I thought I would write this post as I have come to realise that learners often don’t know what to expect from an art course or art class. I offer some advice that will make the starting of an art class or course less of a gamble.
I teach a range of adults from all walks of life, some of whom haven’t been in education or any type of classroom for 40 years! It is understandable that many are a bit tense about the experience of starting a class so I am hoping that the advice I give might ease some of the anxiety involved.
Do Your Research
It often surprises me how little learners either know about the course and say ‘I wasn’t expecting the course to be like this’. It is sensible to have found out the content of the course and if it involves drawing, painting or anything else. Sometimes descriptions can be vague by the organisations that advertise the course, if this is the case it might be worth asking if you can get in touch with the tutor and ask more questions.
Do find out the basics; how long the course is, how long each session is, if there will be homework/coursework, if it is accredited (a qualification course or not) and if you have to buy materials. Most tutors should be happy to talk to you about the course as they often want to know that you they have the right type of learners who are going to get the most out of the experience.
If you are really scared and feel tense about showing your work or trying new things it wouldn’t hurt to tell the tutor. As a tutor with some experience I am well aware how intimidated many complete beginners are in the first few sessions. It takes much bravery to even sign up for a course if you haven’t done any art since school, or ever in some cases. Most good tutors with experience will be aware of this and should make you feel at ease. I much prefer it if learners speak to me about how they feel rather than hide uncomfortable feelings.
I was on a sewing course at a very busy time in my life and after feeling anxious every week having not had a minute to do the homework I decided to speak to the tutor. The tutor was really good and we talked about what I had to do to pass and could get away with not doing. I no longer felt uneasy every week about turning up and didn’t drop out like I was thinking I might. Therefore if there is something on the course that you can’t do/are struggling with it might be worth speaking to the tutor.
If you have burning questions, don’t forget to ask the tutor. Most tutors want to be asked and you want to make full opportunity of the tutor’s expertise while on a course.
Ask Yourself What You Want
The few learners that have been disappointed by courses or classes, often haven’t really known what they were looking for. One learner complained that she didn’t expect to have to draw things from life, another complained that she didn’t want to spend anything on art materials. Often the ideas of these learners have formed are based on what art was like at school. Education has changed a great deal, it is very rare that there is any art course where materials are free and provided in unlimited quantities these days.
Another learner who was very apprehensive about starting the course did not want to show her work to anyone, including the tutor! I understand that it is exposing but you if you really don’t want to show your work to anyone, should you be on an art course at all?
Do you just want to draw and paint what you want? Most of us do, but if you don’t want to do class activities you might want to rethink if an art club rather than an art class is best for you.
Some Things are A Given
There will be variations in art courses because they are taught by different tutors who will have different styles and interests. Having said this you would expect most drawing courses to cover the basic drawing skills like observational drawing, shape, proportion, tone etc. You would expect most painting courses to give you an introduction to the paint media, techniques and cover colour mixing if you are on a beginners course. Although there may not be a formal critique most art courses have some form of sharing work with others, you will need to be prepared to show your work to others.
In my experience another given seems to be a mixture of abilities even when courses are for ‘complete beginners’ there will be learners who have some experience or talent. I think people generally play down their talents and experience on art classes, telling me they are a complete beginner and then strangely knowing everything about a topic. I think you might have to prepare yourself for people of differing abilities and not let that concern you if you are embarking on an art class.
Going to an art class is a wonderful experience but it does require you are open in order to get the most out of the experience. There will be different people on it, be prepared to mix and speak to others, you don’t have to be best buddies but if you are sociable you will gain much more. Some of my learners make long-term friends in the art class.
Be open to the activities that are offered, you can be sure that most tutors have carefully thought through learning objectives. There is usually a good reason why you are doing an activity, usually to learn something specific. Some adult learners can question everything a tutor does, this can be healthy however some trust in the tutor is necessary. So be open, stop your resistance and let go to the experience.
Go for It!
If you sign up for the art class with the idea that you will give it a go, be open to the activities and the people you are sure to gain a great deal. Don’t let worries about your work being good enough or others being better stop you from signing up. Everyone has these concerns, whoever they are. The sad thing is that many won’t turn up because of the lack of confidence and those that do and feel bad don’t often give it long enough to get over these feelings. Doing anything out of our comfort zones and new can feel well… uncomfortable, sometimes we have to feel that and break through to get the benefits.