My Lightbulb Moment: The Story Behind our 'Coached' Class
An interview with Zena El Farra, MasterPeace Founder
“The Coached Classes are there to inspire our guests, build confidence, and reignite their curiosity in painting. From there, we hope they are springboarded into a colourful adventure of creativity where they might find even more meaning and further self-actualisation…” – Zena
What are ‘Coached Classes’
A Coached Class at MasterPeace involves a guest painting a photo of their choice with the help of our special table-top personal projectors and the guidance or ‘coaching’ of a professional artist. By using the projected light as an initial guide, guests can outline their images effortlessly, and produce a very rewarding painting, even as a complete beginner, in just 90 minutes.
“Sometimes that positive reinforcement is all you need to open up the floodgates of someone’s creativity and get them interested in coming to learn to do it from scratch.” – Zena
Where did the idea for incorporating projectors into the creative process come from?
Growing up I loved painting. For me it was a way of tuning out the anxiety I experienced as a child and into my teenage years. I didn’t, however, love drawing in the same way. And, not wanting to be held back by that, would find all kinds of shortcuts to leapfrog to the part that filled me with joy – painting.
For one particular project, I was painting on a very large scale, and wanted a way of blowing up my image quickly without the need for those boring grid lines you might remember from school. So, I snuck into the physics department and ‘borrowed’ their old school projector. In a flash (no pun intended), I had my image drawn up, and then I could find my flow getting lost in the colourful process of painting.
I’d all but forgotten about this method until, maybe 10 years later, having left my childhood paintbrushes behind when I moved into my tiny London flat, I needed to paint again. I’d had a very challenging year, my corporate job had become incredibly stressful, and this coincided with my mum becoming seriously ill. I experienced my first bout of burnout, and, at a loss for what to do to help, my husband bought me a canvas and encouraged me to paint again.
Having done almost nothing since school, I painted the enormous giraffe you may have seen at the studio, depicted in the image below. With the help, of course, of a cheap little projector I bought online.
What amazed me was the way the projected image broke the ice between me and the blank canvas. It can feel so daunting to look at a white sheet and not know where to start. I realised that seeing your image blown up, immediately helps you to visualise what you’re aiming for and the potential of what your piece could end up looking like. The projector in drawing is almost like putting the stabilizers on the bike, it helps you take off and once you’re moving, you’re moving.
What do Coached Classes mean at MasterPeace?
We know getting creative has a profound impact on our mental health, so why not make it easier for people? Why not ‘cheat’ a little to make the painting process more accessible and enjoyable to more of us, regardless of creative background and experience? The art world can be a little intimidating, formal and traditional at times… could we break down some of those barriers using technology?
My primary objective is to enable our guests to find peace through the painting process, in the moment.
And beyond that, it’s about breaking down those immediate boundaries and giving people confidence, offering positive reinforcement that they can create something perhaps even more impressive than they’d imagined they were capable of. Sometimes that positive reinforcement is all you need to open up the floodgates of someone’s creativity.
For them to be inspired to keep creating after our Coached class is my hope. Whether that’s independently or through us, if they are prompted perhaps to want to learn to draw more free hand, find their own style, or try different mediums at our ‘Masterclasses’ would be success for me. The Coached Classes are there to inspire our guests, and from there, they are spring boarded off down a creative adventure that might give them even more meaning.
So what photos do guests tend to paint, have you noticed trends?
For sure there are trends, the biggest one being – people choose to paint what they truly love. Specifically we see loved ones, cherished pets, photos that reflect moments that imprinted on people’s lives, even seemingly mundane objects or glimmers of landscapes where the individual simply… felt something. Our guests find enormous connection with each other simply in sharing what it is that they are painting.
It’s important to me that our guests can choose what they paint with no limitations. As a mindful practice, I believe the choosing of the photo in itself provides our guests with a level of insight as to what they value, feel inspired by, or want to feel more connected to.
Plus, when it’s something they are personally inspired by, I’ve found that there is also a deeper intrinsic motivation to want to start and to finish your piece. After a long break from creativity, that can be a very powerful first experience to help you start getting creative again.