19 March 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Practical Painting

I left the Neil Moss painting course with a splodge of blue paint on my nose and two complete paintings in hand.  The course was a no frills, practical introduction to oil and acrylic painting.

Structured over the course of two and a half days, Neil, a largely self-taught artist, caters for people who want to start painting, but have no idea how. Or people who have some ideas about painting - but never produce anything. Or people who produce paintings - but ones that aren’t very good.

Neil provides all materials along with a workstation for each student at his Brooklyn Studio in Pretoria. Some of his time is spent on the practicalities of setting up to paint.  How hard can this be, right? Well it’s not hard - but his advice was incredibly useful for someone who has no idea what equipment they need, as well as enthusiastic amateurs who need to improve their set-up.

When I actually started my first painting on day one, I had the brushes and paints I needed at my disposal, as well as the materials to keep them clean.  It felt very professional to be dabbing away at my canvas, with a beautifully set up easel and a kind of a wooden trolley, designed by Neil to store everything in (including your palettes), which doubles as a work station when you open it up.  It makes painting and its paraphernalia mobile, easy to store, move around, and access.

As I watched Neil paint a demo for us (he worked incredibly fast and it was very good), I understood why he suggests we lay out our palette in a particular way. Like with a computer keyboard, it’s easier to tell a story with colours when you know where each of them lies - and it makes sense to put colours that you’ll need to mix frequently close to each other.

And when we started our own paintings, I understood why we had spent some time on the basics of composition and colour mixing. It’s not some kind of magic alchemy that makes a painting ‘work’ - it’s a mix of technical skills and knowledge that anyone can apply to produce something that passes as a painting.

Not to say that there is no talent involved in making great art- of course there is. Not all of us have it though. After Neil’s course though, what we do have is an understanding of the fundamentals of making a painting and working through it step-by-step until you can see how the elements come together.  This experience, along with some great ‘cheat sheets’ and technical tips demystifies the process of painting.

Of course, once you master the basics and are one of the lucky ones with talent, making money from your art is a whole other story. You’ll pick up some tips about this from Neil too. He’s unashamedly business-like about his art. Its this refreshing, down-to-earth attitude towards painting that really makes this art course work.

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