3 ways to hold onto your “I am going to be more creative” resolution

I am hoping that one of your dreams for 2016 is to be more creative ~ maybe to start keeping a regular sketchbook, maybe to learn new skills or maybe to start your artistic life. Maybe I can help by pointing you in the direction of people and places that inspire me.

Are you thinking that a course might help? I have done a couple of online ones over time, and have really enjoyed them. The courses have been very professional and thought out. They also have lots of materials to download and often a separate space for students to meet up and share work. The tutor gives feedback on your work. Some courses are organised to take place in real time, so a new lesson is posted each week. If you are short on time this can be a problem, and you might consider one that you can work through at your own pace.

  1. These are the artists I have done done courses with. [Remember, these are only suggestions, places to start. Many artists offer online courses, as well as residential workshops, so google around for something that suits and check out all the details for yourself. Most of them will say what level of experience they suit. There are lots around for beginners.]

Sketchbook Skool is the brain child of Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. It has different Kourses (yep, with the K) with tutors from all over the world, all amazing sketchbookers.

Liz Steel must be one of the most prolific sketchers on the planet! I love her work and took her Foundations course last year. [check out some of the work I did on this course here.] She comes from an architectural background and is so thorough and dedicated to the students in her courses. She teaches ways of seeing that she has learnt and uses in her own sketching practice. She is extremely generous with her knowledge and her blog is worth following even if you don’t want to do a course.

Val Webb has a different artistic style. She creates little fairies that should be twee, but are not. Her courses have a narrower focus ~ drawing birds, especially owls, and lettering ~ but are still well structured and organised. I did her lettering course a couple of years ago.

2. The next links are to artists who run online courses that I haven’t done. However I follow their blogs and like their work.

Jane LaFazio is a mixed media artist, using fabrics and paper embellished with threads and beads. Her sketchbooks are delightful. She also takes tours to Europe and the UK. Imagine sketching in the Greek Islands!

Koosje Koene is one of the founders of Sketchbook Skool. Her passion is that everyone can make awesome art on a regular basis. Every week she sends out a little video of Draw Tip Tuesday, showing an art tip that is short and easy to do. She has online classes about drawing recipes and creating characters, among other topics.

Gaynor’s Flora Gaynor is a wonderful botanic artist, often working in coloured pencils. She runs regular workshops from her home in West Sussex, and I am going to do one when I travel to the UK next….. just not sure when. Also she is organising a course in Norway. That would be amazing! The link is to her online course where she will be teaching botanical art.

3. Maybe you don’t have time for a course but just need a regular boost to get out there and create. These are a couple of sites that do that for me.

Danny Gregory’s latest blog post is about how to keep the resolutions you have made about making art, but there is much more to explore in his blog. He regularly talks about taming your inner critic, and he writes in a very engaging way. His drawings are pretty good too.

Michael Nobbs has a chronic illness that limits the amount of time he can put into his creativity. So he has to think about what the important next step is, and whether it be done in 20 minutes. He produces a daily podcast of around five minutes where he encourages the listener to join him in 20 minutes of creativity. He has such a warm, gentle style and although the podcasts are just him chatting about his day so far, I find them very comforting and compelling.

And lastly, Roz Stendhal who is the direct opposite of Michael. She is a whirlwind of activity and like Liz Steel, very generous with her knowledge. It was Roz that inspired me to make my own sketchbooks. She also does classes which I imagine would be great fun.

I hope there is someone there that will inspire you or even just give you a little nudge now and again. Are there other courses, artists, websites that  give you a creative boost? Let us know in the comments.



When I worked full-time there was little time to be creative. Even when there were free hours I was often mentally exhausted and craved passive reading or TV watching. I kept up some creative efforts by going to weekly classes. I always vowed that I would practise during the week, but most of the time I didn’t. When retirement came along I knew that I would love it. I was made for retirement!

While I stil fritter away time, I have so much more of it. One of the things I love to do is creative play. Botanic art is my foundation. It is an art form that is controlled and detailed, usually working on small areas. Now I have had time to explore in other ways, to play with watercolour paint, mixing colours, making washes, learning that often wonderful art comes from the unexpected, uncontrolled.

I have blogged about both forms of my art, the Cullen palladium that I painted for the exhibition and the limpet shells and oyster shells.

Today I wanted to tell you about another challenge of my artistic life, my sketching. When I first started drawing as an adult I drew regularly. It was a practise that really helped my artistic hand-eye co-ordination. For some reason — time? TV? — I stopped. Now I have taken it up again, but I don’t sketch as regularly as I would like.

I have always loved sketchbooks, their fluid drawings, their exploration of ideas, their colour and vibrancy. Don’t you love to look at sketchbooks of artists, professional or other wise? Turner’s sketchbook on display at a recent exhibition of his work was a treasure. I have a Pinterest board devoted to other people’s sketchbooks, my version of eye-candy!

A sketch book from his very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.
A sketch book from Turner’s very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.

For about a year I have been a semi-regular sketchbooker. I have had help from online courses. One was Sketchbook Skool, an initiative of two wonderful, but very different, sketchers — Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. They have brought together a range of talented artists to tutor the courses. Some I had “met” online, some were new to me. All were inspiring and definitely worth the price of the course.

Liz Steel is another sketching artist who is a great inspiration. I am about half-way through  her course, Foundations and I am very impressed with her through preparation for each lesson. As the name implies her lessons are designed to give the basics, the foundations, for drawing confidently out of doors. So far we have explored edges and volume, contour drawings and blind drawing. She has encouraged us to understand my equipment better — I have even done a colour mixing chart in my book! For each lesson there are written materials, videos, PDFs and homework challenges. Liz generously gives more of her time to answer questions and offer advice.

One of my sketching challenges is to take my sketchbook out into the world. Actually, that should read “to take my sketchbook out while I am in the real world”! Sitting on the couch and drawing the things I see in front of me is easy. Sitting outside and drawing the things I see in front of me is much more difficult. My challenge is to get myself out of that comfort zone.

Liz’s homework has been a big help. Like all good homework the exercises are to help understand the concepts covered. One part of the homework is inside, but the other part is an outside task, such as drawing letterboxes or my front door. And you are going to help me meet that challenge too. I am going to post my outside sketches here, and I know that you will be positive and supportive, even of the wonky lines!

I will leave you with some outside sketches from the last few months. Remember there will be more to come!