Art Classes

By Madeline Schwid, Public Health in Cuba, Summer 2012

Starting this week Leah and I have been taking art classes from a local artist here in Havana. We met last week to go shopping for supplies in Central Havana. The store that we went to was very undersupplied and did not have many basic colors of paints like white and blue. Also, unlike most of the stores here, all of the art supplies were surprisingly pricey. Because of this, our teacher brought us art supplies to borrow that she had used before or bought in the underground economy.

Leah and I are not in the Cuban cinema class that meets on Tuesday mornings so we decided to have our first art class during this time. This day we focused on drawing portraits using pencil. We looked at a bunch of examples of previous works and some charts that outlined some basic techniques for drawing facial structures. Then Leah drew me and I drew her, taking up the rest of our class time. Throughout the class we conversed in Spanish and learned a lot. We decided to meet again on Friday afternoon to begin learning about painting.

On Friday, we looked at photos of ourselves and drew the outlines of a self portrait from it. Then we learned a step by step process of painting our portraits beginning with painting the darkest areas and proceeding to get lighter and lighter. Instead of using realistic colors we used other colors and created a more pop art like style. Just like in the United States, pop art was and is popular in Cuba and many examples of pop art are on display in the art museum in Old Havana that we visited the first week we were here. It was cool to walk through the history of the art museum and see the trends of art in a Cuban style that were happening elsewhere in the world.

It is very interesting to talk to artists in Cuba. They have to be very talented to be successful because so many people here want to be artists. Our teacher is married to another artist and they both studied art for many years at the university level. Her husband will be joining our classes later but he is recovering from leg surgery.

We will be meeting one or two times a week for the rest of the time we are in Cuba. We are going to work on painting portraits more with different techniques and we are also going to look at painting landscapes. I am really excited about painting Cuban landscapes, especially the city because the buildings and style is so unique.