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Sam Bennett and Jane Beinart pose with two Bennett finger paintings.

Beginners Art Classes, Oxford

Sam Bennett visits Jane Beinart, who runs Beginners Art Classes from her Headington home, to talk about inhibitions, insecurity, and being introverted
By Jane Beinart

"I don’t like being told what to do so I don’t like telling other people what to do. It doesn’t let you find your own way or voice."

There are more stressful ways to spend a Thursday afternoon than finger painting with Jane Beinart.

 

From her Headington home she runs Beginners Art Classes, combining colour with her experience as a life coach and offers of fresh coffee. I go along to one of the sessions, where whilst painting we talk about inhibitions, insecurity, and being introverted. We start with a warm up exercise; both of us have one minute to fill a side of A4 with colour, and then another minute to fill the other side (using your other hand); the paper is stuck down at the corners with masking tape, but my ferocious scribbling soon leavers it out of position…

Maybe I’m too aggressive for your classes. Do you ever get angry people?

I get sad people sometimes; well, people for whom art is quite therapeutic.

From her Headington home Jane Beinart runs Beginners Art Classes, combining colour with her experience as a life coach and offers of fresh coffee.

What about frustrated? If I can’t do something immediately it annoys me; do you ever get people like that?

Part of what I do is breaking that down. As adults we’re very much like: “I’m going to create, but I’m only going to create something good.” But my approach is: “We’re just going to have fun, make a mess, and we don’t have to produce something beautiful at the end of the day.” It’s trying to stop people thinking about that end result, and then they lose some of that frustration. You get to do some finger painting now.

How many colours are we using?

As many as you want – you can always add more. You can basically do whatever you want now.

So we just randomly start painting something? It’s like too much freedom.

Don’t worry about what it’s going to look like; you’re not trying to make a perfect piece of art.

I feel like I am.

Just see what it feels like to get the paint on your fingers. Everybody’s got their own style or their own way of creating, and it’s trying to find a way of getting that out of people. When I do this with kids they just do it without really thinking about it. I put my nieces’ artwork up behind you because it reminds me that they do it without questioning.

Kids do that, don’t they? It’s like when they dance without a single care.

They just enjoy it.

And as we get older we stop doing that.

I think we stop playing because playing is something you do when you’re a kid. But it’s really fun, playing.

You say there’s no right or wrong in what we’re doing in this art space. But there is right and wrong in art isn’t there – in terms of perspectives and things like that?

There is in some art, but not in mine, in here it’s about forgetting the rules. It’s finger painting – what rules can you have?

I was expecting you to tell me to paint an actual thing though, which would have been fine. it might not have been a great painting but I would have known what I was doing. This is quite scary in a way. It’s good that you’re nice. If a horrible person ordered you just to randomly paint it would be frightening.

I don’t like being told what to do so I don’t like telling other people what to do. It doesn’t let you find your own way or voice. And we all had to do what we were told at school…

Did you like school?

Not that much. I liked art at school, it was my saving grace really. The art room was my respite. I remember spending a lot of time on my art homework during GCSE and A-level – and doing far more than we necessarily had to.

I remember loving it in primary school, and I don’t know what happened, I lost interest.

A lot of people have negative memories of art from school, like being told they’d coloured in wrong or gone over the lines, and that puts a lot of people off.

And kids decide they can’t do things. I did it with maths, I struggled and then just decided I couldn’t do it, and I still think that now.

And it’s not necessarily true – it’s just a belief you have.

Do you hang out with other artists?

I need to build my creative network here. I know a few people but not enough. But it’s weird; because I wasn’t officially art school trained, there’s that inferiority complex, feeling like I’m not an official artist. Do you know what I mean?

I understand that. I never trained in journalism and I’m always waiting to be found out.

Yes, it’s that imposter syndrome. Someone’s going to realise and put a stop to all this.

Do you do all your own marketing?

I’m not very good at it. The trouble is a lot of creative people, like me, are introverts, and we don’t really like going out and shouting about ourselves. Marketing is saying: “Look at me.” I put posters on the trees out the front and even that I find quite exposing because suddenly all your neighbours know what you do. But then if you don’t do it no one ever knows about you.

What if someone wants to create something they can actually sell? Could you help someone like that?

Yes, I think so. For me it’s not necessarily about teaching someone how to do that. It’s more about having that conversation with them on how they could go about doing it. A friend of mine’s husband wanted to learn to draw, I said it wasn’t really what I did but he was welcome to come along, be creative, and then talk about what other classes might help him. That’s why it would be nice to know more creative people because then I’d have a sense of what options there are for people. My classes are for complete beginners, it’s opening that door, giving people a bit of confidence.

What did you do at university?

History of Art, studying other people’s art. I stopped doing my own art for quite a lot of years. It was only five years ago that I started doing my own again and it was only a couple of years ago that I showed anyone other than my husband my work. It was quite intimidating showing my friends and family because there’s a lot of you in it. You can be quite vulnerable, showing people a side of you that they’ve never seen before. But I think art also helps you see a side of yourself that you haven’t seen before.

That happens to you?

Definitely.

You find out new stuff about you?

Yes – especially in the cartoon characters I draw.

Have you ever had anyone where you’ve thought: “No. They should never go near paint.”?

No.

Today could be the day…

Why? It doesn’t look like it to me at all. I’m loving all the sort blurring of your colours.

Oh, yes, I’m known for my blurring. Oddly I want to go back to the office and have people say they’re really proud. I actually want that to happen. I think I might be four.

It’s a good piece of work though.

Do you think?

And other people would look at it and think they couldn’t do it – but they could do it.

They definitely could.

We’re very quick to criticise ourselves. I always like to ask people what they do like about their work, rather than what they don’t.

I think criticising yourself is quite a British thing isn’t it? No one ever wants to say what they’ve done is good or that they like it. And someone will say, “That shirt’s nice.” And instead of just thanking them, you say, “Oh, charity shop...”

I think it’s a British thing, and an adult thing.

Anyway…this has really helped me. I feel very relaxed – and unjudged.

That’s the plan. And you’ve begun to make art. Would you like to do another one?

Yeah.

 - Sam Bennett

 

For more on Jane’s classes, and to book a place, visit janebeinart.co.uk.

Competition

We’re offering you the chance to win a place for you and one other on one of Jane’s Saturday Beginners Art Classes. Places are worth £25 each. You can choose to do either painting, collage or printing. This prize must be used on one of Jane’s Saturday classes – on 11th March, 29th April, 10th June or 8th July 2017.

All you have to do is email your name, home address, and telephone number to competitions@fyne.co.uk.

Please put ‘Jane Beinart’ as the email subject.

This competition closes on 28th February.

Winner is chosen at random. Judge’s decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.

 

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