My first art teacher

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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires” –  William Arthur Ward.

You can only imagine how great he was that now, more then 5 years later, I’m still inspired to create art.

It was not magic, he didn’t do anything extraordinary to blow my mind. He was just there. To guide. To help. To allow us to open up and blossom in whatever medium, whatever subject, at whatever speed we were ready to. I realized it years later when teacher after teacher, school after school I was being taught, preached and converted into their “churches” of methods, schools, approaches and mediums how precious and needed is it in the art education today to hear/see/feel the creative call of the student and LET THEM BECOME what they are aspiring to become instead of MAKING something “worthy” out of them.

I spent a few months of once-a-week classes with this brilliant artist  – Nikolay Balyshev – and then moved to Canada (which I love, BTW). A little while later I started missing the inspiration and support in my art process. I realized how much of it was coming from him. Only then I actually bothered to GOOGLE HIM for the FIRST TIME. Oh, boy, did I discover credentials. He turned out to be one of the most recognized artists in my city, member of numerous art groups,  his work sold internationally.

How was it possible for someone who had never touched a brush before to end up in the classroom of the highest standard master? – you might ask. Well, it’s a specifics of Russian art market and topic for another day.

It’s a little scary actually, now when I think about it. Have there been another teacher in that classroom, maybe I would never have discovered my passion. I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but till this day I’m looking for a teacher like this, talented, inspiring, respectful and sadly I haven’t been so fortunate to find one. How do I manage without guidance? Wait for the next post and you will know 🙂

Here is some of my favorite pieces by Nikolay:

irisi izmoroz zelenii_ky

You can see more on his website

My very first painting

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2007. Siberia. Russia. A colleague of mine shared her excitement about evening art classes she had been attending.

– why don’t you come with me? – she said.

– me?! well… it sounds like fun, but.. no-no. I can’t draw a straight line.

– you don’t have to! the first class is free anyway and we have oil paint on sale now.

I really wanted to go (deep inside, deep, deep inside), but I wouldn’t have done it (as usual fear of failure would have kept me home) if not for my niece, who was visiting from out-of-town and REALLY wanted to go. Seriously, she was jumping up and down until I agreed to this idea. The girl was 18. Just very excited.

I had oil paint, oil, one brush and canvas board, which my teacher broke in half so that both her and I will get a painting surface. (skipping some boring details about introduction, setting up and choosing the subject)

Excited. Terrified. Blushing like on a big exam I started painting. Why so nervous? I think only a specialist can figure out why I was so scared of failure even in small daily events. But there I was. I don’t remember what got me though this evening, but now I’m convinced it was divine grace.

Here is what I came out of that first free painting class with:


Oh, boy, was I excited. The teacher saw it, smiled and said: “In about 10 sessions when you start to understand what is going on, you are really going to enjoy this!” He is a brilliant man – my first art teacher – next post will be about him.

Interestingly enough, my niece didn’t continue painting. Sometimes I think she was like a flashlight blinking in the dark to show me the way

Thank you for your time.

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