I'm a starry-eyed 20-something with two cats and too many hobbies.
Published June 19th 2018
Get started on your creative journey
"I can't do art," I said nervously, eyes darting. "I make artists cry." Murray smiled.
"Don't worry," he said. He handed me a pencil. "I won't scream."
** Artist impression of an actual conversation
Murray Charteris believes anyone can draw. And not in that smug way of someone who can draw and is trying to be magnanimous about the fact you can't, but like he really means it. He's even got good opinions on why some people can draw (and paint) and other's can't - and it's not about natural talent. Rather, he believes it's about the encouragement we get when we are young that sets us up to look at the world differently.
Funny thing is, I might actually believe him.
I found Murray when I googled 'online art classes' and his, well, online art classes came up (yay, SEO). I signed up for his free three-class series and then about a week later, he sent an email saying he was running a workshop for absolute beginners, and it was such a reasonable price and such good timing that I bought it.
Set in the beautiful surrounds of New Beith at Murray's home/studio, the workshop started with a tour of Murray's gallery and I am pretty sure we all wanted the workshop to just end there and gaze at the beautiful work he has produced. I don't generally have much of a reaction to 'art' (much to my partner's chagrin, who I think would like to move into GOMA) but I was really captivated by some of Murray's pieces. Which is great because if you're about to bare your worst ever skill to someone, you want to at least admire their own artwork, right?
Captivating art by Murray Charteris - End of the Nightwatch
After the tour, we sat down at our desks in a nice outdoor gazebo and tried to avoid looking at the paper and pencils in front of us, knowing we're about to have to actually … draw something (cue suspenseful music). But Murray broke it down for us and explained the different types of pencils and that drawing is really just cleverly choosing which lines goes where, at what angle, how long it is, and how curvy it is (though he used the word curvature. Say that with me again. Curvature. This is how an artist speaks). So, simple, right? Well, I won't lie. I haven't had a secret talent lying dormant inside me all this time … but on the other hand, at least I haven't had a secret talent lying dormant inside of me all this time, right?
Tell you what, though, I was pretty surprised with what I did manage to accomplish. I'm not going to include pictures of everything we did because I have read reviews of other art classes and they include pictures and I look at them and decide I'll never go because I can't produce that. But, I am going to show you this sphere because although it's more of a circle with a beard, it does, at least, resemble a ball, which is a helluva lot more than I thought I could do (or could have done) before this workshop.
After a few more sketches, it was lunchtime and there were pleasant simple sandwiches on offer as well as sweet, juicy mandarins from Murray's tree, and time to talk to other aspiring creatives (other people) or try to get the damn shading right on that sphere (me).
After lunch, it's painting and Murray takes the time to let us experiment with different brush strokes, as well as explaining the different types of brush and what effects they can be used for. Then we replicated a picture that he knocked up in about 10 minutes which took us the rest of the afternoon to complete, and munched on some fresh-out-of-the-oven jam drop biscuits as the afternoon sun dipped lower in the sky.
What I liked about this workshop is that Murray really intends to give you the skills to get you going on your drawing and painting journey. This is not a paint and sip class where you just mindlessly try to copy the original piece, but you're learning actual techniques and tools that you can take with you. And, yes, this class is for absolute beginners. Murray's catchphrase is "From stick figures to professional", so he totally does get where you're coming from and the best part is, he really makes it okay. You can tell that he does genuinely care about sharing his knowledge and helping more people discover their artistic side.
If you'd like to do a workshop with Murray, keep an eye on his Facebook and/or sign up for his free three-video drawing basics series and join his mailing list. He also has about a year and a half of progressive beginner drawing videos in his online lessons portal. I have only just signed up for these so I can't personally comment on their effectiveness but the free video series is the reason I was so eager to go to his in-person class, and also there was a person there on the day who spoke so highly of his classes we thought she might be on commission (she wasn't). His upcoming workshops will include more beginners classes and other technique-based workshops.