All Posts by

Happy Faces after Portrait Clinic

Common issues discussed at our Portraiture Clinic:

  • Cutting off the back of the head of the drawing
  • Making the eyes appear level
  • ANYTHING when the face is at a tilt or angle
  • How to capture a likeness

Student work at our mid-class break


Our stoic model and his very challenging (to draw) beard


Capturing a likeness of both the model and the other artists in class!


End of class group critique

And what did we learn?

  • The importance of negative space around the eyebrow/eye area
  • Just keep adding more to the back of the head until it looks funny, then scale back
  • Finding the proportions of the face (even with a beard!)
  • Tips for the 3 quarter view face tilt

We all went home with big smiles from putting theory into good practice, and with a pile high of resources to keep drawing from.

The next Portraiture Clinic is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 20th, 2-5pm.
email if you’re interested!

Experimenting on Art Student’s Brains

I got a great question awhile back from an art student-to-be.

“Hi Jessica, can you tell me the difference between the obvious two hour and three hour classes?

The short answer to her question? I was using you guys as guinea pigs to see how I can transform your BRAINS.

Here’s what I really replied…

I am experimenting a bit with the formats, but I designed this 3/hour a day experience based on some of the latest science on deep focus and re-wiring your brain.
The 3 hour block is about as long as you can optimally focus, with no distractions, for some SERIOUS brain re-wiring. I am excited to test out the theories I have been reading out in the book Deep Work by Cal Newport by putting them into action in this class. So, that’s the main difference!
The 2 hour class will not hit the full un-distracted 3 hour block as today’s class, but I will assign homework for each day during that week, so the focus would be a bit more divided. But the same material will be covered, and as always I customize the drawing subjects and mediums to each unique art student.”

I’ve been really influence by the book Deep Work, and another super-cool non-fiction book, Mastery, both of which have some exciting implications for how people can learn more deeply and more quickly.

Maybe I’m outing myself as a millennial by my amazement at what our brains seem to be capable of without the distractions built into our social-media mania lifestyles.Concentrating and focusing without distractions for 3-4 hour blocks can apparently super-charge your cognitive abilities to improve skills (like drawing!) and I wanted to try it out on my students 😉

By using this method, I hypothesized we’d be able to advance more in 2 weeks of 3 hour time chunks than in a longer session of only 2 hour classes.

The RESULTS are in. 

It’s been a month since my experiment began, and by now I’ve been able to compare student’s growth between 2 and 3 hour class sessions.

Guess which one works best?

3 hours of deep work, just as Cal Newport discusses in his book, have made a noticeable difference in student’s ability to make significant progress in just one week.

Check out some of their work!

BEFORE: Self-portrait by student day 1 of 3 hour class

AFTER 2 weeks of 3 hour classes, student self-portrait


Subtractive Drawing: “drawing” with an eraser

Although we accomplished a lot in the 2 hour class sessions, it often felt like we were leaving just as we were really getting into the groove.

Color mixing with watercolors

Check out the videos and links above to learn more about mastering skills and working deeply! It’s so useful for all kinds of creativity.

And if you’d like to try out a 3 hour session yourself, sign up for 10 Steps to Drawing class this December or January.  No classes Feb. 2018, but stay tuned for the spring schedule coming out before the new year.

Portraiture Clinic-Fix your Faces!

Have you been having trouble making people’s eyes “look right” when you’re drawing a person who’s not looking RIGHT at you? How about just getting the facial features where they’re supposed to be in the first place? Or how to make a flat, cartoony-looking face come to life?

Bring in your portrait-drawing problems to Studio Antonelli’s Portraiture Clinic this Saturday to cure what ails your portraits!

We will cover common problems to drawing realistic faces:
-Proportions of the Facial Features
-How to draw eyes at 3 quarter angle
-How to draw profile portraits
-Adding realistic shading and light to portraits
-Extreme angles of the face (as requested)

But mostly we will be working with exactly what YOU need help with!
Please bring in any faces you have drawn that you are not satisfied with. We will pin-point problem techniques and give you step-by-step demos on how to fix them. Lots of hand-outs and reference materials will be sent home to keep your portraiture practice improving over time. Bring your sketchbook and preferred drawing materials. Materials can also be provided on request for those who don’t have materials with them in SMA. Cost: $500 pesos or $30 USD

Email to RSVP or for more info

Why Oil Painting is So Hard

“I’m just a little terrified”

“To me it’s scary even to think about…”

No, we’re not talking world politics, death or taxes.

We’re talking ART.

Oil painting, to be exact.

The quotes above are from students, some accomplished drawers, others complete newbies to 2D creativity, talking about getting started with oil painting.

I am always surprised at how emotionally invested we can get…but then again, I’ve been in love with oil paint since I was a high school freshman, learning about the Renaissance and getting my first whiff of oil paint in art class. It smells like history, and classical artistic tradition. (C’mon, with a last name like Antonelli how can I NOT be in love with the Renaissance?)


So why is this lovely medium so scary?

Precisely because it’s so wonderful, with such a rich history behind it. As Ira Glass describes in his famous quote on creativity, the gap between what we create and what our (totally killer) taste recognizes as good art is wiiiiiide when we first begin painting.

Getting starting is FRUSTRATING.

That’s because unlike drawing, there is a LOT to know about your medium.

  • What angle to hold the brush
  • How to properly mix colors
  • What mediums to use, and for what purpose
  • Different techniques of applying paint (like, what’s a glaze vs. impasto?)
  • Different techniques of beginning a painting (To start with a drawing or no?)
  • The fat over lean rule
  • How to ensure your painting lasts and doesn’t crack over time
  • Color mixing recipes
  • What paints to buy for your purposes
  • How to blend

That is a LOT to know!

So if you’d like to overcome your apprehensions about starting out with oil, I suggest you try my motto:

“Action cures fear.”

Get into action by becoming curious about all the questions you don’t know yet about oil painting, and discover the solutions in a beginning oil painting class.

You can just jump in on your own, if you’ve got the materials and access to Youtube. But self-teaching yourself something like oil painting is more of a psychological battle than anything else. Without personal guidance, it can be tricky to tell if you’re on the right track.

If you’re in San Miguel de Allende, I’d love to guide you through the basics in my Basic Oil Painting Class, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 7th until Thursday Nov. 16th. 10am-1pm.

We’ll cover all the foundational practice you need to know so that you can begin oil painting with confidence.

And after the basics class, I’ll have an Oil Painting Studio class which will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-5, Nov. 21st-Dec 14th. For those who have the basics down, we’ll be diving into improving our skills and finishing a painting or two in a supportive group setting.

So if you think you are ready to expand your artistic repertoire, email to sign up for classes. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions!


Have you been a bad artist?

It’s a familiar story.

You fall out of practice with your drawing…heck, you probably never had a solid drawing habit built up in the first place.

There’s that nagging feeling that your drawings…suck.

Perfectionism turns into procrastination.

The next time you look at the sketchbook, it’s been months since you last drew anything.

THEN comes that little judgmental voice in your head… “You’re a bad artist,” it hisses, meaning both in dedication AND ability.

When I hear that inner criticism, I have to remind myself what that voice really is: I’m Battling Artistic Demons= BAD.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s monumental TED Talk on creativity illustrates beautifully how naming and battling those demons is just as important as thanking the muse–and showing up to work for her!

When I battle my artistic demons, I know I have to toughen up with my own recipe of drawing drills and exercises I call Bad Artist Bootcamp.

The more in Bootcamp, the more accountability, so I’m inviting you to join me for FREE.

 1 week ONLINE challenge, kicking off Monday, September 18th.

You and me, drawing with focus and fearlessness, for 7 days.

All you’ll need is about 15-30 minutes a day to watch the short videos and do your drawings.

You’ll get a power flow of drawing exercises to get your drawings in shape quicker than you thought possible.

But more importantly you’ll be receiving mega-doses of inspiration in you inbox each day to get your new drawing habit jump-started.

Join Bootcamp!

Bad artist logo 2

Get your drawing challenge delivered daily to your inbox. Mega motivation will have your drawings go from bad to badass in just 7 days.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Bootcamp is always better with a buddy, so share this with a friend!

You have a choice to leave behind your artistic angst and be a better drawer in just 7 days. Or you could hand over the victory to those artistic demons telling you:

“You don’t have time”

“You’re not good enough”

“A week! Not even a year could help me become a better drawer!”

If you’ve read this far, there’s something in you that would really like to learn how to draw. Don’t worry about why for now, just trust yourself and treat yourself with this bootcamp! See you in there.

Back off my Brain, Betty

Betty Edwards is a well known name in the drawing world. She is the author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” which brought together a budding understanding of the brain with the common frustrations among beginning artists when it was first published in 1979. But does her theory that accessing our right-brained mode will enhance our visual & drawing skills stand up to the latest in neuroscience? Do right-brain exercises indeed help us learn to draw? Does Betty know what’s up without brains? Or do we need to tell her to back off and adopt a new theory?
We’ve learned a lot about neuroscience in the past 30 plus years. In “Drawing on an Outdated Theory,” the authors overview her premise. We have the 2 hemispheres of the brain:
-Right visual perceptual
-Left verbal/analytic
“Ok sure Betty,” the authors seem to retort, “left-ride differences were big news in the 60’s, but since then we know that there is SO much more going on within each part of the brain.”
Modern research is showing that to cut the brain in half and assign major roles to each side takes away from the interconnectedness of the hemispheres.
So, although research done post 90’s doesn’t support the “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’s” claim that on or the other side of the brain takes over during certain activities,  it seems to remain a good metaphor.
The funny part is, even though Betty was wrong about the underlying structuring of the brain when she first published her book, her techniques and explanation really get results. Her students are able to improve their skills by adopting her way of thinking and looking more deeply as they draw. Her right-brained exercises stimulate ways of looking and questioning as you draw that create excellent drawing habits.
Thoughtco’s article on this subject calls the R/L brain difference “One of the Great Myths of the brain.” They tell us science isn’t up to snuff, but the method has been proven so often that we shouldn’t take away from a positive practice. Just be aware your brain is not only functioning or better functioning on one side
So what’s an artist to do? Well, let’s not ban Betty. Keep an eye out for the next couple of blog posts where we will check out her methods and how to put them to good use. Although we can’t say that the science is sound behind the right/left brain theory, the work works!

“Flower Girls” come to San Miguel

Samantha Wiley comes from a long line of Texan artists. She will join us here in San Miguel de Allende for an exhibit of her recent work, “Flower Girls,” oil paintings of southern belles from Galveston, Texas.
Samantha’s portraits have a luminous, elegant quality that brighten a room. The “Flower Girls” bring a fresh feeling of innocence and the feminine spirit to mind. The bright flashes of flower petals in the sun-spangled hair of the “Flower Girls” feel right at home in SMA, even if Ms. Wiley’s ladies are imported from coastal territories.
The “Flower Girls” will be on show at Studio Antonelli on Thursday, June 29th. Be sure to mark your calendar now for a lovely evening with floral touches and musical entertainment throughout the evening.

Would you like to be able to paint like that?

Nab your chance now while Samantha is in town! A graduate of the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts in Painting, Samantha has honed her craft studying under contemporary masters and will be sharing her wealth of oil-painting knowledge during a weekend workshop.
June 24th & 25th, Samantha will demonstrate her painting techniques and take you step by step through painting a portrait from a live model.
Email if you are interested in joining this short but powerful workshop on capturing light and likeness in your oil portraits. 


Every Drawing is a New Beginning

Without really meaning to, I seem to have embarked on a How-to-Begin-Your-Drawing series.

I spent some time in our last post on technique: making sure our drawing fits on the page and is in correct proportion and scale.

Today, I want to talk about your mental game. It’s so important to remember that learning to draw is a journey and NOT series of masterpieces one after another

I like to remember Dimitri Martin’s great visual breakdown of what success looks like:

by Demetri Martin

All of us here are just beginners compared to the masters that inspired us to draw. We WILL improve as we commit hours to following in their footsteps, but we’ve got to remember it’s an ongoing path with many phases when the going gets rough.

What is a beginning artist to do?

Get away from the idea that every drawing must be a masterpiece.

Remember to set an intention for each drawing you begin. Focus on one element of the drawing which will build your skill set and ability to engage in different ways of seeing the world around you. 

Here are examples of possible intentions you could set for a drawing:

-Create an accurate LINE drawing;
-Focus on shading and VALUES;
-Loosen up in a short, timed warm up series;
-Draw 10-minute studies before beginning a longer drawing
-Look at the page as little as possible. (This can help boost your speed.)

Draw MORE drawings

Spending time erasing and tweaking a single line can make a single drawing take days. Instead, up your pace and use continuous, confident lines as much as possible. We learn more from committing to an unbroken but inaccurately drawn line than a hesitant, feathery, and oft-erased line. 

It can feel soooo yucky to watch your drawing sit there on the page just…wrong. Inaccurate. Not perfect. 

Worst case scenario: you end up with a terrible drawing. The good news is, hey, your drawing is done! You got there faster and with better line quality. Now start a new one and see if it sucks a little less.

I’d like you to consider that any terrible feelings of inadequacy are going to start re-training your brain real fast (we remember our mistakes 3x more than our positive outcomes). It’s a learning curve, which can be bumpy, but the sooner you start the habit of continuous lines, the better! You’ll draw faster and more accurately.


Are you a perfectionist?
This post might sound like kryptonite for the meticulous among us, and easy for fast-drawing sharp-shooters. Comment below with what #number you think you are on a scale of 1- 10, 10 being super-anal perfectionist, 1 being a wham-bam jam things together type?

How to Start a Drawing of your Hand

So, hopefully you have checked out How to Start a Drawing by beginning with simple guidelines. Now let’s apply similar steps to begin a drawing of our hand, and then finish the drawing up with some simple shading.

Don’t freak out yet! Yes, hand are complicated, but everything is made up of simple forms, like the cylinders we began last lesson with. We work with the hands a lot in 10 Steps to Drawing, because they can be so expressive and architectural at the same time.

Those First Few Marks

Look for Big shapes First, then Small shapes… 

Step 1: Begin with the End in Mind: What scale are you drawing? (large or small?) Where will this fit on your page? (top, bottom, middle?) Is there room to grow in case you have to adjust the proportions as you draw?

Step 2: Find the “aura” of your hand, imagining it has a light shape surrounding its outline. Use the air-drawing technique to practice the curves, then commit to lightly drawing a guiding shape on your page

Step 3: Find the biggest shape or curve in the hand that pops out to you. Here it is the rounded rectangular shape of the thumb. Less is more at this stage. I’m using pen but I’m still drawing lightly.

Consider also the curve between the fingers. Imagine a light arcing line connecting them, and lightly draw it in as a guide your fingers will fit within later.

use guidelines…

Step 4: What is the next biggest shape that pops out to you? (Avoid details!) Search for the Negative Space (between and around the fingers and around the hand) and draw those “shapes” to maintain proportions. .

Don’t worry if you have to adjust away from the original guidelines your put in. They’re only there as a suggestion

Step 5: Begin to find the areas which are shaded on the hand, and for now evenly cross hatch lightly in a value-map.

Step 6: Start to add variety to the quality of your lines. Where should the lines be thicker? Thinner? What kind of hatching or blending can you use to create a full value scale (a range from light to dark?)

Step 7: Now that you’ve got your hand’s architecture in, go for more detail: texture and shading. Remember to consider your light source as you shade.

Step 8: Emphasize the core shadow in the fingers and palms to get the cylindrical quality of the fingers. I went ahead and darkened some of the edges of the hand, but not everywhere.  Sometimes it’s nice and lends a sense of a highlight to have a very light or disappearing segment of your outline.

So now we’ve got another take on how to begin a drawing with guidelines and marking out big proportions on the page BEFORE moving on to details.

Now it’s your turn 🙂

Take a minute to sketch your hand on a piece of paper near you and comment below on what you though was the hardest part of the process. Extra points if you add a photo of your sketch!

How to Start a Drawing

With a blank page staring at you, it’s hard to know where to begin in your drawing—and almost painful to make the first mark!

What NOT to do:
Begin by drawing the most interesting feature of your subject (be it a portrait, landscape, or still life) and get it perfect before you move on to the next part of you drawing.

Why not?
When you begin with a small detail in your drawing without first checking that the proportions of the whole piece will fit on the page, you may end up with your drawing “growing” beyond the limits of your sketchbook. The drawing is like a photograph with the person’s head chopped out of the frame.

Start by marking off the outer limits of the subject you are drawing, and key guidelines that will help you navigate your way through the drawing.

Here are examples of ways I begin drawing by marking off my composition and get my drawings started.

Example: Cylinder

Step 1: Begin with the End in Mind—how big do you want this to be on your page?

Step 2: Use a straight edge (such as your pencil) to find the width of the farthest edges of the cylinder 

Step 3: Mark the width on your page with light ticks using a 2 or 4H pencil

Step 4: Using the width of the cylinder as a “unit” of measurement, count how many units of height your cylinder has (this one is just about 1 x 1 )

Step 5: Mark out the height of your cylinder with small tick marks (as above)

Step 6: Use the “Air-drawing technique” to find the curve of the upper and lower eclipse of the cylinder. Create mini-muscle-memory by tracing the curve in the air a few times, then COMMIT and draw the line lightly in a single curve on your paper

Step 7: With your eye on the place you want your pencil to end up, boldly draw a continuous line as vertically as you can to finish your cylinder

Step 8: Consider the light source, and shade accordingly

Step 9: Squint, so all your lines look blurred. Then keep turning up the contrast-yep, even more. We are aiming for a core shadow on the opposite side of the light source and a subtle gradation from dark to light.

And there ya go, our cylinder is complete. Without planning our beginning proportions and considering the light source in our first steps the drawing can fall apart. This may be a super simple example, but it applies to anything we could think of to draw.  We’ll check out a more complex shape, drawing the hand, in the next post!

In the meantime, try sketching this cylinder yourself, and pay close attention to the way you begin your drawing. What steps do you take?

Comment below and let us know how your steps are working for you 🙂

1 2 3 8