Friday, August 12, 2011

The Excitement of a Workshop


What will you do with this one wild and precious life?  36x60" oil/cold wax on panel  ©Janice Mason Steeves 


Tomorrow I teach a two-day workshop here in my home studio.  Today I am preparing. First things first, I'm cleaning my studio.  What a job that is, sorting papers, cleaning shelves, vacuuming and moving paintings to the garage to make room for eight students.  Each time I teach a workshop, I plan what I will do that is different. I consider what I have learned from teaching my last class.  How can I teach better?

We come with high expectations into a workshop, everyone looking for something from it.  Some might hope to find their artistic voices.  Some want to come and learn a fun new technique.   My own sense is that people come because they want to move somewhere else in their painting.  Many want the inspiration to 'get back at it' if they have stopped making art for a while.  Some want to break through to new places in their work.  I believe  we all want  to grow.  We all want to 'change'.

I have only been teaching for a year, and although I bring nearly 30 years of painting experience with me, I feel like I am walking on new ground each time I teach.  I am loving the experience. It pushes me to explain about colour and design, principles  that have become second nature to me.  I find myself constantly reading with the view to teaching what I learn, rereading  colour theory and the elements of design so I can more easily explain them, so I can be a better teacher.  Each time I go into a workshop to teach, I feel that same anticipation, "Can I do this", "Can I give them what they are looking for"?

For me, the main tool I use in  teaching and in encouraging students to move through blocks and fears, is encouraging play, creating a safe place where freedom can play unbounded.  This method of working with cold wax medium and oil, using a dough scraper to move the paint, is a completely freeing experience in itself.  Giving up fine detailed brushwork and moving into wide sweeping strokes  loosens up the body and the spirit.

Stuart Brown, M.D., author of "Play",  says that "play is anything but trivial.  It is a basic biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition.  When we play we are open to possibility and the sparks of new insights.  Play-defined as any kind of purposeless, all-consuming, restorative activity-the is single most significant factor in determining our success and happiness."
So let the play begin……….