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So You Want to Take an Art Class...
by L. Diane Johnson

HAVE you ever made any of the following statements?...

"I can't draw a straight line."

"I never went to an Art class."

"I took Art in grade school."

"I've dabbled in Art."

"I started in Art but switched to another major."

"I've taken a few night courses."
"I don't have any talent."

"I want to study Art but don'tknow where to go."

"I want to stusy Art but don'tknow how to get started."

"I have taken Art classesbut haven't learned anything."

"I'm an amateur Artist."

"I'm a professional Artist."


If you have ever said or done any of the above but still want to take an Art class, here are some tips on how to go get started:

FIRST:

EVALUATE YOUR SKILL LEVEL

Be honest with yourself on this one. If you have never taken a class before, you are a beginner. If you have taken several classes but still don't feel you have gotten anywhere, you are a beginner. If you have basic skills under your belt and have some degree of proficiency, you are at an intermediate level. And if you are a professional artist, you will continue to train under/with fellow professionals to hone your skills and continue to grow.

IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS

Ask yourself the following:

What do I want to do?"
"Why do I want to take an Art class?"

"Do I want to become a professional artist?"
"Do I want to dabble in Art as a hobby?"
"Do I want to just make small things for friends and family?"
"Do I want to create Art as a break from my regular profession?"
"Do I need to take a class to add to my job skills?", etc.

Once you identify what why you want to take art you are half way home in reaching your goal.

REACHING YOUR GOAL

WHAT KIND OF ART?

Now that you know why you want to take a class and what your goals are, what area of Art do you wish to learn?

Do you want to be a painter? What kind?

  • Oil
  • Acrylic
  • Watercolor
  • Pastel
  • Gouache
  • Other?

Do you want to be a sculptor? What kind?
  • Clay
  • Bronze
  • Stone
  • Other?

Do you want to work in some other area of Art?

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE FIRST?

If your goal is to be a painter (or sculptor) I highly recommend taking drawing classes first...and as many as you can. You may be saying, "But I want to paint, not draw!" Just as a builder needs a firm foundation to build upon and just as a photographer needs a good negative to process a picture, so it is with painting. Without good, solid drawing capability, no amount of color or paint can compensate for weak structure and composition due to weak drawing skills.

HOW TO GO ABOUT GETTING INSTRUCTION

1. Identify Places Which Offer Classes

Find out what resources you have in your immediate area. Are there Colleges/Universities where you could take classes? Evening classes at local High Schools? Art Clubs or Societies that offer classes? Fine Artists who do the kind of work you would like to do?

You might also consider taking classes in another city under a regional or national artist. The Artist's Magazine or American Artist magazine has listings for classes and instruction. You can purchase or find a copy at your local bookstore or library.

2. Read Registration and Art Class Descriptions Carefully

If you are taking classes at a school, read over any literature about the course content carefully. Does it describe exactly what you want to learn? How much will you have to spend for the course and for materials? Where will the class be held? How large will the class be? How many hours at each class? (A class that is held once per week for one hour will not be very beneficial. I recommend a class that meets at least 2 hrs. per week if you work full time and are not seeking a degree. Better still, would be to take a class which meets a minimum of 6 weeks, 2 times per week for 2 to 3 hours each session. If it is a college level course, the class should meet every day for at least 2 hrs, or 3 times per week for 3 hours each session.)

If you study privately, one-on-one with an Artist in their studio, it will cost a great deal, but you will learn a great deal as well. (If you are a beginner, I recommend a classroom environment for your first classes. You will learn much by interacting with fellow students.)

3. Talk to The Artist

Of all the advice I can give, this is the most important thing I can suggest you do. If you do not do anything else, do this. I spent years and many dollars taking classes that were not what they said they would be, were taught by those who could not teach or were not skilled themselves in the subject area they were offering.

When you have narrowed down the school/course you'd like to study, call to make an appointment to discuss the course content with the instructor (the teacher should be an artist, not someone who just knows about art or subject being taught.) and most of all, to SEE THEIR WORK. It's one thing to ask the Artist what they will be teaching, and you should do this. But ask to see their work. Their actual Artwork will best reflect what they will be teaching and the result they will be looking for in your work. (Not necessarily the same style, but skill level.)

Ask the Artist questions about what they will be teaching. Tell them what your skill level is and what your goals are to see if the course content and instructor are appropriate for your needs.

Also ask them for a materials list and price of the class. This will help you determine how much you want to invest financially in the class.

4. Sign Up!

Once you have done all the above, you are ready to sign up for the class you have selected. Now the real work begins...

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR INSTRUCTION

1. Expect to Work Outside of Class

The instruction and practice time you receive during class time is not meant to make you a good Artist. To maximize your time and investment, you must work as much as you can between classes. Bring all of the work you have done during the week back to the next class for the teacher to review. Believe it or not, the work you do outside, between classes, is what you will benefit you most! And if the instructor gives you outside projects...do them and more if you can.

2. Ask Questions

Ask as many questions and take as many notes as you can during class.

3. Read Books & Magazines

In addition to your class, read as much as you can about the subject you are studying. Books and periodicals are a great resource. But there is no substitute for doing the work.

 

IN CONCLUSION

FINDING the right Art class for you takes some time but can be extremely rewarding! Taking care to find the best Artist/Teacher you can will save you time, money and unnecessary frustration. With the right instruction, you'll soar to new heights and discover what can be done with the talent God has given you. Best wishes as you grow as an "Artist!"


L. Diane Johnson NAPA PSA NAPPAP, is an fine artist and instructor with over 30 years experience. Visit her online gallery for more information or reach her via email.

©1996-2004 L. Diane Johnson

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