My art class wrapped up yesterday, and after three weeks of studying and practicing, I think overall the experience was an excellent one.
The class, Mastering Twinks, focused on a product that I've used and loved for five years: Dreaming in Color's Twinkling H20 watercolor line. These paints, which are unlike any I've ever tried, are self-blending watercolors infused with varying amounts and colors of ground mica. This makes them very hard to photograph, but you can see the mica shining in this photo. This makes the colors reflective in various ways, from soft and subtle twinkle to a hard metallic glitter, depending on the shade. Collectively they are dazzling.
I've been experimenting on my own with them on paper and fabric with some amazing results, and I wanted to learn more about the paints as well as techniques I could use with them, so I signed up for the class.
Our instructor, Dion Dior, is a very talented artist, and she conducted the class in three lessons: Twinkling Techniques, Colors, and Masterpieces. All of the lessons came in .pdf form, which we downloaded and followed. We also discussed the various lessons and exercises on a private forum discussion board, and posted our works on a Flickr group account where we also chatted about tips and techniques.
I probably spent two to three hours a day studying and working on exercises and projects for the class, and in the process I learned at least a dozen new techniques. I was familiar with only about half of the other art supplies we combined with the Twinks for our homework, so the exposure to new methods and mediums was excellent. I'd say the most important for me was how to employ masking fluid with watercolor; I've always wanted to try it but felt too intimidated by my own ignorance to give it a shot.
The work could be as easy or difficult as you wanted it to be; I committed to doing every exercise and project so I could get the full benefits, so it was a lot of work. I also experimented a little on the side and came up with a variation on one technique that allowed me to transfer the impression of a metallic lace into the paint. I tried at first to do my lessons at night, but found I was too tired to produce at my optimum level, and so I switched to first thing in the morning. Starting out every day with a couple of class assignments put me in a great, lasting creative mood that carried over into my writing time.
The class is not super expensive, and with registration you receive a gift card with which you can purchase most of the required colors for the class. Twinks are not cheap, so if you want to buy more of the colors Dion uses in her examples for the lessons you can probably expect to spend another $20.00 - $40.00 on watercolor. The rest of the supplies depend on what you keep on hand for your art. I already had plenty of watercolor paper, brushes and palettes on hand, but I also invested in some supplies that I don't normally use, like gesso and oil pastels and water-soluble crayons. JoAnn's carries a very reasonably-priced art supply line, "Simply Art" which covered most of these needs. I did make a couple of trips to the pro art supply store in the city to get specific, uncommon items like black gesso and hot-press watercolor paper, which were more expensive, but not required (I was really determined to try everything Dion taught in the lessons.)
I didn't know what to expect from the other people in the class; the last time I took an art course was in high school. Back then we were all grumpy teenagers who mostly kept to ourselves. My group in this class seemed very diverse; hailing from all parts of the world. I'd say they were a little shy -- and it's tough to put your work out there for everyone to comment on -- but those who were more active were unanimously supportive. There was absolutely no negativity from anyone, and that did surprise me. Skills ranged from beginner to professional, so it was a good mix.
Dion Dior is a terrific instructor. She said we could ask her any questions, and we did, and she answered all of them. She shared plenty of her personal methods, made astute observations and was universally encouraging to everyone. If she ever gives a real-life art workshop in my area, I plan to sign up and sit in the front row.
As for me being in the class, I didn't try to hide who I am -- I did register as Lynn Viehl -- but I also didn't talk about my profession, and it never came up once from anyone else. That was a nice little online vacation for me, to simply be a student.
I didn't love all the lessons -- stencils are still not my friends -- but I'd say 95% of them helped me make some real progress with my art. The other 5% were just not for me or were techniques I was already using. That's pretty good for a class using a medium I've already worked with for a long time. The final project was a real challenge, but by the time I reached it I was fully prepared to take it on.
I'd recommend this class to anyone who does decorative art, journaling art, mixed media, or who would like to try something truly different in the realm of watercolor (but if you're anti-sparkle, this is definitely not the class for you.) You'll get a real work out of your existing art skills, and you'll definitely learn quite a few new things.
To see a slide show of more of my work from class, click here.