Monday, January 28, 2013

Learning To Teach An Art Class For Las Vegas

Last Saturday, I taught my first art class. Well, I should rephrase that. I taught my first art class to an adult. As a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher nearly 50 years ago I taught my students art, something they had never had before.

As I mentioned in another blog, a close friend asked if I wanted to teach him, a person who had never painted before,  to get some experience, see where things might go wrong before I had to perform in front of my two classes. I already know my classes will be small. Since I don't want to spent a whole lot on fancy tech stuff like video cameras that project the painting,  I jumped at the chance. I'm a "hands on" kinda guy. I plan to hover and suggest or answer questions as needed as we paint together.

Getting ready was far more work than I realized. I had to make tracing paper outlines of the two paintings. Then, I realized I had to make a printed copy to then trace onto the canvas with carbon paper. Well, if you're going to make one, you might as well make them all. So, the tracing went well, then I hopped over to Office Depot who carefully framed the tracings for me on a standard letter sheet (after all the paintings are only 9" x 12") so it fit nicely.

Then I had to get the brushes we would need since I was going to paint a new painting as well. Next came the paints, paper towels, the acrylic black for the background and the tub to wash the brushes out. Goodness! That was just the prep! When he showed up Saturday I then had to put daubs of each oil color of paint on a plate, get the turpenoid out and we got to work.

Even starting with outlining the tracing and blocking the rest of the canvas with black acrylic paint it only took us no more than 25 minutes. There was a moment of polite laughter after I spotted him holding and using the brush as if he was doing Chinese calligraphy, a technique he had learned as a student. Once he got used to the way I outlined, he became as fast as me. The beauty of acrylic is that it dries so fast. By the time we were done we could start painting the oils.

I am a minimalist and think my students could have a hard time "mixing" colors. There are only five oil colors. All others are mixes of those five. One reason is that its easier to do and by restricting colors it keeps the painting in the same color palette. Darker green needed? Mix green and a dash of red or magenta. Pale pink? Magenta and white. We put down the colors fairly solidly leaving spaces for the places the colors would be lighter. Oils more or less demands that you go from dark to light. I didn't vary that at all. Adding the next color, say a lighter green or magenta and blending it with the color already there was easy. There really is no right or wrong with painting. Florals are even more forgiving because while recognizable, each individual flower is just enough different.

And that is what we discovered. My second painting is different than the original. I just couldn't get the same tint here or color there. My student was maybe getting a spot darker or lighter in another place. Yet, when we lined them after after about 2 1/2 hours, there was no denying we had painted two lilies. They were close enough so that if you didn't see the original you would never know.

He congratulated me on my method of teaching but noted that before anyone does anything I should go over all the steps. There will be a painting there for them to see and most likely I will paint yet another one as well. Between the oral instructions and the written instructions he felt that I would have a successful class. I guess we will find out soon enough! I can't thank him enough!

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