Thursday, February 1, 2024

Launching my first online Study Day


Welcome February and all that this month may hold. January was a whirlwind. As I type this blog post, my mind is overflowing with thoughts and ideas as I wrap up a very robust teaching month and get ready to transition to new classes. As an instructor, I am perpetually studying, researching and figuring out ways to relay techniques to my students. There is always so much to learn. Several of my students have reached out to me over the past few months asking me how to study. The question itself is difficult to answer as we all respond to different methods. For some, reading books is the best way to engage with a subject and truly learn.
Others study through observation, while others prefer a slow and cumulative approach to study. I tend to study through immersive and extractive approaches. I will take a deep dive into the subject and truly observe it. I try to summarize what I am seeing. I spend long and quiet hours in observation before I put pen, pencil or brush to paper. If we want our hand to do something, we must first know what we want to achieve. The process takes time and cannot be rushed.

There is no substitute for observation or immersion in the subject. The extractive method takes the key elements that you have observed and puts them into practice. The difficulty for most students is that they will default to the practice of copying, rather than learning how to merge the things they like with their own ideas. This is the hardest part of study. Learning how to observe and extract without copying. Calligraphers are often trained to copy.There is a place for that as we start out. But as I study, I try to extract the nuances of what I am seeing and infuse it with my own heart and soul. This is so difficult to explain but this is the foundation of my study method. We also must learn how to put our study into context. Rather than being in perpetual practice mode, it is best to jump into creative mode in my opinion. This is where growth can truly been seen.  For years, I have been taking small time outs, or Study Days to enhance my skills. On March 16th, I will be sharing this for the first time. This is a very different online experience.  The March Hare Study Day will share my favourite study method with a very small group of students. Our special focus will be painting a white rabbit which is near and dear to my heart, especially for Spring. You can read more about it on my website. 

 This will be a real time work along day with me on Zoom. I don't have to rush, and I can talk to a small group of students and we can interact as we work together. My hope with this class is that students will break through that intimidation barrier of creating artwork and will just get on with it. These study days have been part of my regular practice for nearly 20 years and there is a special philosophy behind them. They are game changers no matter what you end up creating on the paper. I am really excited about this first Study Day and if all goes well, I will offer another seasonal opportunity in November. Registration is now open on my website and the spaces are very limited. I want this to be a quiet and intimate experience. I still have other class opportunities coming up which explore more study methods.

The Flights of Fancy course 2024 is longer term, intensive way to study. You will be dedicating nearly half a year of study, but there is distinct growth that can happen with this investment of time and practice. The students of 2023 had a lot of work to do, but those who did the work and took the plunge, made vast improvements.It was really quite remarkable and I am still hearing from the class of 2023 and watching their work blossom. This is a slow study program and utilizes both immersion and extractive methods. If you are interested in joining us for the 2024 year, I will be happy to accompany you on this journey. 

I am working on preparing the course demonstrations now for this new group of students.  Currently, I am working on a Fox to add to my menagerie of carousel animals. The course curriculum will be very close to the 2023 program but all of my demonstrations will be unique to the class of 2024. 

 Finally, there are the online class experiences that have been such a blessing since the pandemic years. Online classes that are presented over a few hours are meant to be digested after the class. It is almost impossible to work along with the instructor and create the same project. But the benefit of the recordings allows the student to go over that project on their own. Once again, the student must do the work rather than just observe. If you want to join the Belles Nouvelles or Spencerian Whispers classes at Ardington, there will be time for you to practice and get feedback for your work.Ardington keeps the class numbers very small and there is an atmosphere that is most welcome for any skill level. It has been a joy to present classes through Ardington and I truly feel like I am part of a family and building a sense of community. 

Belles Nouvelles will show you how I find the nuances of these special decorative letters  The letters are influenced by  antique Toile fabrics and based on the Art Nouveau style.. I will share the colour palette and the distinctions as I extract from other beautiful  Parisienne influences. Beyond the finished product, the classes are glimpse into my extractive study method. 

 Spencerian Whispers is not your regular Spencerian Script class. I work with a straight holder and my script has more expressively rounded forms than the norm. We will be chasing beauty rather than adhering to a system of penmanship.

Once again, the script itself if the product of study, immersion and extracting what I like, discarding what I don't like. Your Spencerian Script should be gentle and delicate while still bouncing with life. It will be a delight to dedicate some time to this whispering script.

 The use of books and extensive study has lead to a collaborative class is coming up with Martin Beek at Ardington with the Borders of William Morris. This is now my second straight year of immersive study into the life and work of William Morris and I am just skimming the surface of research.

Morris is an artist like no other and I am particularly struck with his dedicated work ethic. Currently I am reading about how many failures he had with his gesso gilding experiments. But his failures never stopped him from further experiment. It is fascinating. This presentation at Ardington will be presented in two sessions. We will have the benefit of hearing two different lectures from Martin and then the practical demonstration sessions will include the Indigo painting style of William Morris and his beautiful borders.I have been especially influenced by his birds, thistles and roses as I prepare for this class.

  The life of an artist and instructor is never dull. We are constantly working and constantly evolving. We go through dry spells, fatigue and failure all the time. But the passion for the art form propels us ever forward. To work with our hands is one of life's greatest joys and blessings. To be able to share the love of this work is such a privilege for me. Thank you for reading through so much on this blog post. I always want to share the upcoming study opportunities with you, whether or not you ever take a class. Study and sharing are both intrinsic to teaching. I am a perpetual student as I maintain my passion for this art form. Have a beautiful month dear friends. I hope you find so much joy with the work of your hands. Dust off some books that are on your shelf and see if there is inspiration hiding in the pages. Happy February. 

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