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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Small Wins – Mixed Media Bird Canvas

You’ll hear me talk about a “small wins” approach to making art with great frequency – and this is because it’s something I regularly make use of.

“Small wins” is a great philosophy for keeping beginner artists engaged and satisfied with their results along the way, but it’s also there for us no matter how much art we have made, no matter how much time we have spent.

Any time I feel a little depleted, or if I find I feel creative, but not fully present, I use simple motifs, bright color that I like to look at, and simplified composition to get a result that is more likely to make me happy.

Now, notice I said more likely. There is no guarantee that what I set out to do will work on the first try. As always, sometimes there are many many attempts in order to get even a pretty simple result.

This little painting was very cooperative, and fun to make. I used acylic inks, and other than that just craft paint and chalk paint (you can use gesso if you have it, but I wanted to see if this could be done with materials anyone can get at the craft store.)

Check out this fun video of this painting that I put together here on my YouTube channel.

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Art Journaling Unpacked – Going by Feel

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of feel in art journaling. This isn’t so much about the emotional component, but the tactile component and the satisfaction that lies in that aspect of making things.

For me, the tactile experience, the feel that certain materials give in the friction between the implement and the support, even the smell of certain materials – that physical aspect of art is the chance for mindful awareness within it, and it gives back to me so much more than I give to it.

Art Journal by Feel – I stopped looking altogether while drawing these shapes

I know that I spend a lot of time concerned with the improvement of my visuals themselves. There’s nothing wrong with taking great joy in your improving competence and grasp of how to do things over time. But I think it pays to simultaneously develop a willingness to go by feel, to do things that may undermine the visual polish and sheen of well executed work.

Art Journal by Feel – This is a scratchy scouring experience with this brush
Art Journal by Feel – Controlled doodling in contrast with uncontrolled markmaking

The horizontal stripe format inspires me to write, which is something I haven’t really embraced much within my visual journaling. I worked the prompt “I love…” and decided to adopt a positive focus. (Something I have found challenging but crucial.)

Art Journal by Feel – I love the raised blobs of heavy body acrylic through this simple stencil

Likewise, I am not normally someone who uses a lot of stencils (I get very lazy about dirtying and cleaning them) so that was all the more reason to use this very basic pattern.

Art Journal By Feel – snippets of writing don’t have to be pretty to work with these raw marks

A lot of my work actually starts by feel, now that I think about it, not just fast journal pages like this. The willingness to just randomly start with a mark placed anywhere on a canvas and then develop that into a full painting is something I think I have developed through making pages like this – seemingly not that related to something like this, but having very similar starting points.

They look completely different but both start with random choices and marks made based on feel.
Art Journal By Feel – The finished spread. It’s not refined, but it is a special record of a few days in my life, and an exciting test of a color palette

So – is journaling by feel something you’ve ever tried? Have you ever done a whole spread this way, or is it something you rely on in different parts of the whole? Comments are welcome!

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Paint Your Heart And Soul GIVEAWAY 2020

I have so much news, but I’ll start off with the most exciting bit. Ready?

Have you seen the Paint Your Heart and Soul 2020 teacher lineup? Have you noticed my picture there? Yes! That’s right! I’m going to teach in that great online course next year!!! And….. I’m giving away one FREE spot.

Keep reading for details!

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 then in a nutshell, this is a year-long art class with weekly lessons, where you can learn how to create gorgeous art, using different art supplies and techniques from professional artists from all around the world.

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

I’m especially excited, because of the great team of participating teachers and the variety of art techniques we are going to explore! As a matter of fact this edition the biggest edition ever with over 65 downloadable video lessons and PDF documents from 37 amazing artists! We did everything possible to keep the same Early Bird price as we had last year! (make sure you don’t miss out on our early bird sale, as the regular price changed from the last year)

Don’t miss out this sale, don’t wait till the last moment! PYHaS2020 is the biggest edition, there will never be a PYHaS of the same size in the future!

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

THE GIVEAWAY

To enter the Giveaway raffle, do the following:


1. Subscribe to my newsletter

2. Share this blog post on your social media.

3. Comment below on this simple but age old quandary: watercolor, acrylic, or oil?

Each share on a different social media counts as one entry – multiple entries are encouraged!

I will announce the lucky winner on October 8.

*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!

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