Hi, I’m Vanessa!
I have been drawing and enjoying all things creative all my life.
I am going to try here to tell you a bit about how I became an artist and an art teacher.
Many years ago, when our family was still young, I decided to do an eight week evening art course. This was literally life changing for me – I discovered I could really do this – it was the spark that started my passion for drawing. From that point onwards I had a thirst to know more, learn more and do more. With a young family I didn’t have the time or money to take on formal study so I largely taught myself, from books (many books!), occasional workshops and experience (a few years later I did a Visual Arts Diploma). I discovered pastels, then pencils and charcoal and then watercolour. I put my artwork in local art shows and discovered people wanted to buy my artwork (which was good because it meant I could then buy more art materials guilt free!). Then, in 2011, I found two lovely galleries who wanted to take my work, The Argyle Gallery at The Rocks Sydney and The Bay Tree Gallery in Berrima, what an honor. Over the years they have now sold my work to people all over the world.
Right from the start I loved sharing my passion for drawing with others through teaching.
SO HOW DID I START TEACHING?
Well, it started back in 2002, I was a mum with two young daughters and when their friends used to come around I often did arty things with them, which was fun! One day one of the mum’s asked if I would give her daughter drawing lessons so I said “Sure what about on Monday afternoons” … next thing the word got around and I had half a dozen kids coming on Monday afternoons. The mums wanted to pay me, I said “No way, you don’t need to do that!” … but they started just leaving money on the kitchen bench. So I decided if they are going to pay me I want to do this well and that’s where my course began. I gave a lot of thought as to how to teach drawing in a way that was fun and engaging but at the same time really skill building and confidence building. Being largely self taught was kind of an advantage because I was very open minded about how to best do this. I had a lot of knowledge because I had done such a lot of self-study – and boundless ideas and enthusiasm!
I needed a better set up, so I rented a room at the local primary school. More kids were enrolling for my afternoon classes and then the mum’s started saying they wanted to come to my classes. So before long I was running evening drawing classes for adults too. I LOVE teaching.
I have taught literally hundreds of students now, too many to count, some have stayed a few months, some many years. I have had children start at 8 years of age and stay right through their schooling and then come back as adults. I have been invited to teach my drawing method at at many of the local schools. Children by late primary have usually decided if they are “good at art” or not – I want them all to know that they can learn to draw if they want to.
I have often known adults to be convinced that they can’t learn to draw. They say things like: “I’m hopeless” “You won’t be able to teach me!” “I can’t even draw stick figures!” – I can’t resist that, I love teaching beginners. So they have come and discovered it is a learnable skill – taking home work that they can’t believe they have done – it is a really special journey to go on with people.
In 2017 my husband and I decided to set up a teaching studio here at our home in The Blue Mountains. It was ideal with lots of windows looking out over the garden (and the chooks & ducks!), tea and coffee laid on, cosy and comfortable, it just worked really well and the students loved it!
THEN ALONG CAME COVID …
In March 2020 I was running eight classes a week (4 kids classes and 4 adults classes) I was fully booked with a waiting list. I was also running regular plein air classes.
I was about to take a group of my adult students to Norfolk Island for an art holiday in April 2020 – which we were all very excited about. And then along came Covid-19. On March 15 I had to cancel all my classes and we had to cancel the Norfolk trip as well, so disappointing (fortunately I managed to get everyone a refund).
The very next day I started to plan how I could convert my classes to an online format.
CONVERTING TO ONLINE
Now I am an artist, not an IT whiz-kid! I have to admit I completely underestimated what was going to be involved in creating an online course. It has been a MASSIVE learning curve for me.
I decided early on that I didn’t want to do live-Zoom lessons. I wanted to take this opportunity to create something that could be around long term. I had thought for a long time that I would like to write a book about my teaching method but never had the time. Well now I had my chance and an online course seemed so much better than a book because people could watch me demonstrating and explaining and re-watch as often as they liked. This could reach people everywhere, in remote places, overseas, people with disabilities, all sorts of people who previously would not have been able to attend my classes.
So that determined/tenacious part of my character kicked in.
Yes there was some big challenges along the way, it was a bit of a roller coaster of problems and triumphs. There were a few helpful people I have turned to, but mostly it was just me with my dogs and cat here working it all out – and let me tell you they sleep most of the day!
I finally launched my course on Christmas Eve 2020
My online course is now established and I have had some lovely feedback from students about how well it works for them. It was a lot of work but I am so glad I did it, it was such a good thing for people during the Covid lockdowns and will continue to be available for anyone who wants to learn to draw at home.
The period of 2021-22 was a sad time for us. My Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer so I stopped work to look after him and to support my Mum. I also had some serious health challenges of my own during that time. So when the calendar rolled over to 2023 I saw it as a fresh new year to look forward to.
I am now teaching classes in my Woodford studio again! Welcoming back my old students has been heartwarming, we have all missed each other. I am also starting up some new beginners classes, for both kids and adults. It is so lovely to be able to teach face-to-face again.
So that is my art journey so far. I truly love what I do. I love my students and I love teaching. I have so many pictures in my head I want to paint/draw. I have a wonderful husband who has supported me every step of the way and we are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Our children are all grown up now, and that creative spark that started my passion for drawing and art all those years ago is still as strong as ever!