Everyone Can Be An Artist – A Tribute to My Adult Art Students – Use Your Intuition When You Draw & Paint – Don’t Allow Your Fear to Curtail Your Art

In mid-September, I launched an adult art class for some ladies in my new town of Harrison, Arkansas. At the beginning of their third month of classes, I already see that all of my students have flourished. This morning, one of my students posted her drawing of a tree on facebook, and she made some remarks about her experiences learning how to draw. Before I begin to tell you what she said, however, allow me to set the stage by sharing a few things that I know about this student:

  1. She had no previous art experience before she began taking her art class with me.
  2. She is a business person and not the free-floating artsy type. This particular person is an insurance agent and has her own large and very successful insurance agency.
  3. This person has missed most of her classes because of out-of-town meetings. Therefore, she has taken fewer classes than the other students.
  4. I have known this particular person for about half a century, and the only reason that she is taking my class is to support me, as her friend.

In other words, most people would not have pegged this particular student as one who would do well with art classes, but she has done extremely well, and I believe that her reactions to my classes from day 1 can serve as teachable moments for anyone who might like to try to learn how to make art.

On her first day in class, after the students sat down and settled, I said a few words and simply asked them to draw something that I set before them. All of the other students merely began drawing, but because this student knew me, she looked hopelessly at me with a face that said: “Do what?”

In fact, this student was a little bit irritated that I didn’t jump in and bail her out, but I have taught art almost half a century and I know that is a mistake. The bailing the student out ruins his intuitive process, and the intuition is what will surely save that person’s day in art. I just grinned and looked back at her and left her to it. I knew from experience that she would do a wonderful job.

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Jacki Kellum’s Student’s Colored Pencil Drawing of a Sunflower

Because I didn’t over-explain the process or “help” her do her drawing, this student’s colored pencil drawing was great, and she said the following on facebook about her first drawing experience:

“I’ve never had an art lesson in my life, but my friend, artist and teacher Jacki Kellum, talked me into it. Yesterday she had us use colored pencils to draw a sunflower. I looked at her drawing and just thought…. there’s no way! Then she just gives you a couple of pointers and says get to it!!!!

“She’s really presumptive! 😡

“I noticed the other students had already begun the task!!! 😌I looked down at my very blank paper …. and just started drawing some petals..so all I can tell you is this: there are 3 people in my class. The other two are really good; mine looks elementary, but that’s ok! I never dreamed I could draw any dang thing!!!!

“So ok hats off to Miss Jacki! You’ve taught for years and years and to presume that I could be taught is a total stretch! But I did produce a sunflower after all. I know it’s the worst of the best…. but for me? It’s a new something I pulled out of myself. Who knew I might draw that flower???? I certainly did not!”

A few days later, my old friend and new student asked me: “How do you know when to quit?”

I merely responded: “Don’t worry. You will know. If you listen within yourself, you will know.”

The all-knowing thing that works for you when you do art is your intuition. While my own art is not always perfectly drawn, it is highly intuitive.

When I was in college, abstract expressionism was still a rage in much of the world. I love looking at good, abstract expressionistic work–like that of Hans Hofman–and I love DOING it, too.

Painting expressionistically just FEELS good.  Swish, Swipe, Splat!!!! Ah, BRAVURA FEELS good.  When I was painting in total abstraction, however, it frustrated me that few–if any–got my drift, and I have shifted to a more realistic painting style. But you still see a lot of abstract brushwork in my more realistic paintings today.

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Gerberas Red, White, and Blue – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

My previous training in abstract painting is very obvious in my watercolor painting Gerberas Red, White, and Blue. Look at those blues charging the paper in my Gerberas painting! I added the blues because something inside me told me to add them. That’s right. Something essentially took hold of my brush, and before I knew it, blue had danced and dashed across my page–a page where I would not have thought that blue would fit.

Because I paint with my intuition, my paintings are more than a camera-like representation of reality. Long ago, I gave up the notion of being a camera. I could never replicate the realistic reproduction of a machine anyway, but I don’t want to be a machine. I want to be more than a camera. I want to see with both my eyes and my heart.

As Mark Twain has advised us:

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” – Mark Twain

Last Rose of Summer – Jacki Kellum Watercolor
Original Sold to Jerry Caulder

Yielding to my intuition is also what caused me to allow the red of my rose in Last Rose of Summer to run down into the green beneath the rose’s bloom. I KNOW that red and green make brown, and I hate it when brown undermines my watercolor paintings of bright flowers. But my intuition urged me to let it go this time, and consequently, magic happened.

People say that they like the bravery that I exhibit in my watercolor paintings. If you look closely at my painting The Last Rose of Summer, you can see the colored pencil marks where I had sketched the rose before I began to paint it. If bravery is involved in my painting process, it is the bravery NOT to be enslaved by my initial plan. Again, look at the colored pencil sketch in the above image, and you will see that I did not paint my rose exactly the way that I had planned to paint it [as indicated by the colored pencil marks]. I dared to leave my drawing seemingly incomplete.

In many cases, it is fear that forces an artist to over-work his art, striving too much for realism in his painting. And as the painter fusses with his work, trying to make it become more real, he loses the vitality of his expression.

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, or it forces him to edit himself literally to death.

 Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear.

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Close-Up Detail of Last Rose of Summer – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting

The colors that my intuition created in Last Rose of Summer were far beyond the reality of a rose:

“Tipani flower skies blazing rapture of color laced tree crowns silhouettes along the ocean diamond necklaced beach…of my heart in fragrance of love spilled by caressing kisses of the sun opening the gates to dive deep through away to horizons with no return…” ― Oksana Rus

Watercolor has a mind of its own, and I have learned to allow my colors to do a dance of their own. To be perfectly honest, I often prefer the colors that my intuition allows to spring from my art more than I like the subject matter of the painting.

Another Close Up of Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting The Last Rose of Summer

When a painting can be enjoyed simply because of its color and its markings–and the enjoyment is not dependent upon the subject matter–the image takes on a rather abstract and almost philosophical nature, and I believe that this philosphical quality is what comes across in my painting Last Rose of Summer.

Janis Joplin – Jacki Kellum Watercolor
Original Sold to Vikki Ransom Hudson

Listening to my intuition also caused me to slash colors throughout Janis Joplin’s hair and to simply suggest the weave of her vest and to suggest her bracelet by mere circles around her wrist.

“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau

My painting of Janis doesn’t really look like Janis Joplin. It is more the essence of her than it is a realistic representation of her. I was listening to Janis Joplin’s music as I painted, and somehow, the music also urged me to slash my paint, rather than to allow it to flow. In art, it is important to capture the spirit of your subject matters. Roses flow. Janis didn’t flow.

As I said before, people say that they like the bravery that I exhibit in my watercolor paintings, but the reality is that a team does my best paintings, and I am not the brave part of my team. My intuition is. When I am having a good painting day, an inward force literally takes control of my hand and urges it to dip into a little more of this color or into that and to slash it here or there. It is called painting with bravura. The word “bravura” must have something to do with the word “bravery,” and I do paint with bravura. I have done that since my days as an abstract painting. I suppose that my art does have a great deal to do with bravery. Sometimes the bravura might be a bit too much for some viewers, but even when I paint soft flowers, my bravura allows the flower to be more than a simple flower. Because of my intuition, my flowers become statements, and in my opinion, that is what art is all about. Art is a statement.

Old Blush Pink Rose – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

When I am painting, I consider it a great day when something within myself takes over and essentially completes my project for me. This gentle urging is intuition. Michelangelo spoke about the importance of intuition in his work when he said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

In another post, I wrote that Painting Has the Power to Heal

The healing that takes place in painting comes through mindfulness. When I am really into my painting, I focus on my subject matter and on the interminglings and movement of color on my paper, and nothing else in the world–not even in the same room–matters. This is the point when the intuition begins to take over and when the healing begins.

I have only talked about one student so far, but among my adult students, I have a medical doctor, a retired nurse practioner, a retired second grade teacher, and a retire medical transcriptionist–as well as an insurance agent. These are people who have simply allowed themselves to try something different, and ALL of them are exceptional. Not only that, they are my joy–and it is because I am watching intuition doing its work through them.

 

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