October 19

Why your oil painting curriculum doesn’t exist

This article is for those of you looking for an oil painting curriculum that you can follow and learn from.

First, let me just tell you that – on the day I am writing this – the night before I attended a school function for my oldest son that is called curriculum night. This is where the parents visit the school and get to talk to all the teachers your child has throughout the school week. First you see the specialists, which are teachers your child might not see every day. Then you are taken up to your child’s classroom for the main presentation by your child’s main teachers. The ones who they spend most of their day with. Every day.

During this presentation, you learn all about your child’s curriculum. The teachers went over how they will be teaching reading, writing, math, etc.

As I was sitting there, something very interesting popped into my head.

In all my years having oil painting lessons, only once was a curriculum followed.

For my art history lessons, yes. That always had a curriculum, but for the oil painting lessons, only one time.

This was a class that met once a week at once and covered your materials. We were given the curriculum on the first day of class. It was all scheduled in advance. We would be grinding our own paints, combining pigment and oil and sometimes other ingredients. Some weeks, our lesson for the day was just that one thing.

For example, today we will grind burnt umber. We got to know that paint inside and out. How much oil it takes to turn the pigment into a usable paint…If it needed another ingredient with the oil…how to put it in a tube to be able to use it later on, etc.

So, why doesn’t your oil painting class have a curriculum and why is it usually an acceptable thing to not have a class with a curriculum.

Well, I have 2 main theories on this.

The first is, nowadays, art is thought of as totally a creative process that is very individualistic. Many things are called art now so teachers are very careful to not squash a persons individuality or creative impulse.

In other words, the craft part is thought to be not too important. It’s the concept that’s most important.

My reaction to that, bullshit.

First learn your craft. It won’t kill your individuality or style. Oil painting is still done by hand with materials, meaning it is still a craft. Before you can fully express yourself, you have to learn your craft.

Second – and probably the most overlooked part of the whole kit and kaboodle.

Remember, how I told you about my visit to curriculum night? How a 45 minute presentation was given by my kids’ teachers. These 2 ladies went to school to study education. They were instructed how to teach.

If you have art lessons, ask yourself this. Has your teacher been instructed how to teach? Or are they an oil painting teacher because they are a pretty good oil painter?

To teach in noted art schools such as the national academy of design or the art students league, they do not require a degree in teaching. Last I checked they didn’t require a degree in anything actually.

To teach painting in a university – again, last I checked – you had to have a masters – but, not in teaching!

Teaching is a learned skill as well.

These, I think, are the reasons your oil painting curriculum doesn’t exist. That’s why most of the time, an oil painting class is a bunch of people “winging it” with the teacher doing the “what you’re doing wrong” way of teaching.


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