Watercolor Workshop In Holland

Last year, I was invited to Holland to teach a three day masterclass in watercolor on claybord. You may remember the story from here.


It was better than I could have imagined. Margo made me feel so welcomed. I didn’t have to think about anything other than teaching. I felt like a rock star, tbh.


Margo and Wilco at our last dinner together. I miss their faces.

First, the bed and breakfast was next door to the class location and so charming. Paul, the owner, is a lovely person and the breakfasts were delicious. I think about them all the time.

Second, Margo is generous with her time and knowledge. She patiently answered all my questions and held my hand every step of the way. She and Wilco go out of their way to make her students and teachers feel comfortable and well taken care of.

Third, she surrounds herself with kind, welcoming, and eager to learn students. Margo sets her teachers up for success in every way imaginable which, in turn, sets her students up for success.

A couple parting gifts. An amazing custom apron with our faces! A lovely travel brush like the one Margo uses, it’s fancy. They also had a mug made with one of my paintings. I’m so spoiled.

Let me describe a day* in the life of Margo’s teachers:

9am: I’d wake up and get ready before heading down to breakfast. The fruit was the most delicious I’ve ever tasted and the bread was like little clouds of heaven. America, why don’t we have bread like this?


10am: I’d meet Margo at the class building where we would have coffee and chat about the plan for the day.

10:30am: Class would start with a quick critique of the work done the day before and a 10-15 minute demo. Then we would both walk around helping students with their paintings.

Sometime around 12pm: We’d stop for coffee/tea and some cookies/chocolate. We’d gather in the lunch area and chat. Then we’d go back for another short demo. (I need more of this in my life.)

2pm: We’d stop for a huge, delicious lunch. I have a sensitivity to black pepper and Margo always made sure the lunch had options for me. She was better at remembering it than I am myself. Then I had the opportunity to go for a walk or back to my room if I needed a break.


3pm: Another quick demo before more painting.

4:30pm: We’d stop for another coffee/tea and chat.

5:30pm: We’d say goodnight to the students and clean up. I tried to help with this, but they would usually shoo me off after a bit. They were insistent on wanting me to relax and enjoy my time, but it was almost more arduous to let them work so tirelessly while I did nothing. The jet lag had their back though. Once they were ready to go, we would grab some dinner and discuss the day. They fed me like I haven’t been fed since my Grandma passed away and it was all delicious.

By 8 or 9pm I was back at the B&B getting ready for bed.

Throughout the day Wilco, was constantly checking on everyone and working diligently to keep everything running while Margo and I did our thing. At one point he told the student they could come cry on his shoulder if they needed to and when they were done, they had go back to work. That guy’s married to an artist.

Margo and Wilco:


*Times may not reflect the actual time of day.

Check out some of these paintings the students did on the last day:

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Artist Date Week 1 (4/30/19)

(Most images are from the respective business’ website or instagram.)

Last Tuesday, mother nature decided to rain on my parade. I had hoped to go for a walk on a nature trail or maybe in Forest Park, but I wasn’t feeling up to splashing in puddles. Even with my cute yellow rain slicker from Paris.

Instead, I had a lead on a new art store looking for teachers and thought, not only would I check that out, but the cute stores around it.

First stop was Holliday. It’s an adorable gift shop. I thought this was the art store before I went in. I’m happy I found my way there. I ended up buying some alpaca paperclips. The ones I had for my sketchbook were bulky and these worked perfectly. They were kind enough to let me use their parking so I didn’t want to leave empty handed. Win-win.

Next was the actual art store. How adorable is St. Louis Art Supply? They don’t have Winsor & Newton paints, that I saw, but loads of other stuff.

I bought these to share with my painting students next year. Each card has a color theory idea and description.)
I am really getting into reusable pens and I know square knitting needles are gentle on hands so I thought one of these might be nice to write with. I bought the blue one.

My plan was to hang out at Cafe Osage, have a bite to eat, and sketch all the loveliness. Unfortunately for me, they are only open until 2pm.

So I just hung out at Bowood for a minute and checked out their gardening supplies. I don’t really garden, but I do like to fantasize I don’t buy plants just to watch them slowly die.

I bought this smooth little crystal. I remember reading once about a technique where you carried a smooth stone in your pocket and whenever you touched it it was supposed to remind you of something. Maybe to meditate? I dunno. Because clearly, I didn’t have a stone to remind me, but I bought this so when I come across the idea again, I will be ready to go. Plus it’s pretty to look at.

It’s such a sweet cluster of shops. After I went somewhere else to grab some food and work on some sketches while I waited for french class.

Overall, it was a success. There were pretty and satisfying things to see everywhere my eyes landed. I explored a new to me section of the city and I bought a couple little things to support the shops and remind me of the date. What can I say? I spoil me.

No Louvre Lost

A rant.

I have never wanted to be Beyoncé for a day so badly in my life.


The Louvre is a giant trash can for some of the most beautiful art ever created.

I just want to know if the decision makers hate tourists and wanted to see how awful an experience they can create and people will still hand over fist fulls of money.

It’s completely understaffed and under toiletted. One person per section to hand out audio tours? Don’t even get me started on that poorly executed audio tour system. One person in the gift shop next to Venus de Milo? My eye is twitching just remembering.

Ok, now that my petty grievances are out of the way, let me prove to you why you should be just as angry at the most famous art museum in the world, too.

It started out great. Well, after the “avoid the line” line, the bathroom line, and the pre-purchased audio tour line.

Amazing sculptures I could (and should) have looked at all day:

Then, we got to the Mona Lisa. I was not shocked by the size, as most people seem to be. It was actually bigger than I expected. However, I was shocked by the black-Friday-outside-of-Walmart-before-the-doors-open mosh pit of every terrible person you’ve ever met in front of the Mona Lisa. I knew it would be crowded, but I couldn’t even get out once I finished looking. Even after waiting for a rather tall guy to make a path, it was a struggle to fight the current.


Is that really the best way to present the most famous and arguably the most important painting ever created?

Kill. Me.
So unnecessary.
Contemplating all the decisions of my life that led to this moment: A self-portrait.

Here’s my solution:

It’s a painting. On a wall. If it’s no problem to make me wait in line 20 minutes for the bathroom, I can wait in line to see the most famous painting in the world. They could kill two birds with one stone and put the bathroom at the far end of the Mona Lisa.

Line people up through a corridor. Have a guard on either side of it. I’ll even add a layer of American and say armed guards, if you must, so people can get a closer look. There’s no reason we can’t get within a foot or two of a painting behind bullet proof glass with guards right next to it.

Make a time limit. Studies have shown people spend less than 30 seconds looking at a work of art. For the Mona Lisa it’s averaged at 15 seconds. People could leave sooner if they wanted. Give people 1 minute max to look, get their selfie, and get out. Sure, it may take awhile to get through, but it won’t be 10 minutes of stranger danger/bad touch for a lack luster viewing with people’s cell phones all around.

It would be the same concept, a line of people in front of the painting. There just wouldn’t be a crowd behind the line, making it an awful experience.

If it’s a straight line, technically, you’ll get at least 3 minutes in front of the painting if you want it. One to the left, one in the center, one to the right. I’m even for letting people who want to look longer form a second line behind the first line. Maybe even a snaked line that just moves one spot down every 30 seconds and there’s room for people to leave the line when they are ready. Is that really too much to ask?

That may seem impossible when about 2,000 people per hour come to the Louvre, but I think it’s doable. If not, make people buy tickets in advance or for time slots like many other museums and special exhibitions.

Anything is better than the disgrace it is now.

Can we pause at the 2,000 people per hour for one second and reflect on the one person per audio tour/section and 1 person working the gift shop by Venus de Milo and the 5 stalls in the bathroom (give or take)? Let’s say they have 5 separate bathrooms for women at the entrance with 5 stalls each. That’s 25 stalls for 1,000 women/hr. I did the math. That’s 40 women per toilet per hour. The lesson in all of this? You will use algebra as an adult if you’re angry enough. Even if you’re an artist.

As for the other paintings, it’s pretty much worthless in my opinion. The lighting is terrible. It was a giant, diffused sky light, but the glare was still atrocious. I couldn’t even see the upper half of Caravaggio’s Death of Mary. Most of the paintings I looked at were truly painful to view for me because of the lighting. The crowds were also awful in most of the areas and by the time I was finished with the Mona Lisa, I was pretty much finished with being at the museum at all.

It’s painful.

That level of glare is unforgivable.

So painful.

I’m personally offended.

Opposed to the piece above at the Musée d’Orsay. There were some pieces with glare, but most did not have any and the ones that did, I could usually move positions to avoid it.

Doesn’t that feel refreshing?

Eventually, I just started photographing all the weird details in paintings to distract myself from the hell surrounding me.

What up, baby Jesus? You good?
What was the artistic decision behind exposing his baby penis? Is anyone else thinking about how baby boys pee when they are getting their diapers changed? Do you think this was right before he peed on Mary?
I’m interested in the body language decisions here. Why is he holding his foot? Why is he stopping her hand with his? How old is he supposed to be? Why is her right hand so tiny?

I was especially attracted to the large number of breast feeding women portrayed. Can you imagine a museum having so many pieces dedicated to breast feeding in America? Women are barely allowed to breast feed in public, let alone have paintings of such a vile act thrust upon the sensitive masses. I think some people would become apoplectic at the idea of Mother Mary breast feeding baby Jesus. So here it is. That’s a lot of exposed holy nipple.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better having gotten that off my chest.

Sunday Sketches: Netherlands Travel Sketchbook

This is from my sketchbook when I went to Groesbeek to teach a watercolor on claybord workshop last month.

Here’s a post Margo wrote about sketching together. At the end she’s added a clip from our class. Later we went into the studio and created a painting from our sketches.

I learned so much from Margo and her husband, Wilco. They were extremely fun to work with. Margo and I painted together each week over Skype before my trip and I’m happy to say, we plan on continuing that experience now that I’m back. She’s a ball of happy, supportive energy. If what what they say is true and you become the 5 people you spend the most time with, Margo and Wilco are two people I’d like to keep in my top 5 forever.

One last thing, if you click on the image when it’s enlarged, the caption will disappear/reappear as you like.

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Dating: My Artist’s Way.

It’s amazing how the brain works. Last year, when I did The Artist’s Way, the hardest thing for me was the artist’s dates.

I kept hitting a wall because all the suggestions were not my idea of a good time and I am already alone so much. Having to be alone seemed pointless.

Due to some events before I left for Holland that were a little…unorthodox… (trust me, one other person and I find that pun hilarious. Ok, it’s probably just me.), dating has been on my mind the past few weeks. The romantic kind. The past few years the only time I’ve thought about dating was when I was feeling a little lonely, as humans are want to do, or the artist dates. Dating because you are lonely is not a good idea and I think that may have been part of the block for the artist dates. If you don’t want to date, you don’t want to date. Even if it is a super interesting artist you have literally everything in common with.



I had the opportunity to witness one or two seemingly, perfectly matched couples over the last month. It’s much easier to get excited about dating in general when you can witness good pairings in real life and be excited on their behalf. When I see two people who come together and form a powerhouse of combined passion and interests mixed with support, it’s like seeing the promised land. Possibly witnessing it twice in a month, got my attention. Oh yeah, dating can be super exciting if it’s the right person. How does this connect with The Artist’s Way?

I kept trying to date my inner artist like she was just some generic artist. Not like someone I would date date. Not like she’s the right person. The difference being, if I date date, I want to make it an experience they enjoy. I love romance. I hate generic romance. Sure, dinners and a walk are nice at the beginning when you don’t know the person, but after that, there needs to be some effort. You have to show the person you know them. You get them. Have you seen the Grey’s Anatomy McDreamy proposal scene?

via Gfycat

Basically, I can’t date my artist by taking her to thrift stores when we both hate thrift stores. Sometimes I can date her by taking her to a museum and showing her lovely things, but that only gets me basic points. My artist deserves more than basic artist dates. My artist deserves to see proof of my full love and devotion.

This is where Holland and Paris come in. While I was in Holland, it was brought to my attention sketching gives me energy. Obviously, art does, but I never paid attention to how sketching, specifically, makes me feel. In Paris, on a particularly rough afternoon, I went to sketch. I tuned in to how I felt and I realized it truly centered me and allowed me to feel the joy of being in Paris after a bad morning.



I signed up for some sketch classes to give myself some direction and help get into a daily habit.

I still didn’t get the entire message the universe was trying to send. I kept having this nagging feeling once I left Paris that I needed to just travel and explore, even if it was just a day trip. I need to explore the world on my own terms. With a sketchbook. Not necessarily alone, but definitely not prioritizing someone else’s experience over my artist’s.

Then it hit me. That’s my artist. I need to date my artist and not an “artist.” My artist needs experimenting. She needs color theory. She needs exploring and adventure. She needs to see, process, and then express the world around her with line, values, color, and capture that memory through all her senses.

I know this, I just wasn’t putting in the effort to make the dates reflect this knowledge.



My ideas: Explore St. Louis neighborhoods and parks and quirky cafe’s/restaurants. Spend the day driving to a nature preserve in Illinois or Missouri or an interesting town. Study color theory. Customizing the sketch classes to fit the date requirements. Studying different palettes/tools/materials for urban sketching and experimenting. Make myself a new, date tool bag. Going to a place I’ve sketched before, but with different materials and sketching the same scene. Or even just a different time of day. Pick my drawing tools randomly or with dice or a number system to force play. Have someone give me a random suggestion. Use different line quality or no line at all. Go to a new art store and buy something I can’t buy from one around me, then use it right away. Like a the nerdy kid using all the new pens before the first day of school that I am. An exercise from one of my art books, but in a new location.

Obvious back ups would be an artist talk or a trip to a museum.

I can be slow to get the message sometimes, but I’d like to think it’s always worth the effort.

My artist is going to be so effing wooed. Like no artist has ever been wooed before.



Kehinde Wiley At SLAM

I am obsessed. I went to see the Kehinde Wiley: St. Louis exhibit 3 times in 5 days. It is a once in a life time show. Wiley went to Ferguson, asked people if he could paint them, took poses from master paintings at the museum and RECREATED THE POSES WITH POWERFUL BLACK FIGURES!

Saint Jerome Hearing the Trumpet of the Last Judgment
(My absolute favorite painting.)

I didn’t know anything about the show before hand or that it was even happening. I went because a group of friends wanted to see a design and architecture show. I only knew he painted Obama’s portrait.

I left with the feeling I had witnessed a profound reclamation of space and territory that rightfully belongs to not just Wiley, but every one of his subjects.

The first time I went I was so overwhelmed with these larger than life portraits and the lush details. I got lost in feeling these portraits take over the museum, even though they are in a relatively small area. The overwhelming feeling was of power and defiance. I loved every second I spent witnessing a room full of black portraiture, not in a gallery, not in a contemporary museum, but in a historical and institutional museum like SLAM. Where 99% of the paintings are of and by white people. These paintings owned every bit of that space and dared anyone to question their place there.

Obviously, I spent plenty of time soaking up the folds of fabric and reflective light* and facial expressions, but that’s truly only the surface of this experience and if that had been my only time there, I would have missed so much. Although, it would have still been a mesmerizing exhibit. Ask anyone who happened to come into contact with me the first 24 hours after. I might as well have mainlined the show. High was the only way to describe how I felt.

In fact, I went back the very next afternoon. This time I noticed how he treats women. Normally, I am not about men painting women and their issues. It is typically virtue signaling and clearly the men want pats on the back for being so empathetic, yet they fail to realize they only understand those issues on a surface level. It never even occurs to them to ask women if their representations are even accurate. I’ve literally seen men argue with women about how the man’s work is feminist and not degrading. In general, men need to step aside and let a woman have that space.

Wiley is an honorary woman, in my book. He definitely doesn’t need my approval and he may not want to be an honorary woman, but I bow down to his masterful and considerate portrayal of women in these works. First of all, he takes the pose of Three Girls In A Wood by Otto Müller for his own painting titled Three Girls In A Wood and not only does refuse to paint them nude, he paints them in clothes of their choosing, as he does with all of his subjects. He gives them a voice in their own depiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good nude body as much as the next person, but Wiley consciously deciding not to objectify them and to let them decide how they wanted to be presented is the best way to amplify the voices of women when they don’t get a place to speak for themselves.

Second, his paintings show the imperfections. Not in a trite, “look at how brave this actress is for not wearing make-up,” way. In a, “this is how people and bodies are and that’s how he represents them,” way. He doesn’t glorify the imperfection. He just lets them be. In the aforementioned, Three Girls In A Wood the shape of a bra strap can be seen through a shirt. In another painting, the outline of the bra cups. In a society where panty lines are smoothed out and girls are sent home from school for an exposed shoulder, not to mention airbrushing, he’s allowing women to just exist without covering up or exploiting their flaws. There’s no need to change anything about them. What a truly revolutionary concept. In both paintings, the effect is subtle. The imperfections are there as well as their fierceness.

Jacob de Graeff
(My second favorite.)

The third time I went to see this show, I finally realized how he tied it all together. One thing I found so brilliant is his utilization of these intense patterns was that he made them seem completely natural. My eye didn’t fight between the figure and pattern, even when the pattern tried to engulf the figure. Each figure looks perfectly anchored in their setting.

His use of reflective light was satisfying from the first time I stood in front of these works. I kept looking back at those areas and pointing them out to people I was with. On a couple, I even noticed how the color of the back ground was used in the reflective light right away. Maybe I’m just a little slow on the uptake, but I’m going with part of his mastery is the subtlety of his use of background color in his reflective light. These paintings are on average 8′ x 6′ and the color choices are in your face. It was impossible for me to truly take a painting in as a whole right away. So, my ego demands, it’s not at fault it took me three visits to realize Wiley uses the colors from the patterned background in the reflective light almost all the time. There’s just too much brilliance to take in at once.

In some, like the lower right (your right) pant leg in Jacob de Graeff, it is the main background color. In others, like Portrait of Florentine Nobleman or Portrait of Mahogany Jones and Marcus Stokes he uses a secondary background color. No matter which he chooses, the effect is one of seamlessly merging flat, intricate patterns and fully rendered portraits into one, shared reality.

Portrait of Mahogany Jones and Marcus Stokes

It makes me weak in the knees.

The first night I walked away from this show the only way I could accurately describe it was life affirming. I was so grateful to witness this moment in time. With every fiber of my being, I say it was an honor to stand in the same room as these paintings.

*Reflective light: Light bouncing off an object near the main subject and lighting the shadow side of the subject. The reflective light carries the color of the near-by object and reflects it onto the main subject. For example, if you have a white sphere on a green table, the light would bounce off the table and turn the under side of the white sphere green.


I’m putting in effort to do more art related activity. So far, it’s working out. Mostly because I usually have company.

A few weeks in a row I went to the St. Louis art museum to listen to lectures. I had never thought to do this, but in an art business class I’m taking, one segment mentioned listening to other people talk about their art. This isn’t quite the same, but I’ll take it.

The first was on pop art and I learned a few things and had a fun discussion.The second, which I was really excited for, was about sculpture. I could not pay attention. No fault of the lecturer or museum. That’s okay though. I still got out of the house and looked at some art.

A bit before that, the art museum held a “prom” type event. It was hilarious and we had a blast. I’d highly recommend doing the SLAM prom if they have it again. Much better than my high school prom, that’s for sure. They had free crafts, a scavenger hunt of paintings, a DJ, spiked punch, photographers, the whole shebang. I’ll totally dress up next time.

I didn’t have to leave my house, but another one was finally watching the live action Beauty and the Beast. Yes, that counts. I loved it. It was beautiful. The costumes, the cinematography. Fantastic.

This week, I’m going to see The Little Mermaid at The Muny in Forest Park. I’m so excited. I love The Muny.

Those two were my favorite Disney Princesses. Sleeping Beauty is up there, but I was all about Ariel and Belle. I never really saw Jasmine as a princess in the Disney tradition since the movie was about Aladdin. I loved that one too, though.

I know, this is a rather lackluster description, but I haven’t been keeping notes. I’ll try to get some pictures when I go to The Muny, but I’m not promising anything.


Warning: This post contains several variations of the word ass.

This week’s outing was not really what I had in mind.  I never considered doing a movie for one of these, but since we are here…

Let’s talk about Mad Max: Fury Road.

Mad MaxPhoto from GamesRader

It takes a lot for me to really care about a movie, let alone feel inspired by one.  The last time I felt like a movie blew my mind was Avatar 3D. Maybe if I saw MMFR again, I wouldn’t feel the same. Maybe if there hadn’t been grown men throwing a fit and crying, I would have never seen it. (Actually, that is 100% true.) Maybe, if I hadn’t read about a girl who was born with half an arm and was so happy to see a badass, never back down, do what it takes, heroine, I wouldn’t have realized how much this movie was needed.

That’s a lot of maybes. One thing I do know, I want more.

I left the theater wondering why we sterilize our entertainment? Even the goriest of scenes is sterilized. After all, we are sitting safe in a theater or couch and it’s all make-believe. People ask me how I can pay to be scared. I don’t just want scary though. If that was the case, I’d just turn off the light at night and sprint to my bed or be content trying to beat the dogs in the RV and slam the door shut behind them after their last walk of the night in a strange place. What I want is scary while knowing I’m completely safe.

No matter what we witness on the screen we can walk outside, squint our eyes at the bright sun, enjoy the warm air, and move on with our life. That’s the point of entertainment.

What I really mean when I say we sterilize everything is that we seem to think only beautiful people can be heroes or interesting. Only beautiful people have a story worth telling. Not that Charlize Theron is not one of the most beautiful women on the planet, even with 1.5 arms. Usually, if we have a movie that’s about someone disabled, it is either the story before they became disabled (sports movies, war movies), they are brilliant (Stephen Hawking), or it is an existential, life is terrible so what is the point, they die at the end soul-crushing endeavor. Occasionally, I’ve seen the touchy feely disabled person makes a friend movie. I can enjoy all of these. Well, okay not the existential stuff. I want some escape after all.

What I’ve never seen is someone who is already disabled slaying the antagonist and rescuing people from the clutches of a heinous overlord.

I left the theater wanting to make ALL the movies. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make movies and more importantly, I’m not inclined to learn.

I want to live in a world where blockbuster movies are filled with different looking people. Maybe they are beautiful, maybe they have giant scars on their face, maybe they are missing limbs, or something else we, as a society, would regulate to sitting on the sidelines of life. Not worthy of sharing stories that weren’t centered around the obvious handicap.  Don’t even mention it in the movie unless it is to give them a badass mechanical arm they can whip off and hit someone with. I don’t need to know the story behind the scar or wheelchair. I don’t need it to be center stage of the plot or a part at all. No one gives the back story of how someone became beautiful. We don’t get their family tree or their workout program, except Rocky.

I just want to see people of all types projected on a 2 story screen as normal, whole, human beings, that may or may not whip off a mechanical arm and beat some bad guys.