I always try to get a good night’s sleep the day before, drink plenty of water, have my coffee and eat some avocado toast on good crusty bread. I do a short yoga stretch and say a prayer that I may somehow meet the needs of each person who has trusted me with his or her time, an investment of cash, but most of all the hope that they will take home with them something will enhance their life.
In class, I see beginners who may only want to know more about the paintings they see in museums and galleries and have a hands-on experience. I love their spirit of adventure. They come, ready to explore and are completely unattached to outcomes.
There are often retirees who always wanted to paint and finally have the time. They come with life experience and are mostly pretty relaxed. They are lovers of painting—true amateurs—who come to learn a new technique or seek to demystify a part of the painting process. I learn so much from them.
I see young mothers who need to claim some time for themselves. I can relate to that—after my son was born, my mother-in-law treated me to an art class. I hadn’t realized how I had been sinking until I returned to painting. I’ve been focusing on non-toxic art materials in class partly because of my fears in those days that fumes might do some harm to my child. There is so much available now that I didn’t know about in those days.
Everyone comes to class with a wish. I do too. I waited until I was fifty to start teaching. I figured by then I might have something to offer, enough confidence in my opinions about how teaching should be done, enough confidence in my technical skills to stand in front of a class and demonstrate. I never figured on having a stroke at age 47 that left me with an impairment in my dominant right hand and the necessity of learning to paint left-handed. But the embarrassment I sometimes feel maybe helps me understand a student’s self-consciousness. I need to think such things.
My reward is seeing each student, with his or her unique sensibility, take my instruction and end up with a painting that is a surprise to both of us. It never fails to light me up.