Author: Kelli Folsom

Keys to Success in Painting and Business

1. Challenge your perceptions 

Our perceptions can be formed by many things including our beliefs, environment, and models of behavior we’ve experienced before.  Our perceptions or misconceptions can really limit us both in painting and in business. I urge you to question things, don’t make assumptions and be open to explore new ideas or thoughts. We all tend to want to box things in, define and make concrete conclusions. This isn’t an open system, but a closed one. It will always limit what’s possible for you. Be like a scientist posing questions, postulating theories and doing experiments. You’re far more likely to both innovate and land on some truth and understanding, then challenge and question that again. 

2. Be Your Own Hero 

Any ounce of the victim mentality that you have will hold you back both in painting and in business. Blaming others or circumstances won’t get you anywhere in either case. The phrases, “I don’t know” or “I can’t” are completely unacceptable. Make a choice right now that you will take full responsibility for everything that’s happening to you. If you want to say, “I won’t” or “I don’t want to” that’s just fine. That’s accepting full responsibility that there is a solution and that something is learnable and achievable, but you just don’t want to put in the effort and that’s okay! Just don’t blame anyone else or event like the economy, your partner or your past. When you’re trapped in victim mind there can be no progress or acceptance. 

3. Get Real Clear

I’ve found it critical for me to get very clear on my personal needs, values, and ideals. These are my guides along my journey in painting and in business. This takes a lot of introspection and frankly a brutal honesty that most of us are uncomfortable with. If one of your values is status and racking up as many awards as you can – OWN IT. If it’s solitude and anonymity – OWN IT. Don’t try to fit in with what you see others doing. You’re here to be yourself and fulfill your purpose and the rest of us will be better off if you do. That’s not to say that what you need, and value won’t make others uncomfortable or that they won’t try to criticize or tear you down. There will be some that do, but you’re not here for them. You’re here to fulfill your own destiny and for those you’re here to serve.

4. Be of Service

Stop seeking what’s in it for you. Ask what’s in it for them?  I’ve learned that the more I am to be of service in my painting, my teaching and my business (guided by my values and ideals) I get everything I am seeking and then some. This can go back to the victim mentality as well. Stop seeking praise. Seek instead to engage with your audience. Listen to them. Serve them. I think you’ll find that when you do, they will be attracted to you and what you have to offer.  

5. Celebrate the Journey

Celebrate yourself (and others). I believe that we all should take the time to pat ourselves and others on the back. It can’t all be blood, sweat, and tears. We need victories, rest and celebration too. Give yourself credit. Lavish praise and special gifts upon yourself for your hard work and achievements. Don’t wait for someone else recognize you, you do it. I know this is hard to do (it still is for me too) but try not to look at one day or one painting or one thing in your painting out of relationship to the whole. If it’s true in painting, it’s true in life. Just the other day I found myself stumbling upon photographs of old paintings I’d done, and a wave of joy and gratitude came over me. I realized how lucky I am to have this opportunity, this gift and how grateful I am for how far I’ve come in the last twelve years as a painter and a person. Sometimes we can get too focused on wherever we’re stuck right now. We’re not always going to be at the top of our game. Sometimes our best is our best and sometimes it’s just the best we can do. So, celebrate and support others too in their victories and in the daily grind.

Join me at the Scottsdale Artists School in April this year! This is the ONLY available workshop on the 2020 calendar, and spaces are filling up fast! It is always such a wonderful experience being together with my students. Everyone learns so much while studying with me in person. It takes the painting experience to the next level. Students are able to reach the breakthroughs that they need in their paintings that are keeping them stuck. And the yummy margarita’s at lunch don’t hurt either! Click here for details!

How to Be a Student

How to Be A Student

I’ve been a student of art since 2008 and in that time, I’ve learned that not only to you must learn how to paint, you also must learn how to learn. I’ve learned many of these lessons the hard way especially in the earlier days when learning can be the most challenging to our sensitivities. Others I’ve learned later after many years of teaching myself and letting go of my ego which can come more with maturity and success oddly enough. So, I wanted to share with you some of my top recommendations on how to be a student because if you apply these, I believe you will speed up your growth and progress and eliminate years of frustration.

1. Ask Questions

I know this sounds self-evident, but if you’re like me you’ve probably found yourself in a class or workshop being afraid to ask questions. When the teacher comes around ask her or him questions. If you’re struggling with an area or are confused about something- speak up. Regardless of all our human advancements we still can’t telepathically communicate. Thank God! So, speak up, ask, look the teacher in the eye, be vulnerable and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.

2. Stop Painting

You heard me right. Stop painting. When you get stumped stop painting, stand back, take a break, walk around the room and check out what others are doing. Often, you’re going to see what you couldn’t see before by just maniacally moving around your brush.

3. Don’t Wait for The Teacher

If you’re stuck or confused in an area of your painting and don’t know what to do next you need to be proactive. Take responsibility for your own learning process. If the teacher isn’t available go to the source of information. When this happens to me, I’ll grab the book that the teacher brought of their work or go to the demo paintings they did seeking solutions. This is so much better because you’re thinking for yourself. Once you find something to try in your painting, go try it. There’s only one way to find out if you’ve found a good solution and that’s by trying it. Don’t wait to be spoon-fed the answers by your teacher. As the old saying goes, “Easy Come. Easy Go.” In other words, the information is going to stick more when you try to figure it out and apply it yourself. Then when the teacher comes around you can explain what your idea was and ask them what they think about what you tried. They can then confirm if you’re on the right track or enlighten you more if you’re not.

4. Pay Attention to The Broken Record

This is a big one. Keep track of the critiques you’re receiving from the teacher from day to day in the workshop. Do they sound like a broken record, telling you the same things again and again? If so, these are BIG issues to solve in your painting. Most likely if you don’t solve those you will not reach a new level of skill. There’s a reason why they are repeating it to you so…. repeatedly. Try to correct these issues IMMEDIATELY! Take bold, immediate action. When I’m in a workshop, I’ll keep track of one or two things I heard the teacher say to me and everyone else in the room so that when I try again on the next painting, I can implement those things.

5. Listen and Watch

Never ever wear headphones in a classroom. You need to listen to what the teacher is saying to everyone. This is key for picking up on the broken record, which are usually the biggest fundamentals needed for good work. When I watch a demo, I try to shut everything else out. I get the best view I can, and I focus my senses on just listening and watching the instructor as much as possible really soaking in all the movements, the mixing of colors, noticing the brush handling. During a demo, I tend to focus more on the watching than the listening and I rarely ask questions during this time. I know that seems contradictory to my #1 recommendation, but something about just soaking in what she/he is doing is far more beneficial than me getting into my logical left brain.

6. Make Big Changes

When I’m working with a teacher, my goal is to find out what I’m missing. I’m not there to prove how good I am, get praise or leave the same way I came in the door. The first couple of paintings are usually the roughest because you haven’t had time yet to implement the new information and learn from your mistakes. When the teacher recommends a change to me, I make it big. This means I don’t try to hold on to what I’ve already done or barely adjust something. If the teacher says I need to use more paint I start globbing it on so that I can find out how far I need to go with that change. If the teacher comes back around and says that it’s too much, then I can inquire more about paint quality and how to know where I need thick paint and where I don’t. I’m not going to learn anything by making teeny tiny adjustments.

7. Start Many and Push Further

My goal in a workshop is to do at least one painting a day in a workshop. I’m not there to make a masterpiece, I’m there to learn. Also, the more you start and repeat the broken record principles from your teacher the more that information is going to stick.

The other objective for me to push beyond my limit. We all know when we get to a certain point in a painting and we don’t quite know what to do next or how to take it further. It’s easy to stop here and just start something new. However, I find this is the best time for me to try and push further because the teacher is there to help me understand anything I don’t. This might be something like: I never know how to paint the eyes, or I don’t know how to handle the separation of the jaw from the neck or I don’t know how to paint the nub on a lemon or a leaf or stem. This is your chance to go for it and get some help. I push further, but I stick to my one a day rule.

Join me at the Scottsdale Artists School in April this year! It is always such a wonderful experience being together with my students. Everyone learns so much while studying with me in person. It takes the painting experience to the next level. Students are able to reach the breakthroughs that they need in their paintings that are keeping them stuck. And the yummy margarita’s at lunch don’t hurt either! Click here for details!

What is your commitment level?

Amber and Clementine
Oil on panel, 9″ x 12″

On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to your art path? I hope you said 10 because that’s really the only level of commitment that works.

When we have one foot in and one foot out, it allows us to have a reason to fail, to quit and to play the victim. If you’re finding yourself in any of these states it’s because you’re not 100% committed.

Is you’re wobbling on your commitment, what could you do to strengthen it?

What would allow you to be totally committed and not look back?

I can tell you that this is what will get you through the hard times. For me, I had a huge financial commitment of $100,000 that forced me to follow through in art school. That debt burden afterward forced me to also make my art business a success so I could pay it off. For me, there was no plan B, but I could see how there could have been easily during the hard times if my commitment wasn’t rock solid.

The easiest person to fool is ourselves – so don’t! Own up to where you truly are and course-correct if needed. Opportunities come when you’re committed to acting on your dreams.

The Art of the Rose

Day 27 #stradaeasel
Pink Rose, 6×6”, oil on panel, $250

I remember a day when trying to paint a rose would make me swear, break a paintbrush and open a bottle of wine. The amount of frustration I’d feel would make me want to give up and avoid them forever!

Often times I would avoid them for a while to lick my wounds and go back to something easier. Eventually, I’d circle back around and get up the courage to TRY AGAIN.

One of my Vital Art Sessions members Pam shared this quote with our group: “You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” – Yoda

Boy, isn’t that the truth!
I know I’ve repeated that cycle with painting roses so many times until finally one day I painted a rose that wasn’t so bad. Then I really had some steam in my breeches to keep trying!

Now I find painting them to be a joyful experience, but that would have never happened if I didn’t keep trying. Whatever you’re struggling with I encourage you to kick, scream, cry and even quit for a while BUT then TRY AGAIN.

“Have you ever loved a rose, and watched her slowly bloom;

as her petals would unfold, you grew drunk on her perfume.”

– Lang Leav

Star of the Show featuring Cindy Mac

Rainy Day with Cherry Blossoms’
(16 x 12 oil on gessoboard)

I was recently accepted into The American Impressionist Society (AIS) Small Works Showcase. The particular painting that was accepted, came on the heels of completing Kelli’s Finding Your Artistic Voice Course. We had just completed the segment on identifying our Mirror Mentors, Artists from past and present who speak to us on a deep level. It was then I was able to reconnect with my deep lifelong passion and identity towards The Impressionists and Art History in general. (It reminded me that the first and only master copy I’ve ever done was of Manet’s Blue Venice Canal painting in 7th grade when I was about 12.)

This exercise touched me on a deep, soul level. It kept me up at night.

About a week later I set out to do a Sunday Painting! I lugged home a truck full of past-peak cherry blossom branches that my florist said would not sell, but she knew I painted, so gifted them to me.

I put my heart and soul into that rainy, moody day, setting up the scene in my tiny studio corner, taping up branches with blue painters tape, and finally got to painting! (Luckily I started early in the day). It was one of those times that I felt the painting almost painted itself. (Almost! LOL!)

I also was finally able to see my work clearly as Impressionist.

It received a lot of positive interest and feedback from my peers. It felt very natural.

During my research, I decided to join AIS. It was time to connect myself with a larger community of Impressionist Artists and have the confidence to be part of that and consider myself as such. I saw they were having a Call for Entries for their 4th Annual Small Works Showcase. I immediately knew this was the painting to enter. I didn’t even think twice.

I knew from what I was learning from more experienced artists entering shows, the chances were probable to NOT to get in.

I didn’t give it a second thought but had a very positive feeling in my gut and heart whether I got in the show or not.

When I saw my name on the acceptance list a month later, and thinking of it now, I feel so incredibly honored to be in this show, among many of the best and most accomplished modern day Impressionist Artists. I feel like it connects me to my roots, passion, and dedication. Based on some beautiful messages I’ve received, It helps me realize part of my life’s purpose of inspiring others.

Lots of Love,

Cindy xoxo

To view more of Cindy Mac’s work, please click here to visit her website.

Sabotaged by Shame?

Rice Basket and Pear, 18″x14″, oil on panel

Are you being sabotaged by shame?

I know many of us are participating in the Strada Challenge. Here we are day 22 out of the 31 days working from life Strada Challenge.

I know many are wanting to through in the towel. I don’t blame you. I’m not gonna lie I have too from time to time. Thoughts of “I’m too busy. This is too hard. As if I don’t have enough to do already!” Start to kick in. And worst of all the pressure we can put on ourselves to perform since it’s a public thing can be either very motivating or crippling. We can even be humiliated to post what we worked on that day. Thoughts of: “Oh my goodness this is awful! Everyone’s gonna laugh at me! People are going to see what a hack artist I really am. “ also start to kick in.

Who can stand up under that kind of scrutiny?

Here’s the thing every single time you create and practice it’s like investing a dollar in your skills savings account. That dollar isn’t worth more or less based on the outcome or level of quality of your practice today. Some turn out awesome. Some just suck. And here’s the thing, listen closely now THAT’S OKAY! It doesn’t mean you’re not a good artist. It just means your struggling right now or just not performing at your total peak right now. We all experience this. I’ve been painting for twelve years full time and I still experience these ups and downs.

Here’s the other thing, the pressure you feel right now you’ve put it on yourself out of fear.

I’ll say it again, you’ve put it on yourself. Sorry, it’s true. Here’s the good news though, if you put it on yourself you can also take it off of yourself. There’s nothing to live up to here. The only rule is to work on something every day from life. Not it has to be great or even it has to be finished.

Let’s not forget the bigger objective here and that is to follow a new DAILY HABIT. The reason why the challenge is so good is that it helps you turn creating art into a daily habit. It also shows you that you’re capable of making art daily! Even if that means it’s just a sketch or drawing. Then that becomes part of your identity statement. I’m an artist and I create DAILY. How cool is that?!

So the days not over. Don’t throw in the towel. You got this! And if you already threw in the towel who gives a shit. Start again!

Oh yeah and above is the painting that kicked my ass for 2 days.
Happy creating everyone!

Immersion Workshop For April 2020

Immersion Workshop For April 2020

Dates & Pricing

4/28/2020 – 5/1/2020


Kelli’s Studio
Prism Workspaces
999 Vallejo Dr. Studio G
Denver, Colorado 80247

Contact Info

Kelli Folsom

Additional Info

What’s with this Immersion Workshop?

Get into the Kelli’s mind as she sets up a gallery still life. Watch the painting unfold up close from beginning to end in real time over the week. No short demonstrations. Observe Kelli from preparing her palette, choosing and mixing colors, how much medium she uses to cleaning her brushes. You can ask questions anytime along the way. 

This is STRICTLY LIMITED to only 4 students and will be held in my very own private studio. With my props, my paintings on the walls and my energy in the room this is truly an intimate experience.

How does the Immersion Workshop works?

Each student will have a dedicated still life station and light source provided. You will have an access to Kelli’s Studio Props. Each student will receive guidance and critique on independent work during the week AND each student will receive a complimentary Kelli Folsom original sketch size 8″x10″ and under.

Scottsdale Artists School Workshop 2020

Scottsdale Artists School Workshop 2020

Dates & Pricing

4/6/2020 – 4/10/2020


Scottsdale Artists’ School
3720 North Marshall Way, Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
United States

Contact Info

Kelli Folsom

Additional Info

Painting still life has long been a way to learn the fundamentals of painting as it is perhaps the most convenient way to study values, color relationships, form and drawing. This is the first step, but what comes after that? How does one transition from student work to artist? Kelli’s teaching style truly reaches both the beginning and the seasoned painter. She strives to reach the beginner by breaking down artistic language into clear terms that are easily understood. Her experience with still life painting also reaches students who have a grasp on the fundamentals, but are looking for ways to take their still life from great exercises or studies to a higher level of art. Conundrums like what goes together, what to do with the background, how to not overwork the painting and how to set up a still life that tells a story with impact will be solved. Students will gain independent skills by setting up their own still life with relative feedback so they can go back to their own studios with new critical thinking skills. Each student will work at their own pace and at their own skill level. Daily demonstrations, critiques and discussions will be given. 

Oil Painters of America 2019 Western Regional Exhibition

Oil Painters of America 2019 Western Regional Exhibition

Dates & Times

11/11/2019 – 11/30/2019
Reception: 11/1/2019 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 PM


Sorrel Sky Gallery
125 W Palace Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Additional Info

I am proud to announce the Provencal Sunflowers is included in Oil Painters of America 2019 Western Regional Exhibition!

The event will take place in Santa Fe, NM. Oil Painters of America (OPA) is an organization that is “dedicated to preserving and promoting excellence in representational art.”

With that, I’m proud and honored to be chosen by them! I hope that my work truly promote and represent the representational arts.

Winners of VITAL Art Sessions Still Life Competition!

As you may know I have created a new online course program called VITAL art sessions. Last year was my first year doing this and I have to tell you that my heart is so full working with so many wonderful artists!

I love being able to pass on what I have learned as an artist to more and more people. One of the the keys to my artistic development was the importance of competitions. I do not consider myself that competitive and frankly competitions are always a risk for rejection…..and well that’s never a fun experience.  However, competitions always gave me a deadline to work towards. As independent artists this is important….especially for us procrastinators!  And it helps me still to push myself a little further.

So in our online group, I wanted to set up a similar learning experience for the members.  We held a year end Independent Still Life Competition!  Everyone could enter 2 works into the show. 

The marvelously talented, Gregg Kreutz, was our juror of awards! We had a lovely little interview with him and it was so cool to see him in his New York studio!

I just couldn’t be more proud of everyone who entered. Everyone was a winner in my eyes!
Without further ado, here are the winners of the competition. I hope you enjoy. 

Happy Painting,
Kelli Folsom
P.S. For those of you interested in joining our Merry Band of Painters please go here to get on the waiting list. You will get some free art lessons while you wait.

1st PlaceBouquet in the Window by Julianna O’Hara

Bouquet in the Window by Julianna O'Hara
Bouquet in the Window by Julianna O’Hara

2nd PlaceBrass Kettle and Lemons by Svetlana Sobchacova 

Brass Kettle and Lemons by Svetlana Sobchacova
Brass Kettle and Lemons by Svetlana Sobchacova

3rd PlaceAll in the Family by Chula Beauregard

All in the Family by Chula Beauregard
All in the Family by Chula Beauregard

Honorable Mentions

Pomegranates at Ease by Carlota Estevez
Pomegranates at Ease by Carlota Estevez

Green Vase and Sunflowers by Ferial Sadjadi
Green Vase and Sunflowers by Ferial Sadjadi
Classic Salsa by Cindi Yaklich
Classic Salsa by Cindi Yaklich
Apples, Grapes and Flowers by Sridhar Rajagopalan
Apples, Grapes and Flowers by Sridhar Rajagopalan
Onions by Rusty Jones
Onions by Rusty Jones
Blue and Yellow by Pat Fiorello
Blue and Yellow by Pat Fiorello
Apples and Plum by Carol Halperin
Apples and Plum by Carol Halperin
Beauty and the Brave by Trish Wend
Beauty and the Brave by Trish Wend
Copper and Orange Slices by Rebecca Stafford
Copper and Orange Slices by Rebecca Stafford
Coffee Pot and Apples by Lori Barrison
Coffee Pot and Apples by Lori Barrison

You can find any of these wonderful artists on Facebook, Instagram or through their personal websites.

Check out their work, follow them and even buy a painting!