It was almost two years ago that then-fresh graduate Nina Mainerová set out with a colleague to open a professional architectural studio. But soon after their launch, the bills piled up and they were forced to modify their plans. First, they began offering preparatory classes for students applying to university; then they extended their workshops to include drawing and painting.
They were surprised by what they discovered: public interest that exceeded all expectations. Today, co-founder Nina Mainerová runs not one Fine Art Studio but five. And painting and drawing have long supplanted the studio’s original architectural focus.
The co-founder explains:
“When we first went ahead with our idea, everyone warned us not to open the studio, saying that we’d soon we’d find ourselves up to our necks in debt. But that only made me dig in my heels even more. We basically launched the project on debt, without any initial investment. And soon, with more and more bills arriving, we realised that we had to offer different services and it went from being a studio of architecture to the fine arts. Luckily, many people were attracted by the idea: at first we had maybe 30 or 40 students a week. Today we have hundreds.”
Mainerová stresses that the aim of the studio is to teach anyone interested the necessary skills to paint and draw and the studio offers a wide array of courses catering to clients of all ages: from children to young artists and more experienced professionals. Students’ reasons for attending may vary: for some drawing is a hobby or a form of relaxation, while for others it is a chance to improve their skills – a more serious pursuit. In short, there is something for everyone and tailoring courses to individual needs is one of the challenges. Nina Mainerová again:
“Obviously our students vary in terms of experience and background. You have mums on maternity leave, lawyers, bankers, professional graphic designers who work with computers and so on. Each group is completely different. For teachers it is interesting to prepare classes and tailor elements to individual expectations and tastes. Students should be able to look forward to classes, working in areas they appreciate.”
Chelsea Jennings of Ohio is an attendee at the Fine Art Studio who is looking to expand on courses she took back in the United States: she told me how she had, so far, enjoyed her classes in Prague:
“I came to the school about six weeks ago and so I have only had a few classes so far but I have really enjoyed it. I was recommended the school by a friend who has been coming here for a semester. Because it’s early days, I have only done drawing but I am looking forward to trying painting soon.”
She also said that in at least one way the Prague studio was different:
“I tried some classes back in Ohio but I never really found anything like this where it is so free for you to choose what you want to do and there are so many possibilities. I think that it is fairly unique.”
Nina Mainerová says that was one of the goals and agrees it is one of the differences between studying at an art school. Although students here receive instruction and guidance from their instructors, they are – first and foremost – clients, so teachers at the studio (from well-established artists in the Czech or international arts communities to students completing their Masters programmes at one of Prague’s long-established art schools, UMPRUM or AVU) should also respect enrolee’s focus or needs. In Nina Mainerová’s view, one of the primary elements is to create a relaxed atmosphere where newcomers can progress:
“Some people who begin taking courses with us haven’t drawn since they were kids, or want to paint this-and-that and can sometimes be overly-ambitious. It’s our job to take them through the process, to show them what is possible, to teach them methods for achieving what they want. The basic thing is to erase the feeling that drawing or painting is only the domain of a select few, that no one else should try it or do it. If they enjoy creating artwork, they should.”
One of the things I discussed with Mainerová was the enjoyment that children get from drawing before many gradually give it up in favour of other pastimes or in frustration as they get older when they learn they can’t produce as realistic or naturalistic-looking drawings as they’d like. Well, children, too, can attend classes at the Fine Art Studio with younger kids being encouraged to draw things as they feel them, while older kids are given more ambitious lessons introducing basic elements of perspective or anatomy. During my visit, unfortunately, there weren’t many kids – just one – as the four others in the class were home with the flu. I spoke to instructor Žaneta Švidroňová and her student Saša; both were kind enough to tell me more, taking a short break from their evening lesson:
How long have you two been working together?
“We have completed one semester so far and now we are continuing. Saša knows how to draw and has the basic skills, so we can continue with colours and painting. We are more like friends, so it is different from school.”
You are in Grade Four, Saša?
“Yes, that’s right.”
Now as we have been speaking, Saša has been sketching out the hindquarters of a fox on display here, a real stuffed fox. Now, he himself has seen better days but your rendition on paper is very nice. A lot of emphasis has been put on proportion and anatomy...
“Yes, Saša ‘gets’ it and is able to focus on proportion and anatomy and mixing colours. It is different with younger children but she knows when something is too short or out of proportion or needs to be fixed. I am trying to teach her how to look at things, how to analyse a picture, how to see things with her own eye. As a result, I can also let her work without interruption at longer intervals, and we look it at together after a little while.”
Is her work throughout the semester stored somewhere here?
“Yes. And students can decide at the end whether they want to take their work home or not.”
So it is a very pleasant atmosphere and it’s highly recommended to sit in for a few minutes if you are thinking of signing up. Sending your child to drawing courses, if they enjoy drawing, can certainly be beneficial, allowing them to learn patience, hand-eye coordination and to gain a feeling for the image they’ll probably always make use of and never forget. Certainly, as viable an option as playing football or the piano; if you’re older, don’t fret either: as founder Nina Mainerová says “it’s never too late to begin” – if you’re based in the Czech Republic and would like more information be sure to look up their website: www.malovanikresleni.cz/en
Photo: Fine Arts Studio