Giving in to secret loves

Gina Fairley

Many people nurture a secret passion to create but hesitate to consummate the desire.
Giving in to secret loves

Photo Peter Morgan; courtesy National Art School

For so many of us, art is an integral part of our lives – we read about it, we go to exhibitions, we hang it on our walls, we might even work in the sector – and yet confidence or time prevents us from taking the next step and having a go ourselves.

Embarking on a new creative interest is often about making the decision to do something you really want to do. The rest is easy – well, with the help of some experts.

Dr Ella Dreyfus, Head of Public Programs at the National Art School (NAS), said the line between connecting with a passion and finding confidence to give it a go is the common thread among most students in the School’s short course program, regardless of skill level. 

‘I find that the majority of students are people who have harboured a secret love for artmaking since school days, but through life circumstances or plain fear they have not allowed themselves to do it.

‘It is never too late to let go, and embrace that creative urge. It is just about giving yourself permission to take the risk.’

NAS has just released its next program of short courses for 2017, with enrollments now open for the Autumn Weekend Workshops and Winter School as well as term classes.

Photo Peter Morgan; courtesy National Art School

Shared passions

NAS has record enrolments this year. Partly the reason is the decline in TAFE courses, which means fewer choices in the market.

But a key factor is also the rise of the "maker movement" and the increasing aesthetic and social value given to hand-made objects.

‘People are valuing more what they can make with their hands. Sometimes we get sick of just being a consumer of mass-produced things. We get overwhelmed by all the neat products out there, and just want to pull back and say, “What does it mean to me? Why can’t I have a go at making it myself?’ said Dreyfus.

The return rate across the short course program is high. ‘Over 60% of our students have done two or more classes. And we are seeing more people coming in family and friendship groups.’

In addition to the skills gained, students appreciate meeting others who share their passions. ‘It is about finding like-minded people,’ said Dreyfus.

Dreyfus said that NAS is seeing a wider range of ages coming through their short course programs.

‘More artists are coming to upskill and work with a teacher they are following. We are seeing more high school students coming as a way of supplementing their studies, and also art teachers are who are using this time to get out of the classroom and rekindle their own passion for making.'

She said that artists who have been out of game for 10 or 15 years also use short courses as a way to rebuild skills and confidence.

NAS short courses are all studio-based and students are taught by professional practicing artists. Class numbers are kept small to ensure that one-on-one time is prioritised.

‘It is about learning new skills, practicing them and finding your own visual language,’ said Dreyfus. ‘And it is amazing how much the teachers can tease out of you in a short time.’

Among the line-up of teachers this year are NAS alumnus Juz Kitson, and celebrated artists Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran and Idris Murphy.

Photo Peter Morgan; courtesy National Art School

Choosing the right course

  • For people who are time poor and want to get a “taster”, try one of the 2-day weekend courses such as the Autumn Weekend Workshops on 21-22 May.
  • For an intense burst of inspiration, Dreyfus recommends the five-day Winter School intensive, which she describes as a ‘a hot house for creativity’.
  • For sustained classes to build up your skills gradually there are term classes that run throughout the year – weekly classes for eight weeks. ‘These are perfect for someone who wants to go deeper into a certain practice with a teacher, or find that a routine is the best way to commit this time to their art,’ said Dreyfus. Term 2 dates run 29 April – 3 June, followed by Terms 3 and 4
  • New this year, are weekly daytime classes, ideal for those who don’t work traditional hours. Dreyfus said that some people find Saturdays and evenings too busy with children and family responsibilities. Why not try painting on Monday mornings?

See all courses

Among the highlights on offer Dreyfus said that Bronze Casting with esteemed sculptor Clara Hali has been perennially popular. ‘It only comes up once a year and you can’t do it anywhere else in Sydney,’ she said. Offered on Saturdays, it covers everything from casting to patinas.

‘In Term 2 we are offering Painting Fundamentals for Beginners with VR Morrison and Oil Painting with Colour and Light with David Briggs in the new Monday morning timeslot. These courses are a great place to start and you don’t have to feel you need an art background to step onto campus and into the studio,’ said Dreyfus.

But it is not all life drawing, easel painting and pottery wheels. NAS has a reputation for nurturing experimentation and creativity through a full range of studio disciplines - and that is extended to all students, even those at a short course level.

‘There is a great course with Jane Gillings that uses reusable plastics and found objects as sculpture materials, and a beautiful course with Liz Jeneid on making handmade artists’ books in our Autumn Weekend Workshops,’ said Dreyfus.

Whatever the medium, the shared factor is the satisfaction of creating.

‘I know it’s sounds like a cliché, but once you step inside the sandstone walls of NAS, it is a real sanctuary and you can free yourself from life’s pressures and allow yourself to be creative – if only for an hour or two.’

The National Art School is located in the old Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney, is easily accessible by public transport.

To learn more about their Short Courses now on offer.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.