Today was Week 3 of this term’s Introduction to Drawing & Painting class at the Melbourne Studio of Art, and I think it was one of my favourite classes yet! When I heard that we would be doing our first painting class I expected it to be a lot like the one we did last term. In that class we painted a still life scene using black and white acrylic paint.
I remember being incredibly proud of this painting last term. There was a distinct moment towards the end of the class when I figured out what I was doing with the medium, and I managed to get quite a lot of detail and blending done in the last 15 minutes. Considering that this was my first time holding a paintbrush since I was 13 years old I was pretty pleased with myself.
This week our teacher Michael Gray told us that we’d be working with oil paints, and for a moment I was terrified. Hadn’t I only just figured out what to do with acrylic paint, finally? Isn’t oil painting for grown-ups? I guess I had always assumed that oil painting was for the pros, and that you needed to know some sort of secret handshake to join the club.
It’s funny how we make up these arbitrary rules when it comes to creativity. Before I moved to Melbourne I was a singing teacher at my local TAFE and it always amazed me how different my adult students were compared to the kids that I taught privately. Children came to their lessons with no preconceptions of what they were capable of; for the most part, they assumed that they could until repeated experience proved otherwise. It made for an incredibly powerful and trusting learning environment, and those kids progressed very quickly.
My adult TAFE students didn’t believe that they could sing, but they came to my class because they liked doing it anyway. Most of them could recall a time early in their life where they used to sing all of the time, and most could remember in vivid detail the embarrassing story behind their decision to stop. The first few weeks of those classes was always about breaking through their assumptions about what their voices could do. From there, the transformations were incredible – and it all began in the mind.
So I had to laugh at myself a bit today for reacting as I did to the news that we’d be painting with oil paints. Why had I decided that I didn’t deserve to be using them yet? What about those classmates of mine who had never painted before – would Michael be cruel enough to throw them to the wolves? He seems like such a nice guy!
Michael is a nice guy, and he also has a lot of faith in our capacity to learn new tricks. I think that the entire class did an incredible job for their first painting class today – don’t they look amazing as a group?
So here’s my very first oil painting.
In some ways oil painting was very different to working with acrylics, and in other ways it was exactly the same. I loved the way that paint could be pushed around easily once it was on the paper, and how easy it was to blend. I found it to be much more forgiving, mistakes were more easily corrected. I’d have loved to have kept working on this still life but we ran out of time!
I might be the newest member of the fan club.