Staying Sane While Riding The Learning Curve

August 13, 2014

This post feels somewhat akin to a bad dream. You know those weird dreams where somehow you end up exposed naked in front of a large group of gawking strangers and you can’t figure out how you got there or how to get your clothes back?? Maybe it’s only me to have those dreams and thankfully they aren’t very often.  However sharing art can be like that sometimes, especially when they are not masterpieces, but learning works.

Live Figure Oil Sketch from Day One. This session took place indoors.

Live Figure Oil Sketch from Day One. This session took place indoors.

I”m going to be a brave girl here and share the works that I came home with from the Kim English workshop. I would have loved to have something I’m exceptionally proud of, but I feel that will come with time. Posting these works will help to accurately document my progress as I delve into painting new subjects. Those beyond the one and only form I’ve studied so well over the years – horses.

The workshop itself was like Crossfit for Plein Air oil painters. The models posed in quick, timed intervals. First 2 minutes, then gradually progressing to 5, 7, 10, and 20 minute poses. It really didn’t give you much time to think or ponder, but just paint. I had never painted the human figure live before (or from photos much either!) so if you can imagine, I was somewhat nervous.

Day Two of the workshop, Quick Oil Sketch, Indoors

Day Two of the workshop, Quick Oil Sketch, Indoors

With Kim’s help, I tried to overcome the fear of looking at the figure as a some scary, monumental task that I had made it to be, and just focus solely on finding the shapes. I also learned that if I didn’t like the painting, I could just take the liberty to wipe the painting off. I have no idea why for all these years I just lived and tweaked around with a shitty painting, letting it torment me, when its so easy just to wipe the entire thing off!!

Kim's Demo - Clean Colour and Simple Shapes.

Kim’s Demo – Clean Colour and Simple Shapes.

On day three of the workshop we moved outside.  Now there were more elements beyond the figure to incorporate into the painting. More things I had never painted, such as trees..blades of grass..I finished the day with one keeper.  I was feeling incredibly positive though. That night after a lovely group dinner I pondered exactly what I had learned that day, and how I would put it into action the next day.

Day Three - Figure on Grass

Day Three – Figure on Grass

Perhaps I got ahead of myself that day, because rather than starting to churn out the stellar paintings I saw in my head the night before, exactly the opposite happened. As the day wore on and I wiped off countless paintings, I could feel my brain imploding even further with every brushstroke. The figure I saw became one mass of a cluster of indistinguishable shapes, the shadows became flat and I could no longer see what I was supposed to paint.  The perfectionist in me became increasingly pissed off at myself that I was getting so caught up in the details, while the rational side argued with the irrational, that this was supposed to be FUN?!? Needless to say, day four of the workshop was a wash in terms of producing any work. I did learn though, that if I ever find myself going down that road again, the sanest thing to do, is walk away, take a break and don’t get so hung up that it ends that poorly.


Late Afternoon Hillside - 8x10 oil on canvas

Late Afternoon Hillside – 8×10 oil on canvas

I’ve now had over a month to reflect on what I learned as I prepare for my next workshop. This time I’m traveling to Springfield Oregon to participate in a workshop with Carol Marine. We will be indoors, painting still life objects. Again something new for me. I am excited for the people I will meet, staying sane while learning something new and having a week to myself without household distractions. Not in any particular order 😉


  1. I know the frustrated feeling all too well, Jenn. My last workshop experience was similar using a new medium and fighting it every minute of the four days. And learning almost nothing new.

    You are not alone.

    • Thanks Karen – I’m at least glad it happened only one day, and hoping it won’t happen at ALL next week! =D so hard on ourselves aren’t we ???

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