Masters and Apprentices

In the old days, if one wanted to learn a craft, one had to learn from a Master.  You would be apprenticed to a Master craftsman at a very young age and learn everything you could so that one day you could take over and become a Master in your own right.

Whenever you want to learn something new, you will need someone to teach you and show you how to do it.  That is why we go to school, to learn from people who have the benefit of experience of being taught by someone who specialised in their chosen subject.  Going to school and learning from others is not a bad thing.  What makes it difficult for the student to enjoy school or a particular subject is how well the teacher teaches it.  I used to hate math until I did calculus in college.  My calculus teacher had a sense of humor and actually made it interesting.  He must have been really good because I was a tough customer.  Children always excel at what they are interested in or how well the teacher can get them interested in the subject.  It is not enough for a teacher to just teach a subject, they need to engage their students and inspire them to want to learn more about what they are being taught.

When I was learning to dance Argentine Tango, I trusted my teacher to teach me how to do it correctly.  It wasn’t until I went to the Milongas that I realised that I had been taught the wrong kind of Tango.  I needed to learn Salon dancing, not show dancing.  Even though he was very good at Salon dancing, he preferred the show stuff.  I could have stayed with this guy for years and never learned anything different, but what he had was enthusiasm, and it is that enthusiasm that made me want to know more and got me out to other classes and teachers and how I found out how to dance well.  It took time and a lot of practice and just getting out there to dance.  Unfortunately, you really can’t learn how to Tango from youtube.  I have danced with people that tried, and no it doesn’t work.

When it comes to learning how to paint, you can read as many books as you like, but unless someone shows you how to mix the paint, load the brush, and place it on the paper, you are still a bit in the dark.  Interestingly enough, you can learn how to paint from videos, but only if the teacher is showing you everything.  Most of them really don’t show you how to put the brush on the paper and that is the crucial thing about painting, the brushstroke.

Sometimes artists don’t show these things as they want you to buy their books or DVDs or download their lessons.  Even when you do these things, the information isn’t always complete.  It is a risk you take.  I have loads of art books.  Some of them are just inspiring and I don’t even dream of painting like the person who’s book I purchased.  I just like what they do and hopefully will get ideas of how to work in a different way.  Some books I buy because I do want to learn how to paint the way the artist paints.  Sometimes, I can spend half of my day reading books and watching tutorials on youtube before I even sit down to start a painting.  There is nothing like practice and experimenting, but it is great to be able to know how to do something from the beginning without having to think too hard about it.

I started a watercolor class because the class I wanted got cancelled and I was offered any other class at half price.  I chose the watercolor class because it fit in with my schedule and I already had some supplies.  I was pleasantly surprised how the class was initially structured.  We didn’t have to stretch paper for a start!  We got stuck straight into painting.  Unfortunately, I thought the tutor gave us too much too soon as half the class had already done the beginner’s class before and were more advanced.  If you read back on my watercolor journey, you will see what we did in class.  I thought some of the work was too advanced and I don’t feel we were ever really taught how to load the brush properly and place it on the paper.  I have been finding that out on my own.  In spite of my teacher’s lack of experience in teaching how to paint in watercolor, he did have enthusiasm which I picked up.  I now have the bug and want to be able to paint well in watercolors.  I would really love to go to a class, but most of them take place in the daytime and are really for the unemployed or retired.  That is why you see so many older people painting!   I include myself in the older category, but I do have to work and so time is limited!

The next best thing is going to a workshop and learning from an established artist.  Numbers tend to be limited so that students can get individual feedback from the teacher.  You can actually watch the artist at work and learn how they hold the brush, etc.  There is nothing like being in the room and watching someone paint.  You don’t have to paint exactly like them, but copying someone is the first step to branching out and doing something on your own.  You also learn from the students in your class too.  I will be watching out for workshops with artists that I like once I get the basics down.

So, after reading all of that, thank you very much if you have gotten this far, I will show you what I painted today.

Poppies-Watercolor on Paper-A4
Poppies-Watercolor on Paper-A4

This was done from a lesson in a book: Vibrant Flowers in Watercolour, by Fiona Peart. There is also a DVD that I am thinking about buying as I saw an excerpt of it from her youtube page.  I did trace the shapes, but not all of them.  I also didn’t have all of the same colors, so I improvised.  It is not exactly the same, as hers is much better, but it I’m happy with it and had fun doing it – and that is what painting is all about, having fun!