Making preparations


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WC sandhill in progressI’m in the lake country of central Florida this week, painting some of the local avian citizens in preparation for the upcoming online course, Birds in Watercolor and Beyond. I sketched these sandhill cranes, an adult and a juvenile, this morning. Now I’m making a quick color study in watercolor and white gouache. (I’ll post another image when it’s finished.)

Sandhill cranes are abundant here: they stalk along the roadsides and peer in through patio doors. They make a rapid, beeping call like a flock of chatty space aliens. At four feet tall, they can easily look into your car window while you wait in line at the drive-through. They are ideal drawing subjects.


Make a watercolor sketch of sage

This morning, the web host for my online course, “Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs,” was the victim of a cyber attack. I can’t log in to upload today’s lesson, so I’m posting it here instead. Enjoy!

Time for something light and simple: a sprig of fresh sage in transparent watercolor. This uncomplicated lesson (and the herb’s uncomplicated form) will provide you with the perfect opportunity to look deeply at proportion and texture. Watch the video all the way through, then print the reference photo before you begin. Feel free to use a live specimen from your own garden.





Under the sea


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L8 Step by Step4 copyA fun technique that creates a soothing and mysterious atmosphere: put down a rich watercolor wash in two or more shades of blue. Drip rubbing alcohol into the wet paint to create bubbles. Then use only white (or, in this case, white and pale green) to draw your subject. Don’t draw too much –leave parts of the scene to the imagination of the viewer. Fun!

They live in my sketchbook…


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Fairy Faces…and they’ve been keeping me very busy over the past few weeks, as my “Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature” online course rolls along. I’ll soon be turning my attention (and my pencil) back to other subjects. I’ll re-offer “Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering” beginning April 28, and “Birds in Colored Pencil” beginning May 12. Yay!

More than meets the eye


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mouse and fairy

What do you get when you combine figure drawing, plant/animal/insect sketches, basic watercolor techniques, drawing natural habitat — then season the mixture with fairy tale illustration? An interactive online course called Draw & Paint Fairies in Nature, which begins next week. There are still a few places left in this work-at-your-own-pace, personally guided drawing adventure. Here’s the sequence of our 10 lessons — the “Draw” segment of each is done in students’ sketchbooks, and the “Paint” segment is done in simple watercolor with a bit of colored pencil:

Lesson 1: Where do fairies come from? Draw: Val’s four-step sketch technique, infant proportions, simple facial features, sketch exercise. Paint: Using gouache, making skin tones, glazing and lifting color, baby fairy project.

Lesson 2: How do fairies fly? Draw: Toddler proportions, drawing different kinds of wings, sketch exercise. Paint: Very young fairy in flight.

Lesson 3: Why do fairies love flowers? Draw: Six-year-old proportions, drawing favorite flowers, sketch exercise. Paint: Garden fairy child.

Lesson 4: What do fairies wear? Draw: Older child proportions, creating clothing from nature, creating clothing for fairy royalty, drawing fabric, drawing fairy hats and caps, sketch exercise. Paint:  Your own fairy finery.

Lesson 5: Where do fairies live? Draw: Teen proportions, sketching fairy habitats, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy at home.

Lesson 6:  Why do birds allow fairies to ride on their backs? Draw: Adult female fairy proportions, drawing birds, drawing the seated figure, sketch exercise. Paint: Fairy riding a favorite bird.

Lesson 7:  Who are the fairies’ other friends?  Draw: Adult male fairy proportions, drawing small woodland creatures, sketch exercise.  Paint: Fairy with a furry friend of your choice.

Lesson 8:  Can fairies live in the water? Draw: Water sprites and naiads, drawing fins and scales, sketch exercise. Paint: Water sprite painted over a toned color wash, a trick for creating bubbles, creating very unusual skin tones.

Lesson 9:  Are fairies always young? Draw: Older adult proportions and features, how to show age and wisdom, how to draw gray or white hair, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy godmother.

Lesson 10:  Are all fairies good?  Draw: Expressive faces and actions – how to show a sly or mischievous nature, how to tell a story with your drawing, sketch exercise. Paint: A trickster fairy.

Big announcement: Artist-Naturalist Workshop

Land_AcquisitionI am honored — and very excited — to be teaching a two-day workshop at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of the most remarkable ecosystems in the Gulf Coast region. Set for Friday and Saturday, May 9 – 10, this wonderful event is co-sponsored by the Walter Anderson Museum of Art and is called Artist-Naturalist Workshop: An Introduction to Botanical Art. It’s designed for anyone with a interest in the natural world, regardless of art experience.

feature-ourestuaryIn addition to sessions on field drawing, basic botanical art techniques, drawing microscopic plant material, working with watercolor and colored pencil, and art journaling, we’ll also go on a daily plant walk (one day freshwater habitat, the next day saltwater habitat) and see the estuary up close during a sunset kayak paddle.  My co-instructors, coastal ecologist Jen Buchanan and WAMA education director Melissa Johnson, bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to our schedule. This will be a creative adventure that will sharpen your powers of observation and change the way you see (and draw) plants. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

feature-greenParticipants may spend the night Friday — Grand Bay NERR has dormitory accommodations — and both breakfast and lunch are provided on Saturday. If you live in the area and prefer to go home at night, that’s fine, too. The cost of the two-day workshop is $95 (or $85 for Walter Anderson Museum members) and the number of spaces is limited. This event is expected to fill very quickly. The complete itinerary for both days, plus additional info and a registration form, can be printed by clicking this link:


To sign up, call Melissa Johnson at 228-872-3164.


A little naiad


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NaiadI’ve been having fun, creating examples for different watercolor techniques as I build up material for the Draw & Paint Fairies online course. This little naiad (water sprite) is balancing on a bubble that resulted from dripping alcohol into a layer of ultramarine blue gouache. Instant gratification — and a handy way to avoid trying to paint around all those round shapes! I photographed the process, step-by-step, and will weave it into a lesson on color wash backgrounds. I “borrowed” her spiny wing structure from an Asian flying fish.

My upcoming online courses

ValWebb - HouseSparrowABirds in Colored Pencil
Starting January 6, 2014
9 Lessons – work at your own pace


With step-by-step guidance, learn to create “gentle pencil” foundation drawings and then layer rich colors on top to create elegantly detailed, illustration-quality colored pencil images. This course uses detailed video demonstrations of technique, step-by-step illustrated printables and personal feedback on completed projects. New lessons post every Monday on our class website for nine weeks, but you have four full months to complete the material. We’ll mix up classical drawing theory with a dose of natural history, with topics including drawing feather texture, drawing birds in flight, shading for highlights and shadows, color blending, basic bird anatomy, drawing birds of prey, drawing backgrounds and habitat, drawing birds’ eggs and nests, and much more. No experience necessary, and the supply list is quite basic. Pre-registration is required, and is payable by check or PayPal. To sign up, email me directly at


Winter Session poster - CopyADrawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering
Starting January 13, 2014
10 Lessons – work at your own pace



No previous experience necessary! Learn to create decorated letters using watercolor, Pigma Micron pens, pencils and a brush. Participants will have four months to complete ten projects. Class projects include:

  • Three easy methods for making decorative and illuminated initials.
  • Surprisingly simple techniques for Celtic knotwork.
  • Using “quickhand” techniques to make art journals or notebooks more beautiful.
  • Colorful, whimsical letters based on medieval alphabets (how to draw them, how to use them).
  • Creative page design that combines lettering and other images.
  • Vines and flourishes – watercolor letters inspired by Art Nouveau.
  • Guidelines for designing your own unique personal alphabet.
  • Combining color, form and attitude to make your letters sing.

Registered participants will receive access to:

  • Video demonstrations with step-by-step guidance for each technique.
  • A warm-up lettering exercise for each lesson.
  • Illustrated instructions (PDF)
  • Examples for each lesson, designed to guide and inspire you.
  • Personal help when needed and feedback when each lesson is completed.

Pre-registration is required, and is payable either by check or PayPal. To sign up, email me directly at


Blog page dog

Drawing Dogs & Cats
Starting January 27, 2014
8 Lessons – work at your own pace


No experience necessary — the only prerequisite for this course is a love of our four-legged family members. Working in pencil for some projects, black-and-white charcoal pencil for others, develop your drawing skills by learning to create glossy fur, expressive eyes, animals in action and at rest. Topics include drawing puppies and kittens at different stages of growth, four techniques for drawing white fur, drawing realistic dog noses, drawing dog and cat caricatures and more. Very minimal supply list. Pre-registration is required, and is payable by check or PayPal. To sign up, email me directly at



Val Webb - heron fisherman2blogpage coneflower fairy


Draw & Paint Fairies in Nature
Starting February 17, 2014
10 Lessons – work at your own pace
Includes 24 illustrated pdf pages of step-by-step techniques
Bonus: Printable version of Val’s hand-lettered fairy sketchbook

This information-packed course begins with techniques for drawing fairy children, then combines these lovely and legendary creatures with botanical, bird, insect and small animal subjects of your choice to form the unique hidden world just beyond our garden gates. Learn about fairy proportion from infant to adolescent, how to show physical and facial expressions, how to draw assorted wings and attire, how to create a background, how to draw fairies in action (and in flight) or at rest. Discover techniques for using color to create a rich natural atmosphere. We’ll use a combination of pencil and watercolor — with a touch of colored pencil — for our weekly warm-up exercises and drawing projects. The set of printable illustrated pdf pages that accompany the lessons will form a drawing handbook to keep your fairy-drawing skills fresh long after the course has concluded. Pre-registration is required, and is payable by check or PayPal. To sign up, email me directly at

PLEASE NOTE: This course is open to anyone, regardless of drawing experience, but you will enjoy it (and benefit from it) more if you already have some basic drawing skills. If you are new to drawing, I encourage you to take any of my other online courses first — then sign up for Draw & Paint Fairies in Nature.


Val Webb - Culinary Herbs (2)

Draw & Paint Six Culinary Herbs
Starting March 3, 2014
10 Lessons – work at your own pace


It’s not your typical botanical drawing course. My new online class series, “Draw & Paint Six Culinary Herbs,” will incorporate all the things that make the humble kitchen garden a place of a thousand small delights. In addition to learning to create softly shaded pencil studies, spirited ink-and-wash sketches and richly layered color renderings that combine watercolor and colored pencil, we’ll also explore the history and folklore associated with our six herbs. Each lesson will include art demo videos, printable illustrated instruction pages and photo tutorials posted on our private class website — as well as illustrated tips on growing, harvesting and using our culinary collection. Pre-registration is required, and is payable by check or PayPal. To sign up, email me directly at

All images and text (c) 2013 Val Webb


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