Giving up the preconceived and learning to see things as they are
© Heather Killen photo
Janice Leonard led a three-day painting workshop at the Paradise Community Hall where students learn not only technique but the ability to see.
A group of local art students had a workshop in learning to see what they were painting.
Halifax-based artist Janice Leonard led a three-day painting workshop in Paradise last week. While it’s been sometime since Leonard left Annapolis to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, her impressionist landscapes are still rooted in the place she grew up.
A featured artist at Studio 21 in Halifax, Leonard has been offering painting classes in Metro for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that Joyce Mann invited her to host the workshop series as part of the ongoing recreational activities at the community hall.
“Being able to offer the classes here means a lot to me,” Leonard said.
She teaches painters of all levels, from beginner through advanced. Eight students participated in the series last week, some seasoned artists and one beginner.
Paulette Whitman is trying painting for the first time and is frustrated because what she set out to paint is not what ended up on the canvas. Whitman admits that she’s stepping outside her usual comfort zone when she picks up the brushes.
While Whitman has been working with words most of her adult life, she’s realizing now that painting is a new form of expression for her. Paintings, like life, are trial and error and may start out with one intention Leonard tells her during a critique, but can come out very differently in the end.
The real masterpiece painters can strive for is to value what happens while you paint more than what you want to see on the canvas. Leonard says one of the biggest obstacles most beginner painters face is the preconceived ideas they have about their subjects.
We all have ideas about what subjects ‘should’ look like, and learning to see things as they are is the first step in painting them.
“We often have a need to make things look a certain way,” she said. “People get uptight when they can’t. It’s exciting to teach people to see again.”
Another drawback is the early instructions to stay in the lines. To paint the grass green and the sky blue. Leonard says the first thing students need to learn is to see the subject rather than the canvas.
Paintings, like life, have these little trouble spots. Leonard says the real joy in painting is learning through trial and error to resolve these areas. There are often several ways to resolve the trouble spot, she says. The joy is finding them.
“Art classes help you think and see the world in new ways,” she said. “Whether you create a masterpiece or not, you learn something.”