Registration OPEN for “Creating Simple Characters” with Nelleke Verhoeff

Hi Everyone!

Our first Fall class is now open for registration! Click HERE for more information and to sign up!

Creating Simple Characters
Teacher: Nelleke Verhoeff
September 24 – October 4, 2019
6 Lessons • $85

How is it that the simplest line, squiggle or dot can convey so much emotion in some of the fictional characters that we love, such as Snoopy, Bart Simpson, Madeline or Curious George?

An almost magical thing happens when a character really starts to work and comes to life. Nelleke will be sharing a whole bunch of her ideas using a variety of media to help make this happen.

Whether you’re interested in creating narrative artwork or not, this class is a risk-free way to explore and experiment with figurative drawing.

It’s going to be too much fun to resist! Plus, you’ll get to see all kinds of characters from fellow students around the world!



Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Faces
Let’s begin with the human face! We will start with three idea-generating pages of sketches using techniques in pencil, charcoal, and oil pastel. We will work on shape of the head, placement of the features, expressions and adding unique attributes to make your character come alive. 

Lesson 2 – Bodies
Next we’re going to add bodies by cutting shapes, playing with contrasts, and building collages. Create new faces or use some from Lesson 1. Each of these three approaches will result in several of full-bodied characters.

Lesson 3 – Animals
Let’s create animal characters! We’ll start by looking at and isolating shapes from animal reference photos, and from there you will build a character that you will then interpret two more times in different media; oil transfer pastel transfer technique and collage. Optional assignment: Photo heads and collage bodies! Big day.

Lesson 4 – Things
Things — toasters, automobiles, hairbrushes, shoes, even toothbrushes — can also be story characters. We’re going to sketch our things, add features, and interpret those sketches into collages. We’ll even make some characters from random cut-out shapes — also “things!”

Lesson 5 – Letters
In this lesson we’re going to play with letters of the alphabet. We’ll start by sketching out our ideas and then work on creating words or sentences with these characters. In addition, we’ll play with character collages using typography from newspapers and magazines.

Lesson 6 – Accordian Book
Now you have dozens of characters — and the ideas to make even more! Today we will create an accordion book to house some of your characters.

I hope you can join us!



Question 3: Why Nelleke Draws


Hi everyone!

This past June we did something we have never tried before… we flew an artist from Europe to Seattle to film a class! The artist is the delightful Nelleke Verhoeff, and her new class will open for registration this coming Friday, August 30th!

I wanted to you get to know Nelleke a little bit, so I asked her to answer three questions. Here is her last answer!




Nelleke Verhoeff, The Netherlands

3. Name the top three reasons you draw and paint.

1. Because I LOVE it!!!

I like to play with colors and create characters, small stories and new worlds.

(Below a recent work from my collage project.)


2. I like to experiment and  keep learning and growing. That’s why I also keep taking classes every now and then… to develop my skills, learn new techniques and ways to express myself.

 (“Dancing forest” was some homework for an inspiring illustration class I took last year)


3. I love to bring some joy into the world with my work. I like positivity and playfulness (I’m still a big child) and I love to share it.

{“Affirmation Angela,” a little affirmation angel I made to support positive thinking 🙂


4. It makes me look differently at the world. Everywhere I see characters. In people, but also in animals, things, food and even in letters… It makes my world so much richer!


5. It brings me to new and inspiring places like the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, Ilustrarte in Portugal… and now even to Seattle!!


My website:

On Instagram I share often works from my sketchbook:


Thank you, Nelleke, for taking the time to answer these questions… I can’t wait for your class to begin… I plan to follow along myself!



Question 2: What Kind of Animal…?

Hi everyone!

This past June we did something we have never tried before… we flew an artist from Europe to Seattle to film a class! The artist is the delightful Nelleke Verhoeff, and her new class will open for registration this coming Friday, August 30th!

I wanted to you get to know Nelleke a little bit, so I asked her to answer three questions. Answer #2 is below, with the last coming tomorrow.



Nelleke Verhoeff, The Netherlands

2.What kind of animal do you think you are, and what kind of animal are you actually?


Hahaha, funny question! I think I am a monkey. I like to play. Hopping from one tree to the other.

But actually I’m an elephant, because I’m not as flexible and adventurous as a monkey. 😉


Now it’s your turn! What kind of animal do you think you are, and what kind of animal are you actually? (This question was made up by our son Wes, 24, who stayed with us this summer.) Please answer in the comments!

Me? I think I’m a dog, all laid back and wiggly… but I’m actually a cat, all moody and prickly. (I do lie down and purr a lot, though!)

Tomorrow Nelleke will answer the question:

3. Name the top three reasons you draw and paint.


New Teacher Interview: Nelleke Verhoeff!

Hi everyone!

This past June we did something we have never tried before… we flew an artist from Europe to Seattle to film a class! The artist is the delightful Nelleke Verhoeff, and her new class will open for registration this coming Friday, August 30th!

I wanted to you get to know Nelleke a little bit, so I asked her to answer three questions. Answer #1 is below, with the others coming the next two days.



Nelleke Verhoeff, The Netherlands

1. How did you get into making 2D art and illustration?

I used to be a theater performer. My friend Herman and I played in theaters, in schools and at street festivals. We made physical and visual theatre using circus techniques and masks. We juggled, did acrobatics and I played the accordion.

In the meantime I discovered my love for painting by taking some painting classes. I also discovered my love for digital art and photography. Deep within me I knew I wanted to change direction towards making art. Not an easy step to take, you need to earn your money with it then too … But  I took the risk because I really wanted it!

We quit theater and began to make websites. Herman is also a software developer, so he did the technique and I did the design. Some customers wanted  illustrations on their website, and that was what I loved the most. So I took some online illustration classes at Pikaland and a totally new world opened for me. 

I started my own company: Red Cheeks Factory. ( I made up this name, because ‘red cheeks’ stands for enthusiasm. I have it when I’m working, and also almost all my characters have red cheeks!) I set up a webshop and began to sell prints and postcards of my work.

I started a blog: ‘a face a day,’ because I love faces and their expressions. (Funny detail: I started this project after reading Carla’s book: ‘Drawing Lab’, where she talks about making 100 faces. That inspired me :-))

I made 365 faces in one year. It was quite a challenge. I did experiment a lot!


You can find them here:

I also made some other blog posts about things I love. In one I wrote about one of my favourite children’s picture books. And then something magical happened …

Geert De Kockere, the author of that favourite book saw my post. He discovered my work and was charmed by it. He asked me if I would like to work together. The famous author… I was over the moon and dancing in my room!! It was a great and inspiring cooperation! And I discovered my love for making books.

The first book I illustrated was “Stil verwateren.”  It is very dear to me, a poetry book including 1000 haiku’s and 71 drawings. It is such a nice feeling to see your name on a real book. 🙂


Since then we have made several books together. This one is my most favourite:


Er is iets aan de kip met je hand” (Google translate: “There is something about the chicken with your hand”) is filled with animal and nonsense poems and colorful illustrations. A real feast to work on!!

I also took a writing class for picture books and last year my first Children’s picture book was published: “Baas van iets groots” (Boss of something big). And in September my second Children’s picture book “Circus Luna” will be published:


And also “Von Anni Alligator bis Zeno Zebra,” a book full of animal characters from my 100 animal project will be published this Autumn by minedition (in German, probably later it will also be published in English).


I am currently working on two other children’s books written by other writers. Both will be published in Autumn 2020. One in the United States by Barefoot Books — it is an honour to be asked for these projects! 

Making theater was fun, but illustrating books is the best I could ever wish for! Of course you can see the influences of theater in my work. I still love to create characters and play with them. 

But now on paper and on my screen. 🙂


My website:
On Instagram I share often works from my sketchbook:


Tomorrow Nelleke will answer the question:

2.What kind of animal do you think you are, and what kind of animal are you actually?


Shampoo Story

Note: This story appeared in my newsletter today… if you haven’t subscribed and would like to, click HERE! I send one of these about twice a month.


Shampoo Story

I’ve had gray hair since my 30s. I had dark hair, and the gray started with a white streak:


As the years passed I got grayer and grayer, and I got used to looking a tad older than I think I really am.

But about six months ago I looked in the mirror and wondered why there was this weird YELLOW streak in the front. I complained about it to my friend Kathie Vezzani, who said, “There’s a rinse for that you know.”

I didn’t know.

So I did some research and found several non-yellowing shampoo candidates. I picked one, bought it, and it was delivered a week later.

After the 1st washing I saw no difference and wondered if I had just spent $50 on a bottle of shampoo for no reason.

After the 5th washing I still saw no difference and I suspected I had indeed spent $50 on shampoo for nothing.

After the 10th washing and still no change, I knew for sure that I had spent $50 for regular old shampoo, had been scammed, and, being too lazy to complain and/or send it back, just continued to use it.

It’s been six months, and today I noticed that the yellow streak is almost completely gone:


The improvement was so slow that I couldn’t see it day by day!

So…… if you ever get frustrated that you don’t seem to be improving at drawing, painting, writing, running, meditation or whatever it is that you are working on, just remember it is probably working, and you just can’t see it yet.


And! This is the LAST DAY of our 20% Off Sale! No code is needed; discounted prices are reflected at the website. Thanks to everyone who has stocked up on classes so far!

Tamara Laporte’s New Book: “Ever After” Giveaway!


Hi everyone!

A few weeks ago my friend Tam Laporte asked me to be a part of her blog hop celebrating the release of her new book, “Ever After: Create Fairy Tale-Inspired Mixed-Media Art Projects to Develop Your Personal Artistic Style!

I really admire Tam and over the years I’ve been able to work with her on several collaborations, including both her “Lifebook” and “Ever After” online classes.

I really enjoyed spending time with “Ever After,” and especially appreciate Tam’s insights about developing our personal styles (which she weaves throughout the whole book). In addition, Tam walks us step-by-step through her process of creating eight Fairy Tale paintings in her style, and there are an additional eight paintings created by some wonderful guest artists.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, please comment on THIS POST here at the blog! Let’s have some fun… please tell us in your comment which fairy tale character you identify with the most today. 😀 I’ll randomly pick a winner on Wednesday, August 21st. The winner is Meenohara… “Alice!” Thank you everyone who entered!

And if you want other chances to win, please go to the following blogs, too! Each of these artists are hosting giveaways as well.


__________________ All Blog Post Dates __________________

August 14, 2019
Tamara Laporte

August 15, 2019
Andrea Gomoll

August 16, 2019
Carla Sonheim

August 17, 2019
Danita Art

August 18, 2019
Effy Wild

August 19, 2019
Kara Bullock

August 20, 2019
Lucy Chen

August 21, 2019
Marielle Stolp

August 22, 2019
Mick Wilde

August 23, 2019
Toni Burt

August 24, 2019
Jane Davenport

August 25, 2019
Marieke Blokland

August 26, 2019
Cinnamon Cooney

August 27, 2019
Pamela Vosseller

August 28, 2019
Galia Alena

August 29, 2019
Annie Hamman

I Remember…2

I remember liver and onions.

I remember chicken and dumplings.

I remember Twinkies.

I remember Dittos, the pants we all wore in middle school. Dozens of 12-year-old girls with upside-down “U’s” on their bottoms! Colors: baby blue, pink, lemon yellow, seagreen. Mine? Always too short.

I remember trying to get my hair to feather like Farrah Fawcett’s.

I remember finding my dog, Sarah, in the pitch dark outside of our house. I called for her, then followed the rope with my hands from the tree where it was tied. I ran my hands all the way up to the top of the fence, then felt the weight of her body. She had hung herself.

I remember my mother letting my sister and I stay home from school the next day.

I remember my friend Kim rolling her eyes when she found out I had missed school because my dog had died. “You don’t know how I feel!” I shrieked, screamed. She reminded me that she did know. Her mother had died, remember?


Written as an assignment for an online writing class I’m taking, a five-minute exercise in the style of writer Joe Brainard‘s well-known essay, “I Remember.”

I Remember…

This summer I’m taking an online writing class (Crafting the Braided & Collage Essay) and an in-person comics class at Hugo House… and I combined assignments from the two classes when I made this comic for the comics class ” ‘zine!”


I also roughed this one while sitting in class, my version of the fable “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cheese.”

comic (4)

Have a great day!


P.S. Don’t forget that our once-a-year site-wide sale is going on right now! 20% off all of our online classes. Click HERE for our class catalog!


Grumpy Cats by 2nd Graders + a Podcast!

Steve and I took a very quick trip to Denver this past weekend for a funeral. On the last night we went for ice cream at Scrumptious in Arvada with my brother and sister-in-law, and I spotted the following cat portraits from across the room. I loved them, and wondered if, perhaps, I could find out the name of the artist… maybe I could buy one? Or maybe they could teach an online class?

And they were done by 2nd graders!

Of course!!

I don’t know the name of the school or the artists… I hope they won’t mind me posting these inspiring works!











And… if you have some time to listen to a long talk, I was a guest on The Artist APPEALS Podcast! Thank you, Erin (the host) for such a fun talk!

I hope you have a wonderful week! xoxo

Five Faces

Five Faces I saw yesterday:

  1. My own, in the mirror. When did that dark spot appear?
  2. My husband’s, as he drove us to our respective appointments. His profile hasn’t changed in the nearly 30 years I’ve known him, except for a slight sag of skin under his chin. Still cute.
  3. Wes’s. Our 24-year-old son is living with us this summer with the mission to archive and organize my artwork (and other stuff). I remember the confused (bemused?) expression on his face as we pass him once, then twice, then a third time trying to find a safe spot to pull over and pick him up.
  4. Our other son’s female sugar glider,* Nimueh, “shouting” at me as I tried to say hello.
  5. The male sugar glider, Emeriss, aka Mr. Chubby Face.


*If you don’t know what a sugar glider is, see here!

The above video was one of our 365 Daily Creativity Prompts from last year. I enjoyed making the animation with charcoal and an eraser.

And don’t forget that all of our online classes are 20% off until August 19th! No coupon needed… the discount is already reflected at our site:

Have a great day!