It was a cold winter day in upstate New York. The art classroom was in a garage-like building at the edge of the college campus. About 20 easels were arranged in semi-circular rows theater style facing the model who sat posing for the student artists. I squeezed out oil paints on a wooden palette, took brush in hand and began to paint the model.
After a few hours, the art instructor complimented me on the great job I did and offered suggestions on how I could improve the work. I thanked him and appreciated how lucky I was to be in his art class.
This would be a lovely memory if it were true, but alas, only the first paragraph actually happened. The second one, in which I receive feedback, is pure fantasy. I don’t know if I had lousy art classes, or if it was the way art was taught when I was in school back in the last century. Whatever the reason, I was pretty much ignored in all my art classes, that is, except when i was being told how bad my work was.
I was reminded of my lack of feedback when I was asked recently why I teach Painter. Sure, I wrote the program’s first manuals, making me the original Painter expert, but why am I still teaching people to use the software 20 years later?
The truth is, I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping people to paint, especially photographers who think they can’t, because I never received any encouragement that I could paint, so I can relate!
I’ve written before about how the key to creativity is confidence, not talent, and one way to lack confidence is never getting any encouragement. And rather than have people experience the time wasted on not creating due to lack of confidence, I’m here to encourage everyone to paint.
Painting is a skill that you learn through knowledge and practice. We all know someone like my best friend in high school who seems to have some kind of innate artistic talent. While everyone, from family to teachers to this best friend, was telling me how I couldn’t paint, this friend was painting up a storm and got into one of the best art schools in New York. As an adult looking back, though, I can see that a huge difference between her and me was that her parents supported her in everything she did, and my parents discouraged everything I attempted. We poor “untalented” mortals have no idea how many hours of practice our more “gifted” contemporaries spent practicing their art, not because they were better at it, but because they were encouraged to do it, and how much better we would have been if we had practiced.
I have chronicled my experiences writing the first Painter manual and how all the hours of practice learning Painter to write about it resulted in my gaining invaluable painting experience. Nowadays, I get a lot of flattering emails; people purchase my DVD’s for turning photos into paintings in Corel Painter; people order my book with Painter and Photoshop tutorials, Painting for Photographers and people commission me to paint portraits. You would think I would be able to bask in the creative sunshine and call myself an artist, but I can’t and don’t, and I blame the early lack of encouragement that undermined my confidence, which I have talked about in a previous blog.
That’s why I love to teach Painter, to help those who wish to paint to avoid the same fate as me. I live vicariously through my students. I’m listening to the encouragement I give them and use it to keep my own creativity going. And hope one day I, too, will feel confident in my ability to turn photos into paintings in Corel Painter.