The last four weeks I have been back to school - actually a nearby Community College - which boasts a variety of adult classes. Though I greatly enjoyed painting in the past (that's forty plus years ago) I have never learned to use water colours. When I saw this class posted for beginners and those with a little experience I signed up, albeit with many questions. You know the kind! Who will be there, who will teach and how, what will happen in ten weeks? Ten of us started out and it seems to have settled down to around 7 or 8 - evenly divided between men and women with the average age knocked down by a younger couple.
So what happened? I have been intrigued by how the teacher has worked with our disparate group. First, he has gone for boldness and confidence. He poured scorn on little brushes, small paper, and detail of any kind. "We are not maiden aunts with our little paint pads doing miniatures!' he said. He demanded that we buy quarter imperial paper, big brushes (12 or 14 for those who know about these things!) and that we begin with big vistas and large brush-strokes.
Second, he focuses on simplicity. He recommends three colours are all we need: cadmium yellow, cobalt blue and cadmium red. The rest is down to mixing with basic rules of eye-level, horizon, near, middle and far distances and concentration on tone. It's tone that matters he keeps saying!
Third, he models from the front. Sending out details about the next picture before each class he then encourages us to paint along with him. As he slaps the paint on at the front (and at times it just seems a slap) he distributes little gems such as the need to preserve the white paper and the changes of tone to give three dimensions. As we follow, he walks round, to give personal encouragement, advice and sometimes rescues a problem! Rarely does anyone lose enthusiasm!
Four, he makes plenty of room for mystery. At the outset he explained that because water colouring works with water there is always some uncontrollability about what may happen next. With experience you can build expectation but you never quite know.
I know I shall have a couple of reflections as the class progresses but the class agrees that he is a good teacher....and it's much to do with these four aspects. I cannot help thinking about implications for those of us engaged in Christian teaching.