- What a long strange trip it’s been
The second weekend in November is Jerry’s Art Expo, a 4-day extravaganza of classes and trade show hosted by Jerry’s Artarama, an excellent chain of art supply stores. I’ve attended classes and shopped hard for several years and have come to think of it as an Autumn Break, a chance to take a couple of days off work and explore something other than production carving. Last year, I experimented with 8 hours of Bob Burridge, as a test for whether I wanted to take his 40-hour class. In 2002, I took Michael Wilcox on Color and Jeanne Carbonetti, Making Pearls. Love her books and thought she was a great teacher. Which is true.
This year, after discovering I loved collage in Bob’s class described above, I registered for Patti Brady’s Second Skin class, eight hours of learning about the different products manufactured by the Golden Paint Company that can be used in support of collage and my type of sculptural painting. Jeanne Carbonetti was back with a new class based on a forth-coming book, and I thought it would be good to get another dose of her supportive encouraging teaching style. I also prepared myself not to go crazy at the trade show and thought hard about what I had bought vs what I’ve used in the past.
1.75 out of 3 is still a pretty good batting average, no? (I know there isn’t a half-hit.)
Patti’s class was good. We played with a number of different gels and mediums, making sample boards and testing effects. Although some painters stay away from using the gels (one more thing to worry about), I think they will work well for me, largely because I am a sculptor first and I NEED depth and shape in my paintings, much more so than I have been able to convey with light and dark alone. I did have to laugh at myself, though: I OWN the entire sample kit we played with. I bought it last year. I’ve never opened the bottles. So I just paid a significant chunk o’change for someone to tell me how to spread paint. So be it. 0.5 for the day.
The trade show was mostly as good as usual; I am less overawed by the range of products having seen the same displays for several years in a row. I knew what I needed; knew what I had plenty of; promised self not to buy more if I already had some even if the prices were astoundingly low, and got out of there with only two impulse purchases, a tie-dye kit and a henna body art kit, total unplanned damage $15. This is not bad. I can use the henna for hooping next summer. Give the trade show the 1.0.
That leaves us with the second class: The Art of Creativity. The format was talking and demo during the morning (coldly: paying good money to watch someone else’s paint dry); hands-on painting in the afternoon. I only realized that I was showing signs of being in trouble during the morning much much later. I was resting my head in my hands at one point when my neighbor said, Don’t go to sleep now! and I thought, I’m not sleepy; I really want to go pound my head against the door jamb. Later, I stood up and moved to the back of the room and stretched and thought maybe I had just been sitting still for too long. I think now I simply needed to get away. My body did not want me to be there.
It got worse after lunch when we started to paint. I am not a watercolorist. Both of my paintings went flat and muddy in no time at all and then the chorus started singing in the back of my head: You’re not an artist you can’t paint it’s a waste of time to try give it up. Familiar territory, but particularly unfortunate when it crops up in a classroom setting. Jeanne came around and was encouraging and offered suggestions and I tried to stay in the game and play, and even started a third painting, but by 3:00, I couldn’t take it anymore and slipped out the door. Went over to the trade show in the ballroom; paid for and collected my products, and took everything out to the car. Then I went back to class.
By then, it was time to clean up and sit for the closing talk, and I made it through that OK. Grateful afterward that I had already paid for everything so I could jump in the car and come home, missing the afternoon traffic. It was only when I was unloading the truck at home that I realized I’d left my paintings in the classroom! Boy, I REALLY didn’t like that class!
So what really happened? In hindsight, I think it was simply that I am not at the place where I need to know how Jeanne comes to a painting, A, and B, her path is VERY different from mine. Clue: I am a chainsaw carver, she is a watercolorist. A counterargument can be made: process is process and it works for every thing. (That’s what I believe her next book is about. And what this class was supposed to be about.) Didn’t work for me, is all I can say. My body was rebelling from the moment we sat down–that’s what the head-pounding was about, and that’s why I needed to move to the back of the room. (Historically, I’m one of the front-row sitters in almost any class, including Organic Chemistry.)
Jeanne paints in a very fluid, alchemical style, and the painting tells her what it wants to be. Watercolor does that. Watercolorists like that. I love the way watercolor looks when it works, but I am not that way. I paint Celtic knotwork. The Book of Kells was designed, not intuited. (Not on the final vellum, that is, and they didn’t have paper in Ireland then so who knows how they did the prep work.) (This is an avenue for future research, BTW.) When I start and run on intuition and let the painting tell me where to go, it goes to mud. Quickly.
After resting up a bit at home, I took the leftover watercolor paints we’d been given and tie-dyed coffee filters to use as raw material for collages and knotwork paintings. I felt better. Sleep and an hour of hooping helped, too. Jeanne teaches a great class, and when I took it in 2002, I was propelled to an entirely new understanding of myself as an artist. But it’s 2005 today, and I don’t need that information anymore. It’s a bit scary to be out here on this edge, coming to understand there aren’t too many teachers left and that I have to make my own way into this particular part of the woods.
I’ve spent a lot of time this morning thinking about what comes next. I don’t have any good answers yet. I need to plan more, this is obvious. It’s coming as well to the rustic furniture–that needs a lot more thinking-through, all the way up to assembling before gluing–than a straight chainsaw carving (which also needs planning but it doesn’t show when you don’t, as much). Stay tuned.
So credit 0.25 for the lesson, and the colors I can use for staining coffee filters. Miffed that I left three half-sheets of good watercolor paper behind. Could have used them in collage, or gessoed over the painting and tried again. Might not have seen the whole problem if I’d had them here, though.
One of these hours I have to get outside and make sawdust. Good to have tangible production at hand to pull me out of too much rumination.