Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical Watercolour

Online classes

Fast and loose!

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Fast and loose no 1 arttally New year, new month, new series. They roll around fast, don't they?

I am taking a Udemy course entitled 'Watercolour - Fast and Loose!' with Andy Walker. So far, I'm loving it.  Since patience and precision are really not my thing I couldn't go past a course with a title like this. In each of the lessons, Andy chooses a watercolour impressionist and a key painting technique to be learned from the artist. So this month my series will be Fast and Loose Watercolours.

This first lesson is based on the work of Frank Webb. The painting technique offered is the approach of using a single colour wash over most of the painting as a very first step. This initial wash shows through all of the other colours and gives the whole painting a sort of glow.

The painting we are studying in this lesson is called 'Bill's Lumberyard'. Fast and Loose no 1 shown above is my attempt at replicating Frank Webb's painting.  I love the abstract blocky shapes, and Frank Webb's slightly unexpected colour choices make my heart sing.  Funnily enough, when I first saw the painting we were to emulate in this lesson I wasn't all that taken with it.  Now I can't think of a single thing about it that I don't like.

Andy Walker's course makes the painting a simple process. Almost feels like a paint by numbers experience. Frank Webb did all the work in creating the beautiful image in the first place. Andy Walker breaks it down into easy painting layers. Having painted many a painting that concludes somewhat unsatisfactorily I can't tell you what a joy it is to complete the process and find that it all just works.

Painting white cats

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Painting white cats arttally Today, I am painting white cats.

Painting anything white with watercolour can be a little tricky. Essentially the idea is not to paint the white object, rather to paint its shadows, with the palest of greys and blues and purples. The last time I did this it was for daisies, and the whole thing got me quite philosophical.

Today Miriam is helping me again. This particular cat is Frosty. He (or she?) is the subject of the second project in the online class called Crazy Cats. Still haven't quite got the hang of the fine white whiskers... but I'm working on it!

New month, new series.... cats!

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new month new series... cats It's the start of a new month, so it's the start of a new series. This month is going to be all about cats. I am doing another class with Miriam Schulman over at the Inspiration Place, called Crazy Cats.

This month I am going to paint a daily cat in watercolour on 300gsm paper. I am going to miss painting flowers, but at least I get to paint eyes again this month - one of my favourite things!

If you are interested in taking Miriam's class, it starts out with some very well thought out drawing lessons using various drawing materials. Don't think cats are too hard to draw - Miriam makes it easy. The next part of the course involves drawing cats from reference photos and then painting them in watercolour. Step by step instructions for everything. Fun!


Learning to paint peonies in a vase

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learning to paint peonies Peonies are so romantic, aren't they? I think I might love them even more than roses.  This painting is another one that is inspired by the lovely Miriam at the Inspiration Place.  It is from Miriam's Watercolour Secrets class. I loved her painting so  much it made me a little reluctant to attempt my own version. I needn't have worried. Peonies are so delightful it's hard not to enjoy painting them.  And Miriam makes the whole process seem very manageable - thanks, Miriam!

Tea and lettering

Beginner Resources, My art journeyKerrie Woodhouse

If you love tea, and quotes and doodling it doesn't take long before you put them all together.

Tea and lettering for no 14 in the tea time series

If you think you would like to have a go at doodling some letters - and why wouldn't you? Its easy, fun and doesn't require that you know how to draw!... Anyway, if you wanted to have a go, I recommend checking out one of my favourite online teachers Joanne Sharpe. She has several lettering classes available. Joanne has a delightful manner and her classes are accessible and broken down into short managable video lessons.

I have written about her before, so if you want to find out more about her classes you might want to read this next.

Explore more of the Tea Time post series here

Learn to illustrate with Danielle Donaldson

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Creative Girls with Danielle Donaldson

I have been taking Danielle Donaldson’s delightful class at the Jeanne Oliver network. I have always loved drawing little characters and I have been trying to learn to illustrate by taking classes with as many different people as possible so that my own characters eventually find their own style. I am enjoying watching how my girls morph from Jane Davenport girls to Juliette Crane girls to Danielle Donaldson girls. I think with each transformation they retain a little something from each experience. I am fascinated to see how they end up. Maybe there is no ‘end’. Perhaps the point is that our drawings taking on a life of their own and perpetually evolve. I like that idea.

What is in the class?

This course covers character building, journal making, a little lettering and perspective and is mainly using watercolours which I am currently in love with. (Mercifully, as I was off to a bit of a rocky start with an early attempt at ‘traditional’ watercolours!)

Here are my Danielle-ish girls. I even played with my twinkling H2Os for the first time. Danielle doesn’t use those in the course - I just couldn’t resist giving the girls a bit of bling in a rather subtle way. Hmm.. Is that possible?…subtle bling?

Creative girls with Danielle Donaldson

Creative girls with Danielle Donaldson

Themed journals

I love the idea of a themed journal like this one that Danielle teaches you to put together. I didn't opt to bind my own journal although I do love doing that too. At the moment I have set my book up as Danielle instructs and I am trying not to feel scared of messing it up… I’m working in pencil like Danielle which is unusual for me - never been a fan of graphite but… yippee, you get to erase!

Cover Girls

Danielle’s cover girl is a character called Bad Penny. She is super cute. However, I couldn't quite bring myself to call any of my characters ‘bad’ … so I have a different Danielle-ish girl. I have popped her on the first page in my journal. I might recreate her on a separate sheet and stick her onto the cover of my journal eventually.

Working small

The course also teaches you to work small to build up confidence in developing illustration skills. This is an idea close to my heart, as I first learned the appeal of working in a teeny journal when I took one of Joanne Sharpe’s classes Draw Your Awesome Life, which I also highly recommend.


Another part of the class I have really enjoyed is learning perspective. Danielle incorporates just enough of the technical skills of perspective to really help make more lively, realistic (and yet still whimsical) drawings. There is not so much of the technical skill building to stop the class feeling like fun as opposed to school. Look at my chairs… who knew drawing cute little chairs could be so fun?

This class is Danielle’s second creative girls class on Jeanne Oliver's network. I never took the first one, but after taking this class I think I might have to.

How to get creatively unstuck in 10 minutes

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Get creatively unstuck with a ten minute journal

Get creatively unstuck with a ten minute journal

The creative voice is a quiet one. Sometimes, barely a whisper.

I think I'd like to draw. (Or paint, or write, or sing.)

She is earnest, hopeful and painfully shy. So easily shouted down by her noisy big brother's torrent of  'buts'.

But you are rubbish at drawing...

But what would you draw...

But you will make a mess...

But you don't even know where to start or what supplies to use...

But you should be doing something more useful...

Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance. The opposing force that fights our creative tendencies. To me it is the bullying brother of the little creative spirit. Cruel, perhaps, but protective. There to keep the fragile creative soul safe by preventing it from stepping out of its comfort zone or trying anything new.

Being safe is all very well, but it leaves you with a creative block. Recently, I have found out how to get creatively unstuck in 10 minutes.

Watercolour page from my 'Ten Minute Journal'

Watercolour page from my 'Ten Minute Journal'

Rather than bullying that creative spirit into inaction, all it needs are some boundaries. Just like a small child.

I am taking Juliette Crane's online class called 'Bliss', in which Juliette talks about regaining the fun and freedom of creating by doing little 5 or 10 minute paintings. Well, she is quite right.

I had managed to make drawing and painting feel like an overwhelming task that I could not fit into my day for so very many reasons. But adopting this technique of a ten minute journal has really helped. Often it spurs you on to do a bigger project, but even if it doesn't, you have had the delicious little pick-me-up of a quick play with colour and line.

So the rules of my ten minute journal are designed to create a happy, safe and fun place where I can just enjoy the process of drawing and painting, liberated from those 'buts'. They go something like this:

  • the journal is small (and square which I love, but I don't think it matters!)

  • the paper is nice enough to take watercolour but not so expensive that I will feel bad about 'messing it up' (life is too short for bad paper, as Jane Davenport would say)

  • each painting takes 10 minutes

  • I can only use watercolours and black pens and white pens

  • colours are limited to a palette of three (yes, I break this rule often... and usually regret it)

  • each picture includes a character (e.g. a face, a figure, maybe an animal or bird)

The good thing is that these limits are totally liberating. I am using my travel watercolours and a waterbrush so I can do this anywhere - usually on the couch in front of the TV. I don't have to make decisions about what to draw and what materials to use. Each picture is going to be done in 10 minutes so it's never going to be perfect. Some times I love them, sometimes I really don't. Either way it doesn't matter. In ten minutes I will turn the page and forget about it.

Try it and see.

Abandon perfection and just enjoy being creative.

5 Free online art classes

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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)

Are you preparing or procrastinating?

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Mixed media mermaid in a Dylusions Journal

A little while ago Thing Two and I were both down with the the flu. We spent days on the couch, good for not much more than TV and tablets. Where would we be without the internet? I was feeling jolly pleased with myself, actually. I felt like I was rather productive despite being under the weather. I gave my Skillshare membership a real workout, taking classes on watercolour painting, pattern design and fashion illustration. I watched endless YouTube videos on art and ukulele tutorials and Eckhart Tolle's view of the world. I learned a lot. I was inspired.  All of this is great if course, but I recognise it as a familiar pattern. We have no lack of information, having access to just about anything we want to know. But there is no substitute for doing. The first step is acquiring the information, but it is not much use if we don't start applying it.  A bit of preparation is always going to be important whether you are starting a new business venture, taking up a new hobby or acquiring a new life skill. But there will always be another book to read, another online course to take, more data to gather. The preparation phase is an exciting place to be. But it is also a safe place. Fear keeps us from moving out of preparation into action. Preparation becomes procrastination. I don't think anyone feels perfectly ready, in reality. At some point, you have to declare your research sufficient, your training adequate. There will always be doubt as to whether you are going to sink or swim. The only way to find out is to jump in the water.

"Procrastination is opportunity's assassin." - Victor Kiam


Making art without attachment

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Mixed media painting created in the online class Lifebook 2014

There is an art show that takes place annually a few hundred metres from my house. A while ago I decided I would like to submit something to that show one day. Since then I have eagerly enrolled in many an online class and done a lot of work in my art journals and sketchbooks. But something happens when I sit down to a separate piece of good quality paper or a new canvas. The pressure of trying to produce something I might be able to submit to a formal art show is paralysing. Being too attached to the outcome suffocates the creative process. Luckily I got a glimpse of the alternative in a recent Lifebook 2014 lesson. I really enjoyed this particular lesson video, but to be perfectly honest, the style of the teacher's finished piece didn't resonate with me. This turned out to be the biggest gift of the lesson. It meant that I could take the prompts, the ethos, the techniques from the lesson but let my own artwork unfold with no attachment to or expectations of the finished product. As a result I found the process delightful, and absorbing. I even ended up with something I really liked. I have learned a lot from teachers whose finished pieces seem to sing to me. But somehow, if you really love what they have done, your own copy is quite likely going to be a bit of a disappointment. Now I understand just how much can be gained from a teacher whose style is quite different from your own. If you are not trying to emulate a particular style you are open to a whole world of possibilities. And if you don't start out with a vision of your finished work, you have removed a criterion by which to judge (and therefore disappoint) yourself. I am learning to create for the joy of it, not for the finished product, and that in art as in life, everyone has something to teach me.

Three ways to get started in watercolour

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I have something of  a love-hate relationship with watercolour. I have owned a set of watercolours for over 10 years. Mostly they encouraged me to buy more books on how to paint with watercolours, but actually using them has been the hard part.They are daunting. Sounds so simple. Just add water. In fact it is the water that is both the charm and the vice here. It is because of the water that the colours blend and pool the way they do.  It is because of the water that control of the colour is so elusive.I have a few suggestions if you are thinking of dipping your toes in the water...colour... so to speak....The first is to let go of trying to control the watercolour and just playing for a while, figuring out what the water and paint will do together. In fact, there is an entire online class I found that is based on this premise. It's by Michelle Brown and it is called 'Loosen Up'.  So obviously when I heard about it, I knew she was talking to me.

The second is to let go of the idea of trying to produce something like the classic chocolate box landscape or seascape entirely in watercolour and use it more simply, as a colouring medium. Start with a permanent pen (i.e not water soluble) line drawing and then use the watercolour to fill it in like an illustrator might.Thirdly, keep it simple. Try painting a single subject with no background, like a flower or a pear. I took Martha Lever's Color Drop Flower class. In fact it was the first time I actually used my watercolour set in 10 years. Martha makes it all seem quite approachable.Watercolour is actually quite glorious. But it takes faith in the medium and quite a bit of patience to find this glory.

Is it possible to be disciplined without a deadline?

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Tiny journal page from my latest online class 'Draw Your Awesome Life'

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by being a bit behind on my online classes. On the one hand, there is really no such thing as being behind. The classes typically have long access, 6 months, a year or 'forever' access. So actually you can complete them in your own time. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for the sense of satisfaction that comes from completing something promptly. A bit of structure is important I think. Does one actually need a deadline of some sort in order to be disciplined enough to complete the task?

I remember in high school I had a maths teacher who said she would happily correct our homework if and when we chose to hand it in, but that was up to us. I could so have got a better mark for maths. I blame her. I don't want my art classes to end up like high school maths, left to last because other things had more urgent deadlines. So with the weight of those uncompleted art assignments added to my maths homework (which I have obviously still not done), I sighed and started web browsing.

Before I knew it I had... signed up to another class! I know, but it seemed logical at the time. And this class is different. (Not really). Well, a little. It is completed in a tiny watercolour journal. Hurrah, I had one of those knocking about already. It is even a Moleskine and I have had no idea what to do with it since I bought it several months ago.

Another tiny journal page created in 'Draw Your Awesome Life'

This class is called Draw your Awesome Life, by Joanne Sharpe. Each lesson video is brief, maybe even 5 minutes or so, and since you are working in a tiny journal, the page can possibly be completed in 10 minutes. Even if you sit down with a cup of tea you will probably be only half an hour from the start of the lesson video to the completed page. That's not to say that I don't love the long detailed lesson videos I do in other courses. Of course, they are fantastic too. But these little bite-sized lessons offer very achievable, happy journal pages, for de-stressing. There is a time and place for all of these things, don't you think?

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!


Perseverance pays...

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You know, there just might be something in this 10 000 hour rule.

Early attempt at a  face using alcohol markers

Early last year, about 400 art hours ago, I was introduced to Spectrum Noir Markers. They are alcohol based markers, which (when used with the right bleedproof paper or card) blend the streaky marks you inevitably make, all by themselves. So they are nothing like the markers we used as kids. They come in glorious colours and enable the production of beautiful, creamy skin tones. They do take some getting used to though. I remember being rather pleased with myself for being able to draw something resembling a face, under Lovely Jane's gentle instruction. Here is a face I drew back then using these very markers. I feel very brave revealing her, but she illustrates the point!

Another face, still using alcohol markers, but about 400 hours of drawing practice later!

I haven't really used these alcohol markers much because they are so fussy about the paper, and I am rather enjoying working in art journals at the moment.  But it is week 1 of 'Express Yourself'  another one of Lovely Jane's classes. Our warm up assignment was a shaded face using alcohol markers.

I think this face is much better than my earlier effort above, so I feel jolly encouraged and enthusiastic about doing more. It seems that we can learn new things, at any age.

I think there is a risk of being so focused on an outcome, the place you would like to get to, that you forget to notice where you have already been. It's a bad habit I am prone to, I think - the tendency to be more mindful of what I still can't do rather than acknowledging, or even observing, the current progress.

So here I am, pausing to take heart that practice does indeed seem to work, and ready to put in many more joyful hours of drawing.

In the midst of my self-appreciation, Beloved offered the observation that it looks as though she got smacked in the top of the head with an iron. Well. Yes....I see what he means. Luckily, I have 9 400 hours or so to work on that....


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.