Squaring Up Photos in Photoshop

Have you ever wished there was some way of squaring up photos in Photoshop? Especially photos of drawings that you want to use for marketing or your portfolio?

Cheer up! There is!

Squaring Up Photos in Photoshop

One of the more annoying aspects of using the computer for artwork is getting perfectly square photographs. Whether you’re photographing potential subjects or finished paintings, no matter how precise the process or expensive the equipment, distortion will happen.

I know!

I can’t tell you how many photos I have of artwork that aren’t perfectly aligned.

Photograph Your Work so Squaring Up Isn’t Necessary

The best way to deal with this problem is to avoid it altogether. Hang your artwork flat against a wall. Put your camera (or phone) on a tripod, and align it perfectly with the artwork.

Position the camera far enough away from the artwork so you don’t end up with a ‘fish-eye affect.’ A photograph taken with a zoom lens from a short distance almost always turns out better than a photograph taken with a standard lens close to the artwork.

Fill the frame with your artwork, so no background shows around it. This won’t necessarily prevent photographic distortion, but it will help conceal it by eliminating drawing edges. If the camera is properly positioned, distortion should be eliminated.

For small works, consider scanning instead. This is about the only sure way to avoid distortion all the time, and you have the advantage of scanning images at various resolutions. I routinely scan images at between 300 and 600 dots per inch. If the images are very small, I scan them at 1200 dpi. The higher the dpi, the larger the resulting output image.

Squaring Up Photos in Photoshop

But let’s be honest. There are times when you just have to square up a photograph, even after you’ve taken all the best precautions.

Fortunately, the editor and founder of EmptyEasel has written a step-by-step tutorial showing you how to square up photos in Photoshop.

How to “Square Up” Photos of Your Art in Photoshop with Free Transform & Liquify is a great article. I hope you’ll take a moment or two to click over to EmptyEasel.com and give it a read.

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes (13 Must Read Articles)

Is the thought of drawing natural looking landscapes nothing short of a nightmare?

Looking for a better way to create realistic landscapes in colored pencil?

I’ve been using colored pencils for fine art for many years, and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever tried to draw are natural looking landscapes. Balancing color, value, hard and soft edges, and all the rest is like juggling plates. Get one thing wrong, and the drawing suffers.

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of things to make drawing a landscape easier, and have narrowed my favorite techniques down to three: using a same-color under drawing (direct drawing,) using an umber under drawing, and using a complementary under drawing. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Over the years, I’ve written a number of articles for this blog and elsewhere dealing with landscapes. So today I’d like to share some of the best articles from here and from EmptyEasel.

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes (13 Must Read Articles)

General Landscape Drawing Tips

How to Draw Realistic Landscape Greens

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - Drawing Realistic Greens

Getting landscape greens right is one of the more difficult parts of drawing a natural looking landscape. For years, my greens either looked neon or all the same.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This article describes two methods for drawing more realistic landscapes with the tools you already have. They’re not the only methods, but they have produced the best results for me.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Draw Landscapes

Looking for overall tips for drawing landscapes with colored pencil? This post is for you!

You’ll also learn about a few common myths about drawing landscapes, and get basic tips on selecting a subject, composing your drawing, and more. A great article if you’re thinking about drawing your first landscape.

Specific Landscape Drawing Tips

How to Draw a Clear Sky with Colored Pencil

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Draw a Clear Blue Sky

What’s a landscape without a sky?

This article walks you step-by-step through the process of drawing a clear, blue sky. Includes tips on color selection, layering, and burnishing for smooth color and value gradations. Basic tips also help you choose the right colors for any type of blue sky.

How to Draw Summer Grass

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Draw Summer Grass

This step-by-step tutorial describes my method of drawing the deep greens of summer. Learn how to use the direct method of drawing to draw natural looking summer landscapes, how to layer colors to create natural looking landscape greens, and more.

How to Draw Fading Summer Grass

Drawing Natural Landscapes 4

Drawing green grass is one thing.

How do you draw grass that’s starting to fade, and shift from the greens of summer to the browns of autumn?

See step-by-step how to combine greens and earth tones to capture the end of summer look for your next landscape drawing.

Drawing Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Draw Autumn Grass

Learn to draw brown autumn grass in eight easy steps. It’s also a great article if you want to add accents of tall grass to your next landscape drawing.

Even if you aren’t planning on drawing an autumn landscape, this demonstration is a good drawing exercise!

How to Draw a Foggy Morning in Colored Pencil

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Draw a Foggy Morning

One of the neatest things about drawing landscapes is the endless variety of atmospheric conditions. Rain. Snow. Storms. Wind.

This one-part tutorial shows you one way to draw a foggy morning. The method uses the texture of the paper and a process of laying down and lifting color to create patches of fog.

Full Length Landscape Drawing Tutorial

How to do a Water Soluble Under Drawing for a Landscape

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Do a Water Soluble Under Drawing

Drawing landscapes with colored pencil can take a long time. One way to speed up the process is by combining water soluble colored pencils with traditional colored pencils.

This post is the first in a series of four posts detailing drawing a landscape using water soluble colored pencils for the under drawing, then finishing with traditional colored pencils.

Other posts in the series are:

Adding Colored Pencil Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing (Part 2)

Advanced Layering Over a Water Soluble Under Drawing (Part 3)

Finishing a Drawing Started with Water Soluble Colored Pencil (Part 4)

A Landscape Drawing Tutorial on EmptyEasel

I’ve also written about drawing natural landscapes for EmptyEasel. In fact, my first two articles many years ago was a step-by-step tutorial showing how I used the umber under drawing method to draw a landscape.

How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Underpainting

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Create an Umber Under Painting

An umber under drawing can be the perfect foundation for a natural looking landscape of any time or in any season.

But how do you get started, and how do you know which colors to use for the under painting? Or doesn’t it matter?

This post includes tips on method and color selection in addition to walking you through the drawing process one step at a time.

Color Glazing a Landscape Painting with Colored Pencils

Drawing Natural Looking Landscapes - How to Glaze Color over an Umber Under Painting

Of course, once the under drawing is finished, you have to add color.

Part 2 of the tutorial walks you through the glazing process, and includes specific information on the colors I used, and tips for keep those greens from getting out of control.

Conclusion

If you’re a dedicated landscape artist, there’s much more about drawing natural looking landscapes on this blog and on EmptyEasel. Search for landscape drawing articles and read to your heart’s content!

These thirteen will get the rest of us started on the road to drawing better landscapes. I hope you enjoy them.

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

When you think of drawing papers, you probably usually think “smooth,” don’t you? As in, the smoother the better. Have you ever considered using colored pencil on sandpaper?

No, not the sandpaper you buy at a hardware store (though you can draw on that if you really want to.) I’m talking about sanded papers made for artists.

Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

The kinds of surfaces suitable for colored pencil are nearly endless. If a surface will accept dry media of any kind, it will work for colored pencil, often with a minimum of preparation.

In the past, I’ve described 3 basics of drawing paper, including the most commonly used papers for colored pencil.

A subsequent article listed 3 non-paper, non-traditional drawing surfaces for colored pencil. One of them was sanded pastel paper.

Popular brands are Ampersand Pastelbord, Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel PaperCanson Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Papers and Boards, and UArt Sanded Pastel Paper.

Most of these papers were created for pastels, which require a lot of tooth. Some oil painters have started using sanded surfaces on a rigid support with beautiful results.

But colored pencil?

On sanded pastel paper?

What is Sanded Pastel Paper?

In short, sanded pastel paper is drawing paper that’s been coated with a gritty surface that looks and feels a lot like ordinary, hardware store sandpaper. The surface texture is measured by something called “grit.” The higher the number, the finer the grit.

800 grit sanded paper has a very fine texture. It’s still a lot coarser than a regular paper, but it’s the best suited for drawing detail.

240 grit paper is very coarse.

TIP: If you’ve never tried sanded pastel papers before, get small sheets or check with the manufacturer. If they offer samples, that’s the best way to try papers.

Tips for Using Colored Pencil on Sandpaper

Great For Layering, Not so Great for Details

Since even the finest grits are still like drawing on sand, they’ll take a lot of layers.

What you won’t be able to do without the use of solvents is draw a high degree of detail. The smaller your drawing, the more difficult it will be to draw detail.

Excellent for Solvent Blending

Because the surface of sanded pastel papers are generally non-absorbent, you can use solvents without worrying about damaging the paper. Rigid supports are best for this, of course, but you can use solvents even on the papers.

Just make sure you use a brush—a stiff bristle is better than a soft brush. The paper will pull cotton balls or cotton swabs to bits.

Try “Painterly”

If you usually draw a lot of detail, try a more painterly approach with sanded pastel papers.

Go Frame-less

The real reason colored pencil drawings are usually framed under glass is to protect the paper from staining, tearing, or punctures.

You don’t have those worries as much with sanded pastel papers. Use a rigid sanded panel and you have no need to frame under glass at all!

Want to Finish Fast?

Then you’ll want to at least give sanded pastel papers a try. You can lay down a lot of color in a hurry, especially if you’re using woodless pencils.

The downside is that the paper may eat your pencils for lunch.

Light over Dark

It is possible to layer light colors over dark and have them show up. The reason is the amount of tooth on even the finest grit sanded art papers. Unless you use solvent (see above), it’s next to impossible to fill the tooth of the paper so much that you can’t add more color.

That means you can add some light highlights at the end of the drawing and they will still show up!

Conclusion

I’ve done only one small drawing on sanded pastel paper so far. I described the drawing process in an article written for EmptyEasel.  Read Using a Sandpaper Surface for a Colored Pencil Drawing here.

But I have three sheets from my original sample still available, and have ordered more. I’m looking forward to working a few landscapes as larger format drawings (the original one was an ACEO).

I encourage you to give it a try, too. It may be exactly the surface you’ve been looking for.

Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil - Sanding

Colored pencils are expensive. Whether your art budget is large or small, it’s important to know how to get the most out of every colored pencil you buy.

But it doesn’t really matter how much you spend for colored pencils: You still want to get every bit of color out of them that you can. Right?

Following are a few tips I’ve found useful.

Or at least interesting.

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil

Turn the Pencil While You Draw

As you use the pencil, turn it in your fingers. The simple act of rotating the pencil every few strokes keeps the pencil from developing a flat edge. You don’t have to sharpen your pencil quite as often and that keeps valuable pigment out of your sharpener and puts it on your paper.

It may take a little bit of concentration to learn this habit if it doesn’t come naturally, but you can get to the point at which you’re turning the pencil every few strokes. That’s what happened to me. It’s now become such an ingrained habit that I don’t remember a time when I drew without turning the pencil.

I even turn my pencil when I write long-hand; even when I write with a pen!

Use the Side of the Pencil

Most of us tend to hold a colored pencil the same way we hold a writing tool. That’s called “normal writing position,” and it’s the pencil grip that’s most comfortable.

Most of the time, it’s also the most productive grip.

Try holding the pencil in a more horizontal position. This allows you to use more of the exposed pigment core. If you turn the pencil in your fingers as you draw, you can also keep the pencil sharp.

I use this grip when laying down color in larger areas. Quite often, I sharpen my pencil to draw or shade small shapes, then move to a larger area to shade with a more horizontal grip. When the pencil develops a sharper point, I go back to smaller areas.

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil - Pencil Grip

This doesn’t totally eliminate sharpening your pencil, but it does allow you to sharpen less frequently.

It’s also a good way to give the muscles in your hands and fingers a little break.

One caution: When you draw with the side of the pencil, you get less pigment into the tooth of the paper. This is good if you’re trying to preserve the tooth of the paper, but it also produces a color layer that shows a lot of paper through the color. It’s ideal for drawing distance, or atmospheric effects such as fog.

It’s not so great for saturated color or high detail.

Don’t Sharpen to a Long Point

Different sharpeners sharpen pencils to different degrees. Some sharpeners produce an exposed pigment core that’s long and tapered.

Other sharpeners produce shorter points.

The yellow pencil in the photo below was sharpened with my old-fashioned mechanical sharpener. I love the sharpener, but it does create too long a point for most Prismacolor pencils.

If you’re using a brand of pencil known to be brittle or breakable (such as Prismacolor), avoid sharpeners that sharpen pencils to a long, tapered point. The points are more likely to break off. Those broken tips are lost to you and resharpening the pencil results in further waste of the pigment core.

The purple pencil shows the point that Prismacolor pencils come with. It’s a bit blunt for most drawing, but it does illustrate a point that will produce less breakage during drawing.

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil - Sharpening

Test different types of sharpeners to find the one or two that work best for you.

Sand Paper 0r Emery Boards

Use a sanding pad, sand paper, or an emery board to restore the point between sharpenings. You can sand a pencil to a very fine point without further sharpening by simply stroking it on a sanded surface. Turn the pencil as you stroke to get a sharp point.

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil - Sanding

You can also create a sharp, angled edge with this method.

Save Pigment Shavings

Of course, you can always save the pigment shavings, then soften them with solvent for a paint-like color that can be “painted” onto the paper.

How to Get the Most Out of Every Colored Pencil - Pencil Shavings

This might also be one solution for broken Prismacolor pencils (if that’s what you use.)

I don’t recommend this for large areas, since it is time consuming, and you can get pretty much the same results by drawing in the traditional way, then blending with solvent.

But it can make for interesting and unusual touches of color if you like to experiment.

Additional Reading

I explain a few more ways to get the most out of every colored pencil in How to Get the Most Possible Use Out of Every Colored Pencil on EmptyEasel.

How do you get the most out of your colored pencils?

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils?

When I started thinking about getting into colored pencils, one question I didn’t pay much attention to was this: Do I need a full set of colored pencils to get started?

I didn’t pay much attention to that because I didn’t think I needed to. My default opinion was to get a full set. In order to do the type of art I wanted to do, I absolutely, positively HAD to buy the full set. It was just the way things were.

Since then, I’ve come to see the error of my youthful ways.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils to Make Great Colored Pencil Art?

So Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils or Not?

The plain and simple truth is that most of us are capable of making great art with as few as one color. Don’t believe me? Ever seen phenomenal graphite and charcoal drawings?

It’s even possible with draw great colored pencil work with only a handful of pencils.

Why Wouldn’t I Want to Get a Full Set of Colored Pencils?

The biggest reason most of us don’t buy full sets is cost. The initial investment can be substantial if you’re interested in higher quality pencils. I just bought a full set of Faber-Castell Polychromos for $161 and change. That was a huge amount of money for me and it took a considerable amount of effort to talk myself into the expense.

However, I strongly recommend you start out with the best tools you can—beginning with pencils and paper—so the only option is to buy smaller sets or get a few pencils as open stock.

You will pay more for each pencil that way, but ten Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils at $1.69 each (Dick Blick’s current price) is a lot easier on the budget than that full set.

And if you want to try more than one kind of pencil, buy five or six of the types you most want to try. If you like them, great! But if they don’t meet expectations, you don’t have a full set lying around unused and big hole in your finances.

But What Can I Do With Just a Few Pencils?

You might be surprised! Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

Sketching—Even before I started using colored pencils exclusively, I used them for sketching. Whether from life, from photos, or from memory, sketching is a great way to practice drawing, and colored pencils are great for sketching.

This sketch is only one color.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils - White Leg

I used two colors for this sketch.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils - Concentration

Even if your colors don’t match your subject, they can make for fun and instructive sketching. I sketched this foal with blue pencils for a long-since forgotten reason, but it turned out delightfully well.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils - Foal Study

Plein Aire Drawing—Drawing on location is made-to-order for working with only a few pencils. My field kit doesn’t contain a full set of anything except for Koh-I-Nor woodless and there are only 24 colors in that set.

Yet with layering of colors and close attention to value, it is possible to draw anything.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils - Leaf Study

Portraits & Other Finished Drawings—You can even do finished work with only a few colored pencils.

One of the illustrations in the post on how color theory influences art is a gray, rainy landscape. I used a very limited palette combined with gray paper to convey the look of that landscape.

And this portrait was drawn with no more than a dozen pencils, and probably not that many.

Do I Need a Full Set of Colored Pencils - Feya

So whenever someone considering working with colored pencils asks me, “Do I need a full set of colored pencils?”, I now tell them they don’t. The truth is that you just don’t need every color in the rainbow to make great colored art.

Just a few pencils can serve you quite well.

Want to See How to Draw a Dog with a Limited Palette?

Sometime ago, I wrote on the subject of drawing with a limited palette for EmptyEasel. In this two-part series, I demonstrated how to do a limited palette colored pencil drawing of Toy Poodle. The series includes tips on using impressed lines to create details and how to correct mistakes.

If you’re interested in learning more about drawing with a limited palette, here are the links to those articles.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

I don’t spend a lot of time checking blog statistics. Those kinds of numbers can be an addictive habit for me, and not a very productive one.

But I do track things like search engine terms (the words and phrases people use that lead them to the blog), and the places they come from. That information is helpful in developing new content and updating old.

I mention those things only because of the topic for today’s post and this week’s article on EmptyEasel. Namely, repeated inquiries asking the same essential question: what are the disadvantages of drawing.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing?

Some version of that search term appears regularly on the list of most used search terms. Today (Tuesday, April 11), seventeen of the most frequently used search terms over the last 30 days use the words “advantages” or “disadvantages.” One form of the question is the second most frequently used search term.

Some of the searches are specific. Disadvantages of drawing lines, sketches, or still life drawings, for example.

Others are much more general. It all leads to the same conclusion: A lot of readers wanting to know why they should draw.

So lets take a look at some of the questions being asked.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing? The Questions

Please keep in mind that the answers I’m about to share are my personal opinion. You may very well see other disadvantages to drawing. Indeed, you may think my answers are pretty flimsy! So be it! Drawing—and all art—is very subjective and personal.

Having said that, let me jump into the fray.

1: Disadvantages of the Drawing Process

This question appeared a couple of times in different forms. The phrase used here was the second-most often used key word phrase over the last few weeks.

I find no easy answer to this question beyond the matter of time. It quite simply takes a long time to do a complex and detailed drawing, even if you use modern shortcuts. Some of the line drawings for my large works have taken a couple of weeks to work out. Do enough revisions of the same subject and it can get tiring.

And frustrating.

Then there’s the shading, usually with further fine tuning.

If your end goal is the drawing itself, that’s one thing. But if the drawing is only the first step in the process, it’s quite another matter.

2: Disadvantages of Line Drawing

There is something almost magical about setting up an easel, putting a canvas or paper on it, and just producing a finished piece without going through all the preliminaries.

What are the Disadvantages of Drawing Line Drawings

For this type of artist, taking time to do a line drawing not only takes valuable time away from painting, but it may even quench the creative fires. By the time they’ve worked through a line drawing—even a simple one—there’s no longer a desire do the “real piece of art.”

I can understand that, though my empathy comes by way of writing. My second love is writing stories, but I’ve discovered that my brain thinks the story has been written when the story summary is finished. I can’t tell you how many fully developed summaries have gone no further.

If you’re that type of artist, then line drawing may indeed be a disadvantage.

3: Disadvantages to Sketching

To my way of thinking, the primary disadvantages to sketching are all personal—the excuses I give myself for not sketching. In my case, they are:

  • I don’t want to take the time
  • There are too many paid and therefore “more important” pieces to work on
  • I don’t know what to draw or don’t want to draw whatever happens to be nearby
  • It doesn’t contribute directly to my current project (whatever that project may be)

I still struggle with those “disadvantages”, but I also try to sketch frequently (I can’t yet say “regularly”.)

4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Drawing

I wrote specifically on this subject for EmptyEasel this week.

You see, once I got started, my thoughts on the subject went in several different directions. For a few more of those ideas, read What are the Advantages (or Disadvantages) of Drawing?

Whether or not I’ve answered the questions posed above I cannot at present say. Since some variation of the term appears regularly on the list of most popular search terms, it’s entirely likely that some of you also have thoughts on the subject. If so, I invite you to share them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

So, what are the disadvantages of drawing for you?

Blending Colored Pencil with Painting Solvents

Last week’s cornerstone article was a tutorial showing how I blended colors in a background with rubbing alcohol. In that post, I mentioned that the method also worked for other solvents, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about blending colored pencil with painting solvents.

Blending Colored Pencil with Painting Solvents

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t often blend colored pencils with solvents of any kind. I much prefer the look of a drawing when the blending has been accomplished by layering.

Read more about dry blending.

But there are times when blending with a solvent of some kind is the prudent thing to do. Maybe I’m short of time or the effect I want can be accomplished no other way.

Since I began my artistic career as an oil painter, it was natural to try my painting solvents for blending colored pencil work. Do you know what? They really do work!

The Painting Solvents I Use and Why

The two painting solvents I use most often with colored pencil are turpentine and odorless paint thinner. At the moment, I have plenty of turpentine (I used to buy it by the quart when I was painting), so that’s what I use.

I use turpentine because after years of using it with oil painting, I know how it behaves. I know what to expect and am comfortable with it.

It also is capable of producing very richly saturated color if there’s plenty of color on the paper when I blend. Turpentine breaks down the binder so well that colors become almost liquefied and blend together much like paint does.

But you….

Have to have a lot of color on the paper, and…

Let the drawing dry thoroughly before adding more color. I usually let my drawings sit over night.

Odorless mineral spirits are the same as odorless paint thinner. Don’t be fooled, though. Just because a solvent is odorless doesn’t mean its non-toxic. Keep containers closed and sealed when not in use.

In fact, a little painting solvent goes a long way, so consider buying small bottles.

Additional Reading

This is EmptyEasel link article day, so I’ll close with a link to an article I wrote some time ago: How to “Paint” with Colored Pencils and Turpentine.

Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask Your Favorite Artists

Have you ever looked at the work of another artist and thought, “Man! I wish I could ask them a couple of questions”? I’m sure you have because I have and I’m just not all that unique.

We all see the work of people who are doing what we want to do and some questions come to mind with no effort at all.

How did you get started?

How did you get where you are today?

What are you doing that would help me?

How did you draw that?

I’m sure other questions will come to your mind, too.

The best way to learn is by studying the work of someone who is already successfully doing what you want to do; studying their methods and tools. Asking questions.

So this week, I thought I’d answer a few of those kinds of questions for those of you who are doing what I just suggested (studying methods) but maybe haven’t quite gotten to the point of asking questions.

Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask Your Favorite Artists

How did you get started?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. The earliest drawing on paper that I still have was drawn when I was 4-1/2 but I know I was drawing before that. Those really early drawings didn’t survive, though, because they were usually drawn in places where they shouldn’t have been. On a wall for example.

I remember my mother tearing open brown grocery bags so I could draw on them with crayons. One drawing in particular that lingers in my memory was a woodland scene. Trees (roots and all). A stream. Deer and other animals. I’ve asked Mom on more than one occasion if she still has that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did (she saves everything!), but she says not.

I got started as a portrait artist in high school, when a school friend asked me to paint a picture of her horse. She does still have that, along with all the other portraits I painted for her.

How did you get where you are today?

The plain, simple truth is that I started a new painting for every painting I finished. That’s it.

Oh, I set goals and upgraded my tools (better brushes, better oils, better pencils, canvas, and paper), and I read books and studied other artists. But what really got me from that first portrait to the current drawing was just not giving up.

Or rather, picking up art one more time than I gave it up.

Because there were times when I didn’t paint at all. As it turns out, that’s part of the process, too. At least it has been for me.

What are you doing that would help me?

Always learning. If you continue learning—whether you learn new mediums or learn new ways of using the same medium—you’ll always advance. Your work will get better. You’ll become more proficient.

Yeah, I know. I never liked hearing that when I was the one asking the questions. I was always looking for quick fix or short cut that would catapult me forward.

But you know what? There are no such quick fixes or short cuts. Not if you really want to improve your art and always enjoy it.

How Did You Draw That?

The answer to that is what this blog is all about. I’ve picked up so many tips, techniques, and tools over the years, that I can’t answer this question in a paragraph or two, even if you asked it about a specific drawing. Just chalk it all up to years and years of drawing, looking for better ways to do things, and striving to make each drawing better than the previous one.

You know what? You’ll find the same is true for you if you draw long enough!

Two Other Questions You ALWAYS Want to Ask Other Artists

I answered two more questions in this week’s EmptyEasel article, Two Questions You ALWAYS Want to Ask Other Artists. What are those questions?

What inspires me?

How do I begin a project?

You can all about that on EmptyEasel.

So did I answer one of your questions? If not, go ahead and ask your question in the comments. That’s one sure way to get an answer!

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

Life rarely proceeds without interruption from beginning to end. For the vast majority of us, there comes a time when we have to change course in life. Changing course in life as an artist is almost as certain, in fact, as death and taxes.

I’ve been an oil painter for most of my artistic life. I’ve also been painting portraits of horses and other animals most of that time. Had you asked me just three years ago what I’d be doing the rest of my life, I would have told you I’d be painting oil portraits of horses.

Point of fact, whenever I asked when I’d retire from painting portraits, my usual response was “when I fall face first in my palette!”

In other words, until I drew my last breath.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist Brushes

How times change.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

It’s been a long couple of years creatively. I’ve written about the challenges of creative silence on EmptyEasel and here, so won’t go into all of that again. But I can say that it was one of the signals that my artistic course in life was about to change. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to stay on course with anything when everything shuts down.

As it turns out, though, creative stillness was a good thing. The slowing—nee, ceasing—of forward momentum on a path that was no longer the right path.

I’d come to see creative stillness as more of a blessing than curse long before it was over. Now, I see that it was no curse at all. Merely a redirection.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

I was also troubled by a lack of joy in the creative process—what others often refer to as passion. There simply was none. Everything I did was a labor and most of the time, there was little or no love involved. I painted because I had to. People had paid me for portraits, so I painted them.

But in all honesty, it was simply easier not to paint at all.

It’s more difficult to see the loss of joy in the creative process as a blessing because I still wrestle with it, sometimes on a daily basis.

But I’m surprised by glimmers of joy more and more often with every step along this new path. So it, too, has been good for me in the long run.

5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life

This week’s article on EmptyEasel digs deeper into how this change of course happened with me, including five signs you should look for if you suspect you may be facing a course correction. Read 5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life on EmptyEasel.

And if you find yourself mired in any of these things or anything similar, I encourage you to be patient and be encouraged. Not so long ago, I thought my life as an artist was over. I know today that wasn’t a accurate assessment of the situation, thank the LORD.

Maybe you’re simply not aware of the larger picture yet, and what’s really happening is that you’re being positioned for changing course in your life as an artist.

3 Ways to Remove Old Stains from Good Drawing Paper

Stains on your good drawing paper? Never fear! Stains don’t have to be the end of the world, even if they’re old and dried into the paper.

Some time ago I wrote about what to do if you accidentally spill something on your drawing surface. I came up with some techniques for removing fresh stains from watercolor paper and another on using bleach as a last resort. Both are both good articles if you need to simply minimize the damage caused by a spill.

3 Ways to Remove Old Stains from Good Drawing Paper

The best tip for removing fresh stains is to quickly blot the stain with a damp paper towel. Pick up as much of the stain as you can, then blot the paper dry. If you’re fast enough, you’re likely to be able to use the paper once it dries.

But what if the stain is old? What if it’s dried into the paper? Is there any hope for that sheet of paper, or is it good only for cropping or scrapping?

I’m here to tell you there are ways to remove old stains from good drawing paper; it really isn’t the end of the world!

In this week’s article on EmptyEasel, I’ll tell you what I did—what worked and what didn’t—when I found old stains on a brand new sheet of drawing paper. Read 3 Ways to Remove Old Stains from Good Drawing Paper on EmptyEasel.