How to be an artist

Making a start

Over the last 15 years, since I began painting again, I have attended a fair number of art workshops, some online and some in person. I’ve watched numerous people on YouTube demonstrating techniques. These workshops can be very helpful in showing how to approach particular materials. I see this as learning how to paint. What I am also interested in helping people learn is how to be an artist.

Teaching Techniques

Let me explain my thinking on this as I feel these two things are very different. Teaching how to create a painting is often about specific materials (acrylics, oils, pastel) or techniques. Whereas learning about being an artist has a number of other dimension. The two I’m going to write about are the process of painting and the process of developing oneself as an artist, on an ongoing basis.

I have about 20 years teaching experience in other fields and I wanted to bring some of the approaches I have used in teaching other subjects to how I teach art. I wanted my teaching to have clearer learning objectives and outcomes, to support the attendees in their learning. The sessions would still be enjoyable and fun, but I felt that to give people a rich learning experience I wanted to do more than demonstrate an approach or technique in making a painting.

Structured Learning

An example is a one day workshop I recently delivered for a local art group. The workshop was an Introduction to Abstract Painting. For this group I had decided to put together a booklet with exercises to be completed during the session. The day began with some questions. The questions were about what type of artist you are. Then we went on to do two exercises on colour mixing and to reflect on what we had learnt. Participants were encouraged to make notes on the process as they were going along. The day was a mixture of this type of structured exercise and reflection, as well as demonstration of techniques for the group to then use in their own paintings. Along with this, I spent time with each person offering them individual coaching on their work.

All my workshops now include reflective questions alongside structured exercises to help people in their learning. I still demonstrate in these sessions but I have also including more input from me in the way of formal teaching and structured experiences. A shift from the workshop being a whole day of me painting and the delegates watching and then learning from watching and asking questions. This is where learning moves outside of how to use materials, how to paint or draw a particular way. Or about composition or colour. There is no doubt that these are key skills to have. For me, learning about being an artist is also about developing authentic artistic sensibility and learning from the process of your own art making. A large part of this is reflecting on the work and learning from what you are doing.

Exploring Pattern

An example of this process in action in my own work is a recent decision to explore pattern. I rarely use regular mechanical styled pattern in my work. I love this kind of pattern in others work and example of this would be the work of Jane Davies american artist. Some pattern does appear in my collage work, particularly quick pieces in my sketchbook, but not in my larger paintings. So, I have set myself the goal to explore this and see how it might begin to appear in my work. I may find that actually there is no place, but this will only come through exploration.

A little bit of pattern top right in a study from the Monochrome Challenge.

I have set up a PInterest board for capturing images of pattern I like. I will be regularly doing small pieces in my sketchbook exploring pattern. I intend to put together in inspiration board for my wall in my studio to keep this top of mind for the next few months. It will be interesting to see how this changes. I have been, and will continue to journal on the experience of using pattern and what I notice about how it shows up in my work. Which is not very often at the moment. This process of exploring is, for me, hugely important in being an artist. Learning and working out what I want to develop in my work. Deciding what and how I want to learn and deciding in a process for that. Some of the key elements in being an artist.

How do I teach or coach people to be an artist?

Firstly I am not prescriptive about what you should do, or how you should do it. My aim is to encourage people who attend my sessions to discover what they need to know about their own ways of making art. With the result of being able to support yourself in your artistic development more effectively. Studio sessions and workshops will have a structure and exercises that are geared to help with this. Coaching will be more exploratory although I will make concrete suggestions on things to do to improve your art practice.

There are three ways you can learn with me. I offer individual coaching sessions which are delivered online. These can be booked either in a block or individually and will very much depend on what you want from the coaching. I offer a free half hour chemistry check where we can discuss your objectives for the coaching. You can book a chemistry check here.

Studio Sessions. These are half day painting sessions at my studio in Buxton for a maximum of two people. For more information see my website page. And you can check out feedback and comments on workshops here.

Finally, my new workshop program is launching in the next few weeks. Sign up here to to keep in touch and find out first about the programme and my exciting new courses for 2020. Or follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Leave a Reply