A Home for your Art

Many artists want a place to share their creations and engage with other artists as well as potential fans. It feels great to get good feedback on your latest creation or see inspiring work! However for some that can be hard to find if you aren’t interested in the problems that occur with mainstream social media.

For example, I refuse to use Facebook and since Instagram is owned by them, I don’t use that either. I’m not interested in having my data mined like that. I liked ArtStation as a place to post my semiprofessional work and then they were bought out by a gaming company and the attitude displayed by admins turned sour very quickly. I used to truly enjoy DeviantArt! It was a huge, relatively supportive art community that was also fun and quirky. Then I noticed that they basically ignored spammers, scammers and art thieves. They were gradually reducing the options open for non-paying members and were hosting questionable events. Worst of all, they were using the art of their own userbase to feed AI algorithms. Not cool. Now they claim to offer protection against that but the “protection” is mostly a sham. What’s a lonely artist to do?

After much searching I discovered a new site called InkBlot. It’s only been in existence for two years and is currently in open beta. It’s US based, in my own state actually, and it has a strict policy against AIs and NFTs. It contains space for visual artists, musicians, and writers. It even has an account type for people who want to enjoy art but not create. They are welcome too! There are no outside ads on InkBlot, and it’s community funded.

I really like InkBlot – the only downside is the community is a bit small, but masses of weary artists are pouring in who want a break from the BS in other art communities. There is “Forever Free” account option so you don’t even have to pay, but I have chosen to. The subscription levels start at a dollar a month and are all very reasonable. I don’t mind paying a small fee since it means I am buying a product not being used AS the product.

Before moving to InkBlot I researched a lot of other communities but this one won out by a mile. Here are a few screenshots – development is still ongoing and there are plans for accessibility options for the disabled, different color themes, and more. You can already control the colors on your own profile to a degree not often seen on other sites.

See below for a screencap of my profile – the home page contains other peoples’ art so I didn’t want to re-post that without permission.

If anyone reading this wants a good place to go to post and enjoy art, I’d recommend InkBlot! I like that it is built and maintained by small group of passionate people. If you have your own artistic haven, I’d love to know where – I might check it out too!

Supplies for the Starving Artist

I think it’s pretty clear that most of us are having more struggles with money. Usually, there isn’t enough of it. For those of us who like to draw, paint, or otherwise make visual art, that can be a real struggle! We might see an awesome tutorial for an epic art supply and really want to try it out, only to find out that those markers or paints are way beyond our price range. Maybe our kid wants to get started in art and we want to help them out without breaking the bank. What to do?

Luckily, there are solutions and some materials are both affordable and of good quality. I’ll be mentioning a few of these that I’ve tried myself, and giving links to those. If you happen to buy the item using my link, I might get a small amount of money but remember that these are things I have bought myself, and use every day.

If you are flat broke but still have that burning desire to be creative, remember this: though good supplies can really help, you don’t need them to make awesome art. I’ve seen people create beautiful images with nothing but a normal pencil, hunk of charcoal, or even a basic ballpoint pen. Paper can make a big difference, but I’ve still seen some great stuff done on basic printer paper. It helps a LOT to pick a medium that is more forgiving.

Cheapest Media:

Pencils – will work on a variety of papers, have a wide range of prices, and can look good on cheap, rough, sketch paper.

Charcoal – usually fairly cheap and don’t need a premium paper to look good.

Watercolors (to a point, see below)

Digital – if you already have a computer, you can do a lot digitally. An inexpensive drawing tablet will serve you well. See below.

Inks – This can mean a dip pen and ink bottle, fineliner markers, or brushes – either way it’s fairly easy to get these.

Water-based markers – depending on what you buy, these can be dirt cheap. They will work better on very smooth paper.

Best sources of higher-end art materials:

Alcohol Markers

Alcohol markers can be a fantastic medium but they are stupidly expensive. For example, I have seen Copics go for $10 a marker. If you buy super cheap alcohol markers though, they can have poor coverage and be really frustrating to use. I’ve used a brand called Ohuhu, and they are as good as (or maybe even a little better than) the Prismacolor Premier art markers I used to buy. They come in a fantastic array of colors with good tips. You can get brush tip, bullet tip, and chisel, and all the markers are double ended.

You can also buy themed sets such as gray scale, flesh tones, pastels and more. The main downside to them is that you can’t get single markers, but if one comes to you already dry or bleeding all over the place, the company will replace it. They also provide nice extras, such as marker cases, swatch sheets, and protective shseets to go under your paper. I’ve been using this brand for a while now and none of my markers have run out yet.

These also go on sale fairly often and they are easily a third of the price of more well known brands.

Here are some affiliate links if you want to check them out:

Basic Set of 48 colors

Pastel Set (36 markers)

Flesh Tone Set

Gray Scale Set (warm grays, cool grays, a really nice selection)

Marker paper sketchbooks (really nice heavy weight paper that is smooth and doesn’t bleed)

Massive set – has pretty much everything – 320 markers – on sale at the time of this writing


There are a lot of different travel kits and sets of watercolor out there. Generally I like finding tubes so I can mix larger quantities. Generally the most expensive thing you are going to have to buy is the paper since a watercolor tube actually lasts a long time. I found a really cool travel kit though with a nice metal tin and literally everything you need to make art including a pencil, a sharpener, an eraser, a brush, and really nice refillable water-brush. The colors are vibrant and work well. This makes an awesome gift.

My favorite travel kit – this has everything and it’s really pretty too! It even has a small paper pad to get you started. It is also frequently on sale.

Watercolor Paper – 140 pound is the lightest grade of paper you want to go with for watercolor, and even then it’s helpful to tape it down to a board to help prevent buckling. There are many options but here is one I’ve used and like.


Liquitex Basics has a decent array of colors and their tubes aren’t tiny. It is worth shopping around though because you may find other brands that suit you just as well. The best tip I have for acrylics is to learn to color mix, and to buy the best paints you can in good primary colors. If you have good primary colors that mix well, you avoid having to buy every color of paint in the rainbow, instead you can make your own. Brushes are important too, I’ve had good results from brushes with nylon bristles, you don’t have to get the super fancy brushes to get good results.

You can use acrylic on canvas, hardboard, even mattboard meant for painting. I’ve gone to the hardware store and gotten hardboard project panels, they will even cut it to size for you if you need. That can be a good source of cheap but durable surfaces. I’ve tried painting on foam core poster board but that curls so badly that I wouldn’t suggest it.


It’s pretty hard to do oils cheaply but if you are absolutely determined, be careful that you buy paint with really good pigment (the more warning labels, the better) so the colors mix well and you need to buy fewer of them.

That said, the hardware store is your best friend. You can get canvas drop cloths there that can be stretched for painting canvasses. You can get furring strips to make into the frames for those canvasses, or hardboard to paint on. It’s also the cheapest source of turpentine, mineral spirits and linseed oil. You can even buy your larger format brushes there – for example, one or two inch natural bristle brushes.

By comparison, art stores will charge a premium price for those basic supplies, in much smaller quantities!

Digital Art

Digital art can be really expensive to do, or nearly free. My favorite free art software is probably Krita. It works on a wide variety of computers and is very flexible. GIMP is another good one, also free, also works on a wide variety of computers. Both are amazing but are a little different, so try both!

Drawing Tablets – it’s pretty hard to do digital art without some kind of a drawing tablet. My favorite brand is XP-Pen. They have good prices on their tablets, have a wide range of options, and are usually on sale. They also have good customer support and their drivers are solid, I’ve never had one stop working or crash.

Ultra basic drawing tablet – here’s a good one to start with. Much less than $100!

Drawing tablet I currently use – this one has served me well and never given me problems – it has a nicely sized drawing surface.

My dream tablet – this is going to be my next upgrade. And it’s still a fraction of the cost of the name brand competition.

Colored Pencils

These can be really cheap or extremely expensive depending on what you do. You can get decent results with cheap Crayolas but you may face a lot of frustration along the way. You also want to get a good quality paper for colored pencils to look their best, like a hot rolled watercolor paper or cardstock with a bit of a tooth to it.

That said, I have found that Arteza pencils are almost as good as the premium brands yet are still affordable. I base that on experience and obsessive watching of YouTube comparisons.

48 color basic set, Arteza Pencils

72 color set in metal container, Arteza pencils

Unexpected places to find art supplies

The best place to find cheap art supplies, if you are really broke, is probably not where you’d expect. I’ve found my best deals on basic supplies at post-back to school sales, in the grocery store. That’s where they just had the big back to school blitz, but now it is time to switch to some other promotion so they heavily discount the school supplies. You can usually get good markers here for example. It’s often a Crayola product of some kind but remember, with determination and creativity, you can make art with ANYTHING.

Another good place to get cheap art supplies is at a big craft store like Michaels or Hobby Lobby, when they have their seasonal discounts. They usually have sets of basic art supplies or at the very least, paper.

Thrift Stores can be a good source of materials depending on what they get. They are usually found around the kid’s section. Another thing you can get at thrift stores is canvasses. Find a painting on a canvas, any painting, gesso over it, and feel free to paint away. You can do the same thing for frames. If you are more of a crafter you can also usually find random items to redecorate.

Office Supply Stores often have sales too, usually at the holidays or at back to school time. You can get markers or paint or pens there, but you can also get things like card stock and better papers. They are definitely worth a look.

For those who want all the flexibility of a major art supply store, but don’t live near one, or maybe the one live near has management you can’t stand, Dick Blick is a great website that has a huge range of art supplies. They do a good job explaining what everything is for and have competitive prices.

Lastly, the Dollar Store (or equivalent) can SOMETIMES have art and craft supplies. Beware though, you may end up paying more there for the same thing, or not be able to use the item because of poor quality. So be careful. Example: say you are a crafter and want to use those little jars of Apple Barrel Paint. Maybe you see them at the dollar store for a dollar each. That same paint might be 89 cents each at a craft store. Or even less if you buy a set.

The end…. or is it the beginning?

I hope this was helpful to someone. I’ve gone through a lot of hardship and been flat broke on more than one occasion. It’s helped to know where I could get some sort of art supplies when the creative bug bit me! I was helped a lot by watching YouTube reviews, which by the way is also an excellent source of art education.

If you have your own best places to get art supplies, or I’ve missed a category you want me to cover, feel free to comment below.

11 things I wished I’d known as a young artist

Or, “Art, Talent, and Arrogance”

This is a painful subject for me, and one that has hampered my progress my entire life. I still struggle with it. In fact some would consider I’ve lost the battle merely by writing this article!

I’m talking of course about arrogance in relation to art. Personally, this has manifested in the idea that my thoughts were superior to others. I didn’t often think of it that way but that’s really what I was saying every time I refused input, avoided constructive critique, or thought my work didn’t need improvement. This was deadly to my progress and nearly caused me to leave art altogether. I know I’m not alone here, this is something many artists struggle with, and that’s why I’m talking about it. If I can cause even one artist to rethink some of the decisions that caused me so much struggle, than it’s worth it.

Quick story: I was having fun with art, drawing whatever my li’l heart desired. I was on DeviantArt. I was posting every day, doing all kinds of paintings and drawings and proudly posting them. I was a bit too blind to my mistakes. On my profile I’d put that I was professional level and had some high number of years in art – over twenty years I think, because I was counting the stuff I’d done when younger. Some of it was middling, some of it had promise. Someone came along and posted on my profile that I didn’t look like I’d been doing that art that long. I don’t even think they were all that rude about it. I was crushed – that was one of the biggest reasons why I deleted my profile. There were others at the time but that was a biggue.

The biggest problem here was the poster was right. Objectively, if a person compared my stuff to an actual professional (not just one who occasionally did an illustration or two for pay) the difference was like night and day. I had a long way to go, mostly because I’d focused on the stuff I thought I was good at, rarely pushed myself, and hated using references. At best I was an amateur with promise provided I actually applied myself.

I see that now and that’s why I carefully label myself as “hobbyist.” I’m finally getting to a level that I’m somewhat pleased with but I know I have a hell of a long way to go before professional level. It’s okay though because I’m enjoying art again and that’s important to me. I could avoided a lot of heartache if I’d seen feedback – even HONEST feedback – as the gift it is.

When I got feedback as a young artist, I never really saw it that way. I pretended to because after a certain point I knew it was expected, but it always hurt inside. At some level I saw my work as perfect, and I saw myself as talented, special. As a talented person I didn’t need to think of these things as much as others did. Or maybe my judgement was superior. Sometimes I told myself that it wasn’t my fault if other people didn’t see what I was trying for. Actually it was – art is primarily about communication and I can guarantee you my technique always needed work.

One of my biggest roadblocks was believing the idea that I was talented. If so, that was mostly in the fact that I was a bit better than average at getting my tools to do what I wanted them to. I certainly wasn’t better at observation or remembering what I saw! My visual memory is actually a bit worse than average. Over and over I deluded myself that drawing from imagination was better. However since no one around me could draw at all, I got away with it until I went to school for art, and saw how wrong I actually was. It hurt a lot. Later I went online and saw how amazing so many other people were. That was great to see but hurt more. I started realizing that I needed to quit believing my own PR.

A great art teacher recently said that if someone looks at your art and says you are talented, they are in a way insulting your hard work. I totally understand that for most people it’s just a simple compliment and they don’t mean anything by it, but I wish I’d heard that when I was young. For me, my “talent” was mostly a passionate interest that caused me to practiced more. If I had practiced properly, and had worked harder in the right ways, I could have harnessed that interest into some really phenomenal art. If I’d actually taken people’s advice and used references more, or learned to draw from life, it would have been a game-changer. But I was too busy thinking I was too special and too talented to do all those boring things, meanwhile I was still getting paint up into the ferrules of my brushes and lacking basic studio skills.

I’m not bashing myself. I am however looking honestly at the fact that I hampered myself more than circumstance ever did. That mindset hurt me more than inadequate art supplies or poverty ever did. You can make amazing art with the simplest of tools if you have the right mindset! Here are the things that would have helped me most:

Tips for anyone wanting to be great at art (or anything really)

Maintain Beginner’s Mind – there’s always something to learn

Stay Curious about new techniques and how others do things

Listen when feedback is offered, because it truly is a gift – probably the hardest tip in here

Find out the basics about your tools even if you think you already know them

Whenever possible, practice from life, or at least photos – even fantasy is based on reality

Spend time on the fundamentals, they are the basic building blocks of your craft

Think about what your goal is and what you want to communicate

Observe in as many ways possible, new information is grist for your creative mill

Forgive yourself your mistakes but always try to figure out what to do better

Keep it fun by challenging yourself

Stay humble!

I wish someone had told me this stuff! If they did, I wish I would have listened! Who knows, maybe I’d be doing art for a living? It’s an expending field with more opportunity than ever.

Do you have any tips that should be included? Things you wish you would have known?

Finding your Element

I was having trouble thinking the other day.  Worries were piling up and also things were just not connecting.  It seemed like I couldn’t do the simplest things the first time.  My dear spouse gave me a modern parable that I wanted to pass along because I found a lot of truth in it.

She said, “how well does a Corsair or a P-51 Mustang run on the ground?”

Thinking about it, I recalled when I used to live next to a flight museum.  Those particular airplanes coughed and sputtered on the ground, but once they were airborne and operating at full power, their engines smoothed to a powerful roar.  I said “They run like crap.”

She said, “exactly.”  The implication being that my brain was like that, and it ran best when operating closer to full capacity.

I think that’s true for many of us.  We might have trouble in an environment we aren’t suited to, or thinking at too low a level, we might have trouble.  But when we find what element we are best in, we might find that we are fare more intelligent and capable than we thought!  How many people do we know who are amazing with their hands but useless with words?  Or who couldn’t tell a nut from a bolt but can write words that make your soul sing?  Or clean a place till it sparkles, but can’t play chess?

Moreover, the speed at which you do a thing can have a huge impact.  Some people are best when they are working fast and yet lose momentum if they try to slow down.  Some people keep making mistakes if they don’t take their time.  Like the proper operation of a vehicle, finding your “best RPM range” can be critical to your success at what you do.

Don’t just take another person’s word for it, either.  Find your own best pace.

If we all find that thing we are best at, and the rate at which we work well, those are the keys to realizing our full value as human beings.


Latest Commission

kathy bike 1500.jpg

It’s a great thing to finally have a dedicated room for art that I don’t also have to share with a bunch of household storage, odds and ends, the family vacuum cleaners and I don’t know what all.

Having everything close to hand makes me want to be more productive!  This was a small commission for a family member, who wanted an old style girl’s Schwinn with a basket of flowers on the front.  I found a photo of an old Phantom and did what I could.

For those who are interested, I used hot rolled watercolor paper, then sketched the frame and details with a mechanical pencil.  Very lightly, of course.  I did some of the shading with the mechanical pencil and finalized the lines.  I put on the color with wax based colored pencils, then made the background with some washes, and finished everything with an ultra fine manga style ink marker.

I hope my client likes it – there are things I could improve but all in all it’s all right.  The details are a little rough because of the small scale, which is roughly 8 1/2 by 11.





noun: juxtaposition; plural noun: juxtapositions
  1. the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.
    “the juxtaposition of these two images”

This is a rather useful concept in art.  The contrast of opposites can really help bring out the idea you are trying to communicate.  In this sketch, for example, I have a Twi’lek woman fleeing from a massive ship that is just coming in to land.  I was tempted to set the scene at a bloody sunset.  Instead made the sky a clear blue through the clouds of dust as a way of alluding to the shattered peace this ship has caused.  Whether or not my art was effective, juxtaposition is something to keep in mind as a form of contrast.

extermination ship adjusted.png



via Daily Prompt: Juxtapose

Artist tip – cleaning up your artwork

Though many like the “sketchy” style of artwork, be it a pencil drawing, charcoal work, or watercolor, one simple step you can take to pull ahead of the artist pack is to clean up your art work.

Messy lines (extra sketch lines, ink that doesn’t follow the color in a painting, splotches and smudges) can detract from an otherwise beautiful piece.  Luckily, a little care is all that’s required to turn an artwork from good to great.

It’s good to know your erasers so you can clean things up appropriately.  Most artists know about the venerable kneaded eraser, which is great for cleaning up rough textured paper.  If you are working on smooth paper, though, certain old fashioned drafting tools may work better.  You can use a white vinyl eraser, the kind with the cardboard sleeve (like the one you see above), for many applications.  It’s nice because it’s also gentle on paper but does a very good job cleaning up pencil marks.  As a bonus, the cardboard sleeve gives you a good grip and keeps your gingers clean!

Another secret weapon for cleaning up your sketches is an eraser shield.  They are small, cheap, made of metal, and perfect for taking a bit of a line while protecting the rest of the work.  They look like this:

index As you can see, you can use this to cover your art and then just erase a bit at a time.  Many artists and people who haven’t taken an old fashioned drafting class have never heard of them, especially in this day of Computer Aided Drafting.  I love mine.


Last but not least, a really good sketching tool is just a good, old fashioned mechanical pencil.  I really enjoy using one because I never have to sharpen it, I can use a variety of leads, and if I use a light touch with it, the lines are extremely easy to clean up.  It’s perfect for a sketch that I plan to ink later.  Then when I am done, I can make a nice, clean image.   I can go from this sketch to this drawing with very little trouble.

Elephant Sketch 700

Elephant Cow 900











As a last tip for people wanting to avoid messy looking artwork, I do suggest getting to know your graphics programs.  When you scan something in to the computer or photograph it, turning up the contrast even just a bit can help your black and white drawings look that much sharper and clearer.  It takes a bit of practice but is well worth the effort.

As a confession, I used to make the hairiest, sketchiest drawings ever and consider them finished work.  I don’t do that anymore.  I still sketch things out on occasion but I use those sketches as ways to develop ideas instead of thinking they are done.  Now, my erasers and mechanical pencil are my best friends.

Happy creating!

via Daily Prompt: Messy

Art idea: Silhouettes

Silhouettes are a lot of fun to use in your art.  You can make them in any number of ways and they are a great chance to explore the use of negative space.  You can do them in black and white, color, in multimedia, with collage, or use them as embellishments on other things if you’re more the crafty type.  Pablo Picasso used to make cut paper silhouettes of animals when he was a boy.  Silhouette work tends to look elegant and tied together.  It also invites the imagination and can really engage the viewer.

If you’re looking for a new project, this is a fun theme to explore!

Ideas for projects involving silhouettes

Black and White – on a white background, draw the outline then carefully color it in.  Try this reversed, too, so the silhouette is white and the surrounding black.

Black and White with Color – color either the surrounding of the black silhouette, or inside the white one.   You could be realistic or abstract.

Shadow Play – photograph things that form an interesting silhouette.  Or create one behind a white screen then photograph that.

Collage – cut silhouettes of people, animals or objects out of colored pictures.  Place them alone on a plain background or make them into scenes.  You could even use decoupage techniques to put them on an object, such as a box.

Resists – color a silhouette on watercolor paper with white crayon then paint over it.  Or, use frisket or another form of masking fluid.

Papercutting – draw your silhouette onto paper then cut it out.  Glue it onto a backdrop, adorned or not as you choose.

Painting – try something classic, like silhouettes in front of a blazing sunset, or perhaps someones shadow in a window.

A word about Sharpie markers:  Though they are quite handy for silhouette work, I advise photographing or scanning whatever you make right away to preserve what you have done.  They are not archival quality and can fade significantly in just a few years.


crows web



Beginner’s tips to improve your photos

Do you want to improve your photos by quite a bit, without getting a degree in art or photography?  Make them stand out, and really shine?  Improve the contrast and crop it properly!  It’s simple to do, and I’ll show you how.

(My instructions are for the free art program GIMP, but the process is the same for any photo editing program.)

It’s pretty simple.  First, open your photo in GIMP or your favorite photo editing software.  For folks who are new to this, that usually means right clicking on the picture file and selecting “open with” then picking what you want to open in.

So, now you have your photo open.  Maybe it looks like this.example 1

Not a bad picture, really, but maybe you want to see the lioness better.  So draw a box around the area you want to keep with your selection tool (usually looks like a rectangle in the toolbar) and then use “Crop to Selection.”  In GIMP, that can be found under “Image,” up in the menu.  You’ll get something like this:

example 2

Better, but it could look even better than that!  So try this:  in GIMP, in the menu at the top, go to “Colors” then “auto” then “white balance.”  You’ll get something like this:

example 3

If you don’t like how that turned out, you can go to “Colors” then “Brightness and Contrast” and move the sliders around till you get something you like, like this:

example 4

Sometimes you can preserve the colors better by using the “Brightness and Contrast” tool rather than the automatic white balance, it depends on the photo.  If you are not using GIMP, but instead another program, there will be similar options but they may be called something different.

In any case, there’s a lot you can do to improve an image with very little effort!




Contrasting Black

If you talk to some painters, they will tell you that black is an unnatural color and it shouldn’t be used.  I’m not one of them, I use black even in paintings with color.  Personally, I think black is essential, and a dash of it will really help everything else be more visible.  Black is really great if you want some drama, as in the photo above that I took yesterday.

Here is another example.  Between the two drawings, I think it looks much better once the darks are truly darkened.  That will happen with steady, even pressure, and a pencil that’s on the soft side.

side by side dragon.png

You can also see this principle with pen and ink.  Drawings with fields of black just pop out a little better and draw the eye.  I was trying for this effect when I did this lioness.  I think you will see she stands out a lot better than her stretching sister.









Black also looks better in drawings when you use smooth fields of it, and let it truly be dark.  Here, by the way, is an example of a painting where I used black in a color setting.  It’s a book cover that had some pretty specific requirements.

Experimental C corrected 800.png