I wanted to tell you about an incident that happened in one of our regular classes a few weeks ago. It was a particularly small class that day and as those days tend to go, there was probably more gossip and exchanging of recipes than working. So there we are, Carlynne and I enjoying an easy day in class, although not a financially lucrative one, when out of the blue, one of our students, we’ll call her “Sheila” (names are changed to protect the very guilty) said, “Can you recommend a good teacher to give me art lessons?”
Now, let me remind you, this student asked this of her art teachers in the middle of an art class! At first I thought she was joking, then realized she was not. Then I thought, Wow, “Sheila” is getting dementia, but that was not likely either. I looked over at Carlynne who looked like she had been sucking on a pickle, with her face all wrinkled up in puzzlement. Then I looked back at “Sheila” who was waiting for an answer. In that moment I felt the way I imagine a parent does when they find out their only child is shooting up heroin, where did I go wrong, what could I have possibly done to cause this?
Before I could come up with an answer, another student, we’ll call her “Rosie.” (also very guilty) said, “I have always thought Bob Ross was pretty good.” Well at that point, the middle of Carlynne’s face disappeared entirely like a deflated balloon (no kidding), and I turned back to “Sheila” to try to regain control of the situation, not to mention classroom. I said, and this is a direct quote, because I remember it distinctly, “Weeeeelllllll…… I thought that was what we were doing here.” At that point “Sheila” says, “I mean to teach me how to really paint.” Even though I knew by now that I would never regain control of this situation, I repeated myself, a little more confidently this time, “I thought that’s what we were doing.” (By the way, we also mentioned that it would be hard to reach Bob Ross as he died a few years ago.)
Then it dawned on me that “Sheila” had come in to our studio class a year or two previous, waving a wrinkled up magazine swipe, (a photo of a painting, no less). She said, “I don’t want to know how to paint, I just want to copy this for a friend.” And periodically since then, she has brought in another magazine photo that she was copying for someone else. I asked her one time if she ever painted for herself and she replied that she had no interest in that and didn’t have any wall space to hang any. So, we went along like this for quite awhile with her dropping in now and then to have us help her copy something. I guess somewhere along the line, she decided that she wanted more (hallelujah!!) but for some reason didn’t think we were capable of it. That is apparently where we went wrong.
Let me just tell you right now that we have had all ages in our classes, we have taught from 6 year olds to 90 year olds, we have taught all media in classes as well as workshops in various places around the country from drawing to pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylics, oil, etc. We have had students with all types of needs, from “I just want to learn how to draw horses” to “Just show me how to fill in the colors on my craft stamping.” In addition to our personal painting, between us we have also painted three full size horse sculptures, 3 very large butterflies, and one large panel on the local library. Did I mention that we also have a book out, a real honest-to-goodness-not-self-published-book?! Yep, we’ve done it all. Well, that’s what you do when you are trying to squeeze out a living while painting in every spare second of time.
Soooo back to the classroom. We finally got enough info out of “Sheila” to know that she was asking us to finally teach her how to paint. Our weekly classes are designed as studio classes and all students working in all media come together for what we think is mutual benefit. Everyone is working on their own project and we serve as guides to help them achieve their own personal goals. I’ll admit right here that I used to be a snob about art, but over the years working with so many students has taught me that everyone has a need for creativity and it takes as many forms as there are people. I have even seen people who started with paint-by-number and became very excited about learning to really paint. We also have many students who have been with us for 10 years or more and are very fine artists in their own right, doing high quality original work. In fact we are getting ready to teach a two part workshop that will help those advanced students learn about the business side of art because they are ready to sell their work.
If you live in our area and are interested in learning more about our classes and workshops, email us and we will forward info to you. I’ll sign off for now as I still have to deal with “Rosie” and her recommendation of Bob Ross.
Peace and Creativity,