Just Let It Van Gogh

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Art, Creativity, humor, Life
Tags: , , , , , ,

What if it wasn’t madness? Maybe Van Gogh lopped an ear off because he couldn’t stand to hear people say about his work, “What is that?“ Tortured artists. We’re everywhere.

This week I took the first step towards freeing mine. I took a painting class. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that artistically inclined. About 37 years, in fact, and back then it was a Saturday morning art class my mother signed me up for at the local youth center. A roomful of 8 to 10-year-olds drawing, painting, throwing clay and eating paste. My best effort in that class was a 18” x 32” charcoal drawing of a Great Dane (don’t ask me why I drew that – we didn’t even have a dog).

Since then, I’ve amassed an impressive collection of art supplies that I don’t know how to use. Sharon Welch is helping me to change that. She owns a funky cool little art gallery in our city’s tiny art and theater district and through a chance email, I wound up with a spot in her latest painting class. You might remember from my “Crazy Mayans” post that learning to paint is one of my goals for 2012.

I showed up at her gallery on class night with a random collection of art supplies and a bit of trepidation. I can be very competitive and impatient when I don’t pick things up as quickly as I think I should (check out my grade school report cards – it was a popular teacher comment). My problem with painting isn’t that I’m lacking inspiration but technique.

Sharon quickly laid out the basics – using the different brushes, composing a painting, choosing color combinations. All the things you need to know to START. Then we started. I was using acrylic paints, the other three all watercolors. Two chose to do sunflowers, one other hit upon a mixed media project, and I went with Van Gogh’s “Chair”. I’m not a huge Van Gogh fan. If I had to choose a favorite from his works, it would be “Starry Night Over the Rhone” (tranquil) or “Skull With a Burning Cigarette” (what the hell?). “Chair” just looked like something I could handle.

Sharon is a born teacher. She guides, suggests, demonstrates, inspires and most of all, supports. There is no “wrong” way to paint; just ways to do it better. The vibe in general was nurturing, even the interaction between students, and it showed when we lined our work up at the end of the night. My first thought when I saw their paintings was, “My God, they’re amazing!” My second thought was, “Shit, I should have done a sunflower.”

Embarrassed by my apparent lack of skill, I resisted the urge to toss my painting out the car window on the drive home and brought it in to show my husband. Ever helpful, he said, “Maybe you can fix it?” I took it upstairs and threw it on my writing desk, which is where it sat until this morning when I really looked at it.

Sometimes first tries suck. And that’s O.K. There are people who hit home runs their first time at bat and people who bunt and foul and strike out for years before knocking one over the fence. I’m finally realizing that it doesn’t matter how many swings it takes as long as you don’t quit swinging. The next class is in two weeks and I don‘t know if I’m going yet. But I bought some more brushes, sketched out a couple of ideas, and “Thompson’s Tuffet” (as I’m calling it) is now propped up on my writing desk for inspiration. If the youth center crowd could see me now.

  1. halfcnote says:

    Yes, you do like your colour, don’t you? 😉 I hated painting until I found oil. It’s way more of an investment, but oh, so much more satisfying to work with. Watercolours take a special skill and acrylic dries way to fast for me – I like to play with colours & edges too much. Go back to your class and just have fun.

    • Nothing is ever black and white with me. When Sharon said to pick four colors to work with, I thought “THAT’S IT?!?” I don’t think I have the skills for watercolors since the only color I can seem to make there is brown. I don’t have any oil paints; might have to check into those. Thanks as always for stopping by!

  2. Yay, you! I like your painting a lot! If this is your start, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

  3. sharon says:

    I loved the Crazy Mayan blog – I think you should keep everyone of those promises to yourself. Great to have you in class. Hope you join us again. I already have a lesson tailored made for you and the chair – you’ll love it. You are a very good sketcher and an excellent writer. Love the colors in your painting and the fact that you played with texture. Forget what your husband said (at least regarding your painting)…go on and play, the right side of your brain is calling.

    • Thanks for getting me on my way with my “Mayan” list! I don’t know if that’s what you had in mind with the blue suggestion for the floor tiles but the charcoal thru the yellow made for kind of a cool grout. Appreciate the nice comments, and just for the record, I tend to forget a lot of what my husband says when it comes to creative pursuits!

  4. Nisha says:

    I like your painting especially the stone floor!
    Without meaning to sound controversial, I would say forget ‘skill’; the important thing is that you enjoy yourself. Creativity is about expression not some special formula. But you seem to have a really cool teacher so you’re very lucky. 😀

    Awesome blog title, by the way…

    • I have to say, the floor is kind of my favorite part, too, followed by the purple back wall. The funny thing is I’ve bought artwork in that gallery before but never imagined I would ever be in there actually painting something myself. And you’re right; Sharon IS a cool teacher. Always good to hear from you, Nisha!

  5. Love your line about it doesn’t matter how many swings you take as long as you don’t quit swinging. That’s the most important thing. You had painting on your list of things to work on this year and you’re doing it. That’s amazing in itself. Even though you weren’t completely satisfied with the result, you have opened the door to a new passion that may just grab you and never let you go. The important thing is that you enjoy it.

    • I showed Gina and Louis the painting and got a thumbs up there. So I’ll keep swinging. I actually sat down and did some sketching last night. Literally have not done that in YEARS. Felt pretty good!

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