Art By Lerri -
Art Tips

Lerri is a visual artist, specialzing in acrylics, watercolor, and pastel representations of the natural world. Here she shares some of her thoughts and tips for artists.

Finding an Art Class

I suppose because I am an art teacher, I may be a bit biased. However, I can’t express the importance of getting instruction in the media you are working in, or related fields like drawing, enough. It doesn’t matter how long you have been working in a media, you can learn something new from every artist, I learn from my students all the time, even the most novice amongst them, but finding another professional artist - be it seminar or class room - will give you a new perspective on your own art.

That said, it comes with a big qualification: The only person you need to satisfy is yourself.

Now why, you may wonder, is she promoting art classes on one hand and warning us on the next? I will try to explain, starting with finding an art class.

Most of us can find excuses for not doing a lot of the things we feel we need to do, should do or would like to do. For instance, I’m sitting here writing this post when I know I need to take the dogs for a walk or go out and work in the yard. We do the same thing when it comes to finding time to do our art. If you are signed up to take a class you have set aside time to work on your art. Nothing else matters. That in itself is a good thing. Learning something new, and/or getting feed back and suggestions, is huge when it comes to progressing in your chosen media.

Having a teacher to help guide you and offer suggestions, is a great way to take your art to a new level or even in a new direction. You can learn new techniques or find new equipment or new inspiration. I know after I took a week long seminar, I found a whole new way of painting with my watercolors that brings a different dimension to them.

It doesn’t matter if you are talented enough to teach a class yourself, you can learn something from every teacher. I have a friend who falls into that category. She takes my class and others because she likes being with other artists, she is excellent in several forms of painting from oils to watercolor to colored pencils, yet she seeks out instruction from other artists by going to seminars and other classes, she takes from these classes new ideas or ways to approach the subject then she incorporates what she learned into her own art.

I have gone to local art events and I have listened to some of the artists who have their work on display, or have gone on-line to sites where artists can post and discuss their work, some of these people brag about being “self taught”. Nine times out of ten, it shows. While I didn’t go to any formal school for my art, I have taken various classes throughout my life, so maybe I can say I’m “self taught” but I know I had a lot of help getting there and I know that these other novice artists, who think they are doing wonderful work, would also benefit from classes. It is one thing to have the high praise of family and friends, it is another to seek out comments from other artists with more experience. These novice artists would see just how far their art would improve with a bit of instruction and guidance.

Now for the qualification:

Whether you take classes on a regular basis, read books and magazines or just watch the artists on PBS – a good place to start by-the-way – the first and foremost person you have to please is yourself! If you like the way you paint or a certain technique or the type of equipment you use or colors on your palette, that is the only thing that truly matters. You take classes to learn about the media you work in, to improve and enhance what you do already or find new ways to get results. You are not going to throw out everything you know unless that is what you want to do.

When I teach a class, one of the first things I tell my students is I’m not interested in having a bunch of clones of myself walking out the door. I want them to develop their own style and to be comfortable with the way they paint. Art should be a joy, yet too often I see students who aren’t enjoying anything they do. When I ask what is wrong, more often than not, they will tell me that in another class they are taking, the teacher wants them to do it this way or that way. It doesn’t stop there because they will take yet another class and that teacher will tell them to do it yet another way. Here I am saying do it the way it feels best to them! They have become so confused they have forgotten the reason they wanted to paint to begin with and that is the joy of the process.

If you took 100 or 1,000 artists and gave them the same photo to work from, each and every one of those artists would have their own rendition of the subject, running the gambit from abstract to photo realism.

Which one of them is right? They are all right because they are painting to please themselves first; if the viewer enjoys it, well so much the better and the rest don’t matter.

To conclude, I highly recommend taking classes or seminars, watching the PBS artists, reading art books and magazines, trying new things, learning what you can, when you can. Just be wary of any instructor who claims they have the market cornered on proper technique or whatever. Learn what you can from them but don’t try to please them because you can’t. Tell them to back off if you have to, otherwise you will end up only frustrating yourself and you will loose the “Joy of Painting”, as the late Bob Ross would say, and that is no way to paint.

Time to take the dogs for a walk.

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Look for Lerri on Facebook:

I would like to mention that I have recently started a group in Facebook called ArtbyLerri. I’m not sure where I’m going with it at this point but I wanted someplace to show new works or works in progress in a less formal setting, start discussions about art in general and I would enjoy having more fans and input. Look for my logo and please check it out and become a fan.

– LP

To find out about the classes Lerri teaches through the Torrance Parks and Rec. Department, go to: http://www.tprd/

Lerri is now also teaching classes at the Palos Verdes Art Center.