Have You Seen The One-Man Play About Vincent van Gogh?

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If you are too tired to create or you want to learn how Vincent van Gogh started painting, treat yourself to the video below.

It might not be considered a play. People might say it’s:  a soliloquy: “an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play.”

But it’s beautiful.

The performance is played by Joe Miller, acting as Vincent van Gogh’s loving brother, Theo.

It is called, “With a Warm Handshake,” which is explained during the performance, if you don’t know why already.

Get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee, lean back and enjoy this touching performance:




What Acrylic Painters Should Not Do – Even if the Art Books Tell You To

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I recently purchased and art book that told me to do something I knew was not good for acrylic paintings. The book is “Acrylic Painting: Landscapes: Learn to paint landscapes in acrylic step by step (How to Draw & Paint)” by Tom Shropshire. It is a Walter Foster book, which are usually very reliable.

Shropshire’s book is good, though. I don’t want to imply that the book is not a good one for our art library. It is a welcome addition to my collection. There are 5 landscape projects. Some have small human figures, which I like. He is into stormy skies and does them remarkably well. We can also learn to paint trees and reflections in water from this book.

Furthermore, the 5 projects could be painted as a set for a large wall.

But the instructions for each project start with “Dampen the canvas with a sponge.”

I don’t believe this wise. The binder for acrylic paints can be diluted with water to the point where it will not bind to the canvas. I can image that some unsuspecting student in acrylics could make the mistake of putting too much water on canvas. Later the dry paint could flake off due to what Michele Theberge calls “under-binding” in her video below.

A much better technique is to add acrylic medium to the paint, if you want to create a “wash effect” or “tone the canvas.” Used according to the instructions, the medium would not dilute the binder in the paint beyond what it can tolerate. So always follow the instructions on the bottle of medium to the letter.

I use Liquitex Airbrush Medium that Michele demonstrates in the video. It is not glossy and is practically odorless. These were two requirements I was looking for in a medium. I use it to tone a canvas or to make the paint more fluid on my brush, especially when the paint is beginning to dry out and drag across the canvas.

Instead of dipping my brush into water to make the paint more fluid, I dip it into the airbrush medium.

To back up my claim that adding too much water to the paint or canvas is not good with acrylics, I have included Michele Theberge’s video. She explains the problem and solution better than I can. She asks us in her video to “spread the news” about the problem acrylic paint has with adding too much water, so here we go. Thanks, Michele! We appreciate that you took the time to teach us this important point:

Does Music Always Help Your Creativity?

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Is music a distraction when you are creating? It could be.

What about listening to podcasts or YouTubes while painting, sculpting or whatever. These could definitely be distractions.

And why is that bad? We will tell you…


In the excellent book, “The War of Art” by Steven Preston, an important point for artists and other creative people is mentioned in the introduction:

“When we sit down each day to do our work, power concentrates around us… We become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete [multiply and attach to us] … Stunning ideas arrive as if from nowhere.”

This  may not be true everyday, but it does happen sometimes. (In fact, it happened to me today as I was working on a painting.)

I used to catch up on the news, watch murder mysteries or play music in my studio while I was painting. No more. I stopped doing that a while back when I was feeling frustrated and my progress was plateauing.

Then I decided to simply concentrate on my work. I stopped all distractions, even restful music. I decided to pay more attention to the paints, the textures and the GOALS of what I was working on.

I discovered I not only made progress but I enjoyed the PROCESS of painting more.

Then when I read the above passage in Pressfield’s “The Art of War,” I realized what had happened. I created an environment where inspiration could penetrate my mind. Nothing was drowning out ideas. If an idea was coming to mind, nothing overpowered it. It was free to break through with nothing getting in the way.

So if you are experiencing frustration in your creative work and you are not enjoying the process as you used to, I recommend you try creating the quietest environment you possibly can.

Then listen to the cosmos. Is Inspiration trying to whisper something to you? Is a seed of an idea growing in your thoughts?


Let it enter. Rest in it. Play with it.

Let the still small voice of Creativity speak amazing things to you.


How to Create and Sell Your Own Digital Portfolio

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In the video below by Aurelius Tjin, he shows us how to use free tools to create and sell an ebook. For creative people of all kinds, this can be our online, digital portfolio!

You will first need pictures of your creative work, whether that’s paintings, dance, sculptures, acting scenes or whatever. I recommend you don’t use free images you find online since this portfolio will be about your work, not someone else’s. (There may be exceptions to this rule, however. You decide what’s best for your portfolio.)

One certain exception is if you will create a portfolio of your writings. In this case, you will have articles, poems, short stories or an entire fiction or non-fiction book. You can use the free images found in Canva.com or Pixabay.com to illustrate your ebook cover and inside the ebook as well.


Read through the steps I’ve outlined below to get an overview of the project to create and sell your portfolio. Then watch the video below to see clearly how each step is accomplished.

[1] The main free tool you will use to make your digital portfolio is a free Canva.com account. Start by creating your free Canva.com account, if

Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01
Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01

you don’t already have one.

[2] Then gather the images you want in your portfolio and upload them to Canva.com.

[3] Set up your portfolio size. (See Aurelius’ video minute 00:30)

[4] Make the portfolio cover. (See minute 1:15)

[5] Put in the Table of Contents, as Aurelius describes. (See minute 2:15)

[6] Then start adding your images. You can have a blank page to go with each of your images. Some people like to show the image first, then give an explanation afterwards. Other people like to explain first, then show the image. (See minute 6:45)

[7] TIP: Be sure that you include how people can contact you if they want to buy some of your work. This could be in the introduction, the conclusion or both. If you have a website, link to it. If you want to give out your phone number or address, you are free to so.

If you don’t have a website, but want to display your work on a website, contact me about getting a page on SkillfulArtists.com. (Info@SkillfulArtists.com. Put “skillful artists” in the subject line).

[8] If you want to, you can make your portfolio cover look 3 dimensional. This is optional but kinda nice if you are going to sell or display your ebook or portfolio around the internet.

TIPS: If you do decide you want a 3-D image of your portfolio cover, be sure to create and save at least the 3-D image with the transparent background. These look much better on a website page. You can also save a version with a colored background behind the book. Both versions can be useful. While you’re there, download various sizes of your new 3-D portfolio cover. (See Aurelius’ explanation at minute 8:30)

[9] Now save your portfolio in a PDF format.  (See minute 11:00)


[10] Optional: If you want to sell copies of your portfolio or if you now have a digital book of poems you can sell, go to Gumroad.com (See Aurilius’ video minutes 11:30 – end of video)

You can set up a forever free account on Gumroad.com (https://help.gumroad.com/article/65-gumroad-creatorpedia-all-the-answers-in-one-place)


Do These Warm-Up Sketches and People Sketches


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Here is The Unexpected Gypsy’s video on her techniques for warming up your arm and pencil before starting a serious drawing session. She gives loads of good ideas so I wanted to give her some publicity here.

Below the video, I’ve included some copyright-free sketches and images from Pixabay. You can download them from this page and use them any way you want.

Enjoy! Send in your sketches and we’ll post them on this website. Send them to: info@skillfulartists.com.



Art as a business
Art as a business




Tricks to Get and Stay Productive


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Wendy in the video below has many tips for overcoming Resistance in order to get into your creative work session. She has quite a ritual! Her channel is called The Unexpected Gypsy. You may have watched some of her videos already. Let’s give her the attention she deserves in this blog post.

I thought her video was particularly well done and something we could all profit from and watch again from time to time – that is, anytime we are struggling to get back in the swing of creating something.

Whether it’s the fear of facing the blank white canvas or paper. Or if it’s the fear of ruining something you have started and so far so good, creating takes courage.

[1] Early Morning Self Care Routine – This is different for everyone. It usually includes coffee or tea, washing, stretching, yoga or prayer, walking the dog and the like. I always include looking at the painting or reference photo as early as possible so that my mind gets focused in the direction of my morning’s work. What would be your ideal that gets you in the proper frame of mind to create?

[2] There are also some things we probably should avoid before a creative session. I avoid checking my emails because I want to minimize distractions. I definitely avoid social media. Once I get into that the time flies and cuts into my best creative hour. I put off making any phone calls, too, if I can. There may be things that you should think about avoiding. What sort of things get you out of the creative mood?

[3] Wendy writes in her journal and gets in touch with how she is feeling that day. I rarely do that. I don’t do that when I have a 9 to 5 job because I’d have to go to it whether I feel like it or not. So I take my creative sessions as seriously as any job – only a really enjoyable one where I’m self-employed.

[4] Wendy brings up a good point. Sometimes we get anxious, for whatever reason, either before we start to create or during. The solution may be doing some deep breathing, playing peaceful music or just put whatever is bothering you in a drawer to deal with later. I often get up and take a brisk walk down the driveway. This releases tension for me. It should be something that brings us joy, hope, or some other positive emotion. Perhaps for you it would be playing with the dog, brushing the cat, getting a cup of hot herbal tea, dancing to an upbeat song or just plain stretching.

[5] When we have one of those awful days where there seems to be a huge stone wall to over before we can start, we should tell ourselves that what we create that day does not have to be perfect. Only God is perfect and we are mere mortal artists. Remind yourself that you can always white something out and start again. If you are a writer, you can toss that chapter and take your character down a better path. Not every day – thank God – involves a particularly strong Resistance. Once we establish a good pre-creative-session routine, Resistance will have less power over us. But if you are having “one of those days,” tell yourself that you will create something and if it comes out badly, no big deal; you can start over later. Chances are you will make something good and be very proud of yourself for winning the battle against Resistance.

[6] Create an appealing work environment for yourself. Wendy suggests burning a candle with a nice scent. Set up your lighting the way you like it. I often fool around with my brushes and organize my paint tubes. I make sure I’m warm enough or I get an extra sweater. I sit quietly in my chair and tell myself how fortunate I am to have this creative time. I remember that life can get so busy that creative time can be as scarce as gold. I send up a prayer of thanks – or a plea for help. And after a deep, appreciative breath, I begin.

[7] Wendy gives more even tips that can make your creative sessions more productive and enjoyable. Watch her very informative video below. Then leave a comment, telling us how you get into the zone – and manage to stay there!


Wisdom from the Artist’s Roller Coaster

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Being a creative person makes life more enjoyable. We see the world a bit differently, noticing more of the details and colors that we encounter each day.

However, we tend to get overly wrapped up in our work and too attached to it. Have you ever thought about what your artist life would be like if you could take things – such as criticism – in a matter-of-fact way?

What if it didn’t matter one bit to you what people thought or said about your work? Some will love it and some will not. What if you could completely detach your emotions from other people’s opinions? What freedom that would be!

roller coaster

In the video below, Alpay Efe touches upon this subject. He talks (in his wonderfully soothing voice) about what he wishes he knew when he got started as a artist. Among those things is the torture of riding the artist’s emotional roller coaster and how it does nothing to help an artist improve his craft.

There’s a lot of wisdom in Alpay’s video. He says it better than I could so we’ll let him share his experience with us in his own words. In return, we will share his video here and give him more exposure for his YouTube channel.

In the comment section of this post, give your thoughts on how following Alpay’s advice can help us love our art journey more.


Do These Animal Sketches

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Choose one of these sketches that I found on Pixabay.com and spend a bit of time with your sketch pad.

If you want an enlarged version of a sketch, right click on it and choose “Save image as” to download it to your computer.

ALL these sketches are copyright-free. You are free to copy these sketches to use any way you want to.

If you want to change the size of the sketch you downloaded so that you can trace it onto your sketching surface, follow these instructions: HOW TO ENLARGE (OR REDUCE) AND PRINT AN IMAGE. 


Send in the sketch that you do and we’ll post it on this website. Send it as an attachment to Elaine@SkillfulArtists.com.

Looking forward to seeing your work!


Instructions for Creating the Colorful Horse Portrait 01


Rather than just filming this painting being created, I’m trying a new approach that takes one step at a time. With video tutorials, steps can go by quickly. With this approach, each step is completed before going onto the next step, no matter how much times it takes you to complete it.

[1] Select a Surface

Choose the surface you want to create this horse portrait. It could be canvas, pressed hardboard, paper, a wall, a barn door, glass, your sketchbook, whatever.

Colorful Horse Portrait 01
Colorful Horse Portrait 01

I used a 16 x 20 stretched canvas, but this portrait can be done in any size at all.

Read this article to learn how to enlarge or reduce any reference photo to match the surface you choose.

As you go through these instructions, take just one bite-sized section at a time. If you have only 30 minutes a day to devote to creating artwork, this project is perfect for you.

[2] Paint The Background
Canvas with warm 3 color background

Create a background for the horse portrait. I used a loose, streaky mixture of the white, yellow and burnt sienna.

You can create any background you want but be careful not to create a background that will overpower the horse.

You want the viewer’s eye to go straight to the horse and not to the background.

Chip Brush
Chip Brush

I dragged out some paint with a chip brush and applied the paint in vertical streaks. I was careful not to blend the colors too much. I wanted to create an interesting background but one that would not distract from the horse.

[3] Resize the Template

(If you don’t want to go through the steps of enlarging the template and printing it out, feel free to hand-sketch the outline of the portrait onto the canvas after the background has dried.)

Download this PDF file: Outline Template of Colorful Horse Portrait 01 that has the horse’s portrait.

Then follow the instructions on how to enlarge or reduce the template to fit the size of your painting surface. I enlarged the photo to fit a 16 x 20″ canvas. For that, I set the tile size to 300 and printed it out in landscape and with cut marks showing.

At first, these instructions may seem complicated so just take them one step at a time. If you need help, just contact me. If you learn this skill, you can enlarge or reduce and print any reference photo in the future. It’s a very handy skill for an artist to have!

However, if you prefer the grid method or if you don’t have a printer to print out the enlarged template, feel free to use any method you want to transfer the reference photo onto your painting surface.

If nothing else, you can just free-hand the drawing onto your painting surface. But whatever you do, don’t let this step stop you from creating this colorful horse portrait.

Print Out the Enlarged Template
Printed enlarged template pages
Printed enlarged template pages

Once the pages of the template are printed, lay them out in the correct order and measure from the nose to the right edge of the mane. Will the image fit your painting surface? If not, change the tile size and print out the pages again.

Trim and Tape the Pages Together

Then piece the pages together by cutting on the cut marks (the printed plus signs) and taping the pages together.

This horse portrait template is very light because I didn’t want to use a ton of ink, but it’s there:

The assembled template pages
The assembled template pages
[4] Transfer the Image Onto Your Painting Surface

After I pieced the template together, I taped it where I wanted it on the canvas.

I used regular carbon tracing paper and a stylus to transfer the imprint onto the background. I’m not worried that the carbon lines will not erase because I put the paint on thick enough to cover all the lines.

If you didn’t go through the steps of enlarging the template, just hand sketch the pattern onto the background.

In the past, I had problems covering the sketch lines when the area was white or yellow but I solved that problem. If you want to learn how to cover sketch lines well, read this article: Pigment Makes All the Difference.

[5] Apply the First 3 Colors

Now we’re at the fun part. Start applying red, yellow and burnt sienna according to the reference photo. Resist the urge to blend the colors. Instead, just load paint on a stiff brush or an angle brush and apply a streak of paint. Then reload the brush and do it again.

Apply 3 colors - red, yellow and burnt sienna
Apply 3 colors – red, yellow and burnt sienna


Red and yellow make orange.

Red and burnt sienna make dark red.

Don’t be too fussy. Later, you can paint over anything you want to change.

Notice that most of the horse is done in the warm colors found on the color wheel. I have found that people love paintings done with warm colors.

[6] Eye, Nostril and Ears
Black and white for the nostril, eye and ears

I like to get to the eyes as soon as possible because I enjoy working on a painting when there’s express in the animal’s face.

With black, paint in the nostril, eye and outside of ears.

When dry, put a dot of white in the eye and some white in the interior of the ears.

Adding expression with black and white

Add a bit of gray or brown around the eyes and nostrils as shown.

This is a good place to point out that I have an article about white and yellow paint. For the horse’s eye dot, I used my very best white. Learn more about what I mean by reading this article: Pigment Makes All the Difference.

[7] Add More Orange

Knowing that I would eventually darken up some areas, I felt the horse needed more orange at this stage:

Added more orange







[8] Darken Some Areas

Darken and round under the chin with burnt umber. Don’t blend too much.

Do the same on the hide at the base of the mane. Lightly bring up some color into the mane so that they appear attached.

Now you can see the overall appearance has contrast and shape. Resist the urge to blend the colors. Instead, put them on in streaks. When the painting is on the wall, the viewer’s eyes will do some blending:


[9] Add Blue

Now it’s time to add a cool color to the painting. With a thin brush add blue streaks to the mane, forelocks and ears:

[10] Add White, Make Last Touches and Sign It!

Add streaks of white around the painting, except at the shoulder and body. If you have it, use a white with a good pigment, such as Golden brand. If you don’t have this, just use any white paint that you have.

Add any other accent you want to make the completed picture:


Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01
Finished Colorful Horse Portrait 01

Then sign it:

Signed painting
Signed painting. Good job!

If you have any questions about doing this painting, feel free to contact me using this form. I am not copyrighting this painting so you can copy it and sell (or gift it) it as many times as you want.

Enjoy the journey!

Are You Too Shy to Show Your Artwork?

If so, you are not alone. We are afraid our artwork will be criticized. This translates into “They are criticizing me.”


Writers have the same problem. They are afraid that people won’t like their stories and that they will get a bad review.

But sharing our work is an integral part of the arts. Where would we be if every artist kept his or her work only in their studio?

Art should be everywhere! YOUR art should be out there making our world more interesting.

We Compare Our Work to Other People’s Work

This is a big pitfall for many artists. They see other works and say that theirs are not nearly as good. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so some people might like your art more than the other person’s pieces.

Comparing paintings
Comparing our work to others

There is no artwork in the world or in history that was loved by every person who saw it. In the same way, some people like to read Steve King novels. Other people do not. Yet he has written over 50 books, even though many people don’t enjoy reading horror stories.

Some people like to watch Kevin Costner movies. Other people don’t think he’s a good actor and don’t enjoy his movies. But it doesn’t stop him from making more movies and getting them out into the world!

It’s perfectly okay and normal if some people don’t like your artwork. Some will and some won’t. That’s okay. Make and show your art and some people WILL like it.

Our Artwork is NOT Who We Are

We must be careful not to think that if people don’t like our art then they don’t like us. Your art is something your created. It is not you.

There are artists who are very different from their paintings. They may have a sweet and gentle nature and draw monsters and gargoyles.

On the other hand, there are writers who write love stories but they are hell to be around.

We are not our art.

Talent is NOT a Requirement

We all have tendencies toward certain things. Some are naturally good cooks, some are innately good at home decorating.

But these skills can be learned.

I could go to a French cooking school and come out knowing how to create delicious meals. I could take courses in interior design and décor and be able to make a room look very attractive.

In the same way, I could take art courses and create a very respectable painting by implementing what I learned.

Even if a person is not in a financial position to take art courses, he can learn from YouTube videos, library books and just studying the paintings that he would like to emulate.

But even people with masters in arts degrees can’t create artwork that everyone on the planet loves. Their work will appeal only to a certain group of people because that is the way art is.

Not everyone will like my fancy French meal either.

The 3% Rule

Decades ago when I was learning to write and sell ebooks, I read that a writer is going good if 3% of the people who read the sales page buy the ebook.

I found that statistic shocking, so it stuck with me all these years.

I was taught that if more than 3% buy the book, then my price was too low.

If less than 3% buy the book then either my price was too high or my sales page was not doing its job.

So now, what about my paintings? If I take my paintings to an art fair and 100 people see them, only 3% will like them? Maybe. Or maybe more than 3% will like them but they don’t have the money to buy them.

But some WILL like them and some might be able to buy them.

Is it realistic at 100% of the people who see my paintings will like them? Not at all.

This is the nature of creative works.

Art is a Business
Art as a business
Art as a business

We create things that someone else might like to buy to make their own surroundings nicer and more attractive.

Carpenters do the same thing. And brick masons. And architects. And all the other professionals who create something to make the world a more attractive place.

When we think of art as a business, we tend to take it less personally. We create a painting or sculpture or whatever in hopes that someone will want it in their home or to give it as a gift.

So we seek to improve our skill and gain some insight into what people want in their homes. It has been my experience that people like bright paintings with plenty of warm colors and a sense of light.

These could be abstract, impressionistic, plein air or realistic. It could be flowers, landscapes or fantasy. The world is our oyster.

But your experience might be different. You may live in an area where people like the masters and want a darker painting with a very ornate frame. If that works for them, that’s great!

Art is a business.

Art is a Hobby

If art is your hobby, you don’t care what people like because you don’t care if you sell any of your pieces.

Art as a hobby
Art as a hobby

You create for the sense of satisfaction that creating something gives you.

People who knit are the same way. There are millions of sweaters for sale in the world, but they knit one in order to feel the sense of accomplishment.  They enjoy the journey. The act of creating a sweater from a skein of yarn makes them feel productive and creative.

Good enough.

If you create your artwork as a hobby, you are doing it to enjoy the creative journey. It doesn’t matter what others think about your finished product because you didn’t make it for them. You did this for yourself and your own good pleasure.

And that’s all that matters.

Hobby artists show their work but don’t necessarily put a price on it. This is a good way to start if you are very shy about showing your work. Just mention that painting is your hobby and that you do it for enjoyment. If someone likes one of your pieces, they will ask if you will consider selling it.

Hobby artists may be the most free of all the artists. They can explore with abandon. They can create any artwork they feel like – every day. They are not constrained by what people might like to buy.

For some people, this might be the best way to improve. Freedom has a way of allowing us to be all we can be.

Artwork Can Be Given Freely

When you are not confident enough to take money for your artwork, think about giving a piece away.

If someone says they like something you made, give it to them.

They will hang it in their home and tell people about you and your artwork. It’s good publicity. When the new owner expresses her appreciation for your artwork, others will follow. It’s human nature.

Be sure to sign your piece on the front. I use Posca pens to sign mine. If you have business cards, attach one to the back.

I have heard artists online complain about people who want them to paint something for free. I’m not talking about that. If someone asks you to do some artwork, by all means charge them a fair price.

I’m talking about gifting something to a friend who has encouraged you in your art journey. Or someone who has a birthday coming up.

I’m not saying to give all your work away. But occasionally, gifting a piece can brighten your day and bless someone else.

If you are too shy to enter an art show or sell your pieces online, you may be able to break the ice by occasionally giving a piece away. Your confidence will grow as you think about your work hanging in someone else’s home.

In a world that is all about sales and advertisements, you can’t go wrong by being different and giving something away.

Vincent Van Gogh Sold Only One Painting

…in his entire lifetime! Now his paintings sell for thousands of dollars.

Painting The Red Vineyard at Arles by Van Gogh
The Red Vineyard at Arles by Van Gogh

The folk lore that only one painting sold in his lifetime may or may not be 100% true. But it is true that he didn’t sell very many.

Yet today, people all over the world love his artwork.

So you cannot measure the quality of your work by other people’s opinions. Opinions change all the time.

I may love something you make and the next person doesn’t like it all. Yet, it’s the exact same painting. Does the second opinion change the quality of the work? Not at all.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


If you are shy about showing your artwork, you might just be thinking about it incorrectly:

  • Your art is not you. It is just something you painted or constructed.
  • If someone doesn’t like your artwork, they will still love you.
  • Only a small percentage of people will like your artwork enough to spend money on them. Art is a business.
  • Art as a hobby can be very liberating.
  • Other people’s opinions do not change the quality of your work.
  • If you are shy about selling, give a piece of artwork to someone who shows an interest in your work.
  • Give artwork as gifts. Sign your work and attach your business card to the back.
  • Even famous artists do not sell their paintings until the time is right.

Members of this website community can have a personal page to display their artwork.

If you are too shy to show your work to the public, your page can be kept private for members only to see. When you are ready to show the world, we can make the page public.

Your work will not be critiqued here. You do not have to worry about people saying what they don’t like about your artwork. This website is about encouragement, not criticism.

You do not need a gallery of paintings in order to display on this site. If you have a favorite piece of artwork, that’s good enough.

Feel free to contact me about how to display your artwork on this site.