From still life painting to portraits – Focus on Versatility

Result of a 1,5 hour demo in my course about colour

More than once I’ve been warned to avoid routine and monotony in my art. I’ve never really known why I should be a candidate for such advice, since I might very well be the last person on earth who’s afraid of change.
I’m very easily bored and I’ve been that way ever since I was a child. When I was little, I never finished a drawing, because I would be distracted by ideas for newer and better projects. If I would buy a notebook to put down the beginning of a story, after a few chapters I would cast it away and never look at it again.
My restlessness once escalated at primary school, when a teacher made me do the same kind of math problems over and over again: I burst into tears out of frustration.
Even though I’m officially an adult now, I still find it hard to commit myself to a single project until the very end. My ‘inspiration span’, as I call it, is so short that it takes me a couple of hours to lose interest in a painting I only just started. My mind wanders off to other, potentially more exciting things, like a concept for a new still life or portrait, ideas for a painting holiday abroad, what cable stitches I should use in my next knitting project or how I should design the garden of my fictional dream-house in the far future.

It can be quite annoying, to loose interest in what I’m doing before I even finished it. Especially when I set my mind to making something very big and time-consuming, like the series of huge paintings for my children’s book. However, I think that it is this personality trait of mine, this constant search for variation, which keeps my art from being in danger of monotony. I can see the benefits of being impatient to try something new!

The benefits of teaching

Looking for different ways to approach the art of drawing and painting, I’ve ended up on the path of teaching and I’m very happy I did, since there couldn’t be a more versatile occupation. Not only do I get to meet a lot of different people, I also have the exciting task to come up with new creative ideas for painting courses and workshops. Having the freedom to choose from a wide range of interesting subjects, I don’t believe I will ever get bored of my responsibilities as a teacher. Since the art education I received myself rarely met my expectations, I now try to be the teacher I missed in those early years of my artistic development by putting the emphasis on drawing and painting techniques I was forced to find out by myself after I left the academy.
When I was first asked to teach drawing lessons I had barely left art school and was struggling to find ways in which to explain what my technique really was. I had great difficulties in finding the right words to describe something I always did rather intuitively, so I was pushed to carefully observe my own artistic process.
Over the years I’ve developed a certain structure/theory in both my drawing and painting classes, which illustrates as clearly as possible what working from life is all about. In my opinion, of course. This structure is not only a benefit to the students who come to me, but also to myself. It helps to have a clear vision of how things work, so whenever I fail at painting, I can recognize my mistakes and do whatever is needed to solve the problem. I would never feel comfortable in teaching a technique I don’t master. But, if there’s one thing I’m confident about, it’s my ability to mix the right colours and to work fast and efficiently. Therefore, both my weekly painting courses and the single workshops are about my own alla prima technique and they focus strongly on the importance of capturing the essence of the painting subject. It’s all a matter of learning to simplify the big amount of detail we’re constantly distracted by.
Though the main message in my classes is often the same, I try to choose different painting subjects, each of which require their own approach. In my weekly painting course about colour, we work both from still life and life models.
A couple of times a year I also organize a 2-day workshop with a specific topic, like painting flowers and working ‘en plein air’. These workshops I offer especially to those people who cannot commit themselves to follow an entire course or those who have to travel far.
Though these special events require a lot of preparation time (especially cooking the lunch), I do like the concept of working two full days on a single subject with a motivated group, and it allows me to dedicate quite some time to a painting or drawing demonstration, which I think is most educational (though sometimes nerve-racking). Here’s an impression of my latest workshop about painting flowers, which I will repeat next week.

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with many of my sketches from the past years.

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