Amy Stewart

Create a Garden and Nature Journal

A few years ago, I started a new garden journal on the day after the winter solstice–the first day of the new year, according to the sun, anyway. My intent with this particular journal was to document everything that was blooming or changing in Washington Park, the beautiful park just a couple blocks away from my house in Portland.

Of course I didn’t document everything–it’s a 458-acre park–but I did fill that sketchbook over the course of a year. And that process led to this class.

You can take the class on Skillshare, which is a membership-style platform like Netflix. Use this link to get a free trial and check out everything Skillshare has to offer.

On Skillshare, this class is actually two classes: Painting Lively & Vivid Greens, and Loose & Expressive Flowers & Leaves.

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you pay per class rather than a monthly membership. Here’s the link to take the class on Udemy.

Here’s a bit more about the class:

When it comes to creating a garden or nature journal, there’s so much that you can explore with paint and ink.

In this class, we’re going to focus on creating a complete garden scene, with a variety of plants and even a little structure peeking out from behind the foliage.

And in order to do that, we’re going to tackle one of the most challenging aspects of sketching the natural world: quickly mixing a variety of greens.

I’ve taken a lot of art classes over the years, and I think that sometimes painters can get a little too technical when it comes to greens. So in this class I’m going to simplify and demystify greens, so we can get on with our painting!

But that’s not all! Garden and nature journals come to life when you use watercolors to capture the intense, luminous colors you see in flowers, leaves, and other details. So we’re also going to work on ways to really push the paints towards bold, vibrant colors.

We’ll work on loose and expressive pen and ink lines, too. I’m going to show you my approach to creating lines and marks and shapes that look entirely original– like something that could only be made by you, at that particular place and that particular moment in time.

What we’re not going to do is get caught up in perfection or rigid accuracy. The great joy of a garden and nature journal is that it is a record of the time you spent in close observation. It’s a place for you to be yourself on the page.

With a little ink and watercolor, and some time to enjoy the outdoors, you can create a lively, personal record of your connection to nature.

Having you been putting off going paperless?

You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style membership platform where you pay a monthly fee to watch all the classes you want. This link gets you a free trial.

Or if you’d rather only sign up for the classes you want to take, this class is also available on Udemy.

It’s the chore on everyone’s to-do list, but somehow we never get around to it: Going paperless.

Whether you’ve been meaning to start moving your household documents to the cloud, or you want to start scanning an automating the paperwork related to your very small business or home office, now is the time!

Every January, I hear so many of my self-employed friends complain about having to dig through receipts and get their records in order before tax time.

So let’s get this done.

Over the years, I’ve figured out ways to make going paperless easier and less intimidating.

We’ll talk about how to tackle a little at a time so you don’t get completely overwhelmed at this big task in front of you.

We’ll figure out what systems will work best for you, and how to put them in place.

I’ll show you how to handle ordinary household documents, like:

House and car records
Tax records
Banking records
Health and medical records
Rental properties
Boats, RVs and other toys
Kids and school records
Pets
Family records like old family photos

And we’ll work on small business records. For this, we’ll dive into:

Scanning business documents and forms that you use over and over
Tracking receipts and expenses
Tracking income
Deciding when to upgrade to a full accounting system like Quickbooks

Whether you’re going paperless for your home, office, or both, we’ll pay special attention to:

Password and internet security
Storing back-ups
Organizing documents so they’re easy to find
Keeping systems in place that will change how you work going forward.

So I made this class for all of you who are still struggling with how to go paperless without losing control of all your important records. Let’s go!

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 might also like Start Your Book Today and Shape Your Story.

You can also take my writing classes on Udemy, where you pay per class for only the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled these three writing classes together, so the whole package is 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!

You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a membership-based site kind of like Netflix. On Skillshare I’ve divided this into three courses. Any of these links will get you a free trial to check out everything Skillshare has to offer.

Start Your Book Today

Shape Your Story

Build Great Writing Habits

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the courses you want to take. Go here to see the class on Udemy.

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 a free trial to check out everything Skillshare has to offer, with this link. Skillshare is a Netflix-style membership platform where you can take all the classes you want for a low monthly subscription.

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you pay only for those classes you want to take.

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.