I just got back from the Artfest Rising retreat where I attended six workshops with six fabulous artists. I’ve taken a lot of classes but this was something totally new. First of all, it was paper art and a lot of paint techniques. I’ve been trying to put into words the difference between what I experienced this past weekend and classes I’ve taken. The best that I can come up with is that these were workshops, not classes.
We created blank art journals, 11″ x 15″ and each two-page spread was used for a different workshop. The first image is Tracy Moore’s workshop. Having done a lot of doodling, these techniques were in my wheelhouse. One of the main focuses was social journaling…journaling in public and how it can lead to meeting people. Not my thing, but maybe I’ll be more brave and try it in the future.
So, what is the difference between a class and a workshop? In this instance I would describe a class as something where the instructor leads you step by step through a process, to an end product. You learn technique, and while you may be be encouraged to explore and try new things, exploration is usually left to do on your own at a later time. This is for a couple reasons. One, you really don’t have time in a glass class to explore. Once you start a glass piece, you have to finish it–it’s not easy to come back to later, and most times you don’t do that anyway. Second, teachers do want you to take techniques and change them to find your own style, not just copy theirs. I’m sure there are more reasons.
Below is my unfinished collage spread form Teesha Moore’s workshop. This may look familiar to you because I’ve been following her Artstronaut’s Club from the beginning and have been practicing her techniques from her video presentations. The Artstronauts Club is what launched me into doing flat art, drawing, collage, pastel, pens, etc.
So, back to the difference between workshops and classes. In these workshops we were taught some technique but more importantly, we were encourage to find our own story. Put some stuff down and see what the pages tell you as you go along. What emerges? What comes to mind for you? Put it in your piece, extract it from what you see, cover it up if you don’t like it. Look deeper, listen to your inner voice and vision.
Below is my unfinished spread from Orly Avineri’s workshop. She taught revealing one part at a time. We didn’t know what the end goal was. This could be anxiety-raising for some people–many people. It was messy and organic. We flopped objects that had been dipped into paint, onto our canvas and let it do the work. No deliberate positioning! Again, letting art be freeing and letting it drive the design rather than us driving the outcome.
As the days progressed, the inspiration grew. I couldn’t wait for the next day. I found myself, not thinking, “What will I learn next?” but rather, “Where will they take me next? Where will I go next? What will I uncover?” I didn’t “learn.” I “workshopped.” I lived the work. It spoke to me, through me. It opened me.
Below is my unfinished spread from Angela Matus’s workshop. Layers and layers of color, and collage. It was at this point that I realized that the images that had been emerging for me are all flying. Definitely my sub-conscious speaking to me and a fun idea to keep exploring!!!
So, that is the difference, for me, between a class and a workshop. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I just haven’t found the right word. I was immersed and engrossed in my art in a way that goes far beyond technique. I’ve always searched for ways to express myself through my art and have come up short. This type of working, these media, these methods, liberated me in some odd and welcomed way. It’s like looking into tea leaves and being able to see the past, or future. Not that I can do that, but I’ll use it for lack of a better metaphor.
Below is my unfinished spread from Michael DeMeng’s class. So many layers here and you can’t get it from the image. In person mine turned out to look like a thick piece of aged leather. Pulling out images using washes of color and highlighting. When I was making glass beads I loved the depth I could get from layering many many colors. This process, and some of the others play well to that desire in me.
Last but not least, Jesse Reno’s workshop. Oh my. This was my first class on the first day. It was out of the comfort zone for some people because at one point we were painting with our fingers and entire palm. I loved this workshop as it set the tone perfectly for the next five workshops for me. Again, more of the let it emerge, let it tell your story, add to it, take away from it, work until you feel satisfied.
Below is my unfinished spread from Jesse’s workshop. I got the basics but kind of bunged it up with that gray. Wait. One thing I learned is that nothing is ever ruined. Anything can be turned into something. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes you have to walk away for a while. Sometimes you need to cover half of it in black again and just focus on one area until you receive inner guidance.
On the way home I couldn’t wait to get home and dig deeper into paints and collage so I pulled out my iPad and tried to imitate the techniques in Procreate. Below is the start of my Jesse Reno-style digital musing. I’ve worked on it for a couple nights while lounging in bed and listening to PBS.
What came out? Faces. Faces everywhere. Now, I’m seeing faces in everything. What I experienced has me continuing to look at the world in a new way. Patterns, layers, texture, imagery. The universe that has always been speaking to me became more clear. Better yet, I am feeling confident and bold in my work. This is the woman who has always said, “I can’t draw (or paint)” while always having a deep desire to do so. I always thought I needed a class to learn technique when all I needed were some workshops to learn freedom. Lookie there. It might not be hyper-realism or anything realistic but, look mom! I’m drawing! and painting!
Once again it reminds me of why art is so important. It can change your life, your attitude, your outlook, your self-esteem. It challenges you to solve problems, to look more deeply (inside and out). It soothes the soul and calms the mind.
I am finding that going deep like this spills over to the rest of my life. I am feeling the tugging in my writing and how I approach things. It is meditation in motion and it is informing my life.
Thank you to Teesha and Tracy Moore for putting on Artfest Rising, and for the fantastic teacher that shared their hearts and art with our small group of 144. You’ve impacted my life.