This has become a common question in my inbox from new artists so I thought I’d post my answer here for others who might be interested!

Q: I’m working toward a BFA at Oregon State, but I go back and forth all the time on formal education vs. learning in other ways. I’m curious about the types of resources you utilized when you decided to pursue art wholeheartedly. Any tips or advice for a fledgling artist? I’m so new to this journey, and I constantly feel overwhelmed and intimidated.

A: I know what you mean about feeling overwhelmed and intimidated! Just take it one step at a time. My rule is to do at least one thing every day in the direction of my dreams. Art requires us to work through our feelings of inadequacy, but it is a process with highs and lows. Instead of comparing myself to others, I’ve found several online art communities that encourage and support one another to work through our insecurities and celebrate our successes.

Flora Bowley and my painted hands at her Seattle workshop 2011.

As far as formal education vs alternative learning, my degree is in English Literature. I did not go to art school so I really cannot compare the two. I’ve heard mixed reviews from artists who have formal art educations. Some found it helpful, some did not.

I have taken online and in person art courses from artists whose work I admire. These have been extremely helpful in developing my own style and understanding color and techniques. I’ve learned the most about painting by taking what these courses offer and then logging hundreds of hours in the studio experimenting. You have to do the work, be patient and put in a lot of hours. Enjoy the process and evolution of your art.

The other benefits of these courses are the community dynamic and lasting friendships, which has been the most rewarding piece for me. One BIG piece of advice: Find a supportive creative community whether online or in person. I couldn’t do this without these incredible peeps. Seriously.

As far as recommendations, here are a few. All of these ladies do a tremendous job and pour their heart and souls into their offerings. One thing they all have in common–they have worked their tales off to get to where they are today, which is why I admire them all so much and find them inspiring. There is no substitute for that key ingredient–hard work. 

Flora Bowley. I have taken her online course and in-person workshop. Total gamechanger. Not only is she a painting master, her painting style mirrors her life philosophy that is totally zen and wicked awesome. I recommend this class to everyone. It’s not just about art–it’s about risk taking, trusting your intuition and more. I promise that you will really enjoy it!

Sharing my paintings in progress at a Flora Bowley workshop.

Mati McDonough. If mixed media is your thing, Mati offers a lovely e-course, Daring Adventures in Paint!, with many different painting and mixed media techniques. I love the color stories and layering in her art. She is a sweetheart,and I enjoy her joyful and kind energy also. She just makes me smile.

Alena Hennessy. I haven’t taken a class from Alena yet, but I am a big fan of her work. She is launching a new mixed media course, A Year of Painting, which sounds fabulous.

Juliette Crane. I took Juliette Crane’s How to Paint an Owl Class several years ago, and I really enjoyed how she uses a basic framework of shapes and space to create. I learned that sometimes developing, simplifying and working within parameters actually allows you to explore and unleash your creativity in new and exciting ways. She also uses a lot of mixed media techniques.

I painted this while taking Juliette Crane's How to Paint an Owl online course.

Jessica Swift. I love Jessica’s book, Jump, Trust, Repeat. I read the whole thing at one sitting and was fascinated by her creative journey. She is a great example of how hard work and determination lead to success. I actually just met her for the first time, and she is such a lovely person. She has really serene energy about her, and I love her colorful artwork and patterns.

Kelly Rae Roberts. For anything related to the business end of being a creative entrepreneur, this is your girl. Kelly Rae’s ebook Flying Lessons offers everything you need to know about running a creative business. This woman is mega-successful at what she does and generously shares everything she knows. This course helped me immensely when I started out. I cannot recommend it enough as the Creative Entrepreneur’s Bible. She also offers a course I’d love to take called “Hello Soul, Hello Business” with Beth Kempton over at

One of the first paintings I created in 2009 after reading Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts.

Monica Lee at Smart Creative Women is a gift that just keeps giving! Her artist video interviews are a treasure trove packed with tons of inspiration, advice, and wisdom. Their success is contagious. I love listening to these when I am in the car, doing dishes or painting in my studio. Monica is always upbeat and fun–she’s got this girl next door, everybody’s friend quality about her.

You’ll find that following these women will open you up to other artists and offerings as well. I am planning to launch an e-course and host an art retreat in the near future so hopefully my name will be added to this list soon!

And, here are a few words I live by daily…





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