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Starting from square 1

I have signed up for a traditional online oil painting course run by Evolve Art, literally starting from square 1.

Evolve Art sent me a box with 4 different oil paints, 2 to represent shadows and 2 to represent lights, and all the other materials I will need for the first part of the programme.

After being told how to mix the paints (4 cm paint and 4 drops of linseed oil for the darker shades and 4 cm of paint and 5 drops of linseed oil for the lighter shades), I was asked to fill in a sheet with squares, making sure that the paint was applied thinly and evenly and that each square had sharp edges. I was shown which brush and brushstrokes to use to accomplish this task.

Yes, my mind went into overdrive. Was there a short-cut or an alternative, more fun way of doing this? But the instructor on the videos seems to be a mind-reader, telling me over and over again to resist the temptation to do my own thing and follow instructions step by step.

There is now a high level of accountability, as we are required to send in our homework. The next part of the course is only released when a tutor has seen the work we have produced. As every student is working with exactly the same materials, there is no way of fudging the process. So I have to learn to play ball...

And less than two weeks in, I can see the progress I am making.

I have discovered that I am pretty good at edges and applying paint in such a way that no speck of the canvas is showing through - things I expected to struggle with, as I have never been a neat worker.

All it takes is to focus on the task at hand. (I have noticed that my line goes wobbly as soon as I allow my mind to wander - and as a divergent thinker, distraction comes to me as easily as breathing.)

On the other hand, I am struggling with creating smooth gradients, something that should come more naturally, as there is some room for experimenting to get the desired result.

My comfort zone is definitely stretched - I was reminded by how much when I talked to people at the exhibition in Gallery 30 in Petersfield, where 2 of my experimental pieces are on display until the end of the month, and when I watched the video about my work and creative process that was filmed last December for Louise Fletcher's membership site Art Tribe.

What will happen to my experimental, intuitive, energetic way of working that I am increasingly known for, as I learn to think and work in a style that is diametrically opposite to what I am used to? I don't know!

For now I want to focus on addressing weaknesses in my drawing and painting skills rather than finding ways to work around them. I believe that this will ultimately lead to greater freedom in my work.

Someone once said that how you do one thing, you do everything, so there could be changes outside of making art too.

At the moment it feels like I am experimenting on myself…


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