Weekly Art Lessons for Your Sketchbook Practice

Amy Stewart sketching on a mountaintop

Where would you go to get a great sketch?

If you’re an artist, aspiring artist, a writer who doodles, a keeper of journals or diaries, an urban sketcher or travel sketcher, or anyone who wants to fill a sketchbook–I’m making weekly art tutorials just for you!

These mini-classes are so much fun for me to make, and I’m delighted to share them with a community of energetic and creative artists (they’re lovely people, really) who come together to celebrate their love of sketching.

For the price of a couple of colored pencils, you’ll get:  

  • Video lessons
  • Art supply reviews
  • Step-by-step tutorials
  • Live Zoom classes
  • Q&As
  • Giveaways
  • Special features from travel sketching trips around the world.
  • Access to a growing archive of lessons
  • You’ll also get the newsletter that goes out to all my free subscribers, which includes hand-illustrated stories and round-ups of good things worth sharing.

Go here to take a look and find out about subscribing.

Here’s a combo post, with an illustrated story AND an art lesson, so you can see what you’re in for.

I hope you’ll join us! I’d love to see you there.



Travel Sketching in New Zealand with Quick & Easy Thumbnails

This class is live on two platforms right now:

Skillshare is a membership platform where you subscribe and take as many classes as you like. Here’s a link to the class on Skillshare.

You can also take the class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. Check it out on Udemy right here.

Here’s a bit more about the class:

Thumbnail sketches are tiny sketches, maybe only a couple inches tall, that you can draw in just a minute or two.

Art students learn how to do this as a way of working up some ideas for larger paintings.

But they’re also a great way to very quickly capture your travels when you’re on the move. This is especially helpful when you’re traveling with a group, and they don’t want to wait while you settle down to draw for an hour or two!

In this class, I’ll show you how to fill a sketchbook with lively, interesting thumbnails, filled with personality.

  • Design: I’ll give you a template for designing a page layout
  • Drawing: Discover how quickly you can draw a basic scene in just a minute or two.
  • Watercolor: Use an ultralight watercolor kit to add a few brushstrokes.
  • Writing: Add some lettering, captions, or notes to make your pages more personal.
  • Collage: Work in stickers, maps, ticket stubs, and more.

The result will be a rich and varied tapestry of images that truly took only a few minute per sketch! This class is perfect for urban sketching, travel sketching, nature journaling, and anyone keeping a visual diary or illustrated journal.

If you’re a beginner, this class is a great place to start. For more experienced artists, this class is a fun way to loosen up and try a different approach to travel sketching.

Travel Sketching in Amsterdam with Quick & Vibrant Color

This class is available for you to take online anytime. Join the class on Skillshare, which is a membership platform that lets you take all the classes you want for a monthly subscription. Here’s a link that will give you a free trial. You can also take this class on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. Here’s the Udemy version of the class.

Travel sketching is a great way to observe the new places you’re exploring and capture memories in a way that no snapshot ever could.

But do you have trouble finding time to sketch when you’re on vacation?

Are your art supplies just too much to lug around everywhere you go?

Do you struggle to capture a scene in a way that reflects your own personality and your own style?

In this class, I’ll demonstrate an approach that anyone can do on the go.

  • Travel kit: Take a look inside my ultra-light travel kit, and adapt it to your own style.
  • Drawing: Learn my tricks for getting an accurate drawing down quickly, using just one pen.
  • Watercolor: Try a simplified approach that uses a few strokes of vibrant, creative color and lots of white space.
  • Details: Add details when you have time, and use a couple markers for highlights and shadows.

I think you’ll be surprised at how lively and vibrant your artwork can be, even when you have less than half an hour to sketch.

I was also really happy to have such a lightweight travel sketching kit with me.

The result is a sketchbook that feels bright and inviting, and I’m sure you’ll have fun doing it.

Sketching in Sepia

I love to draw and paint in ink using these portable, very affordable ink wash pens like the Pentel Color Brush Pen–so I made a class about it!

You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style membership platform where you subscribe and take all the classes you want to. I have over 30 classes on Skillshare. Go here to see the class on Skillshare.

Or you can take it on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. For this class, I bundled it with my class on creative color mixing, so you get two classes in one. Go here to see the class on Udemy.

This class is for anyone who wants to play around with ink (or sepia watercolor), anybody getting ready for Inktober, or anyone who wants to sharpen up the values and drama in their art.

In this class, we’re going to work with just one color to truly explore value. By setting aside color and working on exploring a full range of light and dark in our work, we can create art that makes a strong visual and emotional impact.

I’ll be demonstrating the wonderfully portable and affordable Pentel Color Brush Pen in sepia. You can take the class using ink or watercolor, and I’ll demonstrate each of those.

We’ll study the value scale, then we’ll do a simple warmup exercise painting a piece of fruit.

After that, we’ll dive in to a classic Italian village scene, painted in sepia like the old masters used to do.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of painting with just one color
  • How to identify values using a value scale
  • How to paint from dark to light in sepia ink or watercolor
  • How to soften or sharpen your edges
  • How to add finishing details and adjust your values to make your painting pop
  • How to apply these techniques to full-color paintings and sketching on location.

These are simple techniques that can really elevate your art practice. Follow along and create dramatic, vivid art that jumps off the page!


Sketch Amsterdam in Ink and Watercolor

I taught a live virtual workshop with Etchr Studio on my approach to travel sketching, using bold, black ink and vivid watercolor. I chose Amsterdam as a subject for this class because it’s such a gorgeous city for urban sketching, with fabulous historic architecture and wonderful reflections from the canals. It’s available for you to watch anytime and it’s very affordable! Go here to find out more.

You can also watch a free demo here, and listen to a podcast interview I did with Etchr about art-making here.

Come to Amsterdam with me!


ink and watercolor sketch of canal houses in Amsterdam with a canal boat in front.

Let’s go to Amsterdam! (well, virtually, anyway.) I’ll be teaching a workshop on this style of sketching–with lots of dramatic black ink and vivid colors–with Etchr on August 29. Amsterdam is a fabulous city for urban sketching, with its distinctive architecture and gorgeous canals. If you’re looking forward to traveling with a sketchbook again, join me for a little practice!

Register here and I’ll see you in Amsterdam!

Are You Getting Ready to Declutter?

Photo of messy paper files on a desk

It’s the time of year when everybody’s thinking about getting organized or decluttering. Maybe you thought, at the beginning of the shutdown, that this would be your big shutdown project, but then time just drifted down a lazy river and it never happened.

I know. A lot of things never happened last year. But here we are in January, and I’m guessing that some of you are about to roll up your sleeves and tackle a messy desk or a room or a garage or whatever.

I have two things to say about that.

The first has to do with paper clutter. A few years ago, when I got ready to move to Portland, I finally decided to go completely paperless for all my household and home office stuff. I just didn’t want to move boxes of unnecessary paperwork to Portland. That forced me to get it done.

I figured out a system, worked out what equipment I would need, and decided on a way of approaching it that would not be too overwhelming and would actually happen.

So the first thing I want to say is: I created a class on how to go paperless. You can read more about it here. It’s for household paperwork and for very small businesses like mine–businesses that are too small to require Quickbooks but still need some sort of system beyond a shoebox full of receipts.

The second thing I want to say is aimed at those of you who are thinking, “I need to go through all this stuff before I die so my kids don’t have to”…or for anyone who KNOWS someone who is thinking that (like your parents, maybe?)

This bit of advice comes from my having been married to a rare book dealer all these years. He gets called out to look at a lot of estates. The advice is: Don’t declutter just to spare your children the chore. Do it if it will make your life better now. Do not worry about your heirs.

But that’s crazy, you say! How awful to leave that job for my kids! So here’s the thing: Your heirs do not have to, and hopefully will not, sort through every single thing in your house and decide what to keep, toss, donate, recycle, sell.

Instead, they can and should take whatever family heirlooms they personally want to keep, along with important papers, anything with private/financial information on it etc. This does take some effort. (And all of us should get our financial and private/family papers together!) But then the heirs can hand the keys to an estate liquidator and walk away. The estate liquidator will decide what to sell/donate/recycle/toss, and return to your heirs an empty house, along with (probably) a small check. Or maybe no check at all, but at least your heirs didn’t have to do it.

Easy. Done. Not a burden.

(Edited to add: A lot of commenters have said, “But what about hoarders?” I’m not talking about hoarding, which is a serious problem. I’m talking about you and me, feeling guilty because of the boxes in the attic or that closet full of stuff we never use or that overly full garage.)

I once met a woman at a party who told me that she and her husband had just spent TWO YEARS going through her mother’s massive house, garage, and storage units, painstakingly handling every item, holding garage sales, hauling loads to the dump, sorting recycling, and donating to thrift stores.

It took up every weekend of their lives for two years.

When I asked her (because I’m not very tactful, which is why I don’t get invited to a lot of parties) why on earth they hadn’t simply turned it over to an estate liquidator and walked away, she looked at me in astonishment and said they simply hadn’t thought of it.


Another mistake people make is in assuming that their possessions (or their dearly departed’s possessions) are worth a fortune and must be dusted off, polished up, and put up for sale to the highest bidder. Sometimes people go online and see that an identical teacup sells for $35 on eBay, and they start looking around and doing the math, and decide that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of real American dollars can be extracted from that estate.

Probably it can’t.

Most people’s collectables are not that collectable. Most of those prices on the Internet are aspirational: the dealer would like to get that price for the teacup, but hasn’t yet.

And the labor involved in photographing, describing, pricing, listing for sale, and then packing and shipping each item is considerable.

Most people’s stuff is not worth nearly as much as they think it is. Let go of the idea that all those possessions can be easily turned into money. It’s harder than it sounds.

If you’re truly convinced that the painting above your fireplace is worth a fortune, then have it appraised (which you will need to pay for), and get professional advice on how to store and care for it. (Hint: maybe not above the fireplace) Leave the appraisal along with your will so your heirs will understand how it needs to be handled.

Otherwise, trust the estate liquidator to get you a fair price for anything of value. People like my husband get called all the time by estate liquidators to look at potentially valuable books, for instance. There are few things more heartbreaking than to show up at an estate filled with worthless books, only to realize that the heirs have spent weeks sorting, organizing, and making computerized lists of every book on every shelf, along with a price they found on the internet. Do not do this! Go live your life! Do not spend your precious time on this earth making lists of a dead person’s possessions!

It’s also true that often the most valuable items are things people don’t recognize as valuable, so they get thrown away in an overly ambitious clean-out. (My husband once showed up at the estate of an elderly gay couple. He asked, “So where’s the porn?” The heirs looked shocked but finally confessed that they’d thrown it out. That vintage gay porn would’ve been the most valuable thing in the estate.) This is why estate liquidators would advise you not to touch anything, do not spend time sorting, do not spend time cataloging, and to leave it all up to them.

So if any of you hear yourselves (or your parents, or your elderly aunt) in the words “I’d better go through all this stuff before I die so my heirs won’t have to,” the answer is: No, you don’t. Do it if you’ll enjoy it, do it if you just want a good clear-out for your own well-being, but don’t do it for your heirs. Your heirs can call an estate liquidator. Make sure your important papers, finances, and family heirlooms are in order, but if you don’t want to deal with your old coats and extra coffee mugs and unopened jigsaw puzzles, you don’t have to.

This advice goes for people who are downsizing as well. Pack up the stuff you want to take with you to your shiny new little condo, and leave your half-empty house for an estate liquidator to deal with.

So. I hope this helps. And go take my class on going paperless.

Sketching Street Scenes with Ink and Watercolor

You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style membership site. On Skillshare I have divided this into three short classes. These links will get you a free trial to explore everything Skillshare has to offer:

Travel Sketching in New York

Urban Sketching in a French Village

Travel Sketching in Italy

I’ve also bundled these classes together on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. You can find it here on Udemy: Sketching Street Scenes with Ink and Watercolor.

The best part of travel sketching is capturing lively, bustling street scenes, whether it’s a big city like New York or a small village in Europe.

To do that quickly and accurately, it helps to have a grasp of the basics of perspective.

In this class, we’ll work on simple one-point perspective with New York as our model.

Then we’ll go to France and look at a village scene where those rules of perspective have to be tweaked to handle a sloping, winding road and a jumble of buildings that are lined up in a row.

Finally, we’ll go to Italy and work on adding just enough detail to really capture all the elements that make a scene so compelling.

Using pencil, ink, and watercolor, we’ll work on:

  • Perspective
  • Light and shadow
  • Varying line weights
  • Differences in color and shading in the foreground and background
  • What details to focus on, what to simplify, and what to leave out entirely

By the end of this class, you’ll have all the skills you need to incorporate lively street scenes into your sketchbook practice, when you travel and also in your own neighborhood.

Quick & Easy Travel Sketching

You can take this class on Udemy with this link.

This class is also available on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style subscription platform where you can take all the classes you want for one low monthly fee. On Skillshare this one is divided into two classes:

Quick & Easy Travel Sketching

Paint Lively & Colorful Doors

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.

We’re going to start with a simple building façade, and learn how to recognize familiar shapes and fit them together. Building facades are a great place to start, because you don’t have to think about the rules of perspective just yet. With a little simple measuring, you can get all the elements in place and have some fun with ink and watercolor.

Then we’ll zoom in and paint a charming, colorful old door, complete with peeling paint, ancient stones, and the other details that are so fun to capture in a sketchbook.

Finally, we’ll take a similar approach to a very basic landscape.

All three of these subjects have something in common: Once you’ve learned the basics of how to identify the big shapes, measure, and arrange them on the page, the rest comes pretty easily. That’s why this is the best way to begin travel sketching.

And Guanajuato, Mexico is a beautiful place to start!