Real Life Still Life

You have choices about how to take this class!

Skillshare is a Netflix-style platform where you can take all the classes you want for a monthly membership. This link gives you a free trial to take the class on Skillshare.

On Udemy, you only sign up for the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with two others: Painting the Farmer’s Market and Mixed Media Still Life. You’ll get three different approaches to drawing and painting “found” still lifes, all in one class. Go here to join the class on Udemy.

If you like to sketch from life, you probably draw street scenes, landscapes, people, and architecture—but do you ever stumble across a still life in real life?

In this class, we’ll explore the idea of drawing the still life subjects you encounter in real life, using a tabletop scene in a café as our inspiration.

We’ll take an unusual approach to this subject: We’re going to draw the entire scene with just one line, never lifting our pen from the paper. This is a wonderful exercise for beginning artists, and for more advanced artists, it’s a great way to shake up your style and think creatively about what you’re drawing.

Best of all, we’ll do it with the simplest and most portable of art supplies: a single drawing pen and a portable watercolor kit.

A still life composition might look simple, but there’s a lot to learn! We’ll focus on how to make the most of:

  • Interesting linework
  • Vivid colors
  • Dynamic compositions
  • Strong contrast between shapes, colors, and values

By the end of the class, I hope you’ll appreciate how rewarding it can be to add still life to your art practice to help tell the story of your everyday environment and the world around you.

Painting the Farmers Market in Ink and Watercolor

Join this class on Skillshare, which is an online learning platform where you get a monthly subscription to take as many classes as you like. This link gives you a free trial.

On Udemy, you only sign up for the classes you want to take. I’ve bundled this class with two others: Real Life Still Life and Mixed Media Still Life. You’ll get three different approaches to drawing and painting “found” still lifes, all in one class. Go here to join the class on Udemy.

A farmers’ market or a produce stand is an irresistible subject for an artist, with the variety of colors and shapes in all the fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It’s a great chance to experiment and make a lively, colorful sketch.

In this class, we’re going to do a little produce stand in a French village, and we’re going to do it in s bold, graphic style that uses a lot of wonderful ink lines in addition to all that color.

You’ll learn how to use a dip pen and India ink, but you can also take this class using fountain pens, or regular inexpensive drawing pens—your choice!

We’ll work on capturing the different shapes and details without fussing over them, and we’ll make sure that our drawings have a sense of depth and feel realistic.

By the end of this class, you’ll be ready to head out to the farmer’s market and do your own colorful, lively sketches of the season’s bounty.

Mixed Media Animal Portraits

You have two options for taking this class:

Take it on Skillshare, which is a Netflix-style membership site where you can take all the classes you want for your monthly membership. I have lots of classes on Skillshare, so this is a great deal! This link gives you a free trial. 

Or you can take it on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. On Udemy, I have bundled this class with my class on painting chickens so you’ll have lots of extra examples to learn from! Go here to take it on Udemy.

This class is dedicated to making lively, expressive, personality-filled animal portraits—whether it’s your own pets, that goat you met at the county fair, or your favorite wild animal.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to use either watercolor or gouache, along with mixed-media supplies like colored pencil and markers, to create portraits in your own style.
  • How to use measurements, grids, and negative space to get the drawing right.
  • How to make a “color map” with colored pencil to establish a base layer of color and value—and to get over the fear of the blank page!
  • Different approaches to starting a portrait, by either building up dark tones first or beginning with light washes.
  • Finishing touches and texture with our mixed media supplies.
  • I’ll provide photos for you to work from, but I also encourage you to round up your own pictures of your pets or your favorite animals.

This is a really fun, whimsical approach to making a portrait in your own style. Once you see the technique, you’ll be able to paint all your favorite animals, and make portraits to hang on the wall or give as gifts.

Painting skies in watercolor and gouache!

Paint skies with me! You have two options for taking this class:

Skillshare is a Netflix-style platform for classes where you sign up for a monthly subscription and take all the classes you want. On Skillshare, I’ve divided this class into two parts. The first part is Five-Minute Watercolor Skies, and the second part is Vivid & Colorful Skies in Gouache & Ink . These links will give you a free trial to check out everything Skillshare has to offer.

On Udemy, you just sign up for the individual class you want to take. Go here to take this class on Udemy.

In this class, we’re going to explore two different approaches for capturing skies in a way that’s fresh, lively, and colorful.

First, we’ll use watercolor to do five-minute, wet-into-wet skies. The idea with these skies is to do them very quickly, onsite.  These are going to be loose and quite abstract. They might be inspired by what you see in front of you, but they’re not meant to be a perfect copy. After all, you have a camera for that.

This is a method you can use when you’re sitting on a terrace with your friends, having dinner on a rooftop, and you just want to capture the light and colors in the sky before the sun goes down. It’s perfect for travel sketching and urban sketching.

And then, once they’re dry, we’ll add some details from the landscape with ink or watercolor to help give a sense of scale and place.

And if you really only paint in gouache, you can do this class in gouache as well. Just water it down a little and pretend it’s watercolor. You can get a lot of these same effects.

In the second part of the class, we’re going to take a little more time to paint really vivid, bold skies in gouache.

I’ll show you how to treat gouache kind of like watercolor to get light washes for clear skies, and also as backgrounds for something like a sunset.

Then we’ll do some dramatic daytime and sunset skies, and work on blending and shading to get convincing cloud shapes that still reflect your own style.

I’ll also show you how to use watercolor like gouache, by mixing tube watercolors with white gouache. So this is a great trick for watercolor painters who haven’t quite made the leap into gouache yet, because you’ll only need that one tube of white gouache.

Also, if you happen to have a color you really love in watercolor, but you don’t have that color in gouache, well guess what? You can just mix a little white gouache into it and bring it right into your painting.

Whether you’re primarily painting in watercolor or gouache, and whether you’re usually drawing from life in a travel sketchbook or working in your studio from photographs, these loose, colorful approaches to skies will add life to your urban sketches, cityscapes, and landscapes.

Drawing Interiors in One and Two Point Perspective

Hi folks! You can take this class on Skillshare, which is a membership-style platform like Netflix where you can take all the classes you want for one low monthly fee. This link will give you a free trial to the first part of the course, Travel Sketching Interiors in One-Point Perspective.    Here is a link to the second part of the course, Sketching Interiors in Two Point Perspective.

Or you can take both classes combined on Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take. See it on Udemy here.

Here’s a bit more about the course:

When we’re doing travel sketching or urban sketching, sometimes we forget about interiors. But when you travel, or even when you’re out and about in your own hometown, you’re inside all kinds of interesting spaces. That could be your house, or the apartment or hotel you stay in when you travel, or maybe it’s an art museum, a cathedral, or the café where you have your morning coffee.

All of these are places you can capture in your sketchbook to just help evoke a sense of place and remind you of little moments in your everyday life or your vacation.

The trick with interiors is that you need to really understand perspective. So in this class, we’re going to work on simple one and two-point perspective, which will help us build the room and place all the furniture within it. You might be used to doing this outdoors, on the street, but we’ll work on applying those techniques indoors as well.

Once we work out how perspective works inside a room, we’ll get really creative and playful with ink, watercolor, markers, colored pencil, and any other mixed media you’d like to use.

Although we’re going to be working from photos in this class, the idea is that we’ll create quick, simple sketches that you can absolutely do on location.

Mixed Media Landscapes

This class is available either on Skillshare (a membership site similar to Netflix) or Udemy, where you only sign up for the classes you want to take.

Preview the class and get a free trial on Skillshare here.

Or take the class here on Udemy.

More about the class:

Whether you’re traveling to beautiful landscapes, or just sitting on your own front porch, you’ve probably wanted to capture the natural scenery around you in your sketchbook.

Landscapes have always been a favorite subject of artists. The challenge is to find a way to really make them your own.

So in this class, we’re going to work in either watercolor or gouache-your choice—and then bring in mixed media, in the form of colored pencil, markers, paint pens, or ink. With tools like these you can make quick, playful scribbles, add layers of texture, bring in highlights and shadows, and make something that’s really fun and has some spirit and some personality to it.

In this class, we’ll focus on:

  • Discovering your go-to choices for blues and greens, the most common colors you’ll use in most landscapes
  • How to make choices about what to leave in and what to leave out.
  • Understanding where to place the horizon line
  • Distinguishing between the foreground, middle, and background to give a landscape a sense of depth.
  • Taking a very simple approach to skies, because this time, we’re going to let the land be the star of the show.
  • Using mark-making with mixed media tools to let your own style shine through

And I’ll show you my favorite trick for getting over that fear of messing up a perfect blank page!

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!