Lessons from Life on Planning Watercolors

Lessons from Life on Planning Watercolors

Planning an entire meal involves more than just knowing cooking techniques. Chances are, you’re all quite familiar with this sort of planning, so let’s see how it connects with planning watercolors.

read more
The “Other How-To”

The “Other How-To”

Like most people, I did some rapid “pivoting” (otherwise known as “flailing”) during 2020. It’s time for me to get back to the core mission of my teaching: to help you be more successful using watercolor as an artist, that is, to use watercolor to explore your own thoughts, ideas and emotions, record your responses to the world, share your experiences with others, or express something personally meaningful. That means learning to plan your own paintings, but how?

read more
It’s Not All About Hue – Imposters and Chameleons

It’s Not All About Hue – Imposters and Chameleons

Color-mixing is often discussed as if the only consideration is getting “the right color”, but watercolor pigments each have their own physical and chemical properties. This video presents some activities to help you develop a more sophisticated understanding of color-mixing so you become better at choosing and mixing pigments to create the artistic effects—including perceived color—you desire.

read more
How I Use Autodesk Sketchbook to Plan Changes to Paintings

How I Use Autodesk Sketchbook to Plan Changes to Paintings

Sketchbook Pro is a great tool for quickly planning changes to a painting in progress, and it’s free. This video introduces the small set of features I use in my planning process, so you can get started quickly without having to go through a lot of features you don’t need.

read more
My Cure for Winter Blues

My Cure for Winter Blues

Wild and garish? Sure, but I can always paint over it (or parts of it) later. For now, it has the same effect on me as opening a brand-new box of 64 Crayolas. Just what I needed to get me past the “winter blues”!

read more
Why Paint?

Why Paint?

Considering why you are painting, in general or this particular painting, can help you create work with more impact and get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of the process.

read more
Studio News for 6 Dec 2020

Studio News for 6 Dec 2020

January (and part of February) classes, individual coaching opportunities, topics for upcoming Second Sundays, and some book ideas for a blast of color to counteract the gloomy winter days.

read more
Mining for Gems

Mining for Gems

When the Big Pile of Nope in your studio gets too big and discouraging, it’s time to go mining!

read more
Reserving and Recovering Light Values: Strategies to Consider

Reserving and Recovering Light Values: Strategies to Consider

Getting light color values in watercolor works a little differently than in other mediums, since watercolor is transparent. In watercolor, we rely on the white color of the paper to give us our lighter values, meaning that a watercolorist’s main options are reserving or recovering whites. This article lists some of the strategies you can use to reserve and recover whites and light values.

read more
How Can I Give Feedback on Your Work In Zoom?

How Can I Give Feedback on Your Work In Zoom?

Are you wondering how I can see your work and give you feedback in Zoom? I’ve been doing watercolor coaching via Zoom for almost two years now—I’ve got a system! Here’s a short video to show you how it works.

read more
Small Group Help Sessions

Small Group Help Sessions

$15 per session.

Help in a group setting. Planning, technical problems, help with self-study materials, supplies or whatever else is giving you trouble. Starts at scheduled time and runs for 30 minutes per person enrolled. Each student get 30 min focus on their questions. An economical way to get personalized help and learn from the questions of others, too. Limit: 6 students per session.

read more
The Lazy Way to Build Painting Confidence

The Lazy Way to Build Painting Confidence

This article is the third in a series. The preceding articles are: Is My Painting Done? Are You a "Photocopier"? There's a Better Way In response to the last article, a reader made a couple of excellent points about why it's sometimes difficult to deviate from a...

read more

Are You a “Photocopier”? There’s a Better Way

This article is the second in a series. To read the first article, "Is My Painting Done?", click here. In the next few articles in this series, I'll introduce some ideas you can use to help you plan paintings that are more expressive, powerful and meaningful to you....

read more
Is My Painting Done?

Is My Painting Done?

This article is the first of a series on creating more powerful, personal and expressive paintings. When I teach watercolor classes or workshops, there is often a moment where a student comes up to me, thrusts a painting into my face and demands: Tell me what's wrong...

read more
Using Colorways

Using Colorways

Even if you do as I do and have a “(home)base palette” of 8 or 9 colors, there are times when you want to bring in other colors for a particular painting or series. Here’s how I do it to make sure I still have color harmony.

read more
Jul 2019:  Finding Focus Working on Location

Jul 2019:  Finding Focus Working on Location

some strategies I use to manage the overwhelming amount of information when painting on location, so sketching enhances my enjoyment, instead of raising my stress level. And so I have a better chance of coming back with photos and sketches that I can actually use to create satisfying, personally meaningful paintings.

read more
Phthalo Green—How To Tame It

Phthalo Green—How To Tame It

In the last post, I offered some tips for mixing natural-looking landscape greens, the first of which was "avoid tube greens involving phthalo green". So, what do you do with the phthalo green (and mixtures using it) you already have? The secret is to tame it a bit so...

read more
Better Landscape Greens

Better Landscape Greens

The weather is beautiful here. It's the time of year when a lot of us are feeling that pull to take our paints and sketchbooks outside. It's also the time of year that a lot of people struggle with GREEN! Do the greens in your landscapes look flat and unnatural? The...

read more
Line and Wash – Watercolor Painting Anyone Can Do

Line and Wash – Watercolor Painting Anyone Can Do

Line and wash is a combination of line drawing with watercolor washes to suggest a scene. It’s a great way to get started with watercolor, or with travel sketching, even if you “can’t draw” and have never tried watercolor before!

read more
Paint Shapes, Not “Things”

Paint Shapes, Not “Things”

Want your paintings to look unified? It helps to combine "things" into larger shapes, and then use smaller shapes to (partially) separate them. Here's an exercise to help you practice. First, set up a still life with a couple of simple objects. Avoid anything that has...

read more
New Watercolor Mandala Template

New Watercolor Mandala Template

I know some of you enjoy using the templates I create for my Watercolor Prayer/Meditation Mandala Mini-Retreats. I created a new one that was very popular at the last mini-retreat, so I decided to share it with you here. This one has some larger open areas for you to...

read more
What Makes a Good Painting?

What Makes a Good Painting?

That pesky inner critic! I don't know about you, but simply telling her to sit down and shut up doesn't work for me. Oh, I can get her to leave me alone. It just doesn't lead to paintings I'm happy with. I need my inner critic. We all need time to explore, experiment...

read more
9 Tips for Better Sketches (and More Fun!)

9 Tips for Better Sketches (and More Fun!)

Yesterday, 12 intrepid sketchers from the Watercolor Minimalist class at Wet Paint descended on Como Conservatory determined to learn some tips and tricks for sketching on location in a short amount of time and with minimal stuff. It was a gorgeous day, there were...

read more
“No Mistakes” Art-Making

“No Mistakes” Art-Making

Do you ever make mistakes when you're working in your journal? Or doodling? Ever put down a wobbly line? Smear some ink? Drip watercolor where you didn't mean to? How does it make you feel? Perhaps a bit aggravated or disappointed? Do you ever want to tear a page out...

read more
Digital Doodles

Digital Doodles

I know many of you have iPads (or other tablets) or smartphones. Have you ever thought of using them to make art? There are many, many fun apps that allow you to draw, doodle, "paint" and modify your photos—and a lot of them are free, have free versions, or cost only...

read more
Get Out of the Moment

Get Out of the Moment

Huh? Everything you read these days seems to extol the virtues of being "in the present moment". I'm not questioning the value of being attentive, appreciative and aware. In fact, a few weeks ago, I suggested some ways to use art-making to deepen your appreciation for...

read more
Spiral In, Spiral Out

Spiral In, Spiral Out

The 30-Doodles-in-30-Days Challenge is drawing to a close, but one thing I have discovered is that everyone has enjoyed having a daily  doodling suggestion (a "prompt") as a creative springboard. Since I've been on a spiral kick myself lately, I invite you to create a...

read more

The Sound (and Look) of Music

Last week, I talked about the power of "doodling" or art-making to focus your full attention on a sensation or experience. This is one of the main reasons I make art. Not to hang something on the wall, but to enhance my experience of life. Sketches while traveling or...

read more
What’s a Cradled Board?

What’s a Cradled Board?

This must be one of the questions I get asked the most often! I used to mat and frame my watercolors. From time to time someone would ask if I could frame them without glass. I knew of some watercolorists who were painting on canvas or boards that were specially...

read more
New Year’s Permissions

New Year’s Permissions

What would you do, if only . . .  ? New Year's resolutions . . . we love to hate them, but we make them. Even when we resolve not to make resolutions, there's still that feeling that now that the holidays are over, we'll get our lives in hand again, and this year do...

read more
The “Giant” Painting is Now 3 Panels

The “Giant” Painting is Now 3 Panels

Ulp! It's a scary moment when I finally make the decision where to divide one of these "starts" into the individual panels.  No going back! But, I'm happy with where things stand. Even though the paper edges weren't square, so I'm going to barely have enough height on...

read more
Celebrate Light!

Celebrate Light!

Isn't it a wonderful quirk of nature that just as the coldest months are about to begin, the days also begin to lengthen? The winter solstice is this Sunday night. After that, the days start lengthening toward spring. Why not take a little time from the rush and...

read more
Explore and Inspire Yourself with Word Clouds

Explore and Inspire Yourself with Word Clouds

Have you ever noticed the cluster of words that sit in the sidebar of some websites, some of them bigger, some smaller, sometimes in multiple colors? Bloggers often "tag" articles with keywords to help readers search for topics of interest. The bigger the word in this...

read more
Yikes!—That’s a Big Sheet of Paper!

Yikes!—That’s a Big Sheet of Paper!

I'm working on an exciting commission for Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, MN. When completed, this piece will be on three large panels, and will be the largest piece in this series to date. This large sheet of paper (about 32x55") is from a roll—no double-elephant...

read more
Have you missed me?

Have you missed me?

Fine-tuning my email system to tailor the news to YOUR current interests. After many on-again-off-again attempts to keep a newsletter going, I've finally found a system that works! Please keep reading to see how it will work. Future weekly newsletter emails will be...

read more
Drawing on Gratitude

Drawing on Gratitude

It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. as I write this post, and it seems everyone in America is writing about gratitude in some way or another.  I'm going to write about gratitude, too, even though you won't see this post until Friday or Saturday, when the dominant theme...

read more
Pattern Play

Pattern Play

Do you love intricate patterns? The wild popularity of Zentangle tells me a lot of us do! What is the fascination? The soothing repetition? The almost-magical emergence of form from a few simple shapes? The need to pay close attention that blocks out cares and...

read more
Please Print

Please Print

I got a new art toy recently. It's called a Gelli plate, and it makes gelatin monoprints sooooo much easier than in the past. Instead of explaining how to make a gelatin plate for printing, I'm going to point you to a great tutorial on The Sketchbook Challenge site,...

read more
What If I Don’t Feel Artistic Today?

What If I Don’t Feel Artistic Today?

Some days, I wake up feeling the pressure of everything that has to be done that day, and taking time out to work in my journal seems like a luxury I can't afford. Some days, I am so exhausted at the end of the day, I just want to crawl in bed and sleep. Some days,...

read more
Empty Your Backpack

Empty Your Backpack

A couple of weekends ago, we had a beautiful 70-degree day with this year’s glorious fall colors just hitting their peak. On the spur of the moment, I grabbed my backpack and headed out to paint with a friend. I had forgotten to bring masking tape, so I couldn’t tape...

read more
Plein Air Painting for Everyone

Plein Air Painting for Everyone

For those who aren't familiar with the phrase, painting en plein air is just a fancy way of referring to painting on location, usually outdoors. It's a challenge! In addition to all the usual problems a painter has to solve (composition, color mixing, brush handling,...

read more
Permission to Color!

Permission to Color!

Get out the Crayolas with no apologies! A report in this week's Huffington Post on coloring as a great stress-buster for adults is making a splash on Facebook and other media outlets.  It seems coloring—for adults—is all the rage in Europe, and just starting...

read more
Just “Eyeball” It!

Just “Eyeball” It!

Who is that mysterious woman peering out of the headline of this week's post?  Read to the end to find out—she has a little magical treat for you! In this week's post, I invite you to try your hand at cartooning. Wait! Keep reading! I promise anyone can do this kind...

read more
Do You Have “Creative Indigestion”? :)

Do You Have “Creative Indigestion”? 🙂

Wow! This is post #30! There's a LOT of Creative Energy Journaling stuff out there on the website after just 3 months! If you have "creative indigestion" at this point, please forgive my excessive enthusiasm!  I just get so excited about this...

read more
Dancing with the Brush

Dancing with the Brush

I keep finding myself telling followers of this blog about these fun little how-to videos I'm making for my beginning watercolor classes. Three in particular—on brush-drawing—just seem perfect for journallers. Brush drawing is a great way to try to see and capture the...

read more
Mandalas for Meditation, Prayer and Transformation

Mandalas for Meditation, Prayer and Transformation

Making a mandala (circular drawing or painting) has long been considered an act of devotion in many cultures all over the world. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, it's great to have a way to take a bit of time out from the busy-ness of your schedule...

read more
“Nothing’s Sacred!”

“Nothing’s Sacred!”

Well, actually, I think pretty much everything is sacred. But, even sacred things can evolve, develop and transform. So your journal pages certainly can! In fact, if you don't transform certain journal pages, they become the journal equivalent of that mysterious...

read more
4 Creative Techniques to Celebrate the Full Moon

4 Creative Techniques to Celebrate the Full Moon

The moon is full this coming Monday night and it looks like we might have clear skies here in the Twin Cities area. One of the things I love to do in my art and in my journaling is celebrate the natural world—changing seasons, dramatic weather, the plants and animals...

read more
The Lovely Dark

The Lovely Dark

As I was returning home from a reception Monday night, there was a spectacular light show from some large thunderstorms to the north.  The storms were far enough away that the thunder wasn’t audible, and I couldn’t see ground strikes. Instead, the massive clouds were...

read more
Geometric “Self-Portraits”

Geometric “Self-Portraits”

Artists have created self-portraits for ages, probably more for what the artists discover about themselves than as a way to create a likeness to show to the world. As with most things in Creative Energy Journaling, this activity is design to give you some of the benefits of the exercise of creating a self-portrait, without having to know how to draw or paint, and without spending hours and hours staring into a mirror.

read more
Before the Mask, Behind the Mask

Before the Mask, Behind the Mask

What is a mask for? We all wear them. For politeness, for privacy, for protection. Sometimes out of kindness. Sometimes out of fear. Think about how it feels to wear an actual, physical mask. A mask conceals identity. But a mask also expresses an identity. When you...

read more
Wonky Wobblies and Directed Doodles

Wonky Wobblies and Directed Doodles

The biggest benefit of drawing is that drawing changes how you see. Drawing is a form of active meditation, a mindfulness practice, and a wonderful stress-reliever. That all sounds great. But what if you can't draw? I have good news: the worse your drawing skills are,...

read more
Be a (Mindful) Tourist in Your Own Town

Be a (Mindful) Tourist in Your Own Town

A great way to practice mindfulness and open your eyes to the world you live in every day is to play “tourist” in your own town.  Often artists keep sketchbooks not so much to accumulate sketches as to provide a way to focus their attention on the overlooked interest...

read more
Union of Opposites

Union of Opposites

Often, we mentally place two qualities, choices, or even people, in opposition. Then, we conclude that more of one (or for one) must necessarily come at the expense of the other, without even thinking to ask if the two people/ideas/paths are really opposed. How might your thinking change if you considered whether these two things could be like the warp and weft of a piece of fabric, both valuable and necessary, both contributing to its strength and beauty?

read more
Befriending Your Inner Critic

Befriending Your Inner Critic

In Creative Energy Journaling, as in any creative activity, there is the possibility of interference from your inner critic. The received wisdom is that inner critics should be silenced. Or banished. I disagree. In this post I hope to persuade you that your inner critic can help you go deeper into your creativity and be more comfortable taking creative risks.

read more
“Stained Glass” Mandalas—Fill Your Journal Page with Beautiful Light

“Stained Glass” Mandalas—Fill Your Journal Page with Beautiful Light

This week’s activity is a feast for those of us (me! me!) who love color and light. It also introduces my all-time favorite watercolor technique—working wet-in-wet within shapes—which you can adapt to all sorts of other situations. Best of all, it’s just about guaranteed to produce beautiful results, even if you are brand-new to watercolor.

read more
Tips for Sustaining a Vibrant Journaling Practice

Tips for Sustaining a Vibrant Journaling Practice

It seems we’re all busy these days. Often, too busy to take time for things that we know would really enhance and enrich our lives—like journaling or art-making. We long for a creative outlet, and every day we wind up scrambling just to get through the necessary tasks...

read more
“Just-So” Stories (part 2)

“Just-So” Stories (part 2)

WAIT! Have you done part 1? Important: Please do the activity described in "Just-So" Stories, part 1 before reading this post! Please take as much time as you need for part 1. You may want to spend more than one journaling session working on it, to give yourself...

read more
“Just-So” Stories (part 1)

“Just-So” Stories (part 1)

This activity can take some time to “complete”. Don’t feel that you have to finish it in one sitting. In fact, you will likely get more out of it if you return to embellish and add to it later. I've deliberately split this activity into two posts. I've found I get...

read more
How Do I Get Started?

How Do I Get Started?

Welcome to Creative Energy Journaling! You can have a look at What is Creative Energy Journaling? and the Resources page for more background, but probably the best way to get a feel for it is to just jump in and try a few of the many activities that can be done as...

read more
Creative Seeds

Creative Seeds

These "creative seeds" are a great to warm-up, de-stress or generate new ideas for paintings.  Creative Seeds If you were planting a garden, you would not simply go outside and wish for ripe tomatoes tomorrow and expect to have that actually happen. You...

read more
Blank Pages and other Scary Things

Blank Pages and other Scary Things

Here you are with a lovely new journal. Maybe you've decorated the cover, or done a ritual to honor your materials. Now it's time to start putting something on the pages—aaak! Some demons lurk here.  Even with many years of experience, I sometimes get hung up on...

read more
Honoring/Intention Ritual

Honoring/Intention Ritual

Yes, I know “ritual” is a dirty word for some. If this is you, I hope to persuade you to re-think the role of ritual in your life. Rituals can be extraordinarily powerful and offer enormous rewards for a small investment of time and effort. Like habits and routines,...

read more
Personalize Your Journal Cover

Personalize Your Journal Cover

The official launch of beta-testing is not until Friday, but I know some of you have your journals now and are probably eager to get started.  After the first week, I'll be sending email only once a week on Friday (I don't want to overwhelm you with email!) But I'll...

read more
Crayon Conversation—A Conversation Without Words

Crayon Conversation—A Conversation Without Words

All this overview and logistical stuff! Whew! Before we go any farther, I want to give you at least a little taste of what Creative Energy Journaling is like, but I know some of you will not have had time to find a journal and supplies. What you need: Fortunately, you...

read more
What is Creative Energy Journaling?

What is Creative Energy Journaling?

So many of us are over-busy, stressed and fully occupied with just getting a few more things crossed off our to-do lists. Deep down, we know we need a way to keep our thinking creative and flexible. We need a way to recharge and get back in touch with our dreams. But we get stuck on the “not enough time/space/skill” stumbling blocks. Creative Energy Journaling is a collection of the activities and practices I use and share with my students to keep my creative energy flowing even when life is biting me in the butt!

read more
What is Creative Energy Journaling?

What is Creative Energy Journaling?

Creative Energy Journaling is a series of activities to stimulate creativity, relieve stress and help you think more flexibly. A friend of mine called it "yoga for your brain"—what a great description! I developed Creative Energy Journaling for myself and my students...

read more
How I Mount My Paintings

How I Mount My Paintings

People have been asking, “what does it mean when you say something is mounted on cradled hardboard?” Click the image to see a brief description of how I mount and protect my work without a frame or glass.

read more
Dealing with “Problem Paintings”—Part 1: Too Boring for Words

Dealing with “Problem Paintings”—Part 1: Too Boring for Words

If you’ve painted in watercolor for more than a day or so, I know you’ve been here: after hours of hard work, you’re struggling with a blotchy, overworked section that you know isn’t going to be right, no matter how much more effort you put into it. It’s tempting to conclude that you just don’t have what it takes . . . maybe it’s time to take up something easier to master, say, golf.

How do you deal with “problem paintings” like this? (click the picture to read more)

read more