Make a Painter of Yourself

This week I had an email from a former workshop student asking for my help.  She no longer lives in Calgary, but hoped that I could still be of some help as an instructor for her.  That was incredibly flattering, but I finally had to conclude that I couldn't do long-distance art teaching.  So much of teaching well is being able to accurately judge paint consistency on a student's palette, or make a mark on someone's painting to illustrate a point.  Technology will never be able to cope with these needs.  

Instead, I suggested a few things that she could do in her new town: I told her to look for local, reputable organizations for artists; in Calgary it is the Federation of Canadian Artists, the Alberta Society of Artists, the Sketch Club, and several others.  Organizations like these are a good place to look for workshops. I also advised her to scour her town for artists.  She might happen across a painter whose work touches her, and who would be willing to teach her.

As well - and this is how I learned - I advised her to get out every book about painting that her local library has.  When those run out, find books online and have the library bring them in on inter-library loans.  I used the "how to" books to learn the basic rules of oil paint, and then moved on to looking at specific painters or art movements like Impressionism.  The more art that a student sees, the more she will be able to figure out what kind of painter she would like to be.  Finding an aesthetic is half the battle. 

Along with this I spend time looking at gallery sites online.  By doing this, I've learned which painters I like (or not) and then I've checked out the other galleries that they are in.  In these other galleries, I might find more painters that I enjoy, and follow the links to their other galleries.  Pretty soon, I have a long bookmarked list of galleries to look at regularly for inspiration and insight.  Studying other people's work has helped me to narrow down what attracts me in a painting: whether it's subject, colour, use of line or types of edges, or degree of finish, and this knowledge has helped me paint with real direction. 

Most importantly, I told her to paint as often as she could; to try for every day, but to take anything that was available.  Like learning a musical instrument, you have to put in the hours of practise.   

And that explains the images shown above.  They represent one week's work from two of my students.  A mother and son, they paint together on weekends, exploring and extending the lessons that we've done in class that week.  They argue about technique, look at painters online, email images of paintings in progress to me, and manage to fit art into full-time working lives.  I'm a help, but they have taken the responsibility for their learning and are putting in the time.  I have no doubt that they will become the painters that they want to be, and I know that my former workshop student can be successful too.  It all comes down to focus, passion, and time spent with a brush in hand. 


Erik said…
Sound advice Ingrid. There is no substitute for practice.
Good advice Ingrid,hope all is well with you!
Tim says Hi
Denise R said…
I agree this is all great advice! I am a new painter and am doing all of these things and learning a lot! Thanks for the reminder that it is a process that you really can't rush, but you can focus on doing these things, especially putting brush to canvas!
I'm glad this resonated with other painters. You're right Denise: you can't rush this process.

Nita, I looked at your blog and wished I could go to those stimulating, art-drenched places with you and Priti. It looked inspiring!
Tell Tim "hi" back. I hope he's in good health and spirits.
Pat Lothrop said…
Hey Ingrid, would you like to come do a weekend painting workshop at Diamond Willow? We'd love to have you again!