Amy Stewart

How to Sign Up for a Free Skillshare Account

I teach a lot of art and writing classes on Skillshare, an online learning platform with a Netflix-style subscription model. You can always sign up for a free trial of Skillshare–just use this link to check it out.

But there is also a completely free version of Skillshare–no credit card required! Granted, there are not as many classes on the free platform. I might only ever have one class at a time on the free platform, and that’s usually for a limited time period. But this does give you a way to really check it out before you go further.

To sign up for the free version, just go here to create an account.

Probably the next screen you see will look kind of like this. But you don’t have to enter payment information on that screen. You’re already done–you’ve created a free account and you can start using it. Just click that Skillshare link in the upper left, and you’re back to the website and ready to start browsing.

Skillshare screen shot

 

Then, to see which of my classes are available for free at the moment, just do a search for my name (or any term, such as “watercolor”) and then click the Free button, which I’ve circled in red below.

skillshare screen shot how to search for free classes

But of course, I do hope you’ll try the Premium version as well! It’s how instructors get paid for their work, and I find my Skillshare membership to be very useful in all kinds of unexpected ways, from cooking classes to help with little technology challenges.

Build Great Writing Habits

 

If you struggle to find the time, the patience, and the focus you need to get your writing project done, you’re not alone. Every writer deals with distractions, dead ends, and those days when nothing works.

In the twenty years that I’ve been working full-time as an author, I’ve never not had a book under contract. That means I have to get up every day and write, even when I don’t feel like it.

Over the years, I’ve developed all kinds of tricks and techniques to help me keep going. Now I’m going to teach you everything that’s worked for me.  I’m going to give you my twenty best ideas for building a successful writing practice. I’ve used all of these at one time or another, and it’s how I’ve kept writing—and supported myself as a full-time author—for two decades.

Whether you’re embarking on your first writing project, or trying to get your tenth book finished, you’ll find something here that helps you to maintain a more satisfying, productive writing practice.

You can take this class now on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style platform for online classes. This link gives you a free trial.

You can also take it on Udemy, where you pay per class for only the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with two other writing classes designed to get you on the road to writing your book. Go here to check that out.

Gouache Florals!

I’m teaching a new class on painting floral still lifes in gouache or watercolor–and you have two choices about how to take the class.

Here on Skillshare, which is a subscription-style platform like Netflix, you can get a free trial and take all the classes you like. 

Or if you’d rather just take one class at a time, and pay as you go, you can take this class on Udemy as well.

More about the class…

Would you like to learn to paint simple, whimsical floral arrangements, or do you want to explore new ideas about color mixing and design? How about both?

In this class, we’re going to use your choice of paint—gouache or watercolor—along with markers, paint pens, colored pencils, or any mixed media tool you like, to create inventive, inspired floral arrangements. We’ll also try out a color-mixing exercise to extend a simple palette of colors by mixing wonderful pastels and neutrals.

Then we’ll look at how to create color combinations from the new variety of colors we’ve mixed.

These techniques form the basis of all still life paintings. I hope you’ll start with flowers, and move on to fruit, bowls, mugs of tea, houseplants—whatever you’d like to arrange and paint.

I’m going to encourage you to be really free and imaginative with your floral arrangements. Concoct your own color scheme! Design your own vase! Invent new colors for flowers that you’ve never seen in nature!

Inspired by the creativity of masters like Matisse, you’ll be able to work from my example, or from your own still life setups, or from photographs you gather yourself. These still life floral paintings make beautiful framed pieces, they’re great as gifts, and they’re lovely on cards. Enjoy!

Are You Thinking of Writing a Book? I Can Help!

Hey, here’s something new! I’ve taken my three most popular writing classes and bundled them into one course. It’s available now on Udemy–go here to find out more.

You can always take an art or writing class from me at Skillshare, which is a membership-based site kind of like Netflix. Go here to see everything I’m teaching on Skillshare and get a free trial.

But I thought I would try out Udemy as well, for people who would rather just pay a la carte for classes. Let me know what you think!

Here’s a bit more about the class:

As the author of over a dozen books, I know how daunting the blank page can be. When I’m on book tour, the question I hear most often from aspiring writers is: “I have an idea for a book, but where do I begin?” I get it! Starting a new book is a huge challenge, no matter how many times you’ve done it.

In this class, I’m going to walk you through the steps I take to start a first draft. I promise it’ll be easy, fun, and low-pressure.

In the first section, we’ll gather our ideas. You’ll get to hang out at your favorite bookstore or library. You’ll get to tear open a fresh new package of index cards. Best of all, you’ll start filling a notebook (or a computer screen!) with pages.

In the second section, we’ll work on shaping those ideas into a story. How do you organize your ideas into a coherent book? I’ll teach you the storytelling methods that I rely on for every book I write, and I’ll use real-world examples from well-known books, as well as from students in my own workshops. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or memoir—there are ideas here for all kinds of book projects.

Finally, I’ll share some approaches for building a successful writing practice. It’s one thing to start a book, but it’s another thing to keep going, day after day! If you struggle to find the time, the patience, and the focus you need to get your writing project done, this section is for you. And you’re not alone–every writer deals with distractions, dead ends, and those days when nothing works. I’m going to give you my twenty best ideas for building a successful writing practice. I’ve used all of these at one time or another, and it’s how I’ve kept writing—and supported myself as a full-time author—for two decades.

Are you ready? Whether you’re embarking on your first writing project, or trying to get your tenth book finished, this class is designed to get you on the road.

 

At Some Point, You Just Have to Deal with the Painting in Front of You

 

Several years ago, I took a class with Qiang Huang, an amazing oil painter from Austin. We were all painting from still lifes set up next to our easels. His work is both beautifully precise and also loose and imaginative. That balance of accuracy and abstraction was what we were all after.

At one point he said, “Your still life setup is just a reference for the design you want to create. You’re not here to copy it.”

In other words, a still life setup or a reference photo or the landscape in front of you should just be a jumping-off point for the painting that you’re going to make. If you find yourself struggling to make an exact copy, you’ve lost the thread of the thing.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think there comes a point in a painting or a drawing where you almost have to set the reference aside. At some point, you just have to deal with the painting that’s in front of you. What it needs next may not be found in the reference you’ve been using. It becomes a matter of stepping back, squinting, maybe taking a black-and-white photograph to check the values, and making a decision about what the painting itself needs, not whether it matches the thing you’re trying to paint or not.

This is true of writing as well. You might start off with a very fixed idea of what sort of book you’re writing and what you want it to be like when it’s finished. But at some point, the book becomes its own thing. At some point, you have to deal with the book that’s in front of you, not the one you had in your head when you started out.

Ann Patchett said something like this when she wrote about book ideas being like beautiful butterflies drifting around in the air. “I reach into the air and pluck the butterfly up. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down on my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure the job is done, I stick it into place with a pin. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing—all the color, the light and movement—is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s the book.”

She’s talking about learning to live with the disappointment that inevitably comes when you compare the book you’ve written to the way it looked in your imagination before you started. And that disappointment is real.

In the case of a painting, though, I’d say that I never have a fixed idea, when I start, of how the painting’s going to look. I have my reference (a photo, maybe), and I know I’m going to make something out of it that somehow speaks to whatever drew me to the image in the first place. But I’m just as surprised as anyone else to see what it looks like when I’m done.

Here’s the painting that’s on my easel right now, along with the image I started with. It’s a tricky photo to copy as a painting, because of the way the headlights are blown out and the halos around them. I’ve made a lot of changes and I’m still tinkering. But there’s no point, at this stage, in looking at the photo anymore. The painting’s become its own thing.

It’s Pumpkin Season!

 

This class is available on Skillshare! Get a free trial and check out all my classes with this link.

Pumpkins! Could anything be more fun to paint?

One of the best ways to learn to draw and paint is to do a still life. You get to work on shapes, proportion, composition, values (meaning light and dark), and color.

Best of all, it’ll help you develop your own style.

For this class, we’ll paint a beautiful arrangement of pumpkins on a porch. A project like this is so much fun to do in mixed media, where you build up layers with different materials. You get rich textures and interesting contrast by combining watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, pastel, paint pens, markers, and/or ink.

Use whatever art supplies you have to create a lively, interesting style that’ll be uniquely yours.

Travel Sketching in a Cafe: Food & Drink in Pencil & Watercolor

Check out this class on Skillshare, and get 2 months free to check out everything Skillshare has to offer, with this link.

One of the best parts of traveling is trying a different cuisine. And the fact is, when you’re traveling, you do end up spending a lot of time in restaurants.

That means that your travel sketchbook is the perfect place for drawing food and drink! It’s also a fun way to pass the time in a café.

And it’s not just for travel—drawing your drink, or drawing your dinner, is a great practice for everyday sketching.

In this class, I’m going to show you how to capture food and drink in real time, at the table.

That means we’ll be learning techniques to work quickly in pencil and watercolor.

We’ll practice basic geometrical shapes so you’ll already know how to draw a glass or a plate accurately before you even start.

We’ll learn about a few colors that are especially useful for drawing food and drink.

And we’ll learn a style of drawing in pencil that is whimsical and also personal to you.

This style is quick and informal, but it’s everything you need to know to capture memorable meals and those little everyday moments at the kitchen table.

The Rebecca Diaries

In December I started an art project based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel REBECCA.  I don’t know when I’ll finish it. It’s more like a book than an art project in that way: I can finish a painting in a day or two, but a book takes years, and it’s always an open question whether I’ll be able to finish a book at all. These paintings are like that.

Unlike a book manuscript, there’s no way to save earlier drafts. Most of the art I’ve made for this series is gone already; these photos are all I have to remember what I’ve done so far. I decided I ought to document it before I forget where I’ve been and what my intentions were.

Last fall I discovered cold wax medium, a soft, waxy paste that mixes with oil paint to change the texture and make it spreadable, like cake icing. Cold wax painters build up layers and scrape them back, as the paint hardens gradually to the consistency of a wax candle but remains pliable. I thought that was interesting, but I wasn’t sure what I would do with it.

Then I went to a cold wax painting demonstration where the artist mentioned that she layers collage papers into her abstract cold wax paintings. I knew immediately what I wanted to do: I wanted to paint on book pages.

I wanted to paint on my book pages.

But the prospect of layering oil paint over the words I’d written seemed too…fraught. What was I saying, exactly? What would it mean to look back over twenty years of work, rip pages out of books, obliterate them with paint, and scrape them back to reveal what was left? What would be left? What would I be trying to say about my own life’s work?

Better to start with someone else’s book, I thought.

I had a galley of Courtney Maum’s wonderful novel COSTALEGRE floating around my office. Surely Courtney wouldn’t mind if I used her book as an art experiment. Her book IS an art experiment: it’s an absolutely gorgeous, vividly imagined telling of  the time Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen, spent in Mexico. It was a novel about painting.

So I painted on it.

 

Urban Sketching in New York City!

 

My new art class is live on Skillshare now. Use this link to check out the class and get 2 months free to explore everything they have to offer.

Do you love New York? So do I! It’s my favorite spot for urban sketching, travel sketching, and kind of exploring and art-making.

In this class, we’re going to focus on the one skill you really need to paint a city like New York: Perspective.

We’ll use Manhattan for our laboratory to look at the fundamentals of perspective.

We’ll work out how to identify your horizon line and your vanishing point.

We’ll see how all the lines in an image converge to that vanishing point.

We’ll start a drawing by putting down some perspective lines to help guide us.

And then, with those guidelines in place, I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can create an accurate drawing.

When you get this piece right, you can be really free and loose with your drawing and painting.

This is easy to learn and fun to practice. Join me!

In 1918, We Collected Peach Pits for Gas Masks

 

I’ve been talking to a lot of book clubs lately (y’all are figuring out Zoom! Yay!), and something that keeps coming up are all those weird bits of research that either don’t make it into the books at all, or that end up in the book as one tossed-off line, when really there’s a whole crazy story to tell.

So here’s one of those crazy stories, in collage form: during WWI, we collected peach pits to use as charcoal filters in gas masks for our soldiers fighting overseas. The government paid farmers $7.50 a ton for any peach pits they could load on a train. “It is urged as a patriotic duty that all farmers turn in every available peach pit,” this article reads.

But it wasn’t just farmers–we were all expected to save our peach pits, apricot pits, and walnut shells to be made into gas mask filters. It was a service activity that kids could do–they’d go door-to-door with wagons and collect from neighbors, or set up outside a market with buckets to collect whatever fruit pits people could donate.

“The Army Wants Your Peach Pits,” read headlines nationwide in August 1918. This was precisely when the fighting in France was at its worst. The pits went to a factory in San Francisco, where they were made into carbon filters. It took 200 pits to make a single carbon filter for a soldier to survive one gas attack.