The class hard at work
Last Friday I was able to sit in on one of our Studio Arts Classes: Painting in the Right State of Mind: An Introduction to Acrylic Painting. This class is taught by Shahin Shikhaliyev, an instructor whose class I have written about in the past. I have always been a big fan of Shahin’s classes as he mixes in some mindfulness lessons along with the art lessons. This particular class was the third of six sessions.
In addition to teaching the acrylic medium, Shahin emphasizes the mindset one takes into painting, how that mentality affects the artistic process and ways to change your mind-state. In the second week of class, students worked on creating monochromatic paintings of still-life scenes and this week, they were painting the same subject but this time in color. While the students were given guidance as to what they should paint, they were free to tackle any other subject that interested them. Shahin focused on teaching the students how to overcome the visual distortions that the brain automatically makes when trying to turn something you see into art. It was interesting to note the variations in each student’s work as they tackled the same subject given the angle they stood at and whatever personal perspective they brought with them to paint that day. This particular class was quiet while working but it seemed to mesh with their personalities. Shahin stressed that every painting “session” an artist has is going to be different based on whatever outside influences the artist brings with them, whether that’s previous art education, a preferred style, or even if they were having a bad day or not. I had previously sat in on another of Shahin’s classes, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and this class seemed to be a perfect logical step for beginners who wanted to jump from drawing to painting. This particular group reflected a wide range of art experience and ages.
Students pondering the next step
While I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, I learned a lot about the acrylic medium and some general art rules and tips. In addition to mindfulness while art making, Shahin covered dealing with negative space in painting. Shahin counseled that it is easier to draw negative space than the object itself. For example, if you were trying to draw a teapot with a handle it is easier for the brain to draw the negative space between the handle and body of the teapot rather than trying to draw the handle as itself. He continually stressed various measuring tricks to the class such as focusing on angles within the subject in order to make shaping it within your canvas much easier. For some of the more advanced students he provided instruction on how acrylic paint works differently than other mediums. Shahin also presented use of shadow, light and middle tones because these things are how you get a sense of three dimensional space on a two dimensional platform. For example, shadow, light and middle tone all combine to give a sense of how a piece of cloth is folded. There were definitely many more art specific tips and tricks he was teaching the students that I did just not understand because of my lack of hands-on art experience. Also, sometimes people forget they’re in the forest when they’re looking at a tree. He stressed that it is very easy to get hyperfocused on one particular detail of a painting and forget that you have an entire canvas to work with.
Shahin providing individual instruction
I cannot stress this enough, I really enjoy Shahin as a teacher. He helps each individual overcome any mental block or self-doubt they have in relation to their art. He constantly rotates around the class providing individual instruction with teaching lessons to the entire class. Shahin always teaches to the student’s capacity; in other words he’ll provide very different but equally effective guidance to students with beginning, intermediate or advanced skills. He even allows students to pursue non-assigned subjects. While the class I attended was assigned a still-life project there were students working on portrait and landscape and they received as much guidance and attention as the rest of the students. Finally, what really sets Shahin apart in my mind is his focus on the psychology of art. For example a water cup was spilled which got the student out of the painting mindset; when that student finished cleaning the cup and went back to painting it was clear that they had lost their initial focus on the particular part of the subject and had lost the angle they were viewing the subject from. Shahin helped student compose themselves, find their original angle and do relaxing breathing exercises to get back in the moment. Even something as insignificant as a spilled cup of water can change the way an artist approaches their work.
Our next round of spring Studio Arts classes is viewable here. Whatever your experience level or preferred medium, there is bound to be something to pique your interest.