Handcrafted, Acrylic, 12″ x 12″
I sometimes like to watch those artists on the public television station demonstrate how they paint. They seem so sure of themselves, as if they know from the beginning that this will be a really good painting. Some encourage their viewers to paint along with them, but they paint so fast that this doesn’t seem practical. How do they do it? I recently had reason to ask myself that question.
I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and there is a back room at their gallery where art classes are sometimes held. The teacher of a weekly afternoon class of primarily senior citizens asked me to demonstrate plein air painting to her class. Since this was in February, going outside was not an option. But she wanted her students, who usually painted from photographs, to learn more about the art of painting what is in front of you. I said I would do it and then had to figure out how to go about it.
When I paint outdoors in a public space, such as a park, people sometimes look over my shoulder briefly to see what I am doing and maybe make comments. But they come and go quickly and I don’t really talk much to them. I just keep painting. This would be different. I needed to figure out how those artists on TV did it. I decided on a simple still life that I would paint on a small canvas. I chose three objects that I had in my house. They represented simple shapes, a sphere, a cone, and a cylinder, that students in art classes learn to shade.
First I practiced painting the still life at home. Some of the drawing did not look quite right. So then I practiced just drawing the still life several times with charcoal. Finally it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to draw the still life ahead of time on the canvas to be sure to get it right. Finally the big day arrived and I set up my easel and the still life in the room before the class arrived. I talked a little bit about plein air painting to the class and about the objects I had chosen to paint.
It turned out to be easier than I had imagined. Mostly the class members concentrated on their own work, occasionally walking up to where I was painting to see what I was doing and ask questions. I didn’t quite finish the painting during class time, but I got enough done that they could see how it would look. I finished it at home. I plan to enter it in the next Topeka Art Guild show, so they will be able to see the completed painting.