William Wray is a very talented artist and came from Los Angeles to teach at The Winslow Art Center this summer. Signing up for the class, which was quite expensive, I was hoping to learn how to take my more impressionistic painting to a more edgy look, but it was a class about extreme basics and blocking, which is always a good refresher, but not what I was hoping to learn.
The first morning of class, he announced that there was no democracy in this class. We were to do as he required. I commented that right now in the world, we don’t really know what a democracy is anyway, so it did not really matter. Not so sure he liked my comment.
We spent three days working on 2″ x 3″ drawings and if he and only he approved of our drawing, we could move on to painting in two colors. Middle of the day on the first day, he reviewed one of my drawings of a gas station and comment: “That is about a B+”. Considering he had not said anything to any of the other drawings in the class, I just commented back: “Well, that would be the lowest grade I have gotten in the last twenty years.” I complete my Ph.D. at 62 with a GPA of 3.85 having gotten a couple of A-‘s, but no B’s. He was no sure what to think of my comment. I felt it was a little “macho” at the time and at this point in my life, I am not out to impress anyone.
Here are a few of his paintings:
I was attracted to the etherial rawness of his work and hoped to be able to learn from a person I considered masterful. I walked away with a couple of new ideas, a few new artist’s works of whom I was unaware, but I did not feel the class brought any real “ah ha’s”. I could have learned as much studying his work. The technique was not shared. This is the only class I have taken where I actually think the narcissism of the artist got in way of actually teaching students anything new.
There were several successful professional artists in the class. I wondered what they felt about the experience, as it was more of an experience than a learning environment. I did not save any of the small tonal works that I did as I did not like them, and did not feel I learned much new from them. I was frustrated in the class.
Our first day out Plein Aire painting, I could not find anything that looked remotely interesting to paint in our 2″ x 3″ block. He came to talk to me and asked me how I reacted to classes I hated in high school or college. I told him, the problem was that I loved my classes and loved learning. The only thing in high school that upset me about a class was the time I spilled acid on a new pair of shoes and ruined them. I didn’t mention the one class I had to drop in college as I stayed out all night partying rather than studying for a test.
I was being sarcastic, as I felt it had nothing to do with painting and irked me a bit. I started not to attend the last day of class, but it was by the marina and I love the water and boats. My first drawing and painting, which I did not save was of a “floating” dock. He came by and said my perspective was off. I told him the dock had moved. For some reason, he had not noticed that the dock was not stationary and moved with the tide. I just laughed.
Later that day, I sketched a little tug-like boat at the dock. and he said it was “ok” to paint.
So first we had to do a “block-in” using only three values.
Then we could actually put the painting on a 6″ x 8″ canvas. Mine is below. It is certainly not one of my favorite works, but it was on par with other work in the class.
Conclusion: Find out how and what the teacher is going to teach and don’t bother taking classes that only go over basics if you do not need that level of instruction. Don’t take too many classes in a close time frame, as it is only and always confusing. My lessons of classes grew my credit card bill and didn’t expand my knowledge as much as I would have desired. I can see improvement in my painting, but it was only from a couple of the classes.