How do you find inspiration for your painting?


Think back to something you have seen that gave you the “oh wow” response. It might originate from an unusual use of color, or an atmosphere that you find intriguing. You can always trust your “oh wows!”. They are telling you that you love that subject and that look. Perhaps there’s an “oh wow’ in one of your own photographs, or a photo you see in a magazine. And always remember that a composite of several different things that you love can be truly remarkable when they are brought together in a painting. Artistic license.

One important element to inspiration is building a file of subjects you love.  I like painting the atmosphere of early morning light. My files contain titles like Morning Light/ Still Water, Morning Light/ Desert, and Morning Light/ Fog. From those files I can build a scene of early morning on a desert road. From there I can go to the file I have created for desert roads and combine the atmosphere and the subject matter to create the look I desire. Don’t forget you can search your web browser for those difficult-to-find images.

I enjoy working with children and the young ones show great imagination. Two sisters received painting lessons from me each Christmas. I asked them to bring ideas and one time the eldest girl decided on a grizzly bear catching a fish in a roaring stream. I had the roaring stream and I also had the grizzly in my files. Easy. The seven-year-old sister walked into the studio and announced, “I shall paint a lady, wearing a blue kimono and holding a parasol while standing next to a flowering cherry tree. I had to scramble to come up with that one, but I found the elements in my giant 5x6 foot file cabinet in the garage! This is an extreme example but it illustrates the beauty of keeping files of the things that are interesting to you. My files are both on line and also in my file cabinet.

Get started NOW! You can have your first file created in a few hours!

Facing a Blank Canvas?

We have all been there. In order to be creative someone has to write that symphony and the parts for every instrument…someone has to plant that garden before anything will grow there…and someone has to face that pure white, glaring canvas!


You’ve come home from the art supply store with canvases and they are sitting in the corner waiting for you to be brave. We have all been there. I have felt what you are feeling. Many times. One of my older students, Joan, is full of great tips. This is her visual trick for getting started: ” If I cannot find the courage to face that blank canvas I take down the canvas and replace it with one of my art books, opened to a page that shows an image I love. I put THAT up on the easel, and every time I walk by it beckons me to get started.”

I highly recommend finding your personal “blank canvas music.” What kind of music makes you move around a little at the stop light while sitting in the car? What music can get you motivated? It does not have to be music you would choose for easy listening. For the past 15 years I have started every blank canvas with dynamic early 20th century classical. It is not restful! I gets me moving. it makes me forget time and place and I find it always motivates me to get a complete color sketch accomplished in a very short time. I dive in!

Your music can be anything that works for you. As an instructor I have heard some pretty unusual takes on blank canvas music! Beethoven to The Backstreet Boys. I have one gentleman who only paints to vintage Little Richard. Mildred is a southerner, and at 87 paints to Buckwheat Zydeco!

So now it’s your turn. Be open-minded. What makes you move…physically and mentally? You don’t have to listen to it at the dinner table or while you are completing your painting.  Use it when you want some quick color on that blank canvas to get you started.

Henri Matisse said “Creativity takes courage.”

Do you have to be able to draw to paint a picture?

“I’d love to try painting but I can’t even draw a straight line!” I hear this about once a week. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but perhaps you will do just fine without learning how to shade the sphere and the cube. It IS helpful to be able to draw the legs of a horse accurately. But a lack of drawing skills certainly did not stop some of the world’s greatest artists. 

Start with a sketch.

Start with a sketch.

People who want to make the move towards creativity want to get started right away. That excitement is part of the growth process and I truly believe it should be honored. If you want to learn how to draw well I can suggest excellent drawing classes. But YOU want to paint. Now! My job is to help you get on with it! 

In my Come Paint With Me© classes we usually paint a 9X12 or 11X14 painting in two 2 hour session. All supplies are included in the cost of your lesson, and everything is ready and waiting for you when you walk through my studio door. We start out selecting our subject, and quickly move on to a full color sketch. We never draw in charcoal or graphite. We draw our sketch in thinned oil paint. Many people are delighted to learn that wet, thin oil paint is completely erasable. 

Once we have the basic outlines we create our full color sketch in thin wash of paint, planning the composition and the color choices. Our canvas now looks very much like a watercolor. The thinned oil paint allows us to make corrections as needed and at the end of the two hours we know exactly where we are going with our painting and have a full color canvas to prove it. The happiest moment comes when you arrive for your second lesson to complete your oil painting.

Over and over again I hear…”It already looks good! I’m excited!”