Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What if...?

“Don't carpet your rut". The quote reminds me not to get too comfortable by doing the same thing over and over. Any form of repetition can be a rut: technique, subject matter, view point, perspective, lighting, materials... Artists can get in a rut because we want a successful outcome every time. Anything that seems  repetitive is playing it safe. If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small. If you find yourself in a rut start climbing out!

I start by thinking, “What if?” How many ways can I sketch a subject but say it differently? The answer is countless times.

 enjoy exploring new ways of expressing myself with watercolor, drawing techniques and tools. Instead of always relying on the same technique I sketch the same subject in different ways. This is a great way to explore new mediums by investing a small amount of time (not a full sheet watercolor). I’ve found many of my favorite ways of sketching and painting when I am playing and exploring, “What if?”

A few examples of ways to explore using one subject. I encourage you to find something to draw/paint. Get out your supplies and see how ways you sketch the subject in a new way.  The drawings don't need to be very big (3x5 or 4x6). 

TOOLS & TECHNIQUES: pen, pencil, marker, bamboo watercolor, ink, contour, crosshatch, wet into wet, dry brush…

#1 Pencil & watercolor: Drawn with pencil. Painted with watercolor

#2 Ink & Watercolor: Drawn with waterproof pen (Faber-Castell, Pitt). Painted with watercolor. 

#3 Watercolor Marker & Watercolor: Marker was slightly water-soluable. Painted with watercolor.

#4 Pencil & Watercolor: Drawn with pencil. Value study with Payne’s Gray watercolor.

I’ve done at least four more variations and I’ve got more ideas to explore. I've only scratched the surface.

Once you begin you’ll start to see sketching as an opportunity to explore. I'm curious to hear how many sketches you can come up with. I’m sure you can add a few of your favorites to the list! 

Happy Sketching! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Sketchbook Skool

Hey everyone,
Exciting news: Many of you have asked when my session "Seeing" would be repeated in Sketchbook Skool. Well it's back!!! 

I’m one of the teachers in Seeing, an upcoming Sketchbook Skool klassYes, that’s “klass,” with a k, because Sketchbook Skool is no ordinary online art skool. Sketchbook Skool’s mission is “art for all”—they believe everyone is, and can be, creative. All people need are teachers to show them how fun it can be to develop a creative habit. That’s where I come in!
Starting August 5, Sketchbook Skool’s Seeing klass will begin online. For each of the six weeks of the kourse, you’ll get a new teacher (including me!) showing you how to take your creativity to the next level. You’ll also join the Sketchbook Skool community of creative people just like us from all over the world. There are fun, informative lessons, great assignments, and places to post your creations! To check out Seeing and meet the teachers, click here.
There’s still time to sign up for this great kourse. Join me and Sketchbook Skool and sign up!

If you have any questions about the Klass or need technical help please contact Morgan at "Sketchbook Skool Headquarters": morgan(at)

Happy Sketching!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Plein Air Sketching in Costa Brava and Barcelona

I spent most of June in Provence with French Escapade teaching two workshops. I had the most amazing experience working with Jackie Grandchamps and her two assistants Marie and Natalia. Never before have I experienced such a high level of attention to detail. Everything was handled beautifully and seamlessly from the moment I arrived: Locations, Accommodations, Transportation, Food....You name it and it was perfect. I was beginning to think Jackie had control over the weather, too! 
Here's a peek into the two workshops:

When Jackie asked if I could squeeze a workshop into my busy schedule for next year I said...YES!

Would you like to join me for a week of sketching, sight seeing, laughter and fun in Costa Brava and Barcelona? The dates are May 15-22, 2017. Workshop is limited to 10 participants. 

If you're interested please follow the links below. These are the same links as in the brochure below.

Website for French Escapade
Painting locations and trip details Sketching Spain
Contact Jackie at: contact(at)

Happy Painting!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Life Began at the End of My Comfort Zone

I love these moments when I am awe struck with how my life has turned out. This wasn't my plan (not that I had one) and yet somehow it was “the plan”. My life is a far cry from where it was. Every morning when I get up I am filled with gratitude. I realize my life could've easily gone in a different direction.

I left home at 16. I went to summer school and night school so I could  graduate high school early. In the afternoons I worked in a coffee shop.  I had no interest in college. In my
16 years old
early 20’s I was divorced, a single mom and worked at a grocery store. During the day I was a checker and two nights a week I worked the graveyard shift, stocking shelves. Most weeks I was sleep deprived and exhausted. Life wasn't easy…but I was grateful to have a job that paid my bills, a roof over our heads, food and health insurance.

….and then my world got turned upside down. The store I was working at was set to go out on strike. I knew I couldn't outlast it. There is no way I could survive and support my children without a steady income. I was so afraid. Then early one morning I got a call. It was my Dad. I had to make some hard choices. I made decisions that changed my life. Was I scared? You bet ya! 

I moved from Ventura to Pasadena, started a new job and began a new life. I found out…Life began at the end of my comfort zone. I met the man of my life, Mike. Within five months we were married. Two years later I rediscovered my love of art.  I took all the art classes I could at Pasadena Community College, joined art associations, attended watercolor workshops, painted, painted, painted, entered shows, took awards…and requests to teach started coming in. Within a short time I had two books on watercolor published. 

Painting in Provence

I teach in ways I wish others would've taught me. I teach with my head, heart and hands. I think creative people learn differently. We see and interpret information differently, which means we also absorb information different too. Coming from the school of hard knocks I teach with a lot of compassion. It comes from being there: feeling vulnerable, inadequate, under educated…I realize we all come from different places in life and we bring that to the classroom. I walk into every workshop feeling entrusted and blessed with the opportunity. 

Here’s a little peek into my two workshops last month in Provence. 
If the videos don't load click on the link to Week #1 or Week #2 below

What's up next? Spain 2017!


Week #1                                                               Week #2

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Holding Close and Letting Go

Letting go is hard…especially when you don’t want to. Trying to hang on to a dream
Holding my Dad's hand
(or someone) is like holding onto a rope that was slipping through my hands. The tighter I held on, the deeper the rope cut into my flesh…until holding on was more painful than letting go.

If you’ve followed my blog you’ve likely recall a difficult time for our family. Within 9 months my Step-Dad and Dad both died and my son was diagnosed with cancer. 

At the time my son was diagnosed he and his lovely wife had two children, a 15 month old son and a 3 month old little girl. I learned so much about faith, strength and love by watching my daughter-in-love. Heidi is amazing, full of love, grace, faith and beauty. I learned how strong my son was, too. We did what we could to help out through different forms of support (time, money, prayer…) and love. I could not accepted cancer might take his life…he was only 31. Three years later he is still in remission. 

A few months ago my son accepted a job in Tennessee. Within three weeks they were gone…my heart broke. There is very little we have any control over…actually nothing. Letting go is hard…especially when you don’t want to. 

Time has a way of taking away the sting. Art has always been where I go to heal. Part of the healing process was painting the three children (yes they had another child). Studying their faces was meditative and healing. Painting is my way of honoring, loving and burning their images in my mind.  The day after I finished painting Joshua I had something happen. His portrait looked so warm and alive but when I touched the paper it was cold. I was startled because he was alive and present when I was painting him…I expected the image to be warm like his skin. It made me cry. 

The process of painting the children was healing. I grew in the process. Anything that stops growing begins to die and I'm still growing which means I am alive.
We’re learning how to stay connected in different ways. But it’s not the same as reading stories, trains rides, trips to the zoo, hugs, marshmallows…

Looking forward to seeing Heidi and the kids this summer!

Happy painting!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fear of Failure

It's easy to fall into a creative rut. It happens when you do the same thing over and over, and over, and over…  Any form of repetition (subject matter, technique, color…) can be the kiss of death to creativity. If you're worried about painting a “winner” every time you’ll quit If you quit stretching you’ll quit growing. Life is too short not to get a few stretch marks! 

If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small but without the risk there is no challenge, without a challenge you become bored, and your work lacks excitement. Before too long you’ll lose interest in your own work because….YOU ARE BORED! If you find yourself in a rut, GET OUT! The fastest way to pull yourself out of a rut is shake things up! This week do something that  #!*!#+ scares you. Do it for you. Find out what you're capable of. Push the limits of your ability. Did you know adrenaline heightens your senses?

Does working through fear come easy for me…nope! I know more about fear than I’d like to admit. Unfortunately, I let fear rob me of my life for too many years…it paralyzed me! It robbed me of my potential personally and creatively. It’s okay to be afraid but don’t let the fear control you…DO IT ANYWAY! 

Try something this week that takes you out of your comfort zone. Here a few suggestions: 
Drawing Tools: pencil, bamboo pen, soluble ink, waterproof ink, markers
Brushes:  Flat, LARGE round
Technique: watercolor, collage, pen & ink
Surfaces: tinted paper, Japanese paper, slick paper, rough paper
Size: Do something BIG, miniature
Subject: landscape, nudes, old trucks, portraits, street scenes
View: from above (birds view), from below (worms view)
Atmosphere: sunny, foggy, rainy
Lighting: soft or sharp, warm or cool
Plein Air: Working outdoors

Recently I challenged myself. I wanted to see if I could do a pen and ink with watercolor on a larger scale, 22x30. I knew my ink lines had to be bigger. How was I going to do it? I started looking around and decided my largest Bamboo pens were perfect. I liked the width and slight irregularity of the lines would add to the sketchy feeling. No pre-drawing with pencil. It was wonderfully freeing to let the ink lines wiggle, blob and splatter ink. I wasn't out to create perfection I was having fun...and it wasn't so scary after all. 

used Noodler’s Ink, Polar Brown (waterproof), Bockingford watercolor paper 22x30, 140lbs cold press and Daniel Smith Watercolor.

 I wanted the finished piece to feel "sketchy". I resisted the temptation to refine things too much.  I wanted the look of a large sketch. Which brings up a good question...what exactly is a sketch? Is it the size? The approach? The materials used? I don't have a good answer. I love to play and push the boundaries of ink and watercolor and that's all that matters to me. I'll let others worry about definitions and I'll keep sketching and painting.

Happy Painting!

Man of Volterra, Italy

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over!

Last weekend I participated in an Plein Air event in San Dimas. The artists had three hours to complete a painting, frame it, get it to the gallery, and be judged. No stress here (wink).

One of the reasons for plein air events is to introduce collectors to your work, interact with artists and be entertainment for the show. I love to see and catch up with old friends, students and collectors. 

To be honest painting and talking don't happily coexist in my brain. At a certain point I need to shut off chatter and give my entire focus to what I'm doing. One gentleman didn't seem to understand and continued to have a rapid list of questions that had nothing to do with the painting before me. I was running out of time! After I while I put down my brush, turned around and said " I can either talk or paint, not both".  He had a look of surprise. Hopefully he wasn't to offended as he walked away.

When I teach workshops it something entirely different. I am talking about everything that's happening before me…the scene, drawing, light & shadows, moisture of the paper, edges, color combinations and so much more. But every painting has a stage when you must be quiet and devote your entire attention to it.

After three hours I signed the painting, put it in a frame and got it to the gallery. When the event was over the artists collected their paintings. 

This morning I pulled the painting out to have a second look. The shadows didn't have enough contrast. So I popped the painting out of the frame and went back to work.  Now I'm happy.

It's our final touches (brush strokes, lines, dashes of color...) that separates our work from someone else's. You could say it's our signature marks or look.  Glad I had a chance to rework the painting. As they say... "It ain't over until it's over".

Happy Painting!