This past Saturday, I had another oil painting class with Lee. This was a class I was looking at with a bit of dread. If you recall, I left the last class realizing the balcony at the top of the painting was too big and not the correct tone of cement or stone as photographed.

Furthermore, after uploading a photo of the painting in progress to Facebook and comparing it in proportion to the photo I took while in Rome, I realized the central wall in the painting was not at the correct angle.

The angles in this painting are essential to get right as this painting, besides bringing to life the worn out stucco textures, is all about perspective. I think Lee sensed that I was struggling a bit because this past class she sat down with me for quite some time to help steer me in the right direction with the painting and while doing this, gave me some much needed encouragement.

There are many folks in Lee’s class who on any given day will note what a great teacher she is and by being in her class I am making a couple of observations about what it may mean to be a “great teacher” coming from the perspective of a student.

Firstly, I think she has an intuitive ability to know when to let you struggle with your piece and navigate the maze of colors, intensities and brushstrokes yourself and when to step in to nudge you in the right direction. To really internalize knowledge and understanding, it does help to make mistakes along the way. However, repetitive mistakes with no course correction is also counterproductive.

What is the saying? “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” I hope I got this right and it is not another Loni-ism.

Secondly, she provides thoughtful encouragement. It is not simply the mind-numbing “great” or “good work.” Instead she seems to really care about the development of her students and gives specific boosts of confidence when needed. Something she said to me that was meaningful this past week was, “There are very few students I would let tackle such a large piece of work after only completing three paintings.” It was recognition that I was trying something very challenging and in the same sentence, giving me some confidence that she had approved of me tackling such a piece of work and therefore believed in me that I will persevere.

Am I reading too much into what she really meant?

Perhaps….but isn’t that a lot of how you get the best out of life. By having the wisdom to know what you can not change and positioning it in your head to drive optimal performance so that it becomes something you can change in the future.

In the meantime, the progress on this painting is a large part due to the help Lee gave me this past week. She had to jump into the deep end and fish me out. I hope I am a bit wiser and a step closer to my aspiration to be a great painter.

Loni Stark
Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.