About a month ago, I wrote about taking a risk and participating in an outdoor art show. It was a good experience and I even sold three pieces!

Well, now I’m at it again. Not an art show, but a year-long mentorship with master artist Colley Whisson. I discovered Colley’s work on Instagram and was blown away. I think what he does with color, light, and brushwork is beyond impressive. I looked at his work over and over again and wished that I could paint like him.

The painting that first caught my eye. Source: Colley Whisson
Source: Colley Whisson
Source: Colley Whisson

Colley is from Australia but does a fair amount of teaching in the United States, partly through the Tucson Art Academy Online. I signed up for a Webinar and then ordered some videos. I wanted more and noticed that the Academy also offered a yearlong mentorship program with Colley. He’s been painting and honing his abilities for more than 35 years. I got to thinking about how I don’t have 35 years and that I have to cram in as much learning and experience as possible in whatever time I have left. And that’s why I signed up for the program.

Going to art school gave me a good foundation, but now I’m diving in deep and really pushing myself. What the mentorship offers me is a ton of instructional videos and demonstrations, and easy access to Colley with any questions or concerns.

I’m also part of a private Facebook group with about 40 or so other artists who are also trying to get better. We are encouraged to post images of our paintings, which Colley critiques. It’s a spectacular opportunity to learn from him and each other. I admit to feeling anxious about everyone in the group seeing my work and Colley’s critiques, but I quickly got over my fears.

The first painting I dared to share with the group was of a rundown-looking building in a field. It’s from a picture I took out the car window during a cross-country trip last year. I’m pretty sure we were in Oklahoma.


Colley records his critiques and uses the app Procreate to demonstrate what he’s talking about. The biggest lesson he taught me in his critique of this painting was that I needed to think more in terms of background, midground, and foreground.

In the original painting, the values of the trees kind of blended in with the values of the shed in the midground. (A value is the lightness or darkness of something) Among other things, he suggested that I unify and darken the background a bit more and strengthen the shed. He also suggested that I add some warmth to the foreground. That’s because cool colors push things into the background and warm colors bring them forward. Finally, he thought that if I added some fence posts in front it would help lead the eye to the main event, which is the shed.

Here’s how the painting looks with my changes. This version is now framed and, as you can see, signed. I feel good about it but I know I have so much more to learn.


I am SO glad I signed up for Colley’s mentorship program. I feel as if I’m on a path that is exciting as well as challenging. Who knows where it will lead? It doesn’t matter, though, because I’m enjoying the journey. A lot!

1 Comment

Alice Persons · September 19, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Very interesting, Diane. Thanks for sharing this and I hope you do more of this kind of post.

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