LZM Blog

Why take drawing lessons?

Why take drawing lessons?

You used to love drawing.

Then something happened:
They told you, you couldn’t draw well.
You couldn’t figure out how to make it look “right”.
They told you, you didn’t have “the eye” for it.

When you were young, they said, “Better stick to writing/basketball/math” or later, “Better stick to your day job”.

Only the people who taught themselves were able to draw, and they were called, “talented”.
“Creativity Scars” (as referred to by Brene Brown) are real and can be quite painful.

However, they are not the whole story, nor are they the end of the journey.

You weren’t expected to divine Taxonomic Classification, intuitively, alone, by trial and error (unless your name was Darwin, or you earned a Phd and were conducting groundbreaking research). No one anticipated that you would teach yourself Long Division, without the aid of an elder imparting the rules, giving you drills, correcting your attempts and encouraging you along the way.They didn’t say you weren’t “gifted” when you couldn’t diagram a sentence – without first being taught the alphabet, how to spell words and how to compose a sentence.
Why is it then, that in schools across our nation, drawing is relegated to talent
– or those who are able to teach themselves how to draw –
rather than broken down into understandable, cumulative steps?

It is like that, because it was rare that our teachers/parents/elders were taught how to draw by a skilled instructor of drawing.

But look back, a little earlier than elementary school and remember when you drew.
We all draw when we are young. It feels good! Next time you have the opportunity, watch a 3 year old draw. Notice, they have no care in the world about what they are drawing! They just like how the crayon feels in their hand… the fluidity of moving their arm across the paper… the sticky wax trail it leaves behind… the movement, the dance of their body and the materials… the power of creation. The sense that making that mark demonstrates that they are there, they exist, they have the power to move matter.
It is only later that the pressure to draw well, or an accurate representation of our world, even matters. The only thing that truly limits our ability to draw other than lack of interest,
is our judgement and our shame that we can’t teach ourselves how to draw.

Drawing is your BIRTHRIGHT.

Holding ourselves back from it because our fear that we can’t do it well disconnects us from our very sacred truth. We are all creative, generative beings who benefit from sharing own vision and experience of the world. Creating builds connection with ourselves, each other and the world around us. It reminds us that we are spiritual beings, powerful beings and that we matter.
Learning to draw is just like the process of learning another language.
There are steps that can be taught. It starts off simple, and then builds as you develop muscle (literally, your brain muscle and your coordination). First you learn about line, proportion and condensing space to the flat page. Then you learn about value, how light falls on objects, texture and soon you’ll find yourself with the ability to compose an image to express yourself.
So you can show us how you see your world, what it’s like to be you;  what moves you and troubles you; so you can communicate something that is beyond words, that is enlivening and speaks to all of our souls.

That is why you should take drawing lessons.

Ophelia, Colored Pencil, 2017 by student of LZM Studio, Phoebe
Ophelia, Colored Pencil, 2017 by student of LZM Studio, Phoebe


LZM Studio welcomes new Drawing Instructor, Win Wallace to our team!


Introducing our new Drawing Instructor, WIN WALLACE.

My students have long requested that I offer weekend lessons, and since I don’t have the gusto to teach 7 days a week, I’ve fallen short of that goal. The timing was just right, in late 2016, for me to seek out a fellow artist to offer additional lessons. I’m pleased to introduce you to my new Instructor, Win Wallace, who will be teaching my curriculum and method of drawing.

Over the last five months, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my teaching techniques with visual artist Win Wallace. Win received his BFA from The University of Texas at Austin. He is a professional artist, represented by galleries & dealers in Austin & Los Angeles, and is passionately focused on drawing.

With his honed skills and kind temperament, paired with intensive teaching training with me, Win is now officially a member of the LZM Studio team as our first additional Drawing Instructor. We are excited to be working together, and I’m happy to share more about Win with you.

Win will be offering drawing lessons
Fridays , Saturdays and Sundays
at a special introductory rate of $60 per 50 minute lesson
for his first six months – a 25% savings compared to regular lesson costs! 

To sign up for Win’s lesson times, please email me (Laurie) directly: lmzstudio@gmail.com 

To see more of Win’s artwork, follow this link or check out his work in person at Wally Workman Gallery in Austin.

Thank you for your trust in me, and now Win, to be your guides. We look forward to seeing you in the studio this Spring.

                                   Laurie Mann
                                   LZM Studio, LLC


Win Wallace, NEW Drawing Instructor at LZM Studio
Carmella the dog, and her person, Win Wallace

LZM: Tell us a little about your journey as an art student and then professional artist?
Win: I have been somewhat obsessed with drawing and art since a pretty young age.  I began taking classes at a local community arts center in Georgia when I was around seven years old.  I continued taking lessons throughout high school, but was always drawing regardless.  After high school, I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas where I received my degree in art.

After college, I was a little baffled as to how to get started in showing and selling art.  I showed at first in restaurants and bars, anywhere that would let me hang my work.  Then I began entering open juried shows at galleries. Through much trial and error, I  have became fortunate enough to do many shows not only in galleries and museums around Texas but in many cities around the country as well as England and Mexico, too.

LZM: What is your favorite subject to draw, and why?
Win: I most like drawing living things (people, animals and plants).  Trying to bring something out on paper that has some life to it is very exciting.  No matter how many times you draw a certain kind of flower or bird or even multiple drawings of the same person something unique always reveals itself.
LZM: What excites you about teaching drawing?
Win: I am excited about being a Drawing Instructor because it is a way to inspire a love and appreciation of drawing in other people.  Even if an individual has no ambition to publicly show their work, just the act of drawing is rewarding in how it helps us see the world around us.  I feel drawing should in some ways be considered occupying a space in our lives similar to reading.  It can be a meditative and relaxing exercise sometimes, or it can be an exercise that helps to inform us about our external world and even about our own minds and unconscious concerns.
LZM: What is a something you are still challenged by in your own drawing practice?
Win: Everyday there is something new to be challenged by, whether its a complex shadow on a fold of a dress, the feathers on a bird in different parts of flight,  the subtle changes in a persons eyes or lips that convey emotions.  There is definitely more than enough to keep anyone challenged for a lifetime, in drawing.

LZM: How long does it usually take you to complete one of your larger pastel drawings? What is your day in the drawing studio like?
Win: My largest portraits that average about 3 feet x 5 feet usually take between 2 and 3 weeks to complete, working 6 days a week at least 6 to 8 hours a day.  I am usually in my studio by 9 and work until at least 5 or 6 in the evening. The strange thing about it though is when I am drawing the day seems to pass too quickly, as if eight hours was really only one or two.
LZM: What is your favorite drawing tool that you just couldn’t live without in the studio?
Win: An HB pencil, most likely.  It’s pretty much the most versatile. If you have nothing but an HB pencil and some paper you can still make a beautiful finished piece of art.
LZM: If you could time travel, who’s art studio would you want to visit or who is one of your art heroes?
Win: Pieter Brueghel’s studio would have been interesting to visit and see how he put together some of his epic paintings. Or possibly Diego Rivera’s – not so much because of the art but all the interesting people that hung around his studio in Mexico City.  Most of my favorite artists are from the Baroque era and the Northern Renaissance.  However I am somewhat obsessed with art history, so I have favorites in most of the different eras and movements of art.

We are excited to welcome our new Drawing Instructor, Win Wallace to LZM Studio.

Win Wallace's artwork, Drawing Instructor at LZM Studio
The Admiral by Win Wallace, Charcoal, Pencil & Conte, 36 in. x 42 in.

Austin Summer Camps for Your Creative Kiddo

Austin Summer Camps for Your Creative Kiddo

The Contemporary Art School Summer Camps
In Under the Sea summer camp, we made Socktopus toys!

Parents of the kids I work with are often asking me about Austin summer camps that I recommend. It takes so much education to supplement what schools are providing, and parents wish to create a well balanced human being. These are places in Austin I recommend for adding some soul to your kids’ summers. Here is my list of favorites – selected either because of what I think they might contribute to round out a full world view or from the awesome buzz I hear from clients who have attended the camps. I’ll edit this list each year as enrollment times roll around.

Coming soon, LZM Studio will be offering our very own Austin Summer Camp: a cartooning class/camp with an expert Illustrator who will help your kids create a character and develop it, draw it from different angles and pop them into your very own story. We’ll keep you updated as this develops, because we just can’t wait!

Until then, here are the very best of Austin summer camps that I know of!

Art Summer Camps to Supplement Your Drawing Lessons:

No better way to investigate what your kid is retaining from their drawing lessons with LZM Studio, than to test out those skills in another environment. There are so many great art camps available. Try some of these locations.

The Contemporary Austin Art School

Tons of clay, computers, painting, drawing for all ages. These classes do fill up fast!

Smudge Studios

Right around the corner from LZM Studio! Easy to attend your drawing lesson right after your camp wraps up for a whole day of art learning.

Dougherty Art School

City run art camps and easily jump into Zilker right after camp.


For the Entrepreneurial, Independent Thinker:


Paper making and fairy house building – a place for your kid to find a friend as smart and quirky as they are!

Austin Tinkering School

Power tools, forts and independent ideas? Sign me up!

Moolah U

Create a business and keep the profits, within a 5 day camp!


For the Film Buff:

Austin Film Society

Turn the littlest film critic into a film maker in their own right!


For the Budding Video Game Designer:

Minecraft Coding Camps

Why play video games when you can learn to build them?


For the Bookworm/Adventurist:

Camp Half Blood

My students adore this camp, so it is no wonder that enrollment is usually filled immediately.


For Building Gross Motor Skills to Complement the Fine Motor Skills of Drawing:

Austin Bouldering Project

You might just run into me here after I’m done teaching for the day!

The Little Yoga House

Yoga is a wonderful complementary practice to drawing, and these camps for littles sound like a sweet combo of full body movement, nature and crafts.


Because You Can’t Neglect Your Brain All Summer Long:

Math For Keeps

So you might as well replenish your math skills while dancing with Lacie!


Austin summer camps can provide so much fun, learning, stretching and breaks from the incessant heat and grind of school. I hope some of these choices will be favorites you return to again and again.

Graphite Pencil Review: For the Love of the Graphite Pencil


graphite pencils
Graphite pencils up for review

I have a love of the simple graphite pencil that runs deep. A few months ago, I splurged and bought SIX SETS of graphite pencils! It was like Christmas in… errrrr…. December, actually. Why does anyone need 80+ pencils, or to measure them monetarily, more than $100+ worth of pencils? To be honest, really no one needs that many pencils, even this artist who draws every day. However, as I have been teaching drawing nearly every day for the last 10+ years, my new students often come into the studio with some far out brand of graphite pencil I’ve never heard of and have never used before. Some of them are the super cheapos, and don’t make the cut. I can usually tell just by watching my students using the pencils if they are a lesser quality. However others are a higher quality – but still a brand I’ve never used. So I opted to try a few well known brands of graphite pencils and a few lesser known brands to see the pros and cons of them all. Follow along to see my detailed opinions on the good, the bad, and the ugly!


What are the biggest differences between cheap pencils and the more expensive ones? You really do get what you pay for – it isn’t a scam. At Michael’s you can purchase 12 Artist’s Loft brand drawing pencils in a set with 6 other drawing tools for a mere $5. Yep, five bucks. Seems like a bargain, doesn’t it? However, I promise you, the pencil will break in the pencil sharpener a lot – so what appears to be a great deal will get eaten up 2-3 times faster than the expensive pencils, and your sanity will be lost in the meantime while sharpening, sharpening, breaking, sharpening, breaking, sharpening and did I mention, sharpening again? In case that doesn’t convince you to save yourself the hassle, the texture of the pencils will not be as high a quality. You’ll notice small particles of graphite that scratch the page. The texture will be more rough. And they won’t feel as smooth and creamy on the page (even the harder pencils will have snags or irregularities in them). Often times in cheaper pencils, the quality of wood that is used to hold the graphite is lesser quality and splinters off in sharpening, creating a rough edge that can also snag the paper and irritate your hand. And then, try to find out what company makes that brand or what their environmental impact policies are? If you somehow find it on the wormhole of the internet, by all means, please let me know. I’m just stabbing in the dark here, but I’m guessing they’re likely made by some child laborer who has never been able to afford their own pencil, at the price of .05 cents per pencil. While that might not bother you, I’d feel awfully guilty about teaching kids to draw, at the cost of other children in the world doing hard labor in graphite mines. I have yet to find evidence of this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. It is expected that it costs more, to be a conscious consumer.

Many quality pencils are made by a few historic brands, that have been around for hundreds of years. There are a few newly popular brands that I’ve also reviewed here. What they have in common is: they don’t break as frequently (on their own or in a pencil sharpener); they have fewer snags in the graphite and won’t scratch your page as much; the texture is consistent; there is information about the company and it’s practices on the internet. The other thing they have in common is they are a higher cost – but there is a range of costs from .75 cents to $2.40 per pencil – so you should still be able to find a brand that fits your budget.


The brands I have used most recently are Derwent and Marco Raffine. I also purchased new sets of Faber-Castell 9000, Caran D’ache, Tombow Mono Homo-Graph and Mitsubishi Hi-uni pencils. For all of the graphite pencils, I’ll assess them based on these characteristics:

  • cost
  • frequency of the lead breaking
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
  • carrying case
  • labeling
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
  • information about the company/resources


This has been my go-to pencil for 10 years, but that is about to change. It has been my automatic graphite pencil because there is a Jerry’s Artarama near my studio and this is the pencil they stock that you can buy individually. Being able to buy pencils individually is a benefit, as there are times I use more 4B’s than anything else, so I wouldn’t want to buy a whole set for just the one pencil. However, now that internet shopping has gotten so easy, I don’t feel as restricted by what is nearby- even though I do like to support local stores. The reason this will no longer be my go-to pencil is because of breakage: in this experiment, I’ve found that the quality is lesser than some of the other pencils I’ve tried, and they are breaking more frequently than the other brands. Breakage drives me bonkers. You don’t want to deal with it all the time, especially when it is an 8 year old student having troubles with breakage (little kids usually break their pencils more than adults due to lack of motor skills & impatience).

  • cost:
    • $9.99 + tax/shipping for the 12 Degree Tin Set, or .83 cents per pencil +tax/shipping
  • frequency of the lead breaking:
    • The soft pencils break quite frequently, and often seem to be broken throughout the wood casing rather than breaking from sharpening. The harder pencils are more reliable and break less often.
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • fit in standard sharpeners, wood sharpens neatly
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • both sets (with and without cases) and individuals
  • carrying case
    • tin case is flimsy and hinges often break; opens when dropped
  • labeling:
    • labeled on butt of pencil & side; the pencil number & letters are extremely difficult to read; often the label on the butt of the pencil is missing. I also swear that several times I have bought what was labelled as a soft pencil but was in fact a hard pencil (I believe they were mis-labelled).
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • nice, rather light
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • often gets small snags in graphite that run throughout the pencil
  • information about the company/resources
    • Founded in 1992 in Shanghai, China as Axus (Marco) Stationary. Unless you can read Chinese, it is difficult to find out information about this company & its practices, as the English version of the website is permanently “under construction”.


Derwent pencils have been around since 1832 so they’re tried and true. While I like the company, I don’t love the pencils these days. It is sad, because they promote an environmental approach to their business: they’ve developed a solvent-free paint application system, to improve air quality where they manufacture in England; they burn the sawdust created in manufacturing to heat the factories in winter, etc. It is a staple pencil and old quality company, but the product hasn’t compared well to the others.

  • cost
    • $24.46 + tax/shipping on Amazon for 24 count range from 9H to 9B, or $1.01 per pencil + tax/shipping
  • frequency of the lead breaking
    • breaks frequently, especially the soft pencils
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • fits in standard sharpeners, wood chips and tears causing rough edges
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • mostly sets, (with and without cases)
  • carrying case
    • sturdy, opens when dropped
  • labeling
    • it has the annoying orange swirl that leads you round and round to find the label
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • the paint is very rough, so the feel is not as lovely as some of the other pencils
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • this seems to be up to snuff, but the other factors minimize this bonus
  • information about the company/resources
    • the company is an old one, and transparent online with environmental standards available for consumers to read


These were the winners of the pencil comparison! I love these pencils. The weight, the smooth lacquer paint, the labeling, the sharpening, the feel of the pencils are fantastic. Bonus, I’m a fan of the color scheme.

  • cost
    • I ordered these individually on Blick, and must have had a coupon because I paid .90 cents per pencil + tax/shipping, in December, while today I see them listed for $1.12 each +tax/shipping. They are also available on Amazon and Tombow’s site.
  • frequency of the lead breaking
    • it hasn’t happened yet- a pencil miracle!
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • fantastic
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • both available
  • carrying case
    • I didn’t buy a carrying case, so I can’t say.
  • labeling
    • clear, consistent
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • I love the glossy lacquer paint and these have a nice weight to them
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • consistent, and seem to run soft, smooth, creamy
  • information about the company/resources
    • The company was established in 1913 in Japan, and in the US in 1983 and information seems to be slightly less transparent but still available online.


These pencils were a close second, but were not my favorites due to price and fit in the sharpener.

  • cost
    • these were a little more expensive at $1.25 per pencil +tax/shipping
  • frequency of the lead breaking
    • has not happened, they are high quality
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • these sharpen neatly without breaking, but they do not fit in my standard pencil sharpeners, which just make them all around more difficult to use.
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • I was only able to find these on Amazon as a set with a case
  • carrying case
    • Sturdy, closes tightly
  • labeling
    • A+ labelling, the pencil hardness is labelled on every facet of the pencil!
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • This pencil has a nice heavy weight to it, and the lacquer is nice
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • High quality, consistent
  • information about the company/resources
    • This pencil seems to be manufactured/distributed in the US by Uni and it has very little information on it’s US website. The lack of transparency does bring into question several factors.


Faber-Castell is an old German graphite pencil manufacturer that has been around since 1660, manufacturing this particular line of pencils since 1905. I have used these pencils before, and wanted to love them. They just seemed kind of stiff, and tended to run a little harder than the other brands did.

  • cost
    • I bought the set of 15 on Blick that came with a fabric case, pencil sharpener, eraser and 12 pencils for $18.94 when I bought it, or about $1.26 per item + tax/shipping. I like the case, but won’t be using the eraser or pencil sharpener, so the extra expense isn’t worth it to me. I also noted that today’s price on Blick is less, at $17.97, about a $1 less or $1.19 per pencil + tax/shipping.
  • frequency of the lead breaking
    • This hasn’t happened, but I’m not entirely sure I’ve used them enough to tell
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • Fits in standard pencil sharpener, sharpens fine.
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • Both sets (with and without cases) and individuals
  • carrying case
    • Fabric, ok quality with room for other erasers, rulers, etc.
  • labeling
    • Fine.
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • Fine.
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • This pencil seems to run harder than the other brands. It just feels stiff and harder and less creamy or luscious.
  • information about the company/resources
    • Information on the company’s site is easy to find. They seem to have similar environmental practices as Derwent, using sawdust to heat manufacturing facilities, environmental paint, etc.


The grand finale are the Caran D’ache Graphwood pencils that I’ve longed to buy for years. I’ve fallen in love with Caran D’ache watercolor and color pencils- they are the creamiest, dreamiest pencils ever and so I coveted these puppies. For one, they look amazing: the shade of the paint on the pencil reveals the hardness of the pencil. If you’re reaching for a 3H, go for a light light gray paint on the pencil barrel. If you’re wanting a 3B, go for a medium gray; a 7B, grab the dark gray barrel. For artists who are working intently, this visual ease in finding the right pencil is brilliant. However, these pencils will set you back a pretty penny, and I can’t quite justify it for every day use. Maybe just a special treat every now and then? But who needs pencils lying around their studio that feel too precious to use? Not me.

  • cost
    • at $2.38 per pencil +tax/shipping, these pencils feel like they’re breaking the bank
  • frequency of the lead breaking
    • not too frequently, but occasionally in the softer pencils
  • fit in pencil sharpener, neatness of sharpening
    • These pencils are wider than the standard pencil sharpener, making them an automatic annoyance in my opinion. The wood did chip occasionally too.
  • purchase as a set or individual pencils?
    • Both (with case) or indivicual
  • carrying case
    • I didn’t buy one.
  • labeling
    • Who needs # and letter labels when you have the AMAZING color coding!
  • feel of graphite pencil in the hand
    • Thick, nice weight
  • feel of the graphite pencil on the page/texture consistency
    • Good, but not 2 times better than the other pencils, as you might expect with the price!
  • information about the company/resources
    • Swiss company around since 1915, but not as much information on their site, unless you’re a French speaker.



There was a clear winner in my mind, the Tombow Mono graphite pencils. Yet to review, but may someday be added: Staedtler and Generals. And if you have another far out brand that you just adore or are curious about, please do let me know. I’m quite content talking about pencils all day long!

Recommended Gift Art Supplies for the Budding Artist

Here are some great gift ideas for the art lover in your life – just as the holiday season approaches. I posted something similar a couple of seasons ago, but this updated list includes new finds and changes due to suppliers and technology. These are my recommended gift art supplies for the budding artist!

Art supplies make a perfect gift–because it is the gift of an experience–something that will reward the receiver for much longer than just the holiday season. They are the tools that give the art lover in your life a learned skill that lasts. On that note, here are some of my most coveted supplies with links to easy online suppliers at a good price. Happy shopping!


For the Up and Coming Digital Artist

Iskn, the Slate: For those, like me, who can’t give up a pencil and paper that feels earthly/like tree pulp, the Slate allows you to draw or paint with any material and translate it into digital copy. http://www.iskn.co/ 


For the Artist with a Sore Neck

Daler-Rowney Art Sphere Easel: A great table top easel that I’ve found to be sturdy and flexible – a tough combination to find. It can be positioned in so many ways – and relieves you from craning your neck too much. This is an inexpensive solution to neck and back pain while drawing. 


For the Pencil Artist

Stonehenge Paper: Buy it in various drawing pad sizes, or by the sheet, and tear it down to the right size. Stonehenge is a luscious cotton printmaker’s paper that is great for wet and dry mediums. It is my go-to paper for all of my artwork. Various prices. Worth the extra expense for purposeful projects.

X-Acto Manual Pencil Sharpener: This is the only pencil sharpener I use when making my own artwork. The blades stay sharp and create the finest point on a pencil I’ve ever seen. Unlike electric pencil sharpeners, you have more control, can see the point while you are sharpening the pencil. The best part is you can open the device to remove broken leads that get jammed in the sharpener- which is common when using soft artist pencils. I love you, X-Acto, for making this sharpener! About $14. Worth every penny!

Tombow Mono Zero 2.3 mm Round Eraser: If you can’t purchase any more Tuff Stuff Erasers at your local store (online retailers have them priced at $27 a piece!), order the best replacement eraser you’ll ever need- the Tombow Mono Zero 2.3mm Round Eraser. You may also wish to purchase the larger rectangular one, especially if you’re erasing a lot or with harder pressure (ie. especially for kids). And get a few refills while you’re at it as they won’t last long.

Caran d’Ache Colored Pencils and Watercolor Pencils: Caran d’Ache are tip top of the line for colored pencils. Soft and creamy, and high quality- they will set you back, and, because of this, maybe aren’t recommended for kids. But if you’re serious about color work, treat yourself! These pencils run about $3-5 per pencil but you can often get sales from online suppliers which are worth seeking out.

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils: Prismalcolor are a great quality for the price, and I’d recommend them for both kids and adults who aren’t yet certain whether they want to pursue work in color. The problem with the low quality colored pencil sets you can buy at the grocery store and the ones marketed for kids at craft stores, is the colors are hard and don’t layer well. Also, the wood and colored center will often break when sharpening. You really do get what you pay for in a pencil. Spend a little extra and save yourself a lot of irritation. I advise that you buy the Premier or Softcore Prismacolors which are soft and easy to layer, instead of the Verithin Prismacolors which are hard and as the name states, very thin. Prismacolors run about $1 per pencil.

Prismacolor Color Blenders: Purchase a couple of these when you buy your colored pencils. Colorless blenders have the wax and binders of colored pencils without the pigment. Blenders help to blend colors and burnish your colors when drawing. They are sometimes hard to find in town, so if you’re already paying for shipping for a bigger purchase, add a few of these to your order. About $1 per pencil.


For the Watercolor Artist

Watercolor Travel Set: A small, inexpensive travel pan of watercolors is a great way to begin. Why not buy Crayola watercolors for your kids? Because for just a little more, you can get a professional grade paint for more years of memories. 

Hot Press Watercolor Paper: Hot vs cold press paper can be confusing – hot is not made for keeping you warm over the winter! Cold = textured; Hot = smooth. If you’re delving into watercolors, purchase some hot press paper to start with- you’ll love it. 

How to Draw Videos, a New Website & Moving Art Studios (twice!) – oh my!

Hey all! Just wanted to pop on and say SORRY my blogging has taken a backseat for over a year now! 2015 brought an anticipated and much planned for studio/office move in June; followed by the start of my filming online tutorials for you immediately after. It was quite a project! And then what happened was an unplanned and unanticipated studio/office move in October; the planned for website reconstruction and launch of the youtube channel and videos at the same time. All while teaching a couple of group classes and about 20-25 students a week and running the business. Whew! All I can say is that I’m happy I survived (especially the unanticipated studio move, that was the worst!). The new studio/office, new website and new videos are awesome! I’m loving life, my students, and the work I do with all you as usual. I hope you check out the tutorials online here on the site, or on YouTube. Will be bringing some musings to you again by blog, but mostly you’ll see me in the new video formats- with one new free video being posted EVERY WEEK! So stop by the and check out the LZM Studio Video Tutorials on site or LZM Studio YouTube Channel and say hi! Show me what you’re working on in your drawings, and let’s connect. Here is to a breezy 2016!

“Tweaking Is Essential to the Drawing Process (If Steve Jobs Did It, Why Won’t You?)

“Tweaking Is Essential to the Drawing Process (If Steve Jobs Did It, Why Won’t You?)

A form of “analysis paralysis” I see my adult drawing students commonly put themselves through is the idea that they have to get something drawn correctly the first time they draw it. This drive for perfection straight out of the gate is horrible for our self esteem, especially when we’re faced with a task we have not yet mastered! I often remind students that they don’t know how to imagine the perfect drawing in their head because they have to use their fine motor skills to actually execute the drawing. Fine motor skills are a factor within their control, but more often than not those skills are underdeveloped in adulthood.  Because of that, the moving of the hand is a game changer- you can’t just “picture it” and be done! And if you’re like most of us, you need to be prepared for making adjustments. Enter the tweak. Tweaking is essential to the drawing process. How about giving yourself permission to try and try again?

In art school, students learn to become comfortable with the process of visual editing and refinement- the tweak. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it is hard on the ego, but critiquing is a vital part of the process of becoming an artist. In early years, a project is assigned, time is given in class to work independently and with the instructor, and upon the due date, a critique happens. Everyone displays the results of their project and each piece is discussed as a group for its individual merits and deficits and in comparison to the other results. It is the space where the most learning happens, because you see successes and failures side by side. It can be devastating or elating if your identity is enmeshed with your project. But if you can separate yourself from your work, you can grow rapidly in this setting. “In-progress critiques” often happen so that major rerouting can take place before the final critique, when necessary. Refining your work in this way is the best way to master your craft. Enter Steve Jobs.

While Jobs was renowned for being temperamental and difficult to please, he was masterful at the refinement process. We all appreciate the attention to detail and design he  gifted to the world. I promise you, never was a first attempt at an Apple product introduced to the world. He’s quoted as saying “Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.”. So why do we think we should be above this process at the onset of drawing?

In the New Yorker article, The Tweaker, distinguished writer and thinker Malcolm Gladwell explains how “This sort of tweaking is essential to progress.” One of the phrases I use is “the Goldilocks Rule of Drawing”. First the line is too big. Usually we overcorrect and make a line that is then too small. Sometimes it is the 3rd or 18th line that eventually ends up in the correct place. But without permission and expectation of the “tweak”, we are instead left with a not so hot looking drawing. I personally would rather allow the tweak to just quitting when it looks bad. How about you?

Overthinking Could Suffocate Your Drawing Practice

Overthinking Could Suffocate Your Drawing Practice

Dear Adults:

I know we’ve been trained to believe our gray matter is our greatest asset: that our high caliber brain will lead to fame, fortune and the success we aim to achieve. Or at the very least, we will continue to stay alive, get along with our coworkers, and remember to turn off the coffee machine before it starts smoking, right? We let that noodle grind through problem after problem, day and night, being a slave to our analysis of each potentially prickly new situation life throws our way. But overthinking could be suffocating your drawing practice.

But when it comes to your drawing practice, Nike had it right when they said “Just Do It”. It applies to fine art as well as sports because both practices are about developing motor skills and muscle memory, not just imagining something in your head. When drawing, thinking harder about how to do it will definitely make your process take longer, but it won’t necessarily make it look better. There are complex reasons for this that neuroscientists could explain better than I could… I’m going to attempt to connect a few of these dots for you in an effort to convince you to quiet your thoughts and get your hands and eyes engaged if you want to improve your drawings.

Seeing Occurs in Your Brain

It might sound contradictory to say “think less in order to draw better”, because neuroscience knows we actually see with our brains, not our eyes. There is a beautiful Radiolab episode called Seeing In Tongues that follows up with a young artist named Emilie, who we first met in another podcast that told the story of when she was hit by a truck and lost her sight. Grab a box of tissues, and take a listen, because it is a powerful story.  In Seeing In Tongues, we meet Emilie as she is testing a new device that enables her to see blurry forms again. Scientists explain that our retinas merely send electrical signals to the brain as bits of information and the brain converts the signals into what we see. It is the communication on the pathways within the brain that enable us to see, rather than our eyes alone, so you can stop telling your kids to “open their eyes”. Science is now developing tools to help people whose neuropathways can be re-routed to allow for some vision to occur once again. Our brains help us to see, but they also really get in the way of processing the information.

Ramping Down Parts of the Brain Aids in Visual Information Processing

To understand a what we can actually control while we’re drawing, we can look to studies such as Taraz Lee’s out of UC Santa Barbara’s Action Lab. This study interrupts the prefrontal cortex function in both implicit memory – “a form of long-term memory not requiring conscious thought and expressed by means other than words” and explicit memory – “another kind of long-term memory formed consciously that can be described in words”. In this study, participants were shown an image and moments later asked to select the one they were shown out of two images. When their brains were manipulated to interrupt explicit memory- the verbal, conscious part- they remembered the images better. Implicit memory, that isn’t conscious is better at identifying the correct image. The proof is in the gray pudding: over analysis does cause paralysis and sometimes our conscious efforts to try harder get in the way.

Now lets get to the point: where do I see this affecting adults who are trying to learn to draw? Adults would often rather think than do and make a mistake. We believe that if we just consider how to make that outline more carefully, it will turn out better on the page. This is a habit we’ve developed while sitting in a desk in school or our offices, writing emails and sitting in meetings. How many times did a parent or teacher tell you to “Use your head!” when you were little. It can pay off, when the activity you are engaging in is a verbal, analytical activity that doesn’t involve motor skills, which much of our Western culture employs in schools and the workplace. In fact, it pays off when the activity uses motor skills, too- looking both ways before you cross the street is usually wise!

But in drawing, I usually see adults who think themselves into a corner and take a half hour to do a simple outline that could be done in 5 minutes. This is the telltale sign that they are thinking too much in order to cope with their fear of messing up. What they really need is permission to play and permission to fail.  A gentle reminder from me that there are no dire consequences to creating a bad drawing is often enough. Drawing is not life and death – it isn’t going to war, unless you are going to war with yourself – thank goodness! Yet, beginning a drawing practice is likely to make you feel very vulnerable – and many of us have creativity scars from our past (I promise to write another blog about Brene Brown’s the Power of Vulnerability and how it relates to learning drawing). However, overthinking will not protect you from making a bad drawing, because you have to get your eyes to talk to your brain and your brain to talk to your hands and they all have to dance the dance together. Just like in sports, you have to actually move your body, not just your prefrontal cortex, to start making things of beauty and awe. Everyone can do this if they are willing to make “things of ugly” first. We crawl before we walk. We mess up in order to learn. The only thing holding you back is your head. So ask it to stop reading this… pick up the nearest pencil… and draw something that looks really awful just for fun… and then do it again, without judgement or criticism. Because it is the sure fire way to get from this drawing on the LEFT, (day one of Brooke’s drawing class) to the drawing on the RIGHT, (a few hours of work after Brooke’s 10th drawing class):IMG_5591


Art Supplies for the Budding Artist

Still looking for holiday presents for your favorite budding artist? These are the essential drawing art supplies I can’t live without! Many of these are on my newly updated Recommended Supplies list, however, some of these are not because they go beyond my basic supplies for drawing lessons. Nothing beats the gift of art supplies, because it is the gift of an experience- something that will reward the receiver for much longer than just the holiday season, and will give your favorite person a learned skill that lasts. Here are my most coveted tools, with links to easy online suppliers.

Laurie’s Favorite Art Tools

For the iPad Artist:

Adonit Jot Pro Fine Point Stylus: iPad stylus that has a very fine tip that simulates a pen/pencil, so no more clumsy fingers or foam tip stylus problems! About $25-30.

Sketches iPad app: A great FREE app that has pens/paintbrushes/colors included. Free.

Paper 53 iPad app: A popular drawing app that has a great following and gallery online. App is free, but you have to buy more tools/colors, etc.


For the Pencil Artist:

Stonehenge Paper: Buy it in all sizes of drawing pads or by the sheet and tear it down to the right size. This is a luscious cotton printmaker’s paper that is great for wet and dry mediums. It is my go to paper for all of my own artwork. Various prices. Worth the extra expense for purposeful projects.

X-Acto Suction Pencil Sharpener: This is the only pencil sharpener I use when making my own drawings. It is superior to any other sharpener I’ve ever used! The blades stay sharp and create the finest point on a pencil I’ve ever seen. Unlike electric pencil sharpeners you have more control, can see the point while you are sharpening the pencil and can open the device to remove broken leads that get jammed in the sharpener- which is common when using soft artist pencils. I love you, X-Acto, for making this sharpener! About $12. Worth every penny!

Refills for your Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick: Everyone who works with me knows the joy of this eraser! But they also know the dismay when they run out of the erasers. Refills are always always always needed!

Caran d’Ache Colored Pencils and Watercolor Pencils: The tip top of the line colored pencils. Soft and creamy, and high quality. They will set you back, and maybe aren’t recommended for kids because of that. But if you’re getting serious about color work, treat yo-self! These pencils run about $3-5 per pencil, but you can often get sales from online suppliers which are worth seeking out in this case/

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils: These are a great quality for the price, and I’d recommend them for both kids and adults who aren’t certain they want to pursue work in color. The problem with the low quality colored pencil sets you can buy at the grocery store and the ones marketed for kids at craft stores is the colors are hard and don’t layer well, and the wood and colored center will often break when sharpening. You really do get what you pay for in a pencil. Spend a little extra and save yourself a lot of irritation! I advise that you buy the Premier or Softcore Prismacolors which are soft and easy to layer, instead of the Verithin Prismacolors which are hard and as the name states, very thin. Prismacolors run about $1 per pencil.

Prismacolor Colorless Blenders: Go ahead and buy a couple of these while you’re buying colored pencils. Colorless blenders have the wax and binders of colored pencils without the pigment. They help to blend colors and burnish your colors when drawing. They are sometimes hard to find in town, so if you’re already paying for shipping for a bigger purchase, add a few of these to your order. About $1 per pencil.

Your Kids Can Draw the Same Things as a College Art Student!

Let me say that again. Your kids can draw the same thing as a college art student! I taught at community colleges and universities for 5 years before I started teaching private lessons full time at LZM Studio. I teach your kids as early as age 7 the same content they would learn in a college drawing class. I’ve done this for 8 years, so I’ve seen the results tested over time- and I can assure you- your child is capable of drawing much more than your schools will tell you.

Ella's cone drawing, age 7
Ella’s cone drawing, age 7

Ella is a wonderful example of this. She is just 7, but she is highly motivated to learn sophisticated drawing techniques. One day she saw some of my drawings of basic shapes that I had worked on with an adult student. As her eyes lit up, she gasped “I want to draw that!!!” with an urgency that surprised me. I will slowly test the waters with more difficult skill sets such as shading and perspective with a youngster of her age. Often times I attempt a difficult skill set with them, and discover due to stages of brain development that we are trying something too difficult too soon. I wait a few months and attempt again. When they are ready, we move forward with each new skill. It isn’t an exact science, as brains develop at different rates and ages. Often a 7 year old is not ready for this skill development, but an 8 year old is. However, I’ve had 10 year olds who were resistant to learning more adult styles of drawing, and I’ve worked with 5 year olds who drew their ceiling fan in accurate perspective! So there is a spectrum that all of our kids fall within. Ella and I had been working on developing her confidence with her drawings, so I didn’t think she’d want to try something that challenging, but this is a girl who knows what she wants, and she jumped in with gusto! She is proof that kids can draw complicated concepts such as how light falls over a curved form, and revel in it. In fact, here is Ella, gleefully celebrating her accomplishment once she finished her cone drawing!

Ella celebrating her completion of her cone drawing and reveling in my encouragement!
Ella celebrating her completion of her cone drawing and reveling in my encouragement!

I do need to remind parents that just because your 7 year old will draw in perspective and shade three dimensional forms in lessons with me- they won’t likely start drawing like that on their own just yet. That transition you’ll see in kids ages 9-12, as they are motivated to draw things that look realistic at those ages more than the 5-8 year old set. The younger kids are still using drawing as language acquisition, storytelling and processing their experiences- and those drawings are done much faster and mostly with line elements. The same day Ella finished her cone drawing with me, she drew this drawing during her break time, based on the whimsical, magical drawings in the book Max Makes a Million, by Maira Kalman (one of my favorite books to share with kids- I highly recommend it!).

Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry Girls and Lemon Boy by Ella