By: Shamus Sillar
Living in China, I often encountered the proverb “hua she tian zu” (画蛇添足) – literally, “adding legs when painting a snake”. It was mentioned whenever someone did something unnecessary, thereby spoiling the good work they’d already achieved. Our English equivalent is “gilding the lily”.
The proverb has always reminded me of an episode from my childhood that I’d rather forget. When I was a schoolboy of 6 or 7, my art teacher looked at an object I’d painted and asked: “Is that a snake with legs?”
‘No,” I replied with indignation. “It’s supposed to be a horse.”
The rest of the class laughed heartily into their own beautifully rendered ponies, and I’ve been saddled with the mark of a bad artist ever since.
I’m therefore the perfect candidate to join the Creating Waves Art School attached to Red Sea Gallery at Dempsey Hill.
After all, when I ask the school’s teacher Astrid Dahl if her classes can help even the world’s least artistic person (i.e., me), she replies, “Definitely.”
It’s a confidence that comes with being an art educator – in Australia, the UK and now Singapore – for thirty years. Astrid’s also a dab hand with a brush, with dozens of exhibitions and awards under her belt. Stop to peruse a couple of her pieces hanging in the gallery as you make your way through to the Creating Waves classroom at the back.
It’s not only Astrid who brings a wealth of artistic and educational experience to the school. Charlie Churcher – who, with husband Chris, set up Red Sea Gallery and launched Creating Waves – has taught for ten years in the UK and then worked as head of the junior art department at Tanglin Trust School.
Whether you plan to sign up for an adult class (current offerings are in painting and ceramics) or your kids are eager to join a course (there are three age groups: 5 to 7, 8 to 10 and 11 to 16), you know you’re in good hands. Expect to learn about still-life painting, portraiture, pop art, landscape, art history and more, while constantly having your own art projects on the go. This is very much hands-on learning – evident from paint-spattered workbenches in the classroom that have a touch of the Jackson Pollock about them.
Classes are held once a week over a six-week term. Courses change throughout the year, ensuring a progressive education. The emphasis, then, is not only on fun but on high-quality art education. This is not a child-minding service.
Speaking of children, the paintings of my two-year-old daughter are Renoir-esque compared with my currently feeble canvases. But after a term or two at Creating Waves, I reckon I’ll give her a run for her money. I might even hold my own exhibition of expertly painted horses and invite my old art teacher from school. The snake.