Many aspiring artists ask how to learn to paint. I have always recommended a trip to the library for some good books on painting. Today, the Internet (you are already here!) offers wonderful resources as well although it is often difficult to know where to begin.
Best of all is watching a live artist demonstrate. The camaraderie and energy from a group that is passionate about a process cannot be reproduced in a book or online.
Although my mother was an accomplished artist, she knew the importance of experiencing workshops. When I was 9, she enrolled me in the local art association’s watercolor class; I vividly remember learning the process of taping the paper to a board, wetting the paper, painting “wet into wet” and painting from the still life – bright watermelon!
As a child we often take our parents for granted or reject their advice in the quest to learn about the outside world. I continued to draw, paint and even listen to my mom!
After 35 years as a teacher, my retirement has given me an opportunity to explore and begin to nourish my own style.
Each year, I have been very fortunate to enroll in a multi-day workshop. I find workshops offer a jumpstart to technique. You lay aside several days to devote to making art. You remove distractions of household chores, family and other obligations. Generally, you assemble and buy new materials. You have paid tuition and want to get your money’s worth.
On a more creative note, you select a teacher because you are attracted to their style, and you will be surrounded by other aspiring painters who admire this teacher. I find there is an energy among these individuals pursuing a similar goal which will carry you for many months. A good teacher will show you techniques and materials you have not seen before, even if you are an experienced creative.
Learning to see something in a new way is a wonderful lesson. Recently, workshop instructor, Pauline Agnew, from Ireland, was enchanted by the vivid colors of the ice plant –a non-indigenous plant considered invasive today. Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis -shown below) was brought from South Africa in the early 1900’s to stabilize land. However, learning to see beauty in common objects is invaluable to an artist.
Below are two of my new works including the red ice plant encountered at Ponto Beach, Carlsbad, CA painting during the workshop with Pauline Agnew. (acrylic on watercolor paper)
Some of Monet’s glorious impressionist works depict the billowing, polluting smoke from the railways, such as The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train (shown below) painted in 1877. But what color!
I encourage you to look for painters with whom you would like to study, either by word-of-mouth, social media, galleries, online and in magazine listings…but really ask people who have studied with the individual for their reactions. Research artists your favorite artist follows on Instagram.
Artist I have studied with and recommend include the ever-effervescent Robert Burridge, Ray Roberts, Peggi Kroll Roberts, Melinda Cootsona and a Pauline Agnew. (My photos of the instructors during the workshops I attended below) Last photo: Yours Truly at Pauline's workshop.
Another opportunity is community college. I have great respect for community colleges. During high school, I took classes at Los Angeles Harbor College. Instructor, John Cassone was incredible, as good or better than my university professors. I used many of his design exercises as a high school art teacher, and early lessons in life drawing were priceless. 30 years later, when I sought to revive my art experience, I enrolled in a life drawing class with Cathy Allen at Copper Mountain College. Inspired, I founded and facilitated a local life drawing group which met for over eight years.
I would encourage you to look through local community class catalogs, community college schedules and other art associations for teachers near you. If this is out of reach for you at this time, take yourself on an “artist date.” Brilliant author and teacher Julia Cameron encourages assigned play. She describes it as:
“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”
Develop your practice, yet remain free to play!
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