Tuesday 19 November 2013

Workshops, workshops, workshops!

Over time, October and November have evolved into annual teaching months for me, and this year has been no exception. I've run workshops on coloured pencil and on silk painting for small, enthusiastic groups who come to my studio eager to learn.

I've held coloured pencil "boot camp" days that focus on exercise after exercise, giving participants a chance to find out just what they and their pencils are capable of. We've drawn fruit and in some workshops we've drawn birds. Other participants have drawn dogs, horses and even a cowboy.

I've also held how-to workshops for silk painting where participants learn the ins and outs of working with this engaging but challenging medium. There have been luscious water lilies, lively birds, colourful crustaceans, pumpkins, flowers and other interesting and unique paintings produced over the past few weeks, as well as a few very beautiful silk scarves. I strive to help people learn and to have fun while doing so. I am always delighted to see what they are able to achieve with my assistance, and just how differently each and every one of them sees and interprets the world.

Earlier this month I hit the road with my vehicle packed with art supplies and hand-outs. I spent several days with an art group on Vancouver Island, first teaching them about coloured pencil and then winding up with a day of silk painting. This charming group of women meets weekly to paint together, support one another's artistic endeavours, and organize exhibition opportunities. Occasionally they bring in an instructor from "outside" so they can learn together, and that's where I came in.

We did a day of coloured pencil boot camp that left their heads spinning, their eyes blurry and their wrists tired. We shaded, we burnished, we blended, we hatched and cross-hatched and we covered a LOT of material. Then we put those new-found skills to use making one of my favourite workshop subjects, this spotted towhee.

Of course there's always one "keener" in the crowd, and in this case she went home and worked on developing a background for her bird, which she brought to show to the group the next day.

The day of silk painting was just as enjoyable. After an introduction and demo, ideas began to flow as members of the group embarked on planning and creating their own pieces.

Horses emerged, as did exotic fish, lively landscapes, bright flowers, beaches littered with shells and starfish, and yes, there were more water lilies, each unique and different from any other.


I immensely enjoyed working with the group, and I must have done something right because they want me to come back. And soon!

My studio helpers.
Now I'm back in the studio with my silk steamer running, processing all the silk projects to fix the dyes (a step that's required to make the dyes permanent) while mentally processing my experiences of the past few weeks. I'm not exactly alone as have a couple of helpers here in the studio making sure I get things right, but they're pretty quiet so I'm enjoying this chance to reflect on the past few weeks, the students I've met, and the work they've produced.

Since I started teaching workshops I've learned my own valuable lessons, foremost among them that teaching art is a wonderful way to analyse my own process. After all, to coherently speak about how I make art and to instruct others, I first have had to figure out just what it is I'm doing! This self-analysis has, I think, benefitted me immensely. And I have found that I love sharing what I know. The "ah-ha" moments I've witnessed in students are priceless!

In another day or so all the steaming will be completed. Each piece will be picked up or mailed to its owner and this year's cycle of workshops will be officially complete. But soon I'll be planning for my spring session and looking forward to meeting eager new learners as well as re-connecting with familiar faces who keep coming back for more.

It's all part of the mosaic that makes up my life as an artist.

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