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.

Express Yourself

With Colour, Collage and Texture.

My next art workshop, on Monday 16th September is Colour, Collage and Texture in Abstract Painting. In some ways I think this workshop is all about how to become more expressive in your art. How we make use of colour, or bring in outside elements like collage and texture can have a massive impact on the look and feel of a painting. It can also help us express ourselves in ways that are more authentic and personal as we get closer and more in touch with those elements that inspire, delight or bring us satisfaction and joy in our painting.

New Techniques

I am really looking forward to this session and thought I would write something more about what I am planning to help you decide if this workshop is for you. The intention for the day is to spend most of the morning on exploring the three elements of the workshop title. People who attend will then go away with lots of new techniques and ways to use colour, collage and texture in their work.

Sketchbook Collage from the 100 Day Project

Learn About Colour

As someone who has been teaching in various different guises for over 20 years I know how important it is to have a solid foundation in the basics. We will take a brief look at the colour wheel and some simple and straightforward ways of understanding and working with colour. Lots of people find understanding colour and how to work with it a bit intimidating. I hope to demystify some of the theory for you as well as offering some simple ways to give you more confidence and knowledge about colour as well as the tools to bring more harmony to your paintings.

Next we will be making our own collaging papers. There are lots of ways we will be approaching this, from simple printing, using stencils, wax resist and different mark making tools. The last part of the morning will be to look at creating texture with paint. I will demonstrate how I do this as well as setting up some simple exercises for you to experiment and practice for yourselves.

Following lunch we will make some larger paintings and studies, by putting some of the techniques and ideas we have learnt in the morning into practice. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to complete a piece along with lots of input and coaching from me.

Places are limited and there are only a few left. Thinking this might be the next workshop you need to move your art practice on? You can book your place here via my online booking page.

Hope to see you soon.

Abstract Landscape Workshop: what can you expect?

IMG_20180610_180428We’ll be spending the day together at a lovely venue, The Old House Studio in the middle of open countryside about 3  miles from Glossop.

We will begin with some simple ideas about how to compose abstract paintings, as well as spending half an hour looking at abstract work to get some ideas of why these works are successful.

To loosen up and get us in touch with landscape we will then spend an hour or two sketching and painting outside. The Old House Studio is ideally situated for this as it is overlooking part of the Pennine Way with stunning views up and down the valley. There is a useful terrace outside the main studio where we can assemble with all our gear, making it easy for us to paint outside without having to carry lots of materials with us.  The sketches will form a loose reference point for the paintings we will then go on to make.  We my even use some of the sketches later as collage materials if that is the direction the work takes.

IMG_20180610_180857Having connected to the scenes around us, we will move to beginning our final paintings.  For these we will be using wood panels as it allows us greater scope for creating surface texture.

We begin on a gessoed panel with intuitive play. Laying down paint in a free and spontaneous fashion to both cover the surface and provide an initial jumping off point into a more finished composition.

Finished with play,  we will begin to bring intention into the composition creating landscape forms and shapes.  I will be demonstrating how I make decisions in my painting and sharing my thinking with you.

Along the way I will demonstrate various techniques including how to use oil pastel, line, scratching, sanding and scraping paint, collage.

The workshop is for people with some previous experience of painting but this is not essential, and absolute beginners are welcome.

With a few places left,  if you are interested then please use the contact form below.