Choosing the Course that is Right for You

Landscape demo from Beginner's Acrylic Workshop

How do you decide which art courses to take? Do you base your decision on your experience level? On a specific medium that you wish to learn? Or is the class you sign up for dictated purely by what is available during the time in your schedule that works? Here are some tips on how to select the course that is best for you, the one that you will get the most from attending.

Learn About the Instructor Before You Sign Up – All artists who teach have different styles of paintings, as well as different styles of teaching. Ideally, the instructor you choose to work with will work in a style that is of interest to you and will teach in a way that meshes with your learning style. If you are interested in abstract painting, sign up for a course taught by an abstract painter. While it sounds quite simplistic, it is always amazing to me the number of people that register for my courses who have not seen my work either online or in person. You should like the work the instructor shows, not because they will force you to paint in the same manner that they do, but because it is likely that they will teach from experience and that experience will be based on the style in which they work.

If possible, speak with other students who have studied with the instructor you are considering. Find out what kind of teaching style the instructor has, do they encourage experimentation and expression? Or, do they offer a more rules-based painting approach?  What type of critiques do they provide? Do they do demonstrations in class? All of these are things you should know before you register.

Be Honest with Yourself About Your Experience and Skill Level – This is another area that is very important. If you are a beginner, there is nothing to be gained by registering for an intermediate or advanced level course. Many art centers allow students to self-qualify themselves. If you are a beginner, sign up for a beginner level course. You will get much more individual attention, and will be less likely to get frustrated. An intermediate to advanced level student will have a strong basic knowledge of concepts such as form, value, proportion, perspective, color theory and composition, these won’t be terms they are hearing for the first times. They will also have good basic drawing skills and a basic understanding of the medium that is being taught in the class. For example, you shouldn’t sign up for an intermediate course in oils if you haven’t used them since high school and don’t know which brushes to use or what painting medium is used for.

Know Exactly What You Wish to Gain from the Course – When you sign up for a new course, you should set goals for yourself. What specifically do you wish to learn? How much time will you have to practice and attend classes? Let the instructor know up front what skills you are hoping to improve, bring in a sample of some of your current or previous work and be specific with examples of what you like and what you would like to do better.

Instructors want their students to succeed, we don’t want you to feel frustrated. Painting should be a pleasurable experience, otherwise, there is no point to doing it. There is a myth that all art has to come from struggle, that isn’t true. Yes, it’s hard work just like anything else worth doing, but it should be work you enjoy, not something that frustrates you or causes anxiety. Try to develop a detached and logical attitude toward the learning process. Don’t expect to leave class with a masterpiece, use the time to learn and experiment, you will get much further much faster if you do!


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