Painting Doors and Windows with Ink and Watercolor

My new class is live on Skillshare! Go here to preview the class, and this link also gives you a free trial on Skillshare, which is plenty of time to check out everything they have to offer.

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 another travel sketching class also set in Mexico. Go here to see this class on Udemy.

One of my favorite subjects to paint is old painted doors. They have so much character and they really tell the story of the place.

There are a few challenges that are particular to drawing and painting doors, including:

  • Getting the proportions right
  • Conveying a sense of depth
  • Figuring out a way to depict faded paint and crumbling stone without overworking everything
  • Including just enough of the elements that surround the door without taking away from your main focus

In this class I’ll show you how I approach my paintings of doors.

We’ll go step by step, starting in pencil, then moving on to ink and finally watercolor. I also add a few highlights with white acrylic paint pens.

I’ll give you a few of my own photographs of doors for you to work from, but I hope you’ll go through your photographs from your own travels and paint a door that you fell in love with during your own travels.

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.

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:



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…
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.
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.

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.


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

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.

Bad Drawings Make Great Backgrounds: When a Sketchbook Page Goes Wrong

When I travel, I always take a sketchbook to keep a record of the trip (and, honestly, to entertain myself, because there are only so many old churches one can tour in a day).  Here’s a video tour of my latest sketchbook, and you can always see more on Instagram.

But what happens when a page in a sketchbook goes horribly wrong? Now, I’ve filled lots of sketchbooks with practice and lessons, and every single page in those books could be described as “wrong”–although I’d call it “learning.” Those pages aren’t meant for anyone else to see, much less judge.

But sometimes, we artists do get focused on the results, and we want to be able to show our pretty travel sketchbooks to our friends when we get home. So what happens if, on one page, you try to draw a boat and it ends up looking like a turtle–drawn by a five year-old? What do you do when you make a mess?

One option is to just leave it. I do. If anybody’s flipping through my sketchbooks and they pause on a page of weird, awful, wrong drawings, I’ll either say nothing and let them keep flipping, or I’ll say, “That’s what we call a practice page.”

Some artists will glue two unfortunate pages together. I don’t like to do that, because you might not have two unfortunate pages next to each other, and besides, I hate to waste paper. Also, it makes for a weird, bulky, don’t-look-at-this page in the middle of the book, which seems somehow shameful (to me, anyway), and I don’t want shame in my sketchbooks.

Another option is to cover it up with collage. I travel with a glue stick for this very reason. Ticket stubs, bits of tourist maps, newspaper headlines, even a silly drawing or note on a Post-It…you can find some bits and pieces and glue them down. Like this:



Or–if the drawing’s light enough–why not just write on top of it? I did this dull little watercolor that just made me sad to look at, but then I wrote on top of it and the whole thing seemed much more interesting to me. Bad drawings make great backgrounds.