How to learn to paint


Learning to paint isn’t about learning to see what’s in front of you: it’s about learning to capture how you feel

I’m on holiday this week, down in Devon with my niece and nephew. Ten year old Megan has asked me to give her some painting lessons, a thought that fills me with fear, not least because i don’t really know how i paint myself. It’s just expression, like poetry or how you write. I don’t think of it in terms of structure and process, i don’t even think of the activity of which paint to reach for or how to hold the brush. I just see what i want to paint in my head and somehow it comes out.

I guess that’s the problem with being vaguely unconsciously competent: you forget how you got there. It would be like getting on a bike and trying to ride it as though you didn’t know how to ride a bike. Once it’s clicked, it’s hard to unfasten.

Megan is learning: she’s seeing things and trying to capture them. For me, learning to paint was about learning how not to do that: i started by trying to copy what i thought was in front of me, but only really made progress when i found a style that let me capture what i felt about what was in front of me.

There’s an exhibition in the village here by a chap that paints these photo realistic seascapes. The lady in the gallery asked me what i thought of it: not really my cup of tea. Technically, it’s brilliant, but i kind of find myself asking what the point is. It looks like a photo. Isn’t that the point of a photo? I want a painting to add something else, i’m more interested in the essence of the thing, the additional layers that you can add through the visual interpretation than i am in the pure representation of the thing itself.

So the thought of teaching Megan how to paint is worrying, as it means teaching her how not to see what’s in front of her. Then getting her to forget anything i’ve taught her and find her own style. Which is a big ask for a ten year old. Or, for that matter, a forty year old.

I guess it’s like looking at leadership: you can talk the theory, but it’s only when you lead that you actually really learn leadership.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Art, Creative, Learning, Painting and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to How to learn to paint

  1. benoitdavid says:

    Learn to “lead” your own way, right?

    You can learn to technically replicate perfectly (like the photo realistic painting of an existing scene), or create your own vision of what you think leadership should be, perfect in all its details… but not be a replication. Does that make sense?

    • Karin Venema says:

      We are all in a kind of way replications, ’cause we learn from the ones that are surrounding us and the ones we do allow to enter in our hearts/feelings/systems.
      I reckon the most difficult thing for me is to allow things/live to evolve, without trying to manipulate the outcome… i am slowly letting go: accepting what is, accepting what i miss, accepting the moment. and right now , although i would like to be with a certain person & i know/feel he’s here: it is oke and yet…. i would like him to be here with me inside the box
      Sometimes it is a challenge to be inside the box….

  2. Karin Venema says:

    I have been freaking out with colours and different materials on paper: I do not really now what i am doing, I just follow a flow, a flow that is inside of me. Sometimes I take a break because I feel i am violating the process/flow, as if i am thinking in the box instead of feeling out of the box. Sometimes it is scarry and other times it is outregerous: nobody but me can stop or continue me but myself and some other force (which i am trying to figure out….) But i quess that’s the flow/force of live… Ja ja i like the dots…: they are there for reflection i suppose.
    By the way: I react on your article because i regocinze your “struggle”
    Thank you 4 sharing and don’t mind the words that are not in proper English: it is the feeling that matters.
    Shit: how do i forward this.. i will figger it out…
    Warm greetings from A’dam & please keep on sharing XXX

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks Karin – being in Amsterdam must be a great inspiration for your creativity, i loved living out there for six months earlier this year. Thanks for visiting and sharing, Julian

  3. casual, formal, experiential, and serendipitous learning in the arts must all be embraced and valued by the learner. Without all four active and engaged, serially or coincidentally, a different moments in an artist’s life, nothing she creates will satisfy the artist herself. Art is made with the whole self: intellect, emotion, physicality, social behavior, imagination, and the subconscious. Creating Art is the most complex and fully realized expression of general intelligence.

  4. As técnicas podem ser repassadas, mas o que há de se fazer compreender é que o olhar do pintor, do escritor ou de qualquer outro artista é único e depende dos valores que existem em cada um. Luz e Paz!

  5. Pingback: Let your hands do the talking: representation and abstraction | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  6. Pingback: How to learn to paint | Levi Heiple Online

  7. Pingback: How to learn to paint | E-Learning-Inclusivo (M...

  8. Pingback: Let your hands do the talking: representation and abstraction | Levi Heiple Online

  9. Pingback: Words about learning: sculpture | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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