Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Summer of Art

It's a bit like art camp for adults, only we don't have to sleep on bunk beds or get up early for a polar bear dip, and it's just two hours a week. But spending every Monday night all summer doing art is making this the best summer ever.
When Louise Cloutier, a newly retired art teacher, quickly realized her long-time dream of a public art studio in Pugwash, I signed up for 12 weeks of classes. An entire summer of art, every Monday evening. The weeks are divided in two: an art lesson one week and a studio class the following week. I'm learning a lot and it's been awesome, getting gluey with string art and ripping paper like Henri Matisse, and I hummed along having a great time.
Until last night.

I knew it was coming, the night of the dreaded landscape painting.
Here is what landscape painting and music have in common with me: I can't grasp the most important concept in either. For music, it's rhythm; I have no innate, instinctive feel for the beat that allows me to count out without actually counting out loud. For landscapes, it's depth; my landscape paintings always looked like the sky is stacked on the field which is stacked on the grass. In fact, last night I experienced the same terrible feeling I've had the past 14 years of doing this kind of painting: I'm a five year old with a paint brush.
Only I now have a grownup's demand for perfection.

Can you see? I even tried for a "Field Notes" look; that's our field and the tree that sticks up on the horizon. My husband even recognized it. But somehow, the long grass and the background trees didn't work out.
Story of my painting life.
My birch tree, even though it's ripped paper (for which I seem to have a knack worth exploring) looks much better in the photo than in real life. The funny thing is I love painting birch trees. Who doesn't? They're so easy. But there was a lot to do in our two-hour lesson class last night -- we had to paint the landscape and then create the birch tree with paper, pencil and paint -- and if I'd been working at home, I would have taken a break between the landscape and the tree.
Who am I kidding? I'd be working on my fourth attempt at creating a realistic landscape. And I'd be madder than hell right now.

Oh, that's it! Screw realism and forget the paint. I'll stick with the glue and string.

But here's the real value in this summer of art: It's not one day. Doing landscapes was not my only experience. The previous experiences were more successful -- even the awful portrait! -- and there are more classes to come, including the final class which is how to mix your colours using only only the three primary colours. And that's where this summer of art works for me. I'm not left with one failed experience to dwell on for months or even years. Next week, I'll be back and Louise, who is a wonderful teacher, will have a new project for us to try and I'll be humming along again.

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