Art Shmart

I just have to come to accept it -my current art class isn’t doing much for me.

It’s an ink and watercolor illustration class. The instructor is a skilled artist who illustrates children’s books, so what instruction he provides is with that in mind. Most of the time there isn’t much instruction, however. Today he said “The more you do it, the easier it gets”.

I could have done it more at home and saved some moolah.

I struggle with what to do first – pencil draw? Ink first then wait for it to dry and hope it doesn’t run when I paint over it? I asked which is best and I was told it’s a matter of preference.

There are two other major problems with the class for me. One is the set up of the room. Trying to pinpoint what irked me about the class, I realized last night that one issue is the room. The whole class sits at one long table together. The light is mediocre.

I have a thing about light. I like it to be good.

At my previous watercolor class we each sat at a rickety tray stand (the kind you see in restaurants when the server needs a place to put a large tray full of burgers, french fries and pasta. You know the one)  with a piece of warped wood balanced precariously on top. In that small space we placed our paints, two cups of water, pallete and paper. I loved it. I don’t like everyone at one long table.

My previous watercolor class involved technical learning, which I think I enjoyed. Here’s a white spoon. Paint it. Teacher, I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. Here, I’ll show you. That was my last class and that’s what I enjoyed. I could say to the instructor “I see how the light is hitting it, I just can’t figure out how to translate that onto paper” Then he’d teach me.

It was remarkable. It was like I was LEARNING SOMETHING.

I do better with concrete. I do better with copying what’s in front of me as opposed to making up creatures and scenes in my mind, which is a bit of what we do in my current course. Which is totally fine, it just doesn’t seem to be my thing.

The instructor tought us to make the backgrounds sort of vague and blurry, creating the effect of depth of field. It’s an effective technique, and I repel from it. I know it has to do with my literal brain. As a child, I can’t say how many times I would look at illustrations in a book and be perturbed over vague backgrounds (if he’s in the park, where the rest of the playground?) and inconsistencies (he had a red shirt on in in the book but on the cover it’s purple!). There was no room for creative shenanigans for me as a kid. I know it’s a hippo planning a birthday party for his donkey friend but make it look real, damn it!

I still struggle with that today. When I draw and paint, I enjoy the challenge of painting something real. This is funny, because there is no art in my home that’s from something real, because I don’t usually like it. That’s what photography is for after all.

I’m learning that with the act of painting, I like literal. I like realism. Imaginary doesn’t work for me, and I like to focus on details and how to translate light onto paper.  It would seem that even when I don’t think I’m learning, I am.


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