Thoughts for Beginners from Jenny Buchanan of Blue Beach House Art
Tell us about yourself
Hi, I am Jenny Buchanan, an Australian artist and art teacher currently living in Florida USA. I provide those who want to develop their painting skills a foundation from which to grow, through online courses, so anyone can create a life they love, through art. My lessons are much more than “watch and copy” tutorials. They also include all the background information needed to succeed. I believe that when you understand the reasoning behind the techniques, it makes everything a whole lot easier to remember.
Working online means I can be sure to include every detail, explained in a way that makes sense, even to newer painters. In fact, I am mostly known for my clear, detailed and easy-to-follow video painting lessons. Students are often surprised (and thrilled) at how much they learn in my art courses, and I am always thrilled to hear it.
Some might call me a solopreneur. However, I prefer the term Nannapreneur because I am a 50-something-year-old grandmother who has combined all her life skills to create the best online art learning experience I can, Blue Beach House Art School.
Tell us how we can learn more about your art school business
Blue Beach House Art is the name of my business.
You can find out more about what I do at my website, bluebeachhouseart.com.
You can find out more about my online art courses at courses.bluebeachhouseart.com
Tell us about how and why you started your art school
I am a perfectionist, a stickler for detail, straight to the point and have a commonsense approach to life. I’ll admit that they are not always the first qualities that come to mind when you think of an artist. What I have discovered, though, is that those qualities are part of what makes me ideally suited to teaching painting through online courses.
I don’t have any formal art training. I’m just an everyday person with a lot of experience in painting. That means I won’t try to make students feel inferior, never pass judgement and always offer honest feedback in a supportive way. Making a name for myself as a painter is not in my future plans. My goal now is to pass on what I have learned to others. I hope this will be my legacy to the world after I am gone. That means the focus of what I do is on my students’ success, not my own.
The reason I create art has never changed since the day I sold my first painting back in 1997. It gives me a great sense of pride to be able to make something with my own two hands that gives pleasure to others. I can’t tell you how fantastic it feels when customers contact me (sometimes months later) just to tell me how much they love my work.
The reason I teach art is that I feel like I am sitting on a giant secret and I want to let it out. I know that you don’t have to be born with “the gift” to create beautiful artwork. You just need someone to show you how in a way that makes sense, someone who has been where you are now .
A lover of colour, the places I visit have always been my inspiration. When first exploring the world beyond my home state of Western Australia, I realised that every place has a unique beauty. I wanted to capture everything and take it home with me. At first, I tried to do that with a camera but my photos couldn’t do justice to all the beauty I had seen. I am not sure how, but at that point, I just knew that to bring those scenes to life, I needed to paint them. So, in 1996, I enrolled in a painting course as a hobby. About a year later I began selling my work. Another year went by when I started to win a few art prizes. It was the year 2000 when I participated in my first gallery exhibition, along with four other artists, one of whom was my own art teacher. Not being a competitive person, however, I soon decided art competitions and exhibitions were not for me. Instead, I began selling my paintings online, along with some mosaics I had been making at the time. This suited me nicely, for a while. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it) my mosaic business had become so popular that there was never any time to paint. At that time, in addition to running two Etsy stores, I was asked to teach an in-person painting class in acrylics at Artable Studio on the Gold Coast. I found this very rewarding. However, if there was a student who wasn’t quite able to grasp the concepts I was showing them, I always blamed myself. It felt like perhaps I hadn’t explained in a clear enough fashion. Gillian, the studio owner, told me that was part of what made me a good instructor, but I felt terrible.
Then, one day in 2019, I had a lightbulb moment. It had dawned on me that I could combine all my painting, teaching and computer skills to create online art courses. I then dedicated the following year to the task of learning how. It had to be more than just a tutorial, though. I wanted to be sure my lessons would get students REAL results. So, I enrolled in an online course on how to create online courses. (Ironic, I know) It was the best money I ever spent.
Finally, in March 2020, Blue Beach House Art School was born with the launch of Paint Stunning Seascapes in Acrylics, The Formula For Success. And just like that, I had found my true calling.
If you don’t mind share with a little about your family, personal life and the places you’ve lived
(Jenny was born and bred in Western Australia,)
I have been married to the love of my life for over 30 years. We have raised two beautiful daughters, welcomed their husbands to the family and now love nothing more than to dote on our four grandchildren. Two golden retrievers have also been part of our lives. The third is our granddog who lives with our eldest daughter and her family.
One of the great things about having a career as an artist is that you can take your work with you wherever you go. Being married to an airline pilot, that is something I have had to do more than once. Since leaving Western Australia in 2002, we moved to Queensland’s Gold Coast, Hawaii and then back to Northern New South Wales.
As of 2023, I currently find myself living in Florida, USA. Every move has been filled with excitement but has also brought its own unique set of challenges. (especially when we have to leave the family behind). Luckily, I have art. It has always come along for the ride, keeping me company wherever I go.
What media do you prefer to use? What media would you recommend beginning artists start out with?
Acrylics is my preferred medium, although I have also taught classes in watercolour and pastel. I also spent many years creating and selling mosaics. The mosaics came about after a casual comment from my husband on a large mosaic mural we were walking by. He said “You could do that” and so I took up the challenge of learning how.
I always recommend beginner artists start with acrylics because they are the most forgiving of all the mediums. You can work from light to dark or vice versa. The paints can be used in an opaque fashion, like oils, or transparent, like watercolour. You can add as many layers as you like, unlike pastel. As I always say in my classes, with acrylics “everything is fixable”.
What style of Art do you prefer creating?
Realism is probably my natural style of painting. Having always lived near the beach, seascapes always feature heavily in my work. When I first began painting, in 1996, I thought that the goal was to recreate an image as accurately as possible. Since then I have learned to allow my creativity out and have had a lot of fun experimenting with more abstract styles.
One of my goals is to be able to paint in a more impressionist style but up until now, my perfectionist nature has not allowed me to do this. As I get older I believe impressionism will be possible for me because my failing eyesight makes fine details very difficult and I no longer have the patience for all the fiddly bits.
Who are your favorite artists?
As far as the classic artists go, I greatly admire Leonardo da Vinci. He was a talented artist, mathematician, engineer and inventor; a true genius.
In relation to modern artists, the ones that have inspired me most are seascape and marine artists. I first took an interest in painting after being introduced to the work of American artists such as Christian Riese Lassen, Roy Tabora and Anthony Casay. I also love the less realistic style of Australian artist, Joanne Hook
Who is an artist or artists you’d love to be compared with?
I am not sure that I would necessarily aspire to be like him but my work as an art tutor often gets compared to that of Bob Ross. I am not sure why, I think it has something to do with my love of the fan brush or perhaps my softly spoken voice. Students have told me that listening to my speaking voice as they work through the lessons makes them feel very calm and relaxed.
Where do you get inspiration?
The beauty of nature has always been a huge part of my inspiration. I love to try and capture all the wonderful places I have seen. While that may be a beach, rainforest, waterfall or desert gorge, I can also appreciate the aesthetics of a boat with character, a gorgeous old building, a beautiful flower or a majestic animal. I always work from my own photos. There are so many I have taken over the years that there would never be time to paint them all. That is why I now share all my painting reference photos with anyone who would like to use them for their own artwork.
Any suggestions for a productive & comfortable work space?
In my opinion, good natural light is the single most important thing in a workspace. Different types or amounts of light affect my perception of colour so I will walk away from my easel and come back the next day if the natural light becomes too dull, rather than turn on an artificial light.
Do you use technology much? If so, what and how? Any recommendations of APPS, programs, etc.?
Because I work quite slowly, I like to use the camera on my iPhone to “freeze” images of the subjects I want to paint. I can then bring more life to the subject with a bit of artistic license. Often I will use a painting program on my iPad to sketch out my designs before putting paint on canvas. The one I like to use is Fresco by Adobe. This helps me to minimise the frustration that comes with a lot of trial and error.
What is best art advice you’ve ever been been given?
The best advice I have received was not about painting but about how to teach painting. The owner of the studio where I first started instructing a class told me that “basically, people just want you to be nice to them”. She was right, of course, and I have tried to live by that advice ever since.
What advice would you give a beginning artist?
Be brave! So many beginner artists are nervous to get started because they are afraid of failing. I understand why, art is very personal. However, I always encourage them to put the task into perspective. Remember, it is just paint on canvas. What is the worst thing that can happen, you have to start over? That is all part of the learning process and part of the fun.
Any thoughts to share to Senior Adults about painting or creating art?
Art is something of ourselves that can be left behind for future generations. I believe this is how my spirit will live on after I am gone, in the hearts and minds of those whose lives I have touched in any way, including with my art. You don’t need to worry about your eyes starting to fail or your hands getting too shaky. The principles of art remain the same. Once you have grasped those, there is nothing to stop you.
How do you know when a work is finished?
Knowing when to stop is the hardest part of a painting. There comes a time, however, when anything more you do begins to take away from, rather than add to, your painting. When that happens, it is time to sign your name to your work. This is the signal not to touch that work again.
How is the best way to learn how to create art?
There are so many options nowadays for learning art that there really are no excuses for anyone who wants to learn. YouTube tutorials are fine if you just want to have a bit of fun with “watch and copy”. An in-person class is great if you are looking to make friends.
However, if you really want to learn to create your own unique, original works of art then (naturally) I highly recommend online learning. You can have fun and make friends too but the really great thing about learning from home is that you can start at any time, work at your own pace and return to the lessons as often as you like.
Thank you, Jenny for sharing with us today.. Your life and art school are both fascinating.. You shared lots and lots of great advice with us. We really appreciate it!