You might be thinking about joining an art club or an art class but be unsure which one is best. They are two different things so here I sum up the features of each to help you decide which one is best for you…
The Art Class
The art class is a place where should receive tuition on how to learn to draw and paint with other people. Most art classes are small usually 6-15 students in each class. They vary greatly depending on the course some are accredited so you will be gaining a qualification and others are what is often called ‘leisure learning’. The accredited courses will have a criteria and follow a syllabus. You usually have to do some written work with accredited courses and be able to plan your work, show research and decision making as well as evaluating your art.
Some courses or classes will be very structured where you all do the same thing and learn about a topic for example shape and proportions. I have seen classes where students follow their own interests but every learner works to a theme, ‘black and white’ for example. The style of teaching can vary vastly so it is well worth contacting the tutor and asking more about the course to find out if it will suit you.
If it is a structured course or a more relaxed one you should expect to have some one to one feedback on your work from a tutor who has experience in art.
The Art Club
Art clubs vary a great deal but they are generally a group of people with an interest in art, sometimes in an area of art like watercolours. The club members usually get together and share the cost of the hire of a venue and sometimes materials. There is usually little tuition because often those in the club have some experience of art, but not always.
Clubs often put on group exhibitions and you get to meet like-minded artists who you can share experience and tips with. There are many benefits in getting to know the other artists because you can talk about techniques, challenges etc.
What is best?
This depends on the club or the class, because they will all differ a great deal. I have been in both art classes and art clubs and personally I think art classes were more beneficial to me as an artist.
Art clubs can lack some of the very useful structured drawing and painting exercises that real beginners need to get them started. I meet a surprising number of artists in art clubs who don’t know the basics of how to measure with a pencil, stretch paper, use grids, know what tone is etc.
I think if you have some experience and know what you like to do in art then a club can be a good option. The quality of the club has everything to do with its members. The danger of art clubs is that all the artist’s work ends up looking the same due to a lack of diverse members. The art class is often a place where you see a bigger variety of styles and techniques in use, which I think is a good thing. When you are learning about art and finding your style you need to be exposed to a rich variety of ways of working.
One Experience is Not All Experiences
Please don’t let one bad experience of an art class or art club put you off. There are dozens of art classes and clubs and some will be excellent and some less so. It is important that you have a positive experience so that you can grow as an artist so don’t allow yourself to keep turning up to a class or club that doesn’t serve you.
I remember forcing myself to a textiles class where I really disliked the tutor. The truth of it was that was I just wasn’t inspired by the projects she set. Another Tutor would have make the projects exciting and more creative. However many in the class had no complaints and her strict and structured style of delivering the syllabus suited them.
It is important that you feel good about the course or club, otherwise you will be completely put off the topic in some cases forever. School seems to do a good job of this for many of the adult learners I meet. Many were put off art by a school teacher and only had the courage to return to the subject 40 years later in one case! This is really sad when they realise their potential late in life. They all tell me they wish they had not been put off for so long because they love art and knew that they did all along. Therefore it is worth doing a bit of research and finding out as much as you can about the course before you start. If you are not sure could you do a short workshop or taster course to find out more?