As I have said before, I had been blocked artistically since the election in 2016. I knew I needed to find something that would blast me out of that place, and all of a sudden I remembered Phil Sylvester of The Drawing Studio.
I’ve taken classes with Phil before, and I find his teaching style so different. First, he thinks anyone can draw. Then he sets up the exercises in a way where you are kinesthetically connected to the media — pencils or paint and the paper or whatever it might be. And then he tells you to make marks or types of marks that get you to the feeling of what you’re trying to represent rather than trying to perfectly replicate something. So, with that approach, it takes away all the anxiety of “this doesn’t look like the vase,” or whatever you’re drawing. It suspends that self-critic when you’re in your head. Phil is good at teaching a method that totally distracts that critical voice. Finally, his critiques are very supporting. He’s totally cool, and he’s been doing this since forever. He’s the reason I went to art school — he made me believe I could do it.
So I took a drawing class from him last Tuesday and a painting class last Saturday, and I feel terrific! As you can see by the picture, above, this has allowed me to start working on my first painting in the water series, and I’m happy. I’m feeling more comfortable with actually working. Now I’ll take my inspirational photos into the class and work on different interpretations of that. I’m feeling excited instead of anxious.
Why was I so thrown by the election, you ask? This may sound dramatic, but I was kind of worried our democracy was going to end. I grew up in the 1960s, and I lived through Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy being assassinated, Kent State, the Vietnam War, and other events that I found threatening as a child. My mother was a feminist and she instilled the idea that you do the right thing, which not everyone was doing at that time.
Then, when Trump was elected, it brought a lot of that back. I was devastated at my very core that we had done something so profoundly damaging to our country on purpose. Nothing else seemed to matter to me, especially art. I was profoundly depressed. I was struggling to make sense of it and to find a place where art still mattered in this new world. Fortunately, I figured out I could do more work on local elections, and that helped thaw the block a bit.
So, now I had to figure out how to turn my artist button back on. I had already found my inspiration in the lakes at my cottage, but how to pick up the paintbrush again was still hard. That is, until I remembered Phil.