It’s the things that don’t make sense, or that I don’t understand that sit in the forefront of my brain the longest. Once I “get it”, that information settles in with the rest of the data; although I hesitate to call all that resides in my head data. Truly, it goes back to one of my earliest memories, that would be the mouse that use to leave my brother and I little gifts. Yes, you read that correctly. Of course it was Grandpa Mike that was leaving them, but he told us to reach into the whole at the bottom of the stairs in his house, to see what the mouse had brought us. There was always a little something for each of us from the 5 & 10 (remember those?). It was a memory I treasured but the reality came as an adult when Aunt Mary explained the hole was a result of home improvement project left unfinished, and it was Grandpa Mike who left the toys. Still the idea, while wonderful, still was puzzling even as a child of 4 or five, could a mouse really have left those toys?
So for the last 8 years I have been taking art classes and workshops. My knowledge base previous to that was a limited amount of college courses and whatever information I could glean from books and experience. Some classes are pretty straight forward while others start dipping into the vocabulary of art and artists. That’s where the trouble starts. I believe that’s true for a lot of occupations. Just think, computer lingo. Understanding the vocabulary is not just knowing the definition of such words but when you find yourslef using them. That’s the first step to truly understanding, because you find no other words really work as well and it becomes an ah ha moment.
Then you get into the more you learn, the more you learn what you don’t know. It can be sort of a moment of truth for the faint of heart. Learning how to paint well is work. That’s right, I said it out loud, it’s work. Not like digging ditches or mining coal, although hauling your gear can sometimes feel like that, but the combination of learning color theory, perspective, materials, proportions and drawing in general along with hours and hours of practice, well you get the idea. Just because you love your work, doesn’t mean it’s not work. The real challenge to measuring your competence is history, I mean the work that fills museums around the world and if you really want to beat yourself up, take a gander at the Sistine Chapel.
Then there’s the getting back to reality part. That scary blank canvas part that gradually becomes less scary. The point at which all those classes and all those hours of practice come together. That’s one of the reasons why I traveled so far for this workshop. My style of painting took a dramatic uptick the last time I took a workshop with Lois Griffel. More firmly establishing my style with the person who had lead me down this road seemed to be the only logical step. That’s not to say I haven’t worked on other skills with other instructors, but the person with whom I most closely align my style with, has to be Lois. I can’t thank her enough for her generosity of information and support. Her methods of teaching are excellent. She is a student of Henry Hensche, who was a student of Charles Hawthorne, who studied under Charles Merit Chase, founder of Parson’s School of design and one of the first American Impressionists who studied in Europe. Such an educational lineage is one I am thrilled to follow.