Visual arts students can look forward to a fun week of intensive painting amidst an enriching atmosphere of encouragement and personal growth. Students will explore fundamental art concepts and painting techniques to help create works of art that are bold, confident, and skillfully handled. We'll cover the importance of composition, value, color, negative space, edges, movement, and many other principles of design that can take your talent to the next level.

Gary Varvel

Gary Varvel is a national award-winning, syndicated cartoonist for Creators Syndicate. The former editorial cartoonist for The Indianapolis Star was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2015. 


During his 40-year career, Varvel won numerous awards including the National Headliners Award, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award, the Grambs Aronson Award and the Advancing American Democracy Award. 

Varvel's work is nationally syndicated in over 125 newspapers through Creators Syndicate. His cartoons have appeared on CNN, FoxNews and in Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York 

Post, Newsday, USA Today, Washington Times, National Review, and Sports Illustrated. His cartoons have also been reprinted in many college and high school text books.

Along with his cartooning career, Varvel also taught high school art part-time at Bethesda Christian Schools for 14 years. He also taught an adult Sunday School class for 23 years and served on the Missions Board and Deacon Board. 


Varvel has been married to his wife Carol since 1980, and they have 3 children and 6 grandchildren. Their 3 children are all graduates of BCS. Their daughter Ashley is a graphic artist at Indianapolis Business Journal book publishers and is married to Daron Day, an associate pastor at New Pal Bible Church. Son, Brett, is the executive director of House of Grace Films and currently has a starring role in the Christian film, Play the Flute and director of Treasure Lies. Son, Drew, is a video specialist at Indiana University Health. 


Varvel is also a board member of House of Grace Films and co-writer, actor and producer of the films: The Board (2009) and The War Within (2014) which won 7 film festival awards. 


Varvel is also the author of The Good Shepherd book and Drawing the Right Way.



1. The first day, we will do some speed drawing. I want the students to overcome the fear of the blank page. Failing is a part of the learning process. Instead of fearing it, we must overcome it with the knowledge that if God has given us a gift, He wants us to use it and develop it for His purpose (Ephesians 2:10). The plan of God isn't a road map but a journey of discovery (Proverbs 16:9). I want to help students to see the way an artist sees the world. 


2. I want to help students envision the power of visual communication. Specifically, we will brainstorm ways of communicating God in His creation. I'll show examples of some of the masters and will seek to inspire the students to not just paint a landscape but to tell a story using the 2-dimensional space. 


3. Students will learn both linear and atmospheric perspective and establishing a color pallet. 


4. If we have time, I may teach the students the art of caricature. 


By the end of the week, my plan is that the students will have several finished pieces and that they will see a progression in their work. My goal is to get them to surprise themselves with what they are capable of and to get excited about what God can do through them using their artistic gift.




I use a professional grade water mixable oil paint for all my oil paintings. With water mixable oils, there is no need for solvents or harsh chemicals. They clean up easily with water and soap.


I use Holbein (Duo) or Grumbacher (Max) paints. However, for a more inexpensive option, I have found the daler rowney Georgian water mixable oils have a decent pigment quality for student work. The Windsor and Newton water mixable oils have the poorest quality pigment and you will end up using more paint in the long run. The colors we will be using are:


Titanium White

Cadmium Yellow

Cadmium Red

Yellow Ochre

Alizarin Crimson

Burnt Umber

Ultramarine Blue

Prussian Blue


Michaels has a Georgian set that has all these colors. You can get a 40% off coupon online



  • At least 5 filberts or flats oil painting brushes, long handled, sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. If you want to really treat yourself to some wonderful brushes, try Rosemary Brushes for wonderful hand made brushes from England. (Michael Richardson Plein Air Starter Set)

  • Small round brush

  • A 1 inch wide brush, can be a basic hardware store paint brush or an artist brush



      (Stretched canvas, canvas panels, etc. are all fine.) 

  • Please bring at least 2-3 surfaces for each day. Sizes can range from 6" x 8" to 11"x14 

  • Guerilla Panels (essential oil-ready cardboard) and Arches oil paper are not required but nice to have on hand as well.                                                                                                         



  •  linseed oil and or quick dry mediums

  •  non-breakable container for water



  • Please bring a portable easel that stands on the ground. Common plein air easels include French easels and pochade boxes. If your easel does not accommodate your palette, you may want to bring a small folding table for yor palette. I use a Sienna Plein air box and tri pod.

Notan Supplies:

  • Small sketchbook 

  • Sketching pencils



  • Backpack or bag to help transport supplies between locations. 

  • Wet paint carrier (such as: - the carrier will need to accommodate the size(s) of canvas/panel students wish to bring. Carriers are also available on Amazon.

  • Portable palette

  • Palette knife 

  • Brimmed hat or visor to keep the sun out of your eyes 

  • Organic sunscreen 

  • Organic insect repellent 

  • Camera a decent phone camera is fine


*IMPORTANT: If flying, please make arrangements with the Guild staff to ship your oil paints and solvents in advance.

Artwork by Gary Varvel 

Student Artwork

© 2020 Lamplighter Ministries International

Mount Morris, NY