Trying something new.

picture of oil paint tubes

Gathered supplies for the workshop.

I have been at the community college for over 15 years teaching art appreciation and studio art. Although I love working with the art majors, there is something compelling about teaching the non-art majors because they don’t have a lot of expectations. My goal is to get students to appreciate art and to enjoy tapping into their own creativity. I love seeing nursing students enthralled with the process of mixing colors, creating a painting they are proud of or in teaching a business major how to use tools to carve a likeness of a shoe in plaster. Learning to closely look at the world more accurately is useful for many professions and is a pleasurable experience. The process of working with ones hands to make something from nothing has rewards of its own. The students that arrive with an openness to a new experience gain the most.

The idea of stepping out of ones comfort zone is useful for us all because it offers us an opportunity to engage with the world in a new way. In the past year and a half, I began Suzuki violin lessons with my daughter. I have no previous training in violin and no aspirations of becoming a performer but the process of going to a weekly lesson and being in the student shoes has been valuable to me as a teacher, parent and person. As a teacher seeing how a very unfamiliar discipline is broken-down has helped me realize what it feels like to learn something unfamiliar. This is something I may have taken for granted in the past. I am also trying to show more compassion for the struggle that sometimes accompanies learning something new, especially any kind of art form. As a parent, learning this discipline with my child allows me to support her through the process by being able to understand and then articulate the struggles she maybe having with a certain part of a piece. This then allows her teacher to more successfully help her.

That place of exploring something new can be frightening and exhilarating. This blog may visit the idea of exploring new arenas from time to time. I will be standing in a new pair of shoes this week by taking a class at Artspace in Raleigh, NC with Stephen Early. I am both thrilled and daunted by the prospects of this class. The workshop focuses on painting the figure in oils. A quick glance through my portfolio and you will notice that neither figure nor oil painting are a regular part of my practice. Being open and willing to try new things requires acceptance, the ability to embrace mistakes and openness to the process. Admittedly, this “embracing mistakes” thing isn’t a natural place for many of us but the more we begin to embrace our mistakes the better all parts of our life are. I have found a great deal of pleasure studying music as an adult and I hope to find equal reward in experimenting with a new subject and re-experiencing oil painting. I don’t necessarily expect to embark upon a whole new direction with my art but seeing through fresh eyes can always inform ones artistic practice.

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Author: Kelly Murray