I have never taken a painting class. Of course, I received some instruction on painting during the art classes taken as a part of my early education, but I have never received tips on technique, form, and canvas work from a professional artist. In fact, my experience with painting on a canvas has largely been limited to free, often undirected, application of paint on surfaces some years ago. In the rare occurrences such an opportunity to paint on canvas would present itself during the art classes of my youth, the work was generally broadly themed and freeform creativity was widely encouraged. As a result, I never had any sort of formal direction on painting techniques and design. I could mix paint and put in on a canvas, but my approach was anything but refined.
Given that reality, I decided early in my “I have never...” year that taking a formal painting class for the first time would likely be a valuable use of my time. As a result, I began researching a variety of options for painting classes in the Madison area. Eventually, this effort led me to a local painting instruction outfit, Vino and Van Gogh, which offers painting lessons in the style of Van Gogh while encouraging students to partake in a glass of wine during the course. Given the appeal of the concept, it didn’t take me long to commit to taking a Vino and Van Gogh class when the opportunity presented itself. In turn, I kept my eyes peeled for upcoming courses offered by the company and waited for the right opportunity to attend my first formal painting class.
Eventually, that opportunity came with the announcement of a Starry Night themed class scheduled for this evening. After reserving a few spots a few months ago, Rachael and I made our way to tonight’s event at a restaurant conference room on Madison’s west side. As an experience I had looked forward to for some time, I entered the building and promptly found my way to our workspace in anticipation of the forthcoming class. In a space the size of a typical restaurant meeting area, two tables laden with rows of canvases and painting materials dominated the center of the room. Before them, a large easel and canvas sat facing the blocks of seating. The setup made it easy for me to track down some seats the offered a good viewing angle of the instructor’s canvas, which helped Rachael and I settle in and ready ourselves for the class with ease as we prepared for the night’s event to begin.
|My workspace... Complete with wine|
|Our instructor, Katie|
As the room filled up around us, our instructor Katie took to the front of the room and welcomed everyone in attendance. After confirming everyone was situated and had the materials necessary for the course, she transitioned straight into the class with a slight introduction and some almost immediate hands on instruction on how to start our painting. With a mix of some blue and green paint, Katie guided us through the first phases of creating our Starry Night inspired works. In a matter of moments we were dousing our canvases with a dark blend of evening shades, all the while being guided by Katie in the brush and stroke technique we needed to bring the backdrop of our paintings to life.
|Laying the background|
Once finished with the preliminary steps of our painting, Katie guided us into the finer details of creating a scene on the surface of our painting. Over the course of a little more than two hours, we layered our canvases with mountains, trees, buildings, and a night sky. With constant direction offered on our grip, brush angles, and stroke technique, Katie demonstrated each step in the process before giving us recommendations and guidance as we created our works. Although the pace of the class was a little rapid at times, the overall degree of instruction and feedback was incredibly beneficial in the process. By doing my best to follow Katie’s direction, I slowly saw a vibrant, balanced landscape come to life on my canvas. The result was a work far more beautiful than I ever anticipated I was capable of creating, and it came with much more ease than I ever would have expected.
|Filling in the details on the foreground|
|Moving to the sky|
As the class drew to a close, Rachael and I sipped at the wine glasses we had neglected in our focus on crafting our works. Excited by the prospect of our finished products, we placed our paintings at a distance in the room and chatted about the differences in color and detail that came from our unique interpretations of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Our conversation eventually drew Katie in and inspired her to offer her own perspective. “They are very different... Very unique... but I love them both,” Katie said as a bright smile crossed her face. The remark stirred delight in Rachael and I, forcing me to respond, “Yeah, you know, they are pretty good, aren’t they?” Katie affirmed my somewhat facetious response before returning to the other lingering students wrapping up their projects. With a final sip of my wine glass I gave my painting one last look and turned to Rachael, “Well, I would say that was a good experience... but I’m ready to call it a night.”
In agreement, Rachael moved to gather her things as we prepared to head home. Tired from a full day of work and art, I found my way home and swiftly prepared myself for bed. As I turned off the lights around the first floor of my house, my eye caught a glimpse of my newly crafted painting one more time. The intensity of the color and the overall design immediately gave me an accomplished feeling about the work. “Not bad, Caleb... Not bad,” I said quietly as I moved toward the stairway and turned out the light. The moment made me realize my first painting class had been much more successful than I hoped it would be, which made me happy I had set aside time to finally gain the experience.
|A little side by side|