The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to gather in person for art classes. But that doesn’t mean artists can’t meet virtually.
In fact, for local artist Walt Bartman, the virtual landscaping painting classes he is now offering have been unexpectedly successful and especially rewarding for the students.
Bartman owns Goldfinch Studio in Middletown and has partnered with another studio to expand his regular offerings to the online world, an opportunity he said has been “a godsend.” He recently answered some questions via email about his online offerings and his plans for when the quarantine is over.
Can you tell me a little about the virtual landscape painting classes you are offering through Goldfinch Studio?
Bartman: On Tuesday Morning, I offer a virtual Landscape on Location class to 17 artists here at my Goldfinch Studio in Middletown. I also teach four other virtual painting classes from my studio in Middletown, partnering with the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, where I am an instructor, the director and the founder. Presently, we have almost 400 students enrolled virtually. Students can register at walterbartman.com.
How many people are participating in the classes and how did they get involved?
Bartman: Seventeen have been painting with me for the past few years and have continued virtually. I also have a few new artists joining this class from Annapolis and Bethesda as well as West Virginia. So when the COVID-19 virus hit, they wanted to continue. So I decided to explore teaching online virtually. It took about a month, trial and error, to perfect an approach that would work comfortably for the students. Teaching virtually has proved to be a godsend.
Many of the students got involved because they know my reputation as an instructor and they are looking to take a course that gives them the structure to develop as artists. All the members of this class are experienced painters.
My experience is 50 years of teaching painting.
What advantages has this online class provided for the students?
Bartman: The advantages of taking a class virtually are in many cases better than in person. The demos are better as the camera is focused on the piece so that everyone can see it up close. I usually have three cameras for them to see it from different angles when I choose to.
The critiques of individual work are very clear as I put their images in a powerpoint. They can make comments after I make a general observation on the work. The students see their work on a computer screen and that is much easier than in a class where everyone is 15 feet from the work and the work is lit poorly.
I can see them working in their studios as they have their cell phones on a tripod trained on their work.They can take their tripods out in the landscape and I can see them painting.
Right now in one of my classes, a student lives in Florida and that is the longest someone is tele-commuting.
How does the class work?
Bartman: The students meet me every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on Zoom. They check in, afterwards I ask for anything they would like to discuss, followed by a critique of the work’s assignment. After the critique I give a lecture on a topic for their painting. Today’s was working on a toned ground for painting. Then they work for about 1½ hours and I watch them virtually, or they leave the meeting, returning at the end of class to show what they did in class. Zoom gives me the opportunity to spotlight them when they talk.
I video lectures for the students to watch prior to the class. This I will continue to do when we return to normal as well as the final critique which will be done virtually.
What other classes or project do you have planned for the future at Goldfinch (online or in person once the quarantine is over)?
Bartman: Presently, I have classes at yellowbarnstudio.com. Students can enroll now. Right now all my classes will be virtual until we can meet in person. In the next few weeks, we’ll know more about the status of meeting in person. If I can’t I will be adding more virtual classes for the summer. I had a workshop set in Lake Como and Cinque Terre in April that was full that had to be canceled. I presently have a workshop that is full for August in Martha’s Vineyard and a workshop that is full to Barcelona & Collioure in Southern France that is full for September. Our business is running 50 percent below normal. Despite this challenging time, the virtual teaching is going well and has proven to be something I will add to our teaching schedule when things come back to normal.
I have classes at my Goldfinch Studio:
Paint at the Point of Rocks Train station starting May 16 — 17
Paintings cows at the South Mountain Creamery starting May 30
Painting Flowers starting June 20 and 21
Sunset painting in Middletown Valley starting June 23- Aug. 25
For more information about Bartman and his classes find him on Facebook or go to walterbartman.com.