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!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

March 2022

 How to safely store your artwork

You have put hours and hours into creating your work, be it paintings or drawings. Not everything can be hung on your walls. You could give away everything you make or even sell the lot as well. But barring that, you must find a place to put all your artwork.

Over 20 years ago when I went back to fine art, I simply stuffed everything in filing cabinets. Not a good idea. First of all, some of my paper yellowed, rendering it impossible to save. I also didn’t have papers or canvases that were the right size for the drawers. So, I often just jammed them into the cabinets. Yup, rather stupid.  I was sloppy and not thinking properly. 

I do things very differently now. For instance, I store all my paintings, especially those that are framed, in a dry, cool place—usually in an extra closet. Because I have created a lot of paintings over the years and have literally run out wall space, I use my “art” closet to do a ‘round robin' of works to put up occasionally. I don’t necessarily wrap each painting in paper, but I do stack them upright since that’s the primary position for a painting.

I don’t recommend attics or basements unless they’re finished and don’t go over the temperature of 75° and with a humidity of no higher than 50°. Sunlight is a killer for artwork, so always keep it away from windows, even if the art product says its colorfast. Of course, you want to keep your paintings clean, dusting occasionally. 

If you can’t store anything in your house and the only space you have is in the garage, try to keep it cool in the summer and dry in the winter. Use risers or some sort of shelving to keep the artwork off the ground and try avoid making a pile without some sort of archival paper in between. 

As for oil pastel paintings never, ever store them in a hot spot (even your car on a hot day). The pastel paint will melt, believe me. It’s happened! One more thing, refrain from using bubble wrap or just plain plastic wrap to cover your paintings. It’s easy to trap moisture or even mold spore inside, causing a bloody mess.

My recommendation

When I’m not storing my work in my closet, I use two storage items: Archival storage portfolios and/or Archival storage boxes. Both products are easy to store by placing them in a bookcase. They come in a variety of sizes.

Also I would suggest purchasing some Acid-Free Interleaving Tissue Paper to place between each piece to keep things as pristine as possible.

Lastly, I would also suggest you create a list of what's inside. I can't tell you how many times I have had to go through my storage containers to find what I want.

What's coming up in April?

Drawing Flowers in Colored Pencil

Hope you have a wonderful Spring!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

February 2022 Newsletter: Composition/Classes: Root Vegetables

Principles of Design
Unknowingly, you already have a good sense of design. Through our constant bombardment from magazines, television and Internet, you have been exposed to thousands of visual messages. You know what looks good and what doesn’t. Sometimes the unusual will be used to grab attention (a negative is as good in some cases). But in general, you intuitively know if a design is off. So relax. It’s not as hard to create a good design as you think. Here are the eight principles we will cover:

  • Balance
  • Contrast
  • Scale 
  • Proportion
  • Pattern
  • Rhythm
  • Emphasis
  • Variety
  • Unity

Why is learning the principals of design so important? Just like when composing a letter or a blog, you want to make sense, offering some continuity from one paragraph to the next. The same goes for a piece of artwork. I like to think of my work, especially landscapes, as stories, inviting someone in to enjoy the sight. What’s more, I want my viewer to stay a while and see the beauty I have seen.


Balance can be symmetrical (formal balance) or asymmetrical (informal balance)


Contrast can be accomplished with white, black and gray, monotones or colors. 

Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888
Rules of thumb:
  • A dark color put next to a light one makes them both look brighter.  
  • Dark next to bright makes the bright one look brighter.  
  • Dark next to light makes the light seem lighter and the dark darker.  
  • Warmer colors look warmer when placed next to cool ones. 
  • Cool colors look cooler when placed next to warm ones.  
  • A bright color next to a muted color makes the muted one look more dull.  
  • If two colors are of a similar brightness, the less bright they'll both look when placed next to each other. Source

“Simultaneous contrast refers to the way in which two different colors affect each other. The theory is that one color can change how we perceive the tone and hue of another when the two are placed side by side. The actual colors themselves don't change, but we see them as altered. “ Marion Boddy-Evans

Proportion & Scale
Proportion does not deal with how big or small something is but rather the relationship between two or more objects. Scale refers to size. Thus, the earth and moon are different in scale but share the same proportion.

Of course, patterns are fairly simple to grasp. Simply defined, a pattern is the repetition on the same thing over and over again. They can be geometric or organic. You will find patterns to be most prominent in nature.

Rhythm is just what it says, movement. The photo below offers a wonderful example of rhythm just in the models pose. I can even hear the music.

Here's another example:

Katsushika Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa or The Great Wave
1830-1832, woodblock print, ink on paper.

Generally, you may want to pick a spot (some call a hot spot or sweet spot) that you want to emphasize. I've had teaches who would demand I find that spot and center my entire painting around it. Not sure if that's necessary always. In any event, the painting below by Goya definitely has a sweet spot and is emphasizing it by using color.

The Third of May 1808
 is a painting completed in 1814 
by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya

Variety or how to avoid BORING
When painting or drawing a narrative, such as the piece above, you don't tend to be too boring. However, with a flower sitting in the center of a canvas without anything surrounding it, could be interpreted at being boring--maybe, maybe not.

I think the Ambassadors painting below is far from boring and even intriguing. See the skull on the lower third. Some would say it's too cluttered. It's amazing when seen in real time.

The Ambassadors 1533 
by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8 – 1543)

Every work should have some unifying element--something that ties things together. Sometimes you can see it immediately, sometimes you have to look for it and sometimes it just doesn't exist, but the piece still works. I enjoy The Musicians for that reason. I love the unity of the characters, the colors and repetition of the circle. It simply works for me.

Putting it all together
I love the painting below. Probably because I see a great composition, especially regarding the topics we've covered here. There's rhythm, unity, fluidity of the models and subtle colors. I hope you agree.

What's coming up?

Here's a chance to study some botanical drawing, using a variety of materials: pencil, colored pencil, watercolor pencil, watercolor paint, pen and ink.

For more information or registration, please write me at this address: