If you’ve ever wandered around the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or explored one of the city’s many galleries and cafes, you may have seen a few pieces of work that made you think, “Hey, I can do that too!”
Artistic expression can be controversial and contentious, especially when it comes to the art of painting. From the splatter filled paintings of Jackson Pollock to Banksy’s graffiti installations, art history has been filled with artists and paintings that push the boundaries of what society considers art.
Regardless of how you feel about a particular work of art, it’s difficult not to feel at least something when you are viewing it. This leads many people toward trying out a painting course. If you’re looking to get started, here’s a summary on the kinds of art instruction you’ll likely find in Montreal and the mediums you might choose to work in.
Painting Courses By Medium
You will likely find painting classes organised by the main types of paint:
Each of these mediums has unique characteristics you may want to consider when selecting your first studio art course.
Acrylic painting is popular for beginners and experienced painters. It’s cheaper than other paints and is one of the easiest mediums to work with. Acrylic paint is water based and only requires water as a solvent.
Most beginner art classes involve learning to paint with acrylics. Check out an open studio in downtown Montreal for inspiration, or check out websites of local artists to see some of the best examples of contemporary work in acrylic.
Watercolour painting might bring to mind images of simple kits in the children’s section of Dollarama, but in truth it is one of the oldest and most sophisticated methods of painting. Watercolour painting has been found in everything from early cave paintings to the majestic Sistine Chapel, and is great for quick or detailed studies.
If you’re looking for art classes in watercolour, you’re not alone. There are numerous opportunities to learn through art workshops or studio classes in the Montreal area. This medium is great for all skill levels and is economical and fun to work with.
Many of the works you might consider visual arts masterpieces have been done in - you guessed it - oil painting. There are good reasons for it: oil paint is durable, rich, and dries slowly, making it easier for artists to work longer with it.
Oil painting is the type of course you’re likely to encounter at advanced levels, due to the material’s higher cost as well as the toxicity of the solvents used (the most typical one being turpentine). Though most new artists with no experience tend to develop their painting skills with the more accessible mediums, you could challenge yourself by starting with oil paint.
It’s important to note that you should develop your drawing skills prior to picking up a brush or experimenting with mixed media. Though it may sound strange at first, drawing and painting are closely linked. Developing and enhancing basic drawing skills can go a long way in improving your painting career, so take a drawing class as well if you have the time and budget.
Popular Painting Techniques
Learning any new skill and stepping outside your comfort zone can come with a lot of uncomfortable feelings - namely, stressing over whether you are or aren’t a “good” painter. While it’s always important to find ways of challenging this way of thinking, you’ll feel more confident by familiarising yourself more with different painting techniques.
There are a variety of painting techniques that will help you better express your ideas no matter what medium you choose. The first one we’ll go through is more of a guideline than a technique, and that is colour theory.
Colour theory has a long history and has gone through different revisions over time, but is easily recognised around the world as shown on the colour wheel.
The colour wheel introduces the ideas of complementary and supplementary colours, and can be incredibly instrumental to improving your colour mixing skills. Whether you’re painting a human portrait or depicting a natural landscape, understanding colour is an indispensable skill that will help you as an artist.
Another technique that is fundamental to painting art on canvas is underpainting. Widely used in acrylic as well, underpainting is simple and a great way for beginners to enhance the colour and depth of various paints.
Underpainting essentially involves using a layer of paint to coat the canvas, normally a neutral colour, to serve as a base for painting and help develop shadowing and shading as your work progresses. Famous artists like Leonardo da Vinci and contemporary artists use underpainting to give their work a more intense range of colour.
Glazing is another technique typically used to enhance works of art. If you’ve ever painted your nails, you will easily understand how impactful a clear top coat can be for both bringing out colour and conserving the vibrance of nail polish. Likewise, glazing is a technique used after the painting is done. It involves painting a transparent layer on top to protect and modify the appearance of the work.
These are some of the common techniques you should familiarise yourself with, whether you are painting a still life of a bowl of fruit or a rugged mountain landscape. You’ll not only enhance the appearance of your work but lengthen the shelf life of your personal masterpiece.
Art Supplies and Materials For Classes
Though you can find plenty of art supply stores around Montreal, buying painting supplies can be intimidating given the amount of product available. Avoid showing up to your first painting class or workshop unprepared by contacting your instructor or the program organizers to find out what materials they will be providing. You can easily find the supplies you need at larger stores like DeSerres or independent retailers like Avenue des Arts or Lézard Créatif Montréal.
In many cases, each student should have their own painting materials though teachers often have extra brushes and palettes available in case a student needs to borrow. Don’t feel uncomfortable asking your teachers for help if you are strapped for cash: if anyone understands the financial strain of investing in art supplies, it’s your instructors!
The type of canvas or paper you will be buying for your class will largely depend on the medium used. Acrylic paint and oil paint can be used on traditional canvasses bought from art supply stores and are constructed with cotton or linen.
Watercolour, however, is traditionally done on paper. Getting papers of various thicknesses will help you get a sense of what type of paper you prefer and give you numerous options in your watercolour class.
If you end up falling in love with painting and want to make art a lifelong pursuit, you’ll then want to consider investing in higher quality paints, an easel, and accessories. Who knows, maybe you’ll convert an existing space into your home into an art studio or rent space in a community studio!
Where to Find Art Classes and Workshops in Montreal
Amateur artists and experienced painters alike might find it challenging to locate an open studio, painting classes, or art workshop that suits their needs and interests. If you’re in Montreal, you are definitely in luck. Montreal is known for its supportive arts community and many studios offer free art hives for anyone looking for a free space to work.
There are numerous options for art classes in Montreal, a city known the world over for its creatives and bohemian culture. Here are some of the most common and popular types of art instruction in Montreal.
Private and Small Group Art Classes
With Montreal’s beautiful historic architecture and flourishing arts community, it’s no surprise that so many art programs exist in the city for adults, teens, and children. Montrealers can check out a huge variety of drawing and painting classes at community art studios and schools like Syn Studio, the Montreal Art Centre, or L’Atelier de la Galerie Vanasse. You can earn a diploma, build your portfolio, or simply take a recreational course to learn new painting techniques. Many of these classes guarantee small class sizes, making the learning experience intimate and fun.
Sites like Superprof connect students with local art teachers online, providing students with one-to-one or small group experiences that are easy to coordinate. If you are looking for a unique and convenient learning environment for yourself or your family, this can be a great option.
Art Classes Through Workshops
Single session painting workshops are becoming more popular than ever in big cities, and can be a great way to learn art outside of an art studio. Websites like Eventbrite or a simple online search for the next Paint Night near you can connect you with fun events that combine painting with wine tasting or food. This is a great way to plan a night out with friends or even host a birthday or bachelorette.
If you prefer to find an instructor with years of experience and academic expertise, finding an reputable institution can be a great starting point in your painting journey. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers workshops in everything from acrylic painting to Chinese calligraphy in the famous Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Also known as the Musee Des Beaux Arts) in the heart of the city.
Another way to discover painting events and workshops is to simply walk around Montreal itself. Many art supply stores, cafes, and galleries advertise art events with flyers and posters on bulletin boards so keep your eyes open for these unique opportunities.