Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Can you teach a beginner new (art) tricks?

February 12th, 2018

Image by Samantha Chater

This AGOinsider story was written by Samatha Chater, AGO Communications Officer, about her experience taking Art for Extreme Beginners: Sculpture.

Trying new things can be scary. I’ve always found creative endeavours scarier than say, doing my taxes. Working at the AGO, I’m lucky to see beautiful art every day in the galleries. But this also makes it a bit intimidating to imagine drawing a portrait or molding something out of clay. Thanks to the AGO’s Art for Extreme Beginnings: Sculpture, I recently found out that making art is a lot less scary than I thought.

When I signed up for the course, I was assured no experience was necessary – a good thing since I dropped art class in middle school. Over the three-hour course, I learned that with the right teacher, artmaking is fun – even for a beginner like me.

AGO instructor Claire Greenshaw was warm and welcoming and it was exciting to learn from a working artist. Claire explained that “clay is to sculpture what a pencil and paper are to drawing.” This is sculpture at its most basic and fundamental – a good place for me to start.

A small beginning. Image by Samantha Chater

Claire explained the different types of materials that can be used for sculpture: polymers, which are oil-based clays that never really set or dry out; fired clay used in ceramics; and air-drying clays we’ll be using in our class.

Next, she showed us how to make a pinch pot by sticking our fingers into a rounded ball and smoothing it out from there. I enjoyed smoothing and pressing the clay with my hands. When we all got the hang of that, she showed us how to make a coil pot, using a specific way of rolling the clay to create a smooth long length which can then be coiled into a vessel.

Next up is molding a bird, the project I’m most nervous about. Claire takes us through the process step-by-step, starting with creating simple shapes like a pear and a disc and then teaching us how to fuse them together ­– the starting point of our bird. From there, we stretched out a point on our pear to be the base and the head of our bird. We added two flat semi-circles to create wings and little mini-coils which are feathers. At times, I grew over-confident and skipped ahead, which worked for creating the head of the bird – the beak and the two eye holes. But then I got stumped on the claws of the bird. Claire guided me through it, creating little mini-coils to sculpt the bird’s feet.

Clay bird, coil pot and pinch pot made by yours truly! Image by Samantha Chater

My bird definitely wasn’t as good as Claire’s model, but I was amazed I could make something that even vaguely resembled a bird – albeit a puffy one – after only a couple of hours of class.

The final product. Image by Samantha Chater

For anyone curious about artmaking, the Art for Extreme Beginners courses are a great place to start – all materials are provided and the time commitment is low (just three hours). It was empowering to see how much progress I could make in such a short amount of time with an experienced teacher. I’m already itching to try another class.

Are you an extreme art beginner like me and curious about artmaking? Check out the AGO’s art courses – which include Art for Extreme Beginners in painting and drawing too.

Are you an AGOinsider yet? If not, sign up to have stories like these delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Comments are closed.