Each Monday night in the month of October, I’ve been diving into a new side of my creativity at an acrylic painting class. My friend, Alison, suggested I join her, and I signed up on a whim. I felt a little over my head when I received the materials list: specific paint colors, multiple brushes, a canvas pad, a palette, paper towels, a spray bottle, an apron. I’m a straight-up beginner, and I felt intimidated, but I figured I had nothing to lose– and a potential new hobby to gain!
Alison lives down the street, so we took turns driving and always made time for a glass of wine and an appetizer before the class. You know, to get the creative juices flowing. Catching up over a snack and a drink before the classes made Monday nights special. Afterward, we’d head over to the Kimball Art Center to join four or five other artist wannabes and Joy, our instructor. The art center itself is inspiring, even from the outside: I’m a sucker for a funky wall mural.
Thankfully, Alison gave me the lowdown about how to set up our easel stations. For each class, Joy provided a color photo of the painting we would be working on and a sheet of paper with that day’s palette and color mixtures. I set up a water cup to clean my brushes in front of the tackle box I used to carry my supplies. I nervously squeezed out the day’s paint colors onto a piece of palette paper, my eyes darting around the room to see what other people were doing. Some people stood at their easels; I felt more comfortable sitting in a chair. A soothing Pandora station played in the background.
Our first piece was a challenging snowy scene with haphazard trees and a sunlit river. Joy started with a blank canvas, too, and showed us step by step how to approach the painting, explaining techniques as she went along. She walked us through paint-mixing to achieve the correct colors and described which brushes she used and why. I found it very interesting that the place you start a painting might look absolutely nothing like where you want to end up. For example, this snowy scene began as a mostly yellow and darkish blue mess. As we added in more layers, more color, more detail, the painting started to take shape and– gasp- look a little bit like the example photo! I enjoyed the evening so much that I was shocked when two and a half hours had passed. I spent the whole week looking forward to the next class!
Most of my fellow classmates had a hard time with the first painting; even the more experienced artists weren’t fans of the piece. We didn’t send too much time on the details, so I’ll have to work on it another time. We moved on quickly to a golden aspen scene that might as well have been a snippet from one of my Park City hikes. Maybe I felt more inspired by the subject or maybe I felt more comfortable at my easel, but the painting flowed more easily. It was eye-opening to stand up and wander around the classroom; each person’s piece was entirely different from the next person’s. None looked exactly like Joy’s or the sample photo. Some self-imposed pressure was off realizing that, like any form of art, it’s about perspective.
Our third project was a painting of a bear. Because there are few definitive lines in the painting (he’s kind of splotchy!), the approach was different than the other pieces. We worked in a grid, focusing on which colors were prevalent in each square. Again, we started with dark colors and an image that looked like a random blob; as we slowly added layers of lighter color, something bear-ish emerged in the painting. By the time class ended, my bear didn’t look too far off from where Joy had landed. We saved the highlights, coloring, and background for the next class.
Unfortunately, we’ll be out of town next Monday and I’ll be missing the last class (sniff). Joy has promised to email me step-by-step instructions (with photos of her work) to help me finish my bear masterpiece. In the excitement after the first class, I’d purchased a table-top easel to have at home. I already have all of the supplies to continue this new journey.
It’s a good friend that pushes you out of your comfort zone, and Alison did that for me. While I’m constantly tapping into the creative side of my brain as a writer, painting is something new and exciting that awakens a different imaginative part of my personality that I didn’t know existed. Whether my pieces get tacked up in our garage or I’m the next Picasso doesn’t really matter- I found a new source of joy in my life. I’m already looking at a pottery class at the Art Center for later this year!
One year ago: All five senses.