First day of class-"Family Paintover"

I was so looking forward to my first class, "Family Paintover" with Lisa Bebi. I thought this class would give me some creative ways to use my relatives' pix in my artwork. Longtime readers of le blog (um, anyone who's visited since autumn of last year) know I've been getting into the genealogy thing. I've nagged my aunt and cousin for pictures and info. So I figured, even if I don't finish the class project, the instructor will have given me really cool techniques to use.

Well, not really.

The first half of the class went pretty well. The instructor was kinda nervous, since this is her first year teaching at Artfest. So I cut her some slack for going a little overlong on telling us about her published art and gallery shows. She also mentioned that she was taking Vicodin for a knee problem. But Julie was in my class too, so I figured we'd have lots to talk about once we were done.

First up was painting the background, using a bright color under a darker color. Then we used stamps, doodles and whatever else we wanted to partly reveal the first layer of color. (My throat is a little sensitive, so I wore a paint mask while I worked.)
Next, we sealed photocopies of the relative(s) in question with matte medium (so that the colors to be added don't sink into the photocopy paper). I used one of my mom in 1965, one of her father and uncles from the early 20th century, and one of her as a baby.
Finally, we carefully glued them down to the background. Julie made this useful suggestion: Don't put the whole image down at once. Glue a small area down, smooth out bubbles, then glue some more down and smooth out bubbles until you're done.

We took a break for lunch... and in the second half of class, things started to go downhill.

The instructor began by trying to do a quick overview of what was next. First, she began explaining one way to bring color to the people images, and how to marry that paint job with the background paint. Fine, but then she said, "wait, let me show you the 15-minute version I did for such-and-such publication." Okay... we'll go with that.

And as she demonstrated, the instructor veered back to the more complicated version. Then she tacked back to the simpler technique! Back and forth, back and forth. Maybe it was the Vicodin she mentioned earlier that messed with her focus. I don't know.

Finally, the instructor told us to bring up our paintings if we needed help. Which is fine -- but it wasn't fine that she ended up finishing most of the paintings herself, instead of giving suggestions. It was as if her brain had clicked over from teaching-mode to studio-mode.

So I got frustrated... I tried to fight it, but my brain tends to shut down to anything else when that happens. I ended up having to leave the classroom with one of my seatmates, DD Wigley, who talked me down outside.

Julie, on the other hand, has done some similar paintover techniques, and she was working busily. So I said to myself, fuck it. I'm just going to do what Julie's doing. Here's the first result.
I painted over my mom's skin and the other images with a thin wash of Yellow Oxide by Golden, everything except her eyes, hair and dress. (Painting over the black would only make it pop out more, and the goal was to have that recede a bit.) Then I used a heavier coat of the Quinacridone Crimson of the background color, and finally some Nickel Azo Gold to tone things down a little. While it was wet, it kinda looked a mess, but when it dried the color around my mom's face looked softer, like an encaustic (beeswax) piece. That looked roughly like the "simpler" technique the instructor was trying to get across.
The second one turned out better. Here, I decided to go whole hog and paint my mom's skin, hair and clothing with more visible layers of paint. I don't have much experience with acrylics yet, but I tried to mix a color that was close to her skin tone. (The other students were using a pre-mixed "flesh" color. You know, because all human flesh is pink. Or darker pink.)

Then I painted her dress her favorite color, yellow, but it was too close to her skin tone, so I painted it blue, and did the socks in a lighter blue. Her hair is a mix of black, Nickel Azo Gold, and brown. This one looks a bit like the instructor's more "complicated" technique.
The brothers were difficult, because like many African Americans, their skin hues vary wildly within the family. I still need to figure out how to reduce the blackface effect I created on the brothers in the back row, but the seated brothers, who were paler, turned out a bit better.

I wasn't the only one unhappy with the class: that night, I talked to three or four other students who were pretty ticked off as well. And you can see the difference between the student work...and the instructor finished work.
Interestingly enough, my new friend Morag Campbell took the same class in Paris -- and said it turned out fabulously. But not here, man. Let's face it: If you have to do the work for the student, you haven't really taught them how to replicate the technique.

A couple of days later, I ran into the instructor, who had heard that I was very unhappy with the class. She told me she thought my work turned out very well, and that she'd be happy to help me fix anything I didn't like about it.

But I was just so mentally fried by that time that anything she said would've gone in one ear and out the other. I did tell her what confused me. I also pointed out that I would hardly have been insulted had she taught us the simplest version only. She apologized, and said if I email her later she'd still love to help. But you know... I'm done. Maybe I'll noodle with the pieces later, but for now, I'm done.

As a student, I need the instructor to teach me one technique, with no distractions, until I've gotten a chance to do the basics. Add on the options later. It reminds me of what I yell at other drivers when they're weaving on the road in front of me: Pick a lane and stick with it.

Tomorrow's post : fun at the famed Artfest bonfire that night.