What’s New

Watercolor Cocktail Class

Ink Your Drink! A new class on painting cocktails

 

When Andy Warhol worked in advertising in the 1950s, he used an ink transfer technique to make charming images of shoes, cats, and other objects that he then hand-colored with watercolor.

I’m taking his method and applying it to an ever-popular subject, cocktails!

To find out more about the class, and to get a free trial on Skillshare, use this link. Skillshare is a membership-style platform like Netflix where you can take all the classes you want for one low monthly fee.

I’m also teaching this class on Udemy, where you can pay just for the classes you want to take. Also, I added a bunch of bonus material to the Udemy version, featuring Paul Klee’s oil paint resist method, and some ideas about using wax crayons for resist techniques! Go here to see this class on Udemy.

These techniques are really entertaining and inventive ways to approach any subject you want to paint—not just cocktails but florals, animals, and anything that inspires you.

With these methods, you can make paintings in series, create greeting cards or party invitations, make placeholders or gift tags, or create beautiful wall art that is truly unique.

Because we’ll be tracing in this class, no drawing experience is necessary, and we’re going to be splashing watercolor around in a loose, expressive way. There is truly no experience required. This class is for everyone!

 

I Went on a Sketching Trip to Mexico and I Took You With Me

Here’s a link to see the class on Skillshare. If you’re not already a member, this link gives you a free trial to check out everything they have to offer. I have a lot of art and writing classes available, so check those out!

You can also take this class on Udemy, where you just pay for the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this one with my class on painting doors, also set in Mexico. Go here to see this class on Udemy.

Join me on a sketching trip in beautiful, lively Guanajuato, Mexico! A travel sketchbook is a great way to capture a vacation, and it’s a wonderful excuse to explore and observe when you’re traveling. Whether you’re an experienced artist or a beginner, this class will show you how to travel with art supplies and create quick sketches on the go.

Story Structure is a Thing We All Wrestle With

 

My next class is live and it’s on the beast we all struggle with, both fiction and nonfiction writers: story structure. There are lots of people out there peddling complex, intricate techniques for writing a hit novel or screenplay. Honestly, I get a little overwhelmed by all that stuff. So I made a class about the methods I actually use when I write my own books. I encourage you to try these out, see if they work, and try some other approaches if they don’t! I include a resource list for further study at the end.

I’ve loved teaching these classes and I especially appreciate your comments, projects, questions, and reviews.

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 Build Great Writing Habits and Start Your Book Today.

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 Shape Your Story with these two other writing classes, to create a package designed to get you on the road to writing your book. Go here to check that out.

 

The Self-Appointed Artists Residency

A little over a year ago, I appointed myself Washington Park’s artist-in-residence. I’m not sure the people who run the park ever knew I was their artist in residence, but it didn’t matter. A self-appointed artist in residence doesn’t require anyone’s approval: that’s the singular benefit of doing it this way.

There’s no application process. No deadlines, no mission statements, no work samples or CV, and–best of all–no letters of recommendations. You don’t have to get dressed up and meet with a committee. You don’t have to give a talk, curate an exhibition, sit for interviews, host a lecture series, or even show your work.

All you do is make the art. On your own schedule, in whatever format you prefer, for whatever time frame suits you and the project. Share it or don’t share it, as you wish.

In my case, I’d just moved into our new place in Portland and realized right away that being a block from the entrance to Washington Park was one of the great benefits of living here. Every time I walked into the park, I noticed something that had changed: a tree’s leaves had turned, something was coming into bloom, something else was fading away.

This is not an accident. I’ve been around botanical gardens and horticulturalists long enough to know that it takes a good deal of effort to have something bursting into bloom every week of the year.

I thought it was worth noticing this, and documenting it. So starting on December 22, 2017 (the day after the solstice, which was a coincidence but also fitting), I went up into the park whenever I could and drew a picture.

Washington Park spans 400 acres. I did not in any way cover the entire park. I rarely made it outside the rose garden and its immediate surroundings, because that’s what’s closest to my house. And I didn’t get there as often as I would’ve liked over the course of a year, which was the timeframe I’d chosen for the residency. I still have five or six blank pages in the back of the sketchbook, so I’ll be adding to it when I can.

A self-appointed artist’s residency doesn’t have to span a year or 400 acres. You could declare (as Banksy did) a residency in New York, or some other place, for as long as you happen to be there. A weekend, a couple of weeks, a month.

You can also define “location” quite broadly. You could be the artist-in-residence at a coffee shop, a public park, a bridge, or an entire city. Maybe you would like to be the official artist-in-residence of winter, or of a sports team, or of–I don’t know–birds. You could appoint yourself the unofficial artist-in-residence of your neighborhood’s birds. Why not?

You can see all the drawings on Instagram. Meanwhile, here’s a quick tour of the sketchbook:

 

 

Start Your Book Today!

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

–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.

E.L. Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I want to help you get started on your journey! Think of this class as the headlights that will guide you down that first mile.

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 Build Great Writing Habits 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 Start Your Book with these two other writing classes, to create a package designed to get you on the road to writing your book. Go here to check that out.

Messing About with Paint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s something new I just sort of fell into:

I was messing around with a painting and made a big mess and decided the big mess looked interesting. Next think I knew, I was making these abstract watercolor paintings.
I’ve been noodling away at them every day while I write my next book—or while I’m supposed to be writing, I guess. Is it procrastination? A distraction? A good way to take a break without looking at Twitter? Regardless, this is such a malleable process that I can literally redo it from scratch every day if I want to…I don’t know how exactly you call a thing like this “done,” but at some point I stop and move on to another panel, another color…
It’s kind of like writing, in that way–you put something down, you wipe it off, you try again…
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If you want the technical details:  I’m taking an ultra slick gesso board (in this case a Blick premier studio panel, but I’ve used Ampersand clayboard too) and just dropping one or two watercolors on them to see what they do in water on a non-absorbent surface. It’s kind of hypnotic and endlessly erasable—all of this would wipe right off with water and I’d have a fresh white panel (maybe slightly stained, depending on the pigment) to start over.
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Once I decide it’s done, I give it a couple sprays of Krylon UV Archival varnish in satin, then a coat or two of Gamblin cold wax medium to soften the shine.  After that, it’s as durable and lightfast as an oil painting.

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!

Time for Another Art Auction!

I’m auctioning off a bunch of paintings to benefit two worthwhile charities. If you want to skip the explanation and go straight to the auction, go here. Bidding ends November 17, 2019.

It’s been a tough three years, friends. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve found it hard to keep going in the face of catastrophically bad news night after night, terrifying world events, and just an unbearable, soul-crushing sense that our country has lost its way. Many of us have a hard time making art in the face of — well, all of it. Especially if, like me, your art involves making pretty pictures of pretty places. What’s the point of that, if the planet’s on fire?

Well, what I decided to do, exactly three years ago, was to keep making my art, because I love to do it. Only I made one change: I started auctioning it off for charity. 100 percent of the money I’ve made from every painting I’ve sold in three years has gone to one group or another that is out there fighting the good fight. The ACLU. Planned Parenthood. Pro Publica. The American Refugee Committee.

Now I’m doing twenty auctions to benefit two groups. These groups have been advocating for justice and reform on two of the most painful issues of 2019: gun violence and immigrant detention.

Mass shootings. People locked up in government detention camps. We shouldn’t even be saying these words in 2019.  It’s unthinkable, what we’ve seen this year.

So–here is a way that you can fight back. Go buy yourself a pretty painting, and know that every penny you spend will go directly to these two groups through eBay’s charity program:

RAICES: The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Gabby Gifford’s non-profit)

Go here to take a look at the paintings I have up for auction. If you want to know about future auctions I might do, feel free to add me to your favorite sellers on eBay, or sign up for my newsletter.  You can also follow me on Instagram for art updates.

 

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.