I accepted a part time job where I am the 'Art Instructor' for an event called: Bottle & Bottega. That is where a small group of people meet at a restaurant and follow my instruction to create a small (16x20") work of art in about 3 hrs... while they eat and drink. Last night was my first night teaching on this level. The last time I led a large group of people to paint something in a universal design was when I taught the entire student body of Wilmot Grade School (500 kids grades K-5) how to paint a huge trompe-l'oeil painting.
Last night it was adults though...and they were drinking....and there was a screaming baby in the room....and.... I had a wonderful time.
In the beginning I was a little nervous and just anxious to begin. The Owners; John and Lynn Day, from the Glen Ellyn territory were there with me on my first night. We set up the room and I was given some instructions on the spot before people started mingling in. Drinks were ordered, the food arrived, everyone nibbled on the appetizers and became acquainted. Some just began their art right away and I borrowed their tips and had the class follow along. John and Lynn gave me the 'green flag' to start and my work began.....
At first, it was a little like herding street cats to all move in the same direction. I'm not sure if you have a cat or have lived with a one but guiding a cat to move in the direction you want is next to impossible. This was a little the same trying to get everyone to mix the colors the right way and apply it to their canvas correctly and progress at the same tempo. The room was also full of other people not in our group who were just there eating dinner. When I began the class ... a screaming baby not far away challenged me for vocal strength. For what seemed like an eternity... the baby and I were competing for room dominance. I don't know how my parents survived with five children.
Mixing colors seemed to be everyone's biggest weakness and I had to remember that this isn't so much an 'art class' but an 'art experience.' People wanted to just paint and it seemed they expected an almost miracle to occur when they put their brush to the canvas. I felt a large frustration level from the participants when they couldn't fathom what colors blended with what to create secondary or tertiary combinations. But once they got underway the room relaxed and became quiet and people were painting and enjoying themselves... and that's what the event is really all about. There was a nice mingling of conversations, shared ideas, common goals. It was a great evening and everyone was helpful to their neighbor. It was fun to be part of this art group - everyone working towards a similar goal.
There was also the time factor....I had to get everyone moving in the same direction and then move around the room and guide each person in one on one dialogue. I also had to stand in front of the class and paint along, stop and begin another section, address color mixing questions, talk over the screaming baby and just let it happen.
It was ... FUN!
I had a wonderful time teaching people how to use their brushes to create different effects, how to mix colors, how to create and use a grid, techniques for layering and even know when to stay away from a few others who just wanted to come and paint and do their own thing and use their own color scheme. Always encourage, always praise...find constructive methods to lift spirits and guide in helpful suggestions. Most of all....it was about experiencing being an artist, getting in and getting a little messy, actually 'seeing' an object and making it come alive through your paint brush and most of all.... it was about having fun.
Eventually, the screaming baby was quiet, the room was buzzing with paint brushing and canvas's were becoming something universally wonderful. Even though there were lots of different variations...the overall theme was the same. Van Gogh's 'Vase and Flowers' began to be seen in a language of subtle variation, color and shape.
John and Lynn Day were also there to guide, help with getting more paint for the artists and keep me focused on the time factor. I just wanted to paint right along with everyone else. I was instructed to call out that we were down to the final hour... then the 30 minute mark. Paintings were winding down and I was told to have everyone in the class all sign their art. Everyone walked around and saw what others had created in just a few hours.
There was a group photo session with small clusters of friends and a few people went through my art portfolio. I passed out a few cards....and made some new contacts. Three hours flew by and when the event was over everyone was laughing and kind of giddy with pride over their piece of art that they painted. I think even the screaming baby was smiling at that point, too.
The new artists trickled out of the restaurant slowly, taking their painting home. John, Lynn and I had a small meeting about how the evening went, teaching methods, helpful hints and suggestions for my next class. I loved the experience and was ready to do it all over again. It's a fun concept and most of all... we all had a great evening and a personal experience of art happens. Each person will appreciate and remember what it's like to start from nothing and create beauty.
Did I mention how FUN it was?