I dig free stuff. Even more, I dig free stuff with priceless, life-changing rewards. Such is a free online watercolor video series by Maria Grossbaum. I swear I learned more about watercolor from its mere forty-ish minutes than I did from a lifetime of experiments in and exposure to the craft!

Also, I so appreciate instructors who see the beauty in happy little accidents and the element of surprise, versus those who adhere to the rigidity of the “right” techniques and “must-have” supplies. Grossbaum presents a class that definitely advocates for the former, thus I was pulled in and remain eager to try watercolor painting as she presents it. Thanks to her, I know exactly what I need:

Water, water, water
Before applying any color to the paper, Grossbaum puts gobs of water on it, front and back. Then, throughout the composition, water continues to be used liberally to get the translucent tonal effects that are special to successful watercolor paintings. “WATERcolor”—I certainly get the complete meaning of the word now!

Grossbaum offers a couple practice exercises before instructing us on making full-fledged watercolor landscapes. One exercise is on gradients done in one color, then two colors, then more. Gradients become the foundation of her particular brand of watercolor painting—and her style seems doable for me, too.

Calligraphy nib
Grossbaum uses this untraditional tool to put the finishing touches on her works of art. What a brilliant idea compared to messing with teensy-tiny, less controllable brushes. I’ll make sure my studio is stocked before pursuing my own watercolor project—I’ll get back to you soon on my progress!


Coursera Course: “Modern Art & Ideas”

logo_squareEvery so often I revisit one of my favorite online resources: Coursera.org. It’s a treasure trove of online courses covering all kinds of subject matter and taught by instructors from reputable educational institutions all over the world. What’s more, most courses are completely free!

In skimming the list of Coursera’s current “Arts and Humanities” courses, there was one in particular that caught my eye: “Modern Art & Ideas” presented by the Museum of Modern Art. The description reads:

This course is designed to help anyone interested in learning more about modern and contemporary art. Themes can provide an effective structure for engaging with art. In this course, you will explore four themes that educators at The Museum of Modern Art use frequently in their teaching: Places & Spaces, Art & Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art & Society. Through videos, slideshows, and a variety of resources, readings, and activities, you will explore the content and context of works of art in MoMA’s collection.

I have since completed Week 2 of five and absolutely love the method and materials. As mentioned in the course introduction, we’re studying art outside of the typical approach of movement and time period; instead, we’re examining pieces that have a certain quality or inspiration in common.

Join me? The course runs through April 30 and there’s plenty of time to catch up. The first “quiz” is due April 2, and I tend to spend less than an hour on each week’s  coursework. Furthermore, Coursera is great at starring the stuff you don’t want to miss and offering many more resources if you want to go deeper. Sign up now>>