Wednesday, December 14, 2022


M E R R Y  C H R I S T M A S

Happy Holidays

Free Christmas card video
Hello from my studio. In the spirit of the season, I'd like to share a short
video on creating Christmas cards using Bee Company 6 x 9 watercolor paper. These are pre-cut for only around $26 and have 50 sheets--plenty for making cards or just practicing. In the video I'll show you how to make simple Christmas trees that are quick and easy. Go to this link to view.

A look back at 2022
I hope you had a good year in 2022 and more importantly, I wish you all the best in 2023. As a review for the year, I'd like to list what we covered with links. If you missed an article, just click on the link to see it again.

It's been a good year, art-wise, not so much health-wise. I've had some challenges, which has brought me to the decision to stop taking students on Sketch'n-on-the-Go™ outings. I was hoping we could take a sketching trip to the Lake District in England next fall, but that's not going to happen. 

On the more positive side, we completed our animals series a couple of weeks ago via Zoom and I think everyone had fun. The biggest challenge for us was drawing foxes and the best fun was our lions in charcoal. See below:

Upcoming classes and workshops
Next year's classes will start on January 3rd and 4th. We will be exploring pen and ink with watercolor wash. Our subject will be nature sketching with the following topics:

  • Mushrooms
  • Insects
  • Sea creatures
  • Flowers
  • Trees

Classes are from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. I teach the same subject on both days and they are still only $90 per five-week session. If you're interested, please let me know by email:

By the way, I am still teaching at PCC online. This fall we're going to cover Basic Drawing, January 14; Nature Journaling, February 4; Oil Pastels, March 4. Registration fills up quickly, so go check it out today. 

Hope you have a wonderful holiday this year.  Thanks for your continued support.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

October 2022: Beatrix Potter & Lake District

Correction to original article. Classes begin in October, not September. Please see announcement after the article.

Beatrix Potter (born Helen Beatrix in 1866) was mostly known for her delightful stories of Peter Rabbit. That's really the only knowledge I had. Well, maybe I had heard she lived in the Lake District, a beautiful part of England. But that was all. Then the movie
Miss Potter came out. I was enchanted by her determination and grit. While in real life she certainly had those qualities. There's so much more to tell.

For instance, if it hadn't been for the all-male board of The Linnean Society of London, we probably wouldn't have heard of Peter Rabbit and possibly Beatrix Potter. The story goes that she had a passion for bontany, especially mushrooms or fungi (mycology). Employed by the Royal Botanical Garden in Kew, London, Beatrix must have been in heaven because the garden is still considered to have the best mycological collection in the world. In fact, she was so fascinated by mycology she penned her own scientific paper called On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricaceae by Helen B. Potter in 1897. It was presented to the Linnean Society.

Some say that the paper was rejected because she was a woman, but on further study, I've learned that her paper was indeed read (not by her, woman weren't allowed to do that until 1905). She withdrew the paper herself after it was read and discussed. Who knows why, but it appears she
redirected her attention to the little stories and illustrations that she sent in letters to her nanny's  children. In the end, a friend suggested Beatrix put these stories in book form. One such picture letter is below, where she writes in 1893 to Noel Moore:

"I don't know what to write about so I shall tell you a story of 4 little rabbits, whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter." 


First addition of Peter Rabbit
Interestingly, but not a surprising, six publishing houses rejected her book. She therefore self-published it in 1901. Publisher Frederick Warner & Company saw the book and offered Beatrix a contract, publishing the book in 1902. It was a smashing hit; so much so, she was the first to merchandise a book with a stuff rabbit.

Of course, Beatrix's background is filled with a love for drawing and painting. Both she and brother, Bertrand, had isolated childhoods, schooled mostly by nannies and tutors. They spent much of their free time exploring nature. On holidays (vacations), they would go to the Lake District or Scotland. They had a deep appreciation of animals (having lots of pets) and nature.

While the whole family was artistic, Beatrix started illustrating traditional rhymes and stories, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Puss in the Boots. Just like all of us, she had to practice, practice, practice.

Loved pierced her heart with Norman Warne, who she worked closely with her at the publishing house. In one of Norman's letters, he proposed. Beatrix's parents disapproved because he was a tradesman and she an upper-class woman. Both exchanged rings anyway. Within a month though, he was gone with pernicious anemia. She wore his ring on the right hand until she died.

In total, Beatrix wrote 60 books, 23 of which were children's stories. In 1905 she bought Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey, a village in the Lake District. She married William Heelis in 1913, who was a solicitor. She was 47 and he was 42. Both she and William became involved in preserving the land within the Lake District and became rather good at farming. 

I have grown to love Beatrix Potter's work. Her mycological work is exquisite. Here are a few examples:

Then there are her sketches: 

Study of mice and a 

And her lovely characters

Beatrix Potter died of pneumonia in 1943. 

Would you be interested in seeing more of Beatrix's work first-hand?

That's possible! We are planning a sketching trip to the Lake District next September 3-10, 2023, which will include a tour of the Derwent Pencil Factory, Beatrix Potter's home and a short trip to Scotland. Not all the details are settled yet, but if you're interested let me know.  I'll need at least ten people to make it a reality. I'll try to keep the workshop cost at $600, excluding lodging, food, transportation. 

What's coming up?

Correction to original announcement. Classes are not in September but in October.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fall 2022 Newsletter: daily art

Result: It was fun!

Back in early July I began a project, drawing or painting everyday. I stopped mid-August when my brother died. Then, everything was put aside. But I'm here to say that I put in a good month and I learned a lot.

From the start it was hard. Even though I was just beginning, it was difficult to develop a daily discipline. Up until then, I looked upon my work as a casual process, doing stuff when I was in the mood. There was no such luxury on a daily basis. 

Over time though, I started to enjoy my "art time." It usually lasted for a couple of hours and in the meantime, everything was dropped. It actually became my "me time." Whatever I would normally do with those two hours was now devoted to me and my art. 

To keep things interesting, I tried a lot of subjects and a lot of different media. After teaching for over 15 years in person and suppling most of the materials, I have a large inventory here (although I gave away a massive amount to the local high school). So I have lots of choices from ink and watercolor to colored pencil and oil/soft pastel. 

One important thing I learned from the outset was that I had to except that I would create some mediocre--common, everyday--art. I didn't expect to create an outstanding piece every day, but I would produce. This acceptance gave me license to just create. It was liberating.

Below you are going to see some pieces I did. Some are not so great; some I'm feeling good about. I certainly would recommend this process to everyone. It's a creative learning experience, super fun and challenging. I'll probably pick up the daily practice again soon.


Just a note here, Fall classes are beginning again, so check out the listing at the end of this blog. I hope you can attend. We'll be covering domestic animals for the first five weeks and then wild animals for the last five weeks--using a variety of art media. We meet on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. And it's only $90 per session (not per class, but for each five week session). Come join us, it's a fun group.


All listed below  © 2022 Jill Jeffers Goodell 

Quick online travel sketch
Cinque Terra, Italy; ink and watercolor
Lighthouse in oil pastel
Flamingo, oil pastel
Rabbit, soft pastel
Lily, soft pastel
Pencil sketches
Rabbit II, black and white charcoal
Goats, soft pastel (1), charcoal (2)
Peppers, oil pastel
Peppers II, pen
Pencil sketches of pigs
Pencil sketch of pelican

From Helen Carliss photo, Italy, oil pastel

That's it, a sampling of my summer work. It is a good project and a great way to keep up your skills. Try it yourself!


Sunday, July 24, 2022


Summer 2022 Newsletter: Oil Pastel

Sole Flamingo
Oil pastel by Jill Jeffers Goodell ©2022

While taking some time off for the summer, I’ve challenged myself with a painting/drawing everyday. It’s been fun and surprisingly not as disciplined as I thought. Part of the secret I think is that I haven’t put any firm rules on what I'm  drawing or painting-- anything and everything goes. (see Glastonbury Studios Facebook page for my progress).

And I’ve made a discovery: I like oil pastels. Just for fun I decided to pull out my oil pastels as a daily exercise and was amazed at how much fun they can be. I did so many pastel paintings for so many days, I actually had oil all over my hands, table and even some clothes. So, I’ve quickly learned to keep it at a minimum—no more marathon oil pastel days. Now I pull out my materials, create my “masterpiece,” then clean up—which isn’t too difficult, just soap and water.

Additionally, I’ve also learned a few things about materials. I’ve always leaned toward Pentel sets. Heck for only $10, you can get a 50-stick set. So why not?
Don’t get me wrong. These pastels are still a good buy as well as a good choice, especially when the stick is at room temperature or warmer. But—there’s always a but isn’t there—I was recently introduced to Paul Rubens oil pastels. Wow, what a difference. They are softer to the touch, larger in size (which means more color) and can make a bold impression when met with paper. I do have a problem with their “stickiness” because they have more oil in them, but that’s probably why they are so easy to apply. The cost is twice as much, though. So if you’re on a budget, it may cause you to go for Pentel, rather than Rubens at $25 for the same amount.
Speaking of cost though, the most expensive oil pastels on the market are Sennelier (the first in Europe to create oil pastels). You will pay handsomely for these pastels, but they are the best and go down as if you are working with lipstick. The pigment is strong and they can be manipulated beautifully. However, all that will cost you. A simple 12 stick set is $29.01. I buy them when they are on sale. You can check out sales on Dick BlickJerry's Artarama or Cheap Joes.
Keeping it clean
With the Pentel sticks, you will not need to work too hard on keeping the oil feeling at bay. But both Ruben and Sennelier are chockfull of oil and can get all over your hands and work area—and if you not careful, on your clothes. I personally don’t like the feeling much, so I periodically head over to the sink and wash my hands with soap. I guess the best advice is to either lay down some paper around your work area or use an easel, which will keep the pastels on the paper and no on your drawing board.

By the way, I do NOT use my fingers to blend or manipulate oil pastel, ever! There are just too many chemicals—mostly the colored pigments—for me. Even my dermatologist recommends wearing gloves if I’m going to put my fingers into anything in art. Instead, I use two things:

Color Shapers (also called clay shapers)

Or Finger Cots
The color shapers I use were made for children and are larger than most. The ones shown above are a close match.  You see thinner ones online (see selection above). While I have those in my arsenal, I find myself always leaning to the children’s set. By the way, these are also called clay shapers used by sculptors.

I also use finger cots. Wearing full-size gloves doesn’t work out for me. My hands sweat too much. A good alternative is the finger cot. While I don’t usually mess with oil pastels by using my hand (I do more of that with soft pastels), I do find these are convenient and not too expensive.

Grounds (paper, canvas, wood)
Theoretically, you can use oil pastels on anything: paper, canvas, wood, even glass. I’ve  used sandpaper, which eats up the pastel quickly but creates a deep, luscious color output, especially when using Pentel products. Recently, I found a paper/card called Pastelmat. The surface is somewhat rough but not like sandpaper. The pastels go down very easily, and the paper has enough tooth for lots of layers. Made in France.
I also use Colorfix by Art Spectrum. Made in Australia, it has a fine tooth and comes in a packet of different colors. The surface is similar to sandpaper but not as harsh.

Of course, I also use the standard Canson’s Mi Tientes pastel paper. However, I do have to warn you that the oil from the pastels can leak through to the other side. For that reason, I don’t use this paper often for oil pastels and just stick with it for colored pencils and soft pastels. The paper is also made in France.

Beyond paper and boards, I am not particularly in love with a wood surface, as it doesn’t have the tooth I want, although I can paint a toothy gesso to its surface. However I do love working on canvas, especially the board-type of canvases. It will eat up your pastel stick faster because it pulls more on the surface, but the ability to manipulate and blend the oil is so much fun, it’s worth it.

This is a medium that never dries. So be prepared to put it under glass. I do have a couple of projects that I’ve done on canvas, which have survived room dust, but usually, I have put my projects within a frame with glass. I have used Miniwax Polycrylic  as a top coat and it seems to have done okay. But I can’t guarantee that it will work every time.

What's coming up in the studio!
Classes to begin September 13 and/or 14. No subject or technique has been determined yet. That all depends on the survery that I'm sending out after publishing this newsletter. Please, please, please do fill it out. There are very few questions.
Be on the look out for the
2022 Summer Survey!
Your voice counts!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Art for Art's Sake

 This is what art is for me...

"Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost."    

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, social theorist and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Ever since I was a child, I got lost in my art, lost in the world of imagination. Yes, occasionally, it got me into trouble--not lots of trouble, more of a frustration for my parents and teachers. If I wasn't daydreaming, I was doodling or writing. Even as I write this my heart goes aflutter with a peaceful, airy feeling. 

Unfortunately, life usually had to come in with a big BANG. That's why I consider myself so lucky today. I can work on my art with abandon and even teach the same subject endlessly. Being semi-retired is certainly a bonus as well, even though I probably produce more work than ever. 

So what does that have to do with you and your art. In one word, RELAX. Instead of approaching each project with the thought of it being your masterpiece, why not just approach it with "let's have some fun." As I expressed in my article on creating sloppy copies before settling on the "real" thing, I'm here today to encourage you to let go and enjoy.

When we were kids, we did not have preconceived notions on what is good or bad art. That came later, when we were around 11 or 12. Suddenly the gooey paint brush had to create something realistic or it was no good. That's when our internal critic was born. Oh hurray.

I still fall into that trap. For instance, I am currently working on a lesson plan for drawing with ballpoint pens. If you go online, you will find incredible portraits done by people with ballpoint pens. I am astounded looking at these works. Here are couple of artists:

PASSENGER, 2018, 86x106 cm  Oscar Ukonu

Absolutely stunning work. Some artists who do this type of photo realism actually project the photograph onto the paper and create from there. Photo realism has been around since the 1960s and has depended upon photos with amazing art results. See Deborah and Zoe Gustlin’s article on the subject. Even Norman Rockwell projected his photos to create his delightful paintings for the Saturday Evening Post.

Obviously, it is totally unfair for you to compare yourself to these artists, as they may be using tools that are not at your disposal. But more importantly, I submit, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with any other artist. Instead, I think it’s important that we concentrate on our own style, our own skills.

Yes, we can learn from others and it’s good to adapt ourselves to improve, but comparing oneself to another can be inhibiting. And the worst thing we can do as artists is to create an environment that can be negative—always wishing and hoping. That’s when the internal critic pops in and tries to convince us that we are just imposters, not very good. Can you imagine what the world would be like if Monet, Pissarro, even Van Gogh crushed under that negative thinking.

So this brings me back to art and fun. After spending over 40 years in the advertising and public relations business, I’ve had enough of creating art and words for someone else. It’s time to make art and word for myself. It’s time to relish in the absolute, glorious fun it takes to create something from within. Thus, I challenge you, wipe out the critic in your head and move forward. There’s nothing gained without risk, and besides, like I've heard, "It's only a piece of paper."

What's happening in the studio. The next session will be a bit different than most. I will be talking about three aqua-based  media: acrylic, watercolor and gouache. We will be exploring how to use them all with some basic techniques as well as learning to mix only three colors. I invite you to attend. It's all live online on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays. See below for more details.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sloppy Copy in Art

When my son was in grade school learning to write, he was taught to create a sloppy copy first--what we call a draft copy. It was a great way to teach kids how to get the words on paper and tell the story. I watched as kids poured words onto their pages as if they were using paint and brush. So many had no fear, which taught me a lesson. 

For years I wrote copy for ads, press releases, radio commercials, brochures and the like. Sometimes it was tough, like pulling teeth. While not as difficult, I still feel the same way sometimes with my drawing and painting. No matter what I do, I find myself not exactly getting the essence of what I want to express. My go-to action is to step away for a while. Put the project aside and concentrate on something else. Invariably, I usually come back with a refreshed approach and bam! I get it from the start (BTW, the same happens with my writing). 

But what happens when taking a break doesn't work. Then what? Well, I start a bit differently. Now, I'm going back to what the great artists have always done. I'm making sloppy copies or preliminary drawings. I also call it visual thinking. Einstein said it perfectly:

“…Words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be “voluntarily” reproduced and combined…but taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought — before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.” —Albert Einstein

Notice these sketchbook entries by Michelangelo and da Vinci. They both are working out some sort of issue, using visuals instead of words.


da Vinci

I actually started this process several years ago when traveling. I was in Barcelona and purchased a small  3.5 x 5 blank book in a souvenir shop. Normally when on the road, I would take a photo, create a three-minute (or less) drawing, and I later develop it into a more complete sketch in my traveling journal. 

Instead during this trip to Spain, I created sketches with abandon. I just got the "facts" down, and worried little about what was right or wrong. It was freeing. All done in graphite pencil, the subjects were lively, contemporaneous and honest.

Since then, I purchased small books for my students when we went on different trips. And I believe  a lot of them found it freeing as well. Recently, a student told me she occasionally looks at her book from the trip to Canada.  Here a some samples from my "sloppy copy" Canadian book.

Playing with people

Giant fiddle

Now several years later, I have expanded this process to include my studio. For years, I would select a subject, and after gathering my supplies, start immediately. Since I work mostly in drawing and acrylic painting materials, I don't really have to do much planning. If there's something I don't like, I can either paint over it or just erase (even with ink, I can use gouache to correct my mistakes). However, recently I've been trying to pre-draw or create sloppy copies, sketching my thoughts of what the subject looks like with key elements of color, placement, values and so on. 

This isn't a new idea. Most of my teachers pushed the thumbnail sketch, defined by Merriam Webster as:

Thumbnail sketches are small sketches used to plan out your painting before you begin. They're typically only 2–3 inches in size, so they can be quickly drawn and easily changed if needed. This makes them very helpful for artists who want to simplify or update their compositions.

But I'm actually talking about taking this one more stop further. How many times have you encountered a project that you think may be too over the top for you. So you may reject it--"too hard for me, I want this to be fun". 

I'll give you an example of a class I just taught. It was a flower petal with a rain drop on it. Of course anyone can draw the flower petal and be done with it. But the rain drop? That's a bit tricky. But what if I told you that you can use a separate piece of paper and simply draw the drop, over and over again until you felt you got it. You're creating a sloppy copy haven. It doesn't matter how many times you have to draw the same thing. You are just learning, creating on the go. No judgement. No rules. No critic. You are playing, experimenting. Hopefully having fun at the same time.

Of course, being a bit anal, I have now started a sketchbook that includes my trials and experiments--not to punish myself by preserving my imperfections--but to help me that next time I want to create the same. I'm also filling the book with painting formulas, ideas for future works and well, whatever I want. It's not only a good record, it's also fun to do. So far, a lot of my stuff is from demonstrations done in class, which is perfectly fine. 

Experimenting with paper

From a recent flowers class

While I always advocated "just getting the words on paper and revise later, " I'm glad I've finally started doing the same with my art work. The best part is the internal critic seems to have vanished.

What's new in the studio?

One more thing. I used to have this flyer on my bulletin board in my office when I was in advertising. It's amazing how many people want to change your writing! This kept me sane for over 20 years!