‘It wasn’t until I joined this class that I realised I could paint’


With a resolution to paint more in 2023, Edwina Baines starts the New Year’s art column by exploring some local options for anyone with similar plans

Highland cattle – one of Jake Winkle’s Zoom workshop paintings

My New Year resolutions are generally entirely unachievable, and if I’m honest are usually broken just a few weeks into January. Alongside the usual lose weight / get fit / be happy, I am going to add one more this year – to paint more.
As an amateur artist (or, as a friend labelled me, a ‘dabbler’), I have been attending art classes for more than ten years and I find that there are many benefits. Drawing and painting on your own are fine, but it’s easy to get distracted. An art class is a perfect way to switch off from the world for an hour or two in a sociable atmosphere.
Drawing is a powerful tool of communication. It helps build self-understanding and can boost health. Research shows that both physical and mental health improve when people draw for set periods. In a similar way to meditation, blood pressure drops and tension fades away – plus it ignites your creativity. With regular practice, you may find yourself occasionally melting into states of ‘flow’, becoming wholly absorbed. A small, regular pocket of time to temporarily escape the busy world and enter a flow state via drawing may help you in other parts of your life.

Clare Shepherd (left) discussing work with a student. All images – Edwina Baines

But our current focus on productivity, outcomes and ‘talent’ has us thinking about it the wrong way.
Too many believe the myth of ‘I can’t draw’, when in fact it’s a skill built through practice.
You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you progress when taught by an experienced teacher in a group. You will find that you begin to look at famous artists’ work in galleries in a different way and your appreciation and understanding of art improve.
Procrastination is the biggest enemy of the artist, so make your New Year’s resolution to finally start that art project you have been postponing!
We are lucky to have a huge range of local teachers providing different ways to immerse yourself, either as a beginner or a more experienced artist.

Deborah Chisman (standing) overseeing work at one of her classes.

Local Classes
One experienced teacher, Deborah Chisman, initially trained as a fashion illustrator at Epsom School of Art and Design but has been teaching adult art classes for the past thirty years, running morning and afternoon classes in Durweston and Marnhull. The sessions run throughout the year and a structured timetable is provided with details of the subject matter and any materials that may be needed.
There is a demonstration at the start of the session and Deborah encourages artists to develop their personal projects as well. Everyone in the class was enthusiastic and appreciative of her approach: ‘She is so encouraging without being patronising.’ ‘Everyone ends up with something slightly different.’ ‘Coming to the class gives me the motivation I need’.
‘My school report for art said “lacks ability” and it wasn’t until I joined this class that I realised I could paint.’
Deborah says: ‘There are so many people who want a structured, taught session. Some people like a project and a handout but those who have been painting for years may go off at a tangent and do something different. What works well in the group is showing our work at the end of the class –other artists’ creations may spark an idea in somebody else.’

Ali Board using the big screen to demonstrate techniques during a workshop

Clare Shepherd studied at The Slade School of Fine Art where she was The Slade Prizewinner for her graduating year and she exhibits regularly. Clare taught for the Dorset Adult Education Service and Bath University for many years and now runs courses and classes privately in Blandford and Stourpaine.
She said ‘I am very interested in what each student can do and how they find their inner resource. Everything that each person does is valid and everyone goes through their own typical artistic angst! It is part of the artist’s journey – if we were happy with our painting all the time, we might become complacent. The best paintings are ones you have to struggle over; to push yourself. It’s all about good thinking.’
One of her pupils said: ‘Clare is so encouraging that I’m motivated to try even harder and not worry so much about the outcome. The process becomes more important.’
See details of Claire’s classes here.

One of Clare Shepherd’s students at work

Zoom workshops
Renowned Blandford artist Jake Winkle runs online watercolour workshops via Zoom. We all became accustomed to Zoom during lockdowns and it means you can watch the demonstration live from the comfort of your own home. Jake gives a full watercolour demonstration and talks students through all the required techniques. including ‘warm up’ painting exercises to prepare for their own painting. He holds around 20 sessions per year, and if you are busy on the day, Jake sends each participant a seven-day link to the recording of the event, which is an ideal way of replaying the workshop and having a go at the painting in your own time. jakewinkle.co.uk/online-demonstrations-tutorials

Marilyn Allis ready for a zoom workshop

Painting holidays
Author and TV artist Marilyn Allis runs workshops and Zoom classes from her newly refurbished farm studio in Briantspuddle. At time of writing she was about to leave to teach watercolour painting for three months on a cruise ship, travelling to Australia and New Zealand. She said: ‘All artists at one time or another will feel the need for inspiration and motivation and what better way than immersing yourself in a painting break? This is a great way to rejuvenate and develop your art. It’s a really good thing to never be satisfied with your paintings, it spurs you on to be better. If you think your paintings are perfect, you have stopped learning.’
Marilyn’s Art Holidays are run from a Bournemouth hotel with studios overlooking the sea. Participants receive help and guidance from three professional artists, covering different techniques and subject matter.

Jake Winkle during one of his Zoom lessons

Born and brought up in Dorset, Ali Board had dreams of becoming a dancer but changed course to join the family art materials and framing business. Now married and the proud owner of an expanding menagerie of animals, she spends every day painting, photographing and inventing new creative ideas to pass on to her students around the world. Join one of her workshops and you can spend an entire day working on a project with Ali’s expert tuition and positive guidance. The Stourpaine village hall workshops last approximately six hours, with no more than 14 attendees, meaning there is plenty of time for individual attention. The sessions are aimed at beginners, intermediates, or those who have had a break from painting and want to re-discover their skills. Her step-by-step style of teaching means that everyone can see each process before trying it for themselves. Ali films as she works, and streams the video to a big screen so that students not seated up close can see in the finest detail what is happening as she speaks. She has a relaxed and informal teaching style that the class evidently enjoyed. Ali says ‘my workshops are aimed at encouraging students to find their own way through a painting, making them more self-sufficient artists in the future.’


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