Monthly Archives: January 2016

three sketchbooks with sketches from a cemetery, a raptor foot, and flowersIt's winter in Minnesota and a lot of us are holed up in our homes and don't get to see much of other humans. Maybe you're like me and around February you start to get a little cabin fever. If you're looking for something art-y to do here are a few things I've found.


An urban sketch group organized by local artists Tim Jennen and Liz Carlson. They meet once a month at different locations. Sometimes it's a location with a minimal entry fee, sometimes it's a free public place. It's a great group of people who enjoy sketching and geeking out on art materials or sketch tools. My experience with them has always been positive because I've found there to be a real vibe of inclusion, encouragement, and excitement to draw. The meetups usually take place on a weekend.

Check them out on their Facebook page

Here's a link to their January event

MCBA Visual Journal Collective

A sketch group that is held at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA). I made it to a few of these meetups last year. Each time there was a theme or a special guest speaker. Some past topics included social media for artists, sketching "out" when you can't leave your home, and Spring flowers.  Suzanne Hughes does a great job of organizing this group. It's a very welcoming environment. Also, if you like geeking out on paper or sketchbooks you likely will enjoy this group. There is a parking lot but it was often full (and I think I remember there were some spots that you can't park in) so I usually parked on the street at a metered spot.

Meetings are once a month. Check them out on the Facebook page

Here's a link to a page about the group on Suzanne's blog (please note the schedule is only for 2013 so you probably want to check out the Facebook group page for more recent information.

Sketch Night at the Bell Museum

This sketch night is also once a month. There is an admission fee to get into the museum and if you drive your best bet for parking is in one of the nearby ramps. Or you can try your luck in finding a spot to park in Dinky Town and walk several blocks. It's 6:30 - 8:30 PM and each night has a different theme. There's usually a guest artist/presenter and the coordinator pulls a variety of themed specimens that are often not on view for the general public.

You can check the dates on this page of the Bell Museum's website

If you can't make a sketch night the Bell is open other days and is a great place to sketch animal specimens


pencil drawing of man with owls by christine mitzuk
Work in Progress. Developing a pencil drawing with values

I was a little flummoxed as to how I needed to arrange the values in my Owl Man project to give it a dusk or nighttime feel. One thing that I was taught and has worked for me is to look at how other artists solved a similar problem.

I hunted around to see if I could find a painting where someone solved a similar issue. Thanks to Google, I found artist Larry DeGraff who painted a nocturne using daytime photos and referenced one of Frank Tenney Johnson's western art nocturnes. Both DeGraff's and Johnson's painting helped me get a better idea of where I could push my drawing. I looked at how each artist arranged the values of the various elements and how relatively dark or light those values appear.

Here's a link to Mr. DeGraff's blog post where you see his painting and some of his references. I like how his painting turned out:

Ideas list of 100 andsketch bookDo you want to improve your drawing skills?  There are many ways to go about this. In my post today I share one of the ways I learned to improve my drawing skills.

"I want to get better at drawing." What does that mean? Do you want to learn how to make things look real? Do you wan to get better at drawing things from your head?

One of my desires is to be able to draw things from my head so they look more fleshed out.  A while ago I asked around for advice from people I thought achieved this on how to go about doing it. A friend and seasoned professional ( - check out her art, it's fabulous) gave me some great advice and I thought I'd share it here. Basically it sets you up with a way to practice.

1. List 100 things you think you might like to draw. This could be anything. What do you like?

2. Narrow the list down to 50 that seem the most interesting to you.

3. Start drawing. They could be about 5"x7" or as large as 8"x10". Try to draw one a day (maybe some might take 2 days). The point is to get the idea into drawn form so pick a size that you can comfortably create. Draw as much as you can without using reference so you get the idea out and down on the paper. Then go find reference for the parts you're struggling with or don't know what they look like. Add some simple shading. Give each of the 50 a try. Some might turn out pretty good, some not so much. Try to do the best you can with the skills you currently have. Don't judge them until after you do all 50. The point is to try. I had to scrap a few ideas because I had trouble getting the idea down on paper but I ended up with about 46 rough sketches.

4. Pick 10 of the 50. Of the 50, which ones carry the idea best? Which ones do you want to turn into refined drawings or paintings? One at a time, make a larger refined drawing for each idea and gather reference to flesh out the picture. It could be reference for textures, or how light hits metal, or how your character looks in a particular pose.

When I'm at a loss for what project to make next I return to this list. Ideally I'd like to blast through the 10 but the more I do the better and faster I get. This is where my current owl man project came from.

In addition to wanting to improve at drawing from my head, I also used this exercise as a way to add new images to my portfolio. When I started drawing the 50, I was thinking about what I wanted the picture to look like through the filter of "I want to make a portfolio targeted towards book covers". I think I also used that mental filter a little when listing out the first 100 and then narrowing down to 50.

I'd love to hear what advice other people have to share about improving at drawing, painting, or building a portfolio!

Light your inner creative fire to help keep you warm this winter. Learn new skills or brush up existing skills and come have some fun.

Art classes start up again the week of January 25, 2016. Classes are held at The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art. The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art is a friendly little traditional art school located in Northeast Minneapolis, MN (a bit on the outskirts of Dinky Town). The school is on the second floor of a red brick warehouse on the corner of Stinson Blvd. and East Hennepin Ave. Free off-street parking is available.

Costumed Figure Drawing and Painting
(only offered during the winter-spring term)

digital painting of the astrological sign Leo by christine mitzuk to be used in Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar

This class offers the opportunity for hands-on learning in dealing with a costumed figure. Emphasis will be placed on the visible form, gesture, underlying structure, differing characteristics of fabric, and selecting from nature to create a visually pleasing picture. Using the sight-size method, students will develop a minimum of 3 costumed figure studies. This 15-week class will be broken into 3 five-week poses. Each pose will feature different costuming. Depending on skill level, students are welcome to work in pencil, charcoal, or oil paint.


Our first model will be a woman who studied ballet for over 13 years. We don't know what pose she'll hold yet but she's exceptionally graceful so it'll be a good one.

ballet model
This will be our first model though the pose will be different for the class. It was her suggestion for the ballet attire (she studied for over 13 years). I can't help but think of Degas!

Starting TUESDAY, Jan. 26, 4:15 - 6:45 PM
$250, 15 weeks.  Scroll down for registration information.

Exploring Color: Color Theory and Color Mixing

Color Mixing Class - Paxton Palette ValuesExperience color hands-on through creating color boards, wheels, and value scales. Using the colors of The Atelier’s Paxton Palette, we will explore the attributes of color: hue, value, and chroma. Projects will be paced by order of completion and students will work at their own pace.

We’ll discuss the color wheel as it relates to painting with the Paxton Palette. Topics will also include mixing “mud”, Munsell and Gamblin color space, direct vs. indirect painting, color temperature, color harmony, color psychology, and a bit of color history. Plus we’ll demystify the information on paint labels.

Please contact Christine ( for what to bring to the first class. Supply list given after you are registered.

Starting THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 4:15 - 6:45 PM
$230, 15 weeks. Scroll down for registration information.


Voodoo Queen (Woman of Power)Stretch your imagination! During this class, students will develop imaginative pieces based upon a story or individual ideas. We will move from idea generation to preparatory work and on to final art. Emphasis will be placed on composition, and storytelling. Students may choose to work in the medium with which they are comfortable. Christine has experience to support watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, or oil paint.

Starting THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
15 weeks, $230 (NOTE: The Atelier brochure lists this as 10 weeks. It will be 15 weeks.)
Scroll down for registration information.

Portrait and Interior

portrait class at the atelier in minnesotaStudents draw in charcoal and may progress to oil or pastels. The portrait model will be set within an interior. Advanced students can take advantage of the entire composition. Capturing the likeness is emphasized. Color and techniques in oil and pastel are covered.

Starting TUESDAY, Jan. 26, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
OR THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
$250, 15 weeks. Instructors: Christine Mitzuk (Tues.) & Laura Tundel (Thurs.)
Scroll down for registration information.


Where's the Gesture Class?

The Costumed Figure Drawing and Painting is in the Gesture Class time slot. Fear not! The Gesture Class will be offered again during the summer session which starts about the middle of May.

Register for classes one of four ways:

Option 1: Call The Atelier at 612-362-8421. Main hours are 9am - 4pm Central Time or during evening classes. Please leave a message if you don't get a live person.
Option 2: Print out the registration form from the course catalog PDF. As I write this the latest course catalog is not posted to the site (Spring 2015). The form is the same every session so you can use the most recent PDF. Just the course offerings change a bit.
Option 3: Print out this form, fill it out, and mail it to The Atelier, along with payment. See form for instructions.
Option 4: Contact me and I'll help you out,