Art resources to get you started on your journey

By Gillian Valladares Castellino

This posting will provide you with resources for recording and developing your ideas into art, where to get sample lessons (free) and links to a smorgasboard of art experiences via the world's best galleries (some of them). Here we go....

Simply put, artist's journals are where you park your ideas. There is no correct way to start an artist's journal. I find that A3 sketchbooks work for me, but having said that, I also have shelves full of A2 and A4 journals. What do you put into your journals and how do you start? Rather than reinvent the wheel I'll refer you to my favourite visual journal websites and sources of inspiration. The easiest one of all is Aisling's website which has a host of ideas on how to get started. Her major pre-occupation is collage. For more ideas and links try Danny Gregory's and Teesha Moore's visual journals on-line. Teesha Moore's work is a riot of colour and inspiration if you like that kind of art. Her instructions on how to get started are very workable. Another favourite site of mine for visual journals as a source of inspiration is the Smithsonian's archives of American Art. This site deals with journals kept by practising artists in America mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a wonderful source of ideas on what can be recorded in a visual journal.

No art is created in a vacuum. One of the best ways to learn when starting out is to study (and copy) the work of those artists whose art you admire. I have tried copying the 'Great Masters' but find that their techniques are often beyond the grasp of a raw beginner and one needs lessons if one wishes to start off with them. I found it much easier to trawl though book shops, galleries, catalogues and websites and work with what 'attracted' me. This of course is one possible approach to the myriad of ways one can learn to 'make' art.

Here is a sampling of 'stuff' from my early journals:

Work can be done in 'Gauche' or poster colour (see below). This painting is based on an exercise in the book You Can Paint - Vibrant Watercolors by Dan Burt

Charcoal - The charcoal below was based on an oil painting by Robert Maxwell-Wood (as depicted in the book 'An Introduction to Painting Portraits' by Rosalind Cuthbert)

Pencil - the trio below were based on photos of Venetian masks, but turned out too spooky so I added eyes.

Pastels.... I like pastels for the rich range of colours available. Also using them is very therapeutic (I smudge the colours with my fingers). Buy the best quality you can afford. I started off with cheap brands but the quality of the output was chalky and discouraging , so I switched to Rembrandt colours - they are pricey but the results are well worth it.
I like working with faces. These could be 'realistic' or 'stylized'. The pastels below are inspired by the work of Marek Wilinski an amazing Polish-Australian artist whose use of colour and style I admire and enjoy

Here is another pastel in a totally different style, based on a self-portrait by Robert Maxwell Wood as (as depicted in the book 'An Introduction to Painting Portraits' by Rosalind Cuthbert)

If you are interested in ideas for your own art work or writing you can't go past How to make a journal jar by Merle O'Brien and my all-time favourite resource Princeton University's Incredible Art Department which caters to all levels of art making from children in primary school through to post-graduate study and resources for practising artists. If there is only one on-line art source you would like to focus on, this would be the one.

For heaps of useful art tips try the Virtual Art Academy's free newsletter. Another free sample art lesson can be accessed via the Tate Gallery London. If you are looking at art appreciation or to develop a familiarity with collections which major galleries around the world house, try the National Gallery London which is a treasure throve of amazing ideas and experiences, as are Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York. There are many many more resources on-line. You can get lost. I often do.
I believe that most of all making art should be fun and a way of self-expression. If it gets stressful, it isn't worth it. So don't worry about the result, just enjoy the tactile and visual experience of messing around with of colour and texture and let your spirit come out to play. Until next time then...


  1. Absolutely enthralled by your inputs, Jill, and needless to say, your own fascinating works. The 'GC' in Hindi(or Marathi?) in the last one is so amusing. It will take me quite some time to read it all; I started reading Aisling's website; it goes on and on; collages are interesting to do for a start for me, considering my collection of magazines, photos, clippings and other paraphernalia from over the years. Love, Joan

  2. Joan, When I remember to add a signature, I sign my paintings 'GC' in Devnagiri script. Send me photos of your collages when you complete them. Will add them to the blog. Love Jill


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