Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: SMEAR (03/10/16)
TITLE: Loosen Up
By Kelly Gellert
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“Now, Judy,” the teacher said stepping around to check on my progress, “What’s going on here?”
“I’m not sure what to do. It seems unfinished but I’m not sure what it needs,” I replied. The teacher looked from the picture to my painting and back again.
“It’s coming along nicely. You’ve got the proportions right and I like the slight change in colour you’ve used. It’s a great painting of the picture,” she said and then looked at me, “but it’s boring.” I glanced at her in surprise and then at the painting.
“It’s nice but it doesn’t intrigue me,” she went on, “It’s clean cut and proper with everything in place but it’s flat. You're getting too detailed and exact again. What do I keep saying?”
“Loosen up,” I replied. It was her trademark remark and that was what I was here to learn to do.
“Exactly. Loosen up, experiment, give it some texture, make some mistakes on purpose,” she expanded, “Here.” She stepped forward and wiped her hand right across the bottom half of my canvas. I gasped and lurched a little before restraining myself with resignation. Too late to do anything now. The paint that was still wet had smeared drastically and she blurred it into the plain background on the right side. “Much more interesting already. And now you could also go over the dress shape with loose lines.”
She proceeded to pick up a piece of charcoal and lazily, but purposefully, start to wobble it over the outline of the dress. I stood tense as the painting I was reasonably pleased with was attacked. I controlled my breaths willing myself not to react. The teacher encouraged me to continue exploring with it and see what evolved and then moved on to another student.
I stood a moment longer looking at my seemingly ruined painting and encouraging myself to embrace this experience. Relax. Loosen up. This is about expanding my skill. Dare to step outside your norm.
I breathed deep and took a step back focusing on texture and line and colour rather than the image. My body eased into a more relaxed state and I dipped the paintbrush still in my hand into some paint and stretched my arm straight out from where I stood. I rubbed the paint brush against the canvas. There was something about the colours mingling that was…uniting.
As I continued with paintbrush and charcoal and even scrapped at it with a palette knife as I’d seen other students do I began to see more possibilities. More directions. More stories. The confinement of how things were supposed to be was breaking and creativity was beginning to flow.
At the end of class the teacher praised my artwork saying the fine lady looked like she was emerging as a figment of imagination or from a mystery like there was more to her than what you could see. She explained that it was now intriguing because it made her wonder and think and imagine. I marvelled at the significance of how a perceived mistake could unfold to something extraordinary.
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