Tuesday 26th May
I emerge from my studio late this afternoon into a tranquil garden scene. The sun is still warm, even though it is time to start cooking dinner. I have just spent two hours teaching a group of utterly charming children via Zoom, and I need a little rest. I settle back on the sun lounger that I bought a couple of years ago but have never really sat on, text my husband that a beer would be nice, and a few minutes later I am holding a glass of cold lager. The can looks so pretty with its long blue shadow that after our little break Marcel returns to the office, and I start a sketch.
- I took delivery of a new full pan of watercolour from Polish brand Aquarius (I believe Roman Szmal is the name of the manufacturer), and it is absolutely wonderful. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time buying green watercolour and being disappointed. Not this time. It’s Sap Green and it’s gorgeous. Much more lovely than other brands of sap green I’ve tried. All I have to do is add a hint of yellow ochre and I have the exact green of my lawn; a little indigo and I have the gloom of the trees in shade.
- Even though I start with very dark colour around the glasses, I am not put off because I know from experience that it will all be OK. The message here is that you must try to trust what you’re doing, and the evidence of your own eyes, and don’t be put off by a bit of boldness.
- I go against my better judgment and put a very light wash over the surface of the seat on the left, even though I tell my students that even the lightest slick of paint will take the glow of sunlight away. And that’s what happens. I am annoyed with myself.
I’d like to tell you about the kids in my Zoom class. While I fully understand that Zoom classes aren’t for all children (because they’re not a homogenous bunch), the ones who are comfortable with it are very comfortable with it. They know when they’re muted and when they’re not – without ever seeming to check – and nod or shake their heads vigorously when I ask a question and they know I won’t hear their answer, or give me an enthusiastic thumbs-up when I ask if they’re getting on OK. They type fast to each other in the chat box as they draw and paint, making boyish, playful comments about whatever characters we’re drawing (no, the girls don’t join in the written chat as much). They fetch their dogs, haul them onto their laps to greet everyone – whether they want to or not – and we’ve had a video of cake-baking for someone’s parents who were celebrating a wedding anniversary. The children discreetly push their drawing off-camera until they’re ready to show me, and the results are always creative and well-executed.
I’m not going to say the adult students – let alone I – are as savvy as the kids when it comes to their use of the technology, but they have all got the hang of the Zoom technology now. It is surprisingly close to feeling like a real classroom, even though we are in different time zones, different continents, different climates. The occasional wobbly connection reminds us that we are looking at digital images of each other, but we still manage to get to know each other and chat. The work they produce is marvellous, and while I know that’s what they’re there for, it is the joy of making a beautiful image that I want my students to feel, so that they go out and create their own when they have the opportunity to do so, because that’s how they’ll come on in leaps and bounds.
My classes are usually fully booked the day before, but there is an opportunity to purchase a block of classes at the start of each term, thereby guaranteeing your place and also getting a free class as a bonus. There will be another term soon, designed to suit the time zones of those in Hong Kong and Australia. Keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook, and if you are on the start of your art journey, there’ll be a course for beginners too.
The best thing of all is that the Covid crisis has given you lots of choice. You can take a pre-recorded class, and suit your own time schedule; or you can be with your instructor in person, so to speak. I prefer the latter as I love the company of my students, and I can get a feel for their progress.
The choice is yours!
Those greens are gorgeous! Your Saturday class is really motivating me to pay attention and really SEE what’s in front of me and not put things willy nilly wherever they land.
You surely deserved that beer!
Hi Geri, that paying extra attention is EXACTLY what I was hoping you would do and it is all you need to capture the beauty you see around you. It’s much more than half the battle, and the rest of just about practice and having fun with new materials. See you in a few days. X
Hi Roisin, I just wanted you to know how much I’m learning from your classes. It must be difficult for you to paint and talk at the same time, but I always pick up inspirational bits from you along the way as I’m working. Even your casual mentions are packed with useful tips. Those two hours every week just fly by. I do hope you will teach a follow-up series for when this block is finished! Thanks for all.
Teaching is hard work, and I’m glad your family fixes dinner for you and brings you a glass of beer!
Hi Jane, it’s so nice of you to say such generous things. When I started on my sketching journey I couldn’t talk while I was sketching and even now if I have to do something that requires extra concentration I can’t talk. But that only usually lasts a minute or two. It’s like driving – when you started I bet you couldn’t talk, because you were concentrating so much. I know I couldn’t! I guess one develops a muscle memory (and a mental one) for driving and I have too with sketching. They happen in different parts of my brain. One is intuitive, the other requires attention on a different level. That will happen to you too, I am sure.
I am so delighted you’re getting lots out of the classes. And in a way I am glad I never organised myself enough to make a pre-packaged online class, as the interaction is everything to me. See you next Saturday – and yes, there will be a follow-on block as I couldn’t possibly teach a tenth of what there is to learn in six classes! X
I’m so happy there will be follow-up classes! I believe I would suffer from withdrawal!
Yes indeed! 🙂