I can proudly say that in many of my adult art classes, the artists-in-training will often behave like children: at times rebellious and argumentative but most of all playful. I welcome it since my objective is to coax them into getting in touch with their "child within". What good is that going to do them, you may ask.Well, this is the point where I will get out my dog-eared artists' bible "Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain" and start quoting ad infinitum.A funny thing happens on the way to adulthood. Its generally called growing up, but i think in many ways, particularly with respect to creative self-expression, its got more to do with a downward movement than an upward one. For so many people, as the physical self grows, the creative soul shrinks. Fear is a word that comes to mind. Conformity is another.Fear of failure and conformity are two things I tackle head-on with a vengeance. Fear shows up in the nervous preliminary pencil marks. It shows up when I hand someone a big brush and tell them to randomly lay down wide strokes across the canvas. Conformity shows up in students' desire to paint like such-and-such artist. Copying is as good a place to start as any, but the goal is to find one's own individual groove. As Picasso is purported to have said: "Good Artists Borrow. Great Artists Steal." (Click on the link to read an interesting discussion on what exactly Picasso might have meant.)The use of acrylics is ideal for these exercises in letting go, because unlike watercolour, it allows sufficient elbow room to make mistakes which can later be modified or retained. Very often its the "mistakes" which prove to be the highlight of a painting and I always stress the need to be alert and spot which mistakes work and which mistakes don't. In the picture to the left is a preciously talented young artist. And a perfectionist. I invited him to let go of the process and make a mess. He reluctantly did so and then slowly started the exciting journey of "finding" the painting.art students painting at Birgu marina overlooking SengleaDghajsas off Birgu marina by Maria VellaHaving my art studio located in the stunningly beautiful Three Cities of Malta I am spoiled for choice of outdoor venues to hold painting sessions. The photo on the right shows a group of students set up on Birgu marina looking towards Senglea promenade. At first there is a sense of being overwhelmed by so much information. Where to start? What to include and what to leave out? How to match that particular colour? How to manipulate tonal values to give a sense of depth and light? But with practice they learn to filter out all the "white noise", find a focal point and build everything, from the colours tones and shapes used, to creating a dynamic eye-catching composition.In 2012 I took a group of my art students on a painting holiday to Modica in Sicily. It proved to be an exhilarating experience for both students and their non-painting partners. Needless to say, one cant go wrong in Sicily as far as finding beautiful vistas to paint and wrapping up a day's painting with some fine dining! But more of that in my next post.