New course! Birds and Words


Ballpoint and watercolor tint, one of four unusual techniques we’ll explore in my new course.

 Special offer – choose a second course FREE. Lifetime access – your courses will never expire.

Birds and Words: A Joyful Course in Ink and Watercolor – $65

In 12 videos and 20 illustrated printable pages, this course will change the way you think about combining watercolor and ink. We’ll paint swallows in the elegantly simple style of ancient Minoan nature artists; a tree filled with colorful songbirds in the style of Colonial folk painters; design and create a kindly Mother Goose in the style of Beatrix Potter and the golden age of children’s book illustration.  Finally, using a simple plastic ballpoint pen and a thin wash of watercolor, we’ll create a delicately tinted drawing with the look of a Victorian bird engraving. (You’ll receive three antique postcards upon which to draw your choice of birds.)

Each project consists of two parts: first, we’ll draw realistic pencil studies or ink sketches of our selected birds. Then, we’ll go outside the box to re-create them using our project techniques.

Also… Nearly every civilization has a legend featuring birds as divine messengers. So that YOUR birds can bring good tidings, each project includes a hand-lettered component.  Use them separately or incorporate them into your artwork.

This course is “lifetime access” and will never expire. Enrollment is limited. As a bonus for you, choose a second course free for yourself or someone else.

The supply list is simple. In fact, if you have taken a course from me before, you probably already have everything you need:


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Sketching Sarracenia


These oddly beautiful plants carpet the forest floor at Splinter Hill Bog, one of the nation’s largest remaining stands of old-growth longleaf pine. It’s a natural wonderland, a short drive from my house, a place rich with subjects to draw. I try to make a sketching excursion there every spring, when the sarracenia is blooming. This one is black and white charcoal on a watercolor background.

Draw Paint Letter is back!


Draw Paint Letter: the Artist-Naturalist’s Year   –   $30/month

Learn through the seasons. Keep the course forever. If you missed it in 2016, here is your chance to explore the natural year through drawing, painting, and creative hand-lettering. No experience necessary!

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How does it work?

Val Webb’s beautifully illustrated tutorials, tips and techniques will post to a private class website every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Fridays, you’ll also receive a link to a full-length video lesson. All video content will remain permanently online, available for you to practice and review whenever you like.

Draw Paint Letter started on March 23, 2020 and will run for one full year. Students may join the class at any time during the year and will have lifetime access to all material from their personal start date going forward. The cost is $30/month and is billed monthly through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account to make the payment using a credit or debit card.

(To stop receiving tutorials and video lessons, simply email Val and your enrollment will end at the close of your current 30-day period.)

4-2 victorian eggs

What subjects will we draw and paint?

Val is best-known for drawing the garden and the natural world, and much of our focus will be in those places. Spring season tutorials include:

  • A whimsical watercolor hand-lettering style inspired by the garden
  • Sketching soft fur and drawing baby animals
  • Using pencil over watercolor for beautiful textures on leaves and moth wings
  • Reverse painting spring blossoms

…and much more.

Drawing (pencil, charcoal, pen-and-ink, colored pencil) and painting (watercolor) subjects will include seasonal changes in animals wild and domestic, birds of all kinds including shorebirds and birds of prey, butterflies and moths, marine life, frog and turtles, botanical drawing techniques, wildflowers, heirloom vegetable varieties, tropical flowers and ferns, historic and medicinal plants, herbs, trees, the cottage garden setting, natural landscapes (forest, coastal, mountain and desert), creeks and rivers, open water, skies, and much more. Our subjects will reflect the changing seasons.


Drawing techniques covered will include traditional pen-and-ink, “splash and splatter” techniques for dramatic effects, ink-and-wash and ink-and-brush, realistic pencil drawing, field drawing and sketching from life, charcoal drawing, making and using toned paper, colored pencil drawing and color blending.

…And what about painting and lettering techniques?

Many of our projects will combine drawing, painting and lettering in the tradition of classic illustration, beautiful nature journals and field sketches.

Painting lessons will explore traditional watercolor, “fast and loose” floral watercolor, pen-and-ink with watercolor, watercolor with colored pencil, drybrush, reverse painting in watercolor, ink resist painting, and more. Lettering projects will feature a wide range of hand-lettering styles in pencil, ink and watercolor, plus page design and “fancy field notes.”

LL brush lettering

Who can take this class? Do I need to be able to draw?

Draw Paint Letter is open to all. Class material is appropriate for anyone, at any level of art experience. No previous art experience is required, and Val teaches in a spirit of warmth and gentle encouragement. Our students range from “never tried to draw before in my life” to seasoned professionals polishing their skills in a specific subject area. Don’t let a lack of drawing experience keep you away!

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Have a question? Email

reverse painting

Carbon pencil magic


All is Illusion – 12×16 carbon pencil on hot press watercolor paper

Exquisitely gentle shading, lush velvety black tones… I have completely fallen in love with carbon pencils. I’m working hard on a new online course, so I can share some carbon pencil magic with you.  Gentle Garden will begin October 1, and will focus on using this lovely drawing medium to create botanicals (and their pollinators – bees, butterflies and hummingbirds). The details will be available soon.



The tape is drawn… to secure a sheet of paper that is drawn… which contains a drawn butterfly who uses the illusion of owl eyes to frighten away predators. I love the medium of carbon pencil, with its slightly mysterious feel and lush, bottomless black values. I’m working on a collection of drawings now that will combine wild and tame aspects in a symbolic or narrative way.





Les Papillons

About those robins…


This week’s Journey video lesson is a fun technique — pencil textures over a watercolor base — and our subject is the robin. Lots of folks associate this fellow with the first return of Spring, but actually the robin is quite cold-tolerant and often he opts to stay put, instead of flying south for the winter. A better harbinger of warmer days would be the noisy and numerous red-winged blackbird.

Something old, something new


Carbon pencil drawing in progress

I was baffled, the first time an art teacher handed me a piece of charcoal. A quiet child who compulsively inked animals on inappropriate surfaces (inside textbooks, on school desks, on walls, on the arms of giggling classmates), I had been enrolled in a Saturday class in hopes that it would channel the drawing urge.

Our subject was an uninspiring bowl of oranges — in retrospect, probably not a wise choice for a classroom full of energetic nine-year-olds. My brittle black stick of vine charcoal snapped in half and peppered the paper with a galaxy of specks and smudges. After a few minutes, I abandoned the still life assignment and sketched a herd of prehistoric horses I had seen in a book on cave paintings. Dark smudged heads and bodies fading to pale bellies, slender galloping legs. The teacher did not approve.

I did not return on the following Saturday, and for the next 51 years I had little interest in drawing with charcoal… until I met the carbon pencil a few weeks ago, and immediately fell in love.

A blend of lamp black and clay, the carbon pencil is harder than traditional charcoal. It produces a deliciously deep, flat black with none of the annoying shine that graphite can leave on the paper. The carbon pencil has a lot to teach me about drawing… and none of it involves a bowl of oranges.


Fidelis        carbon pencil, Val Webb 2019




Mama’s Last Picnic

My mom, a prolific writer, submitted this remembrance to NPR a few years back. When they called to arrange legal permission for its broadcast, they were so charmed by her soft southern accent that they asked her to read it aloud on the air.  She would be 83 today. She would be delighted that you are reading her work, and I am too. Enjoy.


The author (center) with her parents, Helen and Claud Thomason


By Margaret-Ann Allison

The pungent aroma of baked ham curled out the kitchen window and wrapped around my head. I had spent the entire morning perched on a limb of the mango tree in our Fort Lauderdale back yard, reading a Nancy Drew mystery. Now the whirring of a mixer and clanking pots and pans briefly took my mind off the mosquito droning in my ear. The day of the big picnic had finally arrived.

All summer I had looked forward to the picnic my parents had planned with my aunt and uncle. I had such fun with my cousins when we visited at their farm, but this time they would be in my territory — the beach.

Mama was a good cook and she loved preparing fancy menus for special occasions. In fact, the only thing she liked better was criticizing someone else. She was especially discriminating where in-laws were concerned. More than once it had been called to her attention that her sister-in-law (a well respected caterer) cooked “the best cakes this side of heaven.” Mama said, “Her cakes are too heavy and her icings taste of lard.” She shared her opinion with the Tuesday Church Circle group and knew it would reach the ears  for which she she had intended it.

“Mama, I’m starving!” I called as I slid to the ground and headed toward the screened door of the back porch.

“If you’re hungry that means you’ll be ready to enjoy your meal when we get to the picnic.” Mama had been cooking for two days, and her time and temper were getting short.

“Don’t come in on my clean floors with your sandy feet and dirty clothes. Go wash off at the spigot and get ready to go. The chicken is almost done and soon as I ice the cake, we’ll leave.”

Daddy watched in silence as Mama stuffed egg halves with a creamy yellow mixture she extruded from a pastry bag and twirled into stars.

“Is the cooler full of ice and did you pack the cloth I put out? I won’t eat my dinner off those dirty wooden tables — be sure the lid is clamped tight on the tea pitcher or we will have tea sloshed all over the trunk when we get there. Will someone please answer that phone? I can’t do everything,” she said, as she covered the deviled eggs with wax wrap and began icing a large layer cake with coconut-and-seafoam icing.

As I passed the hallway I heard Daddy talking on the phone. “Well, we’re running a little late but we should be leaving in about twenty minutes. You go ahead and put your things on a table but save us one nearby. See you soon.”

“I was afraid of this,” came the wail from the kitchen. “We’ll arrive and your sister-in-law will have her gourmet feast spread out and she’ll stand there sneering at my offering. I should have baked some beans to go with the potato salad. I just know she’ll bring one of those seven-spice pound cakes she is so proud of.”

“It won’t matter what you bring if you don’t hurry,” Daddy sighed. “It will be too dark for anyone to see it.”

Finally the car was loaded, the gear stowed in the trunk, and as we backed out the drive, Mama said, “I feel like I did during exams when we were in college.”

The twenty-minute drive was made in total silence. I was joyously anticipating making sandcastles and forts with my four male cousins. Daddy must have been counting the number of trips he would have to make with the baskets of food, cooler chests, towels and chairs before he could finally sit and visit with his brother. I’m certain that Mama was mentally checking the long-thought-out menu she had worked on so hard. This was one time her in-laws would not outshine her! The ham (baked in a mixture of orange juice and honey) was perfect. The fried chicken had just the right shade of gold on the batter. Her deviled eggs and potato salad looked exactly like the picture in the magazine she had copied the recipe from, but the crowning touch would be her homemade coconut cake. She had cracked and ground the coconut meat herself to assure a fluffy freshness.

As our car pulled into the parking area, Mama’s worst fear was realized. My aunt was standing beside a table which was obscured from view by the crowd of relatives around it. “I’ll carry the cake,” Mama said, opening the car door for me, “and you take the tea pitcher. Your father can bring the big hamper.”

Mama held the cake in front of her as a warrior would his shield, and walked through the sand toward the tables. As the crowd parted, she looked confused — and then triumphant. There, sitting atop newspapers, was a large jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a bag of chips,  a jar of grape jelly, a sack of apples, a carton of Pepsi and a pitcher of tea.

Eyeing the coconut cake, my aunt said, “I hope you didn’t go to a lot of trouble. I’ve been so busy with my catering I haven’t had time to cook for my family.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” smiled Mama sweetly. “I’ve been busy too, so I just threw together a few things I had in the refrigerator.”

Mama never went on another picnic. “You just can’t improve on perfect,” she said.

Paint a Little Black Hen

Back by popular demand, a sample project from my Birds in Watercolor and Beyond course. Enjoy!

 Watercolor is an astonishing medium. Beginning with spatters and splashes, and using only two colors — Pyrrole Orange and Phthalo Blue — it’s only a short, happy journey to a completed hen. This is the warm-up project for Lesson 5 in my online course, Birds in Watercolor and Beyond. Watch the video all the way through and print the pdf pages that appear below the screen before you begin painting. Enjoy!

L5 Hen Progression

L5 Texture Sampler

Chicken Reference 1

Chicken Reference 2

Your preliminary sketch can be very simple — no need for detail. The watercolor will provide surface textures and shading. Here’s what my sketch looked like…

L5 chicken sketch

…and here’s the finished Little Black Hen:

L5 Little Black Hen