I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I’ve often imagined hosting a fancy dinner and a guest pointing admiringly to a masterpiece on the wall asking who the artist is. I would then (modestly) confess that it’s me… This became a reality this year.
I’ve never been able to draw. This is what I was told in primary school, when the apple I drew in art class more resembled a red baseball than a fruit. The art teacher patiently explained that an apple is not round and that was the first time that I realised that the appearance of things wasn’t actually what I thought it was. It took me another 34 years to muster up the courage to try my hand at another apple. At the end of last year I was stuck at home for the holidays with 2 boys under the age of 5. It was great spending some time with my kids, but towards the end I thought I was going out of my mind. I just needed something new and creative to allow me to feel human again. So, I borrowed my sister’s book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Dr Bettie Edwards. I painstakingly did all the exercises in the book and was actually quite surprised at what I managed to achieve. Instead of thinking about how something should look and then trying to draw it (which is nigh impossible), I really looked at an object and drew what I saw. The outcome was rather amazing. I drew the likeness of an old woman holding a cigarette in her mouth.
Encouraged by early success I then set out to find an art teacher. I found a studio close to home that offered classes on Tuesday evenings, covering a variety of mediums. On the first evening the art teacher, Isa, set us up with charcoal and chalk and told us to choose a picture from a magazine and draw that. The result overwhelmed me so much that I seriously thought of framing it!
I tried to learn what I could from both the teacher and the classmates and had a thoroughly good time. We learned how to draw without stylizing (that is drawing what you THINK it should look like instead of drawing what it ACTUALLY LOOKS like!) and although I still struggled every now and then, I found myself improving. A couple of months later I created an oil painting over a photo printed on canvas. This I did frame and it’s hanging in my corridor. It’s one of my favourites.
But I felt frustrated. I wanted to work with oil paint and the classes were focused on exposing students to various mediums. I dropped out and bought a book called “Oil Painting for Dummies”. Sounds like it could teach me a couple of things, right? It did! It covered the basics around materials, mixing colours and creating a picture. Again I didn’t cut corners. I did all the exercises – still lives of vegetables, cans and bottles. I tried different techniques and brushes. I painted from life and from photo’s. Some paintings came out better than others, but I learned something with every effort.
Again, I found myself frustrated. After I worked through the book, I had even more questions. I set out to find another art teacher, one specialising in oil painting. The one I found (Carien du Preez from www.paintitblack.co.za) specialises in creating realistic paintings in oils and acrylics. I started weekly classes with her. First I chose a landscape because I’ve always wanted to do landscape. It wasn’t my favourite picture in the world, but again I learned about painting in layers and using the contrasts in the painting to your advantage. The result was given as a Christmas present to my mother. She professes to love it!
All throughout this, I would check out painting tutorials on YouTube, read articles on About.com about painting and practise, practise, practise! After the landscape scene, I wanted to do a still life. I found a beautiful photo and Carien and I started working. I did cheat a bit – I traced the picture onto the canvas from a projector to keep the perspective and the proportions correct. For me it’s the outcome that matters and not so much the journey there. Is that wrong? The still life came out beautifully! My best work yet. I was overjoyed that I managed to create something so awesome!
It has been framed and hangs in my dining room, just waiting for that dinner guest to point out how beautiful it is. What have I learnt from the experience? Anyone can paint. If you can hold a pen with enough dexterity to sign your name, you can create a masterpiece. Sure, I won’t be the next Van Gogh or Picasso, but I don’t have to be. The satisfaction of creating something that is beautiful and can be admired is exhilarating. It does take time and effort, but if you are focused on the outcome and willing to put in the work, it will happen. My next goal is to actually “sell” a painting!
Keep on checking my blog for updated pictures of my art work.