Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to be Lovely--Henderson Style

absorbing the  loveliness 
I have just arrived back from teaching a two-day workshop in Henderson, KY and it was a lovely experience. My lodging was a charming cottage near downtown and just two short blocks from the Ohio River. In the bedroom was a large photo of Audrey Hepburn and a book on Audrey's wit and wisdom lay prominently on the dresser. The title of that book, by Melissa Hellstern established the theme for my stay in Henderson, How to be Lovely. 

      I knew I would be learning a lot this weekend when I opened the book to this quote from Audrey:  "There is a Dutch saying, 'Don't fret: it will happen differently anyway.' I believe that."  Naturally, I had been fretting for several months about this workshop; traveling by myself (Adventure is not my middle name), would I be an effective teacher, would I forget to bring something really important, and on and on. My experience from the past is that the workshops always turn out very well, because the participants are so interesting in their lives and in their perception of the world. It never ceases to amaze me. There is a lot of beauty out there just waiting to be expressed.

But even before the workshop began, I was impressed. Henderson is a river town of about 25,000 people, and they have 4 art galleries! I went to two art exhibit receptions the evening before the workshop began. Though we had been worrying about bad weather of the snow variety with the timing of the workshop, this evening, there were sirens going off warning of severe weather of the tornado variety. Even so, a very healthy crowd turned up for these receptions. This was clearly a town that appreciated artistic expression. My being there was mainly due to a Wonder Woman named Jule McClellan, who is the founder and director of the Ohio Valley Art League (OVAL). She had attended one of my workshops in Lexington and wanted to share that experience with her artistic colleagues in western Kentucky.

     The next day broke in a beautiful fashion as we gathered at the Henderson County Public Library. Henderson is one of the spots where Audobon (there is a wonderful Audubon Museum at a state park just outside of Henderson) alighted and so all around town, there are sculptures created from Audubon's lithographs. Appropriately, there were owls at the museum. There was plenty of intelligence in our workshop as well, and a lot of stories. One woman had just moved to Henderson from California, and she signed up for the class even before she moved. As it turned out, she was seated near a native Californian whose family had owned land in the redwood forests when she was a child. I had already seen the work of several participants the evening before and knew there would not be a lack of creativity. Another participant had set a goal to write, illustrate and publish a book and had accomplished that. Everyone had been to beautiful places and they had beautiful minds, too! We set about working to express our visions.

     It turns out that using watercolor and pastel to create paintings does allow for individual creation, no matter how much experience the painter has. Within our group the experience level ranged from absolute beginner to thoroughly accomplished in multiple disciplines and media. The qualities of watercolor and pastel are complementary, so that each artist's strengths are allowed to shine. And shine they did:

We all learned from one another. We were able to revel in each other's color sense and exuberance or tranquility. We had a beautiful day along the Ohio River, but we also enjoyed Hawaii, California, Maysville, and Maine. It was like being in a Pete Seeger song!

     Thank you to Jule and OVAL for this lovely gift!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Workshop Prep

In a couple of days I will take my teaching show on the road for the first time. I have been invited to give a two-day workshop through the Ohio Valley Art League in Henderson, KY. There is some prep work! For my workshops and classes, I provide all the materials, so there is watercolor paper to cut and brushes to collect and clean. Are the watercolors in order and do I have the pliers to aid with the stubborn tube caps? And the pastels must all be organized by color (figuring out the color categories is interesting.) I prepare a watercolor underpainting for demonstrating my approach.
      I want to keep everything loose. This is the main premise: first I have an idea of what I want to create. That idea is what directs my technique, rather than the other way around. That will be my approach with workshop participants as well. We will start with their vision of what they want to create and then figure out how to achieve that using watercolor and pastel. My big goal is to help artists to develop their own voice by sharpening vision and honing the work of our hands.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eat an Apple Today!

I did not attend the big debate on creationism yesterday (February 4, 2014) or watch it live-streamed. I did read about it in the papers this morning and hear about it on the radio. It was pretty predictable that no twain was going to be met. Admittedly, I am more of the Bill Nye the Science Guy camp and why wouldn't I be? I love the wonder and awe of our world and the universe. To me, that is what is missing in Creationist, Ken Ham's approach (you could say his ham-strung approach.) The main point seems to be having all the answers, now and forever.
      I am no theologian or bible scholar, but  listening to creationists, I wonder, what is the point of humanity? If the story stops almost 2000 years ago, what are we here for? Does humanity not have anything to add to narrative of creation? And what is the point of that tempting fruit in the middle of the garden? We humans are curious and creative. We are mortal, too, so that as we return to dust, humanity might be refreshed by future humans. Evolution is pretty refreshing, too. Sure, life isn't always a stroll in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, but it is always interesting and often amazing if your eyes are open and your senses alive. Thank you, Eve! I think I'll have an apple now.