Friday, December 4, 2015


Do you take online classes?

 Online classes give me time on my own to work. I can then share my pieces and receive critiques from people who don't know me. Classroom classes give me the chance to mingle with other creative people. We stimulate each other, share techniques, and work without competing.

Once my classes this fall were complete, I started working on a watercolor that was inspired by a mushroom I found hidden under one of our camellia bushes. Water had pooled inside the bowl of the golden mushroom.

I imagined a little forest sprite fishing from the edge. I've been trying to paint that scene ever since. I am reminded of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity:

"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

He wasn't talking about artists, I don't think. I often paint something over and over.  Sometimes the experimenting creates interesting, improved results. Other times, I overwork the piece and the painting loses its liveliness. Sometimes, I needed to stay with the original piece. Sometimes, if I can get through the experimenting and the tightly wound stages, I come out with something that is better than my original.

I started the sprite painting by using a Zig Artist Sketch Pen, which is waterproof, instead of my usual pencil, to outline the image on a piece of cold press paper. I could erase pencil lines, but the marker was permanent. I wanted to keep as much detail visible as I could.

I didn't like my final painting so I tried another set using a different kind of watercolor paper. This piece demonstrates the value of marking on the back what type of paper it is.  I used a pencil this time to draw the image, but I still didn't like the results.

Many watercolorists use cold press paper because of the texture of the paper, which grabs the watercolor paint. I decided for the sprite image to try hot press paper with its smoother surface, which might help to show the details. I used pencil again to outline the shapes.

As I painted the last example, I realized that long ago in a class at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, I worked on a painting with a similar theme. I pulled out my old portfolio and stared at the painting. I remembered the teacher's critique. She told me to study the work of another student, whose figures were joyously animated, full of life and emotion. At the time, I found the comparison discouraging, not understanding that I needed to work hard to accomplish similar results. But now I am back at practice. I remind myself again, "This is the best I can do right now."

My original painting from an Academy of Art class.

Cold weather blew in last week, which has encouraged me to spend more time in my workroom. I gaze out the window at the leaves blowing by or watch rain drop on our thirsty yard. I turn back to work table I enjoy the painting practice and try to reach beyond what I can do now.

If you are interested in online art classes, here are two that I have enjoyed:

Jacqueline Newbold's watercolor classes through the Artful Gathering website. http://atozinnia.org

She also gives workshops around the country.

Chris Berdoll's watercolor class through the Artists' Network University.


  1. I definitely like the last mushroom piece the best and that was because of the happy expression on the elf. I also like the last painting but see that two of those elves are not showing emotion. Still it's a very cool piece Madame Artiste!

  2. Merci, mon amie! Yes, I agree. Getting expression and emotion into a watercolor is difficult!!!


Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from readers. I answer each one.

I do not post Anonymous comments because of problems with spammers.