Exploding Tomato Soup . . .

Last night, I made some tomato soup. Well. I didn’t really MAKE it. It came in a carton (organic, dontcha know), but I did heat it in a pan.

Well, heat it is another misnomer because I have never successfully heated tomato soup in a pan. No matter how hard I try to moderate the heat and watch the pan closely, it always hits this point where it suddenly explodes into bubbles, pops the lid, and overflows all over the stove.

Something very similar just happened in my brain.

Sometimes, brain soup is heating up. There are lots of ingredients, and you’re not really sure at what moment they will become soup. So you add more ingredients, take some out, and periodically check the burners.

And then, without warning, it explodes out of your head.

I have been making “what do I want to be when I grow up on the web” soup for two years now, since our beloved Sheer Heaven went away.

Off-web, I am a gallery owner and artist in the mediums of watercolor, glass and silver. That is going well and I am going to continue doing that for the foreseeable future.

But because I have been involved on the internet since Al Gore invented it (that is a JOKE, people), I can’t seem to get away from it.

Let’s face it – one of these days, I will be a “retired” gallery owner and I should have something else going on, so I don’t get bored. Relaxing does not seem to be in the cards.

The other thing I do not seem to be able to get away from is teaching.

Many of you know that I was trained as a teacher in the old fashioned way. After several years feeling tortured by the restraints of traditional education, I jumped ship.

I actually did not teach for a long time after that – except for training my employees in my marketing design firm, and occasional guest gigs at local colleges and adult education programs.

This was all in San Francisco.

When the design business got totally crazy with unreasonable deadlines (Fax machines and Fed EX at fault), I quit that and opened a gallery on the coast in California.

When the coast highway fell off, I moved to Santa Fe and opened a gallery here (galleries actually).

When I closed those to rethink everything in 2001, I went online with Sheer Heaven, was one of the first people to offer workshops online, and found myself back in teaching. Basically, Sheer Heaven was so different that people had to be taught how to use it, and who else was going to teach them?

Circular paths are so interesting, right? I started out as an art teacher and took a long path through other things – to arrive at being an art teacher again.

I take a different approach to teaching art than most folks, and I constantly hone my approach because it works.

I have successfully taught my students to draw. All of them – no matter how hard they fought me.

When I say successfully, I mean that at the end of the lessons, they can draw stuff that looks like what it is, and more importantly than anything, they LIKE what they drew. So, they go out and draw some more, building on that success.

I am not being a braggart here. It is simply true – to the point that I offer a money-back guarantee when I (rarely) hold local live classes.

I do keep trying to escape teaching, which is why I had the idea to go to a magazine format instead.

Then I asked what you would want to see in there, and most of you said you want to learn stuff.

I went back to the part of the “magazine” that I had already written, and most of it was teaching stuff. Learning stuff + teaching stuff – good match, but not a magazine.

Very little was “magazine” like at all, in fact. And what there was (like reviews etc.) could really be done as blog posts instead.

Here I was again – teaching.

And then, there was an eruption of bubbles, my brain exploded, and the brain soup was done cooking.

So, dear readers, what is coming will not be a magazine. It will be a wonderful series of workbooks.

They will be all about drawing, sketching, and painting in books. They will cover almost every topic you have asked for.

They will look like sketchbooks themselves, and they will be light hearted and funny and fun to follow. They will be easy enough for the complete beginner, and valuable to any level of artist – in building and reinforcing basics you may have forgotten you know. Even just to get your engine started again.

Some will be about page composition, some about mediums and how they work, and some about what to sketch or journal about. One or more will be about digital sketching and journaling.

They will be PDFs and they will be published as they are completed. If you know about writing books, you know the Muse controls the timing.

But, before any of the workbooks is published, I am going to set forth MY philosophy of successful art learning.

It is very different and will fly in the face of the stuff you hear most often, but you will find it interesting. A bit revolutionary even.

This will be offered as a short blog series and then as a FREE downloadable booklet for you to keep and refer to – whenever you need to.

One of my all time favorite books is the tiny “Art & Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland, published in 2001. It was groundbreaking for me because I had just shut down the only “destination” I had for my art, and that eventually led me to the idea of making art that matters in journals and sketchbooks. That in turn, has led me to my current passionate relationship with sketchbooks and visual journaling.

My little book is titled “Drawing Badly”. You can already tell that will be different, right?

Stayed tuned.



  1. Sounds absolutely perfect. I still have my SF workshop mobile hanging in my art space and all of my online workshop journals to inspire. You’re an incredible teacher. The lessons are permanently ingrained.

  2. I am SO excited at this news, Jessica! It’s exactly what I need (as a complete drawing/sketching beginner), and just what I have been hoping for. I miss your old classes so much, and I think your workbook idea is fabulous!

  3. I have been missing you and your wisdom and humor. Looking forward to this!

  4. Delighted that you are heading in this direction. Workbooks in pdf form sound like workbooks that I can keep on my iPad. You do know how much I love my iPad. It is my constant companion. I miss you and wish we were close enough to have brain soup, figuratively speaking, and dinner, literally. I may just have to make another trip out your way.

  5. Sounds terrific! I am so glad that you were not burned by the soup which is what I first thought when I read the title for your blog entry.

  6. I love your wit and wisdom and can’t wait to see what comes next!

  7. I will read, listen, try, experiment, cry, laugh, succeed, fail and laugh some more about anything you talk about, teach, show, or present in any form. I can’t wait.

  8. I love everything you do! Looking forward to your next project. Everything you do is beyond creative! After all, you taught me that I could draw…And I haven’t stopped since.

  9. By the by, Jessica, I have finally mastered heating tomato soup. Stand at the stove with a small whisk and with medium-low heat stir it every minute it’s on the stove. Every minute, don’t take your eyes off of it. It works. Nothing else seems to!

  10. Wow – thank you all for the wonderful things you say. It means so much more than you can imagine. Llynnda’s comment actually made me cry (happy tears).
    And I find out how to heat tomato soup to boot!
    Life is good.

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