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Get Kicked Out of Your Comfort Zone

by Ginnie Conaway on 2/24/2012 9:33:17 AM

This post is by guest author, Ginnie Conaway.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 17,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


Here I was happily painting, showing and selling my watercolor florals and pet portraits. I knew what I was doing and almost every painting I started turned out well.  I was comfortable in my watercolors, besides it had taken me years to arrive here. I'd started in oils, migrated into acrylics and then been challenged to try watercolors. It's an accepted fact among artists that watercolor is 'the most difficult medium', but I loved the luminosity, intensity and smooth blended colors I could create in my flower paintings. Once in a while, I'd be asked to teach a class, conduct a workshop or offer a demonstration of my techniques. Being a self-taught artist, I didn't feel qualified to teach, after all, I'd never taken art history or even basic drawing. I just picked up techniques and ideas as I went along.

Then, as often happens, my life took a major turn, and I found myself living in a different state, making a new start. When an unexpected teaching offer came along, I decided to go for it. I'd just come through a rough time and my self-confidence had improved. What did I have to lose? No one knew me, so there were no expectations to live up to. In preparing my teaching materials, one great benefit became immediately apparent. For the first time in my artistic life, I was forced to consider the thought process involved in creating a painting. Setting it all down in print clarified many of the steps I took intuitively and created an awareness of the processes that I'd lacked before. I found, much to my surprise, that I loved to teach, to share the knowledge I'd gained bit by bit with students young and old. I strive to give them a solid foundation upon which to start their artistic journey, not demand that they paint as I do. I want them to be able to explore and find their own style, but with a well grounded basic knowledge of color, composition, design, and painting techniques.

Many of my students return semester after semester and quite a few have developed into good friends. I don't kid myself that they stay in my classes strictly because of what I teach. Some attend because they find the structure of signing up for a class valuable. Being part of a class compels them to set aside the time to paint, and gives them the permission they need to 'indulge' themselves. Some enjoy the social aspect of being with a group of fellow artists. Thankfully the majority do want to learn a new medium, new techniques or new styles of painting.

One of the many benefits I've received from working with my core group of students for several years is that they demand new material, new lessons, and new challenges. They push me out of my comfort zone into painting new subjects in styles that differ from my norm. In order to challenge them to try something new, I have to become adept at the technique or medium in order to illustrate it to them. This stretches my boundaries and causes me to grow, perhaps much faster than I might on my own. 



Editor's Note:  You can view Ginnie's original post here.


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On being a teacher...

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Sandra Reeves Cutrer
BRAVO, Ginnie! What an inspiration you are!!! Loved this article. Keep up the great work and the art of teaching others, and sharing your knowledge.
Blessings to you,

Barbara Reich
Ginnie - You took the words right out of my mouth! My comfort zone changed dramatically after a move, and I also received and unexpected teaching offer. I learned so much from the experience. It was a time of excitement and growth. I am now more likely to "go for it" because the rewards far surpassed my imagination. The new challenges helped to create a forward momentum that I carry with me today.
Barb Reich

Julia Watson
Thanks for this post, Ginnie. It's very timely for me because after years of not feeling ready to teach, I've arrived at the point where I realize how much there is to learn from being a teacher.

Jo Allebach
I am certainly glad that there are people knowledgable and willing to impart their knowledge. Every time I take a class, workshop, etc I come away better no matter the medium, style or instructor.
I look forward to the day I am teaching. I will wait for a while.

Sharon Hicks
Great post !! And very timely :)

I identified very strongly with this piece ... to quote a line from one of Neil Diamond's songs: "except for the names and a few other changes, you could talk about me and the story's the same one..."

A move last year presented an unexpected teaching opportunity, and I took the challenge. I hadn't taught for quite a few years, and quickly realized how much I'd missed it.

Teaching is a great way to learn something yourself, even it if's as simple as defining 'in words' what you know 'by instinct'. It always serves to set off a few new light bulbs in this old brain.

Marian Fortunati
Being a former teacher, I have always believed that one learns the most and the best by the need to teach something to another person.

As you said, it requires you do go beyond rote and automatic to really analyze what and why you are doing something... and perhaps realize how you could do it better.

Donna Robillard
I am a teacher by profession, but not in art. You do learn more when you actually teach, but I am not to that point in my art. It still seems like there is so much I do not know or am not sure how I would teach various concepts or techniques - maybe at some point....


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