As an instructor, I have a strong belief that classroom time and studio time are two very different things. I think students get the most out of their time in a class by learning, rather than working on their own projects. For example, I always have still life arrangements set up for my students to paint from life, I think it is best to work from life whenever you have the opportunity. I encourage this practice in all of my classes, yet sometimes I will get students who simply prefer to work on their own projects from photographs.While I do realize that studio time is often rare, isn’t it better to use classroom time as learning time so that when you get into the studio, you will be fully prepared to make the most of your time there? This may be an unpopular point of view, but I have to be honest about it, I truly enjoy teaching more than simply critiquing and offering advice.
The demonstration above is from one of my recent classes, the focus was on achieving gestural representation of drapery and fabric using the alla prima method of painting in oil. I explained and demonstrated the entire process from under painting up to putting the pattern on the lace and the red scarf. All of the students who did the exercise had varying degrees of successful results that were all very different from one another, the point being that even if you are just doing an exercise, you can still be creative and you can learn from the mistakes you make along the way. The next time these students have a painting that includes drapery, they will have a better understanding of how to approach it successfully. On the other hand, if I just critiqued a work they brought in that contained drapery, they would be held back by the fact that it was more than just an exercise. That is when the fear of failure gets in the way of making mistakes that you can best learn from.
So next time you take a class, don’t be afraid to “waste time” practicing with the exercises offered by the instructor. Paint to learn when you are in class, your studio time will be much more productive if you do!