Time Well Spent

March 15, 2014
white tulips, watercolor study from direct observation

white tulips, watercolor study from direct observation

I firmly believe in managing my time as efficiently as possible. I teach 7 courses in drawing and painting every week, plus a weekend workshop or two each month. That does not leave a lot of time for developing ideas for my own paintings. I have a solo show later this year, some new work needed for one of the galleries that represents me and I’d like to begin planning a workshop in Europe for 2015. Here are the things I do to ensure my work stays fresh and that I keep growing as a painter.


Practice Everyday – this means EVERY day. I always take at least 20 minutes to focus on some form of drawing or painting purely for the sake of practice. It may be a little water color study, a pen and ink drawing or just a quick gestural sketch or two in charcoal. Whatever it is, it is done purely with the intent of building skill with no expectation in terms of an end result. The end result is learning.

Develop Awareness – ideas for paintings are all around us. I am always composing in my mind as I walk down the street, drive my car, or ride public transportation. I look at things and think of how they might carve up the space on a canvas, and how I would put the paint down, and what medium would depict them the best. This builds observation skill and opens your mind to new ideas for subject matter.

Speak Clearly with Paint – for me, that means getting across the message you are trying to convey with your painting with as few strokes as possible. Before you can do that, you have to know what your message is, why do you want to paint your subject? What are you trying to say with it? It does not have to be narrative, it may be purely visual or purely abstract. The important thing is to know what you want to say, and to say it clearly and concisely, make every stroke count.



Sketching In the Car in Winter

February 24, 2014
Farmer's field sketched from my car, watercolor

Farmer’s field sketched from my car, watercolor

The Northeast has been buried under lots of snow this winter.  I’ve enjoyed painting it in the studio using some references I’ve taken as departure points, and also have rediscovered an interest in pen & ink sketching from my window. I have missed painting on location though, so I went out this morning in search of a good place to paint from the car.

The hardest thing about painting in the car is finding a good place to do it. Some of the best vantage points are on busy roads, and where I live, these can be very hilly, winding and narrow–with no good place to pull over and park. I find using watercolor or pen & ink to be the easiest and cleanest way to sketch in the car. I’ve worked with pastel, but it really is too dusty for a confined space. Using hard pastels however, does help a lot.

I keep a small back pack readily available and usually in the car with the following supplies:

– Winsor Newton portable watercolor set

– Small bottle of water and a little container

– Moleskine watercolor sketchbooks

– A few paper napkins

– Mechanical pencil for making notes about location

– Sharpie marker for any ink I may want to add

This small bag ensures that no matter where I am, I have what I need to sketch at a moment’s notice. I often find I have time before classes or when running to and from appointments and having the materials with me enables me to sketch wherever I happen to be. If you are pressed for time, try assembling a little kit like the one I describe. It doesn’t have to be a watercolor kit–you can substitute pencil, colored pencil, charcoal or pen & ink. It’s a great way to get in more practice time and build your skills for when the weather warms up!




Drawing Subjects in Motion from Life

February 19, 2014
Gestural study of birds, from life and memory, watercolor

Gestural study of birds, from life and memory, watercolor

Bird in about 5 strokes, charcoal and Sharpie, 1 minute sketch from direct observation

Bird in about 5 strokes, charcoal and Sharpie, 1 minute sketch from direct observation

Remember all those figure sketches you had to do in 30 seconds in life drawing class? Didn’t they seem like a waste of time, because after all, what can you really draw in 30 seconds? Many years later, I am finding quick, gestural drawing to be an excellent way of really understanding how subjects move.  By working quickly, you are forced to grab the purest essence of what makes a bird a bird–how it balances on a branch, how its feathers puff out against the cold, how it looks as it takes off with its wings fully spread.

Drawing in this manner is appropriate for any subject that you wish to depict in motion–cars, figures, animals–anything that moves! I find the best media for this to be ones that are the most immediate, charcoal and watercolor work very well because you can block in large areas with form and value. Throw a little bit of line work on top with a Sharpie, and you are able to really capture the movement quickly and efficiently.

Try not to focus on the outcome when you do this–rather, try to learn something about the subject you are studying. That’s why it’s called studying, because you are doing it with the intent of learning, not of creating something that is a masterpiece.


Why I Shared My Facebook Movie

February 5, 2014
Why I Shared My Facebook Movie

Why I Shared My Facebook Movie

Facebook was all a buzz last night with talk of the Facebook Movies released in celebration of Facebook’s 10th Anniversary. Many users were aghast with concerns over privacy violation and sharing of content without their permission.

Well, guess what? When you agree to use Facebook, and you put content on your profile or your likes page, they have access to it and can manipulate it as they choose. They cannot share anything you don’t mark as public however, so if you got freaked out by your movie, rest assured, no one saw it but you unless you opted to make it public and share it!

You DO have options–you can either not share it, or you can delete it (just go to the “Options” tab below the movie and select “Delete”).

However, I have chosen to share mine. I look at it this way, if Facebook wants to make a nice little video of my paintings for me for free…COOL!!! I have no concerns about the content because I carefully curate all of my posts. I only post topics that have to do with my paintings, exhibits or classes and workshops. Facebook for me is a business tool, and while many artists claim to use their profiles that way, they intermix the business with political, religious and personal content. I believe this is a mistake.

First of all, there some things that should always remain private–medical histories, divorces, break ups, family disputes, funerals, lost weekends and anything that you wouldn’t want the world to know about fall into this category. Even if you use Facebook for personal reasons, posting content of this nature on the internet is just not a good idea. Think of it this way–the people who need to know something as private as these things in your real life, probably already know, so why share it on Facebook?

Also, remember,you have the ability to make personal posts private–use it!!! You can even select specifically who you want to share individual posts with.

The above seem to me to be the obvious things to leave off your Facebook page. However, there are things you can do that go beyond the obvious damage control as suggested above, that will make your page or profile compelling for users and increase its value as a marketing communications tool. Here are a few guidelines I use when choosing what to post:

– Be concise. Users don’t want to read a novel, they are just browsing for items of interest. Post a picture rather than just a status.

– Make sure the photos you post are clear and well lit. No one wants to look at a bad photo.

– Know your target audience! Choose pictures of content that will be of interest to people you want to reach. For example, my target audiences are: artists who may be prospective students, collectors, and galleries. Sure my high school friends and family can see it too, but so what, they can always hide me from their Newsfeed if I’m boring them.

– Your page is not really all about YOU–it’s about your audience! They do not need to see you as much as they need to know about or see your product or service (in my case my paintings and classes). A shot of you here or there is fine, but not 100 awkward shots of you standing in front of your paintings. A good head shot for a profile picture is a must, have it taken professionally or by someone who knows how to capture you at your best. Above all, be sure you look natural, avoid trying to look like a “serious artist”, just be yourself.

So, think before you post…always ask yourself, is this something that I want the world to see? And when in doubt, leave it out!

Paint Less, Practice More

January 27, 2014
White objects, value study in watercolor, about 11x14 in.

White objects, value study in watercolor, about 11×14 in.

It occurred to me as I was teaching a workshop this weekend that new artists often take on the task of painting a “real” painting without doing any practice first. In fact, many don’t practice at all, but regard every painting as a formal painting that should turn out ready to be framed. It simply doesn’t work that way! In order to build a consistent quality of work, you need to practice more and not put pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece every time you pick up a brush. That should not even be your intent when you are practicing, you should instead be focused on learning and being aware of your strengths and the areas you need to address.

For example, in the study above, I was focused on:

– creating a sense of volume and form through the use of values

– comparing object placement and size to get the correct proportional relationships

– allowing the paint to form lost and found edges based on the way the shadows and light interplay with foreground and background

– paint flow and control without sacrificing fluidity

Did I get a masterpiece out of doing this? NO! of course not, but I did get a study that has an interesting composition, properly drawn forms, correct value relationships and a pleasant color harmony–so, all in all, a decent painting. Again, not a masterpiece, but a good painting.  The point is, the more frequently you paint in practice mode, the more consistent you become in building the skills that will make even your practice paintings good, viable studies that show that you have a firm understanding of the principles of painting. From there, you can continuously build and develop your skills and as you do, many of these principles will become second nature. That is when you will truly start to see improvement in your confidence and what will allow you to become more creative.

Every painting you paint will never be a masterpiece, but the more practice you do, the more consistent and confident you will become. That will allow you to produce your best work and get the most satisfaction from the process of creating.

My Classes for Jan. 21 at VACNJ are CANCELLED due to the Approaching Storm

January 21, 2014

Attention VAC NJ students. ALL of my classes for today, Tuesday, January 21, are CANCELLED. The art center is open as of now but I will not be there. We will have a MAKE UP at the end of the semester. Stay safe!

Online Course vs. DVD: Interaction Makes the Difference!

January 13, 2014
Bridge in 2-point perspective, watercolor & ink

Bridge in 2-point perspective, watercolor & ink – Learn one, two and three point perspective in my online course, as well as atmospheric perspective, details below.

Over and over I have been asked “When are you going to make some DVDs of your drawing and painting courses?” After much consideration, I have decided that instead of DVD, I am going to begin offering some courses online. I have always felt that DVD was too one-sided, lacking the interaction needed to understand the concepts of drawing and painting. I don’t talk “at” my students in class, I would be very uncomfortable with the idea of presenting to an audience that could not ask me questions or let me know whether the concepts are clear or not. Hence, I think online long-distance learning is the right path for me to take in offering my courses to a broader audience.

1, 2, 3 Perspective is now Available Online

I decided to start my venture into online course offerings with a mini version of a course I teach at the Visual Arts Center of NJ, “1, 2, 3 Perspective”. Many artists struggle with the concepts of perspective or are afraid of it. Anyone who wishes to paint effective representational paintings, particularly landscapes, needs to have a thorough grasp on all forms of perspective. I teach the course from an artist’s point of view rather than an engineering approach, focusing on understanding the gestural properties of each type of perspective and how they can be used to create accurate, bold compositions that draw the viewer into the painting.

The course consists of 4 lessons that contain an introduction to each concept: one-, two-, three-point perspective, and atmospheric perspective. After reading the text, the student completes 2 exercises designed to reinforce the concepts presented. Once completed, the student takes a photo of the work done in the exercises and emails it to me for personalized critique. I actually make a print out of their images and mark the corrections right on the copy so they can see EXACTLY where their drawings are off and how to fix them! No DVD will do that. Additionally, I provide feedback to them on how to make their drawings  more confident and graceful.

The materials used in the course are minimal: vine charcoal, compressed charcoal and a stick of white pastel on newsprint (or any other paper suitable for charcoal that you happen to have on hand). The photos taken can be iPhone photos, as long as I can see the drawing, I can critique it. Students are encouraged to email any questions they have along the way as they are doing the exercises. I reply to all emails within 24 hours of receipt.

Privacy and Convenience

One of the best aspects of online learning is the fact that you do it in your own home/studio and at your convenience. There’s no driving to class or carting supplies, plus, if you feel intimidated working in front of other artists, working independently may help to build your confidence. This is especially true for beginners!

You also are free to learn at your own pace. We work on one concept at a time, so when you finish the first lesson and have an understanding of the concepts taught in it, you then move on to Lesson 2. Some students take longer than others due to busy schedule or they just like to take their time, that’s totally fine. Take as long as you need, I provide the critiques within 24 hours of submission and then forward the next Lesson which is completed in your own time frame.

How to Sign Up

This course is affordably priced and there are several payment options, if you are interested in finding out more details, or have questions about the content, please email me at anne@kullaf.com.