Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical Watercolour

Mixed media

5 Free online art classes

Beginner Resourcesphoenixarttally
5 free online classes

5 free online classes

Free online art classes make my heart sing! The online art community is such a generous one. So if you have been thinking about trying something creative but are wondering whether an online art class is for you, I  just might be able to help you out.

These are the free classes that I have come across and taken in the last couple of years. Check them out - there might be one that is just right for you.

  • Art Heart and Healing

Tamara Laporte offers a 4 week mixed media course called Art, Heart and Healing which over 2000 students have taken. As well as learning many mixed media techniques, this class also offers a chance to experience the more therapeutic benefits of art. If that does not appeal, don’t let it put you off the class! Tam has an inclusive, engaging style and manages to pack an enormous amount of art advice and techniques into each lesson. Whether you want to ignore the healing side or not is up to you. And don’t worry if you are new to art, the beginner is well catered for.

  • Total Alignment

Connie Solera at Dirty Footprints studios offers a free painting course that comprises 5 lessons all aimed at getting you in Total Alignment with your creative source. It is a gloriously liberating journey into fearless painting. This one is for everyone, whether you have never painted before or you have plenty experience but just feel a bit stuck.

  • I am Free

Marieke Blokland offers a free mini art journalling course, called I am Free. The course has 4 lessons, and gives you a chance to see Marieke’s terrific videos. It is clear that a lot of effort goes into producing them. She's a doll, and I just love her quirky whimsical style!

  • Finding your muse

Alisa Burke offers a free course all about how to find your muse. I love her straight forward approach. Simple, inexpensive supplies are used, making this a no excuses prompt to get out and draw. This free course has 6 mini lessons and includes some high speed video of Alisa working in her sketchbook - that alone will probably get you motivated - it certainly worked for me! This class is about getting inspired, not about learning art techniques.

  • Strathmore Online Workshops

Strathmore offer a series of workshops through the year. Unlike the four classes listed above, these classes are not 'permanently' available.  The first workshop in 2015 starts on 2 March (Traci Bautista), with other workshops becoming available at the beginning of May (Patti Mollica) and September (Maureen Wilson and Alphonso Dunn). You can go and register now (for free) and join the group for each workshop that takes your fancy.

If you have never taken an online art class before it can be hard to know where to begin. Luckily, some of the best art teachers offer free courses. This is brilliant on so many levels. You get a chance to see whether the online environment works for you. You get to see whether or not you like particular teacher’s style. And the best part is often participating in the class group or forum. I have found the student groups in all these classes to be friendly, welcoming and encouraging. You will probably find some fairly impressive art work there too - don't be intimidated!

"Never compare your beginning with someone else's middle." John Acutt

Art is fun whether you are 2 or 92. You don't even have to be good at it... (whatever 'good' might mean here!) So go on, give it a go. You know you want to.

And by the way, if you come across another free class or have some experience of these ones to share let us know. (If you can't see a comments box below there is a comments link near the heading)

Don't know what to draw? Here is a possible solution...

Beginner Resourcesphoenixarttally
Week 18 theme 'Celestial Body' for the 52 week Illustration Challenge

Sometimes, that blank page is an insurmountable problem when you are learning to draw. However, I have come across a possible solution for the problem of trying to figure out what subject to choose. Hurrah! I happened upon the 52 week illustration challenge on Facebook, and I am so glad that I did. It is open to all ages and skill levels and involves posting your illustration of the week's given theme. You can check it out here, if you want to join in or find out more. There are so many benefits to this challenge. My top three are:

  1. The point of the exercise is to do more drawing and painting. This gives you a reason to produce at least one illustration per week
  2. No more excuses about knowing what to draw because the theme is given to you. Just eliminating some of the possibilities presented by the blank page can be a tremendous help.
  3. Being given a theme encourages you to think about drawing something different from your usual subjects. It's so easy to get stuck in a rut and draw only within your comfort zone.

The theme we have just done was 'celestial body'. It was awesome to see so many different ideas emerge from one theme - all that creativity is so inspiring!

We deserve a little bit of luxury every day

Self Developmentphoenixarttally
My favourite journal page created in Jane Davenport's I Heart Drawing class, using lots of different acrylic paints!

I think it is time to get out the 'good' glasses. You know, the ones reserved for 'company'. The ones we would use with the best plates after entertaining guests in the 'good lounge'. Why do we do this? If we have extra special things, why do we save them for other people? Are we saying these other people are of greater value than we accord ourselves? And, if we spent extra money on them, are we really getting value for it if they remain carefully stored most of the time and are brought out maybe only a few times a year? Doesn't seem likely.

And it's probably not just crockery and glass ware. What about that pair of designer shoes, still in the original shoe box, too special to be worn?

How about those deluxe pantry items... truffle oil, perhaps? Pomegranate molasses? Saffron? Those ingredients that languish on the shelf (probably until their expiry date) waiting for an important enough occasion. Like the big prime beef rib joint that seemed a good and festive idea but now strikes fear into your culinary heart. All you can think of is what a waste it would be to mess it up now. What pressure! No thanks.

The reason I started thinking about all this is that I notice I am doing the same sort of thing with art supplies. Tenuous distinctions are being drawn between different brands of acrylic paint. The superior artist quality ones are kept for special canvases and not intended for art journals.   There is 'craft' quality paint for that. And children's quality paint kept for, well, the children obviously. Of course, I don't have every colour in every brand of paint. I found myself floundering and confused in the middle of my painting, recently. I realised the frustration arose because I wanted a particular colour in my art journal that I only had in my fancy (i.e. seldom utilised) canvas paint. Oo what to do, what to do? Well, that is ridiculous left-brain thinking for you.....

You can put the accountant in the studio, but can you put the studio in the accountant, she wonders....

So I am not going to do that anymore. Paint is now paint, in my house. I'm mixing it up in happy mixed media style. The good, the bad and the frightfully expensive. Anything goes. The best things happen when you paint like a child, I think. We deserve the joy of using our 'special' things.  And if they are so precious that we can't bring ourselves to use them, we really shouldn't have bought them in the first place.


Creating something useful is very satisfying

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Front cover of my handmade book

It could be that I felt I needed to atone for my recent perceived destruction of old books that I turned into art journals. In the world of mixed media art journaling, this is called 'altered bookery' apparently, and I wrote about it here a little while ago. My guilt dictated that I should confess what I had done, perhaps.

Anyway, shortly after that I discovered book binding. Not just a chance to play with pretty paper, not only the opportunity to make something useful, but also a chance to purchase..... oh yes..... more art supplies.

Coptic stitch binding

Binding my own book pleased me on so many levels.  For me, a big part of the delight in doing something creative  is actually creating something, something that before your action did not exist.  I suppose that it existed, but not in that particular form, so maybe it is more like alchemy. Alchemy seems pretty close to magic. And I think that is why I like baking so much too. One minute you have gloopy, transparent egg whites and a bit of sugar. With a bit of time and effort, you can completely transform these simple ingredients into magnificent crisp, shiny meringues. Similarly, some pretty paper and waxed linen thread can become a custom, unique, handy notebook. Hurrah!

Pretty paper for some of the pages

In The Creativity Cure, Carrie Barron explains that our modern lives no longer require the creative engagement that used to be necessary in our day-to-day activities.  We don't need to use our own hands to make or repair things any more, most of what we need is easily accessible. Sometimes we engage in creative activities for the pleasure of the process itself rather than for the finished product.  We doodle in the margins of our notes because it is fun, not because we need a completed page of doodles! Creating for process is important too, but it is different from being committed to producing an acceptable output. Those stakes, the necessity, is what results in the sense of achievement felt on completing the project satisfactorily.  Making a book gave me both: the fun of the process and a finished product with a practical use.

As is the case with pretty much anything you might want to learn these days, there is a generous expert or two prepared to show you exactly how, with the aid of You Tube. My preferred expert on the matter of DIY bookbinding is Sea Lemon.  She has provided clear videos for all aspects of the process: making the covers and signatures as well as the coptic stitch binding which I really like. I am rather keen on needlework, but as much as I like doing embroidery I don't seem to have too much need for embroidered thingamabobs. So this scratched the stitching itch just enough without leaving me searching for a purpose for my lovingly needle-worked creation.


Variety is the sugar and spice of life

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I  have been loving being a part of Lifebook 2014, one of the (too) many online classes I  have signed up for this year! One of the best things about Lifebook is that you get to see a variety of teachers, which means you get exposed to things you might not ordinarily have chosen. It is easy to get stuck in a rut, and stay in your comfort zone, probably without even noticing you are doing it. This is something I know I do in all things, not just art! Earlier this year, Marieke Blokland did a 'sweet' lesson - I'm not being trite or patronising - really, it was about drawing candy and a Sugar Diva. Now that could be my middle name, come to think of it...

Anyway, it was a wonderful combination of things I am used to, like drawing faces or creating layered mixed media backgrounds, and things I haven't even considered, like eyes that stick out wider than the head and fairy floss hair.

I have been fascinated by the process of learning to draw, learning new skills, but this helped me remember that art is fun, and that one of the best reasons for doing any of it is to play. I also remembered that my first drawing inclination was actually towards cartoons.

Marieke's wonderful lesson gave my inner zany cartoonist a nudge... about time too, she was starting to feel neglected...

Altered books - recycling or vandalism...?

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"Eek!"I am peeping out of the cracks in the fingers of my hand that leapt reflexively to my face upon watching Lovely Jane 'altering' a book for art journaling, in an online class. My Inner Librarian fainted when she witnessed the removal of some of the pages of an old picture book, so fortunately she can't see gesso and acrylic paint being slathered all over the remaining pages right now.

You see, I have always had the deepest respect for Books. Not for me, the dog-eared page corners... and notes scribbled in margins.....? Heaven forbid! No, no, my deep reverence for the printed word, ingrained since childhood, dictates that I never sully the book.

On the other hand, it does make good sense to take something old that might end up on the rubbish heap or recycled into toilet paper and give it new life and purpose as an art journal. A more dignified end...surely? In fact, not an end, but a new beginning, and I, of all people, can't argue against reinvention. It makes sense , I see that. Pages must be removed so that when those that remain have been thickened with paint, gesso, and collage, the book can still close properly. And of course, anyone intimidated by that blank page will understand the appeal of having an already 'imperfect' page to begin with, as a spring board, somewhere to start. I'm sure my Inner Librarian could raise some counter arguments but right now she is looking for her Xanax. My Inner Child however, is quite delighted with the idea and definitely thinks I should give it a whirl.

One of my first altered book pages

So is altered 'bookery' recycling or vandalism? It has taken quite a few months of internal debate to settle this issue within myself. But, when I was clearing out old editions of accounting textbooks, it seemed to be a sign. What a perfect exercise for me. Plastering a new life over the old one, as it were... Well, how could I not?

So here are some pages that were once all about costing models and budgeting but are now hosting colour, joy and playfulness...

The cover of an altered book art journal... hard to believe this was once an accounting textbook!

So I'm definitely warming to this whole concept of using an altered book. My only issue with this first one is that the paper is way too thin. Usually gesso makes up for poor paper quality, strengthening whatever paper is there so that it can take the painting and stamping and stenciling that one might feel called to do. Sadly though, this paper is just that little bit too thin, even with the gesso. It is manageable as you can see above, but just not as pleasurable to work with as it might have been. Something to bear in mind for next time.

I did have enormous fun with the cover though.... My beloved creams, lots of texture and a butterfly. Now that's more like it!


It's all about me....

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Last week, the Lifebook 2014 lesson over at (willowing) was entitled "Be True to You".  They say that it is the exercises that you resist that have the most to teach you. To be honest, I'm not terribly keen on collaging (is that a verb? let's assume so...) ephemera - I would rather learn to draw a whimsical face, a leaping figure or distant buildings in perspective.  But I have promised myself I would do every single Lifebook 2014 lesson, and now I am glad of that.
The first step was to think of  three elements or symbols that are true to me. After getting over the initial surprise that I didn't know the answers to these questions automatically,  I noticed how nice it was to be forced to spend some time thinking about just me. How odd not to have instant reflexive answers to such a simple personal question. The colour scheme was easy. I have always been the Queen of Cream, as my interior decorating choices have long borne witness.  But as for what I like... hmm. I know what my children need from their mum, what their school requires from me as a parent, what my students want to take from me as a lecturer, what my academic colleagues expect as a researcher, and so on. But me, just me as me? I don't think I have ever thought about that too much before. So after some consideration,  here it is: words, music (my beloved ukulele - cream, obviously) and the simple elegance of a white tulip. C'est moi... apparently. 

The obstacle of the blank page....

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I think one of my biggest issues, when it comes to art, is that blank page. Actually, it is not just the blank page, it is everything associated with getting started. You get the itch to draw, to make some art, perhaps splash a bit of paint about, but so many decisions... 
journal, index card or paper .... 
A3, A4 or A5.... 
portrait or landscape.... 
watercolour, acrylic, coloured pencils, pen, markers or something else? (I solved that one by opting for mixed media... clever, huh?) 
Week 1 from Lifebook 2014 : My Inner Artist Guardian

Now, what to draw?  And in what style... realistic, whimsical... something else...?

These questions explain why I have become an online art class junkie.  When faced with these big 'what' questions: what shall I draw, what shall I draw with, what shall I draw on, my Inner Librarian starts cataloging all the possibilities. She is so intensely consumed by this and requires total silence to concentrate, so she is sternly hushing my Inner Child, who, impatiently, just wants to get on with it!  So the obvious solution for both parties is to pack us off to art school. Well, to an online class. Then an instructor will answer all the 'what' questions and give the Inner Child permission to gleefully make art. And while this is happening, the Inner Librarian gets to collect and organise more information for her growing database. Win, win. 
There does seem to be one potential drawback, however.  One can't help wondering whether it will ever be possible to produce a painting or journal page without the prompt from an online teacher. I am having an enormous amount of fun in all these classes, but it remains an exercise in faith to continue with the classes and instructional books and trust that inspiration to produce something original and unguided will one day appear.