SSW’s Art Class: what’s it all about?

by Roz Naylor-Smith

We held our first Online Art Class back in January and at that point only one of the members taking part had ever used Zoom before and everyone else had to download it for the first time. Right from the beginning, despite occasional issues with no sound or video connection, those taking part have been fantastic at Zooming in every week and enthusiastically giving it a go.

A fantastic mixed media picture of water lillies as created by someone in our Art Class

The results of their efforts under the expert tuition of Fiona Mcvey have, I am sure you will agree from the photos shown on the website, been amazing. On the face of it trying to teach an Art class online to visually impaired people who struggle to see a small screen, such as a tablet or iPad, should not really work. However, by carefully explaining different techniques and demonstrating them close to the camera, Fiona works on a new painting with the class each week, using a different image/picture each week as a starting point and we provide a copy of these to everyone for reference.

Fiona has said that it is her aim is to encourage and support the artists who want to continue painting and newcomers who may not have put brush to paper since school. She has introduced them to new techniques and given tips to help with their sight loss and to finding different ways to add paint to paper. These have included using special tape to mark out parts of the picture or picking bold strong colours to use that can be more easily seen. Her top tip, though, is to enjoy the process and not to try and reproduce a picture in the colours you think it should be, but instead to use the colours you can see.

Many famous artists including Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and modernist Georgia O’Keefe continued painting after their sight impairments changed their view of the world. Claude Monet, in particular, after his sight started to fail with cataracts, used stronger colours and his work became looser and even more impressionistic but was still very recognisable.

When asked about the Art Class one of the members said the following: “I really enjoy my Tuesday mornings with the Art Class. Not only do we receive guidance in painting and mixing colours from Fiona, but we meet up on Zoom with other friends who have eyesight difficulties, so we do just what we can see. Not only does the morning fly by but, if in any doubt, the session is recorded so we can see it again! It gives me inspiration to draw/paint other things which helps to while away the time by focusing the hand and mind to do something.”

It has been great to not only see all the beautiful pictures produced each week but also what has been lovely is the social side of the class, with the members getting to know each other, sharing stories and experiences and starting to form new friendships. Above all, the class is a way for everyone to have fun …. Fiona reminded us of the words of George Bernard Shaw who said “we don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing”.

It has yet to be fully decided whether the Art Class will stay online, be brought back into the Centre or whether we will be able to continue with a mixture of different formats, but it will definitely continue in some form. Hopefully, others might now be inspired to join the class, either to try something new or to rekindle an old passion for painting by learning to paint again in a different way. If you would be interested in taking part, please get in contact.