Daily art – coffee with whipped cream and caramel

from Instagram: The final exercise in the @mariyakey coffee illustration class. I can practically taste the drizzles of caramel and whipped cream! #skillshare #watercolor #watercolorsketch #inkandwatercolor #pittpens #pendrawing #illustration http://ift.tt/2iCARcN
You had to have the big salad final layout

Lettering Layouts class

When I started taking Skillshare classes over the summer, I quickly fell in love with Teela Cunningham‘s classes. She has a knack for breaking down cool and trendy techniques into steps that make sense.

I’ve seen great hand-lettered layouts for awhile now, like with those chalkboard lettering walls, art prints, or tees. But I never understood how they were made — they seemed to appear by magic. Teela’s class Lettering Layouts: Create Beautiful Messages provides a ton of clarity on how to get started with these designs.

After choosing my phrase, “You had to have the big salad!” (from Seinfeld, of course), I designated the hierarchy:

  • level 1: big salad
  • level 2: you
  • level 3: had to have the

Then I started sketching possible layouts using Teela’s inspiration elements PDF that she includes with class enrollment. I appreciate the resources she puts together because when there are seemingly infinite options it can be hard to just choose something and get started. But she makes it clear and easy to just start drawing.

Lettering Layouts class - first steps

You had to have the big salad lettering 1

You had to have the big salad 2

You had to have the big salad 3

My final layout:You had to have the big salad final layout

I liked a lot of my sketches and it was actually hard to choose a favorite to implement. I wanted to incorporate some other little veggie illustrations, so I went with a complex layout. It got pretty busy, and is more of a food illustration than a lettering layout. But the whole experience was so informative and fun, that I know I’ll be able to do more projects with this technique.

My introductory Skillshare subscription rate has expired, but I’m tempted to renew my subscription just to watch this class again and again! Teela also shares some inspiring layouts and ways to get started with this technique on her awesome blog.


Tools & supplies

  • pencil
  • a variety of PITT artist pens
  • Canson Drawing pad
Watercolor Texture class - set 1

Watercolor Textures class

Another fantastic class from Ana Victoria Calderón. Her Watercolor Textures class on Skillshare introduced me to painting textures and patterns with watercolor, something that hadn’t occurred to me before.

She demonstrates how to get started making texture swatches and choosing a color palette before moving on to a final project. The texture stage was addicting for me! I kept discovering new things to paint that might work with the concept I had in mind — a scene from the Redwood Forest where we had our summer vacation.

Watercolor Texture class - experimenting with texture ideas
Before I painted my actual swatches, I testing out some ideas

Once I had some ideas sketched out, I started painting my swatches. It was a lot of fun to pay with different strokes and colors. For this project I liked the more organic textures. Some of the others turned out too stiff or structured.

Watercolor Texture class - set 1

Watercolor Texture class - set 1

Before sketching my idea onto watercolor paper, I did some thumbnails in my sketchbook. The large sketch was close, but the main focus (the owl) was too centered. The upper right sketch was my final version.

Watercolor Texture class - final project sketches

My color palette of primarily neutrals:

Watercolor Texture class - final project color palette

My final project took so long for me to complete! I actually enjoyed the process of painting the texture swatches more than the final artwork.

Watercolor Texture class - final project

With this project, I started to see that I like the process part of art more than the final artwork itself. Which was a little frustrating…until I discovered art journaling and urban sketching! Since I’m not interested in hangable “fine art”, embracing my sketchbook as my playground is a relief.


Modern Watercolor Techniques - underwater scene

Modern Watercolor Techniques class

When I signed up for Ana Victoria Calderón’s Skillshare class Modern Watercolor Techniques: Beginner’s Level, I honestly didn’t expect it to be so much fun! I figured I’d be getting some intro to watercolor techniques, but she took it way beyond those basics.

The class starts with good watercolor fundamentals, like how to become familiar with your paints and brushes, and how to gain control over your brush strokes. After a basic project is complete, it moves onto super fun “experimental planets” where we used a variety of materials to make little circles with varying effects. (This was my favorite part of the class).

There are a couple more activities she teaches as well that build in complexity, all with an element of play and experimentation. So much great stuff!

Modern Watercolor Techniques - monochrome activity
For for monochrome activity project, I painted a slice of lime complete with little shiny highlights
Modern Watercolor Techniques - experimental planets
My favorite part of the class was making these little experimental circles with salt, rubbing alcohol, ink, and watercolor
Modern Watercolor Techniques - jellyfish activity
The experimental planets helped prepare us for painting jellyfish, complete with white ink for highlights
Modern Watercolor Techniques - underwater scene
The final project of the class was a galaxy or underwater scene (I chose underwater)


Tools & supplies

  • watercolor
  • fine sea salt
  • rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs
  • india ink
  • Copic opaque white pigment
  • paper towel for lifting pigment
Start with a Shape - pink and brown squares

Art practice challenge: starting with a shape

I highly recommend Amarilys Henderson’s Skillshare class Start with a Shape – An Illustration Challenge for anyone who’s feeling stuck, or doesn’t know what to draw/paint.

She walks through why this illustration challenge is a helpful activity, basic shapes to try, and four ways to approach illustrating with your shape.

It’s so much fun! And challenging, too. I found I needed to do a few to get unstuck, but after awhile started to feel a flow.

Start with a Shape - blue and green dots
When I sat down to do something with my blue watercolor dots, I had such a hard time getting past blueberries!
Start with a Shape - yellow and red squares
This set was fun because the watercolor square was so versatile
Start with a Shape - pink and brown squares
For this set, I gave myself a theme of “sweet treats” that worked great
Start with a Shape - succulents
I experimented with techniques other than the technical pen for making these succulents



  • watercolor
  • technical pens
daily drawings from summer 2016 vacation at a cabin in northern CA

Daily drawings from summer vacation 2016

For years, I’ve set occasional intentions to draw more but have never stuck with it (see: drawing cute animals from… several years ago). I tend to put too much pressure on it, believing that the drawings needed to be more significant, polished, or special than I could maintain. I also just thought I wasn’t good enough at it.

So when I watched Kate Bingaman-Burt’s Skillshare class Drawing Collections: Illustrating Stories through Taxonomies I was filled with relief, enthusiasm, and inspiration. It doesn’t have to be a high-pressure activity! Kate’s easy, relaxed approach to drawing was like a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to look at the collected works of an artist and think “Oh, I’ll never have that many drawings” or “I’m not that good, so why bother” or “I don’t have good ideas like other artists”. But she helped me see that collections of drawings don’t happen all at once — they build up over time. The way you get good at something is to practice, practice, practice. And a drawing can be of anything — ANYTHING! She’s a great example of how stories can be told through the most ordinary objects.

So I finally started doing daily drawings. I hope I don’t fizzle out on it any time soon.

While on our recent summer vacation (a week in a cabin in the California Redwoods), I took the opportunity to document (journal with drawings, really) some of the things around us. This activity helped me see how much I like my drawings to have context. Adding little blurbs per Kate’s suggestion was one of the keys I had been missing before, and it makes me enjoy the process so much more.

daily drawings from summer 2016 vacation at a cabin in northern CA

The class also made me more aware of the types of drawings and illustrations that I like. I looked back through my Pinterest board of inspiring illustrations and noticed some patterns:

  • handmade, imperfect style
  • groupings/collections of objects
  • ink drawings
  • isolated objects
  • labeling of objects
  • distinct lines, shapes, and patterns as if they are screen prints or cut out of paper (vs. soft or painterly style)

These actually track with what I’ve learned about myself (through taking personality tests — I never met a personality test I didn’t like!) over the years:

  • I love to collect and archive all kinds of information
  • my desire to learn and improve
  • intellectual things are important to me
  • I’m analytical, objective, methodical, and detail-oriented
  • I just want things to make sense!

For now, I’m sketching first in pencil, and then I go over the lines with a Rapidograph pen filled with black ink (except for one day where I forgot and grabbed a Micron instead — which wasn’t nearly as dark as the india ink) and erase the ink. Sometimes I don’t wait long enough for the ink to dry before I erase and the ink smudges. Sometimes I add some watercolor or india ink wash. And sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s about having fun and exploring and not perfection.


  • Rapidograph pen filled with india ink
  • Micron 05 pen
  • tube watercolors
  • size 4 watercolor brush
  • pencil and white plastic eraser


watercolor bounce lettering with 2-color blend

Bounce lettering with green color blend

Practicing my bounce brush lettering with a green color blend:

watercolor bounce lettering with 2-color blend


  • tube watercolors
  • size 4 watercolor brush

I learned how to do this technique with the Skillshare classes Waterbrush Lettering Essentials and Bounce Letters: Adding Character to your Hand Lettering

all over ink pattern with Redwood forest flora

All-over pattern ink drawing of Redwood flora

During our summer vacation, I made a collection of drawings inspired by the flora around our rental cabin in the northern California Redwood forest. So, inspired by the all-over pattern project from the Skillshare class Drawing pens: make it simple, I drew my own version since the first time I mimicked the instructor’s version.

all over ink pattern with Redwood forest flora


  • Micron pen
  • Rapidograph pen filled with india ink
  • Paper Mate Flair colored felt tip pens
wreath of Redwood Forest flora

Hand drawn wreath of flora from the Redwood forest

Inspired by the Skillshare class Drawing pens: make it simple class, I sketched out the plants that were around the cabin we rented for our summer vacation. There was such a variety in the northern California Redwood forest, especially compared to what I’m used to seeing in the Arizona desert. And I wanted to do my own version of a flora wreath with lettering inside since the first time I mimicked the instructor’s version.

wreath of Redwood Forest flora

And of course, I had “This Land is Your Land” running through my mind:

From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me


  • Micron pen
  • Paper Mate Flair color pens
Every moment matters hand lettering Skillshare homework

Practicing modern calligraphy basics

There’s a fantastic class on Skillshare for learning how to get started with hand lettering called Hand Lettering: 4 Easy Steps to Modern Calligraphy. It covers how to form the letters, which helped me get past my problems making round letter shapes, connecting the letters (it’s not like writing in cursive), and adding weight to the letters without a traditional calligraphy writing tool.

I created my own copy of the instructor’s class project to see if I could imitate the forming of the letters and the composition:

Every moment matters hand lettering Skillshare homework

Drawn with an 05 Micron pen.

allover flora pattern ink pen drawing

Simple ink drawings from Skillshare class

From my homework for the Drawing pens: make it simple class on Skillshare:

  1. My blush and brush, with one of my handcrafted Pocket Critter dog toys (I seriously struggled with the composition here!)

objects from around the house drawn with ink pen

2. A flora wreath with hand-lettered word in the middle (I copied the instructor’s design for this one)

flora wreath ink pen drawing

3. All-over flora pattern with some spots of color (I pretty much mimicked the instructor’s illustration here as well)

allover flora pattern ink pen drawing


  • Rapidograph pen filled with india ink
  • Micron pens
  • red Stabilo fine point felt tip pen
hand lettering of Bosco using watercolor and a water brush

Practicing waterbrush lettering

I’m binge-watching lettering classes on Skillshare and two that I love are Waterbrush Lettering Essentials and Bounce Letters: Adding Character to your Hand Lettering with Teela Cunningham. To practice these skills, I’m writing Bosco’s name…over and over and over.

hand lettering of Bosco using ink in a water brush
Using slightly watered down india ink in a medium Pentel Aquash water brush
hand lettering of Bosco using watercolor and a water brush
Using the Aquash water brush filled with water and dipping into tube watercolors
practicing my bounce letters and drawing Boscos name
practicing my bounce letters


  • medium Pentel Aquash water brush
  • india ink
  • tube watercolor
  • pencil