Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Carpets of Wildflowers

To celebrate spring, we painted these cozy, atmospheric landscapes featuring a gurgling stream surrounded by colorful hillsides carpeted in wildflowers.

These impressionistic gems were created by artists in our Art Class for Grownups, most of whom having little to no past canvas painting experience.

What is Impressionism? Claude Monet, often considered the first impressionist, described the creation process in this way:

"When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field... Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own na├»ve impression of the scene before you." 

For beginning painters, impressionism can be satisfying and fun because the burden of attempting to paint objects realistically is removed. Instead, we paint our personal impression of what is seen. 

We are simply painting shapes and color and light.

An impressionistic painting can be almost dreamlike or based on a memory of a scene: what do I remember about this special place?  

Perhaps the trees along the horizon, the colors of the flowers, the sky reflected in the water. Simplifying the scene becomes part of the process.

Working on an 11 x 14 black canvas (one layer of black gesso), we started by drawing the basic hill shapes using soft pastel. 

We then painted the sky and the background along the horizon, using small filbert brushes and choppy, bold brush strokes.

We continued downward, starting with the distant flowers and moving forward while depicting more and more detail in the midground and in the foreground. 

We then created the flowing water by randomly painting in our sky colors (again starting at the top and working downward). While still wet, we stroked the paint lightly downward, then across with a dry clean brush for reflections in the water. Then we added some rocks, a few waterlines along the edges, and some white water and splashes. 

Painting these little landscapes helped artists learn to:

Create a scene using one-point perspective.

Depict objects in the distance, midground, and foreground.

Create the impression of a reflective surface and moving water.

Utilize a black canvas and bold brush strokes to make colors stand out.

Select colors that work together effectively.

Utilize resource photography (such as these calendar pictures) to observe shape and form, light and shadows, and color relationships to compose a piece of personal artwork. 


For more about Impressionism and painting flowers in this style, please see our previous weblog post: Tuscan Colors Like the Impressionists

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Open Studio Artwork

Art classes have been hit-or-miss throughout this winter (travel, illness, life). Subsequently, it was difficult to expect artists to work on the same project each week. So we decided to go with an open-studio format for a while and it worked out quite well.

Find out more about how to create this
wintery painted collage 
here and here

Shown here are a few of our winter-themed art pieces that were created during this time by adult art students in our Thursday Art Class for Grownups. 

This snowy alpine painted collages were painted with tempera on black sulfite paper and collage elements were added. 

The completed artwork was then mounted to a large mat board and embellished with evergreen twigs.

We learned about contemporary illustrator Jen Aranyi and created a few pieces of mixed media art work in her style. (Click here for a complete Jen Aranyi-themed lesson.) 

These were done in our watercolor sketchbooks or on watercolor paper using watercolors with ink. 

Jen's favorite subjects are these jagged mountain scenes, so that's how we got started. 

Then, after getting the hang of it, one student decided to make a greeting card using a completely different subject - in the same style:

We also decided to experiment in watercolor depicting various amounts of snow on evergreen trees.  We attempted in the samples below to start with light snow on one tree and work our way to heavy snow on the last tree.  Try it yourself - watercolorist Susie Short will show you how.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Moonlit Snow

These Moonlit Snow scenes were so much fun to create in the past with our tween and teen artists. So this year my grown up art class gave it a try and guess what? 

They loved it too!

This is a multi-step mixed media project that involves wet-on-wet watercolor, splattered paint, iridescent glitter, paint scraping, silhouettes, wild animals, a three-dimensional element, and a quote!  

What's not to love?

One reason I like this project is because so many art skills are used to create it.  We start with wet-on-wet watercolor for our wintery sky. While it dries we practice creating evergreen trees on a separate sheet of paper and using different brushes. Hint: the fan brush is a favorite. 

We also scrape another sheet of paper with black paint using small pieces of cardboard. These are later cut into strips to create our birch trees for the foreground. 

We paint in a few evergreen trees and the silhouette of a an animal that has been outlined in the midground. We splatter with a bit of white tempera paint and add a punch-out of our moon and a bit of glitter here and there.

Then we place and glue our birch trees over the scene using scraps of recycled packing foam for a 3-D effect. Finally, we add a printed 'snow quote' which we cut out with funky scissors for snowflake-like edges.

Take a look at The Snowy North to see our younger artists' versions of this wintery scene.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Poinsettias

These bold poinsettias seem to pop right off the page, don't they? 

Our adult class created these with soft pastels and charcoal pencil on red construction paper. 

These beauties would make great Christmas cards, wouldn't they?

Please visit our original post, A Pastel Poinsettia,  to learn how to create your own beautiful poinsettia artwork. 

Suitable for ages 8 through adult. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Watercolor Mini Landscapes

After learning a few basic watercolor painting techniques, it's time to dive right in and paint a few little landscapes!

That's right. Even if you've never painted before, you can paint a few of these simple little half-page landscapes with just a few basic supplies and your w/c technique resource sheets. 

Each completed mini landscape will show improvement as you practice various w/c techniques and which ones to use when.
Here's what you'll need:

Basic 8-color set of pan watercolors (16 or more colors will work, but I use the basic 8 to encourage color mixing) - we like Prang for bright, bold color!

An additional watercolor palette (optional)

9" x 12" watercolor paper, 90 lb (student grade) 

Soft, natural hair watercolor brushes, various sizes, both flats and rounds

Container of water and paper towels

A watercolor board (ours are plywood) and making tape

A #2 pencil 

Stack of old calendars featuring landscape photos

Small table easel

Your Watercolor Techniques resource sheets

Adjustable viewfinder (you can make one with a piece of cardstock and two paper clips), optional

Scissors (and a paper cutter if you have one)

To start, you will first want to create your viewfinder. Simply cut a piece of cardstock or heavy paper into two "L" shapes. You may be able to make three or even four "L's" out of one sheet of paper. You don't need to measure them. If sides are longer or shorter than others you will be able to adjust them to the size you need to frame a small portion of a picture for your painting. 

Which brings us to the next step. Sift through your stack of landscape photos and choose one that you really like. Whoa! That's a lot of detail for a beginner like me, you're saying. I hear you. That's what the viewfinder is for. You will choose just one small portion of the picture to paint within the small format of a half sheet of paper. 

You can do it!

Find a section of the photo that you particularly like and adjust two sections of the viewfinder to frame it using a couple of paper clips making sure the shape is similar to a half sheet of watercolor paper (as shown in the photo). Fold the calendar in half and place it on your easel with the viewfinder in place. 

Cut a piece of watercolor paper in half and tape it to your watercolor board. Place your watercolors, water, brushes, and paper towels on the table. 

Carefully observe your photo resource and, on your watercolor paper, lightly pencil in the basic shapes. Determine what w/c techniques you will use to paint the scene. Remember to simplify - simplify - simplify. For more about how to paint these mini-landscapes, see our previous weblog post, Tiny Landscapes.

This artist found three completely different scenes to paint in one calendar picture. Two of them were painted very similarly to the original scenes. The artist decided to make some changes to the third scene by removing the mountain in the background and adding a night sky. As artists we have total control over our artwork - we can change whatever we like. Remember, the photo is simply a resource, an idea generator. Ultimately, you will paint something that is uniquely yours!  Have fun!

Clink here for a printable Tiny Landscapes in Watercolor pdf handout.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Watercolor Basics

Our new Art Class for Grownups decided, as a group, to dabble in watercolor. Their goal was to learn enough watercolor basics for a few experimental paintings,  eventually leading to some successful works of art.

Watercolors are a simple, yet complex medium.  Unlike acrylic or oil paints, our earliest painting experience often begins with a set of pan watercolors. We quickly learn to moisten the paint with the accompanying brush and paint the colors all over the page. Just about every child has created a wrinkled watercolor painting of a house, a tree, and a smiling sun. Watercolor is a simple, uninhibited, satisfying medium for young artists. 

So it's no surprise that older artists are often surprised to learn how versatile watercolors can be! I have found that creating watercolor Technique Sheets is a great way to experiment with watercolor. The best way to do this is to divide a sheet of 9" x 12" 90 lb. student grade watercolor paper into eight sections on a watercolor board using masking tape. We use narrow masking tape that extends beyond the paper edges onto the board (to hold it down). Then a different watercolor technique is used to fill in each section. I demonstrate each as we go, until students learn to experiment and create their own. 

Once a Technique Sheet is completed and dried, the technique name(s) can be printed, cut out, and glued to each appropriate section and another sheet started. These sheets can then be saved and used as references for future watercolor painting projects. 

You can download our label sheet to use for your own Watercolor Technique sheets. Note that artists can pick and choose the techniques they want to try, and may use more than one in a given section - such as dry brush and sketching or flat wash and bloom (which often happens simultaneously). 

Click on the image below for a printable version. Then you can make your own Watercolor Technique Sheets!

Saturday, October 28, 2023

A Very Spooky Forest

It's that SPOOKY time of the year again and as always - we made crazy awesome spooky art!

This little Jack o' Lantern in the middle of a Spooky Forest is one of our favorites - especially with our teen and grownup artists!

These spooky scenes were created in our adult art class.

You can see past Spooky Forest Jack artwork right here.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

More Halloween Inchies!

We've made these Halloween Inchies in the past and they were so much fun -- it was definitely time to try them again! 

Inchies are tiny works of art that follow a theme, such as Christmas, fall, or our favorite of all: 


Our inchies were created on 4" x 4" square substrates. (Note: squares can be cut smaller if you wish: 3 x 3 or even 2 x 2 inches can work.) Substrate papers can be watercolor paper, drawing paper, construction paper, patterned paper, or whatever will work for the art media to be used and the vision of the artist.

Each square is an individual piece of artwork. It might be a watercolor painting, a collage, an oil pastel drawing, or multimedia artwork. Your art supplies can be whatever you have on hand. Take a look at That Artist Woman for an excellent supply list and more Halloween Inchies artwork ideas, too. 

Beware, making inchies is messy business! You'll likely work on several at once - as one dries, another is started, and then another. Just let it happen and enjoy the process (and the mess)!

Inchies can be displayed on black poster board in a grid-like fashion. It's fun to let the kids figure out how many inchies they will need to make for a 2 x 2, 3 x 3, or 4 x 4 square grid. How many would you need for a 5 x 5 grid? Wow! 

Shown here are 3 x 3 square grids. In the past we have seen 4 x 4 grids as well - I really love these! The more the better.  Here are a few more that we have made during Halloween open studio time (scroll down a bit to see the inchies.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


On the second today of CrAzY ART Camp, we made EXPLODING Art Books!

Yup! This innocent, sweet little book is loaded with an Explosion of ART!!!

Also called Squash Books, this is an exciting project that I have done in the past with older kids - but these kiddos really want to make one - so they did!  

Exploding Art books are created in a series of steps, beginning with a large abstract painting. While it dries, the book itself is assembled, which involves binding the covers and some origami-type paper folding. Then the artwork is cut up and glued into the book.
Of course, I made one too, along with my young artists: 

To learn how we made these or to make your own, see our previous weblog posts, EXPLODING Art Books and An ART Explosion!