The camellias have arrived

It’s camellia season on the Gulf Coast and big, showy blossoms are everywhere. Unlike the azalea’s brief explosion of riotous color followed by ten months of weedy-looking shrubbery, the camellia’s glossy greenery looks robust year round. Some varieties bloom for months and can survive, essentially neglected, for centuries.

But I like them because they are such fun to draw. Simple or heavily ruffled, their flowers range from snowy white to delicate pink to intense crimson — or speckled and spattered combinations of these colors. And their crepe texture is perfect for colored pencil. Here’s a recent preliminary drawing using a dark umber Prismacolor pencil:


And here’s the same drawing, with layers of color added. I used five colors in addition to the umber “foundation drawing” :  Crimson, Cream, Chartreuse, Canary Yellow and Dark Green:


Drawing 30 cats for Inktober 2016


It’s time once again for the annual, worldwide, month-long challenge: a drawing each day  in ink. (If you’d like to take part — and I encourage you to do exactly that — here’s the Inktober website for more info.)

I’m planning to caricature a different cat each day. This one is Otis, a sweet yellow kitty I had many long years ago, when my girls were small.  Otis loved attention, and he allowed the girls to dress him in baby clothes and push him around in a stroller. He was a mellow sort of cat.

Tomorrow’s sketch will be Jakey, a handsome kitty who lives in Connecticut. See you then.



You asked and I listened…

I’m delighted to announce that all 11 of my previous online art courses are being converted to an on-demand, “start anytime” format with a full year of video access. The first three, Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering, The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil, and Birds in Watercolor and Beyond, are available now. The rest will be added within the coming week.

The new anytime art class lineup includes:

  • Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering (10 lessons)
  • The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil (10 lessons)
  • Birds in Watercolor and Beyond (10 lessons)
  • Birds in Colored Pencil (9 lessons)
  • Drawing Horses and Ponies (10 lessons)
  • Drawing Dogs and Cats (8 lessons)
  • Draw Owls: Designed for the Dark (4 lesson mini-course)
  • Draw and Paint Six Culinary Herbs (10 lessons)
  • Botanical Sketchbook Painting (4 subject modules)
  • Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature (10 lessons)
  • Fairies II: Draw and Paint the Enchanted World (10 lessons)

As always, you are free to work at your own pace and instructor feedback is available as often as you like. For more information and supply lists, visit my Start Anytime Online Classes page.


WC April 2014 poster2



Start anytime, keep it a full year…

Painted Ribbons Pic

Good news: now my popular “Botanical Sketchbook Painting” course is available on demand, anytime you want to begin — and you keep access to the course website for a full year.

When you sign up, you’ll receive a link to  all the video lessons and all printable pdf pages right away. This way, each participant is truly free to create multiple pieces, to work at her own pace and focus on each aspect of the process — designing, painting, writing, lettering — whenever it is convenient. Instructor feedback and guidance via email is available at all times. I love to hear from you!  The cost of the course is $65. To sign up, email me at

For more info, and the supply list, scroll below the luna moth…

LunaSteps 8

What is this course about?

Every plant has a fascinating story waiting to be told. Roses and the legend of St. Elizabeth, irises and the survival of King Clovis to become the father of the French nation, angel trumpets and the doomed settlement of Jamestown — turn over any leaf and find a tale hidden just beneath. In this course, learn to tone and texture your own paper to create a wonderful vintage look that can range from rustic to refined. Then use a surprisingly simple four-step method for layering opaque paint and colored pencil to make botanical images that sing on the page. A lighthearted look at page design will provide ideas for arranging the elements of your botanical tale. We’ll also cover tips for distilling your written narrative down to a few bright, clear sentences and labels that communicate the heart of your story hand-in-hand with the drawn and painted page.


Here’s the supply list. If you live where some of the materials aren’t available, live outside the US, or prefer to use something you already have, I can advise on good substitutes. 🙂

  • 2B drawing pencil and kneaded eraser
  • 12-tube set of Reeves gouache (costs $10.50 from
  • Large plastic watercolor palette or old white china plate for mixing paint
  • Pigma Micron black waterproof ink pen, size 03 or 05
  • Basic set (12 or more) Prismacolor Premiere colored pencils
  • Inexpensive synthetic watercolor brushes – #1 round, #4 round, #10 round
  • A sheet of heavy watercolor paper (at least 300 lb weight). Cold press. Buy a full 22×30 inch sheet if possible, and you can use it for several paintings.

Questions about the supplies? Email me.

Pencil Overdrawing

4-29 Polyphemus moth2

On a steamy Alabama evening a few years ago, I saw something desperately flopping on the pavement in front of the local grocery store. At first I thought it was a small bird, but when it suddenly looped into the air I saw that it was an enormous moth. It struggled upward, scissoring the air with its wings, and then — to my surprise — it flew right in through my open truck window and landed awkwardly on the seat beside me.

This wondrous visitor was Antherea polyphemus, the largest moth in North America and one of a gorgeous retinue of silkworm moths whose beauty rivals that of any butterfly. With no functioning mouth parts, they live only about four days after emerging from their silken cocoons. My polyphemus moth friend appeared to be at the end of his short lifespan. He was missing a leg and a generous wedge of one wing, evidence of a harrowing escape from a hungry bird or the jaws of a gecko.

I let him rest on the seat during the drive home. He died somewhere along the miles of country road and so, after unloading the groceries, I placed the moth gently on my drawing table and sketched the graceful arc and lush patterns of those huge wings. A few weeks later, the sketch became the inspiration for a set of fairy wings:

L2 Polyphemus Moth

Few artists use the technique, but pencil overdrawing (drawing the shading and details over a thin, flat layer of watercolor) is perfect for the subtle patterns and textures of a moth’s wing. You build the layers slowly and gradually, barely touching the paper with strokes as light as a moth, and the drawing becomes a deeply relaxing process.

We used pencil overdrawing in this week’s Draw Paint Letter email video lesson. If you like to draw, but are intimidated by realistic watercolor, it’s a good way to get your feet wet (so to speak).

Happy drawing,


A Birthday Story

Ahma at 16

My mom, who would have turned 80 today, was a prolific writer. I have stacks of her notebooks filled with poems, essays and short stories in her small, neat handwriting. I thought I had read them all – but this morning, something new caught my eye. To my surprise and delight, it is a memory of her 16th birthday on March 11, 1952.


My mother and father were planning a dance in my honor at a downtown hotel in Bristol, Virginia. I had searched for months for just the right dress for the occasion, but nothing filled my grown-up sophisticated requirement. Finally, my mother and I selected a sky blue watermarked taffeta fabric and a Vogue pattern which had gussets flaring the skirt.

I thought this dress was too “young-looking” but Mama and the seamstress assured me it would be perfect. The fitting a few days later did little to change my opinion, but the dance was less than a week away.

Two days before the party, I went into town to pick up my satin ballerina shoes that were being dyed to match my dress. There, in the window of Mademoiselle’s Style Shop, was my dream dress! It was made of tissue silk. The full skirt floated down to ankle length from a scoop-necked bodice. Black and silver vertical stripes gave the look of a Scarlett O’Hara waistline.

I rushed inside and tried on the dress. This was exactly what I wanted to look like on the night of my 16th birthday dance. I would sweep my long ponytail up into a French twist and enter the adult world in sophisticated style — then I looked at the price tag: $120.  That may not seem surprising now for a party dress, but in 1952 it was startling.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to get back home and announce that at last I had found the perfect dress, and if my parents would buy it for me I would never ask for another thing as long as I lived.

After hearing the price, my mother (who held the purse strings in the family) said, “No. You are too young to wear black, and it is ridiculous to pay that much for a dress.”

My father, who could still be swayed by female tears, said, “Well… your mother and I will talk about it.” But from the look on Mama’s face, I knew the discussion was over and I had lost.

The day of the dance arrived and Mama made a small compromise by letting me wear my hair up in a French twist. (Not much compared to a tissue silk, scoop-necked black dress, I thought, but at least I would have a hint of sophistication.) After spending an hour in Lucille’s Hair Salon, Mama and I went to meet Daddy for lunch at the hotel to check on last-minute preparations.

As I pulled out my chair, a long box tied with a pink ribbon slid out from under the table. Printed on the lid was Mademoiselle’s Style Shop. I lifted the top and there, nestled in pink tissue, was my dress. As I held it up and beamed with delight, my mother glowered at my father. She said, “She will never get your money’s worth out of that dress.”

Daddy’s reply, I realize now, was my greatest present. He said, “She has already given me my money’s worth.”

I kept that dress for 45 years. Two of my grandchildren played dress-up in it until it finally rotted away, as old silk will. But we all got our money’s worth out of that dress.







Draw Paint Letter: a new way to learn


Draw Paint Letter: the Artist-Naturalist’s Year

Learn through the seasons. Keep the videos forever.

How does it work?

Val Webb’s art tutorials, tips and techniques will be delivered to your email inbox on beautifully illustrated printable pages, 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 will start on March 21, 2016 and will run for at least one full year. Students may join the class at any time during the year and will have lifetime access to all material sent out, 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.

Payment by check will be accepted for a minimum of 2 months of lessons ($60) at a time, and at the end of that period, a courtesy invoice for the next two months will be sent. To find out where to mail a check, email Val at

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


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. 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 and, because the course is so open-ended, ideas and suggestions from students are also very welcome and can be easily incorporated into the weekly mix.

Many of our projects will combine drawing, painting and lettering in the tradition of classic illustration, beautiful nature journals and field sketches. Others will be stand-alone “outside the box” techniques. These are NEW videos and printables, made specifically for this course, and not recycled material from Val’s other online classes.


What drawing techniques will be covered?

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?

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.”


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!


To sign up, ask a question or just say howdy, email