Every picture tells a story
“Jeremy, are you an engineer by any chance”, Jake politely asked with a knowing smile on his face?
“No one needs to build anything from your picture – just get the acrylic paint on the canvas and go wild with your own thoughts and interpretation. The paint will dry quickly so it can be layered and changed as you go”.
Only an hour before, I had arrived at the art studio, in the leafy upper west side of Manhattan. The walls were covered with paintings in various stages of completion showcasing a kaleidoscope of colours, subjects, shapes and textures.
This was the beginners class in acrylic paint and Jake was our Canadian born teacher. My wife Angie is a wonderful painter and she had encouraged me to include painting as part of my creative immersion experience in NYC. I let Jake know he was dealing with a novice whose previous experience had been in interpretive finger painting in Mr Rowe’s prep class. Being goal oriented, I did say to Jake that I wanted to paint a red apple by the end of the course. He seemed more confident than me which was very reassuring.
With a colour wheel on my lap and some primary colours squeezed out on my palette, I got to work on my first piece, using a contemporary picture of the Manhattan skyline as a guide, just to get me to work on colour mixing, to get the feeling of paint on the canvas and to experiment with different brushes and brush strokes. After an hour where my skills were challenged he assessed my work noting that my bias seemed to be towards scale, shapes and accuracy, like one would tackle the detailed design of a 54-storey mixed office/residential/commercial tower.
Jake’s gentle but well-aimed comments immediately made me change tack and I applied the back colour in 10 minutes. It felt good, enjoying the creative freedom and confirmed why I had included the painting class as part of my creative immersion in NYC.
It was soon time to start my red apple that had to be good enough to hang on the kitchen wall. Angie had found a guide picture that looked great and on first glance, quite manageable for the beginner.
The other students were a range of ages and a mixture of professionals, college students, stay home partners and retirees looking to learn new skills and enjoy new experiences. We had great chats during our work, supporting each other, talking about art, influences, goals and experiences. Our respective work was diverse in style, technique and subject matter but we all saw this as an opportunity to express ourselves without judgement.
My apple progressed quickly in shape, and I quickly realised there must be 100 different shades of colour in this red apple. There was also transitioning and textures. Mmm, how come I had not seen this before? So, with a flurry of layering and detail and with a great sense of satisfaction and pride, I put my name on my first piece of art. The Red Apple is now framed and sits on the kitchen wall. If you stand 10 meters away on the angle, squint and close one eye, it looks like an apple – or a tomato as one of my friends said. Ah well, the tortured artist.
Not only did I walk away with a fantastic experience with a diverse and amazing group of people but I was able to enjoy the freedom to create without fear of right or wrong, good or bad and celebrate different styles and approaches. Through the class, I realised there is so much in the detail and it is important to stop and appreciate the depth, shade, textures and transitions along the journey both as a painter and as a lifelong learner.
Join me next week as we discover ideas and creativity in the local community.