Art Supply Encyclopedia
continues to grow everyday, some of the new content we add is big (like a video course) while others are small, but are starting to accumulate and have much more of a presence. At times it’s tough to prioritize what to post next, because every piece of new content is important, but for different reasons.

One part of the site that was initially problematic for us for several months was the Art Supply Encyclopedia. Unlike other parts of site which seemed to dictate their own formats in a fairly straightforward manner, we struggled with how to present the content in a way that would invite more exploration in that section.

For a while, the art supplies section was also quite dormant, it was by far the least visited section of the site and it became glaringly clear that it was because of the format/presentation of the content. After lots of troubleshooting (and lots of mistakes) I think we finally have it figured out.

I’m prioritizing this section because it’s the type of section that needs a large quantity of small entries to be useful. So it’s a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow that will accumulate over time and hopefully be a fun place for people to discover new art supplies. I’m frequently surprised that a lot of people don’t take the initiative to try out lots of different art supplies, hopefully access to a resource like that will encourage people to familiarize themselves with new tools!


Travel Tutorials

To me, a sign of a good project is one that inspires you to continually invent new ideas. Art Prof is fulfilling that requirement times a hundred! Any time I start to think that our content is diverse enough, something else popups up that stimulates another approach.  This Taiwan trip is absolutely one of those moments. Drawing, shooting, editing, while traveling in a foreign country was certainly a gigantic challenge, but I loved every minute of it.

Added to Art Prof’s 2018 wish list:  a budget that would let us produce travel tutorials! Please consider a monthly or one-time donation, every amount matters!


Quiet Moments of Drawing


When you work on site in a public space, it’s common for people who pass by to make comments about your drawing, sometimes to the point where it’s so distracting that you feel like you can’t be productive with your drawings.  I lived in Italy for 9 months during my junior year at art school, and many of the sites I drew at were so packed with tourists that frequently there would be far more foreigners present that native Italians. It was rare for me to be able to draw at these sites and not be interrupted continuously by commenting tourists.

By contrast, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that people have commented on my drawings here in Taiwan over the past 2 weeks.  The few comments I’ve gotten are extremely minimal and barely even noticeable. I can work in complete solitude in almost every site I visit which has been lovely. A large part of that is that most of the sites we’ve visited are in small towns in Taiwan, and so they aren’t quintessential tourist destinations the way the Colosseum in Rome is in.  I’m also traveling with my parents, who are from Taiwan, and so we’re able to visit much more obscure areas that I know I wouldn’t make the effort to get to on my own.


I love being able to draw in silence on site, immersing myself in the drawing process without an audience, it’s such a completely different experience that I’m grateful to have. The most “touristy” site we visited was the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, and the space was so grand that I didn’t feel inspired to draw the site. That on top of the crowds of tourists taking corny poses and using selfie sticks wasn’t exactly motivation to site down and draw!

Happy Accidents


When traveling in a foreign country, so much of what happens is completely out of your control.  Which means that when you’re trying to draw on site, pretty much everything is out of your control, even when you think you’ve found a relatively “stable” site to draw.

In the B&B we stayed at in Taitung, there was a house with a pile of random clutter on both the left and right side of the house. I was excited, because if I sat on the steps of the B&B I had a perfect view of the site and could work on the drawings during down time.

My family left one afternoon to go to the hot spring down the street, and I had the rare opportunity to stay behind and work on drawings by myself. I sat myself on the steps of the B&B, confident that not only would I have plenty of time to draw, but that the scene was a stable one that wouldn’t change.


How completely wrong I was!  I went to get my brush pens, only to realize that my family had taken my small travel bag with them, the one that had the set of brown brush pens I usually use!  I brought many brush pens, but the ones that were left behind were super bright colors that I didn’t want to use, and black ones, which I don’t like as much because they are very bluish.  I was annoyed about not having my brown brush pens, so I settled for the black ones and a warm yellow one.

After drawing for about 30 minutes, I realized that it was starting to get dark, so my “stable” site for drawing quickly turned into a completely different scene.  All of the objects I had spent time articulating disappeared into the darkness and I couldn’t believe my bad luck between this and not having the brush pens I wanted!

I’ve learned to accept that this is just the way it’s going to be when drawing and traveling, so instead I embraced the darkness of the scene and created two night scenes:  one of the house and another of a street lamp which was a few feet downwards.


Looking at these 2 night drawings, I’m actually glad things turned out the way they did.  I don’t think I would have elected to 1) use my black brush pens or 2) draw a night scene on my own. Most of the brush pen drawings I’ve done on the trip so far have been pretty light, or had a full range of tones.  Being limited to so many dark tones was a challenge, and I’m glad that I had this experience!

Finding a Different Kind of Beauty


We were in Hualien the last few days, which has incredible mountains in Taroko Park with breathtaking views. The landscape is so completely different than anything I’ve ever seen, and it is amazing to see.

You would think these views would inspire me in terms of drawing, but I’ve been finding that I don’t have any interest in drawing these quintessential views of the country.  Perhaps because I feel that my drawings cannot compete with the real thing?  Either way, I’ve been much more attracted to small moments that I’ve discovered down the road from where we are staying, or somewhere across the street.

Compared to where I live in the US, the small towns we’ve been visiting are pretty run down.  The streets aren’t maintained at all, and it’s not uncommon to walk down a road and see a rusty, abandoned bicycle on the sidewalk or random pieces of broken wood and tires. Despite how dilapidated a lot of these areas are, I find them very beautiful.

These scenes are also a big challenge to draw, everything is so cluttered and unkempt that there’s no logical form or structure that you can follow. Although occasionally you can spot a bicycle wheel or a rope in the pile of objects, most of what you see is so cluttered that it just looks like a decrepit pile of undefined objects. I have to squint a lot when I draw, observe the forms really carefully, and be okay throwing down marks that really don’t seem to make any sense in the context of the drawing.


Drawing, Traveling, Shooting, Editing


I’m a workaholic, and although working is incredibly satisfying to me, I’ll also admit that it makes me a little crazy at times.  Which is why this trip to Taiwan is exactly what I needed in terms of stepping away from my life and trying to reset.  In terms of Art Prof, this past year has definitely been the most stressful of the entire project; the site launch alone I think took 10 years off my life, and then figuring out how to keep moving forward and keeping the project alive from there was an immense challenge.

I hadn’t even thought about creating any Art Prof content while on this trip until Tom (my Art Prof partner) mentioned that the trip would be an amazing opportunity to film a tutorial here. I had been experimenting with Tombow brush pens for some time and had been thinking at the back of my head that I wanted to eventually do a tutorial on their brush pens.


That’s why this trip has become the best of both worlds:  satisfying my compulsive need to work, but under the best, most exciting circumstances possible. I’ve been able to shoot a lot of Broll footage on my own, and my husband Alex has been filling in the gaps an setting up shots of me drawing. In the evenings, I’ve been editing the footage, photographing my drawings, and trying to come up with a narrative for the tutorial.

At first the footage I shot felt totally all over the place and I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to format and present the content.  While I wanted to highlight my personal experience, I didn’t want it to turn entirely into a personal video about me. After a few days of editing, I think I’ve finally figured out a balance between a tutorial and personal stories.  It’s definitely a unique tutorial, I’m weaving in stories of my experiences here with technical advice on the brush pens, while also speaking about what frame of mind to be in when you’re traveling and drawing.

Initially I didn’t bother doing any editing, but once I started editing, it really helped me recognize where I was missing footage and what content I hadn’t talked about yet. Perfect because I won’t be able to come back and re-shoot any missing footage!


Editing on the go has also been important because all of the tiny details of the trip are really present and fresh in my head.  Although I am taking detailed notes in my sketchbook about what’s been happening, it’s great to be able to tell a story the same day that it happened so that the details are a lot more vivid.

Taiwan Trip


My parents immigrated to the US from Taiwan, and yet I have never traveled to Taiwan before, until now!  Ever since Art Prof started, I’ve been on hyper drive trying to get it established, and this past year was by far the most intense year in terms of the work load and commitment the project demanded.  Which is why this trip is a good “excuse” to not work and enjoy my time here.

A few months ago, I started an effort (albeit a very small one) to sketch on a more casual basis.  My colleague Casey Roonan sketches from life daily, to the point that if he and I sat down for more than 2 minutes, he would have whipped out his sketchbook and started drawing me. Inspired by his sketching practice, I realized that it had been years since I last sketched on a casual basis.  All of my projects since art school (over 20 years ago!) have always been working towards finished work intended for exhibition.  For this reason, I had completely forgotten about sketching on a casual basis.


Which is why Taiwan is the perfect opportunity to start a sketching practice again. I brought my laptop with me, thinking that I would want to work on Art Prof in the evenings when my kids were sleeping, but surprisingly, I have no desire to do so. I guess when you travel to a foreign country you completely switch gears and it’s impossible (in a good way) to stay in the same work mode as when you’re at home. Instead, I’ve been exploring my Tombow brush pens in great depth, drawing not only sites that we have visited, but also quiet moments at our hotel, like my daughter and dad playing Go on the bed.


I am usually not a fan of the latest innovation in art supplies, most seem really gimmicky and are just glaringly inferior to the classic art supplies that have been around for centuries. The Tombow brush pens are a definite exception, I got interested in markers from watching Lauryn Welch, (who works on Art Prof with me) draw with them.  I was really surprised by the potential for layering, and the wash-like, painterly quality the pens seemed capable of.

The more I experiment with the brush pens the more I am realizing how much I can very closely replicate the look of a Walnut Ink drawing.  Walnut ink is by far my favorite ink to sketch with, but the hassle of carrying around several little containers of ink gradients, a large one for washing brushes, brushes, and paper towels isn’t really worth it considering how quickly we are moving on this trip.  If I were traveling by myself I could do any media, but not while traveling with my entire family.  Which is why the brush pens are absolutely perfect, they closely replicate the look of an ink drawing but are crazy convenient. All it takes is a sketchbook, and 3 brush pens in my pocket.  That’s it.


Tombow makes all different kinds of brush pens in tons of colors, but after some troubleshooting, I’m finding that all I need is the darkest brown, a medium brown, and a colorless blender. I tried drawing with a pack that was about 8 gradients of brownish tones, but I actually found it really inefficient because I had to keep switching markers really often.

Now that I’ve settled into an approach to the brush pens that I like, it’s been great searching for what to draw.  What I’m discovering is that I don’t tend to like drawing an entire site. We visited a temple the other day, and I didn’t want to draw the entire temple, not only did it feel overwhelming, but I also felt like I would practically be replicating a generic postcard version of the site. Instead, I really enjoyed finding small moments in the building, like the butt cracks on the stone lions, the turtle that was embedded in the columns, and more.

I’ve been here a few days, but it seems like I’ve worked out a good system for sketching, and I’m excited to see what else is ahead!