I’m sitting in a restaurant in Lake Zurich, Illinois feeling quite satisfied with myself. I just finished teaching my three day “Loosen Up” workshop to a group of 15 eager and engaged artists. Wow, I’m tired, hungry and just a tiny bit cold, but couldn’t be happier. Another week when was fortunate to teach folks to paint for a living.
It would be difficult to pick a highlight of the trip. Was it that I left Portland on a gorgeous Thursday morning and sat on the plane next to an awesome lady who works on co-dependency advocacy? Was it landing in Chicago and being promptly scooped up by my hosts Jay and Frankie Johnson who own Main Street Art Center? We even got a little bit of snow thrown in for a little excitement.
Or maybe it was the deep, rich dive my students took into the work of creating art? Yep, that’s it!
I’m reminded that we are doing more than just painting. I get to teach more than painting…I’m helping folks to transcend themselves, to master their disinclination to create, to push past their long held patterns and to break out beyond themselves. I’m a guru with a little “g”. Guru according to Merriam Webster’s #2 definition is : a teacher and especially intellectual guide in matters of fundamental concern.” I say this with humility and appreciation but at the same time, I need to own this.
Painting is important to people. It heals people who have been through trauma. It inspires those who need and want inspiration. It connects people with a shared interest. Mastering painting is a challenge that’s a lifelong pursuit so we need support and guidance along the path.
Sarah was so excited to be in the class. She’s a bubbly, positive soul. She even printed out the PDF from my Light & Shadow online workshop and spiral bound it. So sweet!
I’m not like her. I have a dark and sad side to me that I can easily wear on my sleeve. So, being around souls like her does me good and reminds me that I don’t have time for the pain and I don’t have any excuse to indulge in it. When we said our “goodbyes”, she told me that there should be more “Marla’s” in the world, but I need to be around more “Sarah’s”. Thank you Sarah. You make me better and more determined to bring my best self out to play every day.
Thank you Audrey! At every workshop I ask each student to introduce themselves and tell the group a little bit about themselves as a painter and to tell me what their intention for the workshop is. I could tell she was clear about what she wanted but it wasn’t something easily achieved…she wanted to express her feeling for a “thing”, ( I’m paraphrasing, so excuse me). But moving beyond a representation of the visual field to an expression or impression of our manifest existence is something I strive for in my own work. At one point or another, ( and this point comes at different crossroads for each of us), I think we are no longer satisfied with merely capturing faithfully what we see. Painting what we see is pretty wonderful in of itself, but I think we humans are impulsed to express our existence somehow.
Every student at this workshop showed up with an openness and work ethic that was impressive. It’s hard to show up that way. It’s hard not to try to protect oneself particularly when it comes to art. There is so much self-judgement and cultural judgement associated with art and being an artist. We’re very, very hard on ourselves which can lead to getting pretty stuck.
In my workshops, I’m asking students to take a leap of faith…to do things differently and to see things a little differently. I’m asking a lot. But, I try to create an environment where it’s safe and maybe even comfortable to do that. I know it’s still hard. Thank you, thank you for letting me be a little “g”.