non-picasso moment

Can you paint or draw? How much did you enjoy art at school? Answering negatively, I needed some persuading to attend Chelsea College of Art and Design for what they call a Bite Sized Painting course. In its favour, it was to be a one-off three hours of my life but the exercise seemed futile. No-one had ever had any luck goading me with a paint brush. There was no doubt, I was to be made a mockery of.

Renowned for delivering short courses, regardless of talent and age, the college had no idea how much of a challenge they had taken on with me. The marketing lady assured me that after the three hours I would surprise even myself. I wondered if she was aware that my artist capabilities end with the rather enjoyable painting-by-numbers works of art I produce with my seven-year-old?

We met in the college café. Daunted by the large number of people signing in, I soon realised that they were all there for the interior design course also running that evening. And I was relieved to work out that there were only three of us in the painting class. As I struggled to set up my easel, I knew that as much one-on-one tuition as possible could only be a good thing.

Enver, our teacher, was charming. He had lots of paint on his clothes and that essential laid-back personality only a real artist can pull off. He also happened to have graduated from the land of tact, making every single comment or suggestion, directed at our masterpieces, easy to take as well as helpful.

Taking on the challenge of a still life, the technique Enver demonstrated (again and again) is described as blocking in colour. Using acrylics, he showed us how, armed with a paint brush, we should only ‘draw in’ the darkest areas and objects. We were to ‘build up’ the picture as a whole and not focus on one object at a time. Moving through the spectrum of colours from the darkest to the lightest, I saw colour in a whole new light. The blue bottle was not simply blue but had black, white, green and even yellow reflections in it.

At the end of the session I could not believe what I had created. The marketing lady was indeed right. Perhaps there is, as they say, an artist in each and every one of us after all. So while my primary colour knowledge is rusty, my confidence in painting non-existent and my future as an artist doubtful, the enjoyment was immense and the experience was one I would absolutely recommend.

This article appeared on West London Living & The Bite Sized Painting course costs £64.

Chelsea College of Art and Design, 16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P;; 020 7514 2104

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