative self. Let’s start where we are – but let’s start!

I can’t wait to see you there. The class is available as this youtube playlist of videos – totally free. Enjoy.

Let us now praise bad paper

I love “bad” paper.

I love buckling paper, cheap paper, non 100 percent cotton paper that is going to yellow when I’m old or gone on to the next plane of existence, newpaper, cardboard, computer paper – “bumwad” yellow paper on rolls, butcher paper, kraft paper (especially kraft paper) and scratch paper.

Am I well aware that bad paper is bad? Yes. Absolutely. My favorite papers are Stonehenge, Lenox 100, Coventry Rag, Rives BFK and BFK light, Arches 140 CP and Portofino, Blick Premier HP. No bumwad here – for my FINAL works. Most of my work is non-final. It’s ALL in the re-write.

I think knowledge is key – it’s much more valuable, in my opinion, to teach our noobs WHY Arches or Fabriano cotton are so freaking fantastic (they are), and WHAT Strathmore 400 does differently, and WHAT happens if you paint in gouache on a paper bag, rather than just making them think that if they don’t start out with an Arches block they may as well not start.

THAT, friends, is a terrible way to treat newness. Quite.

I want to ask these people who are always somehow there, right on the starting gate of noobs, to say “Arches is the ONLY way to GO!”

…have you ever painted on a paper bag? Have you ever done it out of broke desperation, and have you ever returned to it out of sheer creative constipation when you have access to every “good” material you could need and you’re stuck in boredom?

How much Canson XL mixed media paper have you actually gone through, pushed, bent, broken, buckled and thumbnailed through before you decided to declare it “unusuable.”

Do you know what it does to knuckle your way ahead with “bad” materials? It makes “good” materials feel like freedom, like flying. You’ve already had your drawing struggles, your color struggles, your style struggles. You will know yourself in a way that you won’t otherwise. “Bad” materials give you a little friction, a little built-in limitation, a little texture in the experience. If everything is set up for you to succeed, and you don’t – you’re more likely to blame yourself. If things are a little cheap, insufficient, janky, non-ideal – then you’re less worked up about making more work and going through more material. More work = get better.

Yes, I know that cheap watercolor paper is “bad” and it’s going to buckle and pill and not allow me to layer or lift. I know this because I’ve tried it. I know this because I know that there is, in the world, some circumstance where I might want to float-frame a drawing that buckles like a stiffly tanned hide in a vitrine. I know that I don’t care about archival for things that go into the scanner anyway.

Repeat with me: an illustration is as archival as the ink in the printer.

An illustration is as archival as the ink in the printer.

This is one of the things that helps sort “fine art” and “illustration” in my brain, I’m realizing.

So if there’s a point to this rant, and to the spontaneous drawings/paintings on Canson XL mixed media, in a spiral bound book under 10 bucks, it’s this –

make the drawing. Make the preliminary. Make the thumbnail. Give yourself the room to make the thumbnail big enough. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money to do it. There’ll be time for that later.

How To Improve Your Brush Control in Watercolor and Gouache

It’s an unfair world. No matter how much I work for it, I will probably never develop the amount of brush control I’d like to have in my watercolor and gouache painting.

The thing is, I’ve found that anyone can improve, and move along a narrative arc that brings them closer to their ideal, even if they never actually achieve it. It keeps life interesting to keep trying regardless.

Enough philosophy – here are the things I’ve focused on to improve my brush control in watercolor and gouache painting more and more each year.

  1. Sit down, comfortably.
    If you’re like me, you switch between sitting and standing, even in watercolor painting. (If you have never explored postures and positions when you paint, I suggest you give it a try.) Standing generally gives loose and dynamic marks to my painting, and sitting generally gives more control.
    When I explore sitting to work on brush control, I find that a straight posture, focused on giving my upper arm a comfortable length to the table is really helpful. I try to remember to keep my feet flat on the ground.
  2. Move the paintbrush holding arm, not the hand.
    Fix your wrist in a position without locking it uncomfortably and move your arm instead of your wrist. Pull even your tiny lines from the shoulder, tempting as it is to create them with wrist motions.
  3. Enlist help.
    By “help” I mean using your other, non-paintbrush hand. Hold your wrist if you want. Rest and leverage your working wrist on a fist. Try out different assists, and find something that helps.
  4. Turn, turn, turn.
    Flip the direction of the watercolor paper so that you are pulling (or pushing?) your line in the most comfortable direction for you, so that you have the best chance of success on lines that count. (When you’re in your sketchbook or journal or on a practice sheet, make all or most of them count, but don’t worry if you mess it up, just keep going.)
  5. Get a little weird.
    Pretend your hand holding the brush is actually a 3D printer or a laser cutter, and see what that does to the consistency of the line. Remember, you can’t exert more or less pressure until someone consciously dials in another setting. Beep beep boop! If you want machine-smooth lines, this will help.
  6. Slow. Down. Seriously.
    My illustration work is fast, gestural, grungy, and loose. And what holds it together are slow passages which are….not. Explore slowness, find more patience, take more time than you feel you have. Meet boredom head on, and see how you deal with it. Take full advantage of what linework has to teach you, and take full advantage of the meditation lessons embedded in this practice.
  7. Notice your weaknesses and give them love and attention.
    It’s easy to practice only the things you like doing and that you are good at. But that really isn’t practice – that’s doing. Doing is important, but practice is doing something you don’t know how to do until you do know how to do it.
    Notice the things that are bad in your execution, without beating yourself up, and move toward those. Give them extra attention. Give them more time.
    I notice that I have more control of horizontal straight lines which are drawn across the page than I have over vertical lines pulled down toward me. Guess which ones I fill more practice pages with?
  8. Most important? Breathe.
    This could be its own book, but try painting your line on the exhale only. Try painting lines that last the duration of the exhale. Make them long and slow. Make them count. Get your body and your mark in sync. Use your paint to teach you to relax as well as to focus. Even if your line doesn’t improve as much as you’d like it to, visually, it may just improve you right back.

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