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365 Days of Dogs

Molly Sketch 032917

I’m launching a new project where I post a drawing or painting with a dog as the subject on Instagram for 365 days. Why? One reason is it’s a way for me to practice my skills as an artist. Another reason is I want to build a daily habit and find that posting the results on social media help me with accountability. Third, it’s fun! There is something very satisfying about sharing what I create with others.

Every day I will post a sketch or painting of a dog. The goal is to experiment with different media and practice my skills as an artist while documenting the journey.

I’ve added my first subject, a sketch of my dog Molly here in this post and on Instagram. If you have any questions about the project, please get in touch!


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Draw Better Faster with Pencil Warmups

get better at drawing faster with warmups

Are you frustrated by your skill level? Feel like you’ve hit a wall? Do you feel dissatisfied with what you draw? 

Do you want to learn how to do better gradients or other techniques? Warming up with pencil drills can help you!

Warm ups with pencils can help you:

  1. Become more skilled at drawing (people things whatever)
  2. Learn your tools inside and out
  3. Build muscle and hand/eye coordination
  4. Relax
  5. Focus your mind


Check out this video on pencil warm ups (5 min 36 seconds)

Practice doesn’t have to take a long time or be boring. Just a couple of minutes before you start drawing “for real” can help you mentally and physically prepare and grow your abilities.

I like to start with circular marks to warm up my hand and fingers and reconnect my hand/eye coordination.

Make the connection with how hard and light you can press while drawing or scribbling circles.

Start simple and get more complex as you warm up.

See how hard or light you can press on the paper to make marks. Try making your lines thick and thin. Experiment with mark making.

Draw different shapes – diamond, squares, etc.

Practice specific techniques in a warm up session to deliberately practice how to do something. Examples include:

  • Perspective Drawing
  • Shading and tone
  • Using tortillions
  • Drawing textures like types of fabric or surfaces
  • Contour drawing
  • Trying out new drawing tools or surfaces

Different pencil tips give different edges

Try different points and edges. Sharp, blunt, broken. They will all give different marks. Try “leadless” pencils and wooden pencils. Try different charcoal and conte sticks.


Experiment with techniques

  • Shading  tip:  you can go back over what you first put down to create denser and more gradual tonal transitions.
  • Try vary how hard you press and how close lines are when you lay them down.
  • Lighten up as you go
  • Don’t worry about perfect at first
  • Use scrap paper to make tortillion to rub and smooth the lines
  • Be careful about rubbing work with your fingers – there are oils and chemicals on them that can damage the work
  • Use a stub of paper to rub the paper and lay down a sheet of paper to shield it from your hand

Cross hatching

  • Vary the weight of strokes
  • Try drawing “bigger” / looser – tape your pencil to a rod or larger brush, maybe even a broom! Have you ever tried drawing standing up with the paper on the floor?
  • Lay down opposite lines on top of each other
  • Try to make neat evenly spaced lines
  • Now try messy, uneven lines for a different effect.
  • Go over the lines with squiggles and shapes

Take care of yourself. Shake your hand out if it starts to feel sore or stiff.

When you figure out what you are having trouble with, focus on that. Try again at the end of your drawing session and see how you do. Journalling how the session went, even if it is only a sentence or two is a great way to capture progress over time.

Over time you will see an improvement in your drawing!


I hope you found these tips helpful. Do you warm up before you draw?

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Create Anywhere You Are

create anywhere you are. How to put together a portable kit to take anywhere

Have you ever gone somewhere and then realized you had nothing with you to draw or paint? Never be without creative supplies again with today’s tips. I’m going to share with you how to be ready to create wherever you are by putting together an artist go bag.

I was on vacation at the beach a couple of weeks ago (Yay!). This was a great chance to sketch and create. Luckily I had packed a “go bag” of art supplies. This is a pared down kit of what I have in my studio at home. I like to carry materials that are easy to take with me and don’t make a big mess or require a lot of time to set up.

TLDR: For sketching on the go, experiment and find what you like. Start with a pencil, pen, sharpener and an eraser and a sketchbook.

The minimum you need with you is:

  • 2B Pencil
  • white plastic eraser (or a pink pearl, available at most grocery stores)
  • Paper (an acid free mixed media sketchbook is best but a few sheets of paper will do)

You can get a lot fancier though and put together a mobile kit that will let you create all sorts of paintings and sketches on the go. Here is what my beach painting kit looked like:

portable art kit

I have a small plastic pencil box I use to carry a set of portable art supplies for painting and sketching. Here is what is inside it:

  • Various sizes of acid-free pens
  • A small filbert (rounded) paint brush for washes
  • a regular small rounded paint brush for watercolor
  • an eye dropper
  • A stadler pencil holder with 2B and HB leads
  • A Sharpie with a fine point
  • A black plastic eraser
  • An ink based archival quality stamp pad (I like the distressed effect ones for adding tone to backgrounds)
  • Gelato crayons of different colors
  • watercolor markers or pencils

A note about the Gelatos: these are gel based water soluble pigment sticks that make large marks on paper. You can shave and blend them with water first, but I like to use them to lay color down onto the paper then go back over with a brush. I usually lay down one color at a time or at the most two so the colors don’t get muddy.


You can easily carry this box of supplies in a tote or backpack or large purse. I like a smaller sketchbook, 5.5″ x 8.5″. I don’t recommend carrying around an 11 x 14 size. Carry something you can easily take with you and later on scan pages.

The point of a portable kit isn’t to make amazing art. A portable kit is great for:

  • Visually documenting colors and shapes and mood in real time
  • Reference for other projects
  • A no fuss way to develop a daily creative habit
  • A great way to relax and enjoy the surroundings
  • Visually capture ideas and feelings
  • Making a keepsake of a memory for later
  • Fun!

I ended up with a few great little paintings from my trip and some meh ones but that was OK. It’s about the journey and on the journey you want to have a way to create anywhere you are.

You can see what I usually carry in an even smaller bag for drawing/sketching and get extra tidbits on materials on this video I put together.

I hope you enjoyed the tips and info in today’s post. What do you struggle with when traveling as a creative?

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100 Days In Review

I spent 100 days this spring drawing every day and posting it to instagram. Some were awful, most of them were OK, and a few were awesome. A lot of people I talked to during the project kept telling me they thought the hard part was doing something every day. It wasn’t easy and sometimes I did not do very good work.  The really tough part was posting at all.

I was exposing myself as a creative every day.

a sketch of a letter M that looks like the structure used for the mars lander. One of the feet looks like a capsule and the other leg looks like the panels from the ship.

There are amazing creatives posting on instagram every day, sometimes multiple times a day. And there was me.

I was surprised to find a lot of support for me even when I thought a post was crappy.

Here is a list of good things that happened from the 100 Days project

  • Committing to  posting every day
  • Documenting different problems I ran into trying to use my iPad and drawing tools
  • A catalog of discoveries
  • I experimented with different ways to create
  • Strength in vulnerability
  • I discovered a range of colors, tools, and methods I really enjoyed using
  • New friends and connections from posting and chatting
  • Some of the problems or ideas I had about improving different tools were addressed in later updates or patches

If you’ve been unsure about trying a 100 days project, it’s worth a try.

Here are some ideas:

  • 100 days of finding information on a specific topic or trend and posting about it on a social media platform – be a curator of a topic
  • 100 days of meeting someone new by helping others
  • 100 days of thank you notes (these could be posted online or mailed)
  • 100 days of volunteering at local schools or with youth programs
  • 100 days of creating in a different media than you are used to.

I hope you found this peek into my 100 days helpful. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me via twitter (@leej) or instagram (@leesuzannej) or email.

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100 days Woman from Apache Cafe

Woman posting at Apache Cafe in Atlanta, GA

There is a venue in Atlanta called Apache Cafe where on Monday nights there are live models to draw or photograph. This sketch I made using Adobe Sketch and my fingers on an iPad Pro was based off a photo I took there.

Woman posting at Apache Cafe in Atlanta, GA

Adobe Sketch has some interesting effects when you used the watercolor flat brush. It continues to “bleed” into the other parts of the sketch after you lay a stroke down. The more times you go over an area, the more the colors blend and spread.