Classes

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.

SO…THINK 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!

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.