I schedule these classes a year in advance; you have to because they fill within days of being offered. This past week could be considered the best art instruction I’ve ever had. Lian Quan Zhen was at Cheap Joes, and I got there early enough on Monday to get a front row seat. And it was worth it.
If you are an artist you already know this. Continuing education is paramount to keeping up your skills. The costs can be daunting for the five days, but they do provide tasty lunches. And all of these classes, without exception, are rolling advertisements for products, “highly recommended” and available right through those adjacent doors. Of course many of Zhen’s originals and prints were displayed on the walls around the classroom, begging your attention and money. But if you can resist all the temptations and simply concentrate on the demos of the class, you will learn so much from this man.
I did three paintings, none of which I feel happy enough about to put up here, so instead I’ve displayed one of his that is similar to one we painted during class time. And therein lies the best part. While many instructors have you sit in uncomfortable chairs watching them paint, whistle, and occasionally make a remark about what is good or bad about that last stroke, Zhen paints quickly, noting each color often, each stroke and how he did it, AND reiterates often to get his point across. “Change color; change shape; …. Never put dark next to dark…. Hold your brush like this…” His demos were short and we were back at our painting tables applying what we just learned. Several students agreed that many instructors should take Zhen’s class to learn how to instruct.” And I agree with them.
The first two days were Chinese painting with Chinese tools and paints. I have a new appreciation for the art form and will continue to learn it. The rest of the week was conventional watercolor, but several of the Chinese painting techniques crossed over easily. Zhen paints a lot with his fingers. He uses spray bottles, straws, and a variety of items to remove paint when things get too wet. He throws paint on the paper and watches it do its own thing, or coaxes it to move and blend. It’s almost like magic, and I wound up referring to him as the “Go-Go-Gadget of Watercolor.” I should have taken notes, and I regret I didn’t because at the end I found myself buying several of his DVD’s for reference.
The moral of this post is to recommend his class. There wasn’t one moment of boredom or confusion. He’s a great teacher, a fantastic watercolor artist, and even if you don’t have an interest in painting like him, you will still learn volumes that will enhance your own style to a measurable degree. Check him out.