I have been taking Manu Saluja’s Intro to Portrait oil painting class at the New York Academy of Art as a crash course in oil painting.
I originally signed up to take the class with a friend. I have never taken a painting or oil painting class before and I was super intimidated on the first day. Everyone was literally already painting (I was in the afternoon session) and it was like I walked in on something.
As someone brand new, it took some time to get used to the style and pace of the class, but with Saluja’s guidance I soon settled in. I learned a ton in my first session of classes, and even produced my first oil portrait.
I never thought I would be able to draw, much less paint portraits in oil paint, and had thus kind of let myself believe I just wouldn’t do that kind of artwork. This class has forced me to push through those thoughts and just keep practicing and try to believe that I can do it.
Every class is hard. But as I start painting and letting go I get into a meditative state and am able to just paint. It still is extremely hard, but if I try not to judge myself too much I make progress. Slowly.
During the second session of the course I felt much more confident and at ease. I was less intimidated by all the other students because I knew the lay of the land. Saluja’s lessons were even more helpful because I had a baseline and I was not starting out from nothing as I had in the first session.
And of course, the more I learn, the more I realize how very far I am from where I want to go. But this is good — it means I am making progress and I am improving based on my own starting point. I just signed up for Saluja’s next session and I am very excited to get back into the zone and paint.
Portrait oil painting class forces me to practice something that is very hard for me, but I get so much out of it. I learn about line and shadow, form and color. I learn about style. It’s like when I had to take ballet classes when I was on dance company as a kid and teen — you can’t do modern dance without knowing how to do basic ballet.
I don’t think I could truly call myself an artist without knowing how to paint a portrait. I’m so far from being where I want to be as an artist, but at least I’m on my way.