Painting class offers students a rewarding creative outlet

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Students imitate famous paintings in the Intro to Painting class. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

Nearly every surface of the room was covered in paint splatters, with easels holding painted canvasses, lined up along every corner. Students humbly walked around the classroom, observing each other’s work.

The students have been working on these pieces for two weeks, attempting to imitate the past work of famous painters. Jean Gallagher, an arts professor at Chico State, challenged her students to complete this task as an assignment for her Introduction to Painting class.

The class, taught every semester by Gallagher, looks to introduce painting into students’ lives without pushing it as a career path. Gallagher believes that painting is a valuable form of visual expression and a rewarding lifetime interest.

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Professor Jean Gallagher and her class observe and critique each other's work. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

“I actually think it’s kind of a healing for people,” she said.

Many students who take Introduction to Painting are not art majors. Gallagher realizes this and she wants students to learn the fundamental language and mechanics of painting without feeling overwhelmed.

She says her novice students often surprise her with great work, but she likes to keep the class relaxed because stress blocks creativity.

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Some work by students was featured in the Introduction to Painting class. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

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One student created this artwork in the class. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

Many students take the course because they want to be introduced to something relaxing and enjoyable, she said.

“People do it because, on some level, they’re giving a gift to themselves.”

She says that painting is a simple and worthwhile tool to visually express life.

“You don’t have to have a kiln. You don’t have to have a printing press. You don’t have to have a digital printer.”

Gallagher loves hearing that her students have continued painting, years after taking her class.

“As a teacher, that’s the biggest reward you can get,” she said

Grant Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @G_Schmieding on Twitter.