Talented watercolor artist Ronald Pratt started painting while he was in college studying architecture. “I was looking for an elective class in art that would help me improve my presentation skills in architecture,” says Ronald. There was an opening in a beginning watercolor class, so he signed up. “I liked the beauty of a good watercolor painting and the challenge it presented when I discovered it was much harder than it looked. Never in my wildest dreams at that time did I imagine 35 years later it would be my profession.” After finishing school, Ronald only painted in the evenings and on weekends as a hobby. Eventually, he left architecture to paint fulltime.
For Ronald, the people who have influenced him the most in his artistic journey have been some of his watercolor teachers and workshop instructors. “They are the ones who helped me with the transition from watching the magic of someone else being able to paint, to being able to create that magic myself, says Ronald. In particular, Ronald cites Robert Reynolds, Tom Lynch, Ron Ranson, and Zoltan Zabo as key mentors who taught him not only about painting, but how to make a living as a painter.
Ronald points out that art academia focuses on teaching the skills—but what you do with those skills is equally as important. Ronald remembers that when he decided to make the switch from architecture to art, a lot of friends and family members were surprised. “Architecture was a glamour field, and the art world had a lot starving artists. It was interesting to watch people’s reaction to that decision,” says Ronald. “Some thought I was crazy. Some said, ‘You have to chase your dreams.’ But it was my wife who said that I should go for it. Her only caveat was that I only get one midlife crisis, this is it, and so I better make it work. Thirty-five years later she still insists I’m in my midlife crisis.”
Like most artists, Ronald doesn’t restrict himself to one medium, although watercolor painting is definitely his favorite. He also likes to work in pottery as a three-dimensional alternative. “I think having to think and design three-dimensionally really helps improve the depth and perspective aspects of my paintings,” says Ronald. “Even though watercolor painting is a two-dimensional medium on paper, the sense of depth one achieves leads directly to the success of a painting.” Ronald also enjoys the tactile nature of clay, so sculpting and wheel throwing stimulate other aspects of the senses. Ronald sometimes works in pencil, colored pencil, gouache, and oil and has recently begun to dabble in acrylic as well. “ Ibelieve all mediums interrelate in ways and stimulate your work in other mediums,” says Ronald.
For Ronald, the most enjoyable aspect of watercolor painting is the process—he doesn’t have a favorite subject, but likes to paint everything.
“I do seem to gravitate more to nature for my subject matter,” says Ronald. “Landscapes,seascapes, florals, and cityscapes all excite me.”
Color is the most exciting element of painting for Ronald. “I can be walking outside and observe the splash of color in a garden, or the subtle nuances of color in the foothills, or the marvelous colors in a fleeting sunset, and get charged up,” Ronald says. “Because I get so excited over color, I try to infuse my paintings with strong, vivid colors that make the painting come alive.” Traditional watercolor paintings tend to use soft pastels and leave large areas of white paper—but that isn’t Ronald’s style. He fills the paper with rich, intense color and strong value contrast to breathe energy into a piece, a style that is more common in acrylics or oils. “With the quality of lightfast paints being produced by manufacturers today, this style is not only available to the watercolorist, but is highly relevant in our society, where people are looking for art that makes a statement on a wall, instead of blending into the background,” says Ronald.
Ronald’s new book book, Watercolor: Seasons just came out this year. The easy-to-follow step-by-step projects are full of color and life—a perfect example of Ronald’s vibrant work. Click here to learn more about this fun, instructional book.
With his background in architecture, Ronald’s early paintings were primarily architectural illustrations that were crisp and controlled to show exact details in building and structures. As he painted more and got away from his background, however, Ronald started to loosen up and realize that painting is more the art of expression and exaggeration than the art of exactness. “I realized that if I was going to compete with the photorealism of a camera, the camera would win every time! This freed me up to look for mood or sense of place and try to depict that, rather than the exactness of a scene.”
As most artists know, the dreaded “artist block” hits everyone at some time. It isn’t possible to stay motivated and charged up all the time. Ronald finds that when motivation and inspiration is lacking, sometimes a break from art is what is needed. “I love outdoor sports. The enjoyment of swimming, hiking, camping, and golfing all seem to keep a balance in my life and get me out of the studio and into nature. When I get back to the studio, I seem to be more focused and recharged for painting,” says Ronald. Another tactic is to just start. “I tell my students that the hardest part about painting is getting started. If I’m procrastinating on getting started, I take a small kitchen timer and set it for one hour. I tell myself I can always just paint for one hour and then go on to something else. Usually when the timer goes off, I just keep on painting because I’m into what I’m doing. The hard part now is stopping.”
For artists who are just starting out, Ronald would first tell them to have fun with what they are doing. “Too often, artists who truly enjoy creating art lose sight of that joy after the initial rush wears off. Try to keep that sense of awe at what you create and look at the world as if through the eyes of a child,” says Ronald. He also suggests being willing to experiment and challenge oneself with new projects and directions. “Don’t play it safe. After all, it’s only paper and paint. Remember we get to say oops! You don’t want your doctor, dentist, attorney, or mechanic saying oops, but we’re artists, and we can! Have fun with it!”
To see more of Ronald’s artwork, visit www.ronaldpratt.com.
Artist Vanessa Rothe, who is currently the California editor of Fine Art Connoisseur, has been painting from the young age of five. “I would paint with my father on silk, using Sennelier water-based dyes. I loved the colors, as well as how they could mix and create new colors.” From then on, Vanessa always had a sketchbook in hand or watercolors in her pocket.
Growing up in an artist community in Laguna Beach, Vanessa mostly used watercolors. These days, however, she works more with oils. “I love their rich, buttery texture, and how they can blend so easily,” says Vanessa.
For Vanessa, inspiration is everywhere and in everything. “I find so much beauty in this world and see it with an artist’s eye. Even the most mundane, banal objects carry so much beauty. A rusted copper pot and the patina greens, a woman’s pose while reading a book under a lamp, a simple still life with apples…But mainly I adore sunlight and its effects on subjects in the outdoors. I find that I’m most attracted to the landscape and nature.”
A versatile artist, Vanessa works both on location and in the studio or at friends’ studios. While painting on location, Vanessa’s painting routine and method is dictated by the light and rushing to capture the sunlight on a subject. In the studio, however, Vanessa likes to start her painting sessions with classical music and a latte to sip on. “I tend to put enough paint on my palette that I don’t have to stop in the middle of the painting to replenish, as it can break concentration,” says Vanessa.
Vanessa cannot recall a time when she wasn’t inspired to paint. “I’m so honored to be an artist and to paint, to have commissions and exhibitions. Even as a professional artist who does it for a living, the act of painting is so enjoyable, pure, and exciting,” says Vanessa.
While she likes to explore a variety of subjects, Vanessa’s favorite things to paint are landscapes and how the sunlight plays on the land and casts shadows from trees. She also loves to paint Paris city scenes. “I am currently challenged and intrigued by the many shades of gray in this wonderful city that is still one of the capitols of art,” says Vanessa. “I think of the many painters the city has influenced over the years, writers, and musicians, and it simply adds to the intrigue.”
Sennelier Paints, the makers of the paints of the French impressionists, recently sponsored Vanessa—a big honor for an artist. Her work will be featured this week in the event Realism without Borders at the Scottsdale Exhibition Gallery, where her work will appear alongside that of Russian impressionists.
When she’s not teaching, painting, or at an exhibition, Vanessa is home with her husband Tommy and two little boys, Logan (8) and Perry (6). “I am a working mother who has found a lucky and unique balance between work and family,” says Vanessa. “I find that my world of art and teaching enriches my family’s life and I’m very lucky to be able to do both, as I’m so passionate about my work, but it’s so important to me to be present and a good, caring mother.” In her free moments alone, Vanessa likes to spend time with fellow artists, read French novels, plan travels, and look at famous artists’ books or works for inspiration.
For those artists just getting started, Vanessa recommends studying and mastering the core fundamentals—value, composition, color, and perspective. “Make sure you have a true understanding of these and how they work for every subject and then practice until you can do them well,” says Vanessa. She also suggests spending a full year just drawing and to learn value in grayscale before working in color.
Vanessa’s book, The Art School Approach: Still Lifes & Florals is a great resource for artists new to the art of painting.
As inspiration, Vanessa shares this quote from one of the masters, Michaelangelo:
“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
Like every artist, even he had to start at the beginning, and it took him years to learn. So practice, practice, practice!
To see more of Vanessa’s work, visit www.vanessarothe.com.
Greg Guler's career began at two years old with a rendition of a 1930s Popeye the sailor—and today spans more than 50 years of experience and a myriad of noteworthy projects, including several years with DC Comics and an impressive list of Disney TV series.
One of Greg’s earliest inspirations was watching Saturday morning cartoons as a child, following the adventures of classics like Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and the original Disney characters. Becoming enamored with cartoon and animated characters, Greg drew as many as he could.
“I’ve always loved creating a world where the rules didn't apply, a fantasy environment. My parents used to ask me why I wouldn’t just draw a normal horse—I prefer to make up my own renditions of characters," Greg says.
Today it seems Greg’s inspiration has come full circle—as one of the original character designers for Disney’s hit TV series Phineas & Ferb, (and an artist for Walter Foster's Learn to Draw Phineas & Ferb), Greg stays inspired through the response of the show's young audience. Although he leaves his home in Colorado one week per month to work in-house at the Disney studios, Greg is often able to visit local schools or bookstores and interact with Phineas fans—that is, when they don’t find him first.
Greg says the youngsters in his neighborhood have identified him as “the Phineas & Ferb guy”, and have been known to stop him while out on a neighborhood walk to make story requests.
“They may not realize that I don’t actually write theshow, but they often have pretty good ideas!” Greg laughs.
Greg also stays motivated knowing that he helps make something both kids and adults enjoy, especially in collaboration with a remarkable team like Disney. His list of projects for the company includes Buzz Lightyear of Star Command—Buzz’s prequel to the Toy Story series—Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Lilo & Stitch and A Goofy Movie.
Greg is especially proud of his involvement with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, remembering that it was no easy artistic task to convert the show's original 2D Mickey and friends characters into a design formatted for CG animation.
The advances of modern technology impressive as they are, Greg still values the tried-and-true method of drawing with a pencil and paper. Perhaps it helps remind him of the “less is more” approach he takes toward composition, being careful to stay concise and not add too much of what professionals call “line mileage” to a piece.
“As a character designer, your job is to communicate the design in a way that helps the animator keep things clear; it’s important to know what details to include and what not to. In the end, people should be focused on the character itself, rather than the drawing,” Greg says.
This finesse with simplicity is something Greg has developed with experience, learning to value the fun, playful spirit of his work. Greg says this progression is natural for most artists, remembering an obsession with overly-realistic details early on in his own career.
“As you get older you start to analyze things differently. Every drawing doesn't need to look like a photograph—though you always want levity in your drawings, you learn to appreciate the fun.”
Growing to cherish the fun in his work, like this year's holiday card above, has no doubt helped Greg to invest so much time in his craft over the years. In the rare moments when he’s not drawing, Greg enjoys spending time with his family—his wife, two children, and pair of beagles named Smudge and Trinket.
Overall, Greg is passionate about art and the process of developing creativity in the younger generation. He’d give any budding artist the same encouragement he passes on to elementary school students: if you enjoy drawing, keep doing it no matter what.
“Most people can draw if they really want to. It’s a matter of making the time and training your brain and hand to do what you see—just remember nobody in the universe but you can draw what’s inside your pen!” Greg says.
Talented artist Diane Cardaci has been drawing for as long as she can remember. “I think I really fell in love with it when I was about nine years old,” Diane recalls. She attended a local art class for children taught by a sweet elderly couple. “We began with crayons and graduated to pastels and watercolors. I remember being in awe of the older kids that were painting with easels and oil paints,” Diane says. She continued to draw through her school years but it wasn’t until she was an adult and attended medical school for two years in Italy that she realized she wanted to commit to Art as a career, rather than medicine.
For Diane, inspiration has always come from the greatest of teachers—the Old Masters. “I love to just look at their work and allow myself to soak it up like a sponge. I can spend hours looking at a book of paintings of an Old Master and love to go to museums.” She’s even been told, on more than one occasion, by museum guards to please step away from the painting! Living in New York City when she was younger, Diane came across many wonderful art instructors at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art. “I feel particularly fortunate to have been able to sit in some artistic anatomy classes with Robert Beverly Hale,” says Diane.
Diane works primarily in pencil and water-soluble oils, but also likes to experiment with colored pencils and pastels. Recently, she’s even begun to explore watercolor. Diane admits that she really loves to draw anything and everything—but her favorite subjects are people, animals, flowers, and landscapes.
Diane’s newest book, Drawing Landscapes & Vistas releases this month from Walter Foster and is an exciting new addition to the How to Draw series. Click here for more information about the book.
When it comes to art, composition is a key element to the success of the piece. For Diane, her technique in approaching composition is rather intuitive. “I’ll try cropping a sketch or photo in different ways and see what feels ‘right’to me. I also do small thumbnails, changing around elements and again, seeing what looks and feels right.”
Art isn’t always about technique, however. Diane says that the biggest development in her art is she focuses less on technique now, and more on the love of what she is drawing or painting. “I have always loved to draw and paint in a very realistic style, but now I allow my feelings to drive the process, rather than worrying about perfection.”
Aside from her passion for art, Diane shares a love for travel with her husband. “We have an addiction to Italy,” says Diane." We were spending more and more time in this fascinating country every year, so last year we finally decided to move and live year-round in our home in central Italy. It is a constant inspiration for me to be surrounded every day by both the beauty and incredible art history of Umbria and Tuscany.”
Even in a place like Italy, artist’s block is bound to hit at some point. To stay motivated and inspired, Diane always tries to approach her work in a relaxed state. “I do a lot of sketching, which I believe is the key to staying connected to the subjects I like to draw.” In addition, Diane spends time looking at other artists’ work, including contemporary artists that she admires.
For artists just starting out, Diane offers some wonderful advice: “Sketch, sketch, and more sketching from life. Bring your sketchbook everywhere and don’t let a day go by without at least a few minutes of working in it. Study from the Old Masters—I am still learning from works of art that have ‘stood the test of time.’”
Diane also encourages new artists to draw and paint the subjects that they love. “Art is the tool that communicates this love to others,” says Diane. Perhaps most importantly, Diane reminds artists of all ages and levels that “art is a lifelong journey of learning and growing—you never arrive.”
To learn more about Diane and see additional artwork, visit www.dianecardaciart.com.
Artwork © Diane Cardaci
Minnesota native Maury Aaseng can’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawing. “My dad used to keep my siblings and I quiet in church by drawing characters and critters in the bulletin for us, and I began to start mimicking his efforts. It quickly became one of my favorite activities, and I was soon filling up pages with dinosaurs, animals, fantastical creatures, and drawings of my family.”
As a child, Maury’s inspiration and influence came from illustrators of his favorite books. Maury says, “Their imaginative creations fascinated me and kept me turning the pages. Chris Van Allsburg, James Stevenson, and Bill Waterson were some of my favorite inspirations as a child, and I was thrilled by the stories they could tell with pictures.
Maury is the artist for Walter Foster's exciting new children’s release Learn to Draw American Landmarks & Historical Heroes and the forthcoming Drawing: Birds.
While Maury is a talented graphite pencil artist, he has been increasingly drawn to watercolor painting and in recent years found great inspiration in watercolor artists who depict the northern forests of the United States, such as Howards Siverton, Gordon MacKenzie, and Roderick MacIver. “These [artists] have been excellent fodder for my interest in painting wildlife found in the woods and waterways of Minnesota,” says Maury.
Maury’s mom was an early encourager for his artistic endeavors, enrolling him in every art class she could find as he grew up. “Along with my dad, she was my first “fan,” says Maury. In addition to family, Maury also found great encouragement and art instruction in some of his teachers. “In the 6th grade I struck gold by having Dan Ingersoll as my art teacher. He began giving me private lessons after school and continued to provide inspiration, valuable critiques, and much-needed friendship throughout my high school years.”
Maury was also lucky to find a mentor in professor Janice Kmetz while studying for his graphic design degree in college. “[She] mentored me with an independent study in illustration work and helped train me for the professional world.” Maury says his wife Charlene has been an enormous support and his biggest cheerleader for the last nine years. “Being a gifted designer with an MFA in fine arts, she has provided wonderful insight into my work and has helped push me further than I could have hoped to get on my own.”
A nature lover, it should come as no surprise that Maury’s favorite subject is wildlife. “Some things don’t change much over the years,” says Maury. “It’s been three decades since I first picked up a pencil and wildlife is still my favorite subject. However, I also enjoy cartooning and drawing people and landscapes.
As a nature enthusiast, when Maury’s not working in his studio he enjoys the outdoors as much as possible. “Getting outside to go canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, and fishing are some of my favorite activities. I’m also a fan of continued education and have been happy to take some woodworking and ecology classes post-college. Like most people, I enjoy good books, movies, and adore travel.”
Even for artists, finding inspiration and staying motivated can be a challenge at times. “Mortgages and bills are one powerful source of motivation,” says Maury, who is a full-time freelance artist. “But on an artistic level, there are three things that keep me motivated and inspired. The first is to work on a variety of projects in a variety of media. This helps keep things fresh and provides multiple challenges. The second is to view work of artists more talented than I. It’s a humbling and exciting thing that motivates me to always try to improve my work. And the third is to be surrounded with the beautiful scenery and fascinating creatures that captivate me in northern Minnesota.”
For artists just starting out, Maury has some useful advice and tips. “I would advise an artist just starting out to speak thoughtfully and kindly with clients and to accept criticism with open arms. Art collectors, publishers, and authors are looking for artists who they enjoy working with, and ultimately your talent will only get you as far as your people skills. Be grateful to work in a field that can be difficult, and keep working on ways to improve your skills.”
Maury also suggests that artists strive to strike a balance between work they get paid for and art they create for the sheer joy of it. “The first will keep you making art, and the second will keep making you enjoy it,” says Maury.
His last piece of advice for artists looking to make a career out of their art is to take a business class. “It’s a cheaper way to learn how to be your own boss than trial-and-error. Take from an illustrator who learned that one the hard way!”
To learn more about Maury and see additional artwork, visit his website at www.mauryillustrates.com.
Artwork © Maury Aaseng.
For watercolor artist Peggi Habets, drawing and painting have been a part of her life since childhood. After studying graphic design in college and working as a designer and art director for 15 years, Peggi decided to return to her original passion—fine art.
“I started studying with several well-known painters and discovered, to my delight, that watercolor is an exciting medium to work with,” says Peggi.
While Peggi also loves working with dry media like charcoal and pencil, her medium of choice is watercolor. “Watercolor has a fluidity and spontaneity that I have not found with any other medium,” Peggi says.
Her favorite subject to draw and paint is the figure, for its endless possibilities of composition, style, mood and concept. “It’s the one subject that everyone can relate to.”
Peggi’s book, Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits was published in May, and her work is also featured in the new release The Art of Drawing & Painting Portraits.
For Peggi, her family has always been extremely supportive of her art and is a big reason she is doing what she loves today. Like most artists, she also finds inspiration in painters of the past, including John Singer Sergant and Anders Zorn. “I am also inspired by contemporary artists Mary Whyte, Dean Mitchell, and Guan Weixing,” says Peggi.
When Peggi first started painting, she explored a variety of styles, methods, and materials. “I used brighter colors and didn’t think much about temperature, value, or edges.” But as she grew as a painter and her interest in realism increased, she found herself drawn to a more subdued, less arbitrary application of color.
“Currently, I’m using a limited palette of 8-12 colors that are neutral in nature,” says Peggi of her ever-evolving approach to color.
Little Guardian, watercolor
To stay motived when artist’s block hits, Peggi keeps a book filled with ongoing painting ideas. “Anytime I feel ‘stuck,’ I leaf through the book and plan at least one new painting,” she says. In addition, Peggi continually looks to the works of others for inspiration. “I have a wonderful group of women painter friends that I meet with regularly to plan exhibitions, exchange ideas, or just to compare notes. We continually keep each other motivated and inspired,” says Peggi.
Outside of the studio, Peggi spends free time with her husband and three teenage sons, camping, kayaking, and traveling. “To prepare for the rigorous balancing act of raising a family and working in the studio each day, I include exercise and meditation as part of my daily morning routine.”
For artists who are just starting out, Peggi suggests studying and practice, as well as finding mentors and instructors to learn from. “Ask lots of questions, exhibit your art, get involved with your local artist groups, and work very, very hard. Success does not happen overnight, but it is attainable!”
To view more of Peggi's art, visit www.habets-studio.com.
Artwork Copyright Peggi Habets
Samantha Whitten is one of the artists of the newly released How to Draw Manga Chibis & Cute Critters
, and we are honored that she agreed to appear in our first September Artist Spotlight! Read along for her advice on never giving up, drawing every day, and playing video games along the way. Walter Foster:
What are your earliest memories of creating art?Samantha Whitten:
My earliest memories are drawing on a giant (or what seemed giant at the time) drawing pad on the floor, surrounded by pencils and crayons. I also vividly remember doodling in all of my children's books, adding in characters or other items to the existing pictures. I actually still have my favorite book that I filled with drawings until I couldn't fit any more in.WF:
What is your favorite medium to work with? Has this changed over the years?SW:
My favorite medium used to be colored pencils, but ever since I acquired a computer and a tablet, digital art has been my medium of choice. It's easier and faster to work in than traditional methods, and much more forgiving of mistakes or changes.WF:
Where do you find inspiration?SW:
Inspiration comes in many forms for me, but my two main sources are other artists that I like and real-life situations. When I see art that I like, it makes me want to create similar things, and sometimes when I'm going about my daily life I'll see a situation or environment that I feel like rendering in my next piece.WF:
Where do you typically work? Do you follow any sort of ritual to prep for a project?SW:
I have a sort of office set-up in the corner of my bedroom since I work from home. It consists of a very large desk, two computer monitors, my tablet, and any other items I need to keep the workflow going. The only ritual I can say I have is that I usually spend about 30 minutes or more doing warm-up sketches at the start of the day to make sure I'm in the art groove before I start work on a serious project.WF:
When you're facing the dreaded "artist's block," what do you do to recharge?SW:
I don't really believe in artist's block! But I do hit points where I am so unmotivated that I have a hard time working productively. The best solution is usually to take a break from art if the deadline allows it. Go for a walk, read a book, play a video game. Just take time to unwind and recharge. If that isn't possible or doesn't work, I try looking at other artists' work. Sometimes seeing a really great piece is just the kick in the pants you need to get your creative juices flowing again. WF:
What are your favorite subjects to create?SW:
My favorite subjects are cute things! Animals, people, critters out of my imagination—if it's cute then I enjoy making it.WF:
What do you do in your free time when you're not working or creating art?SW:
one of my favorite things to do is play video games. They can be a lot of fun and can also inspire me in other ways. I also really enjoy reading books or going to the movies.WF:
If you were to give advice to a beginning artist, what would it be?SW:
Never give up! It can be really easy to just throw in the towel and walk away when you're first starting out, especially when you see a bunch of really great artists that are so much better than you. But you have to remember that we all started somewhere, and if you don't keep going you will never get better. Believe in yourself and you'll go far!To learn more about Samantha Whitten and to see more of her work, visit littlecelesse.com and sugarbunnyshop.com
Cynthia Knox has been drawing with graphite pencils since she was teenager and learned to draw from pencil drawing books by fellow Walter Foster artist, Gene Franks. “My favorite projects were the kitten and the foal—both of those pieces, I still have,” says Cynthia. This early drawing experience led Cynthia initially to portrait commissions of people and animals, which she found very rewarding.
“It was less than 10 years ago that I began experimenting with colored pencils. I found them to be an easy, affordable medium that could yield extraordinary color and detail,” says Cynthia. Though colored pencils may be her passion now, she still likes to return to her simple 2B pencils every now and then.
With early instruction in drawing—and later, in colored pencil—from Walter Foster publications, it was a natural progression for Cynthia to want to become a Walter Foster artist. She published Flowers in Colored Pencil in 2011 and Colored Pencil Basics, newly released this summer.
While Cynthia’s florals succeed in juried competitions, currently she is most passionate about drawing and painting horses. “I live in Saratoga, New York, and when the summer track season heats up, there is a great deal of interest in all things horses,” says Cynthia.
Like most artists, Cynthia finds inspiration and encouragement from fellow artists. “Lee Hammond taught me excellent techniques for both graphite and colored pencils. She led two workshops in my town and gave me the courage to move into colored pencils.” Other artists who have influenced Cynthia in her art journey are Barbara Edidin and Ann Kullberg.
In addition to such wonderful friends and peers, Cynthia’s support system is grounded in her husband, Jeff, their two daughters, and her parents. “They would always applaud everything I did, no matter how amateur it was,” Cynthia says. Cynthia has worked with a life coach for several years, who has spurred her to higher levels in her career. With her encouragement and critique, Cynthia has had a website designed, won awards, taught art classes, judged art shows for a school and an artists’ society, been featured in monthly and hardcover publications, and completed two books with Walter Foster Publishing. "I am truly grateful for the people in my life,” says Cynthia.
Working with such a vibrant medium, it is no wonder that color inspires Cynthia. “Nothing creates a mood like color and light in a painting,” says Cynthia. She points out that colored pencil artists call their works “paintings” because they apply layers upon layers. “The saturation of color, the blending, and the burnishing effects achieved with intense pressure often lead to a painterly look similar to that of oils,” says Cynthia.
Colored pencil can be an intimidating medium for beginning artists, and Cynthia shares that lots of practice has led her to confidence. “When I began using colored pencils, I was nervous because they are not easy to erase. In fact, they really don’t erase well at all. How would I correct my mistakes?” For Cynthia, this was a major obstacle in continuing to explore the medium. However, she learned that there are plenty of ways to work with mistakes. You can learn some of her tips in both of her books with Walter Foster.
To stay motivated and inspired, Cynthia finds joy increating new compositions with her camera, as well as in the affirmation of family and friends when she completes a new piece. When she’s not creating, Cynthia attends a small church with her family, where they have been involved in Bible studies, church events, leadership issues, and a new building on a beautiful piece of land. “Relationships with these friends, a committed marriage of 25 years to my husband Jeff, and the joy and pride we take in our two daughters all inspire and motivate me to live each day to its fullest. Did I mention that we have four great dogs as well?”
For those artists just starting out, Cynthia encourages practice and drawing, drawing, and more drawing. “It’s important to nail down those drawing skills before engaging in any other medium,” says Cynthia, pointing out that composition, perspective, and general layout must make sense to someone viewing your art. “Once those drawing skills are in place, bring in some color, and just keep making art as often and consistently as possible. Most importantly, don’t give up when you’re discouraged. Push through that, and persevere. You will be pleased with the journey and delighted with the rewards at the end of it.”
To learn more about Cynthia and view more of her beautifulart, please visit www.cynthiaknox.com.
Artwork and author photo Copyright © Cynthia Knox.
Walter Foster artist William Powell has been drawing and painting for what seems like forever. “I was a sign painter in New York in 1948, painting on the sides of buildings,” Bill says of his start as a professional artist.
Bill’s artistic career took an exciting turn in the 60s when he started working with The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development organization (FFRDC) originally established by Congress. The Aerospace Corporation conducts research and development for organizations such as the U.S Air Force, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Both my wife (Bev) and I were proud to be a part of this fine organization. We loved our work and mission. We both worked on many programs including man in space; space vehicle programs such as Atlas, Nike, Titan, Athena, Sidewinder, Minuteman; national security; and much more. It was exciting work.”
Bill joined the art department in the San Bernardino Division in 1961 and eventually became the lead graphic artist, working directly with engineers, scientists, doctors and civilian professionals to create visual concepts of theoretical projects. Bill’s team created artists' concepts in the form of visual graphic illustrations of everything from space vehicles to three-dimensional models, many of which were presented to Congress for additional funding and program approval. His illustrations won several awards from TIMA (Technical Illustrators and Management Association).
When The Aerospace Corporation moved its facilities in 1971, Bill and his wife chose not to move with the company. Bill took the plunge to become a full-time freelance artist and illustrator, a move fully supported by his wife. “I have the dearest wife,” Bill says. “She has always supported me and believed in me.”
Bill didn’t always plan to teach art. But one day a teacher friend asked him to substitute teach his art class while he was in the hospital. “I told him, ‘I can’t teach.’ But I did it anyway,” says Bill. When Bill’s friend ended up not coming back to teach, Bill decided to stay. He had 300 students and a waiting list of 400.
“In one of my classes, a student had a Walter Foster book, and I noticed that the section on color was wrong,” Bill recalls. He wrote to Walter Foster himself, just to let him know. “He asked me what I would do differently, and after I told him he invited me to come down and talk about it more.” Bill published Understanding Color with Walter Foster in 1976 and has authored or contributed to more than 32 publications since, including his newest release 1500 Color Mixing Recipes for Oil, Acrylic & Watercolor.
Recognized as one of America’s foremost colorists, Bill says that color is a personal experience.
“I’ve always told students to think of color as visual flavor. A cook can stand in the kitchen and recognize the different flavors and spices and know how they work together and go together. A painter can do the same thing with tubes of paints.”
Though an accomplished artist, Bill never even took a formal painting lesson. When he went to New York to become a cartoonist, he took page layout classes and an anatomy course. “I figured if I could draw the body I could draw anything,” says Bill, who later went to Europe to study the masters at the Louvre. “Studying the work of the masters was so inspiring,” Bill says.“I started my first painting when I was in England. I learned to paint all the mediums on my own.”
Bill’s experience as an artist and instructor includes oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, colored pencil, and pastel, with subjects ranging from landscapes and seascapes to still life, portraiture, and wildlife. “I love all the mediums,” says Bill, “but I’ve always leaned towards oil. I don’t think any other medium has the depth of color that oil has.”
Art, while a hobby for some, is Bill’s profession. So what does this artist do in his free time? “My hobby is geology. I have several thousand crystal collections. In the 1950s I used to go out to the desert and wander.” He even discovered an amethyst deposit once.
With years of experience, practice, and technique under his belt, Bill has some helpful advice for new artists:
“Don’t try and make it perfect from the beginning. Practice, practice, practice. It gets easier as you practice. It’s a step-by-step process. Don’t rush and try to create a Rembrandt on your first painting. Learn your colors. Learn what they do when you mix them together. Above all, learn to draw. Be very patient with yourself.”
You can learn more about Bill or see his work at http://www.williampowell-artist.com. Clickhere to see all of Bill’s current publications with Walter Foster.
When Marilyn Sotto was just a little girl, her father brought her something to keep her occupied while she was sick at home with the measles — a small book, with a pale blue soft cover. “On the cover was a horse, hand-drawn, and the title read How to Draw Horses, by Walter Foster,” shares Marilyn. “I was enchanted with that book, and loved looking at how the hooves worked and at all the little details on the face. Since that day, I’ve had a connection with Walter Foster and the beautiful books that have been produced by him and his company.”
Not only did Marilyn’s father introduce Marilyn to her very first Walter Foster drawing book, but he also always encouraged her to follow her artistic passion. He could see that from a young age, Marilyn had a gift of sketching, drawing, and painting, and he knew her talent would take her places. Marilyn’s father was an artist himself and was constantly looking for ways to bring more art into the world — whether that was painting murals in restaurants with his daughter because he thought the restaurant needed an extra little “something”(you can still see one of their murals at Sonny’s Pizza & Pasta in San Clemente, California) or walking into MGM to become a scenic artist. He didn’t have any experience with movie scenery before his time at MGM, but his talent, hard work, and perseverant nature opened the door for him there, and his career in the movie business was born.
It was precisely her father’s career in the movie business that prompted Marilyn to look into the business herself. A graduate of Venice High School in Los Angeles, California, Marilyn began applying at jobs at movie studios soon after graduation. A few years later, she finally got a job as a messenger girl at MGM. After proving herself a hard worker, Marilyn eventually got in the studio sketching with designers, and she worked her way up to gain a spot working on Julius Caesar, starring Marlon Brando with Herschel McCoy as the costume designer. “Designing costumes for this movie was a real challenge,” explains Marilyn, “because it was going to be shot in black and white, but we were to sketch in color. We had to imagine the black-and-white values of our colored sketches.”
Marilyn continued on to work at Western Costume, as well as on the set of several other movies, working with Edith Head and other top costume designers. She also spent several years working with Disney, designing costumes and sets for their Florida and Paris parks. One day, her father noticed the thousands of sketches she had around her home and decided they needed to take the sketches to Walter Foster and see what he thought. A meeting with Walter Foster, and The Art of Costume Design was born! In our newly released How to Draw & Paint Fashion & Costume Design , you can see several sketches from Marilyn’s first book. Be sure not to miss this chance to see her beautiful art!
This is the first post in our newest blog feature, Artist's Spotlight! Be sure to check back often to learn more about the fabulous artists we are honored to work with.