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Ben Fenske, American Impressionist, Master Class

In April of this year, I had the distinct pleasure of taking a masterclass with Ben Fenske, the American Impressionist, at the Welsh Academy of Art.

Working with Ben was a complete revelation. Impressionism is a bit of a stretch for me. I have so much to learn about colour that I was reticent to sign up, but I'm so glad I did. I really enjoyed Ben's clear teaching style. I learned SO MUCH. All capitals.

I could almost say that the class with Ben was both the harshest and most technically useful I've ever taken. No one ever explained light to me the way he did. Or shadow. Or tone.

Ben and the wonderful Bev

Ben taught me not to be precious. Don't be precious with the work, don't be precious with paint. Use it. He paints over paintings and uses the texture and the original colour on the canvas to add to his new work. He makes things work. He repairs both glasses and brushes with tape. Messily. No black or brown paint because it goes muddy. He can create the world with a basic 4 colour palette. And it works. It absolutely sings.

In the morning, we worked on a portrait using natural light with a live model. I had the hilarious and overall awesome Phil. This guy is amazing.

In the afternoons, we worked on a still life. I have to say, I found the still life easier to grasp with the limited (for me) palette.

Then disaster on the second day. I'd made a great start on Phil but on day 2, I lost it. His beautiful skin tone went And then, day 3, the last day, Ben came and said something I didn't want to hear but needed to.

SCRAPE IT BACK. I felt like I could throw up by I did it and worked it again, with new paint over the ghost image of my first day.

It was possibly the biggest learning moment I've ever had in my art education and I'm so thankful Ben made me do it, because I ended up with this.

So, basically, do what scares you. Don't be precious. And find that bloody shadow line. Thanks Ben and Lucy Corbett (Welsh Academy). You guys are the best. xx

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