THE ART OF LEARNING ART

Updated: Jun 11

I have been painting watercolours for a number of years now…since 1998 to be exact. And along the way Iv'e gained priceless knowledge from a number of teachers and mentors. Tim Robson, an unsung master of watercolour and stickler for painting in the classical style. Dale Elliot, probably one of South Africa’s finest art teachers who taught me not only about art but also how to conduct the business of art. And Richard Rennie, the maestro of cutting to the chase and how to produce great art with the least fuss and frills. I have been privileged to sit at their feet.


And along the way one picks up bits and bobs, tips and titbits from fellow artists one meets along the art highway, some in real life and others through Youtube and other media platforms. The question then arrises: Why should I spend good money on art courses, in person or perhaps online directly with an artist, if I can teach myself via Youtube? 


The answer is a simple one: When you were a child and you were being taught how to ride a bicycle by your dad, would you have done better with or without his help and guidance, his encouragement? And thus the same with good art courses and good art teachers or mentors. It’s easy for the chap on youtube to blithely say: "Apply a blue wash for your sky by doing so on and so forth.” Or: “Do a quick landscape sketch before starting your initial washes.” (Huh?…how?) But is he there to point out where you’re going wrong, to encourage you to try again, to say "Well done! Thats lovely!" ? (Even if it isn’t.) To say; "Use a little less pressure, change the angle of your brush a bit." Does he tell you that your paint mix needs a bit more French Ultramarine? Does he make you feel the different types of paper so that you’ll understand their makeup? How much encouragement does he give you? Does he bring you a cup of tea and a biscuit and have a chat about the roses in the garden? Point out how the shadows are falling across the mountain while you’re having a break? Does he share personal experiences with you? Crack a joke? Can you breathe in that gorgeous, paper, paint, canvass  smell of the studio, feel the energy?  And after your course, is Mr. Youtube available to answer the many questions that will come up once you’re home and start painting by yourself? Does he follow your painting career and maybe keep in touch via Facebook or whatever the other stuff is through which people keep in touch? Will he, should you be good enough, offer to hang one of your pieces in his gallery? The answer is simple: No he won’t and no he doesn’t.  And that, very simply put, is why your best teacher will help you in person, one-on-one, in his or her studio or home. Like your dad did in the driveway of your house on your first bicycle. With love and care. And that lesson lasted for a lifetime. Johan Brink

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