by Robyn Canning
As my interest increased in wanting to learn how to draw and paint, I looked at avenues to increase my knowledge. I knew nothing about art supplies or creative mediums, so I searched on the internet. The Whittlesea U3A (University of the 3rd Age) is where I joined our local Art for Fun group. I was already a member and was part of the Creative Writing group, so this avenue was on my doorstep!
I was quite nervous about the standard of artwork others were doing. However, I was hoping Art for Fun would be exactly that, and it was! A wonderful group of people, who were each at different levels in their creative experience, welcomed me. Some were amazingly talented, others were discovering their talent, and some, like me, were just starting. The most important message from this group is to enjoy what you are doing. In between paintings, we exchange ideas, have a cuppa and a laugh and offer any advice that might be useful. One of the original ladies in the group is Beryl, who is an accomplished watercolour artist, and at least once a month, she provides a watercolour lesson, sharing her many years of knowledge. Beryl, who is well into her eighties, is a wonderful inspiration, and I soak in her experience whenever the opportunity arises. We also do projects where the leader shares an image for us all to paint - in any medium. What I like about the group is the freedom to choose to take part or not.
I learned about art supplies from the group. Some people encouraged me to check out artists that others follow on YouTube. I hadn’t really used YouTube and started searching for watercolour tutorials. Wow, that opened up a whole other world. I started doing tutorials and finding all these amazing watercolour artists who were providing free lessons online. I soon realised the generous nature of the art community. Many of these artists also have thriving art businesses, and from time to time, I have made a small purchase for some lessons, but only when I feel there is something more than the free tutorial offers. Starting out, there is an abundance of lessons available if you don’t want to (or can’t afford to) pay for lessons.
One artist Beryl recommended to me was Angela Fehr, a Canadian watercolour artist. Her work and philosophy about art immediately caught my attention. I mostly painted flowers at that stage, and her flower tutorials were just beautiful. I found her website, where she offered courses to purchase, and I knew in the future I would be interested in those. For now, I was seeing what’s out there and enjoying the ride!
Online tutorials allowed me to try techniques and produce work that resembled something the artist showed. This gave me the confidence to think that one day I could do my original work and have successful outcomes. It also opened my eyes to many different artists, techniques and answers to questions like “how do they do that?” I was starting to learn how!
By the end of 2019, I had made so many discoveries and had so many Wow moments I thought it was time to take some lessons to make sense of what I knew. At our local annual art exhibition, I met artist Alex Leti, an artist in my area who, at that time, was also teaching. I enrolled at the beginning of 2020 and had about six lessons before COVID hit, and we all started getting nervous about being out and about. Sadly, lockdowns started, and that was the end of my lessons! I’m very grateful to have had those lessons, as Alex gave me some basic techniques that I still use when I paint.
During the lockdowns, I participated in my Art For Fun group via zoom. We didn’t paint together, but the group's leaders gathered information about various artists (we would send in ideas of who we were interested in learning about). We would also share any artwork we had done during the week. I really enjoyed ‘talking art’ and learning more about art history. We managed to keep that up throughout 2020 when we couldn’t be together in the room - which ended up being most of the year!
Lockdown, for me, was a really creative time. I painted or sketched every day, and this has been my practice ever since. The slow pace of no events to attend was a great opportunity to be creative, and many people in this creative space have said the same thing. None of us would want to experience lockdowns again, but there were many positives for some people, and art was the one for me. The other wonderful thing was that so many artists worldwide were offering free online workshops - including my favourite artist Angela Fehr. It was literally a treasure trove and feast of art! I joined as many as I had time for and again soaked in their information!
As I write this, I keep remembering other things I did during my first year of art. I will keep these for next time!
Wishing you all a great week that includes time to enjoy your art!