A few years ago I started to look into on-line art classes in part because the nearest college that teaches art is about 3 hours away and I don't really want to go back to college. I've taken on-line classes before so I know the method works for me. I began by looking on YouTube for free artsy classes and after a short while discovered "art journaling" which I had never heard of before. They seemed to be a whirlwind of mixed media pieces by incorporating ephemera, painting, stamping & journaling all in one small space. I must say that at the time I didn't make scrap books or keep a journal so I was quickly overwhelmed yet strangely in awe of the concept. Art Journaling didn't quite hit the spot for me - what I really wanted to do was paint.
Some of the videos I viewed were by Tamera LaPorte, user name Willowing, and although they were mixed media works they weren't crammed into a small journal. I watched a few videos and noticed she incorporates text and that's a bit like journaling but I kept thinking that the works could stand on their own. To me the text seemed optional yet, also seemed to support the art and put the characters expressions into context. I was intrigued.
The more I thought about it the more I realized I wasn't against art journaling, adding text into my art or adding drawings into a journal entry. I'd just never been there or tried that on such a scale, so it was new to me. I needed more time for the idea to go to seed in my mind. As I searched YouTube for art videos it seemed that the art journaling was the style that I kept discovering appealed to me most because of the variety of topics, the mixed media elements and the possibility it presented.
What set Tam's art apart from the rest were her videos. They were short, shot with a tripod so they were steady and often times fast-forwarded so you could see the progression quickly. I also liked her friendliness as well as her art style - her characters were realistic yet not so overwhelmingly real that they seemed photographic, they were somewhere in between and seemed attainable to me. I began to feel inspired to create but I ended up putting it on the back burner for a couple more years.
When I decided to paint at the beginning of this year I kind of went through some of the same steps of looking to YouTube and rediscovering what's new in painting, mixed media, art journaling and I found Tam again. I had actually had forgotten about all of it but I was quickly absorbing the creativity because now I had time to devote to pursuing painting more seriously than I had a few years ago.
I discovered that Tam had a whole bunch of e-courses running and was successfully teaching her style of art to thousands of people just like me! How could I forget that!? Anyways, when I realized she had this free course Art, Heart and Healing I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. In part because it was free, yes, but also because I liked some of her other courses and before deciding to pay for them them I wanted to know if I liked her style of teaching and if could I really learn from her methods.
Going into the self-paced, free e-course I had no idea what it would be like or how much I would get out of it. I thought it would be a few quick videos of her painting in fast forward like on YouTube and maybe a bit about what she uses to create her art. And oh boy I was wrong! There are an unbelievable four weeks of course work with at least two hours worth of video with each lesson. She tells you what she uses, how to use it and there are several downloadable PDF's too. Tam really went all out to get the viewer involved with the lessons, techniques and provide support of any kind if you need it..... forever.
Not only does she place creativity within your reach she gives you the tools you need to be successful at attaining a creative and deeply personal work of art even if you've never drawn or painted a day in your life. Even though I was afraid to dive into uncharted territories of art and the heart I really had a good experience that was well worth the time and effort on my part as well as hers. My fears quickly dissipated as Tam has a lovely soothing style, there's a lot of simple techniques given and her videos fluctuate between a regular conversational pace and fast forwarding when she's already covered a technique so you don't feel like she's wasting your time. The videos are free and downloadable so you can review a technique if necessary.
Although she edits her videos she'll say something like "Oh look, I've made a mistake here but I'm not editing it out because I want you to see how I fix it." Which I found quite helpful. When the lessons focus on healing she shares some of her own life with you in order to show you how to take some steps to move past an old hurt and she says that all of the lessons, techniques and healing elements are completely optional and if some things are too painful then simply focus on the art techniques. She will suggest you copy her style if you like while she encourages you to try things on your own and develop your own style when you're ready.
A brief word about the Willowing site - Tam has created an online presence and art community of support for all ages, genders and geographical locations. Everyone is welcome from all walks of life and all artistic levels. The lessons are all taught in English and she encourages us, when using text in our work, to use whichever language we're most comfortable with. There are different forums on the site for sharing art, finding support and so much more! It can be overwhelming at times because there is a lot of activity. Just remember that if or when you're ready to share you can and if sharing isn't your thing then that's fine too. The forums are simply there if you want to participate or just observe. What's important is you get what you need from what is offered.
I don't spend much time in the forums myself but I know that if I do decide to share my work for a class that I am sharing in a safe place where no one can spoil my fun, as everyone is encouraged to be supportive of each other. It seems to be that there is great support and encouragements all around. If I want a critique there's a specific forum for that. I've never participated in a critique because I feel as long as I'm satisfied with my art then why would I need one? I think I'd use it if I was really stuck on a piece and need guidance but luckily I've been pretty happy with what I've created.
And that's kind of what it's all about... creating art you love! There's art class and learning the craft and learning expression through the craft. When you make art that you love that is uniquely yours and someone else loves it too then you've been successful.
I can not say enough good things about Tam, Willowing and this free e-course. I liked it so much I signed up for the other classes I was interested in but I'll talk about some other time. For this course I chose to only create one piece of art and it's quite unlike anything I've made before because I followed Tam's style. I made it in my new Molskine art journal... and while I am not a prolific art journal-er and don't think I ever will be I've come to realize that painting on any surface is painting and that it's the process of creating that makes me happy...