Join my Christmas Birds mini course!

Christmas Birds Mini-Course – FULL COURSE POSTS OCT. 15
3 Lessons (PLUS video on planning for print size)

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First 25 signups will receive my 2022 Year of Birds printable calendar free!

Draw and paint three traditional Christmas birds, each paired with a holiday botanical, using three different art techniques. (And just in case you want to create your own greeting cards or postcards, I have included a video on how to plan for standard print sizes.)

Use layered colored pencil to design and draw a partridge in a pear tree; paint with gouache on tea-stained paper to make a cheery cardinal with holly and mistletoe; and explore the delightful vintage look of ink/gouache resist to create a medieval influenced dove and sweet olive (with an optional angel, as well)!

Commissions: Drawing by request

Ever since I fell in love with the ballpoint pen and its astonishing capacity for fine detail, commission requests for natural history subjects have been arriving in my email inbox. Is there a favorite bird, fish, or butterfly you would like for me to draw for you? I have antique maps for most states, antique documents and letterhead on various subjects, and a generous supply of wonderful old postcards from long ago. Email me for info:

Monarch butterfly life cycle – ballpoint and watercolor on antique postcards
Little green heron in ballpoint on 1869 Pensacola Bay map (printed 1906)
Cicada in ballpoint on original 1910 postcard

$50 Flash Sale – course inspired by Beatrix Potter

Watercolor Garden Cottage: Inspired by Beatrix Potter
9 Lessons (PLUS one hour video workshop on drawing animals)

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Inspired by Beatrix Potter’s favorite watercolor techniques, this course has three modules — each containing three separate lessons with full step-by-step guidance and lavishly illustrated printable pages. As a bonus, a video workshop will help hone your animal drawing skills before you begin the course.

In the one hour PRE-COURSE VIDEO WORKSHOP, you’ll complete quick sketches and more thorough pencil studies while practicing simple techniques for fur texture, expressive eyes (along with ears, paws and noses!) in mice, rabbits, cats, squirrels and other small furry creatures. Taking our cue from Beatrix Potter’s sketchbook, we’ll learn to place small animals in different poses. Includes printable pencil exercises and several short projects for skill building.

In the BOTANICAL WATERCOLOR module, we’ll use layering in warm tones to create realistic small paintings of mushrooms, berries and wildflowers similar to the work Miss Potter undertook early in her illustration career. Learn to sharpen your observation skills as you learn three different botanical watercolor techniques popular in the Victorian era, and start your own naturalist’s notebook.

In the GRISAILLE module, use watercolor sketching in warm neutral tones to help you see and understand small animal subjects more deeply. Beatrix Potter used grisaille watercolor to design animal characters and charming little interior scenes. Working in your choice of sepia or grey, our three projects will include painting naturalistic animals, whimsical “storybook” animals, and cozy interiors for them to inhabit.

In the final LAYERED / DRYBRUSH WATERCOLOR module, we’ll imitate Beatrix Potter’s lovely muted color palette and soft backgrounds to place our animals in detailed cottage and garden settings.


Please read this section carefully – I have lots to tell you!

The complete course (and the pre-course drawing workshop) is posted on a password-protected website. Your access to the site is permanent and will never expire. Please work at your own pace and fully enjoy the comfort and cheer that drawing in Beatrix Potter’s style can provide.

After you pay for your course using the PayPal button on this page, you will receive an email with our site link and passwords. You may begin the course anytime.

You are very welcome to share comments and images with others in my courses around the world, in my private Facebook discussion group — the link will be posted on our course site. (The Facebook discussion group is completely optional and no instruction takes place there.)


The supply list is basic, and you may already have art supplies you like to use. Feel free to make substitutions if your supplies are slightly different. I am happy to answer your questions about supplies – my email is

  • Sketchbook or drawing paper (any type)
  • 2B drawing pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Pigma Micron or other waterproof black pen, tip size 01 OR crow quill dip pen and India ink
  • Small paper tortillon or blending stump
  • Watercolor paper or tablet (I will be using Strathmore 400 series cold press 140lb, which is economical and easy to find for most folks, but you may use any hot or cold press watercolor paper 140lb or heavier)
  • A basic set of watercolors in tubes (I will be using Cotman – a good quality economical grade from Winsor Newton) or if you buy individual tubes, here are the colors I will be using: Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light (or Lemon Yellow), Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre.
  • A small tube of white gouache
  • 3 watercolor brushes (synthetic are fine) in sizes 00 round and 04 round, and 1/2 inch flat

Whew! That’s all my info. See you soon! Val

Meanwhile in the studio

In addition to my online teaching, I have been preparing a collection of drawings for a one-woman show next January. I’m drawing natural history subjects (think birds and insects, and a mammal or two) in ballpoint pen on antique documents and old book pages. I love the rich detail and slightly mysterious look! My show will be at the Pascagoula Audubon Center, so most of my subjects will be critters who make the Gulf Coast region their home.

To see more drawings and stay up-to-date as new ones are added, visit my Instagram gallery:

New! Butterflies in Colored Pencil

5 Video tutorials with illustrated printables

LIFETIME ACCESS $50Enrollment limited

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Draw four of the most beautiful butterflies you’ve never heard of – each using a different technique, inspired by a woman naturalist from previous centuries. We’ll draw each butterfly with its host plant or nectar plant. An additional full-length video lesson, Butterfly Drawing Basics, will post on our class website July 1 with printable warmup exercises (and a mini project) in advance of the full course launch July 20.

All lessons are hosted on a password-protected website, and your access is permanent. Work at your own pace, and get instructor feedback anytime by email.

See the supply list for this course:

Our colored pencil projects will explore:

  • Intense tropicals on a black background
  • Formal but whimsical butterfly illustrations of the Colonial era
  • Elegantly lush drawings of butterflies and caterpillars in the Age of Exploration
  • Drawing a labeled butterfly specimen from a 17th Century noblewoman’s collection

See you soon!

Sketchbook Giveaway!

Just in time for Mother’s Day, my sister’s Retro Journals studio is giving away a lovely oversized sketchbook, repurposed from a vintage Beatrix Potter print and filled with heavyweight Bristol vellum. To enter, simply take a peek at her etsy store and then comment here with your favorite retro journal or sketchbook. A winner will be randomly chosen on Mother’s Day. Good luck, everyone!

Free bird drawing video: Loggerhead Shrike

A few years ago, wandering along the edge of an unmowed meadow, I found a strange display arranged along the top of an old metal fence. Enormous lubber grasshoppers — four inches long and glossy black — were neatly impaled in a row, upside down with their lifeless legs pointed at the sky. There were nine or 10 of them, each on top of a vertical metal post like a macabre architectural detail. What animal had done this? I wondered. Lubbers are toxic, so what was the reason to capture them and spike them on the fence?
I had discovered the pantry of a loggerhead shrike, a dapper bird whose small size belies his fierce reputation as a hunter. Blessed with a sharp, hooked beak but no talons, the shrike kills and impales his food because he cannot grasp it in his slender feet. Leftovers remain in place for a later meal.
Wisely, the shrike leaves the eastern lubber grasshopper on its spike for several days, waiting for the toxins to dissipate, and consumes them after that.
Today, we will use three tonal values in pencil to draw this beautiful bird. Watch the video and print the three attached pdf pages before you draw.
Click for video.

My best Flash Sale yet (for a good cause)

Jo Beagle – Studio Assistant

If you have taken online art courses with me, you may have heard some gentle snoring in the background of my instructional videos. That contented sound is made by my senior beagle, Jo, who naps under the drawing table. An enthusiastic sniffer of the great outdoors, she is a veteran camper and good company on sketching hikes. (She’s also great at preventing litter — she can detect tasty crumbs on a discarded food wrapper from 100 yards away.) With the passing years, Jo has developed some serious health issues and this week, in anticipation of a large vet bill, I decided to offer a special flash sale on classes.

From now through Saturday, ALL previously offered courses are $40. Two courses – Drawing Owls or 8 Flowers 8 Ways – are FREE with the purchase of any other course. The offer includes courses that provide you with antique postcards for painting projects, and I will happily send them anywhere in the world.

All courses are lifetime access.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Five Little Songbirds (painted on vintage postcards)
  • Birds and Words: A Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor
  • Birds and Butterflies on Vintage Postcards
  • Drawn and Decorated Watercolor Lettering
  • Birds in Watercolor and Beyond
  • Birds in Colored Pencil
  • Draw Dogs and Cats
  • Draw Owls (FREE with any other course)
  • Draw Horses and Ponies
  • Drawing Children
  • 8 Flowers 8 Ways (FREE with any other course)
  • Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil
  • Botanical Sketchbook Painting
  • Gentle Garden: Carbon Pencil Botanicals
  • Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs
  • Fairies I: Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature
  • Fairies II: Draw and Paint the Enchanted World


Thanks from Jo (and me)!

A last-minute gift could be your best ever

A uniquely creative gift is as close as your email inbox — choose from 16 lifetime access online art courses, and I will email you a printable gift certificate ready to delight the artist in your life. GET A SECOND COURSE FREE to give or to use yourself.

The lessons within each course include full video demos and lots of beautifully illustrated printable pages. Classes include:

  • Birds and Words, a Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor
  • Vintage Postcard Birds and Butterflies (antique postcards provided)
  • Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering
  • Birds in Watercolor and Beyond
  • Birds in Colored Pencil
  • Draw Dogs and Cats
  • Draw Owls: Designed for the Dark
  • Draw Horses and Ponies
  • Drawing Children
  • Eight Flowers Eight Ways
  • The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil
  • Botanical Sketchbook Painting
  • Gentle Garden: Carbon Pencil Botanicals
  • Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs
  • Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature
  • Fairies II: Draw and Paint the Enchanted World