The Next Cezanne?

Look no further.

The still life painting class I signed up for was last weekend. Those of you who know me may be thinking, I didn’t know she could paint. The short answer is: I can’t. But I press on. I’ve borrowed books from the library and watched a few DVDs, which were helpful to a point. I needed a little one-on-one guidance.

A few weeks ago I emailed the teacher, “I’m a beginner. Is this a good class to take?”

“This is a perfect class for you,” she wrote back.

I realized our definitions of the word beginner were vastly different when she opened the class with, “Now, if you remember from color theory in art school…” It went downhill from there.

As if the teacher hadn’t already figured it out (her assistant, Newton, helpfully pointed out that I was holding the brush wrong), I confessed that I had never gone to art school, never taken a painting class before, never won a Pictionary game during which I was drawing. She became very kind and generous with her praise. Every time she came around to take a look, her eyes would open wide and she’d clap her hands as a mother would to her five year old. “That is sooooo awesome. You’re getting it! I’m going to put this right on the refrigerator.”

I promise I’m not being the least bit disparaging when I say that my painting was the worst in the class. But, as I tell the writers in my creative writing sessions, the more specific you are in your description, the more readers will relate to your prose. In that case, my painting was so awful, it was the Bernie Madoff of the art world.

But, you know what? I didn’t care. For my skill level (negative on a scale of 1 to 10), I think it turned out great. I was so proud of myself, I was giggling. Degas once said that painting is easy when you don’t know how to paint but really hard when you do. There’s something to that ignorance-is-bliss philosophy. I’m not worried about the techniques and theories. I’m not even really concerned about improving. I’m free from a self-imposed rate of achievement based on absolutely nothing and which usually ends with me throwing my tennis racket into the clay in McEnroe-like exasperation. (Refer to The Tennis Incident for more information.) Maybe it’s because it’s just me and the canvas, and it ain’t judging me. Sometimes I get frustrated, but mostly I enjoy myself. I get to use a different part of my creative brain than I do when I’m writing, thinking in shapes and colors instead of words.

At the end of day two, unbeknownst to me, it was critique time. The teacher hung all of our paintings on the wall next to each other so we could offer our opinions. Normally this would make me want to wish the floor would open and swallow me whole. But I just smiled when someone finally offered me these feeble words of encouragement. “I like the groupings of the objects. It makes it more dramatic visually.” I may take another class in the future, but I wouldn’t want to ruin all of this raw talent. Which one do you think is mine? I know. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

Not this one.

Not this one either.

This one!**

**Those are butternut squash, in case you were wondering. Get your mind out of the gutter.



  1. lol, loved this! And your first painting is just lovely! I love how you kept a positive attitude, and felt shameless with your work up next to those educ-macated folks.
    I bought all the ‘right’ stuff to learn how to knit, and now I just need to find someone who truly believes me when I say “b-e-g-i-n-n-e-r”.


    1. Knitting – I’m impressed already! Good luck with finding a “beginner” class. Apparently it’s harder than it seems. 🙂

      Thank you for the kind words about the painting. Next up: portraits. LOL!


  2. If you put your painting next to one of Cezanne and Gaugin, then yes, it’s going to look “less skilled”, but I think you did well. And you had fun – which is more important. Millions of kids can’t be wrong in enjoying art class.

    Where are the paintings of your fellow art students?


    1. It’s nice of you to say “less skilled” rather than “total hack.” 🙂 You’re right – it’s great to have a hobby that’s exactly that – a fun creative outlet. No pressure. I really did have a great time.

      I completely forgot to bring my camera to class to take photos of the other students’ paintings.


  3. You did great! I don’t think I could have taken my painting class without some kind of art background. I too was in a class of experienced painters and it was intimidating, but I got over it. I hope you do more paintings. 🙂


    1. Thanks Ms. Pearl! Coming from you I take this as a high compliment.
      I will definitely be doing more paintings. I’d like to pick up a new glaze medium at the art supply store. Do you work in acrylics or oils?


  4. Hi. I’m a new artist too. I’m definitely negative ability on a scale of 1 to 10. I’m basically a computer programmer by trade.

    You are ahead of me because so far I am barely able to draw anything with my #2 pencil. I hope to advance to crayons one day.

    The funny thing is I began teaching myself how to draw because I had a terrible mental block in my computer project. After a few days of just thinking about how to draw a face and get the features in the right place, suddenly I can solve my computer problems quite easily.

    Maybe this is an example of the “right brain” vs “left brain” thing? Maybe we need to use both sides or else both sides will suffer?

    I hear that schools have been canceling art classes to save money. Sad!


    1. Hi Lee. Thanks for stopping by.
      If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that I can’t draw one lick. I can’t even draw a straight line without the help of a ruler. Caveman drawings have me beat by a mile.
      I like what you wrote about drawing helping to release the block on your computer project. I’ve found the same thing. Accessing a different part of the brain gives your subconscious time to work on the problem and sometimes the answer comes to you when you least expect it.
      Let me know how your drawing comes along.


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