Tag Archives: learn

One Thing Studying Art Has Taught Me — and How That Can Help You


There are no shortcuts to learning; you have to put in the time. Photo courtesy of Art Escapes Italy — a fantastic place to learn.

Reflecting on time set aside for learning, the one thing I can say is that there are no shortcuts. To make great art, one has to simply put in the time to learn. No one would ever sit down at a piano and expect to know how to play it, having never learned the scales. That’s the key to anything: “learn the scales” and practice. So where to begin if painting is what you desire to do?  Videos, books and classes.

My mentors all have fabulous videos available from their websites and YouTube. I have found Robert Burridge in particular to be a gracious and giving teacher. His videos are fantastic and he sends out a mini video to his mailing list every Monday. Sign up at http://www.robertburridge.com/
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See below for details on how to paint with me in Northern Michigan this month!

Sterling Edwards is a master watercolorist and has wonderful videos and a very helpful book available on his website: http://sterlingedwards.com/
The most helpful books I’ve found are:
 • “Alla Prima II Everything I Know About Painting and More”
• “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting”
• “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp
That should get you started! Now, I’d like to invite you to come study with me as well. I’ll be teaching two classes this month in Traverse City for TC Uncorked. Click here for the info.
Hope to see you there!

Plein Air Painting: A Different (But Worthwhile) Beast


Location, location, location — one of the many things that makes plein air painting so worth doing.

It’s that time of year. For those of us who enjoy working from nature but aren’t into the winter plein air bit, the weather has just turned into something we can work with.

Plein air painting, also called outdoor painting, is a completely different beast than studio work — and a method of working that I didn’t easily adjust to. I loved the idea of it, but in practice, my easel would blow over, taking my wet paint with it, both returning full of dirt … only to repeat the whole scenario all over again moments later.


My favorite fur baby loves plein air painting with his Mama.

I had so many frustrations early on in my outdoor work, but the outdoor part kept calling me back. The beauty of nature, the sound of the birds: I wanted this to be my office. I figured there must be a way.

My setup is very different now, and my time outside painting is more peaceful — in increasing measure as I figure out better ways of working. I use a pochade box (see photo) now instead of a easel. I invested in a sturdy tripod to hold my pochade box. I work on smaller panels, instead of huge canvases, and I work in oil paint versus acrylic when the sun is out so my paint doesn’t dry up on me.


I’ll make this my office every time I can.

Not that I don’t ever work differently: I will paint a big canvas in acrylic if I can drive right up to my painting spot, the wind is calm, and the sun not so hot that my paint dries fast. It can be fun to shake things up and work differently, which is the allure of plein air painting. Setting yourself up to study nature, and immersing yourself in it. For a landscape painter, there is nothing better than that.


It helps to have some guidance as you get started in this incredibly rewarding way of working. I highly recommend the podcast “Plein Air Painting,” the book “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting,” and studying from the masters: Andrew Wyeth, Frederic Edwin Church, Asher Durand, or any of the Hudson River School painters.

And most definitely, take a class. With good weather upon us, lots of classes are available. Or — if you live near Grand Rapids or Traverse City — send me an email. I’ll be happy to take you outdoors in nature and get you started on an adventure that will change your life  and your relationship to the outdoor world. It will teach you to see, to appreciate, and I promise you will never be the same. I know I’m not.