The Artist Within You, Discovering Your Artistic Self

Welcome to the Artist Within You Art Lessons!

These lessons can be taken by an individual or a group. There are readings accompanying each lesson. Also, at the beginning of each Artist Within Lesson, is a relaxing exercise which will help you clear your mind of the day's distractions and get your creative juices flowing.

You will discover that you have some pretty amazing artistic abilities and you'll have a lot of fun doing the projects, as well! Let's begin!

Art Supplies for The Artist Within Lessons

Drawing Pencil Assortment

Drawing Pen Set

Sketch Book - 9" x 12" size, spiral bound

Oil Pastels (set of at least twelve)

Synthetic Brushes Assortment


Two Stretched Canvases

Acrylic Paint Intro Set

Water Container (2 cup-size)

Roll of Paper Towels

Glue Stick

Photo or picture of interest (any subject matter.)

Three photos of yourself: (1) Very young (2) Older (3) A recent photo

A collection of found papers: can include tear sheets from magazines, wall paper, wrapping paper, etc.

Most of these materials can be easily purchased online by clicking on the Amazon logos below:


Sit still, relax and close your eyes for three minutes. Breathe deeply and listen to your breathing. Look at the darkness in front of your closed eyes. Push all thoughts away. Open your eyes and take a deep breath. You are ready.

Project 1 - What Do You Make Of It?

What You Will Need: Pencil, pen and sketch book.

Do four exercises–-just doodle. You can use either a pencil or a pen. Use a page from your sketch book for each doodle. Do two doodles looking at the paper and do two doodles NOT looking at the paper. Look at each doodle carefully. What do you see in the lines? Trace over the images emerging–-a dog? A cat? Waves? Patterns? Do this with all four. Then, choose one that you like and fill in certain areas to emphasize the images. Shade in some areas using gray. Take out lines you can’t use by erasing them. Shade some areas using black. Work for making patterns around our images to emphasize them. This is exciting!

Group: Discuss what you see in your drawing. Pass around the drawings and make comments. What do you see in another's doodle?


Look carefully at your drawings. Could any become a drawing or an idea for another drawing? What did you like about this exercise? What didn't you like and why?


“Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?” Henry Thoreau, Walden

“The fact I want to stress here is that one’s inner life, one’s spirit, is as specific, as palpable and material, as the shape of one’s hair.” M.C. Richards, Centering.

“A life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of willingness to be personally challenged. The only way that we can be certain that our map of reality is valid is to expose it to the criticism and challenge of other map makers.” M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

“Don’t concern yourself with the faults of others. Use the scouring powder of wisdom to keep the rooms of your own mind bright and spotless. By your example, other persons will be inspired to do their own housecleaning.” Paramahansa Yogananda, "Sayings of Yogananda"

“It is the mind that maketh good or ill, that maketh wretch or happy, rich or poor.” Herbert Spencer, English philosopher.

“The life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action. Our capacity to think and to examine ourselves that most makes us human.” M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

“What’s worse, most of us are not even fully aware of our own world views, much less the uniqueness of the experience from which they are derived.” M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"


Sit still and relax for three minutes. Listen to the silence. Push all thoughts away and look at the darkness in front of your closed eyes. Open your eyes and take a deep breath. You are ready to begin.

Project 2 – The Vocabulary of Line

What You Will Need-- Pencil, pen and sketch book.

Here are four exercises that make lines express space. Look at the white on the page. It is light! Look at the shadow and shapes you are producing with lines through out these projects.

1. Lines apart and close together to express space: Make a light line approximately 7 or 8 inches across your sketch book page. Make another light line running parallel to it about two inches apart. Make another line below this line, also about two inches apart. You don't have to use a ruler for this.

Start at the left and work towards the right making vertical lines that go between the two light lines you drew. Place the lines about a sixteenth of an inch apart and as you create more lines, make them closer together until they are as close as they can be without touching. The gradually make the lines farther apart until they are about a quarter inch apart. Now start making them come closer together again. Do this until you have reached the end of your light lines.

Do the next row the same way, gradually drawing lines to come very close together, then drawing them going apart. Make the lines so that where the lines above are coming together, the lines below will be going apart. When you are finished, stand back and look at the drawing. It should look like an undulating ribbon. If it doesn't, try this exercise again.

2. Lines crosshatched to express shadow. On a new sketch book page, using your pencil or pen, make short lines that go in all directions. In one area, make the lines very close together and dense. In another area, make the lines far apart. In between these areas, make lines that are neither very close or very far apart. Join these areas, slowly building up the lines until you have a dark area and a light area with lines in between. Stand back and look at your drawing. The dark area should look like a hole or pocket of shadow. The light area, in relation to the dark area, should look like light or a highlight.

3. Lines that are like fish line, that knot and ravel and unravel and tangle to create shapes and shadows. On a new page of your sketch book, use your pen for this exercise. Just start making a line, very much like you did with doodling. Do not take your pen off the paper. Picture a tangled fish line or string. In one area, make the lines dense and close together. In another area, make the lines quite far apart. Now make lines that are neither very close together or very far apart around and joining the two area. When you are finished, the dark area of your drawing should look like a shadow or hole. The lighter area should look like a highlight or like light is shining through.

4. Lines that are short and long --dots and dashes to create a spacial composition. On a new page of your sketch book, using either or pen or pencil, start making small dashes of very short lines. In one area, build up the dashes so they are very close together. In another area, put the dash far apart. In between the areas, make dashes that are neither very close together or very part apart. When you have finished this drawing, it should look like the dark area is a shadow or pocket of darkness and the light area should look like a highlight or where light is shining.

Group: Talk about what we did and share our perceptions with others to better understand who we all are, how we all see and interpret the works of others. Look at examples of art work that show similarities in what we have done.

Individual: What did you learn from the lines? Were you surprised that you could "make light and shadow from lines, dots and dashes?"


“Lets not imitate others. Let’s find ourselves and be ourselves.” Dale Carnegie," How to Stop Worrying and Start Living"

“The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as this is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities. In fact, the problem is how to feed the soul.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, "Gift From the Sea"

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go-- I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.” Henry Thoreau,"Walden"

Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post office, and at the sociable, and bout the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications. Consider the girls in a factory,--never alone, hardly in their dreams. It would be better if there were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where I live. The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him.” Henry Thoreau,"Walden"


Sit still and relax for three minutes. Close your eyes and look at the darkness in front of your eyes. When you open your eyes, take a deep breath. You are ready.

Project 3 - The Beauty of Pastels

What You Will Need: Oil pastels, sketch book and photo

Oil pastels can produce brilliant color and painterly effects. The Impressionists developed a techniques for seeing light as a phenomena made up of many colors(it was a recent scientific discovery at the time that white light was comprised of all of the colors of the spectrum).

Work from the photo you have brought in. Lightly sketch a 6" x 6" square on a new sketch book page. You don't have to use a ruler. This is simply to reference the area you will be working in with your pastels.

Look carefully at your photo. See the colored areas in the photo as made up of many colors. For example, if there is a tree with green leaves, think of the green as being made up of not only many green dots, but purple, blue, yellow and red dots as well.

Lightly draw in pencil what you see in the photo. Simplify everything. You do not have to put in all of the detail. When you are finished with the drawing (do not take anymore time than twenty minutes) start filling in the objects and areas you have drawn with small dashes of pastel color. This will take a while, but be patient, because the effect of this exercise will be very rewarding! Using small strokes of color, add contrasting colors to each area: red and green to a blue area, for example. Work to get all of the white of the paper out by covering it with color. It is important to eliminate the white so that you can see how your colors are working. Work to develop the color areas full of rich color, yet keeping the main color idea.


Put all of your work up to look at. Comment on how the colors are working. Where could areas be developed further? Could this technique be used in painting or drawing with colored pencils? Would you like to continue working this way?


Step back and look carefully at your work. Did you know that you could make a green with red, blue, yellow and purple? What is interesting to you about this way of working? Would you like to investigate this way of working further?


“We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. We must re-learn to be alone.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, "Gift From the Sea"

“I have written many articles on hobbies—and mostly from a psychological standpoint. I pointed out that creation is the foundation of our existence—that we are creatures (the products of creation; and that unless we are continually creating, we are not conforming to the laws of nature.” Ben Sweetland, " I Will"

“Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in you mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.” James Allen, "As A Man Thinketh"


Sit still and relax for three minutes. Close your eyes and push away all thoughts. Empty your mind and listen to your breathing. Open your eyes and take a deep breath. You are ready.

Project 4 - A Day In The Life

What You Will Need: Three photos, sketch book, pen and pencil

You have three photos (1) When you were very young (2) When you were middle-aged (3) A recent photo.

Take three separate pieces of sketch book paper and draw with a template two columns approximately 3" x 7" or to fit the sketch book page and also accommodate the photo.

Start with the earliest photo. Write several sentences on a piece of scratch paper describing that day the photo was taken. Think back to how old you were, what you were doing, what kind of day it was, why it was significant enough to take a picture, etc. After putting the information down, clarify and condense it to one paragraph and transfer the information to the left hand column on your sketch book paper.

Then, in the second column define the day of the photo is symbols and icons–as if you were trying to communicate the meaning of the photo to someone who could not read. Look at what you have written and try to transfer the words to simple pictures. This does not require drawing talent so much as the skills of translating verbal to visual. You can use anything, stick figures, clip art type icons, but there cannot be words.

When you are finished, go on to the next photos, doing the same thing with each.

At the end of the session we will share what we wrote and drew.


“Have you ever given yourself instructions to wake up at a certain time in the morning? You do wake up, don’t you? That is conscious auto-suggestion. Do you know that a bad memory, in most cases, is due to the suggestions you make to yourself? Every time you say: “I have a bad memory,” you’re making it more real. The next time you want to remember something, give yourself a positive question. Say: “I’ll think of it in a minute,” and you will.” Ben Sweetland, "I Will"

“Thus all life itself represents a risk, and the more lovingly we live our lives the more risks we take. ” M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

“It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy of life. And it is death that provides life with all its meaning. This “Secret” is the central wisdom of religion.” M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

“If we can live with the knowledge that death is our constant companion traveling on our “left shoulder’, then death can become in the words of Don Juan, our “ally” still fearsome but continually a source of wise counsel.” M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”


Sit still and relax for three minutes. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Push all thoughts away and just listen to your breathing. Open your eyes and take a deep breath. You are ready.

Project 5 - Imaginary Places

What You Will Need:  Acrylic paints, canvases, brushes, palette, water container and paper towels.

On paper practice blending one color stripe to another. Get the feel of the paint and the brush on the canvas. Mix green from yellow and blue. Mix orange from red and yellow. Make the yellow paler by adding white. Mix blue and red and make purple. Don’t dilute the paint with water. Do twelve sections of colors going from white to a color (blue, red, etc.)

On your first canvas, paint an imaginary place. Don’t sketch anything in first. Paint a subject such as a: Cypress Swamp, Sunset On The Beach, Clouds and Water, Sand Dunes, Hills and Valleys, A Night In The Forest. Keep loose. Let it flow and tell you where it wants to go. Watch closely at what’s happening.

On your second canvas paint a world of three colors. Choose three colors from your palette and use those only. Paint an imaginary world. What could it be this time? Investigate further, extending what you thought about in the last exercise.


“Only when one is connected to one’s own core, is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, "Gift From the Sea"

“Man is not a body with a mind, he is a mind with a body.” Herbert Spencer, English philosopher

“Pied Beauty”

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


Sit still and relax for three minutes. Close your eyes and push all thoughts away. Look at the darkness in front of your closed eyes. Listen to the silence. Open your eyes and take a deep breath.

Project 6 - Seeing In A Different Way

These collage projects will enable you to see images as design elements and go beyond the usual visual responses you have when you look at a magazine or newspaper. The object here is to see the usual in a different way and to make the images, colors and textures of the found papers you have collected "give themselves up" to your collage composition.

What You Will Need: Found papers, sketch book, glue stick

You have been collecting papers from magazines, books, newspapers, bags, wrapping paper, wall paper, etc. You have kept these separate. (1) Papers that are all one kind of color, i.e. greens. (2) Papers of images of one kind of thing - faces, cars, sky, trees, etc. (3) Papers of printed letters (large type) from headlines, ads, etc.

Create three different collage compositions:

First collage - One Color Collage: Use the papers you collected that are all of one color. Glue the papers down making a pattern. Many times the pattern will arise as you are working. Look at what the different hues, tonalities and textures of the papers are doing and how they express the pattern and space within the pattern.

Second collage - Images That Are Alike: Use the papers you collected that are all of one kind of image. As you glue the papers down, see how the shapes are the same and repeat or are different and vary from the pattern of repetition. Work for making both repetition and variation.

Third collage - Typography: Use the papers you collected that were all letters. Do not make words, but use the letters as design elements to make an image OR, if you choose to use a word, make all of the letters, as design elements, emphasize that word.


“Eternity yawns at me below, above, on the left and on the right, in front and behind, within and without. With closed eyes I perceive myself as the cosmic center around which revolves the sphere of eternity, the sphere of bliss, the sphere of omniscient, living space.” Paramahansa Yogananda, "Metaphysical Meditations"

“A bad habit can be quickly changed. A habit is the result of concentration of the mind. To form a new and good habit, just concentrate in the opposite direction.” Paramahansa Yogananda, "Sayings of Yogananda"

“The secret of progress is self-analysis. Introspection is a mirror in which to see recesses of your mind that otherwise would remain hidden from you. Diagnose your failures and sort out your good and bad tendencies. Analyze what shortcomings are impeding you. .” Paramahansa Yogananda, "The Law of Success"

“The Worldy Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,

Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face

Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.”

Omar Khayyam, "The Rubaiyat"

“And we, that now make merry in the Room

They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,

Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth

Descend, ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?

Omar Khayyam , "The Rubaiyat"

“The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved by only the the most delicate handling. Yet, we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.” Henry Thoreau, "Walden"

Reading resources:

Allen, James, "As A Man Thinketh"

Carnegie, Dale, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living"

Castaneda, Carlos,"A Separate Reality"

Hopkins, Gerard Manley

Khayyam, Omar, "The Rubaiyat"

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, "Gift From the Sea"

Peck, M. Scott, "The Road Less Traveled"

Richards, M.C., "Centering"

Spencer, Herbert, English philosopher

Thoreau, Henry, "Walden"

Yogananda, Paramahansa, "The Law of Success"

Yogananda, Paramahansa, "Metaphysical Meditations"

Yogananda, Paramahansa , "Sayings of Yogananda"

Real Feedback

...I currently I'm working with a author for children's books and I'm doing some of the illustration. This has been a real challenge, but enjoying it. When I not at home my sketch pad goes with me and I'm practice on something all the time. I've taken my art more serious and have the time to do what I thought I would never be able to do and you have inspired me to make me realize a dream that I thought I wouldn't get to do in my life time. Will be sending a picture for you to look at and see where I need to do to improve. It may take a week or two, but you will hear from me. Janice


I'm 60 and just getting back into art. My mother was an artist and I always wanted to be one too. I like the (acrylic) painting and I'm just finishing up the Intermediate! Never though I could paint so good! Eleanor Fuller


Please send link to basic drawing lessons--enjoyed your blot painting! Thank you, Phyllis


Hello Lois....In your introductory e-mail you asked about who I am. I'm retired. As I watched my triplet grandchildren drawing and creating fine looking artwork, I got to thinking about how much I had enjoyed drawing when I was about their age. My recollection is that I was pretty good but in truth probably not as good as my aging memory recalls. I do know, though, that I enjoyed it very much. So one day I sat down with paper and pencil to sketch a masterpiece only to find that all the talent I had as a teenager had been lost somewhere on my journey to senior citizenship. The desire, if not the ability, was there so I began searching the net for drawing lessons. I was surprised to find sites that actually provided free lessons. (I fully expected to pay for lessons) I was most impressed with your site so here I am....hoping to reawaken a long suppressed interest in the art of drawing.

Darrell Larson


It's never to late to do art! I've been painting with water color and then did some little cards for my twelve year old niece.

Thank you for your art lessons,

Betty Jacobsen

Notes on Writing The Artist Within Lessons...

Five years ago, for a small business course at a community college I developed a financial plan for "The Artful Life Program," a series of art learning classes for 55+ students.

This offering of art classes could be installed in a community recreation center, a church basement, an instructor's house, or wherever people wanting to learn and do art could congregate.

I had to do the financials, figure out what would be needed to teach in a facility and project an income and expense sheet for its operation.

I came a way from the small business class with a good working plan for bringing art to the 55+ community. One of the classes I called "Finding The Artist Within." Based on my experience with teaching older people, the course was constructed to refresh, inspire and develop creative skills through a series of exercises. I made each project simple, fun and provocative and directed towards an end goal of helping the students choose an artful direction in painting, drawing, printmaking, or collage.

Through six lessons, students could develop their imaginative, visualizing and creative skills will working on projects that were fun for the group and not intimidating.

Over the years, I have taught "Finding The Artist Within," in in private classes as well as life-long learning programs. It remains today, one of the most popular class offerings I have!