Where Can You Learn Art Fundamentals?

by Mary Ann R. Baker-Randall

A reader wrote to Quilting Arts magazine something to the effect of, “To create better art quilts, stop taking quilting classes and start taking art classes.” At the time, I was a novice quilter and certifiable quilting class junky, so that statement intrigued me. Quickly, I realized I could benefit from learning basic art concepts and techniques in order to create better art quilts. I wanted to be able to convey depth, perception, mood, movement, atmosphere, and emotion – the whole gamut.

Adult education classes. Beginner drawing, painting, watercolor, and sculpture classes are everywhere and often inexpensive. You don’t have to want to become Rembrandt to learn how to draw well. Working with paint, particularly watercolors, is a great way to become comfortable mixing paints and handling brushes and sponges. Somehow it was easier for me to put paint to cheap paper than paint to expensive fabric, and now I enjoy doing both.

College courses. Auditing a class usually costs the same as taking it for credit, but you may feel less pressure to attend every class or complete every assignment. Survey lecture classes, such as history of art or modern art, are a great way to expose yourself to what has happened in the art world over time. The definition of “art” is ever evolving, and paintings we consider masterpieces today were often rejected as “non-art” or vulgar when produced. Studio classes are where you roll up your sleeves, pick up a pencil or brush or chisel, and learn how to translate an idea into a tangible object. I guarantee your appreciation for the craft and skill of all artists will skyrocket.

Go to galleries and museums. Exercise your eye regularly by viewing all forms of art. Galleries tend to sell contemporary works. Museums help give you an historical perspective.

Read. Check out books on art at your local library. Buy or subscribe to art magazines. Surf the web. Sometimes taking a class is not feasible, but there’s nothing to stop you from self-education.

Surface design, fiber art and art quilt conferences. Many conferences are dedicated to teaching artistic aspects to working with fabric and fibers. Some are held in conjunction with major quilt exhibits.

A life-long process. Education is a lifelong process, both in a classroom and through self-study. Reflect on how far you’ve come since making your first quilt or your 100th quilt. Think about all the skills you’ve learned along the way. Now think about how much farther you’re capable of going. Building a solid base of knowledge of art fundamentals will make the journey easier and more gratifying.