“It is my belief that we can all learn to paint, but it is in the silent, beautiful recesses of our hearts and souls where the masterpiece is born.  Exploring the images of that place, and bringing them into the world for you to glimpse, is my goal;  Helping you to find them within yourself, is my vocation.”

What if?

  • What if I told you that I have identified just 12 qualities of light, and that if you learned these 12 lights, nothing in the visual field would ever be a mystery to you ever again? Wouldn’t you want to learn them?
  • What if I told you that you that, once learned, these principles would enable you to paint everything on this planet, from fields and horse races to gestures and faces; from crashing waves to precious jewels, providing you with a way of seeing that makes sense, painting understandable, and lots of fun? Wouldn’t your journey with the art of painting be a wonderful adventure?
  • What if I told you that, over the past 20 years I have developed ways of teaching charcoals, oils, watercolors and acrylics that will demystify the craft of painting forever, and introduce you to the magnificent world of Art?  Wouldn’t you like to come on the artistic journey with me?
  • What if I told you that I was going to begin sharing not only my representational painting techniques but, over time, share everything I know, eventually putting all my best lessons and workshops online, and free to anyone who needs them?  You’d probably ask why….


“Your true vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Painting at Heartlift

I read this quote, just as I had finished producing the largest commission I had ever undertaken, which left me feeling successful, yet somehow, curiously, ‘hollow’.  That same week, whilst painting with friends Karen and Annick at Heartlift, a wonderful organization in Wigan, (my British home),  Karen said “You could, if you wanted to, spend your life painting some wonderful paintings, but to me, your greatest gift is your ability to pass on what you know, inspiring people to art.”  At that moment, it quite literally “dawned on me” ;  I love to write, love to work on my laptop, love to photograph and I absolutely love to paint, but most of all, I love to help people activate the Creative Spirit in their own lives.  I love what happens in workshops, when we all explore together the processes and magic of art.  My dear friends Karen and Annick, reminded me that my deep gladness was sharing my love of art with people who wanted to paint, who wanted to take the journey of art, and gave me the privilege of helping them along the way.  They planted a seed that grew into a different direction for my skills, which is what we’re doing here.

On art and artists:

Society has many ideas about artists; Not all of them good:

Maude Lynn, Art Student

  • People tend to think about artists as flighty, (and I know lots of those).
  • People tend to think about artists as egotistical divas who crave the limelight, (I know lots of those too, but we love ’em anyway).
  • People tend to think about artists as introverted outcasts.  (Who amongst us doesn’t want to escape the madding crowd from time to time, especially when we’re being labelled “different” or “unique?”)

(Jung suggests that my very ability to recognize these traits means I also possess these traits!  Darn that shadow!)

On a more positive note, during my journey into the artistic life, I have also discovered beautiful truths about people touched by the Creative Spirit; people who inspire me with their passion:

  • They have unconditional, passionate souls that yearn to improve the world.
  • They respond to a need to illuminate, connect, and improve life.
  • They know that Art heals the spirit, and they use ‘Art’ to mend hearts, minds and souls and in the process, grow/mend their own.
  • They use their talents for the greater good, instead of meeting the needs of their own, or the collective ego.
  • A few have the ability to pass on what they know with eloquence and passion, and are generous enough to do so.

I’m thinking of shining stars of selflessness like you:  Karen, Andrea, Laurie, Nancy, Colin, Glenn, John, Julie, Judy, J.P., Jane, Priscilla, Sonia, Mary, Werner, Xochitl, Kathie, Frances-Clay, Anne, Dorothy, Colin, Kim, Veranne, Mike, Linda, Marjorie, Jean, Sheila, to name a few….People like you, dedicated to volunteering and leaving the world a better place, have inspired me to contribute in the best way I know how…

Because I can…and you’re worth it.

By virtue ofthe tremendous support I receive from my family friends, I considered:  I can paint, andI can write.  I know how to use my camera and my laptop.  I have a talented web designer whom I love. I can understand the process of painting and have discovered a way to cogently pass it on… I love and I care for people, all people;  If they yearn to feel the spirit of Art, and I can give them ways to begin the magnificent journey with Art, then it is my privilege to do so.  So, dear reader, helping you is my vocation.

A life involved with the arts is a beautiful, amazing adventure… and it’s time for me to pass on what I know; to ‘give back’ in the best way I know how.  The only thing I ask of you is that, if you receive benefit from this website and ‘lessons with Lesley’, then you pass it on to others that can use the information also.  (The very best way to become a painter/artist is to pass it onto someone else.  I always learn more than my students when we take workshops together.)  This website is for anyone, including these special groups that deserve all our help:

  • All those frustrated teachers and parents who instinctively know that art is vital in education, yet do not know how to teach the fundamentals.  We all know that the arts are the first to go when budgets are tight.  Instead of feeling sad about this, I asked myself, what can I do?  I can do this. (When my children were in school, my friends and I volunteered hundreds of hours to bring art curriculum to the schools.  Please forgive me for bragging here about my greatest honor, when I was an Honorary PhD awarded for my contribution to art education in elementary schools.)
  • Hard-working people like Debbie B., who yearned to explore the arts but could never take classes because she had a full time job that consumed all of her time and energy.  Working people can explore at leisure, and in their own time.
  • Caretakers, mothers and fathers who give most of their energy and cash to maintain their families.  Most of us have been in this place, and even when we have some resources to spare, we would rather use it for our families than for ourselves.

About the lessons:

Over time, we will explore fundamental painting techniques of oil, watercolor, and charcoal, and possibly touch upon others.   Faces, figures, equine/animal painting, design, abstraction as well as touch upon the psychology, internal/personal aspects of art-making.

People tell me that I am an organized painter.  I have found it is useful to organize knowledge and technique, and how I prepare myself for work, both physically and psychologically.  This foundation enables me to paint with freedom and creative energy as well as pass it on to my students….

It’s helpful for my students to describe my understanding of the art of painting as; my 3 Keys to Painting.  My 3 Keys are:

Key To Art

K = Knowledge


E= Energy


Y= Yield


Please, allow me to explain further….Let’s ask the BIG question….


What is “Art?” My interpretation: 3 keys to the art of painting.

If anyone tells you they know what art is, run like the wind, away from them!  No one can fully explain what “Art” is. People mistakenly consider painting as “art”, but I think a grave error in communication has occurred, causing a powerful misunderstanding resulting in confusion about the arts in general. I developed my process, called “3 Keys To The Art Of Painting” in the hope of helping students understand the artistic process as I have come to know it. This process correlates to the art of music, dance, writing, or performing heart surgery!

Bear with me… In the words of my kindly old mentor “This ain’t brain surgery folks!”.

Key 1:  Knowledge

Competent representation of my daughter, Ashley

Knowledge of craft, technique, skill.

Regardless of your chosen art form, the first stage is to develop the necessary skills. Musicians learn their instruments; dancers hone their bodies and learn the steps; actors learn stage craft; photographers their cameras & the art of photography… For us painters, knowledge of media, tools, brushwork, etc., is how we develop our craft.  Also in this category falls knowledge of the subject; i.e., in the case of horse/human painters, some knowledge of anatomy may be a plus. However, for my objective painting techniques, the most important tool we have as a painter is knowledge of the 12 lights.'

This is all learnable stuff, folks.  This is only my opinion, but I feel that so many representative paintings garnering ‘ooohs and aaaahs’ on gallery walls are made primarily of this ‘first key stuff’ closer to the realm of ‘craft’ than ‘art’.  In order for the work to have a hope to be labeled ‘Art’, I believe it must also contain elements of the other 2 Keys:

Key 2:  Energy

Energy of Expression, Excavation, Emotion, Excitement, Evolving.

Expressive interpretation of my daughter, Ashley

Beneath all appearance, all form, all sound, all light… indeed, inside the atoms that comprise of everything in the universe is energy.  There is physical energy, psychological energy, emotional energy, and even spiritual energy.  Energy cannot be seen, but it motivates everything – including us.  We infuse life into our artwork when we leave traces of our personal energy upon the painting.  Our work can comprise of splendid, beautiful imagery, but the life within the artwork is the artist’s unmistakable presence somehow left also upon the surface.  The visual language of Key #2 does not adhere to representational rules, as its content is drawn from You.  The inner You; the You behind the brush, as well as, or instead of something seen ‘out there’.

We are born in magnificent, technological times and our ability to create and process images appears limitless.  We can exquisitely replicate what we see in the visual field with a variety of media including film, photography and a whole new cadre of digital technologies.  How is the painter to remain ‘valid’ in today’s world?  The answer is ‘You’. You are unique in all the world.  There has never been on this planet another soul that is exactly like you.  A soul who has felt loved or scorn quite the same as you have; suffered like you have, or had the same joys, revelations and accomplishments that you have.  No one has ever had the spirit that you have and no one can interpret the light of the world through the prism that is You.  You must show up in the work, and whether your aesthetic/style is photo realistic, or flamboyant and loose, when you’re intention is to express something ‘felt’ as well as something ‘seen’, you are turning the second key to Art.  Self expression.

Self-expression is manifested by excavating our authentic, (not filtered through the eyes of another) personal, emotional experience about the world, and painting from the internal response, interest and excitement that we feel.  The more personal content finds its way into our work, the more our work becomes infused with a certain energy uniquely our own.  It is in precisely this way, from our authenticity as an individual, and by courageously choosing to reveal ‘our true selves’, that our personal style emerges.  Perhaps we don’t choose a style… Rather we excavate it, and in the process, earn it.

Key 3:  Yield!

Yes yield… your control of everything!

When technique and control thoughts are not forefront in your mind (like when riding a bike or car), the pure, ego-less “You” emerges. Only by yielding to ‘what is’; being in the moment without worry, fear or need to succeed, does the opportunity exist for something unique enter the world… A much deeper, broader, perhaps more enlightened You.

It is my position that, when you align with this broader, larger “You”, on rare occasions you just might produce something that others may label “Art”. It’s true that it’s often beneficial for would-be artists to have the first 2 Keys under their belt before a true “yield” can take place, but not always! Some appear to be born ‘wide open’ and never needing to ‘excavate anything’! However, some basic knowledge of the preferred technique is required in order to bring this elusive thing thing called “Art” into the world.

These online lessons may be construed as a “yield”:  I’ve sensed a need; I’ve responded creatively to that need, without any expectation of outcome.

Egos put up walls between us. The Arts break them down. (Me at The Berlin Wall)

Now… Let’s begin the journey.  It will unfold over time, and the beginning stages may seem a little technical and laborious to learn, but I try to make it fun and very easy.  Besides, it’s worth it.  Take the journey with me; let us explore together….

Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

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