• Tuesday, October 03, 2017 •
I have seen it happen over and over again – the deep connections made when artists “retreat” from the demands of daily existence to a place of natural beauty and serenity. From the first gathering – the opening reception - artists find commonalities and meaningful exchange. A thread begins to weave through what is forming as a “community” of artists. We all come with different expectations, that soon to melt away, and pure joy instead takes root. How does this transformation begin to take place so quickly, I ask? Through the years of organizing and facilitating artist retreats with workshops or open studio, I believe I have some idea.
Today’s culture is a steady diet of stress; our demanding jobs, our over connectedness to technology, the sheer weight of keeping up with emails alone, add to this short list the constant borage of negative news assaulting us wherever we go - even when we simply want to read a book while waiting for some appointment. We starve for solace, peace and a measure of playfulness.
During the Retreats, I offer morning mindfulness sessions, that begin and end with a poem selected for that day. On the first morning, after everyone has had a night to sleep in a cabin without internet or cell service and has awakened to the sound of the breeze rustling though the leaves, or the sound of Canadian Geese calling in their flight over the lake, I always read the following poem by Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
We all get it and it helps us to sink into the blessing of time set apart to be creative, to reflect, to smile and laugh, to be at peace.
If you would like to share in this experience, there is an upcoming Retreat at Beautiful Lake Logan Conference Center, Canton, North Carolina, October 25 - 30 - workshop with Alice Ballard and Open Studio - spaces are still open, (click here for all the detais)
• Thursday, August 03, 2017 •
Lisa Pressman and I recently had a conversation about the idea of
“Personal Language” in one’s art.
Below are questions and answers about this topic.
Lisa Pressman teaching in Taos, NM
Norma - Your upcoming workshop, September 8 - 10 in Snow Hill, Maryland, is titled “Exploring Personal Language through Mixed Media.” How would you define your personal language?
Lisa - My visual language has been developing since I was in high school and constantly doodling. Those doodles were boxes in boxes that became structures including doors, windows and portals. These still appear in my work both as marks and as image.
Norma - Is there a point where you began to recognize your own language in your work?
Lisa - I didn’t really name it for a long while. “Personal language” was not a buzz word when I went to graduate school. Recently, while I was making a power point with all my work, my language became clear. Like learning any language—it takes time, practice and work to be fluent.
Norma - A three-day workshop is condensed and intensive. What can happen in three days for students in the pursuit of finding their own visual vocabulary? And as the facilitator of this goal, what happens as the days unfold?
Lisa - Three days is short but by placing the emphasis on experimentation, quick exercises and thinking about inspirations, connections happen. The unfolding starts with excitement and fun, sometimes turns into frustration and then the understanding comes: either of the material, or personal image or both.
Norma - You live close enough to NYC that you can frequent galleries and museums and have the opportunity to see lots of great art. Can you name a few artists whose work is important for students to look at especially—as examples of unique personal language?
Lisa - Anselm Keifer, Brenda Goodman, Amy Sillman, Mark Bradford, William Kendridge, Pat Steir, Vija Celmins, Julie Mehretu are just a few that come to mind.
Norma - After teaching a 3-day workshop, what do you think students will be taking with them back to the studio. Students go home with a different idea of how to move paint and how to think about the painting process.
Lisa - Students go home with a different idea of how to move paint and how to think about the painting process. I try to stress ideas of freedom, of not rushing a painting, and playfulness. Works done in the workshop often become springboards for a new series!!
Norma Hendrix, Director, Cullowhee Mountain Arts
• Wednesday, July 26, 2017 •
It's always stimulating for me to connect two artists who will teach workshops at the same event. I enjoy putting together artists that share a common thread; in their work, their philosophy of teaching, their subjects or with their materials they use. In planning the upcoming October 25 - 30 Lake Logan Workshops-Retreat with Ceramic Artist, Alice Ballard and Painter, Janice Mason Steeves, we have planned some collaborative sessions when both teacher's classes will learn together from these master artists. Lake Logan is such a choice location for these two artists to teach together. They each consider nature and place in their personal work as you will read in their dialogue below
Janice Mason Steeves in her Studio
JANICE: I'm looking forward to teaching a workshop at Lake Logan in North Carolina from October 25th-30th alongside Alice Ballard. Alice is a ceramic sculptor. You can see her work here: http://aliceballard.com.
Although we are teaching separate workshops, we will work together for part of each day, so students will have some experience with both teachers. Our workshops are called: Considering the Natural World as Source.
Alice, I'd like you to tell me a little about your work and how you teach.
Alice Ballard in her Studio
ALICE: I am so excited to be working along side Janice Mason Steeves. You can see Janice’s work here: http://www.janicemasonsteeves.com Not only do I see wonderful opportunities to share what I will be teaching to her class but I get to be a student as well, as I learn about how Janice works with cold wax and oils along with the source of her ideas and inspiration! This is the richest of all ways to teach and to learn.
In answer to Janice’s question I would say my work is a reflection of my relationship with natural forms. These forms come to me on walks in my garden, hikes, the grocery store or appear as gifts from friends who share my fascination with the beauty inherent in Nature’s abundant variety of forms. It is often the metamorphosis of nature’s forms, as they change from season to season, that attracts me. I am endlessly drawn to that universal world in which differing life forms share similar qualities.
Alice Ballard - Ceramic Wall Pod
As for my teaching style, I encourage everyone to take a deep breath, slow down, to be “open” to the possibilities... Creating art should be a joyful and fun experience or process, an experience which is all about learning to work with your medium and to open your senses to all the possibilities without fear of taking a chance...It is the process after all that is at the heart of art making that drives our ideas forward...
Janice, my question to you is how you have come to choose cold wax on oils as your avenue for self-expression?
Janice Mason Steeves - Painting, Oil-Cold Wax Medium
JANICE: I came to cold wax medium at the same time I was moving into abstraction. I had been painting representationally for 25 years, and felt my work needed to change. I found Rebecca Crowell’s work in cold wax and oil in Santa Fe and contacted her about taking a workshop with her. She had just started teaching at that point. I was delighted to meet her and to take her workshop. The medium spurred me into working abstractly, especially because the main tool Rebecca used was a 6” bowl scraper, which meant making large shapes. The only trouble was that I had no idea how to paint abstractly. So, I bought books on the foundations of art and design, and gradually taught myself. I developed a workshop to help students learn about the structure of abstract painting much more quickly than I did. So I teach the fundamentals of abstraction, along with techniques of cold wax painting.
I also am influenced by the world around us, particularly landscape, and especially light. I try to incorporate that influence into my work in an abstract manner. I agree with you Alice that creating art should be a joyful experience and I encourage play. That’s how I begin each new series, by playing, trying out new ideas, experimenting.
Reflection - Lake Logan, NC
For the joint sessions in our workshops, I’ll begin each morning with a short contemplative coming together. Then I'll ask students to sit outside for 20 minutes, quietly and separately, coming in at the end to do 4 quick, small paintings in oil and cold wax. At the end of the week, we’ll gather as a group to discuss the questions I ask the students to contemplate as they sit outside, and to look at the resulting work.
Tell us how you’ll teach your joint sessions, Alice?
ALICE: My plan for our combined classes is to close each day with participants making a small meditation bowl in clay. The meditation bowls will be made by pinching a small amount of clay into a form. The form the clay would take on would be in response to something meaningful encountered during the course of each day…...
JANICE: I'm very much looking forward to working with you Alice. I think this is a very exciting idea. I love the idea of working collaboratively for part of each day.
To find out more information about these workshops and to register, contact: