“I hate it!” My classmate Nancy was having some trouble with the still life she’d been working on. “I’m gonna quit. Don’t tell Steve.”
I watched in horror as she took the cloth she had with her and wiped away the paint on the canvas, rubbing it in, destroying the image she’d been working on for the past 4 hours. I gasped, “What are you doing?”
Nancy doesn’t like still lifes. She is comfortable painting other subjects, skilled and familiar with a horse or a couple of dogs, but a teapot on some fabric, forget it.
This is the beauty of art class, the intensive in particular. Typically our work in painting class is focused primarily on subject matter we choose. We work on our paintings to the best of our ability, and when we find an area where we are completely lost, Steve skillfully rescues our painting while instructing us on how he does what he does. Nancy has been coming for two years, and her skills are undeniable, her growth as an artist is astounding, and from an outsiders perspective it would seem that it would be difficult to derail her.
Our Summer Intensive was… intense. There was something to challenge any artist, at almost any level. Something to work on, and a weakness to identify. Nancy was in the throes of it, but I think at some point everyone in the room felt like wiping their canvas.
The greatest part, we all walked away with a painting. I walked away with two! Despite the frustration of never having painted glass, or a reflective surface, or flowers for that matter, I walked away with a painting of all of those things. I learned so much. I looked my fears in the canvas and painted them out. It. Was. Wonderful.
Nancy eventually walked away with a painting too. Rather than rendering the still life with her all too familiar brushes, Steve suggested a pallet knife. Using an unfamiliar tool allowed her to step away from her expectations and focus on learning what she needed.
During the exercises Steve said something that stuck with me. “Art is a metaphor, if you can do it on the canvas you can do it in life.”
If you are in the Lexington/ Versailles, Kentucky area, I really encourage you to take a chance at an art class. Because, like any challenge, when you find you can overcome it, you become stronger overall.