Registration Now Open for “Cats!” Online Class

Three-Lesson Class with Carla Sonheim
Drawing, Watercolor, Mixed Media • $25

Class Dates: June 16-20, 2015



A 3-Lesson, “bite-sized” class!!

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Cat lovers unite!

In this drawing and painting class you will become the cat lady (or gentleman!) you never-wanted-but-secretly-DO-want to be, with cats, cats, and more cats in your home and sketchbooks.

We will create a menagerie of imaginary cats with watercolors, markers, acrylics, and fabric! Each lesson includes a short drawing assignment and a main mixed-media lesson. Watching of cat videos optional.

Join me!

(Of course dog lovers are welcome to join, too! But I am working on a “dog” class for Fall 2015, too.)

Your itinerary:

Lesson 1: Watercolor & Imagination
layered watercolor cat “blob” paintings & a gaggle of kitties from imagination
Tuesday, June 16th


Lesson 2: Markers & Life
loose, expressive cats and drawing from photos and life
Wednesday, June 17th




Lesson 3: Acrylics & Fabric
the quickest acrylic paintings you’ll ever make, and a “bonus” cat pillow lesson
Friday, June 19th


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Join this fun class today! Class begins Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

Click HERE for more info.


Sonheim Studio Storage Solution (SSSS)


I have the most gorgeous storage system that I wanted to share with you. But first, the back story: I’m hopelessly unorganized with my “stuff.”


After 20 years of this chaos, my husband, Steve, swooped in to help, and for Christmas 2013 he got “me” an art storage system!

He started with these IKEA Ivar shelves (


He bought them not knowing exactly what the “bin” solution would be, and set me to work trying to find low, shallow baskets. I searched all over for wicker baskets or plastic bins but found nothing that seemed right. Finally, Steve suggested we have them made out of wood. He designed the following box and we found a carpenter on Craigslist to make them for us!


I loved that they were wood, solid and not see-through, which looks clean and uncluttered. I can hide the chaos within, and still know where everything is.


These look like regular drawers, but they are actually boxes that can be placed anywhere, on the floor, or my desk to rummage through, and then easily put back in place.


I use the separate drawers for storage: paints, markers, brushes, smaller blank canvasses, Gelli® Plate and monotype supplies, plus three drawers of collage material. (I find I have to limit myself to three collage drawers; otherwise the whole wall would be “collage.”) I have a Year of the Spark drawer, a Year of the Fairy Tale, etc.

It’s also the place to house finished or in-process works:


Steve’s System definitely keeps my studio looking more presentable.


The second photo from the top? The one that’s meant to be a “before” photo? That’s my mess that was moved out of the way so we could take the photos.


Have a wonderful day!

PS – Please share any storage solutions you have found helpful!

#100daysofcats Instagram Challenge Update



Recently I wrote about The 100 Day Project and that I had joined in with the intent of posting 100 days of cat drawings on Instagram. I’ve been doing this for three weeks now and wanted to let you know how it is going.

Well… I haven’t missed a day! The daily challenge is working in that it suits my personality to have a mini deadline, and I’m getting cats up and online each day!

On the other hand, the commitment to post has produced some “creative thinking” as to what constitutes a cat “drawing.” I had intended to draw 100 cats in a certain style, so that at the end I would have a series of 100 cat drawings kind of like this:


Instead I’m finding that I want to move on to other media already, such as my new iPad:



Or acrylics:


And, I’m guilty of “cheating” to complete my commitment. For example, one day I asked Liam’s 5-year-old cousin, Olivia, to draw a cat for me:


So what have I learned so far? That I have a hard time sticking to one media apparently. ;)

But the main thing I’ve learned is that I want to take better care when I take photos or scan my cats! Bad photos (taken quickly, when trying to make a deadline) just don’t look very nice (see the first one especially):


So how is your 100 Day Project going? Are you still doing it? Please post your hashtag and instagram name and I will follow you!

Repeat Class: “The Joy of Collage” with Lynn Whipple

Hello! Please join Lynn Whipple for her online class, “The Joy of Collage,” beginning June 9th! This is a repeat session of her super popular class from summer 2014.


“The Joy of Collage”
Mixed-Media, Collage
2-Week Class; 6 Lessons Total

REPEAT Class Session: June 9-20, 2015

A great BIG Welcome to the Joy of Collage!

I would be honored to share with you all of my favorite collage techniques as well as a handful of time-tested special tricks for making a great finished work of art. My greatest hope is that you will have fun and enjoy the process.

We will explore great ways to create fresh collages with a focus on building a story and surface. I will show you how to age your collage for a unifying look and we will incorporate drawing, painting, smudging, stamping and a little poetic thing I like to call … dot dot dot.

My overall philosophy is one of freedom, play, exploration and most of all FUN!!!!!! This class is all about YOU, and using your voice to make the things that make your heart sing!

One of my favorite things in my in-person workshops is the show-and-tell and positive feedback session at the end of each class. I love hearing what each artist has to say about what they learned and how their pieces developed! Happy accidents and revelations are the best! I am so glad we will be able to learn from each other this way in this online format.

xoxo lynn



You will complete two collage paintings.

Lesson 1: Glue & Trust
My “go to” gluing technique. This “wet” way of putting down our papers is what I use every day. This is where we play fast and loose with your found images and papers! Let ’em fly!

Lesson 2: Aging & Editing with Paint
We will take acrylic paint and water it down to make a wash and quickly cover your page, then wipe it off, leaving just the amount that feels right to you! It will shift the color slightly and give it beautiful antique feeling. Next, we will cover up some of our image and collage with acrylic paint. We can totally create new shapes and play with composition here…..this is where Ninnies were born!!

Lesson 3: Smudging & Words
My favorite thing is to use a #3 pencil and go over the great layers that may now be covered with paint, an amazing, yet subtle thing happens and you start to move things forward and backwards. Then we will chose a few choice words that are a great graphic design element as well as a storytelling tool.

Lesson 4: Dot Dot Dot
OH YEAH!! now to the dot dot dot tool!! It is a simple sewing wheel used in marking patterns, when rolled in paint, makes a lovely poetic line that really gives a detail that will pull your viewer in.

Lesson 5: Begin Second Collage Painting
We’ll begin a second collage piece using the same techniques but taking it in a totally different direction.

Lesson 6: The Finish!
We’ll finish up our second collage and spend a few moments talking about finishing your work so it is ready to hang. Sometimes something as simple as detail to the edges of a piece will give it a framed feeling that looks great!

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Cost is $85. To sign up or for more information, click HERE. (And if you previously have taken The Joy of Collage from Lynn and would like to join the fun, email me at carla[at] and I can add you to the class list. Thank you!)

Q: What is the Highest Quality Sketchbook for Art Journaling?


Recently I got this question in my inbox:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.47.34 PM

I replied that I love to watercolor on a hot-press (smooth) paper, so I’ve found Fabriano Artistico 140# hot press to work well… however, I haven’t found a sketchbook that has quite this quality… many of my friends (like Teesha Moore) make their own journals from the above paper, but I’ve found this isn’t the solution that works well for me and my impatient personality. ;)

For sketchbooks, I’ve recently been using a Canson Mixed-Media spiral bound; it’s inexpensive and takes watercolor, but probably not as beautifully as others out there do…


I asked Eleanore if she minded if I posed her question here…  I think feedback from other mixed-media artists will be way more helpful than mine!

Do you have a suggestion for Eleanore? Thank you!

Birthday Flowers



I hope you are well today!

Life is busy here. We have been talking with several new artists who might teach for us this year, and also keeping up with the current class schedule (three new classes coming up!)… in addition, we also have a new website in the works, which will allow students just log in to our website with their own password and access all of their classes at once.

This new website has been in process for over a year! But Steve and I were talking about it last night and agreed that we were glad it has taken this long, as we are much better able now — a year later — to make good decisions about what features will most benefit our customers.

The same might be said about “life!”

Steve and I both had birthdays last week, and are now both in our 50s. (Steve turned 50, I’m 52.) We are finding that we are much better able to make good decisions about our lives and business, as we “know” ourselves better than even a few years ago.

A question for those of you past 50: Have you found this to be true for you, too?

Have a wonderful week!

P.S. Above is a drawing made to music a la one of Lynn Whipple’s assignments in the Year of the Spark class, combined with some painted packing tape that was part of my most recent Spark lesson.

Meet the Artists! (A Conversational Q&A)

“Mental Meanderings” by Karine Swenson. Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.

Karine_PortraitOver the next few months I want to introduce you to our wonderful teaching artists in a bit more depth! And, since Karine Swenson is teaching the next class on finding your voice through the “Elements” of painting, I thought I’d begin with her today!

(Then when you receive instruction and feedback in a class, you can know who you are learning from! For details about Karine’s upcoming class, which begins May 12, click HERE!)

Karine lives in the desert of Joshua Tree, and the desert environment is a big influence on both her subjects and her appreciation for color.3022190_orig
“Sunlit Jack.” Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches.

Let’s hop right in!

6 Questions about Artistic Process

1. What was your first artistic medium? (As a child or an adult)
I think my first artistic medium was crayons, as a kid. But that was so long ago! Am I supposed to remember that? ;) As an adult, my first medium was clay.

I really thought I was going to be a sculptor. . . I still might!

2. What are your favorite art tools/supplies?
My favorite tools are probably brushes. Maybe charcoal. Maybe pencil. Or ball point pen. I love pastel, too.

My favorite paint is oil. And watercolor, and gouache. I love whatever I have to work with. But not acrylic for some reason!

3. What is the greatest challenge of being an artist?
The greatest challenge of being an artist is balancing the business with the creative side; making sure that I devote enough time to art-making without letting the business lapse. I also find it important and not always easy to keep the business thoughts outside of the studio.

Never wonder, “Will this sell?” when making art.

4. What is your favorite color?
My favorite colors are probably purple and green. And orange. And red, yellow, cerulean, raw sienna and ultramarine. But all time favorites are purple and green. I like all colors.

“Little Elephant” Journal page

5. What is the title of your life in one sentence?
Oh that’s a tough one. It’s not over yet!

Maybe “Work in Progress”

“Nothing in Common.” Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches.

6. How do you use your personal art journal?

Working in my journal has been really good for my art practice. It gives me a format for experimentation and play. Some of my journal pages led directly to a whole new series of paintings.

I can “say” things I wouldn’t say if I knew people were looking at it or reading it.

Since I actively show and sell my work, it’s good for me to have a private place to make art that’s just for me.

“Quail” Journal page.

And here is a short video interview with Karine!

Meet Artist Karine Swenson from Silly U on Vimeo.


Thanks, Karine!

An Instagram Challenge: 100 Days of Cats (#100daysofcats)

Join me for 100 days of _______ ?


Hi Everyone!

Surfing the internet can sometimes waste oodles of time, but it also can bring just the inspiration needed!

Last week I was reading a post on a friend’s Facebook page, and followed THIS link… which led me to The 100 Day Project by Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd:

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 8.38.05 PM

This project encourages artists (or anyone) to choose an activity to do every day for 100 days and then document it and share it on Instagram with the #The100DayProject hashtag.

Instagram challenges are great because they keep everyone accountable. The rule of posting once a day is just flexible enough to remember to do it, and structured enough to make it a habit. Hopefully!


Participants can choose their own subject; I chose cats because they have recently been littering my sketchbook in a big way. Plus, they power the internet, don’t they?

The 100 days has begun, and I’ve committed. Join me? You can choose any topic or medium you’ve ever wanted to explore. And please, comment and tell me whatever you decide! Or even if you can’t decide.

Cats have made their mark on my Instagram so far, check them out:


For Cat Eyes Only


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This post is adapted from For Your Eyes Only (Lesson 12 in Drawing Lab)


Even though I love drawing stylized animals the most, I believe drawing from life as much as possible makes my stylized work more “authentic.”

If you want to practice drawing realistically, eyes are a fantastic place to start.

What are some of the most fascinating eyes out there? Cat eyes! Almond-shaped, other-worldly and appearing to gaze beyond mere human experience.

Assignment: Draw 4 Variations of a Cat Eye

We are going to draw four different cat-eyes, the first one using only pencil, the second with pen and ink, the third with vine charcoal, and the fourth in color, using colored pencil.

Your sketchbook
Kneaded rubber eraser
Felt tip pen
Vine charcoal
Small set of colored pencils


1. With your pencil, draw a grid with four rectangles and lightly sketch the basic shape of the cat-eye in each box. Try to make them all the same size, and as accurate as you can (though you can adjust as you go, so there is no need to spend too much time erasing at this point)! I’ve worked small; the outer edge of the frame is about 5.5 inches.


2. In the first box, use your pencil for shading and cross-hatching and building up value (lights and darks). Keep your eraser handy and use it to pull out highlights. Reference your photo often!

3. Repeat the above step for the three other eyes, now using pen, vine charcoal, and colored pencils. Look at the all subtle variations in the iris. Be as detailed as you like.


4. This is a chance to play around with different mediums and let your intuition guide you. The assignment should take no more than a half hour total; try to let go of perfection and just do your best!

Taking it Further:
Once you practice drawing realistic eyes, drawing stylized ones will become even more fun:


Have a wonderful day!


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