Because I want to learn everything, especially everything about art, I read a lot of books about art and artists. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos on art, art history, art conservation, art techniques, etc.
And by a lot, I mean: all of them that I can find. And I’m still finding new YouTube art channels.
One YouTube art teacher I’ve followed for years without pause is The Art Sherpa. She is an acrylic artist (although she does have a watercolor class now, too), very beginner friendly, super-fun, and a very good teacher who leads her students tirelessly through each and every step of the process, from the first dip of her brush into water, every brushstroke, until she signs the painting at the end. Even if that takes 3-4 hours or longer.
She knows and can answer on the spot almost every question about process, materials, and art history thrown at her during her live streams. Her answers are clear and straight-forward. She has created a community that is welcoming, kind, and open to every artist’s journey.
I wish all the YouTubers producing art tutorials would watch her videos and learn from her example. And if the Sherpa ever gets tired of teaching beginning painters, I hope she starts to teach how to create art tutorials.
You may remember a recent blog post in which I said I’d be transitioning from acrylics (aka plastic) to oil painting. I’ve been using oil paints now for about a week and I love them. All the effects I struggled with in acrylics (although they are doable) are super easy in oils.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to toss out all of my acrylics. I have a lot of acrylic inventory and I will continue to use it up for mixed media. I’ll probably give a huge pile of stuff to my son-in-law (also an artist).
Anyway, because so much about the process of painting with oils is different than painting with acrylics, I’ve begun focusing my YouTube tutorial time on watching oil painting tutorials. I have yet to find one who is as good as The Art Sherpa.
But I did find one who does explain some of the stuff a beginner needs to know about oils.
So, now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: my biggest pet peeve with art tutorials.
After art, by strongest passion is for all things wild and natural. So if there’s a tutorial on painting flowers, insects, or birds, I’m on it.
But I’m instantly irrationally infuriated when the teacher says: “I don’t know what kind of ____ this is, but…”
WHY ON MOTHER EARTH WOULD YOU PAINT A LIVING THING THAT YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS?!? OR THAT YOU DON’T CARE ENOUGH ABOUT TO FIND OUT?!?
Years ago, I read Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual by Rita Mae Brown (published in 1989). I don’t remember anything else about it except for one bit that has stuck vividly with me. To paraphrase, she said that it was important for writers to know the names of the things they were describing in their books. In other words, if there’s a tree in the yard, know that it’s a Magnolia or a Redbud, or whatever. If there’s a lizard on the wall, know whether it’s a Skink or an Anole.
I struggled with that advice at the time. I was young and ignorant and didn’t know the names of lots of things. There was no internet or Google to use to search back then, either.
Nowadays, I’m on the brink of crone-hood, I’m educated, I know the names of lots of things, and I have a shelf full of field guides for all the major groups of living things in my part of the world.
But the world is filled with a bajillion varieties of living things. I don’t expect anyone — even a nature expert (which I am not) — to be able to identify any and every random thing on sight.
However, I do expect a TEACHER to conduct a simple 2 minute Google search to discover the species name of the subject of their painting. Especially if he took the photo himself. Doesn’t he want to know what sort of bird it is? Isn’t he curious to know for his own sake?
Know the name of the species that you’re painting. It’s not that difficult.