Category Archives: Learning

Sorta-Like Flowers . . .


I decided I don’t like my new website design, so I am changing it again – all in the name of simplifying.

There was not enough white space and I love white space.

So back to square one – what IS my website about now days anyhow?

It has to be about Sheer Heaven, of course, because of it being the most awesome art paper in the known universe.

People are still emailing me and calling me with brand new things they have discovered (many are their “trade” secrets so I can’t share). And I am always doing something new with it – like cutting stencils for glass work lately.

Sheer Heaven is the best stencil film ever,  because it can be cut so easily with a scissors. AND you can make the stencils out of the leftovers from your inkjet transfers.

But back to the website – what is the other big thing?

The other big thing is TEACHING.

I “retired” from formal teaching after just a few years, because I really really hated the politics of institutions. I was a hippie way back then and pretty free-form with my ideas. I also had a big case of BSIS (bullshit-intolerance syndrome), and I found more of that in the education system, even in liberal northern California, than you would find at a rodeo.

Long story short, I moved on to other things.

But somehow, the teaching kept creeping back in.

After being on the internet a few years, it became obvious to me that this was a natural place to teach.

So I did.

It was a pretty unusual thing then – to teach online.

Now, online classes and workshops are ubiquitous.

I don’t think I have been to any arts blog or website that does NOT offer a list of workshops and classes.

So, do I just dump all mine because of the competition?

I have done some looking at that competition – much more than I have let you know about – because I have found the experiences mostly playschool and have learned very little, and cannot find much positive to say. Better to say nothing.

Ironically, with all the classes going on, there is VERY little skill-building in the arts. There are a few good workshops, but they are the exception, not the rule.

I even get a little peeved now and then when I see a watercolor “lesson” that results in the kind of mess that every watercolorist tries to avoid. If you have no clue how to do something, don’t TEACH that, for heaven sake.

Like I said, I get a little bunched up about it sometimes.

The skills of drawing, painting, and design underlie everything in art.

Whether you are talking clay or stone or fiber or quilting or collage or card making or photography, or WHATEVER, the quality of what you turn out, is going to be dependent on your SKILLS in drawing, painting, and design. Period. There is nothing to be argued about here.

Better skills in this area make you a better artist – more satisfied and fulfilled with what you produce.

Everybody has to start somewhere.

As a beginner, you will not be great, and you will know it.

But, rather than join the absolute cacophony of whining about inner critics, just decide to WORK to get better. Your inner critic will shut right up, because she is actually an inner “guide” and that’s what she wants you to do – WORK at it.

UNDERSTAND that it is not easy to get really good at anything. DECIDE that you will get better at it by learning how to do it, preferably from somebody who KNOWS how to do it and how to TEACH it, and then go DO IT over and over until you get better and better.

I promise you will see the progress, and you will see your own style emerge - in whatever media you love.

OK – shoving the soapbox out of the way, and getting back to what my website is about.

It’s about teaching and learning those critical skills.

That’s at the core of my workshops, workbooks, and retreats.

I show you how to draw, paint, and design in a way that you “get”, so you can go off and practice until you are really good.

My intention is that you GROW your talents because there is great delight to be had in a garden of delightful things created by you.

So, I changed the Cre8it byline to:

A Place to Grow Your Talent.

And decided to use a LOT of white space and some potted flower illustrations.

They turned out to be fantasy flowers – almost looking like something familiar, but not quite, so I am calling them “Sorta-Like” Flowers, and I thought I would also use them for a line of greeting cards, and add a quote to each card – about flowers, gardens, or growth.

Can you help me out here?

If you have a favorite quote along these lines, would you please share it in Comments – along with the author if available?

I would really appreciate it.

The website work is not done yet, but you can see my little sorta-like flowers below, because I finished them.

I love to paint very realistic flowers, but that didn’t seem like the right feeling for this – too formal.

So, it’s fun to make flowers up. Not just random squiggles (that’s fun too), but flowers that have some suggestion of the real thing. It’s interesting how just a couple details can remind you of a specific blossom.

This one is sorta like an African Daisy . . .


Sorta-like a Sunflower . . .

sortasunflowerSorta like a Coneflower . . .

sortaconeflowerSorta like an Aster . . .

sortaasterSorta like a Tulip . . .

sortatulipAnd sorta like a Marigold . . .

sortamarigoldThese will be the new pictures for my home page – and they all need quotes because they also want to be greeting cards.


The $20 discount on this fabulous workshop lasts only through Monday, so now’s the time to grab it if you want to know *everything* you can do with these amazing pencils.

Here’s the link:


Wonderful Watercolor

4wellsEverybody loves watercolor.

Now, before you start thinking that you don’t because of how difficult it is, and what a mess you can make if you don’t know what you are doing, here’s more what I am thinking.

Everybody at least loves to look at watercolor.

There is something so wonderful about all those brilliant colors tucked in a box like candy – eye candy for sure.

And watercolor is the most portable of paint mediums so it is very popular with sketchbook and journal people.

And it’s transparent so any white page is going to backlight it and make the color even more beautiful.

But watercolor is fickle.

It is not something you can throw around casually like you can some other types of paint because it has a mind of its own, because it demands respect.

Watercolor is NOT too difficult if you just take the time to understand it. Because it has a mind of its own, it demands that you give it the respect it deserves, or it will punish you by making a nice mess.

Brand and Quality Really Matter

With acrylic paints, and even oils, you can go a long way with student brands and not get in too much trouble. With little exception, even inexpensive brands behave well enough. They may not last or hold their color over a long period of time, but when you are painting with them, you pretty much get what you expect.

Not so with watercolor.

The pigment load (how much color is in it), staining and lifting qualities, flow and blending results vary tremendously between cheap student brands and more expensive professional brands.

For this reason, when learning watercolor, you are much better off with just a few tubes or pans of good quality paint than lots of colors of a cheap brand. You can mix most colors from just red, blue, and yellow, in fact.

And even among high end brands, there are very noticeable differences in behavior. These are not good and bad differences, however, because all the big brands are great, and only someone with lots of experience would notice the differences.

Most practicing watercolorists have favorite brands based on how the paint behaves in their own working style.

These are some very good brands, and the difference between them is a matter of personal preference (what works best for the way you do things).

Winsor-Newton, Daniel Smith, Schmincke-Horadam, Maimeri Blu, Holbein, Old Holland, Sennelier, and M. Graham.

Most artists have one or two favorite brands, and a few tubes of other brands in special colors that are not available in their favorite brand.

All brands can be used together in the same painting and mixed together on your palette.

After 40+ years of being a professional watercolorist, my favorite brands were Schmincke, Winsor & Newton, and some Daniel Smith.

When we were in Tubac for the retreat in March, I realized I had forgotten my tube of Yellow Ochre, which was absolutely necessary for painting adobe walls.

There is just one small art supply store in Tubac, and they carry just one brand of paint – one I had never tried – M. Graham. Their claim to fame is using blackberry honey as a binder.

Because I had no choice, I bought a tube.

After that, it was a good thing that art supply store was only a half block away from the inn, because I bought five more tubes.

I could not believe that a watercolor brand could be that different!

2greenwellsThe paint is ultra creamy and stays moist so it wets instantly.

There is so much pigment that you need to use very little paint.

It blends like heaven, and lifts beautifully.

LUSCIOUS  is the best word I can think of.

I came home from the retreat and starting filling out my palette – 33 tubes so far . . . and counting.

I got the best pricing by buying sets on Amazon:

M. Graham Watercolor Sets

This is hands-down my favorite, and because it is so different, it makes my “Most Amazing Art Supplies of the 21st Century” list. So far, we have Inktense and M.Graham Watercolors on the list.

I needed a new palette, so I got this one from Amazon

closedpaletteThey have 6 left in stock, more on order . . . ($23.39 – Prime Shipping)

Martin Mijello  33 Well Palette

Open, it looks like this . . .

openpaintboxThe trays lift out, so you have three big mixing palettes if you need them.

I keep my watercolors this neat by doing all my mixing on a separate palette. Some folks like a big messy, muddy palette, but I much prefer pure color – to look at and to use!

Looking at a box of color like this makes my heart leap.

But, it takes more than a beautiful paintbox to make beautiful watercolor paintings.

You also have to know what you are doing. You know what you are doing by learning all about what to expect from this medium and adjusting for it. Because watercolor is doing its own thing while you are trying to make it do your thing, it’s a lot like trying to herd kittens.

There is VERY LITTLE adequate watercolor instruction available for beginners, although there are hundreds of books and workshops on the subject.

Many of those books and workshops have great tips and techniques and sample paintings. Some even have step-by-step, but they are more like “leap-by-leap” instead, leaving the beginner wondering how on earth step B got to Step C. And forget about Step D!

And half of every book is devoted to introducing supplies and materials, providing a bunch of information the beginner is not ready for until they get their brush wet, so to speak.

What you really need is something that tells you to “do this” and then “do that” and “here’s what happens” when you do.

I wrote a workshop like that, and I think it’s the best beginner workshop there is.

You learn how the paint behaves and why, and exactly what you need to do – and why. And even how your own studio environment affects what you can expect from your watercolor.

If I had to rank my workshops according to progress made by the students who have taken it so far, this would be right up at the top.

Read lots more about it here:

Watercolor for the Journal and Sketchbook

Summer is an awesome time for learning watercolor and painting in your little Nature Sanctuary.

The Leaf Test . . .

leaftestI had seen Cathy Johnson use a water soluble pencil line in her watercolor sketching a few times, and Jane LaFazio using a water soluble marker in her recent Sketchbook Skool lesson.

The idea is to outline your drawing with the soluble lines, and then paint inside the shape with a wet brush or water brush to dissolve some of the line into a sort of automatic shading.

I had tried this a few times before, but had not given the idea a real workout.

No time like the present . . .

I like the look in black & white, but I was more interested in how this trick would work as an underpainting for watercolor.

The tricky part would be to add a wash or glaze over the shading without moving it around too much or polluting the glaze color.

So, I thought of Inktense pencils, because once wet and dried, they are supposed to be permanent. This is a relative thing of course, because if you haven’t actually wet the Inktense thoroughly, it is still soluble.

(I learned more than I ever even wanted to know about Inktense when writing my Inktense Soup to Nuts Workshop, and you can too. If you are intrigued by these pencils, check it out.)

It turned out that in a smaller space, if the whole area got wet, the Inktense would dry into a flat wash, but if you left a white area in the middle of a larger space, you could get nice modeling.

inktenseleaf1And it turned out that my favorite result came from painting a watercolor glaze over the dried Inktense shading . . .

inktenseleaf2But, I did make some other interesting discoveries, and I will give you a close look at them here.

My least favorite leaf resulted from outlining with a Koi Brush marker. They are rich and juicy, and very hard to control once you wet them. Over painting then made a real mess . . .

koileafThis isn’t horrible or anything, but not subtle either!

Because graphite is somewhat water soluble, I tried a #2 pencil with this technique and then overpainted with a watercolor wash.

Subtle, but I think a little too subtle . . .

no2leafFinally, I discovered something really interesting about some inexpensive markers I had been using to paint some wildflower illustrations last summer.

They are called Fibracolor, come from Italy and cost only about $22 for 100 at Amazon.

I think I like them the best of any water soluble marker for this painting technique.

Anyway, we all know black is made up of many colors (all colors if you’re talking pigment).

This shading technique brought out the colors in the black marker and made things very interesting . . .

fibracolorLook even closer . . .

fibradetailI just love that!

This test was done in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook.

I hope you have learned something useful from my little leaf test. I certainly did!

Postcard from Tubac, Arizona

room2It went so slowly – and it went so quickly. And it was the best of times.

We have just wrapped up our Tubac Art Journaling Retreat and NOBODY wanted to leave.

It is Sunday morning in Room 2 here at the Tubac Country Inn and strangers inhabit the other rooms, something which feels, well . . . strange, after a whole week of “family” filling this place with art and laughter and just plain joy.

The retreat in Santa Fe last September was such a wonderful experience that you think such a thing can’t be as good again. But it can.

We all arrived last week-end and were so excited to see each other again. For those who arrived on Saturday, Sunday was a relaxing time to “come down” from our daily lives and enjoy the weather and the garden while we waited for the others to arrive.

Tubac is a small village jam-packed with great shopping and great restaurants, and it is amazing how much there is to do within about six square blocks. You can easily walk anywhere.

Our workshop ran from Monday through Friday, and we headquartered in the Gallery building at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park – a block from the Inn. The Gallery building is open and light, and full of fresh air – a perfect place to learn to “dance” with watercolors.

otero otero2We learned some tricks to draw even the most complicated lettering by copying the Presidio sign itself . . .

presidiosign1 presidiosign2My sample is not perfect but it’s pretty darn close.

The grounds of the State Park and museum are bursting with interesting little scenes to draw and paint like these . . .


gourdsAnd one of our first assignments was to capture a minimum of five little scenes on a single page.

Here’s my example . . .

presidioWe spent the first two days learning everything we could jam into our heads about using watercolor, and practicing by painting scenes from the Presidio grounds.

There was much more to be painted, but Wednesday, we went out into the village of Tubac with a “scavenger hunt” list of things to put in our journals. We met up on the covered porch of Vesta’s gallery to share the challenges and see what everyone had found.

On Thursday, we went on a field trip to the Tumacacori Mission, which is a National HIstoric Site, with a beautiful old church and several adobe ruins.


Again, the grounds are so rich in history and beautiful things to sketch and paint, that it is hard to know where to start . . .

lynn tumacacori1 carolkayAnd everywhere, there are wildflowers . . .

wildflowerI am out of time this morning because Vesta and I are going to an art show up in Tucson. Thank heavens my friends Vesta and April are here or I think I would be feeling pretty lonely!

I have more photos to share – and some may even move you to pick up a pencil or paintbrush. I’ll show you some of those next post.

The next retreat will be in Santa Fe in September, and I wonder if I dare hope that we can have this much fun and wonder yet again!

New Book – iPad Photo Arts

iPad-Photo-Arts-CoverOh my. You never know where you are going with something.

Two weeks ago, I began the process of updating one of the workbooks I wrote in 2012 for the Ipad Studio Workshop. One app had disappeared and another had some changes and I was just going to update the workbook as a part of my plan to release the individual workbooks from the Studio on their own.

This workbook was about photography – about how to edit and play with photos on the iPad.

The more I got into it, the more it became obvious how much has changed in the course of two years – not just with these couple of apps, but with photography as an art medium.

EVERYBODY is a photographer these days.

OK, one guy in Des Moines isn’t.

But everybody else is wielding camera phones and digi-cams, and photos are flying through the air – Flickr-ing, Instagramming, Facebooking, Pinning, filling email (and I do mean FILLING email.)

Photos abound. Photographic knowledge does not abound.

I remember about fourteen years ago when I was trying to teach Photoshop and Elements online to artists. It was like pulling teeth to get them to accept this new way of working with images.

I was ahead of the times, but the times caught up.

These days, hardly anyone fears Photoshop anymore.

But these days, hardly anyone needs Photoshop anymore either

They are carrying iPads around with them – which contain everything they need to do anything and everything with photographs.

And it’s all so much easier.

But most people are still just poking at things without a clue how to do something on purpose with all these magic buttons we’ve got.

And so I thought somebody should maybe write a simple handbook about how to do everything with photos on the iPad.

And so I did.

But I didn’t call it “How to Do Everything with Photos on the iPad”.

I called it “iPad Photo Arts”. Classier.

This workbook has it all – how to shoot photos with the iPad, and/or import photos shot with something else. How to edit and fix and manipulate and distress. How to retouch and resize and make photo collages that are tastefully designed.

Even how to ORGANIZE all those photos you have on your iPad.

I am fond of all the books I write for you, but I must say I am especially proud of this one.

Somehow, working on this for two weeks, I managed to get everything you need to know into a 70 page ebook (PDF).

And it’s all explained simply in my step-by-step style – so there will be no inner child left behind.

Not only will you learn HOW to do everything with photos, you will learn WHY you are doing it, so you will know WHAT to do to get any desired result with your photos and images.

This wonderfully empowering workbook is $15 even though it is half again as long as the other iPad Workbooks. Any student registered in the iPad Studio Workshop can claim a $5 discount in the Shopping Cart.

Whether you are a photo hobbyist, a photo artist, a scrap booker, collage artist, or that guy from Des Moines, if you have an iPad, and any photos around, you NEED this book.

And you can get it here:

iPad Photo Arts


My Shopping Cart is temporarily refusing to download the new book automatically. I will email you a direct link to the book as soon as I see your order come in. There is no need to email me about the problem – we are working on it.


iTangle Is Finally Here!!

itanglecoverMy gosh . . . it’s finally finished. The first and only instruction book for tangling and doodling on your iPad.

I am not a tangler nor a teacher of tangling. But I do know my way around the iPad pretty well (you’d think I should – after writing over 700 pages of iPad art instruction since 2012!).

Because I invited my friend, Sandy Bartholomew, to teach at my retreat last year, about half the attendees were tanglers of one type or another. We even had several CZTs in attendance.

And ALL of them were carrying iPads. And NONE of them were practicing their tangle art ON the iPad.

The iPad is a GREAT tool for making art of all kinds, but as easy as it is to use, the art apps are not only confusing, they don’t come with instructions either!

So, my job . . . figure out which of the hundreds of drawing apps worked best and most simply for this art form, most closely mimicked the real life experience of pen, pencil, and paper, and which also included all the basic operating features of iPad art apps, so students could move on to more complicated apps and understand them better, if so desired. (Wow! Was that sentence long enough for ya?)

I did all that figuring, and then wrote a manual which teaches you how to use the app to tangle, doodle, or do line drawing using step-by-step instructions WITH pictures. Easy as can be. Even my cat can do it – she thinks she can anyway.

Learn to make the right size Tiles and string them, and use them if you practice traditional Zentangle (TM).

Learn to draw tangles with the tangle instructions right there on the page with you – but then make the instructions disappear and leave your beautiful design all alone -ready to enjoy and share on the iPad, or print, or resize, or . . . anything you want because you now have a *digital* tangle design with no need for scanning.

I want to make it clear that this is NOT a book of tangle designs. Folks like Sandy Bartholomew do a much better job of that than I. In fact, Sandy’s three ebooks are great companions to the iTangle Book because you can keep them right there in iBooks and pick any design from them to work with. All right there within the iPad!

Click the SHOP button on Sandy’s blog to access those wonderful books. (The Santa Fe one is my favorite, of course.)

If you are not so traditional in your tangling practice, the iTangle book teaches you how to erase and correct from a bug’s eye perspective (yes, you can erase iPad “ink”), and even how to do some blended SHADING like Sandy uses to make her tangles look 3D.

And, if you are not into tangling at all, this book is still for you, because, of all the iPad art books I’ve written, this is the one that most simply introduces you to line drawing on the iPad. So if you draw rubber stamps designs, or just doodle for fun and creative exercise, this the perfect way for you to learn to do that on your iPad.

I am redesigning my website to present these books better, but I know you don’t want to wait for that, so here is the link to the Shopping Cart where you can buy iTangle right now.

There is even a BUNDLE there for saving $10 on a three book combo, and you can learn to print from the iPad too.

I don’t have connections with any tangling groups, etc.,so if you do, please share this post with them so we can get the word out to all those tanglers walking around with empty iPads!


Creative Process, Part 2

leafdrawingWhenever I create, I watch myself carefully to note the steps I take.

This practice comes from being a life-long teacher. How can you explain how to do something if you aren’t keeping track of the steps?

I am always trying to improve my teaching by making it more and more simple and easy to understand, so I have come up with several methods of art instruction over the years, and my newest is most closely aligned with how creative process actually works.

I was sketching and painting Wildflowers last Summer – meandering from one thing to another along the creative path of that, when it struck me that this very thing I was doing, was the best way for someone to learn to draw and paint.

I learned long ago, in the process of teaching PhotoShop, that it is a more effective thing to learn what is necessary to the task at hand, and put it to use immediately – than to learn “all about” each part of a process and then try to store that knowledge for when you actually need it in the future.

That last sentence was very wordy, but I think you know what I mean.

So, while sketching my Wildflowers, I was thinking how much fun it would be to teach drawing like that – just meandering from one thing to another, and asking the students to just follow along – step-by-step.

In the process of drawing and painting one thing, you may learn a little bit about perspective, a little bit about shading, a little bit about watercolor and color usage – but not EVERYTHING about all those things.

Just enough to get that flower done nicely.

Of this was my Sketch Journal One Workshop born. It  was a great success, and is now a self-paced WHENEVER workshop.

On February 15, I will launch Sketch Journal Two to continue the journey.

It will pick up from where we left off and continue with 15 more lessons over a 30 day period.

My biggest challenge has been to explain to you how fun and effective these workshops are – without actually showing you.

Seeing is believing after all.

So, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, I am sharing an actual, complete lesson from the Sketch Journal One workshop – FREE for everyone.

I chose a lesson which demonstrates how easy it is to draw an ordinary thing, and how many little pieces of art knowledge you pick up in the process. Of course, some of the knowledge was presented in the lessons preceding this one, but you will be able to follow along just fine.

AND to sweeten the pie even more, I have put the workshop on Special for the rest of January – $15 off the $65 tuition!

To make this  more fair to students who already took Sketch Journal One at full tuition, I am extending the same discount on Sketch Journal Two if you register during January.

That discount is in the Shopping Cart here:

AND anybody feeling that they will probably want to take both workshops, can purchase both during January for the reduced tuition.

Without further ado, here is Lesson 10 from Sketch Journal One. I hope you have a lot of fun with it:

If you want to learn to draw and paint – particularly for the sake of your art journal, this is the workshop for you. If you know how to draw and paint, but want new idea starters, tips, and incentive, this workshop is for you also.

Sketch Journal One, Drawing and Painting for the Art Journal and Sketchbook.