Are artists born or made?


When I watch my five year old draw, he has this natural flow with no obvious upfront agenda. He simply adds to his picture as he develops a narrative in his imagination. When his drawing doesn’t turn out the way he intended, he just changes his story and turns it into something else – without getting hung up on it being “right” or not. His flexible, joyful, non-critical approach to making art inspires me. It reminds me how much I loved to draw when I was little – and that unfortunately, like many, I stopped drawing as I got older.

drawing closeup

Continue reading

Owl Art Project

With the days getting shorter and that slight chill in the air, we all look for some indoor activities that can keep our kids occupied. Trying a new art project is a fun, relaxing way to engage the whole family’s creativity. This owl drawing is great for kids and adults alike, and works with whatever art materials you’ve got at home. Owls are perfect for using lots of the fall colors your kids are seeing in nature, but don’t feel stuck keeping things realistic! Tons of artists use owls as a creative design, adding their own imaginative patterns and playful, bright colors.


Owl Example 2


Continue reading

Three reasons why kids compare and criticize their art and how you can help

‘My kids love to draw together, but my younger daughter becomes frustrated because her drawings don’t look as ‘good’ as her sister’s.’

‘My daughter has always loved painting but over this past year she has become self-conscious about her creations ‘not turning out right’ or not ‘being as good’ as her brother’s.’

I don’t know what to say to my son when he tells me, ‘Mine doesn’t look like the teacher’s. I messed up, it’s not good.’

Does any of this sound familiar?


Artist Johanna Wright

Continue reading

Kitchen Watercolor Techniques with Salt, Straws and Plastic Wrap

It’s so fun to experiment with art materials! Last month I shared a video from the Intermediate Program that demonstrates some traditional watercolor techniques and I am back now with some painting ideas that really capture the unpredictability of watercolor- a quality that makes it really exciting for kids and adults alike.

 Artists often experiment with their art medium by adding solvents to change the consistency and they use unconventional tools to manipulate the results simply for the enjoyment of watching the process. The three techniques below do just that- using salt, straws and plastic wrap (and your watercolor supplies), you can have an afternoon of creative exploration with your kids- all with things you likely have right in your kitchen!

Watercolor paint
Bowl of water
Watercolor paper
Extras: Salt, Straw, Plastic Wrap

Adding salt to a wet watercolor painting creates a starburst effect as the salt absorbs the paint. The interesting texture it creates is beautiful on its own or can be used to create a night sky or wintry scene.


Continue reading

The Art of Being Present

I went on the swings with my son at the park yesterday and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. He sat on my lap facing me and we took turns pumping our legs until we got quite high. Holding on to the chains, he leaned back and as the wind blew through his hair and his entire being filled with joy, he shouted, “Wooooo-hooooo!” Then I leaned back and felt the rhythmic motion of the swing carrying us through the air, and I shouted, “Yee-ha!” We both laughed as we took turns leaning back shouting. Then he wrapped his arms around me until the swing slowed to a stop. I felt so connected to him, so happy and alive in that moment.

Swing pic

Making art can provide a similar opportunity for joy, both for us and our kids. When we make art we can’t help but to be in the present moment.  Art engages all of our senses and we become captivated with what is right in front of us. I think this is why making art is so enjoyable and so good for us.

 Being present is an essential part of learning new things; It’s required if we want to connect with each other and we need to be present in order to experience joy.

The art of being present is something we can practice along side our kids- take a walk, make art, play together.



Today my son turns 5 years old. I am so grateful for all of the life lessons he teaches me. As he grows, I grow. He inspires me to pay attention to what’s truly important and helps me to remember to be present during the crazy/serious/sweet parts of life.

3 ways to help kids learn to draw anything

I loved to draw when I was little but by the time I was 10 years old, I had stopped drawing all together. As I got older, like most kids, I wanted to draw things more realistically and I remember feeling frustrated by not knowing how. Fortunately, I rediscovered my love of drawing as an adult when I finally learned the skill of contour drawing.

Contour drawing is one of the most useful of all the drawing skills for kids to learn and a big confidence booster because it gives them the ability transfer their observations onto paper.  When kids can look at something- whether an actual object or an image- and draw what they see, they’ll have the foundation to tackle any subject matter they want and the confidence to spin off and create their own unique compositions.

Here are some fun exercises you can try with your kids to help them learn to draw the what they see (no pencil required):

TACTILE PRACTICE. Learning to draw realistically is really about learning to observe and this can be a tactile experience, not simply a visual one. Have your child run their finger slowly along the side of the object they wish to draw. Talk about the the change of direction as they follow the contour of the object. “Now you are curving, feel how it bends a little?”


The side of an apple is a curved line

Continue reading

7 Ways to Keep Little Artists Engaged this Summer


Most of the time our little artists need no input from us to express themselves but there are lots of ways we can broaden their creative endeavors by introducing them to a variety of artful experiences both at home and around Seattle this summer.

My youngest son loves to paint and my oldest is most alive when he is having a nightly dance party before bed. Whether your child’s favorite way to express himself  is through painting, dance or other art form, here are some ideas to broaden their exposure to the ‘Arts’ and keep their creative juices flowing:


Painting projects can happen on the fly if you have three basic supplies on hand: brushes, paints and paper. If you have a set of watercolor paints, take a look at this video for painting techniques your whole family can try. The Artful Parent blog is a great resource for a whole slew of painting projects. You can also plan to hit the Seattle Art Museum for family art fun on select Saturdays of each month. The SAM’s family program, designed for kids age 3-12, provides art projects and kid-inspired tours of the gallery. Details and online calendar can be found here.


No Time for Flash Cards

No Time for Flash Cards

We are lucky to have instant access to amazing craft projects curated by popular Seattle bloggers such as Make and Takes and No Time for Flash Cards. These prolific crafters, educators and parents share projects for every age, theme and season. Start collecting your jar lids and bottle tops for this recycled craft project inspired Kandinsky’s color study with concentric circles. Another project perfect for summer is this frisbee craft. Plan a good chunk of time visiting these blogs- by the time you click away, you’ll be all set with craft projects for the rest of summer.

Continue reading

How I faced my Fear of Failure

I did something really brave, at least it was brave for me. I stood up in front of 700+ people and gave a talk at Ignite Seattle back in May. You may not know it but I’m terrified of public speaking. You’d think it would be a breeze since I’ve been on camera with Thrive Online, but in front of a live audience, there are no out-takes. I had one shot to share a message that I care deeply about and this was my first time public speaking since I bombed on stage during a high school play over 20 years ago. I still remember my mind going completely blank, the spotlight on me, the audience’s uncomfortable whispers and the shame I felt when I left the stage.

 Ironically, my Ignite Seattle presentation was about supporting kids through their feelings of failure and as I approached the microphone, my heart pounded. I was terrified my mind would go blank, that I would fail publicly, again.

And you know what- it happened, after my first slide, I froze. All I could hear in my head was- shit, shit, shit. Those seconds of silence felt like agonizing minutes. But this time I stayed on stage. This time I finished my talk. And while I did go blank- twice- (which I am still having a hard time letting go of), I faced my fear and moved through it- unintentionally demonstrating the primary message of my talk.

 So often we associate failure with shame and pain and want to avoid it at all costs. But daring to go after our dreams and step into the fire, is worth the risk. My presentation wasn’t flawless, but I had the opportunity show up and share what’s important to me and some of that old high school shame melted away.

Things in life never go exactly how we’d like. But if we try again- celebrate what worked and learn from what didn’t, we set a great example for our kids. We show them that there is always more to learn and ways we can grow. We teach them that overcoming failure is necessary in creating a life you love.

Ignite Seattle: I Want to teach your Child to Fail


Learn Oil Pastel & Watercolor Techniques- Intermediate Program Now Available!

The Intermediate Program is now live and available here!

To celebrate, we are offering $20 off both of the Intermediate and Beginner Programs!

Click here to watch the preview video to see highlights of the program.

This next round of lessons features super fun topics such as Ocean Octopuses, Sailing Ships, Lions, Turtles and more- plus, kids will learn new art techniques using oil pastel and watercolor.

When your child has a basic understanding of how lines can be put together to draw objects, they are ready to branch out with new techniques- oil pastels are fantastic for learning how to make objects look more realistic with shading, layering and texture and watercolor is perfect for learning color mixing and brush technique.


Mile's Octopus Cropped


Miles- age 7

As a Kickstarter supporter, Mile’s family received early access to the Intermediate lessons and he dug right in! Thanks for sharing your art, Miles!

I can’t wait to see what your kids come up with! Head on over to the Intermediate Program to see what’s in store!