Creativity takes courage.
~ Henri Matisse ~
Wherever you are in Australia, you will find art galleries, community art hubs and street art. You can discover paintings celebrating everything from watercolour and oil to ancient Aboriginal rock painting techniques, by artists from all over the world through to local artists.
Whether you're in Canberra checking out the world's largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the National Gallery of Australia or wandering the streets of Melbourne or Darwin and discovering hidden street art and paintings, you can escape into your creative side and dream of painting like the best.
But, does it have to just be a dream?
Can Anyone Learn How to Paint?
Despite what your high school art teacher might have written on your report, anyone can learn to paint and draw. You may not reach the creative heights and have the skills of the likes of Claude Monet or Albert Namatjira but that shouldn't stop you taking painting classes, having fun and learning new skills along the way.
Start with beginners painting classes or drawing lessons to learn the basics — oil, acrylic and watercolour painting techniques, colour mixing, drawing techniques, using different materials, perspective, portrait painting and still life techniques.
Have fun exploring the range of materials and painting techniques first, then if one particular style really speaks to you, join an art class that focuses on that and spend your time refining your skills.
You may not produce Australia's next watercolour, oil or acrylic painting masterpiece but you'll have a great time and lots of fun along the way.
Why wait? Start your search for art classes near me now. Join a class or learn online through Zoom with a painting tutor and unleash that creative side lurking within.
Professional Artist or Hobbyist — Just Learn to Paint
Brush up on the skills you were learning in art class at school and take it one step further. If those teaching techniques didn't appeal to you, remember there is no one right way to learn to paint. Your end goal — aiming for a career as a professional artist or dabbling in a hobby to unwind and relax — will determine the activities you pursue and the style of classes you take.
Grab your brush and palette of choice and step into the creative arts world as we help you discover the best pathway for you.
Enjoy Painting with a Community Art Group
How Much Do Art Lessons Cost?
As a child, I remember the media storm and outrage when the National Gallery of Australia purchased Blue Poles by American artist, Jackson Pollock, for $1.3 million. There is no doubt at all that 'art' is expensive — and this goes for art supplies and materials, and lessons, courses and workshops as well. It can be a bit offputting.
However, learning how to create is not completely inaccessible if you look for the right activities in the right location — you can learn to paint without having to take out a second mortgage.
Community art classes, clubs and workshops are often run for beginners and experienced artists alike and taught by people who are passionate about sharing their creative knowledge. Try Googling 'cheap art classes near me', check out community noticeboards or ask other creative friends where they go. Once you start looking around, you'll find a whole range of classes you can join.
There are numerous benefits to learning to paint with a community group:
- Like-minded people — by their nature, art workshops and classes are going to be filled with students who love what you love. Your fellow students will also understand any struggles you are having and will likely be able to offer great advice and tips for techniques and the best materials at the right price. The feeling is relaxed and fun, meaning you will feel more free and creative to produce great watercolour, oil or acrylic paintings you'd be proud to hang on your wall.
- Cost — remembering that art supplies are expensive, you can get one-off introductory painting lessons in a studio for $35 and casual classes for $55 (for 2-3 hours, including materials). Other community groups offer cheaper rates if you supply your own materials. You may even be lucky enough to have an artist in residence for pro tips, or artists who are happy to volunteer for a gold coin donation.
- Freedom to create — often, students are encouraged to bring their own unfinished pieces to work on during each session, only requiring a donation for the use of the facilities. You may be inspired by the work or techniques of other students, or have a 20-minute focus session where students share new activities and guide the rest of the class, step by step — fostering new creative ideas.
- Personalised help — due to the small size of most community art classes, the teacher will have more time to spend with students on an individual basis. It's not unlike having private painting lessons so use this as a great opportunity to experiment with new materials and techniques, for example, if you've only ever used acrylic paint, there's no better time to try your hand with watercolour.
Should I Choose a Community Course, a Private Painting Tutor or Formal Art School Lessons?
The location and style of class you choose is highly dependent on your own learning style and your goal when it comes to painting.
If students are looking to create a career in the arts, they might want a more formal learning environment — more strict session structures with a focus on quality. These students are likely to prefer an art school, or even private tuition, over community-driven painting classes.
On the other hand, if students just want to develop some new skills and have social interactions and fun while they create, a community course is the way to go.
Private lessons bring the best of both worlds because your teacher or tutor will work with you to help you achieve your goals every step of the way.
If you are worried about committing (through advance payment) for a full term or course, try a trial session. Almost every art school or group will offer these, as will Superprof tutors.
Online Painting Classes or In Person?
More and more workshops and classes, in all subject areas including the arts, are going online in the current climate. Finding an online painting or drawing teacher is easy as long as you are organised and clear about what you want.
The first step is to note down your 'must haves' or 'deal breakers' — your criteria.
Basic Criteria for Your Art Lessons
Use the criteria below as a guide so when you start looking for painting classes or online lessons with an arts tutor, you'll know exactly what you're after.
- physical location
- beginners, intermediate or advanced
- teacher qualifications and experience
- interactive online, YouTube, one-to-one, small group
- techniques and materials (focused or broad)
- time (waiting list, session time etc.)
- cost (vs your budget)
Equipment and Materials Needed for Painting Classes
Art supplies and painting materials do not come cheap. While some classes include the cost of materials in the fees, most don't — plus, you'll also want your own canvases, paper, paint and brush sets to practise at home anyway. Here's a basic supply list you might want to choose from to get started:
- paint (watercolour, acrylic, oil etc.)
- brush set (a few different sizes, make sure they're suitable for the type of paint you're using)
- other drawing supplies (crayons, markers, chalk, oil pastels, pencils)
- easel, palette, cleaning cloth, water containers
- selection of canvases, paper or sketchbooks
Think about the art project you want to start with, and build up your collection of other materials later.
How to Find an Online Art Teacher
On the Superprof platform, you will find close to 10,000 private tutors throughout Australia offering tuition in painting. Use the filters to narrow down the type of lessons you want (i.e. acrylic, oil, watercolour, in-person, online etc.) and your budget, and get in touch with some of the tutors on your shortlist. The majority of tutors with Superprof offer trial lessons for the initial lesson — so you have nothing to lose.
Studying Art in Senior Secondary School
What Levels are Available?
Whether or not you studied Visual and Creative Arts, or Design and Technology at school during Years 7 to 10, you can still pick it up (or continue) in Years 11 and 12 for your senior secondary school studies. The best thing is that you have two options — tertiary/accredited level courses or registered units.
For students who will be pursuing university studies in The Arts, or a field with an arts component, choosing tertiary-level (T) arts courses is a good idea, although not essential. The T-courses include both practical and art theory components.
If you just love art and being creative is a great way for you to get some down time away from school work, a registered unit (R) is a perfect step. R-units are almost entirely focused on the practical application of more specific skills, and there is little to no theory.
In high school, students can often join art clubs or attend workshops in the art room out of class time.
Check out Superprof's painting tutors in Melbourne. (Remember, you don't have to live in Melbourne with online tutoring!)
Starting Tertiary (T) Level Art Classes in Year 12
Although not impossible, students rarely begin studying tertiary or accredited-level visual arts for the first time in Year 12 — most have been working on their craft throughout high school, either at school or through outside lessons.
Year 11 and 12 visual art classes usually offer the opportunity for deeper study into theoretical components and learning advanced techniques when it comes to practical work. Students are also often looking to work on their personal artistic style and start developing a portfolio of work.
Depending on the individual school curriculum, students are likely to spend time developing and carrying out projects. In addition to their 5-6 hours of formal art classes, they will also likely need to spend their own time working on projects in the school art room or studio.
Visual Arts is part of the ATAR syllabus, although exact requirements are determined by each state and different universities will have different prerequisites, so it is best to check these out yourself.
In general, however, the ATAR requirements will look something like this:
- School based assessment
This assessment component, through school course work, carries a weighting of up to 50%. The actual assessment tasks are determined by each school, or state, but will generally include an artwork analysis, case study investigation, written examination and practical production of a body of work.
- ATAR practical production
This is the major piece of work created by students throughout the year and can be 2D, 3D or digital artwork. There are strict criteria that must be adhered to, including size, weight and time (for digital).
- ATAR written examination
The written examination consists of short answer questions, compare and contrast essay and a second essay based on prior research.
Registered Art Classes
Depending on the school, students may be able to select from specified registered units (R-units) or, if there is space in the class, they can enrol in a T-unit but complete it as an R-unit (generally by only completing the practical component of the course). R-units do not contribute towards ATAR but they do contribute towards graduation points.
If you can't find an R-unit in the art field you are interested in, try Superprof where you'll even find spray-painting courses.
Enrolling in Art School
For students who want to pursue a professional career as an artist, art school is where you'll want to be aiming for to continue your studies in fine art, painting and other formats.
Applying to an Art School
As with any tertiary institution, students need to comply with certain criteria to qualify for enrolment in art school. The process varies depending on each school, however, in general they will be looking for students who can demonstrate unique personalities, a strong value system and a commitment to improve. Places are highly sought after, so do your homework.
Once you've been accepted into the school and course of your choice, you will be able to select focus areas, whether that be painting, sculpture, design or other styles. Be prepared to put in the work and before long, you'll be rewarded with a noticeable improvement in your skills.
Not ready for art school but still keen to create? Consider oil painting classes in Melbourne.
Preparation and Portfolio
Before you start putting together your application for the art school of your choice, it is pertinent to consider what you are getting yourself into. Art school requires students to be willing and able to work independently and for long hours. Students also need to be perseverant, flexible and demanding of themselves. Don't let this put you off though — if you're passionate about your craft, these things will not be noticeable.
Even before you've decided which art school you want to apply to, it's a good idea to take the time to start working on building your portfolio, which you'll need to present as part of your application.
Many students choose to take a 'gap year' once they've graduated from Year 12. Ostensibly, this is often used to travel, to experience life and to make sure you're certain about the path you want to go down for further study. During this time, you may also want to take a range of short art courses, exploring different media, styles, techniques and materials. Learning as much as you can, from as many practising artists as you can, will help you gain inspiration and clarity around your goals.
Finally, do your research on the different art schools and courses in Australia. Talk to past students if you can. Visit the school, ask for a tour and talk to teachers. Make sure you understand exactly what you need to include in your application and, above all, make sure you're confident the school is the right fit for you.
Entrance Criteria for Art School
Do your research and make sure you are fully prepared for your interview.
As previously mentioned, every school will have its own selection criteria and prerequisites, although most follow a similar process:
- receipt of minimum ATAR score (or the equivalent for mature age students or international students)
- minimum English language proficiency
- an interview where a panel will ask you questions about your processes, your reasons for selecting their school, and your areas of interest in the creative arts
- a portfolio assessment, usually a minimum of 12 recently completed pieces of work and a range of supporting pieces.
Some art schools may also require a written statement that addresses your expectations, your interests and an outline of your current artistic practice. Some schools also require applicants to undertake a practical assessment.
Admission is highly competitive, so it is in your best interests to be as prepared as possible.
It is also important to be aware that art school fees can be prohibitive with more prestigious schools charging fees of $14,000 a year. However, for domestic students, the Commonwealth Government does offer a subsidy program, which is certainly worth investigating.
If your application for art school is not successful, or if you decide not to apply, there are many other options including TAFE courses.
In the interim, do as many courses as you can to build your skills, such as painting classes on offer in Perth through Superprof.
Specialised Painting Terminology
For beginners, the world of art seems to have a language all of its own. Terms like pigment, wash, impasto, memento mori, graphite and liberati painting may elude you at first, but after time, you'll be speaking like an art native.
Here are a few questions you may have found yourself asking:
What's a posca?
Posca Pens are a cross between watercolour and a painting brush. They are a water-based marker, perfect for a range of surfaces including wood, porcelain and paper. Posca's are versatile and great for blending and creating tone.
What is turpentine oil used for?
This oil, which is a distillation of turpentine, is used almost primarily when creating oil paintings. Essentially, it's a solvent that is used on fatty materials and, hot tip for beginners, it actually helps speed up the drying process.
Vinegar syndrome? What's that?
If you end up in art conservation, you'll likely come across this term very quickly — it refers to acetate film decay, which shows up through shrinkage and brittleness, and gets its name from the smell.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
~ Pablo Picasso ~
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