Many of the artists I’ve spoken to take enormous pleasure and satisfaction from sharing their art skills with others for the sheer enjoyment of simply ‘doing it’. This really resonates with what I do at Open Stage Arts and in my latest blog, I explore this notion further with the talented artist and art teacher Jane Beinart in Oxford.
I began by asking Jane about what she does.
“I run group and one-to-one classes to help people discover or rediscover their creativity. It’s all about making art in a non-traditional, fun, explorative way. I encourage people to be curious, tap into the creative process and see what happens.
“A lot of people did art at school but then got put off and now lack confidence as adults. My classes are about undoing that, helping people to get rid of their fears and address the things that are stopping them. I want them to feel creative and fulfilled.
“I have classes for complete beginners and for people coming back to making art. It’s the same process for both, experimenting in the first few sessions before they decide what they want to make. Everyone makes their own thing – whatever they enjoy doing. We start with acrylic paints and work our way through drawings using pastels and pencils to watercolours – it’s all driven by what they like doing.”
I draw comparisons with the acting and singing classes at OSA, where people may feel held back because they think that what they produce isn’t good enough or what would be expected in a class.
“Exactly, we have all these assumptions about what art is, what good art is, and it’s not about that – here the aim isn’t necessarily to produce anything beautiful but to make and explore and try not have an end goal in mind, just to be able to muck around and play with different skills and materials. This is a space where you can make a mess and leave it behind!”
Similarly with our drama classes, we’re not aiming to produce a play. Often the exercises we do help people to find out about themselves by doing something they’re not used to. Jane says:
“People learn a lot about themselves in the classes, especially that nothing bad happens if you just have a go. People find it life-changing. They realise they can access a part of themselves that’s been tucked away and they won’t be judged by other people, who are all in the same boat.
“As the term progresses, people support each other, they become a tight knit group and it’s a privilege to be part of that. There’s very little that you do in life that’s just for you alone, and it’s such a liberating feeling.”
I asked Jane how she came into teaching.
“Like many things, it came about by accident! I lived in London and was doing my own art and a bit of life coaching. Then a friend asked me to teach her some art techniques so I gave her a lesson in a cafe and she absolutely loved it. She bought loads of materials and was really enthused, so I thought ‘maybe there’s something in this’. We decided to move back to Oxford and I created a studio in our home to offer classes and see how it might work.
“I’d studied art at school and a Foundation course but didn’t get into the degree I wanted to, so lost my confidence. I studied History of Art, all the time wondering if my own art was any good. About 8 years ago I saw a therapist who encouraged me to get out the paints and have another go. It was really hard to do so I fully appreciate how people who come to my classes might feel. I try to offer what I would have found really helpful at that time.
“I’ve carried on making art for myself ever since – it’s part of who I am. I felt fulfilled and ready to hold a couple of exhibitions. It was really scary, like walking down the street naked, and I realised that ‘showing’ my art isn’t the point for me, it’s about creating it. There doesn’t need to be a purpose, the end game is to be fulfilled with how I made something.”
I feel such a connection with this approach and OSA came from a similar place. Having counselling after my dad died, I had a hole in my life for fun and enjoyment and I wondered ‘if I feel like this, maybe others do too’, perhaps we all need an outlet.
A lack of purpose is a wonderful shared theme between Jane’s art classes and our acting and singing classes. Our art doesn’t have to have an end, the fulfilment comes with the creative process. Although there isn’t a traditional end, we still achieve results, whether that’s finding your voice or your love for painting, discovering your confidence to make new friends and share your experiences, the classes are about escaping from the mundane routine for a little while and finding fun again!
If you’d like to rekindle your creative spark or want to have a first go at painting or creating a unique artwork, you can find out more about Jane’s classes at http://be-in-art.co.uk/ or Be In Art on Instagram, Be In Art on Facebook and Be In Art on Linked In
I’ve had such a great time meeting and chatting to fellow artists about their creative space and inspiration, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about it too – if you’ve missed any of the blog series, you can catch up here.