Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Original California ACEOs in watercolor

Two original watercolor ACEOS by Cathy Johnson.

Choose one or both--
they'd make a wonderful set, displayed together.
All are of San Francisco's Ocean Beach one perfect autumn day.

I was asked to speak at the Sierra Club's first international gathering in 2005; it was exciting and wonderful, and afterward, breathing a huge sigh of relief, we went to the ocean and played like children in the surf.


ACEOs are a fairly new phenomenon, but I've been fascinated by these tiny paintings for several years. Because of their small size and affordability, I've been able to own original paintings from several artists whose work I admire a great deal.

ATCs are artist trading cards, and that's how the movement started out--but many people who were not artists wanted to collect these little jewels, too. So ACEOs were born--still the size of a playing card, but "artist cards, editions and originals"
were created to meet this need.

Some ACEOs are prints and some are tiny original works of art, as are these.

(To appreciate the detail, click on the images to see them even larger-than-life--on your screen they will look larger than they do in reality.)


I had to laugh at this one--all along the beach are signs saying "dogs must be kept on a leash." Here's yet another dog who can't read!

"Beach Walk"
ORIGINAL watercolor
on archival paper
3.5 x 2.5 inches

The boy and his dog were so free...I loved watching them.

"Beach Walk"

Can't you just hear the gulls calling? The headlands are soft with a fog off the ocean; the sound of waves pounds the short. It's primal...

"Pacific Dreaming"


People are collecting and displaying these tiny paintings in ingenious ways--framed and grouped together, piled in baskets, in scrapbooks--however they want!

I hope the idea allows you to own an original work of art--get your feet wet...

They will come to you in sturdy, protective sleeves for mailing, and of course I will be happy to combine shipping for more than one purchase!

San Juan Capistrano Arches

"San Juan Capistrano Arches"
9" x 12"
ink and watercolor on paper

My husband and I went to this wonderful place in Sourthern California for a day trip honeymoon...and I never wanted to leave! I could have stayed there and painted for weeks...the history, the beauty, the ambiance of the really spoke to me!

It was the perfect day.

This painting is now available on Etsy...please click the purchase information below for more information.


Ballpoint pens have a silvery, graphite-like quality that lends itself beautifully to capturing textures. Most of the newer ones are archival, though some of my 35-year-old ballpoint pen drawings have turned to a lovely, atmospheric sepia.

Here, you can see the texture possible with repeated lines and a lighter or heavier application...really, very much like a pencil drawing, but a bit stronger and easier to paint over with watercolor washes.

I've used glazes to suggest the textures and shadows, mostly with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

A bit of spatter suggests aged stonework and adobe, as does the drybrush work, below...I loaded my brush with ultramarine grayed with a little sienna and just allowed it to touch the texture of the paper, using the side of the brush rather than the tip.

I was very pleased with the resulting vignette...


This painting will come to you unmatted and unframed for ease of shipping; I wrap with care and send via Priority Mail for most dependable shipping.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sketchbook Confidential available for Pre-Order

I had almost forgotten, with everything else that's been going on that I was included in this new book from North Light, now available for pre-order!  There are 40 artists involved, and I'm really looking forward to receiving my copy!

No idea why they chose that's not THAT kind of "confidential!" <:-P

Here's a larger version of the cover:

Or click the image below to find out more--unfortunately it doesn't tell WHO those 40 artists are, and I'm as much in the dark as you are.  We'll ALL be surprised!

And nope, this isn't my new book on keeping an artist's journal--that will be out in the spring of 2011.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

BUSY!! But a sale on this CD...

It's been a wildly busy summer, what with a new North Light book and building my own small shed/studio (you can find my blog on that subject HERE.) but I'm finally back to eBay and thinking of offering classes online again.  (I'll announce when I decide what and when!  If you haven't already, please subscribe using the form at right.)

So here's my latest offering, a sale to kick off the season!  (I'm also clearing out art supplies I don't sure to check my eBay ID, KATESTREASURES!)

ON SALE!  Cathy Johnson's "Watercolor Workshop" offers how-to tips and demonstrations for artists on a data CD. This CD is an edited and expanded version of Johnson's popular online workshop, in CD form.

You'll find it HERE

These are the same lessons we use in the popular Watercolor–Online! workshops, with additional PDF files added for the CD.

Now, for your convenience, the lessons are available on a CD you can use anywhere–at home, at school, at work or on vacation, any time you have a computer with a CD drive and Adobe Reader available.  Use the lessons on your own, at your convenience, and at your own speed–the information is all there, just for you. We hope you enjoy it!
Whether you're a beginning artist, an old hand looking to brush up, or just looking for some fresh ideas, this tutorial CD may be for you!  Just pop in your computer's CD player and GO.  

Fully illustrated...

You'll find PDF-format articles on:

  • 6 fully illustrated lessons

  • Lesson plan outline

  • Welcome and how-to

  • Supply List

  • Self-critiquing

  • How to stretch paper

  • Recommended Reading

  • Feedback from online students on this series

  • ...AND MORE!

  • Thursday, June 10, 2010

    4th art tip CD is out (and has been for a bit!)

    Ooops, forgot to mention that I got the 4th art tip CD up on my CafePress store and my website.
    Here's the info from my website catalog: "Art Tips Tutorials 4" from Graphic/Fine Arts Press (Data CD) This CD takes us to 100 tips, the fourth in the series of how-to, inspiration, information and more. These tips for artists are compiled here for your convenience -- take with you for use anywhere, on your laptop, lunch break, vacation, Internet Cafe, wherever! No Internet connection necessary. Make art wherever you are, with inspiration and guidance from artist/author/teacher Cathy Johnson, contributing editor for The Artist's Magazine and Watercolor Magic, author of The Sierra Club Guides to Sketching and Painting in Nature, and 7 North Light books for artists. These are compilations of the free art tips on my website, for the convenience of those who can't always be online or who prefer not to browse, and as such, I keep the prices down!
    $9.99 + 1st class shipping  
    And of course watch for NEW art tips on my website--the next one will be #105. Go to and subscribe to my newsletter full of info and great links to artist sites, tutorials and more, or look at right on this blog for the signup form!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    "Tryst Falls"--a plein air watercolor

    "Tryst Falls"
     A Plein Air Watercolor on Archival Paper
    9" x 12"

    Painting on the spot offers many delights and challenges. Beauty is all around us, filling our eyes and souls, singing its siren song--"paint me if you dare"! Details crowd around us, clamoring for attention; the light changes rapidly. The wind picks up, or dies and suddenly we're hot!

    I love the challenge, and some of my favorite paintings have been done on the spot--and sometimes I'm just not quite happy with what I've done. Just because you've started a painting on the spot doesn't mean it's set in stone and Must Not Be Touched. Satisfaction in the end result can be important, too.

    I often put a painting aside for a few hours...or days...or weeks. If I'm still happy with it, that's marvelous! If not--by then I can usually tell what I need to do to come closer to what I responded to originally.

    In this case the waterfall was glorious--sparkling, roaring, moving with energy that could move mountains--but my original painting was overdone and dull. I washed back the edges to form a vignette and focus the eye on the waterfall (as you can see in my art tip #93!), and added more color for a lively sparkle.

    I featured this painting on a recent art tip on fixing watercolors--you can find it on my website at, at upper left. (If you're not already getting my Art Tip announcement newsletter, you can sign up there, too--we're up to Tip # 100, believe it or not!)

    This is one of my favorite places to paint--I've done many of the falls and environs, and have yet to be bored...



    I used a combination of techniques for the waterfall itself--liquid mask, painting around, and lifting the mist at the left with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and clear water.  Make sure to blot away the loosened pigment quickly!

    Here, you can see I used a bit more scratching, with a sharp craft knife to give a bit of sparkle.  You'll want to use a good strong paper if you plan to do much lifting or scratching...

    I used the Mr. Clean eraser, which is actually a fine-grained manmade sponge found in the household cleaning department of your grocery or discount store, to make a softened vignette effect on the final painting.  It draws the viewer's eye into the center of interest, where I kept the lightest and darkest areas, as well as the most detail and action.


    This painting is offered unmatted and unframed to keep costs down. It will come to you carefully wrapped via Priority Mail, in the US. Insurance included in the shipping cost



    I love painting on the spot; it's always a challenge, and I see things I can't, in a photograph. I share some of my love for this kind of work on my CD that was done mostly in the Shenandoah Valley, where my husband used to live.

    I'm glad I captured some of that spectacular scenery, and the wonderful memories...


    It's $15.99 + shipping, if you'd like to explore the wonders of painting on the spot--or of the Shenandoah Valley!

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Autumn Lake, Ray County--SOLD

    "Autumn Lake, Ray County"
    9" x 12"
    watercolor pencil on archival paper

    This is a hidden lake on a private holding in Ray County, Missouri. My friends and I had secured permission to explore, hike, sketch, and photograph, and we came across this beautiful spot. The leaves were gone, but the still water reflected a pristine sky and lakeside reeds glowed as if on fire!

    I hope it finds a home with you...



    I chose watercolor pencil for this, since I could sketch in those graceful bare limbs with my pencil point, then soften them with clear water to suggest the tiny twigs you barely see from a distance...

    I varied the color a bit to give the impression of the different types of trees.

    The clumps of reed were like soft down-filled pillows!  I know they had provided cover for waterfowl, frogs, and fish, spawning near the banks.

     I love the way watercolor pencil allows interesting, natural textures like those above, while making wonderful puddles that feel like washes...I lifted the light color trees with a small stiff brush, and then, when everything was dry, scratched through with a sharp point.

    You can click on these images to see them larger...

    Strathmore 400 CP watercolor paper has a good hard finish and works well with watercolor pencil, allowing you to lift and scrape without damaging the surface.

    These are Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencils...soft, rich, and intensely pigmented.


    This painting is offered unmatted and unframed to keep costs down. It will come to you carefully wrapped via Priority Mail, in the US. Insurance included in the shipping cost



    This painting was originally done for by North Light book, Watercolor Pencil Magic, now out of print.  In order to meet the demand, I produced an expanded version of the book, Watercolor Pencil Workshop on CD, restoring one whole chapter that had to be edited from the book for space reasons; the CD is in PDF format, and has bonus reading.  We use this CD for my online classes!

    The CD is $15.99 + shipping--you can find it here, if you like:

    New journal-keeping CD is finally done...

    Hooray, just got word that my newest CD, "Keeping an Artist's Journal" is up on my CafePress site! 

    It was a lot of work, and a lot of angst--Lesson 5 got lost somewhere between my ancient computer and the new one
    [info]kateslover got me before Christmas, and we just found it last week. I edited it, put the bonus reading together in one document, and got it off to be mastered.

    I've kept a journal for 35+ years, and it's been one of the most profoundly important things I've ever done for myself, helping me to celebrate milestones--and everyday joys!--deal with anxieties, plan paintings, face my fears, record details of nature, write first drafts of my books, keep a travel journal, collect recipes, and love my friends, family, and animals.  I feel lost without my journal!

    Over the years, I've written about journaling in Country Living Magazine, Personal Journaling, The Artist's Magazine, and Watercolor Artist as well as in my books--especially
    Creating Nature in Watercolor and the Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature...and am just waiting for a new contract from North Light to do a NEW book, just on the subject.

    Some of the "bonus reading" articles on the CD are edited forms of those earlier published you can tell, I AM committed to this concept, and shared a great deal about that on the CD.

    I recently finished teaching on online class, also called Keeping an Artist's Journal, that this CD is based on--my students were amazing. They did terrific, thought-provoking and inspiring work, and what we ALL learned was so gratifying.  Wow, what a rush...

    There are 5 fully illustrated lessons in PDF format, along with lots of extra material!  I'll get it in my website catalog as soon as I have my own copies in hand, but for now, it's OUT there.  Finally!

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    New Super-simple, Quick & Easy Bookbinding CD


    Have you ever been frustrated with the paper in commercially-bound journals? Wished you could have paper that would take the mediums YOU like? Wanted a different size or format than you could find in the stores?

    I'm delighted with the reception of my easy bookbinding CD--I did it in conjunction with the online class I taught in November and December, and the students really seemed to love it!

    This one makes it easy and fast, if you're not ready to jump into full-scale bookbinding.  You can STILL have exactly the paper, size, and color you want.

    You can find it HERE  in my website catalog, or in my CafePress store, along with all my other CDs for artists--slide shows, how-to demos, plein air, and copyright-free photos for artists.

    This one includes accordion fold books, folders that use a single sheet of paper, ring-bound journals and much more--including making cover papers and your own bookcloth! 

    Lots of hints and tips for those who want paper they love to work on without having to learn about stitching signatures and all that--though that IS fun, and I love it!

    The cost is $15.99 (plus shipping) and it will save you many times that over buying sketchbooks, while offering the satisfaction of having JUST what you want--and of course having made it yourself.

    Give it a try!

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    My new book is out!

    It got into the stores, onto Amazon, and into buyers' hands about a month earlier than expected, and the reviews have been really good! 

    Above is one of my favorite step-by-step demos from the book, from a visit to  in the Blue Ridge Mountains, back before we were married..  Gorgeous area...we drove through clouds and watched that subtle, beautiful sunset over the mountains...
     You can order from my website and get a signed copy (click on the title of this post, above) and of course Amazon has it as well--click here for details, including the Search Inside option...Watercolor Tricks & Techniques: 75 New and Classic Painting Secrets

    (Just remember to hit "surprise me," you can see a lot more of a book that way...)

    I did animals and people, too, of course, and also some whimsical pieces like childhood toys and a goofy doll I designed years ago!

    There are step-by-steps on both of these, little friend Fiona and my beloved Merlin...


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