Protected: Paint Along 36: Composition Lessons Using Mass Planning with Johannes Vloothuis | Resources and Recordings

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Never Experience the Dreaded “Artist’s Block” Again

Simple Drawing Prompts That Assure You Jump Right In

I wish none of you ever get a case of artist’s block. When the blankness of your paper or canvas is like a screaming accusation. You get frozen in place and time is ticking and you just can’t find the flow. Yipes! It’s a bummer just describing it! But you never have to experience it again if you get started with a few simple drawing prompts. All of a sudden, you are active and engaged and in the moment. Bliss!

If you’ve got the time, open your sketchbook or grab a sheet of paper and do these drawing prompts with me right now–given to us by best-seller artist-author (don’t you love a hybrid?) Bert Dodson, from his book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. Let’s do this!


simpledrawing2 Bert Dodson

Start by letting your pencil go in any direction it wants but make sure you end up where you started so the line encloses a shape. Make a few of these.



Take your doodle and amp it up. That’s noodling! It is a deliberate and controlled alteration of your first doodle.

simpledrawing3 Bert Dodson

Add patches of straight, parallel, evenly spaced lines.

Bring in lines that are parallel to the outer edge and create smaller concentric shapes.

Incorporate undulating lines, dots, pinwheel curves, or “cactus” dashes that are just a series of short parallel strokes.

Shade along the edge of your line.

Add a stretched checkerboard design with semiparallel lines (vertical and horizontal) that curve in rows with alternating squares filled in with black.


Another Doodle–Loopy

simpledrawing4 Bert Dodson


Make a series of shapes using just repeated spirals. Turn it into a noodle by adding a few twists and turns and overlapping the lines to give the drawing instant depth.


Simple drawing--geometrics by Bert Dodson

Take your pen and practice geometric doodles and noodles. Make zigzag lines that keep an even space between them. Make parallel lines that progressively get closer to each other to suggest depth. Plenty of ways to use geometry to prompt your creative side.


Also known as curving lines! You can do these several ways to get your fingers, wrist, arm, and shoulder warmed up and feeling the motion of the ocean!

Simple drawing--waves by Bert Dodson

Practice wave lines that are curling evenly and consistently.

Add variety giving each wave a bit of foam.

Make the troughs and crests of the waves irregular for a stylized visual rhythm.

Semi-parallel lines can also widen across the top and converge along the sides. You could turn each branch into a smaller form that grows out into something else. A noodle is born!


Achieving Drawing Nirvana

So that’s how you can do a complete switch from artist’s block to artist’s nirvana. Pretty easy to obtain enlightenment in that sense, right? If you want to continue on the path, don’t stop now. Keys to Drawing with Imagination from best-selling author Bert Dodson is what will keep you going. The book shows you how to engage your creativity and, most importantly, get it to grow. The exercises are incredibly unique and the author shares his confidences so that you almost feel like you have a life coach, artistically speaking, guiding you through one of the most fun, engaging ways of making art I’ve ever experienced. That is a lot to promise but, if you want my take on it, Keys to Drawing with Imagination delivers. Get your copy now and enjoy!



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4 Tips for Colored Pencil Artists


Recent years have seen colored pencils taken up by an increasing number of artists, and work created with colored pencil sits in elite private collections and museums. Whether you’re a seasoned colored pencil artist or someone looking to dip their toe into these waters for the first time, Drawing magazine and Artist’s Network have what you need to get the most out of your colored pencil drawings.

To start you off on the right path, we want to share four tips offered by the artists featured in Colored Pencil Essentials 3, covering subjects such as layering colors, drawing water and how to light a colored pencil still life. And for more insightful tips on colored pencils, be sure to check out the other downloads in this series: Colored Pencil Essentials and Colored Pencil Essentials 2.

1. Dress in Layers

An advantage of colored pencils is that the col­ors are premixed and consistent; the accompanying disadvantage is that it can be difficult to find a pencil of the exact color you need. Other colors are achieved through layering, placing one color over another until the result comes as close as possible to the de­sired color and value.

The challenge, then, is to know the effect that layering particular colors will produce. To get to that point it helps to know some broad principles of color layering.

  • Layering complementary colors dark­ens both colors and reduces their in­tensity.
  • Pressing harder intensifies a hue but does not darken it.
  • You can darken a color by layering its next-darkest neighbor over it, for instance, purple over red. Use dark brown or dark blue before black, and avoid leaving black as the top layer of any color.
  • To lighten a color, layer over it with a lighter hue of the same color before resorting to white.
  • To intensify a color, blend it using a tortillon or stump.
  • Burnishing any color with white will make it lighter, shinier, cooler and hazier.

–Sherry Camhy

2. Brushes for Blending

My method of blending with the brush (using no solvents) dramatically brightens and intensifies the colors. I recommend practicing this technique on something small and working up to larger pieces. This method does require a rather heavy application of colored pencil pigment. If there isn’t enough pigment for the brush to move around, nothing much will happen. When a con­siderable amount has been applied, the brush is able to pick up just enough to fill in the tooth of the paper.

–Linda Lucas Hardy

3. Drawing Water

In order to draw water, I look at all the components going into the composition, I look at the water, and I look for some kind of pattern to develop. Once I’ve placed the composition with graphite pencil, it becomes easier to “tag” water and apply the color that I see. And water is colorless, so you have to interpret it. Sometimes it’s based on nothing more than mood.

–Erwin P. Lewandowksi

Crevice Stream IV (by Erwin P. Lewandowski, colored pencil, 25x14)

Crevice Stream IV (by Erwin P. Lewandowski, colored pencil, 25×14)

4. Lighten the Mood

When using artificial lighting, you need your light to come from the side, even if it’s backlighting. You can’t shoot right into the light bulb. Another trick is to get very close to that lighting, even if your shot then isn’t perfectly focused. That’s OK—it’s just a reference.

–Cecile Baird

BONUS Tip: How to Draw Feathers

Check out this quick demonstration from Mark Menendez to discover how to draw feathers in under five minutes using colored pencils.

If you want more colored pencil instruction from Mark, check out his video Colored Pencil Techniques: Color, Value, Form, streaming on In this video workshop, Mark walks you through five demonstrations on how to get great results from your colored pencils, including how to draw a tropical bird, establish the colors of white in a still life, tips on how light and shadow creates the form, how to paint water lilies and more!

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What Subject Do You Love to Paint Most?

Many artists gravitate to one particular genre as their primary source for painting subjects. Sure, van Gogh gave us sunflowers and self-portraits, wheat fields and cafe terraces, but many painters find their muse is more specific than that, directing their artistic efforts toward plein air landscapes or the human figure, but not both. That’s one of the aspects of the Pastel 100 Competition that I find most compelling and unique.

Let’s say you’re an artist who loves painting animals. In most art competitions, your painting of a bird or a bison will go toe to toe with paintings of the sea or sand dunes, a vase of peonies or an abstract cityscape. In the Pastel 100, however, prizes are awarded in five categories. That means there will always be five prizes given to pastels in the Animal & Wildlife category.

Additionally, there will be five awards for paintings in the Landscape & Interior category, the Portrait & Figure category, the Still Life & Floral category, and the Abstract & Non-Objective category. The competition also presents five Grand Prize awards and 70 Honorable Mentions, which means a total of 100 prize-winning pastels. There is a lot of room for diversity.

Exceptional Pastels in Five Different Categories

Here are a few pastel paintings from the 18th Annual Pastel 100 Competition that demonstrate the exceptional diversity in the Pastel 100.

Whether you want to find some inspiration or just want to admire the work of some incredible artists, peruse through the paintings below and be sure to plan your entry for the 19th Annual Pastel 100 Competition, which is open for entries now. What’s more, the competition has an early-bird deadline of Aug.1, 2017!


James Kasperek’s pastel, 59 (14×20) was awarded Fourth Place in the Animal & Wildlife category in the 18th Annual Pastel 100 Competition.



Awaiting Eternity (pastel, 20×20) by Colette Odya Smith took Fourth Place in the Abstract & Non-Objective category in this year’s Pastel 100.



Beijing artist Jia Wei earned an Honorable Mention for his portrait, Yellow Wool Vest (pastel, 19.5×19)



Sarah Blumenschein earned a Third Place Award in the Floral & Still Life category for her pastel, Prickly Pear (20×24).


Jacob Aguiar earned a Second Place Award for his landscape, Looking Up, Carmel Dunes (16×12).

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Bold and Direct Painting for Powerful Results

Bold and Direct Painting, Oil Painting, Desmond O'Hagan | Artist's NetworkFor artist Desmond O’Hagan, the key to success is to not get lost in the details and final touches of a painting.“Painting is a lot like music [because] you want to have a flow to it,” says O’Hagan. “When you start to overwork and really needle certain areas, the rhythm stops.”

In the video workshop, Oil Painting: Bold and Direct, O’Hagan walks you step-by-step through his relaxed painting process, completing a brilliant oil painting of a house on a bright winter day.

“When it comes to my [painting method], I like the more bold-and-direct approach with pastels and oils. The effect that I am trying to achieve is: [Put] that stroke down and move on. Don’t needle it. Don’t overwork it,” he shares. “I find that gives you more [of a] cohesive [painting], and it makes more of a statement.”

Using a reference image (below) of an urban neighborhood on a sunny winter day, O’Hagan works from thin applications of dark oils to the mid tones before finishing the painting with thick, light oils. Read on for a sneak peek into his painting process.

Desmond O'Hagan, Bold and Direct, Oil Painting, Photo Reference of Urban Home on Winter Day

Desmond O’Hagan’s photo reference for Oil Painting: Bold and Direct

Start with the Darks

With a large brush, O’Hagan begins by establishing the darks on the composition in thin, varied applications using a mixture of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and alizarin crimson oil paint to start.

“I try and make my darkest colors [with] the idea that everything has a sense of color in it,” he explains. “Black would be a little too deadening, so I try to stay away from black oils.”

Desmond O'Hagan, Oil Painting: Bold and Direct, painting techniques, oil techniques, painting demonstration, detail shot, dark oil paints, canvas

Move On to the Mid Tones

After thinly applying the darks, O’Hagan sets to work painting the mid tones across the surface, constantly changing the direction of his brushstrokes, and experimenting with layering the colors.

“As you’re creating a sense of atmosphere, you are using those darks and lights and the values to give this [painting] just a little more punch,” states O’Hagan, noting that the shadows in the composition will start to pop out as you slowly lighten the pigments.

Desmond O'Hagan, Oil Painting: Bold and Direct, painting techniques, oil techniques, painting demonstration, detail shot, mid tone oil paints, canvas

Finish with the Lights

Once the mid tones are established, O’Hagan adds an array of vibrant warm and cool colors to establish the lights. From the snow covering parts of the yard and road to the sun shining down to create charming highlights on the trees and foliage, these final bursts of brightness bring the painting to life.

“Rather than just constantly going over things, I like the attitude of just really putting those strokes down and moving on,” says O’Hagan. “Let your eye make up that detail.”

Desmond O'Hagan, Oil Painting: Bold and Direct, painting techniques, oil techniques, painting demonstration, detail shot, light oil paints, opaques, canvas

Be Bold but Balanced

By working from darks to mid tones to lights with confident and loose brushstrokes, O’Hagan is able to create a powerfully balanced oil painting of a picturesque urban landscape in winter.

Desmond O'Hagan, Oil Painting: Bold and Direct, painting techniques, oil techniques, painting demonstration, complete painting, landscape painting, urban landscape, winter landscape, seasonal subject,

“Most of the painting was done with a relatively good size brush. That keeps you from going to the detail too quickly, and keeps your strokes nice and fluid and bold,” he explains. “That’s the whole point of this approach: nice, bold [and] direct strokes; not hesitant. Go in there, and if you need to change something go ahead and change it, but keep those strokes nice and bold.”

About the Artist

Desmond O’Hagan works in a vast array of art media, but his primary focus is in oil and pastel. Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and raised in the U.S., O’Hagan’s career has encompassed numerous one-man shows and group exhibitions throughout the U.S., Japan, China and France. A Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America, he has won several awards for his work; and his paintings are featured in numerous publications, including The Artist’s Magazine. His studio is located in Denver, Colorado. You can learn more about O’Hagan by visiting his website,

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What to Look for in Plein Air Easels

Get the Right Set Up for Painting Outside This Spring

Groupies chase songs, skiers trek miles for the perfect slope, and artists–particularly plein air painters–get caught up endlessly seeking the best of the best in plein air easels.

Plein Air Easels--what to look for

If you are tall, definitely look into the height maximums of the plein air easels you are considering.

What’s all the fuss? Well, for artists who take to the great outdoors for artistic inspiration, there is a lot to be desired in an easel. An easel essentially represents home base for an artist. For creation to take the fore–and tool functionality to fade seamlessly into the background–you have to get the right one for you and for your painting situation.

Weighs nothing

Ahahahaahahahahahahahahah. Ahahahahahaah. Ahhaha. I’ll rip off the band-aid quick: No. Such. Thing. Unless you let nature act as your plein air easel and by that we mean leaning your sketchpad against the nearest boulder.

The most you can hope for is an easel that doesn’t break your back, and that is well within the bounds of reality. Easels typically weigh anywhere from four to eight to 20lbs. With the weightier ones you get more storage space and more stability. There are models that weigh as little as two lbs, which is great, but that means no built-in storage, less stability and surface support, but your mobility issues are next to none. But remember the easel’s weight doesn’t take into consideration the weight of all your other paints, surfaces, and myriad supplies, so think it through.

The right easel gives you support, storage, and ease of mobility, so that you can worry about painting and nothing else!

The right easel gives you support, storage, and ease of mobility, so that you can worry about painting and nothing else!

It makes everything easy.

Well, that’s a tall order. But you will get closer to the mark with plein air easels if you think about how you work and what features you need the most. Are you a supplies junkie? Then storage is key. Hate flimsiness? Maybe an easel with a lid designed as a painting support is the answer. Want a drink? A few models come with a wine glass attachment. Cheers!

Are you tall?

Then you need an easel that’s sturdy enough to hold the support at a decent height. Don’t lose heart if you like a plein air easel but it doesn’t accommodate your height. Usually manufacturers make “pro” models that go taller, so be sure to make inquiries before you settle for something that won’t suit you.

Carry on

You are definitely going to be schlepping your own easel unless you have a gear lackey (and if you do we salute you!). So look at the carrying features of the plein air easels you are deciding between. Some come with a strap, others can fit into a backpack or portfolio, and still others have coordinating padded packs you can buy.

A plein air easel is your numero uno ally when painting outside. But selecting the right one still only gets you halfway to success. You need plein air painting know-how to take you the rest of the way and that is where Aaron Schuerr’s Plein Air Pastel Workshop Collection comes in. Aaron teaches you how to not get stumped by color choices, how to not get confused or overwhelmed by composition choices, and how to definitely paint mountainscapes and winding rivers with the visual interest they deserve. It’s all waiting for you. If you know it is the right fit, get Aaron Schuerr’s Plein Air Pastel Workshop Collection now!



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