I like watching painting demonstrations, and I enjoy doing them.
I watch them on TV, and I often watch Bob Ross, a master of doing a 20-minute demonstration. I have also watched Jerry Yarnell who greatly speeds up the process of making a painting but also spreads one painting across several TV sessions. Jerry is a very good teacher and author of more than several good books.
But there is still nothing like a live demonstration.
While painting on the city streets of London, I found out that people didn’t really care to watch the beginnings of the painting process and wouldn’t stay long, but they would stay much longer and watch when it would be close to the finish, and they could see the finished canvas.
I like to paint city scenes, and I also paint the neighborhoods, especially where every home is so different. This week I was painting at the Historical Park in London for the Jonathan Alder Day celebration.
I have read a lot of the information they have on Jonathan and find his story a lot more interesting than the Boone or Crockett legends. After being captured, he lived with the Native Americans for many years. His story tells a great deal about this life and life in early Ohio.
I have often taken my canoe down Deer Creek from Robinson Road to Mount Sterling and sometimes on to the lake. I experience somewhat what it must have been like during those earlier times. This area is just beautiful and full of wildlife. Quietly paddling down the creek is an awesome experience. I have completed over 30 paintings of this Deer Creek area and done at least 10 paintings below the dam where there’s a beautiful park (and I want to add with good restroom facilities) with lots of great painting locations.
Nature itself is my best teacher. As a boy I would sit on the shores of the Allegheny River just a few miles north of Pittsburgh. Mostly I lived in town, New Kensington, and walked to the river, crossing the bridge and up a hill. This was a steep, wooded hill that was made of shell, clay rock that kept it in a process of continuing deterioration, not fit for building anything on it.
However, this was a retreat from the city for me. I painted mostly with watercolors but with my paper route money I bought my first oils. Painting in oils then, 60 years ago, was a smelly affair with turpentine filling the air so my painting outside was the only place allowed. I eventually did get permission to use the coal cellar if I opened the shoot to vent that room. Coal still heated most of the homes in the Allegheny Valley but gas heat was the new and convenient thing. Our place had been converted to gas and that’s why I could use the coal cellar. Needless to say the air quality wasn’t all that great.
During my early childhood years, across the street from my grandmother’s fur coat repair shop, was a storefront and a man born without arms, hands, legs or feet would sometimes demonstrate painting in the front window. He would paint with a brush in his mouth and he did a good job. I would watch him for hours as did many other people who walked the busy streets of downtown.
Watching him taught me a great lesson. Being disabled, even to a great extent like he was, doesn’t mean you should be useless. I witnessed a man who took what little he had and made beautiful paintings out of it. I was probably six or seven when I watched him create.
Later, while in college, my friend David had a disease that could have ended his life if he didn’t have both legs amputated. With a lovely wife and child he knew there was no choice. He chose to have this done over a Christmas vacation so he wouldn’t miss school. Within a month he had his new legs on and walking to class. Within a year most people didn’t know he had artificial legs. He graduated and became a social worker. He also became one of my heroes. Now when parts of my body don’t want to work as they once did, I remember these glowing examples and I am glad that they work at all.
As said, I really enjoy the art demonstration, doing or watching. I still teach art at several locations in London and there are many other demonstrations and classes done at Studio 7 on High Street beside the Gallery on High. I highly recommend checking on the class schedules to see what is being offered (www.londonvisualartsguild.org). It changes every quarter and their evening or Saturday and Sunday classes might be just what you want. I and other members of the group are available to give talks and demos to social club gatherings throughout the year.
There are more than a few art demonstrations to be seen in our community but sometimes you need to seek them out. The London Public Library’s bulletin board is a good place to find more information on art classes and demos. In fact, the library is a great place for resources for many interesting things. Become a member if you aren’t already.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at 740-852-4906 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.