Free Video Tutorial

Collage Bits from Decorative Punches


Hi everyone!

How are you today?

Here is a quick free video tutorial… I’ve been making these lacy, bug-like abstract shapes with decorative punches that I recently found at a thrift store… they have really added interest to these collages that I’ve been working on recently:







Our year-long collage class begins TOMORROW!

Please join us for 2019: Year of the Collage!


Have a wonderful day!






Bits & Pieces

collage (34)

Hi Everyone!

Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful comments on the last post. I’m so glad it resonated, and appreciate all of the words of wisdom and humanity shared. Thank you!

Above is a page from the collage sketchbook I’ve been working in. I am a packrat — it’s hereditary — and I can’t even throw away the smallest pieces sometimes. I recently spent some excellent t.v. time whittling my “trash stash” down to these two paper mosaics.

collage (35)

During those two hours gluing, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was okay.

But then I posted a photo over at instagram, and it was well-received (better received than almost anything I have ever posted!), and I realized that at least I’m a little obsessive in good company.

You can make a Trashy Page, too. Get a glue stick and your scraps, and just start. Wedge in the next little piece of paper and the next little piece of paper until you fill the page. Towards the end you might need to grab your scissors and cut things to size and shape, but mostly, it’s just the glue stick and you.

Post a link to your Trashy Pages in the comments section, or upload a photo at instagram! I’m at @carlasonheim… I look forward to seeing them!

And here is a quick video Steve made about the Year of the Collage class that starts TUESDAY!!

Have a great weekend!

A Question, Answered (Long)


I received the following question from Kerstin during last year’s 365 class. I wanted to share it with you now as it is a question we all probably struggle with! She wrote:

I want to ask you if you know these dogmas and how do you deal with the accompanying feelings: “My art isn’t important” and “what the hell my art is good for?”


Dear Kerstin,

I really appreciate your question because it’s such a huge one and dear to my heart, and I hope I can answer sufficiently in this email. And if not, I will try to improve it later and will share it then, too! But I will do my best here.

I will answer for myself as that is the only way I really can answer it. 😀 My answer has three parts:

  1. The short answer, I think, is that the artwork I create isn’t really good for anything much at all. A few people might like it and enjoy it, but in the grand scheme of things, the artwork I make doesn’t matter all that much. Most of the time it just goes in drawers!
  2. On the other hand, it is ALL that matters.
  3. Or somewhere, anywhere, in between, depending on the moment and my mood.

* * *

Chinese writer and artist Gao Xingjian wrote (and this is from memory, so I might get it wrong): “An artist never changed the world; self-fulfillment is the best he can hope for.”

I think this quote speaks to the first part of the above answer, where I feel that artwork I make — the actual drawings and paintings —  really aren’t that important.

It’s very likely that my work is never going to be collected by art galleries or museums, and most of the artwork I make is never going to be seen by more than a few people. So why do it?

I don’t know.

But I DO know that it is something that I have a passion for, that I enjoy doing, and that it does seem to encourage a few people to try it for themselves, which continues the cycle, possibly, of more people using more paper to make things that get put into drawers. 😉

BUT! We’re forgetting the PROCESS if we think that way. 😀

The actual making of artwork provides me with three things:

1. When I draw or paint, I feel better. I feel calmer, happier. I’m doing something I like to do, which makes me a happier person, which makes my husband and the rest of my family, happier people.

2. When I draw or paint, I am solving problems and challenging myself, and there is satisfaction in that… humans love to learn!! A side benefit… these problem-solving skills I can take into the rest of my world, such as running the business or navigating a friendship.

3. When I draw or paint, I either have something I like at the end of it that I can share or something that goes into the scrap drawer to be painted over later… a physical piece of work.

You can see that the artwork itself is just one of the three things above, just 1/3 of the benefits! The other two things are arguably ways that you would encourage anyone to spend their time doing — doing something they love and learning new things.

* * *

So that is what I mean when I say that making art is “ALL” that matters. It is something I love and it is the thing with which I choose to spend the bulk of my “learning” time. In other words, making artwork is my way of being in this world, interpreting it, trying to make sense of it.

Other people do it through sports or exercise, science, business, homemaking, cooking… we all have our things that we do that seem both frivolous at times (even cooking, does it matter in the grand scheme of things whether to use regular salt or sea salt?), but serve as the conduit through which we live our lives.

Therefore, it is “everything.”

I learn from drawing and painting that life is full of paradox. There is duality in everything… we both love and hate, we both must be gentle and firm, etc.

For example, when I draw, I have to hold two seemingly contradictory things at the same time: I have to try and be gentle with myself and at the same time try and improve/get better (which means that at some level I know there is room for improvement, which is where the gentleness comes in).

* * *

Finally, even though I know the above is true in my head, I get off track on a regular basis and feel dumb about all of the hundreds (thousands?) of drawings I have in drawers and what have I done with my life?!!

I find life wonderful, but I also find life very hard.

I do have clinical depression and, though it is mostly managed, it kicks my butt some days.  So sometimes I don’t do well at all with the feeling; I cast about.

Other days, when I’m feeling better, I can reach out to a friend and they can help remind me that I am okay just as I am, whatever I do with my time is my own business (as long as I’m not hurting people) and that taking an hour to draw a silly animal today is really okay.

Sometimes I read books by other creatives on the “why of creativity”… “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield and “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron are two that have helped me…

Mostly I try to remember that the feeling that I suck, my artwork sucks, life sucks… will pass. It always does (with the help of medicine and people around me… and drawing and painting).

And I’m pretty sure that the fact that I feel bad about all the art sitting in drawers is just a substitute for feeling bad about myself IN GENERAL, and that if I can continue to work on that (paradoxically, THROUGH making my artwork), the rest will take care of itself.

* * *

I hope this helps in some way, Kerstin!



Thank You!


A few years ago I read Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. It was born out of her 2013 TED Talk of the same name, and it really spoke to me (both her talk and the book)!

But the main thing I remember about her book was the acknowledgement section:  pages and pages and pages where Amanda thanked everyone who had helped her over the years. (Pages and pages and pages!)


It’s the end of 2018, and Steve and I have so much to be grateful for. I wanted to thank those who have helped us this year here (sentences and sentences!):

  1. Thank you to each and every one of you who have purchased classes from us in 2018. We appreciate you so much.
  2. Thank you to all of you who signed up for our 365 Year-Long Class, and to Will Sonheim, Jason Poole, and Kara Kramer for helping us create some of the prompts.
  3. Thank you to everyone who has purchased one of our books.
  4. Thank you to everyone who emailed us this past year, sharing your experiences and artwork. Sometimes your emails were just the encouragement we needed that particular day.
  5. Thank you to all of you who recommended our classes or books to your friends!
  6. Thank you to our wonderful teachers who taught new classes in 2018: Lendon Noe, Lynn Whipple, Anne Marie Grgich, Tracie Lyn Huskamp, and Anita Lehmann!
  7. Thank you to our wonderful teachers who taught classes before this year: Kara Kramer, Bari Zaki, Cat Bennett, Karine Swenson, Diane Culhane, Fred Lisaius, Dar Hosta James, Alison O’Donoghue and Stephanie Hargrave!
  8. Thank you to Wes Buckwalter, Harry Edwards and Tina Rowley — our small team of talent who helped us get our website launched in August!
  9. Thank you to those who participated in our 2018 Kids Art Week, and to our guest teacher Luna Russell.
  10. I usually try to take one in-person workshop and teach one in-person workshop each year. Thank you to Kathie Vezzani of Bellisima Art Escapes (who I taught with in March), and to Melinda Tidwell, whose class I took in September at ArtMakers Denver.
  11. Thank you to all of our 32,309 newsletter subscribers!
  12. Thank you for reading this blog post right now!
  13. And thank you to numerous friends and family who have supported us in every way. Thank you.


Have a WONDERFUL New Year!!

Steve & Carla


NaNoWrMo Report


I had a pretty busy November! Most of it was spent getting everything ready to launch Year of the Collage. But I also participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing” where participants from all over the world committed to writing a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in November.

My novel was called:


I didn’t write a novel. I don’t think I have one in me! But I have wanted to start writing regularly again, and so I took the challenge.

Since I haven’t written in awhile, I thought I would start out easy. I gave myself permission to just write nonsense. It didn’t matter what I wrote, as long as I got the words in, even if all I wrote was silly.

Well, a lot of it was very silly writing. I wrote sentences like:

“I don’t know what I need or what I’m doing,” “My feet are chilly,” and “Boy, I sure ate a lot of sweets today.”

I’m not kidding! My brain is mush lately.

But I did learn a few things about myself during the month!

  1. i learned that i have absolutely no problem typing things without capitalizing words. however, i’m super rigorous about punctuation such as quote marks, commas, periods, dashes, parentheses… i will waste a lot of time going back and fixing any errors. weird.
  2. I learned that having a visual chart of my progress each day really helped.50k
  3. I learned that I would sometimes write negative things even if I didn’t feel them. I caught myself several times during the first week writing things like, “Oh, I am so frustrated,” when in fact at that moment I didn’t feel frustrated at all. Or, “Argh… writing is so hard!” when, in fact, it wasn’t really, as I had given myself permission to just type nonsense, and I type pretty fast, so there should have been nothing hard about any of that! So after that first week I started watching what I wrote and making sure that what I was writing and what I was feeling were more aligned.

That last point was kind of huge. And even though I have 50,000 words of (mostly) nonsense to show for November, it was worth it for that reason alone!

Now that it’s December, my daily word count average has dropped, but I’m still writing every day. So… yay!

Registration is now OPEN for our 2019 Year-Long Class!

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“Collage is the twentieth century’s greatest innovation.”
— Robert Motherwell

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2019: Year of the Collage!

Join Carla Sonheim, Lynn Whipple, and Anne Marie Grgich for this year-long celebration of collage! It’s fast, it’s intuitive, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to hone your design skills and create a wonderful body of mixed-media art.

Learn a variety of different techniques from three distinct perspectives on art and mixed media. Presented in three sessions:

Session 1: Carla
January, February, March
Sketchbook Collages, Moon Paper Transparency Collages,
Paper Grids, Abstract Gardens, My-House Dollhouse, and more.

Session 2: Lynn
May, June, July
Color Collages, Design Prompts (with a Side of Play),
Sky Things, Indoor Things, Kitchen Sink Collages, Going Bigger, and more.

Session 3: Anne
September, October, November
Collecting as Meditation, Voluptuous Vessels,
Abstract Accordion Landscape Collages, Faces, and more!

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Class Itinerary

Lessons will go live every two weeks, with a month break in between each class to catch up, catch your breath, and experiment on your own. At the end of the year we will put together a class video/slideshow of your favorite work from the year!

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Some Anne Artwork


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Some Lynn Artwork




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Some Carla Artwork


Like all of our classes, the learning always goes in both directions, and the community and things we learn from everyone out there are what make the whole experience special. We hope you can join us! Click HERE for details and to sign up!

Carla, Lynn, Anne





Hi everyone… I hope you are well this new Monday!

Every year for the past six years we have offered a year-long art class.

The first, in 2013, was called Year of the Giraffe. The idea is that we would approach creating a single subject in many different ways throughout the year: drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, writing and even animation!

In 2014 we did Year of the Fairy Tale. In this class we illustrated eight fairy tales with a variety of techniques and approaches.

In 2015 it was Year of the Spark, a creativity class I co-taught with Lynn Whipple!

In 2016 it was Y is for Yellow, a class in which we tried to focus on working in series while at the same time doing exercises and assignments inspired by the alphabet.

In 2017 we did 365: Activate Your Art Brain, where my husband Steve and I produced a short video creativity prompt every day.

And in 2018 we mixed it up by doing 365 AGAIN, the first time we decided not to switch gears with the theme of the year-long.

Every year has been wonderful and fun and challenging in its own way!

In 2019 we will have a new theme once again, and we are working hard on preparations to get the class up for sale by the end of November.


P.S. The drawings above were from a recent 365 assignment.

P.S.S. And if you missed these classes, three of them are available as self-studies here!


And just a note: We have a new instructor, Seattle Artist Anita Lehmann! And her first class begins tomorrow… Translating Landscape. Won’t you join us?


NEW Class Open for Registration: Translating Landscape with Anita Lehmann

Hello! I’m delighted to announce that our last FALL online class is now open for registration! Please join Seattle Artist Anita Lehmann as she leads you through her process of creating evocative, expressive, abstract landscape drawings and paintings.

Translating Landscape
6 Lessons • 2 Weeks • $85
Class Dates: November 6-16, 2018

Anita believes that the landscape is a gentle way of exploring the elements that are integral to making meaningful work: line, value, color, shape, edges, composition. She also believes that drawing connects us to our experience with an intimacy not otherwise possible. 

In this 6-lesson class we will use our study of landscape to work at finding our unique mark, learning and reinforcing design concepts, drawing with intent, and simplifying. 

The joyful and fun exercises will include experimental mark making, design studies, grid paintings — all working up to larger paintings. We will work with an small “orchestra” of simple materials to help maintain a loose and more abstract mindset.

Are you ready for an adventure into the beautiful unknown?

Class Itinerary

Lesson 1 – Your Mark: a Media Exploration
Let’s keep loose. Discover new marks and, more importantly, your mark. We will be using all the supplies listed, different papers and tools. We will respond and interact to music, perhaps draw with your non-dominate hand while keeping in the moment. Explore and see what happens. We will work within a ‘design field’ in which to play.

Lesson 2 – Design Elements and Motive: a Playing Field with Pears
Let’s continue our mark-making looseness as we learn about space: powerful notions of negative and positive space; key to beautiful and strong design within your art. We will become familiar with our ‘tool belt’ of design elements and create eight small “Pear Shape” studies and explore each of the following design concepts: Shape, Value, Space, Texture, Edges, Line, Composition, and Color.

Lesson 3 – Design Elements and Motive: a Playing Field with Landscapes
In Lesson 3 we move from a simple shape (a Pear), to “Landscape Shapes.” The landscape may be slightly more complicated due to additional shapes to contend with. Again, we’ll create eight small studies with various media, each focusing on a Design Element. In our ninth study, we pull it all together into one piece.

Lesson 4 – Value + Space + Shape, all that, in Landscape
When I look at scene through a photograph or real life, I begin differentiating the 3 main layers of space with foreground, middle-ground, background shapes. We need to simplify this chaos (at times, chaotic) and begin to discern the beautiful shapes creating no more than 5-7 shapes. Keeping it simple is key today as we create several small paintings.

Lesson 5 – Driving Through Paintings
In this lesson we will “pack light” and continue to stay abstract as long as we can, thinking in terms of our design elements, drawing from memory and creating beautiful landscapes, simply, in a grid of up to 25 small squares. A fun, satisfying and surprising exercise!

Lesson 6 – Putting it All Together: Intentional Expressive Landscapes
In this final lesson we will be working incrementally to a larger format painting. We will progress from 6″x 6″ then 8″x 8″ and finally an 10″x 10″. Selecting an image from Lesson 5 squares, you’ll discover the obstacles and opportunities of working larger and therefore, as a result, becoming more intimate with your work. Enjoy the process, the rewards will be mighty fine.


To learn more about Anita and this class, click HERE.







FIVE Things

1. Above is a page-through of the artist book we’ll be making in “Doing More with your Gelli® Plate,” the online class starting Tuesday! It’s not too late to join… please do!

2. “I hope I don’t get hiccups no time soon.” — André 3000

3. Iranian artist Farshad Farzankia (Google his name, then click images!).

4. One more little abstract collage:


5. Are you signed up for my newsletter? I send it out about twice a month, and include a sidewalk crack to draw from (changes monthly). Here’s October’s Crack: october2018crack

Click the link, print it, and then find a creature or a face!

If desired, sign up for the newsletter… and have a great day!