Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mistakes as Learning Tools

So this fall I just have one little painting class I'm teaching.  Two of the students took painting last year, and our media was watercolor and neocolor II pastels.  So this year we switched to Acrylics so they could learn a medium which will be more similar to the classic... oils.  (Oils are too time intensive and messy for traveling back and forth with materials, this is not a big school where we can store materials, the students have to take their supplies home to complete homework)

I've never used acrylics in a classical painting sense.  Lots of decorative painting in acrylics, and wall murals, but not with artist quality acrylics on canvas.  It's been challenging, and fun, I'm learning as much or more than the children (students are all in early teens).

The painting we completed in our 2.5 hour class this week was not much of a success as far as resulting in a painting I'd be proud of, but it did teach me much.

I did 2 versions... the first to familiarize myself with the exercise and to break it down into teachable steps.  The second time demonstrating it to the students as they followed along making their own versions.

I used a free painting lesson found on Will Kemp's website (he's a fabulous teacher!), he offers the resource photo as a free download and 5 videos of himself teaching and completing the painting step by step.  So thankful that I discovered his website, it helped me decide on a palette for the class which would not be overwhelming, over priced and give us lots of flexibility.  Here's his website;

So here are my (sad) results... version one at left, version 2 in the middle and the reference photo at right...

In the first version I was pleased with the clouds, hated my water and felt so so about my wet beach reflection.  In the second I am less pleased with the clouds, not much more pleased with my water, but happier with my wet beach.  By placing them next to one another along with the reference photo I can quickly see what I could have done to improve each version.  I overworked my water in the first and it feels lumpy and's coming forward too much.  The colors are off.  In the second it may be slightly improved, but still overworked and doesn't have any movement.  If I had done a more general, loosely stroked sea... paying better attention to the values and lines of the photo it would greatly improve the sea.  I can paint right over those crummy bodies of water and try to get it right (yeah acrylics!), and I may.

Mr Kemp's version is WAY different than mine... more impressionistic and clearly less overworked, resulting in a more painterly version. Have a peek here; Sunset Landscape by Will Kemp. I haven't been able to get comfortable with that style of art. (I lean more toward realism, but am trying to become more flexible.  I've had better success with doing that in watercolor, simply because it's less forgiving than acrylics, so you have to stop before you ruin things. Ha ha) It's lovely to watch him paint with such ease, and talking while working too, that's not an easy feat. 

It will be interesting to see my student's finished paintings when they return.  We weren't able to completely finish them in class. 

So... crummy paintings are a big part of learning to paint, and are valuable.  If you stop because you aren't able to achieve the desired result (the first time, or 2nd or 3rd), you will not move forward in your skills.  (obviously!)You must not be discouraged with failures, but see them as learning tools, enjoy the process and allow yourself to feel good about the parts that worked and the poor bits to help you discover new techniques and learn perseverance.