Courage – Daily Therapy

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Feeling timid and reluctant to stick your neck out?

You are not alone.  Would you consider talking out your fears with someone you can trust?

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

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“It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ~ Vincent van Gogh


Come Naked Before Me…

Women of the South

My quote today is from Eshin, Zen Master

“We create a mask to meet the masks of others.  Then we wonder why we cannot love, and why we feel so alone.” 

Is your mask completely blank like my characters in the drawing above?  Is there something that needs to be revealed or said.  Showing your true self without that mask is a profound statement of your beautiful individuality

Drawing – Shape Consciousness

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“There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another. “ Edouard Manet

This statement is a major key to improving your drawing.  Each “shape” or “area of colour” is in fact a shape.

This leads us to the conclusion that drawing shapes is easier, much easier than drawing things.

Below is a magnificent painting by Paul Gauguin called “The Seaweed Harvesters”.  Can you see the series of shapes the artists has put together to make a picture?

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EXERCISE – Allow 35 minutes for this task.

  • Trace the outline of an object in the air as if you were actually drawing it along its outer edge.  Begin anywhere and continue all around the object until you meet your starting point.   Did you notice that your eye and hand do all the work; there is virtually nothing to think about.  This exercise is just a slight step away from actually drawing the shape.
  • Now choose an item to draw from around your house.  It is a good idea to check out the helpful hints below before commencing.  Keep your eye on the object and do a real drawing only briefly glancing at the paper as you work.  You are now working in the “language of shapes”.  The great thing about this language is that it bypasses conscious thinking and critical dialogue and allows you to record only what you see.

The more we stay in the language of shapes, shutting down the language of things temporarily, the more our drawings look like the reality of the things we have observed.

To break away from the language of “things”, these helpful hints can become your pocket guide to learning this new vocabulary:

  • Draw larger shapes first, then smaller ones.
  • Join shapes together.
  • Draw the shapes of highlights, shadows, reflections patterns and textures.
  • Recognize “trapped” shapes and draw them. (Trapped shapes could be the area between your arms and body when you have your hands on your hips.  Trapped shapes are usually the areas where there is space between parts of the object.)

Understanding these hints will make drawing easier and help you see things in a fresh new way.

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Would you like to know how to do this?  Check out my next post for all the info.

The Great Man is He Who….

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“The great man is he who does not lose his childlike heart.” Menicus

My quote today is from a wonderful book called “Zen and the Art of Falling in Love” by Brenda Shoshanna.

She goes on to say “The childlike mind is a mind without clutter.  It is not carrying around years of wounds.  The childlike mind is Zen mind: open, free, eager to delight and enjoy. The childlike mind itself is a manifestation of a life of love.”

Children are always looking for the next place or way to have fun.  I think we secretly are too.  We are all “open, free, eager to delight and enjoy”  but sometimes we don’t realize these gems are with us every waking moment.

Go ahead! …Make your own day, be as a child again!

An Easy Exercise in Watercolour – After Paul Klee


This simple exercise is inspired by the art of Paul Klee.  He was a Swiss painter who taught at the Bauhaus School of Art, Design and Architecture.  Klee often worked with children and transferred this child-like perspective to his paintings and drawings.  He was also very interested in colour theory and the artist liked to show a love of music in his work.

He painted pictures that looked simple like Green Orange with Half Moon above yet were actually very complicated.  Klee approached his painting with a sense of fun by “taking the line for a walk” as he called it and allowing the lines to grow into shapes.

In this exercise you will create an amazing city or town scene using cardboard cut outs and watercolors.

Allow 1 1/2 hours for this exercise.

You will need:

Six tubes inexpensive water colours, blue, red, yellow.  Ask at your artshop for warm and cool colours of each.  A medium sized watercolour brush, some good quality watercolour paper (at least 180gsm) , a container of water, rags for spills.

Step 1

Tape your paper to a board if you have one. This is optional only and it is possible to work on a watercolour paper pad.

Step 2

Use a ruler to make vertical and diagonal lines on a piece of cardboard.  Semi-circles are good also. (I used the lid of a bottle, turned it upside down and went around the lid in pencil to make a circle then cut it in half.  Cut out some vertical, triangle and semi-circle shapes of different sizes from your markings on the cardboard.

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You will end up with a box of shapes like this.

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Step 3

Place some shapes on your paper and draw around them to create a town scene.  Start from the bottom of the paper and build it up.  Use triangles as windows or tops of towers.

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This is what I ended up with after I drew around the shapes. Try to fill your paper by extending the buildings to the corners and the top of the page.

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Step 4

Mix the watercolours to create the shades you want.  Decide if you would prefer warm or cool colours.  Warm colours are hot like the sun and cool colours are cool like the ocean.

The golden rule with watercolour is to work only on it when it is either completely wet or completely dry.  If you try to work into paint that is still damp you could become quite frustrated.

Step 5

Fill each shape with a watery wash of colour.  Try to use each colour a few times in different parts of the painting.  This will eventually help tie the work together.

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Step 6

Keep filling in the shapes with different colours.  Keep your brush damp, not saturated. You can wipe the brush on a paper towel or rag if necessary.  Allow the work to dry.

Step 7

Create interesting colour effects by adding more dark and light paint to sections of the shapes.  The beautiful translucency of the watercolour will create a whole new range of colours. Go ahead, paint opposite colours on top of others and watch the magic appear. Don’t forget the rule of not working on damp paint!

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Step 8

Using a colour from palette and paint a yellow sun into the sky.  Allow the work to dry, 10-20 minutes depending on the moisture in the air.

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Step 9

Add a darker wash for the background

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You will end up with a lovely city scene.  If I was to do this exercise again, I would take the buildings right to the edge and top of the page and use better quality paper.  If you look closely you will see the paper has buckled because it could not take the water medium.

Check out a similar and more recent post detailing an exercise in acrylic after Paul Klee to complete a painting on canvas.

Image Green Orange with Half Moon“, 1922, Paul Klee.

Related article: Paul Klee: Making Visible, Tate Modern, review (

A Few Facts About Acrylics


These are some of the amazing benefits of painting in acrylics:

  • Wonderfully  versatile and a joy to handle
  • Lends itself to a whole range of techniques e.g. delicate washes, glazes, bold thick juicy layers.
  • Quick drying, good covering power.
  • Great brilliance of colour (depending on brand.)
  • Doesn’t fade in the sun.
  • Once dry, the synthetic plastic coating is almost indestructible.
  • Can be used on card, paper, board, canvas and wood, metal glass, fabric provided they are non-greasy and have enough tooth to hold the paint
  • Dissolves in water.
  • Once dry, can be painted over and mistakes corrected.
  • Can be used as an underpainting medium for oils.
  • Can be over painted within 30 minutes of application.
  • Can be used with modelling compounds and texture pastes (gels) to create relief surfaces.
  • Easy to clean up although it is not wise to put left over paint into the sink because it may end up in our waterways.

My next post will show you how to get started with an easy exercise in the style of Vincent Van Gogh.  With all these benefits, why hold back?

Deliberateness and the Hand of an Adult



For a child, there is no separation between their intention to draw and the marks they make.  They do not hesitate, make judgments or backtrack.

As adults, to regain this sense of deliberateness, we must return to what we instinctively knew as children. Fear lies between “I want to do this” and “I will do this” and we must be alert to it’s sneaky ways.

Are you an artist who judges each mark and fears it is not good enough?  Painting and drawing requires an absence of judgment when stepping back and looking at your work.

To “wait and feel” before you make your marks usually puts us in receptive rather than active mode.  This can allow feelings to guide you and reflect so beautifully in your work.

It takes a lot of patience to just wait.  It also takes a lot of discipline to take a break from your work every 45 minutes or so.  This is so beneficial and I am guilty of not doing this when a work is going well.

I leave you with this quote from the Tao-te-Ching:

“Let life ripen and then fall; force is not the way at all.”

When The Self Disappears

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“When the self disappears, the brush paints by itself, the dance dances itself, the poem writes itself. There is no longer a gap between subject, audience and life.” John Daido Loori

Have you experienced a disappearing self?



Mountain Love

Mount Olga

“Although we say the mountains belong to the country, actually, they belong to those who love them.”  Eihei Dogen

How do mountains resonate with you, do you look at mountains in awe? The colours, the shape, their majestic presence, don’t you just love them?  And in your still and subtle questioning do they answer you?