The beginning of the year is a good time to take stock, rethink, and maybe consider new directions. This year I promised myself a month of experimentation and explorations with no real demand of producing or finish work. I started by enrolling in "Developing sketchbooks", an online workshop with Dionne Swift, a UK-based textile artist. I have never kept a sketchbook. I have various notebooks for jotting down ideas and make rough, rudimentary sketches of concepts. But sketchbooks and their pristine white pages waiting to be filled have always terrified me. I am mediocre at drawing, and my perfectionist self always get in the way whenever I try. So I figured this class would either push me over the edge or push me in a new direction. I will not divulge all the details of the class, but Dionne had some great ideas for overcoming fears like mine.
First she encouraged us to use a sketchbook with removable/replacable pages and to work on the pages outside of the book itself. Suddenly there is a lot of freedom, including the option to not put the page back into the book if it is not pleasing. It also allows you to change the order of the pages and to design sequences, add text etc. The book can constantly be evolving. Her other great suggestion was to "mess up" the pages before the actual sketching begins—add color wash, dip in dyes, stamp, cover with pastels, or use colored sheets of paper. No more white pages staring back at you...
So there will be sketchbooks in my future - maybe not in the traditional sense of a drawing a day or elaborate studies, but more as a place to gather ideas and push techniques that I want to use. I have only taken a few online classes in the past, and this one clearly exceeded my expectations. Dionne was very engaged with the group and there was great interaction between the participants - much like a real life workshop would be. I highly recommend it. If you are interested check out Dionne's online classroom for future offerings. She is also a very talented artist, creating beautiful drawn and thread painted landscapes among other work.
This past month I also had the opportunity to work with Liz Peak, an extraordinary monotype and etching artist from Arlington, Virginia who recently moved to Charlottesville. Patiently she walked me through the ins and outs of the etching press, and guided me through the creation of my first monotypes. She introduced me to etching, taught me how to incorporate plants with the monoprints, all while we discussed art, artists and processes. It was a wonderful and eye opening experience, and I am so grateful. I will continue to study with Liz, and to use the press in her studio.
As an artist it is easy to get stuck in a rut - whether it is a preferred process, motif, or color range. I have never been good at creating spontaneous art on the spot, but both of these learning experiences has encouraged me to jump right in and to be less concerned about the outcome. It is quite exhilarating.