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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.