Category: Art Goals

John Hanson Project album art

Back to Art in the New Year

John Hanson Project album art
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Wilderness River. Pen and ink with watercolor, 8 x 8 inches. Album art for John Hanson Project.

I had so many plans for my art in 2018 but things did not work as planned. I sorely underestimated the mental and physical energy that working full time as a new nurse would require. I was working more hours than a normal 40 hour workweek with odd shifts and a very irregular sleep schedule. For the last three months of the year, I didn’t pick up a pencil or a paint brush even one time and I felt so out of sorts. I’ve since taken some steps to remedy that situation and I’m looking forward to having more time for artwork in the coming months.

I have no formal goals for this year, but I just want to have fun and concentrate on making art daily or as close to daily as possible. I also want to focus on sending out my newsletter every month–I neglected to send that out for the last few months of the year and I regretted it. My January edition will be going out within the next few days (click here to sign up).

I’m looking forward to what 2019 will hold for me and I hope that everyone reading this has a prosperous and fulfilling year ahead.

Above is an illustration I completed for the cover art for the self-released album by John Hanson Project. I’ve known John for several years and he is an extremely dedicated musician who has been working tirelessly for years to realize his musical dreams. I highly recommend that you check out his new album Go On.

tulip sketch

I’m getting back into the swing of art after taking a much needed break.

I’ve recently started reviving from a serious artistic funk in which I haven’t had the inclination or desire to engage in any sort of art at all. I didn’t even want to look at other people’s art, check Instagram, look for “inspiration” online, or anything similar.

I’ve never really experienced anything like this in the past. I wasn’t feeling depressed or anything of the sort, but I do think that I shifted focus to other areas of my life that were more immediately pressing (finances, etc.). I considered pushing on and continuing to work despite feeling very averse to the idea. The advice of many established artists is to “show up and do the work” and so forth. Instead, I truly felt like I just needed to rest my brain and to do nothing.

Now that things have quieted down a bit, I am focusing more on my art again. This time though, I am interested in expanding beyond floral art (not eliminating it entirely, of course). Throughout school and in the months following, I was drawn to florals because they made me happy and it was a subject matter that felt comfortable and easy to me. Now, I’m wanting to branch out and tackle some other subjects (other aspects of botany, rocks, and landscapes). I’m also working on some sewing projects and I’m imagining how I can incorporate sewing and embroidery into my art.

Cathy Johnson recently discussed her recent “dry spell.” I always like to read about how other artists deal with their creative ebbs and flows and it also makes me feel a little less uncomfortable with the whole process.

The following images are some of the pieces I painted in the last several months. Stay tuned for some new work in my next update.

tulip sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Discarded Tulips Sketch (5/13/2018). Pen and ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pansy watercolor
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Pansy. Watercolor and rubberstamping, 5 x 5 inches.

pen and ink watercolor flower sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Greenery (5/21/2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pen and ink succulents
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, US Botanic Garden (Feb 2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

tree drawing sketch

Trees on my mind

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing, painting, thinking, and planning lately (as well as studying). My mind has been drifting to trees lately: the trunks, branches, and leaves that appear in my sketchbooks, but also the deep roots below. Scientists have found that there is much more going on underground than originally thought (Read: Trees communicate via their own fungi-based “internet”).

tree sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Climbing Vines (4/19/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

When I think of trees, I think of wisdom, strength, and stability. I’ve never had successful New Year’s resolutions in the past, but this year (probably because I am starting a new season after graduation) I really feel like I am starting my life over with a fresh start. I have been thinking of my priorities, and the things I really want to get done. I’ve also been focusing on my health, taking control of stress, and finding ways to incorporate minimalism into my life (Read: Go Deeper, Not Wider).

I’ve been enjoying spending time in my sketchbooks more than ever. Instead of being a task to check off my list, artmaking has become much more of a pleasure than it has been in a long time. I know that this feeling will not last forever, but I’m really loving it for the time being!

pine needles drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Winter Debris. Ink and watercolor on a blank note card, 12.4 x 8.9 cm.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. Psalm 92:12-13

tree drawing sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Branches (1/15/2018). Platinum Carbon Ink and watercolor in large watercolor moleskine.

For more tree goodness, check out Terri Windling’s blog posts on trees. She writes so poetically, and the photos of her forest are so magical. Be sure to hover over each photo for poetry and quotes.

flower sketchbook drawing

Year End Review and Lost and Found Artwork, Part 3

flower sketchbook drawing
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Exuberant Joy (1/28/2017). Stabilo Point 88 pens, watercolor and rubber stamps in large moleskine.
tulips sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Tulips (5/11/2017). Stabilo Point 88 pens and watercolor in large moleskine.
dichondra argentea garden sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Dichondra argentea (7/14/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

This is my last post of the year where I’ll review 2017 and look ahead to my art goals for next year. This is also the conclusion of my round up of unposted artwork from the past year. The above images were sketchbook pages in my large moleskine done from life. Even though my time was limited, I worked quite a bit from life over the course of 2017, which I am proud of and want to continue into the next year.

My goals for 2017 were to finish my nursing program and to incorporate more art into my life than I did in my first semester. I was successful with both of these goals, although my art activity fluctuated with my school schedule and I often went long stretches with no art making at all. My most productive times were in August and the end of April to mid-May, which coincided with my semester breaks. The least productive times were in September and November, which were also some of the busiest times of my entire nursing program. I posted to my blog 23 times this year, although 4 posts were written and pre-published the year before.

For 2018, I would like to work on making art on a more consistent schedule. I have some longer term projects/series that I am planning, but I need to create a lot of new work on a consistent basis to make my plans a reality. I also want to work more from life when possible. I did a lot of small nature studies this past year and I would like to continue on that theme. I also let my email newsletter fall by the wayside while I was in school and I want to start sending that out again.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year ahead. I hope everyone reading this joins me in having a productive, prosperous, and fulfilling 2018!
blue morpho butterfly

Lost and Found Artwork, Part 2

kolanchoe watercolor painting
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Kolanchoe. Watercolor on 5 x 7 inch greeting card.
tulips watercolor painting
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Pink Tulips. Watercolor on 5 x 7 inch greeting card.
pink poppy watercolor
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Pink Poppy. Watercolor on a blank note card, 8.9 x 12.4 cm.
blue morpho butterfly
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Blue Morpho. Watercolor and white gel pen on a blank note card, 8.9 x 12.4 cm.

These are some of the blank greeting cards that I painted over the past year. I had a recipient for each of these in mind when I painted the cards, but it is a goal of mine in the upcoming year to paint a few of these ahead of time. I would also like to get some images printed on cards as well because while I like sending cards with my artwork on them, it is not always feasible or desirable to send original art. I also would like to find a replacement watercolor greeting card for the Strathmore brand that I currently use. I’m not entirely happy with the paper as it seems to give me uneven washes and I have a hard time lifting color.

garden sketch collage

Plans for 2017

garden sketch collage
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, Garden Sketch (11/6/2016). Ink, watercolor, and collage in large moleskine.
garden sketch collage
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, Garden Sketch (12/20/2016). Ink, watercolor, and collage in large moleskine.
Above are some pages from my sketchbook when I was thinking about time and time management.

For 2017, my goals are simple. First and foremost, I plan to successfully complete my nursing program. Secondly, I want to find a way to include art in my life during the school year. Last semester, I only broke away from my studies one time to do art and I missed it terribly. I don’t think I can mentally function for a whole year (including the summer) by only drawing between terms. At this point, I’m not sure how I will implement more frequent art making, but I will post updates throughout the year.

Last year, I did have the foresight to realize that I would be buried with schoolwork and I saved some drawings to post during the year. I am aiming for one post a month at minimum, but more often if I can manage.

I wish everyone reading this a healthy, prosperous, and creative 2017!

instagram best 9 2016

2016 In Review

instagram best 9 2016
My most liked Instagram photos from 2016. I started using Instagram slightly more this past year. I post images of things that inspire me as an artist, as well as work in progress photos. Feel free to follow me: @carolynapappas.

While 2016 may have been negative in terms of events in the news and celebrity deaths, it was an amazing and eventful year for me personally. Here is a recap of some of the things that I have accomplished:

Art Achievements
  • My most productive art making months were July and August. During these months, my schedule was the lightest and I felt an urgency to make as much art as I could before school started.
  • My biggest creative inspiration in 2016 was Tower Hill Botanic Garden. I am still overflowing with ideas and you will definitely see more of Tower Hill in my art in 2017.
  • I published 35 blog posts over the course of the year, which doesn’t meet my goal of one post a week. I am okay with that though, because I made a lot of artwork that I didn’t post (stay tuned in 2017).
  • I published 52 posts to Instagram over the course of 2016.
  • For six weeks in the beginning of the year, I participated in the online Sketchbook Skool course, Expressing. You can read my review of the kourse here.
  • I participated in the Twitter Art Exhibit, held in NYC in March.
  • I decorated and mailed a blank postcard to Greenfield Community College for a show of Mail Art.
  • I completed a commissioned watercolor landscape painting for the album cover of Robert Louis’ debut Christmas album.
  • I completed my red moleskine sketchbook and started a new moleskine, which is in progress.
  • I experimented with Photoshop and learned how to make animated GIFs to feature my artwork.
  • Crafty pursuits included making two hand-sewn mermaid dolls and an advent calendar for my daughter.
Personal Achievements
  • I finished the prerequisites for the nursing program I am attending, started nursing school in September, and completed the first semester.
Thank you to all who visited me online during this past year, left comments, or sent encouraging emails. I am so grateful for the support of kindred spirits!

I will be back on Sunday with my goals for 2017.

moss steps tower hill

Working Plein Air at the Moss Steps

I took my watercolors to Tower Hill Botanic Garden to try out working plein air. It was a sunny day and I was worried about getting burned, so I went into the wooded areas. I settled down at the Moss Steps and did this pen drawing and then painted it in watercolor. Although there was a chain blocking the steps off from people, I did see a chipmunk running around as well as a wood frog hopping down.

I usually add the watercolor at home, but it was a welcome change to paint in person (and more of a challenge). I brought water with me in a bottle and poured it into a plastic cup, but I had to bend down to use it as I put my water cup on the ground. The pine needles falling down on my head were annoying, but a small price to pay for such a nice time.

Next time I would like to try painting in watercolor without such a detailed pen and ink drawing first because it took a very long time.

moss steps tower hill
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, At the edge of the Moss Steps (8/5/2016). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.
moss steps photo
A photo of the moss steps. I conveniently removed the chain from my drawing.
Some of the other interesting photos I took while walking through the woods.
Some of the other interesting photos I took while walking through the woods.

red moleskine

A Well Used Book

red moleskineI always get a feeling of accomplishment when I finish a sketchbook, especially one that has been in progress for the better part of two years. I am so happy to move on from my red large moleskine. It was an unexpected gift that I originally began hesitantly. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I really got into a groove and began filling it up with more vigor. When I flip through the pages, I also see a real progression in my level of artistic risk taking, which pleases me.

Oftentimes, finishing a sketchbook coincides with moving onto a new season of my life. I have the rest of the summer before I start school again and I’m hoping to break in my new sketchbook by then.

grilled cheese sketch

Review of Sketchbook Skool: Expressing

This past January I signed up for the Sketchbook Skool six week “kourse” called Expressing as part of my goal for this year to focus more on my personal sketchbooks. This is my honest review of the program for the benefit of anyone else who may be considering enrolling.

The main reason why I signed up was because Michael Nobbs and Penelope Dullaghan were being featured as instructors, and I am a long time follower of both for many years. Also, I enrolled with a 20% off promo code which made the normally $99 cost a bit easier to swallow.

The kourse was broken up into six, one week long lessons featuring a different artist each week. Each weekly lesson consisted of a series of short (10 minutes or less) videos (introductory, biographical, sketchbook tours, and demos). Most of the videos had question prompts meant to spur discussion in the forums. There was also a weekly homework assignment with instructions to post in the forums for the other participants to view and/or comment. Some of the topics in the kourse included traditional watercolor techniques (such as glazes and washes), hand lettering, handmade books (mostly how to do the design and layout of the content, NOT bookbinding itself), sketching digitally on a tablet, and some very cool printmaking techniques. These are some of my impressions on Expressing:


  • The videos were professionally produced with music, bright lighting, and nice zoom in shots so you can see clearly.
  • The website is attractively designed with black text on bright white backgrounds and lots of pops of bright colors.
  • New lessons were posted each Friday, which is ideal for someone who works M-F and wants to spend time on the weekends viewing the new content.
  • The artists featured each week were all different from each other in terms of style and approach. I really enjoyed the variety.
  • The courses and videos remain available for users to view after the end date of the six-week program. I didn’t actually finish the kourse so I will definitely be taking advantage of this.
  • Danny Gregory (co-founder of Sketchbook Skool) posted little videos of himself doing the weekly homework on his blog every week. I really liked these videos and I would recommend looking them up if you’d like more of a feel for the content before signing up.


  • The videos were very short and mostly focused on talking, with very little time in comparison spent on demos. There was one week in particular which was so heavy on talking and biographical information that it generated some user complaints. I did notice that some extra content was posted to this lesson in the following days, however. I was disappointed because I had the impression from promo material that this particular week was to focus on making books, but I had seen all the same content elsewhere (accordion books and mini one-page books). The instructor referred participants to a how-to book on book-binding for more information.
  • Every time I logged in on Fridays to view the new lessons, there were a number of participants who had already viewed all of the videos and posted their completed homework. I am on EST and usually logged in around 9 or 10 am on Friday. I realize that people in other time zones could view the content earlier than me, but I thought that the amount of content in each lesson could have been more as it was intended to cover an entire week.
  • There were some technical issues which prevented some people from being able to download PDFs from the site. Eventually, this issue was fixed but there were a lot of comments about it in the forums which distracted me from the content. Hopefully, this issue is fixed for future iterations of the kourse.
  • Even though most of the homework can be done with materials that you probably already have on hand (pencil, ink, watercolor, etc.), I would have appreciated a materials list before the kourse started. If this was posted, I missed it. I absolutely LOVED Penelope Dullaghan’s week, but there were some materials that she used that I don’t have as a part of my normal supplies such as oil paint, rubber brayer, acetate sheets, linoleum and lino carving tools. I was so inspired after watching her videos, but I didn’t have the stuff on hand so I wasn’t able to jump in and do the assignment like I would have done otherwise.

My completed homework for Felix Scheinberger’s week:

grilled cheese sketch
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, My Lunch (2-5-2016). Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and watercolor in large moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

My overall impression of this Sketchbook Skool kourse is that it is ideal for someone who is relatively new to drawing and keeping sketchbooks and who needs/wants a lot of encouragement, inspiration, and interaction with others to stay on track. The inspiration and information I gained from the kourse was very worthwhile for me, but I don’t think it would be worth $99.

I also think this format may not be for me, or that I have some ADD tendencies, because I started to get distracted and lose track and never officially completed all the lessons or all of the homework. The forums seemed a little awkward for me to use so I largely didn’t participate in the discussions. I find the setup of facebook groups more conducive for giving and sharing feedback in general.

Ultimately, it is not necessary AT ALL to take a class on how to keep a sketchbook. When I think back over the years, I realize I have learned the most by just looking at other people’s artwork, and from books. If you like to get video based information, then Sketchbook Skool might be for you. For free, you can look for videos on YouTube and you can also check out Strathmore Free Online Workshops (keeping in mind that they are meant to promote Strathmore products). For less money than Sketchbook Skool, you can also find some art courses on Craftsy (look out for sales) and Creativebug (they offer a free 14 day trial). If you know of any other sources for video based art instruction, please leave me a comment because I’d love to check it out!