“You Are the Artist”

In March, I began logging-in to the Thursday night “Live Lessons” at The Virtual Instructor. Although I’ve been a site member since last July, I’d never attended the weekly live sessions, thinking I really didn’t have the skills and knowledge required to take part.

When I saw an announcement that an upcoming lesson would focus on oil pastels, I decided I had to give it a try. I’m very glad I did. Following along as Matt, the virtual instructor himself, demonstrated how to create a beautiful landscape gave me a chance to develop my oil pastel techniques in a friendly setting where I could ask questions if needed. We spent four weeks working on the landscape, and I was very pleased with my finished piece.

The most important thing I got from the class, however, had nothing to do with oil pastel techniques. Time and again, I heard Matt say, “Remember, you are the artist.” We didn’t have to copy the reference photo exactly, he pointed out, nor did we have to follow what he did. If we wanted to use different colors or change the placement of certain elements of the composition, we could.

After finishing the lessons on oil pastels, I continued logging-on each Thursday evening, eager to follow along on the next project. We moved to pastel pencils. I was sure I would enjoy the lessons. I didn’t take a look at the reference photo for the pastel pencil project until the night of the first lesson. Oh, boy! Are you familiar with the term freak out? Well, that’s about what I did when I saw what we were expected to draw.


Now, that might not sound too frightening. How hard would it be to draw carrots, you’re probably asking? Consider that carrots have lots of greenery growing from their tops, and consider that there were five carrots, and, for me, freaking out was a very logical reaction.

But, hey, I was already logged on. I might as well give it a try.

By the end of the first lesson — these simple carrots turned into a four-week project, and even then, Matt wasn’t completely finished with his — I was amazed. Truly. I would never have undertaken the project on my own, but with Matt’s guidance, I was actually able to create the drawing.

I did make changes, though. My drawing didn’t look exactly like the photo reference, nor did it look exactly like Matt’s drawing. Through the class, over and over, I heard those reassuring words.

“You are the artist.”

Indeed. The carrots were Matt’s, the idea was his, but my drawing was mine alone. I found myself putting in little touches of color here and there. I decided against doing a background, altered the color of one carrot — it was a dark purple in the photograph — and added only a slight bit of shadow. These were my choices, and I was pleased with the results.

Drawing these carrots taught me about making my drawings my own.
Drawing these carrots taught me about making my drawings my own.

I love the feeling of “being an artist”, and now, even more, I love what those words really mean. It means I can do things differently from other artists. It means I can express my own ideas. It means that I can share my own vision of the world.

Since I first embarked on this learning-to-draw journey last June, I’ve heard a lot of advice, but perhaps nothing is more important than this:

“Remember, you are the artist.”




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