A behind-the-scenes look at my course and workshops - Manuela Bianco
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A behind-the-scenes look at my course and workshops

I can’t think of many things more special than sharing my love of art and nature with others. I love inspiring people to go on their own creative journey and I get a huge sense of joy from teaching others how to draw. Watching someone take their first tentative steps with a pen, ink or other material and seeing their face light up when the artwork takes shape on the paper is such a wonderful thing to witness. Yet teaching is something I’ve only recently got into…

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures

Henry Ward Beecher

My first workshop

I was first approached to give a course after my work was shown at the Kunstuitleen Art Centre in the summer of 2017 during which I gave some workshops based around my style of drawing. It all went so well that I decided to give more classes – especially as I was often asked about my technique and what materials I use. That same year I set up my first workshops based on step-by-step instructions on how I work – the idea being that my budding artists would have a finished drawing to take home with them after the two-hour session. I’ve since gone on to offer longer courses too, so students can get an all-round feel for art and the creative process.

Art course

So how do I teach

I like to get my mentees to really examine the subject they’re drawing. I start with the fundamentals – such as capturing shape, size and proportions in addition to teaching them about light reflections and volume. I also explain what *not* to do so that they come away with more confidence in their abilities (although my lists of do’s is much longer than my list of don’ts!). My main warning is to not to be too precise or too detailed initially – it’s so easy to get bogged down in detail and then realise that the proportion or volume isn’t right! 

Why are my courses so unique and loved

I strive to push my students outside their comfort zone but always in a gentle and supportive way. Every student is different – so I adapt my teaching style accordingly. Some pupils need encouragement to start while others want to jump right in! Many already have experience and their own style, so I adapt my teaching to their needs but I also want them to try new things.

Sometimes I will get them to draw ‘blind’. This consists of only focusing on the object they are drawing and *never* at the paper on which they are working. I believe this creates a certain magic:

  • The student will obviously not draw the object perfectly – it won’t be right – but, conversely, it can’t be ‘wrong’ either
  • The student will no doubt throw away most of the sketches at the end but there may well be some forms or marks that can actually be incorporated into the final drawing. And those same forms most probably wouldn’t have been discovered via more traditional sketching

Another trick I have up my sleeve is getting my students to use materials outside the norm. Usually, when drawing something small, with a lot of detail, it makes sense to use a fine pen or pencil. Not in my classes!! I like to ask my pupils to use a thick brush or wax pastel – so they can’t be so precise. The goal is to abandon pre-conceived ideas about how to draw and to come up with new ideas.

I also like to use a ‘speed dating’ concept in my course whereby my pupils must draw a small assignment with new materials and then switch stations to try the next one so that they get a feel for a new way of working. They might hate it or they might find something that really clicks with them and becomes ‘their’ thing (just like ballpoint pen and recycled paper are ‘my’ thing!).

Serendipity in motion

In other words, drawing is a place where I can set my own rules, it’s a place of freedom and I hope that I can transmit that freedom to my students. I don’t like to tell my pupils that there is only one way to draw and that other ways are wrong. Sometimes one of the biggest lessons my students take away with them is that letting go of control is how you can accidentally stumble across something really amazing. This is where serendipity comes into play and it’s the very cornerstone of creativity. Another important thing I like to do in my classes is develop what my students are already able to do instead of trying to copy others. I want them to dig in deep into who they are and express that. Not to be a carbon copy of other artists.

Wake up your inner artist!!

Due to the pandemic, I had to move my classes online, which has inspired me to create a module for people to learn art online. The course has been very popular and there is an option of one-on-one classes with me afterwards too!  I’m working on a self-paced module – please sign up to the newsletter to be one of the first to hear more!

I’m now launching new classes every Tuesday evening from May in an atelier in the Hague. I’m also setting up plein air drawing workshops in the gardens of the museum where I work. So I hope you will be able to join me either online or in person to unlock your creativity and experience that incredible high from seeing something that you’ve drawn or painted come to life on paper!

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