Can you really learn a hands-on skill like painting online?
I would not call myself old-school. I try to keep up with tech trends and I use many apps and other services. This website is evidence of that. However I do not even bother to set my cell phone. That is evidently something for my teenage son to do. The TV is the same too. I prefer talking to texting and Angry Birds makes me, well angry. I suppose I am approaching the scrap heap! Being an artist I also prefer to get my hands dirty and painting is blessedly unchanged. Or is it?
There are digital painters sporting tablets and apps with pride. Not to mention the digital photo art that is so popular. Perhaps the biggest groundshift has been in how we learn. Online learning has exploded globally and nobody is exempt. Old and young and all in between are learning online. This digital democracy has brought top quality education into posh mansions and tin shacks alike. I look at my children. They have access to regular school yet find their most stimulating lessons on You Tube or some other website like Udemy or Lynda. Not to mention the mass of websites by experts on whatever topic you may require.
Certificate from a famous university? No problem. Try Coursera. Want to learn java and perhaps some photography skills for fun? Try Udemy.com. Children struggling with maths? Try Khan Academy. All well and good, but what about art? Can you really learn a hands-on skill like painting online? I know many old hands scoff at this notion. I have received sceptical looks from some artists north of 50 who think it is silly to learn online. They still believe that a mentor with a few students is the way to go. Something like in the Renaissance days I think.
The fact is that digital learning is essential for artists today. If you have a desire to teach art then online learning is also becoming hard to ignore. Let us start with You Tube. Once you get past the rubbish there is a treasure trove of excellent teaching on art techniques. Then try Pinterest to research art for inspiration or to find excellent quality images of masterworks. These are essential to learn from.
Of course there are DVD lessons that can be purchased and downloaded in HD quality. No more waiting for delivery. No customs duties and so forth. The hard part remains actually doing the work! Hang on there are courses you can take to teach you how to maximize your time. If you have a moment that is.
I have been impressed with Udemy.com. A website that hosts paid and free courses on just about any topic. Whether you want a certified course in computer programming or to learn business skills or have some fun learning a new hobby this website has it all. So inspired was I with the general high quality of courses that I created my own course, Learn To Paint With Impact, that was launched a few days ago.
This experience entailed a new learning curve for me. There is a big difference between giving a workshop to students in person to facing a camera instead. In many ways I had to rethink my subject to convey the ideas better. This helped me too. Teaching is a learning process for both teacher and student after all.
There are massive benefits to learning art online too. Costs are low. Cut out travel, time and related costs of attending a workshop and you have saved a ton. Plus the convenience of learning when you want to, pressing pause and rewind when you need to check something are also handy. On the downside you do need to be a self-starter and get the course done on your own steam. There is also the practical side of art, which is why I have a series of assignments to encourage practical work. Social interaction? Get a friend to join with you or an art club for that matter. The nice thing with Udemy is that instructors can give their own discounts to groups which is a big plus for teacher and student.
Whether you want to learn art or teach it the internet has changed the landscape forever. There is opportunity for all and excuses are hard to come by. Of course doing the work is the essential ingredient. That is something that should still please the old-timers like myself.
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April is full of public holidays. It is also a time of significant cultural and religious observance around the world. I know many professionals grumble about the disruption to business. However I prefer this time of year to the annual end of year madness. We all need a break and a quiet moment with family. The weather is great too. So take a a breather.
A perfect time to get the paints out and have a dabble. What a stress breaker this is. I see many folk out jogging or cycling early in the mornings. Exercise is important for stress relief, but I can assure you that if the idea of pounding the pavement does not appeal then try painting. It is yoga for the mind and spirit. If you are looking for something different then how about taking your paints outdoors. Perhaps the garden or on your long weekend holiday spot and paint. Watercolor journals are so easy to take with and enjoy on holiday.
So put away the briefcase for a few days, throw the tie into the closet and get the paint brushes out. If you have children who are bored with TV (they all are) then get them to join you. Is is amazing to see what children come up with when there is no pressure. Such innate talent!
Have a great time on your holidays!
Painting in the studio and painting outdoors. What is better? A silly question really, because they are both so different. Chalk and cheese. Although I could argue that it is not so daft. What about the artist (myself included) who has some expectation that the next painting may be good enough to actually sell. Bring in some cashflow for those paints and other tiresome things like bills to pay. If plein air painting is hit and miss compared to the controlled environment of a studio then staying indoors to churn out studio work will pay the rent. Or will it?
Remember exams at school? Some kids were great in class, but come exams they would fall apart. Could not handle the pressure and scrape tests that were easy to others. Then there were those who were useless on a daily basis, but then do rather well at test time. They turned out to be steady under pressure and did enough to get a respectable C. It is the kids who can handle pressure that make a success of life. The show ponies end up looking rather ordinary since life tends to be a pressure situation.
Now that all sounds a bit hard actually. But look at it this way. What if you can face the pressure situations, learn from them, and then apply the lessons learnt to do some excellent work when the pressure is off. That must surely be the way to live life too. Take it in your stride with some confidence and a smile. It is rather like how I view plein air painting.
The success ratio for plein air, if I think of saleable work, is about 50%. However take that experience into the studio and it results in more authentic paintings more often. Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. If you can paint the ugly and make it look interesting - worthy of consideration. Then you have skill as a painter. Anyone can paint pretty. But pretty gets boring very quickly. Make the average beautiful. That is something.
I think of plein air as the training that gives me endurance to solve painting problems quickly. Make decisions and get on with finishing the painting. The above photo was from a recent early morning session at Kelly's Beach, Port Alfred. Sun in my eyes and amazing glare off the sea. Chances of a great painting - poor. Why bother?
The answer is that the challenge attracted me. I knew that success was unlikely, but I would have to learn to paint the sea's colours as I saw them. There was no contrived mixes of green and blue. What colour is the sea water in those conditions. Can you put a name to it? Not at all, but it is there so come up with a solution. Then there is the emotional content. How does that moment feel?
So in the end it is not a contest at all. Plein air is necessary to build the muscle for the long haul in the studio. Besides, it is great fun too!
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