Secrets of the Art Universe

Helpful Hints to the Art Universe / Secrets of the Art Universe

Kathleen Mooney


Important thoughts -

"It's all in the doing - You have to put in a lot of time and paint to make it appear effortless"

"Be JOYOUSLY fearless - provoke action / reaction - create your own art problems to solve - the world needs more Happy Painters to offset all the other stuff"

"If you find you just can't make time to paint - remember - in times of trouble we often push away the very thing we NEED"


"Starting your painting with PERFECTION - leaves you no place to GO - forget perfection until that last 1%"

"Haptic - The last thing I did / drives the next thing I do - for some of us all that laborious pre-planning just gets in the way of painting"

"We love painting - so why be in such a big hurry to finish?"

"Let it dry" - Acrylic darkens and deepens and Watercolor sinks into the paper... give it time before you go for the finish"

"BIG shapes! Directional lines!  Engaging edges!  Color harmony and collisions! Relationships of the elements!"

"Let the imagery find you - if it can - then it belongs there - if not, leave it out!"

"You can ALWAYS paint over it"

"Love the Process"



Robert Burridge - YouTube and website – a wild man who is on a mission to make painting fun.

Jane Davies – YouTube and website – Jane does it all and does it so well.  Books, videos, YouTube videos, workshops… Water media / acrylic

Stan Kurth – ( – Intuitive painting at its BEST.  He will be in Ann Arbor Teaching in October 2019 and back at FLPC in June 2020.  Highly recommended.

Joan Kathleen Harding Eardley (Joan Eardley) - exquisite abstracts landscapes/seascapes of Chaterline Scotland 

Brian Rutenberg – YouTube, Published Books, Audible Books – – an oil painter, an articulate artist who really knows how to get the best out of oil paint.  A lot applies to water media too.  He doesn’t teach workshops, but has a lot to share about being an artist.

Kathleen Conover ( - bridging representational and abstract, imagination and composition.  Highly recommended.

Pamela Caughey - - youtube, website, blog, online workshops, fabulous sense of abstraction.

Nancy Hillis - - The Artist's Journey book, youtube, website, especially overcoming blockages to creativity.

Richard Diebenkorn - a midcentury Californian artist who provides endless inspriation - a thoughtful individualist, he always followed his own path enriched by art and artists contemporary and past.  Do a google search.  Once you "get" his art, you will be forever changed.

Wayne Thiebaud - a painter, teacher and guide to the endless delights of great art and art making.  Do a google search and listen to one of the podcasts or videos.  He is so "honest and true" and will make you laugh about being a part of this big wide wonderful world of art.

Georgia O'Keeffe - a powerhouse of a painter in the fine art world.  Such an individualist!  Too few women reach the levels she did in the art universe - worthy of deep study.

Google Searches - contemporary painting, abstract Painting, Modern Painting, collage artist, printmaking, Asian brush painting, 10 best of “whatever” painting, Watercolor painting, …  Almost every day I take a bit of time to do random google searches – I am often rewarded with my daily dose of painting inspiration.  We all need that!


Art Thoughts

Robert Genn – YouTube, weekly emails – Robert is gone now, but his daughter keeps the wisdom going…

Art Podcast - – Hear thoughtful interviews with artists on art topics.  Always thought provoking.

Brian Rutenberg – see above


Materials and Supplies

Plaid 1 ½” brushes – Walmart or Amazon “50557E Plaid Taklon Flat Brush, Gold (2-Piece)”.  I use these for watercolors and acrylics.  Mostly I keep one set for each.  More info about why I love these comes when you are in my class.  I believe in these -- so you usually get one in each of my materials kits.  I have hundreds.  They are my “secret weapon”.

Canvas Panels – Amazon - US Art Supply 8 x 8 inch Professional Artist Quality Acid Free canvas Panel pack of 12.  Many other sizes.  This brand is the best I have found online – some are really bad.

Paper – Amazon – I love the Fluid 100, cold press or hot press, the 300Lb is my current favorite.  Everyone ends up finding their own favorite paper brand, finish and weight.  This is like kissing a lot of frogs to find the Prince…

Craft Acrylics – Springgrove Variety in Lowell, Meijers, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joann, Amazon – these are the bottled paints that are only 99 cents each – more or less… some name brands are – Plaid, Décor, Americana, Apple Barrel… buy colors you like and white and black.  Don’t fret about the quality – they are fine to use.

Gesso – Amazon - Liquitex Acrylic Gesso Surface Prep – White.  A true “secret weapon” of painting.

Golden Acrylics – Fabulous top of the line, expensive acrylic paints – I use them on the last layers of a painting.  Slower drying, a little “sticky”, fully pigmented colors consistent across the entire product line.  Great color charts.  Great for answering technical questions about paints.

Pastel / Conte sticks – Amazon – Inktense – pencils, sticks, blocks, Conte Crayons (here “crayon” is a French term for a color stick vs. Crayola), Caran D’ache (more French) – these are water media pigments in a stick or pencil form.

Mediums – thinners, pouring, fixatives, impasto – Amazon – Liquitex or Golden – fluid, gel, medium – I use Liquitex Matte Medium and Matte Gel

Old credit card, room access cards, AARP Cards… once these are not in use you can use them to apply paint, scrape lines into your paintings.  Another “secret weapon” of art making.

Graphitint Pencils – Made by Derwent – Amazon, Hobby Lobby – subtle, smooth, great for sketching, can be good/bad in some situations – and getting rediculously expensive - however, I still love them.  My “secret weapon” for my landscape and brew pub sketching.

Pencil sharpener – I like one with two sizes of sharpener holes, good quality blades (you will know if they are not the first time you use it), and most important – a container at the back to capture the shavings. 

School chalk – the box of 99 cent school chalk is fine.  They always break, don’t worry about it.  This allows you to “think on your painting” – draw lines, draw the “third” lines, mark your focal point, circles, arrows, write notes – it comes off easily later.

Pencil Pouch – something waterproof to keep your pencils, sharpener, school chalk, erasers, … stuff

QOR watercolors – these are made by Golden – the same company with the premium acrylics – worth EVERY bit of the cost – highly pigmented, true consistent colors, colors the others don’t have, great paints are not something to wait for – get these NOW.  I get mine via Amazon.  Some of the sets are good value for the money and you get a nice container.

Plastic containers – Beauticom Round Clear Jars with Screw Lid – buy to put your watercolor paints in for Plein Air Painting or for just to keep your paints - better than a flat palette.

Iris Project Cases – Amazon – Iris Portable Project Case with buckle – I buy in sets of 10.  These hold my paper, brushes, iPad, paints, and provide a work surface for Plein Air painting.  A “secret weapon” item.

Spray bottles – Any bottle that is small and does a fine mist.

Plastic Wrap – to wrap your art stuff for travel, contain dampness, protect, cushion…

Clear Garbage Bags – to protect your work surface.  You can only be free with your painting if you aren’t worrying about wreaking your work space.

Packing Tape – heavy duty clear works for field repairs, super protection wrapping of your art work, posting boxes home…

Binder Clips – hold pages open in your sketchbook in the wind, impromptu art exhibits, clip paintings to foam core, keep your brushes from rolling off your work surface…

Moleskine Books – this is another one of those “Everyone ends up finding their own favorite paper brand, finish and weight.  This is like kissing a lot of frogs to find the Prince…” things.  My favorite is from some local bookstores or Amazon - Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album A4 Black Hard Cover 12 x 8.5 (Professional Folio Series).  Worth every penny – a “secret weapon”.

Canson XL - Watercolor 9x12" - or comes in various sizes - 140 lb Cold Press - lately this has been my "go to" sketchbook, travel painting, plein air painting, studies, onsite finished painting, "take it with me" Journal.  Yes, it is replacing Moleskine in my kit.  Amazon is the most reliable source.

Backpack – Lightweight yet sturdy, black (hides dirt and paint).  Water bottle pockets.  My goal with Plein Air Painting, Pub Sketching, Travel is to carry at least my sketchbook, Graphitint pencils and some watercolor supplies.

Boots and Hiking Sticks – anytime you are painting Plein Air “out - in the field” in wet or tricky ground - you should always make sure you can get back again.  Stay upright and protect your feet and ankles…  artists are easily distracted by lovely scenery…

Tiny little pipettes - Amazon - 0.2ml Disposable mini transfer pipettes - organic lines and spatters

Flexible printing plates Amazon - inovart presto foam econo pak printing plates 

Photo Backup and Transfer – Picture Keeper Connect is my favorite way to backup and transfer my photos, iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, Mac… somehow this is the current best answer.  Not inexpensive, but iCloud has made me crazy for far too long.  It also requires no internet connection.  Sharper Image, and Amazon.  They sell out all the time.

Mats and frames – locally I use Art Express.  Give them lots of lead time – no last-minute orders.  You need a sales tax license.  Or your local frame store, Hobby Lobby, etc. – for these I try to work in sizes that they already have in off the shelf frames and mats – custom can be tricky.  For inexpensive 12 x 12 frames search for LP album cover frames – Amazon etc.

Frames - If you don't have a resale license to buy wholesale - here is an option much like my favorites from Art Express - try American Frame - - item 206 Natural Maple Wood Picture frame - buy a couple - you can swap canvas panels in and out of these with ease.

Art Supply Warehouse – an art supply membership club – great wholesale prices (no sales tax required to buy), but you have to buy a lot to make up for the yearly membership fee.  Sometimes they are the only source for supplies from overseas.

ENasco – My source for a lot of classroom art supplies.  They have a nice selection of Block Printing / Printmaking items.


Places to Paint

FLPC Wednesday Group – Kathy Bechtel – 616-897-7842 or

FLPC Workshops – Eventbrite or – national, regional, international workshop instructors.

Kendra’s Painters – sorry – not accepting new students at this time

FLPC Classes with Kathleen Mooney - Eventbrite or,,, – my website is probably the best place to look

Independent Traveler / Travel and Painting workshops with Kathleen Mooney – Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Ghost Ranch New Mexico, “Pure” Michigan locations –

Local Art groups, galleries, community spaces



State of Michigan - Sales Tax License – This is not just about the benefit of not paying sales tax when you purchase (this can be more hassle than benefit at big box stores) – it is more for being able to buy from Wholesale Suppliers of framing, big art supply clubs, overseas suppliers, getting discounts for prefessionals… There is a 72$ a year bookkeeping credit on the tax you collect, report and turn in to the state. It is another step in saying "I am an Artist".

Selling/Licensing your art designs - Here are my made in USA / child labor free options.  For fabrics and more home decor visit and  Consumer goods - - young enthusiastic artists, irreverant (and disclaimer - sometimes a little crude). This site is watched by West Elm (a chance to be "discovered").  Also a Canadian source women owned / operated for fashions and fabrics.

Books - self publishing is the BEST. is my favorite.  I use the Magazine format in the best paper.  Technology and design and always more to learn...

YouTube videos - I love to watch them and I love to make them.  It is a big learning curve.  Technology is involved.

Is it a business or a hobby?  Here's a big fuzzy gray area - If this question matters to you - Keep great records - you never know what will work for you come tax time.  It also helps to know how you are doing.  You can ignore all this if it doesn't matter to you.  If you sell a significant amount of art (congratulations!!!) - then it will matter to the state and feds!... it helps to know how much you can / should spend on materials and travel and painting!  Ask your tax person - they are your best source of advice.

Vistaprint - I print their Holiday Cards which are offered at a reduced rate from late November till Christmas each year.  I do the 5 x 7 on heavy mat paper.


Tips and Tricks

Use unscented baby wipes to clean your brushes, keep your hands clean, clean your work space.

Let your acrylics fully dry before you dispose of mixing containers, papers, used up bottles or tubes.  This keeps acrylics out of our water systems.

Only wash your brushes when you are done painting.  First get as much paint off of them as possible.  Use it up on your painting.  Wipe dry on papers you can use for collage, clean with baby wipes, only as a final step go to the sink – run a lot of water directly in the drain or a dedicated washing container.

Inexpensive hair conditioner can make brushes soft again.

Once you use kitchen or household tools in your studio keep them as “studio only” items.  Don’t return to their original use.  Acrylics are bad to ingest!

Keep your hands and workspace as clean as possible.  While most of our materials are fairly safe – don’t let them contaminate your body, kitchen, home, family.  Some materials have cadmium, cobalt, the list is long.  Respect all safety warnings!

Put some unscented trash bags on your work surface to catch watercolor and acrylic.  It will make clean up so much easier.  Let the bags dry.  Bring to my "Make YOUR OWN Collage Paper" workshop.  You will be amazed - some of the best marks are those you painted unintentionally!


Questions?  email me via my website