Thursday, 20 March 2014

Vancouver Master Class: Painting Lessons with Meg Maples

I just heard some fantastic news: Meg Maples (former Privateer Press studio painter... if you've ever ooh'ed and aah'ed over a pic of a Warmachine or Hordes miniature on the PP website or in their magazine, it's a good chance you were drooling over Meg's incredible painting) is coming to Vancouver on the weekend of May 10th and 11th of this year.

A stunning piece recently done by Meg

Meg lives just across the border, in the Starbucks capitol of the world, Seattle.  With almost as many Starbucks locations saturating the streets of Vancouver, and comparable rainfall, it was relatively easy to convince her to make the 3 hour trip (if the border lineup is good) to show us Canucks how to paint.  Now, we've got some decent talent up here, but I suspect that the level of painting locally is going to improve exponentially after her class.  We saw this happen when Mathieu Fontaine visited Vancouver to teach, and it's bound to happen again thanks to Meg.

While it's true that painters nowadays have many more avenues open to them in terms of learning material than we ever have (trust me, I first started painting back in the dark ages of the late '80s... I should know), in the form of painting articles in multiple magazine offerings (both in print and online versions), blogs, Youtube, various DVDs, books, and on online forums, I still believe the best way to learn painting is the old fashioned way... with a real flesh and blood teacher.

There's just something about having someone right there, passionately explaining things, demonstrating techniques, answering questions, and showing off and detailing their own works in person, that really inspires a budding artist.  It's almost as if you learn something just by being in the same room as someone that talented.  Getting a chance to sit down and paint under direct tutelage of an accomplished painter and excellent teacher is a rare opportunity that can't be taken for granted.

In comparison, learning miniature painting from something you read is akin to a science experiment, or learning how to make a dish by reading a cookbook, or doing surgery based on a chapter in a textbook.  You are essentially trying to replicate a result by following a formula laid down in words and pictures.  It's a dry process.  Sure, you can still learn a huge amount by reading, but only if the writer was really good at explaining how the procedure works, and your understanding of the underlying principals involved and the foundational techniques is solid.

DVD's have also been a challenge for me.  I've got a small collection of painting DVD's, albeit slightly older ones.  While the resolution and video quality is much better than YouTube (which helps immensely... it sucks watching some grainy, poorly lit, and shaky video on YouTube), the DVD's I've watched did a poor job of actually showing how a master painter actually paints.  One DVD I own only showed the painters hands, and the model she was working on... it never went to the palatte (thus, I couldn't see how she manipulated the paints before applying them to the model), and the narration was sparse, and the explanation of the painting process very limited.  I've heard that there are some excellent DVD's out there now, but I haven't wanted to gamble any more of my money (or time) on them yet.  Maybe in the future though.

Painting with a teacher, even in a larger classroom setting, is something else entirely.  If the students are respectful and enthusiastic, and the instructor is both good as a teacher and painter, then magic happens.  Being around other painters that are getting excited with new techniques and tools is electrically invigorating.  Hearing "war stories" from a master painter that knows the history of various painting schools of thought because that person was actually a part of painting history is absolutely awesome.  It's just the thing to break any painting slump you are in, and get you off the comfortable painting plateau you were currently on, in order to reach new heights in your painting skill.  This was certainly the case for me after taking Mathieu Fontaine's Master Class in Vancouver... before the class, I was completely burnt out on painting minis, and completely set in my old ways of painting.  Afterwards, I was totally reinvigorated, and trying out new things fearlessly.

The venue has been set (the Eagle's Club in North Vancouver) thanks to the hard work of Andrew Meermed and the Chop gaming club.  Meg is coming up with a list of supplies to bring, but has advised that students get their hands on some high quality Kolinsky sable brushes (Windsor and Newton Series 7 or Raphael 8404's are the ones that come to mind) in slightly larger sizes than usual (size 1, 2, perhaps 3?) in order to work on some two-brush blending.  Payment will be in advance (Meg will likely post details on her "Arcane Paintworks" Facebook page).  The only complication may be that because May 11th is Mother's Day in Canada, some of us will have to work around that somehow (I may have to miss the Sunday class, and just attend the Saturday).

 I can't stress enough how rare an opportunity this is.  For years, I have been absolutely jealous of my European friends.  There is such a concentration of master level painters over there, and there are many many more events and classes within driving distance for them.  North America is a very big place though, and top class painters are spread pretty thin.  I urge people within easy travel of Vancouver to at least try and make this class.  It'll be well worth it.

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