Bring Characters to Life with a New Class from Joe Rosshirt!

From Sketchbook to Story: Bringing Characters to Life
Teacher: Joe Rosshirt

Looking through old sketchbooks is my favorite way to break a  creative block and it is here that I often find little nuggets of gold: rough characters, doodles and even blobs that can become the start of something new. In this class we will use those starts as stepping stones to create a narrative that can develop into a series of paintings, comic strip, picture book, graphic novel, you name it! 

But no worries if you don’t have extensive sketchbooks — we will start the course with some sketching techniques to get you started. Then we will learn ways to simplify and pose characters so they can be drawn again and again, work on techniques in ideation, and then move step by step towards a story. By the end of this class you will have at least one final illustration and, I hope, lots of fun getting there!


Here are some of my illustrations!


Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Finding Your Character
In this lesson we will learn some sketchbooking techniques and pick a character you would like to develop further. We will then break down this character into simple shapes and play with proportions.

Lesson 2 – Posing Your Character
We will bring volume to the simple shapes we broke down and explore how to use these shapes to create a variety of poses. 

Lesson 3 – Color Studies & Shading
In this lesson we will clean up our character design, experiment with color and create a small completed watercolor piece.

Lesson 4 – Mind Mapping & Thumbnails
Today we’ll do a mind-mapping technique to help us think outside of the box and break away from the first idea.

Lesson 5 – Final sketches
We’ll clean up our thumbnails and develop finalized sketches to help inform the story of our final piece. 

Lesson 6 – Final Piece
Create a final narrative illustration with watercolor and colored pencils.


Nuts & Bolts 

– The videos for this class are pre-recorded and will be released on the following time table:

Lesson 1 – Tuesday, November 9
Lesson 2 – Wednesday, November 10
Lesson 3 – Friday, November 12

Lesson 4 – Tuesday, November 16
Lesson 5 – Wednesday, November 17
Lesson 6 – Friday, November 19

For more information and to sign up, click HERE!

What is a Good Beginning Class?

Sometimes I receive emails from people new to our site saying they are complete beginners, and which painting or drawing class would be the best to start with.

This is always a hard question to answer, as we are different from many art websites in that we don’t distinguish classes as “beginner” or “advanced” really… almost all classes are suitable for both beginners and accomplished painters alike!

We like to think of it this way:

Imagine going to a movie about Mozart’s life with a friend who knows a lot about Mozart, whereas you know next to nothing. You both go to and enjoy the same movie but for different reasons… you will enjoy learning about his life and career, while your Mozart-knowledgable friend will know the broad strokes already perhaps, but appreciate some of the inside jokes, smaller details, and overall “reminder” of why they love Mozart in the first place. Both “levels” enjoy the movie :).

So I usually ask a few questions to help narrow down which classes to take:

• What are you interested in drawing painting? Abstract? Animals? People? Nature?
• Do you know what media you would like to try? Watercolor, acrylics, mixed media, collage, pencil? 
• Can you list three classes that look most fun to you, and send them to me? Then perhaps we can narrow down a first class!

If you would like help deciding on a class for you, please do email me and I will try to help!

Art Journaling with Pam Garrison!

Art Journaling with Pam Garrison is now open for registration!

Class Dates: October 19-29, 2021

In this class we will create a one-of-a-kind art journal from watercolor and mixed papers. It’s made from a simple, single signature that we’ll hand bind. It’s the perfect place for art play and exploration; an ever-evolving home for your ideas and artistic creations.

We’ll begin by jump-starting your pages and addressing the blank page. Next I’ll show you a simple way to fold and bind your book that you can use to make more journals of any size. We will spend time with watercolors, acrylic painting, sumi ink, dip pen, collage, lettering and more. You’ll leave the class with your own art journal that you can grab and add to as inspiration hits, and I’m imagining the desire (and knowledge) to make so many more one-of-a-kind art journals!

Making books and working in them is a part of my daily art life, and I can’t imagine my art practice without them! In this class we will make a big beautiful art journal filled with possibility and fun where anything goes. This class is for anyone…. art journaling is a perfect compliment to any  type of art practice!

I can’t wait to art journal with you!



Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Gather Our Papers
Tear to size. Prepare 5-10 with paint and cut and shape edges while unbound.

Lesson 2 – Binding
We will order our pages and design our art journals, then create a binding template and bind our books using a simple pamphlet stitch.

Lesson 3 _ Pen Play
We’ll begin to play on the pages! I’ll demonstrate how I respond to the randomly prepared pages and discuss how I approach working in art journals. Including dip pen and ink and miscellaneous black pens, markers and colored pencils.

Lesson 4 – Wet Media
We’ll continue to play on our pages adding “wet media” like water color paint and acrylics. We’ll respond to previous marks and discuss working in no particular order.

Lesson 5 – Addressing the Blank Page
There is no need to fear the blank page or feel like you need to “know where it’s going” nor “finish the page”. We’ll use reference materials as inspiration and collage elements.

Lesson 6 – The Cover
I’ll demo approaching the paper cover spread using sumi ink and brush and acrylic paint and share my color palette formation.


– The videos for this class are pre-recorded and will be released on the following time table:

Lesson 1 – Tuesday, October 19
Lesson 2 – Wednesday, October 20
Lesson 3 – Friday, October 22

Lesson 4 – Tuesday, October 26
Lesson 5 – Wednesday, October 27
Lesson 6 – Friday, October 29

Click HERE for details and to sign up!

A NEW Class with Henrik Drescher!

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are doing well… today and always!

When making art, I am always looking for projects and exercises that allow me to get out of my own way in order to keep my work fresh, spontaneous, and “mine.” And this last month I have been working on a “Seeded Notebook” which is a project created by one of my favorite illustrators, Henrik Drescher, to help us do that. 

We recently filmed a class with Henrik and I started my book the day after he left. I have worked on it slowly… there is no pressure to rush through these pages… I add something, take something away, cover things over a period of days or weeks. Henrik feels that his artwork is never finished (unless it is published or sold), and that simple idea — that any given piece is always in process — has really freed me up to just try stuff!

Henrik describes a Seeded Notebook like this: Imagine someone takes all your work, mixes it up in a blender and then serves it to you and says: “Look at that, look at how these two things go together, look at these new possibilities!” For him, this is literally how he comes up with new ideas. The process is random, but it is all based on your own art, and I found it to be a great way to break me out of my normal style and habits, and it was so fun! 

Here is a page from my Seeded Notebook:

Henrik Drescher is someone I have always been inspired by and we were honored to have him here to film this new class. He has produced 50+ illustrated books, including “The Boy Who Ate Around,” which was chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 1994 (and was our son Christer’s favorite book as a six-year old!).

Henrik does everything from children’s books to editorial illustration to painting, and has lived all over the world (check out: China Days). Here are a few of Henrik’s works that I just love (and you can see more at his website HERE).

Just a few of his children’s books!

I know I always says this but I hope you can join us for Seeded Notebook, this new class with Henrik Drescher!!


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New Class begins June 8th
Seeded Notebook with Henrik Drescher
6 Lessons • On sale for $72.25

In this class we’re going to build a ‘Seeded’ Notebook,’ which is a handmade book
that you create by using your own drawings and flotsam and jetsam that you collect.
We start with large sheets of randomly collaged paper, cut them up, bind them and then “work into”
each spread with mixed media. The result is random, fun, and magical —and will reveal
a fresh way to see your own work. For Henrik, this process is at the heart of all his new projects and books.
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Anita Has a NEW Drawing Workshop!

Drawing Workshop
Instructor: Anita Lehmann
Class Dates: May 4-14, 2021
6 Lessons • on sale for $72.25


From Anita, Class Description:

I love to draw!

Drawing is a part of everything I do as an artist and in this class we will work on slowing down,  seeing more deeply and developing  confidence. We will practice some fundamental depictive techniques as well as an evocative and personal approach to drawing. We will endeavor to create honest drawings by truly drawing what you see, not what you think you see. All you need are some pencils, some charcoal, some paper and a willingness to have fun!

I believe drawing is about attempting something beyond language and beyond representation; it is a way to experience life. It is my sincere hope these lessons will give you surety in your drawing practice… and I hope you can join me!


Check out the quick video about the class below!


From the Depictive..

… to the Evocative..

… This is the drawing class I always wanted! Anita deftly gives us the technical bits while leading us through to expressive interpretations… join us for this deep dive into drawing with Anita! — Carla


Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Tuesday, May 4
Lesson 2 – Wednesday, May 5
Lesson3 – Friday, May 7

Lesson 4 – Tuesday, May 11
Lesson 5 – Wednesday, May 12
Lesson 6 – Friday, May 13


Week 1
Lesson 1 – Slowing Down
We will start with ‘upside down’ and blind contour drawing processes to unlock the brain to a new awareness and shift to your brain’s right side, while defining edges, size, relationships, and angles of what you see (not what you think you see).

Lesson 2 – True Horizontal + True Vertical
In today’s exercises we will use a directed straight line when exploring. We’ll start with tracing paper, another wonderful tool in discovering shape, size, and relationships. Then we will find the True Horizontals and Verticals from two different images and find the internal thrust of individual elements within the forms to create several diagrammatic drawings. The result will be a structure that is a strong, accurate foundation.

Lesson 3 – Don’t Draw the Monkey
“Don’t draw the Monkey” is a play on words, of course. When I concentrate on the shapes that surround the monkey shape, voila, the monkey appears all on its own. The “negative” shapes are truthful and very right-brained; they cannot be named and identified, which is such an important tool in drawing and seeing. In this lesson we will also touch on the underlying geometry of the individual elements of our still life.

Week 2
Lesson 4 – About that Sphere: Volume + LIght
In this exercise we will identify the light form qualities: core shadow, half tone, cast shadow, reflected light, highlight. The assignment will be to create a vine charcoal and a graphite drawing of a sphere with nuance and beauty. 

Lesson 5 Still Life: The Depictive
Let’s put all these concepts together: Line, Shape, Volume and Light and continue the process that creates honest drawings, truly drawing ‘what I see, not what I think I see.’ We will draw from a still life and work by describing/depicting by measuring, correcting, searching, and exploring with line.

Lesson 6 – Still Life: The Evocative
Think of the Evocative drawing process as putting oneself into the subject, beyond the Depictive. We will study a subject and ask: What is the subject saying to me and what am I saying back to the subject? The process is emotive. The finished drawing may be simple or complicated but always meaningful and personal.

For more information and to sign up, click HERE.

Happy April… and, FLOWERS!

Hi everyone! I wanted to post the contents of my recent newsletter here, too… here it is! You can subscribe by clicking this link if you would like to receive it! I send 2-3 a month.

I hope you have a wonderful day. xoxo




Hi everyone,

Sending love to you this sunny Spring day in Seattle!


The above two images were created for an assignment we received from inspiring and prolific artist Pam Garrison, who was the guest artist this month for our yearlong class… please check out her instagram to see her beautiful work! Below is my first attempt at finding flowers “a la Pam”:

And these next drawings were created during the Zoom portion of the class, where together we drew “fast blind contours” of a bouquet flowers, without worrying about composition (since we didn’t look at the paper at all). I love drawing this way and the results remind me that perfection in drawing is NOT necessary to make compelling drawings!

And seeing these flowers together now, I’m struck by how influenced I’ve been by both Lynn Whipple and Cat Bennett…  and I’m so grateful to them (and all teachers everywhere) for generously sharing their ideas and processes. 

Last month’s live ZOOM class was really fun… If you missed it, we will be running it again!

This month’s featured class is Y is for Yellow, my yearlong class from 2016. There are 26 drawing lessons and 10 mixed-media lessons. It was one of our most popular classes… if you missed it for some reason, now might be a great time to pick it up!

As always, thank you for being a newsletter subscriber… Steve and I appreciate you so much!

Have a wonderful month!


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Y is for Yellow with Carla Sonheim
26 Lessons • On sale for $49.50

In this class we will march through the alphabet as a fun way to move through our lessons (“P” is for Picasso! “C” is for Collage!), while tackling the more serious question, “How do you create a body of work?”

What’s New with Melinda Tidwell!

Hi everyone!

My friend Melinda Tidwell has taught two classes with us, the popular How to Make Abstract Art that Works and Fine Art Collage! She reached out recently to tell me about a recent show and also a free webinar she is hosting on Thursday!

Shortest Interview Ever
with Melinda!

Q: Tell us about your webinar!

A: The purpose of the webinar is to teach artists what I use as guiding principles for developing abstract compositions. I was so lost when I began making abstract work, that I have always wished these kinds of resources were available. If people want to follow this path further, they can take the course we did together “How to Make Abstract Art that Works”,  or if they are wanting to study it with even more vigor, our Abstract Art – The Deep Dive, a 6-week course, is beginning April 1 in Yum City.

Q: Tell us about your show!

A: I had a group of 9″x12″ collages on panel that i sent the Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, ID. Working on panel has resulted in much more layered work which I really enjoyed making—- though they went through many iterations.

So check out the webinar and show! Congratulations, Melinda!

A LIVE Workshop via Zoom!

Gelli® Plate LIVE
A Live Workshop via Zoom
Saturday, March 27th
3.5 Hours – $45

Hi everyone! I’m excited to offer Gelli® Plate Printmaking as a workshop via Zoom. Create beautiful monotypes without a press and with limited supplies!

In this live, technique-based class, we will work on fine-art quality abstracted landscapes. The monotype printing process is something that got me really excited about art over 20 years ago. You never know what you’re going to get, and I love the myriad of textures and patterns! The Gelli® Plate allows you to create beautiful monotypes without a press, using materials anyone has in their studio.

In this 3-hour live workshop we will work on how to apply bands of color and texture, develop your images with layers, stencils, stamping and drawing, and tips for finishing your prints. It doesn’t matter if you print all the time or have yet to pull your first one, this get-together promises to be a productive and fun day.  

Warning: Gelli® Plate Printmaking is addictive!


Class Itinerary

9am – Welcome
9:15am – Bands of Color, Texture
10am – Working in Layers, Glazing, Stamping
10:30am – Break
11am – Stencils & Brayer Drawing
12pm – Q+A
12:30pm – Class Ends

Class runs Pacific Time with a half-hour break in the middle (click HERE for time converter, but basically it’s a morning workshop for West Coast USA, an afternoon workshop for East Coasters, and an evening workshop for Europeans).


Nuts & Bolts

• Class will run live via Zoom on Saturday, March 27, 2021. 9am – 12:30pm Pacific Time with a half-hour break in the middle (click HERE for time converter).
• The Zoom link and instructions will be sent within 24 hours after signup.
• If for some reason you can’t make the live session, a video recording will be sent within 24 hours after the end of class.
• This live workshop is based off of our bestselling online class, Gelli® Plate Printmaking.

Create up to eight 5″x7″ abstracted landscapes during this class! I hope you can JOIN US!

A NEW Class Open for Registration!

with Lewis Rossignol
Class Dates: February 16-26, 2021
6 lessons / 2 weeks
$46.75 (sale price!)

Working in a sketchbook can be an important part of an artist’s life, beyond just “sketching” out ideas. For me it is vital for stress relief and well being… and I have a lot of fun! I hope this class will help you loosen up and discover new ways to use your sketchbook. We will remind ourselves that a sketchbook should be a personal journal, and not something that has to be a masterpiece from beginning to end. By combining collage, words, and drawing, we’ll start a sketchbook that will hopefully free you to not overthink future sketchbooks.

We’ll explore composition, shading, and different levels of completeness as not every sketch has to be fully fleshed out. We’ll bring our other passions into our sketchbooks, and explore different types of reference. But most of all we’ll have a good time pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Through these six lessons we will start a new sketchbook that you will be able to finish afterwards using new ideas, thoughts, and techniques.

Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 We’ll  start by looking through some books and see all kinds of ways that different artists use their sketchbooks, and then do an exercise that will take the pressure and anxiety out of drawing in a brand new sketchbook.

Lesson 2 This lesson is all about composition and finding multiple solutions to the same problem. We will focus on minimalism and empty space.

Lesson 3 In this lesson we will experiment with multiple methods of shading, as well as continuing to think about composition.

Lesson 4 Bring your favorite scientific or organic interests into the realm of your sketchbook!

Lesson 5 We’re going to start our final project in this lesson: a grid drawing. I’ll demonstrate how I start these types of drawings.

Lesson 6 This final lesson will be a demonstration of how to complete a grid drawing, focusing on mini compositions that create one larger composition.

CLICK HERE for more information and to sign up!

FREE New Year’s Day Workshop!

A free online drawing & writing workshop with exercises & making sessions. Playful & interactive. Set intentions for the year. Make art!

Hi Everyone! This past year I’ve had the pleasure to work with writing instructor Chris Wells. I’ve been part of a weekly writing group and also attend his show “The Secret City Daily with Chris Wells” as often as I can, as he and the community he brings together never fails to begin my day on a positive, hopeful note. Chris and I decided it would be fun to co-host a mini drawing/writing workshop to begin the New Year. It’s a 3-hour workshop, and free (but you need to get a ticket HERE). I hope you can join us! — Carla

About this Event

Carla Sonheim and Chris Wells host this free online workshop designed to waken and inspire the creative self. Carla leads art workshops that are playful and warm and reminds everyone that drawing and painting can and should be fun. Chris leads writing workshops that are dynamic and deep; he prompts people to explore their creative selves and to dive into the practice of writing. This free online workshop will be part drawing exercises/part writing exercises with the first two hours toggling back and forth between the two, and the third hour dedicated to creating something new of your choosing in a timed session with live music accompaniment.

We’ll begin by reflecting on what the past year has been like and we’ll leave with some intention setting for making 2021 a creative year.

Special guests:

Bobby Lucy will share a few of his paintings.

Jeremy Bass will perform guitar music in the third hour.

You’ll be sent a zoom link closer to the date of the workshop.

Click HERE to sign up!!