Author: Kelli Folsom

Letter of Care

Here we are on the cusp of spring which should be a joyous time with the hope of new birth and we find ourselves in the middle of this worldwide pandemic. This is NOT what we wanted or what we hoped for. 

I’ve been so concerned about the members of my artistic community, many of whom are at high risk during this time. Many of you are caretakers of elderly parents, many of you are mothers whose children have been sent home and now your plate is even more full.  Many of you are dealing with worry, stress, and anxiety. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how I can help.  

I think that’s the main thing right now is that we try to fill this time with as much positivity and try to make it valuable.  That’s easier said than done, I know when the mind wants to constantly bring us back to fear. So I’m accepting the fear because it’s not a bad thing nor does it make me weak to feel afraid at this time for my friends. 

We can find gratitude. This time has shown me just how much we need each other and we can be connected even when isolated. I’ve been so impressed by my VITAL members and the outpouring of love and support. It’s comforting to know we’re in this together and not alone. 

I’ve been noticing a lot of artists offering sales on their content at this time. I’m not passing judgment of course, but I have noticed that the discounts are perhaps not anything greater than what they might normally offer. 
I definitely agree that we can use this time to be inspired and to learn. 
I agree that watching painting lessons or reading is far better for us than news or Netflix binging.

I’d like to offer some tutorials and videos to you for FREE in case you do not want to spend any money during this time, which is totally understandable. So below is the list: 

*VITAL Art Sessions members the starred content isn’t for you as you already have access to it in our group and website. 

IF you would like more content than this I have decided to offer my landscape series and sampler packs at 70% OFF which is the absolute best I can do without giving them away for free. 

This week only, use coupon code: 70OFF upon checkout
GO HERE to see the Plein Air Video Packages. 
GO HERE to see the Still Life Sampler Packs.
*Vital members you already have the sampler pack content please don’t buy. 

Much Love and Happy Painting, 
Kelli Folsom 

The Secret Language of Painting

Who’s up for a Painting Challenge this March 22nd-27th!? And it’s completely FREE! Join the private Facebook group for a chance to study with me! Gain early access to win points and prizes! There will be special pre-challenge exercises that will be worth extra points as well! This challenge is not open to current or past Vital Art Sessions members! Click this link to join:

Join the group to answer this week’s question! What is it that you’re confused about right now in your painting process?

The Masterpiece Trap

Who’s up for a Painting Challenge this March 22nd-27th!? And it’s completely FREE! Join the private Facebook group for a chance to study with me! Gain early access to win points and prizes! There will be special pre-challenge exercises that will be worth extra points as well! This challenge is not open to current or past Vital Art Sessions members! Click this link to join:

Join the group to answer this week’s question! What is your biggest obstacle right now in finishing a painting?

29th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils

29th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils

Dates & Times

Show Dates: May 15 – June 13, 2020
Convention Dates: May 12 – 17 2020


RS Hanna Gallery
244 West Main Street
Fredericksburg, TX, 78624

Additional Info

I am proud to announce that Salt Glazed Jar and Cantaloupe is included in Oil Painters of America’s 29th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils! The event will take place in Fredericksburg, TX. Oil Painters of America (OPA) is an organization that is “dedicated to preserving and promoting excellence in representational art”. I have been a member of OPA since 2011. Oil Painters of America truly helped jumpstart my career. I highly encourage people to join them and attend the conference! I will be giving a demonstration this year, so I hope to see you there! It is such a great honor to be included in such an esteemed exhibition.

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