Monday, May 14, 2012

Teaching Cold Wax and Oil Workshops in Western Canada

I've just returned from a full month away.  I've been teaching workshops in cold wax medium and oil in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Salmon Arm, BC, putting into practice all that I've learned this long winter when I was unable to paint because of my broken wrist.  I've learned lessons on analyzing paintings and teaching how to see and formulate a vocabulary to begin to talk about art.

There seems to be a pattern in the workshops. Sometime during the first day, Chaos descends.  At least for most people.  I don't know how it happens, but I see it more regularly the longer I teach.  Usually she lands sometime in the first afternoon.  People who are used to making things..paintings or sculptures, who normally can find a way to use materials to create, at least, the beginning of something, seem to lose their way.  They become frustrated with themselves, often ending up with thick muddy textures.  I suggest they paint quickly and work on many panels at once, so that none of the panels becomes too important.  However, the mad lady, Chaos still seems to descend.

The American Psychologist Carl Rogers said that, "Transformation occurs when we lose our way and find a new way to return".

On the morning of the second day, I try to have a short talk about Chaos (and transformation) and how to welcome her as a teacher--someone who takes you into a frustrating place and shakes you about, turning all your thoughts and ideas upside down.  You have to find the way out on your own.  I can help to some extent, but the joy (in the end) comes from finding your own way out. Sometimes it happens during the workshop, but often it doesn't happen until you get home and do some serious work.

Deborah Bakos, one of the artists in my Vancouver workshop writes a blog for the Vancouver Sun.   She wrote a fabulous article about her experience of chaos and process in our painting class last week. You can read it here:

"You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star".  Friedrich Nietzsche

Winnipeg class

Vancouver class

Salmon Arm Class


  1. suzanne du plooyMay 14, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    So enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and producing work outside of my usual repertoire. Thanks, Janice, for exposing me to this amazing new medium and affirming that we should embrace change and not be threatened by it. You encourage each student individually . One of the best features of the workshop was the critiques, first by the group, then by you. I learnt a lot from the opinions of fellow artists and also about the process of looking and seeing.
    Many thanks from Winnipeg! Suzanne du Plooy!

  2. Thanks Suzanne for these wonderful comments. I so much enjoyed meeting you.

  3. It is so wise of you to speak about Chaos in this way, as a presence to be welcomed. This is deep learning--way beyond technique-- into the realm of real creative growth. Really valuable that you share these kind of insights with your students.

  4. Rebecca, you're the best! I so much appreciate your kind words and encouragement.

  5. Hello! Have you ever thought of coming North to the Yukon, or more specifically, Dawson City... to teach a workshop? We are small but with a burgeoning art community, your class would be very welcome here!
    Have a look at just for fun, we have a quirky little town loaded with artists, musicians etc...I'm being completely selfish right now, as I very much want to learn more about cold wax and oils. Shelley Hakonson.