Stian Brevig’s jaw dropping Warlock for our first assignment, The Conceptual Portrait

With a few spots still left in my Fall SmartSchool mentorship, I thought it would be a nice opportunity(thanks Dan!) to share some of the amazing work my students created this past spring, and talk a little about some of  the things that excite me as a teacher.

One of Lara Dann’s incredible acrylic paintings, based on personal reference

Lauren Raye Snow’s stunning Joan of Arc, recasting the figure in a contemporary voice

A complex, layered digital painting by Rowan St. John, using a combination of travel photography and collaged symbolic pattern

In my own practice, I’ve noticed that the most interesting work tends to fuse personal experience with media and craft exploration: The best work I’ve made usually engages both my emotions and my curiosity about the tools I’m using. My hope is that through this mentorship we’re able to challenge each other on these two levels, discard some of the baggage and pre-conceived notions we have about what makes good art, and surprise ourselves as much as possible.

Kring Demetrio’s mesmerizing scraffito and charcoal technique

Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo exploring the magic and subtlety of drawing on transparent surfaces

A set of heads for our 20 Heads assignment by Abby Lively

Paolo Turchioe using AI generated digital textures to bring nuance and life to his digital paintings

Chelsea Feng exploring a soft and delicate pencil drawing technique first developed in her sketchbook

One of my favorite things to explore with students is the process through which an idea is brought to life- from a sketch or initial concept, towards something convincing and immersive. Bringing our ideas towards some kind of reality can be an incredibly rewarding experience, it’s like validating something that has been inside of us, a type of slow motion expression that holds a form and power long after we’ve finished with it.


One of Rob Girling’s deeply immersive pictures, created using a combination of 3D modeling, digital painting and AI generated surfaces


How do you take people to a place you’ve only ever visited in your imagination?

Images created by Rob Girling as he explores a long term world building project of his

How do you give shape to something that only exists inside of you?

Chelsea Feng

How do you describe a feeling that you can’t find words for?

Abby Lively

How do you create a system that allows your own work to surprise you?

Paolo Turchioe

How do you share a memory with people?

Lauren Raye Snow

What do the stories we love say about our own lives?

Stian Brevig’s Silmarillion

Queer fiction and romance by Chelsea Feng

Building models and researching reference is a method that has brought me a lot of success, but there are so many other exciting ways to give your ideas life; half the fun for me is working with other people to find a practice that allows them to engage with this process in a fluid and comfortable way- your process SHOULD feel good and give you exciting and surprising results. I try to address as much of this as I can by showing people how I make paintings(both traditional and digital), but a big part of what makes this experience fun is exploring how other people work, and getting to have a dialogue about how to improve and expand their unique process.

Kring Demetrio’s gorgeous sketches for The Masque of The Red Death (seriously, any of these would make an incredible final illustration). . .

. . . And Kring’s delicate final artwork

Rowan St. John

Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo

Lara Dann

Fall semester is approaching fast and I’m looking forward to working with more students. We meet every Friday afternoon in a small online group for an illustration intensive that runs for 14 weeks. This will be a deep dive into the creative process, in a supportive small group learning environment, with individually tailored assignments as well as the opportunity to workshop your own creative projects. There’s more information here if you’re curious. Thank you as always to my amazing students for your hard work, passion and openness. This continues to be one of my most cherished experiences <3

Lara Dann

Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo sketchbook page

A sketchbook drawing by Abby Lively

Paolo Turchioe

Lauren Raye Snow


if you know, you know . . .


For more information on these talented artists: Stian Brevig, Rowan St. John, Rob Girling, Paolo Turchioe, Lauren Raye Snow, Lara Dann, Kring Demetrio, Floriana Ehninger-Cuervo, Chelsea Feng, Abby Lively