Having founded ArtistAnd, a London-based wellbeing focused art company hosting workshops, China Jordan's main aim has been to help others explore the restoratitive benefits of drawing and painting for our own health. A talented artist in her own right, China gave up her job as a gallery manager to launch ArtistAnd to share her passion for her craft with others; with her classes going from strength to strength ever since.

We spoke to China about her artistic journey, what she loves about teaching art to others, and how she shares her enthusiasm with her students.

(Author's note: China's responses have been edited for clarity and length)

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When was the first time you started working with your medium, and what drew you to it?

I've worked with lots of mediums over the years, and my favourites are oil paint and pencil. Since being a child, I explored pencil the most and I think this's what really helped me become a better painter. I didn't realise at the time but you need to learn to draw before you can paint and so having years of pencil drawing behind me then made the transition a lot easier into oil paint. I started using oil paints when I was 15 or 16 and I had no idea what I was doing. I learnt the hard way that you can't clean them in the sink with water! Oil paints are quite challenging and I think that's what I love about it so much. They never quite dry, and you can use that to your advantage to blend things. With pencil, I love the challenge of blending without smudging and so I try to find the most difficult ways to use them.

What made you realise that teaching might be for you? And was it difficult for you to make that leap from creating for yourself to teaching others?

I still don't really feel like a teacher, even though I spend the majority of my time showing people how to draw! I still create work for myself so I don't actually sacrifice that at all and I think the main question would be, was it difficult to give up my job and start my career going solo? The answer is yes! I realised I was a good leader when I worked as a gallery manager and I was always showing people how to hang artwork, how to fix problems, and how to think differently. That's what I do with art. I show people how they can see differently, and how they can observe the world in a different way. It's not about passing a grade, or expressing yourself so much, it's about being able to translate pictures and get your hand to do the work for you. I give people confidence and maybe that's the role of a teacher? Who knows. But it is the greatest challenge but the biggest reward.

How do you maintain your inspiration for your craft, especially if you'd made it your full-time job? And how do you pass that inspiration onto your students?

I have always and always will be passionate about drawing and painting and so every day I do something that inspires me. Whether it's a small drawing, planning a lesson or hosting a workshop. It all recharges me. I make sure that when I have students, I charge them up too and remind them that first of all, there is always something amazing they have overcome! I find what they like doing, and I focus on that to build their confidence and gently challenge them in each session. Everyone is capable, and art is the most amazing gift. Belief and passion are infectious and I truly believe in art, peoples abilities and the wellbeing benefits.

One of China's online classes

How do you feel your workshops help people with their wellbeing and mental health?

Art and creative practises are so brilliant at re-energising us and helping us to focus, and release some tension. For those people that cannot meditate, art is the perfect cure to feel the same results as meditation. I know that from my own experience, creating an artwork makes the time fly by and I am so present that by the end, I don't even realise hours and hours have passed and I can feel so at peace. Doctors should prescribe art lessons to more people because it truly is an affordable therapy.

China teaching one of her drawing classes in person

What has been your favourite student interaction since you’ve started teaching?

There isn't a favourite moment, but there is an ongoing event that really makes me happy. Each week, I teach on a Tuesday evening and I have done since the pandemic. I have quite a few students that have stuck with me and are still turning up each week. The group of people that join and have joined and still drop in from time to time is so so lovely. We get new people quite often and the one thing they love is the ease and welcomeness of the group. It truly has been a blessing to see so many people turn up and become friends and it's all because of this shared love of art and now it's turned into a community. I absolutely love sharing art with everyone and these sessions are the highlight of my week and I never expected it to run for so long as it has!

What is your favourite thing about teaching that you feel you benefit from?

I love people and I love art and when I teach people I really get to know them. I get to see how they draw, the pace in which they move their hands, and I learn habits that they have as artists. I get to help them see in a different way and along the way, we get to know each other. Drawing is all about learning something new but when you spend hours and hours with someone you can really build a lovely environment. I love meeting different students and when they face a challenge, it challenges me to help them see in a different way. I think it's helped me become a better problem solver and also helped me to think a lot differently too. My students inspire me every day.

Any tips for aspiring creatives who are looking to start teaching their own classes?

Just do it! You have to start somewhere so start with your friends who are going to be the kindest critics. Make sure you listen to their feedback, pay attention to how they are struggling or how they are finding it easy and take that with you onto the next lesson. Remember everyone student is different and you need to be flexible and ready to adapt.

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