thoughts about 2016
I'm home again after an exceptionally fine week of teaching at Cullowhee Mountain Arts i
n North Carolina. I love this program, guided by the vision and superb management skills of its director, Norma Hendrix. The facility on the campus of Western Carolina University is top notch, and one of the best aspects of the program is that several classes run concurrently during the week. That means all the students and instructors have the opportunity to meet and learn what the others are up to. I taught next door to Lisa Pressman,
and enjoyed some collaborative painting and sharing of info between classes. Here, Lisa and I work together on two paintings, passing them back and forth on command from a student we designated to call time. Fast-paced and challenging! (sorry, I don't know whom to credit for this photo...cameras were clicking around the room, and this one made the rounds on facebook.)
The group of artists who came to the advanced cold wax workshop I taught were all very focused, perceptive, and open-minded in their work, including those with comparatively less experience. They were a delight to work with in every way. Lots of good conversations, laughter, and hours of painting.
And then, when it was all over, I set out for the drive home, already tired from the week of teaching. The trip was over 1000 miles through heat, road construction and highways clogged with summer vacationers. To add to the discomfort, the air conditioning in my old Subaru petered out during the trip, and the hotel I'd booked for an overnight stay on the way home was far less wonderful than its website (and price) led me to expect. I wish I'd have flown--and I will next time-- but flying can be exhausting too. I arrived home yesterday around 4pm, too wrung out to do much except watch television for the remainder of the day (very unusual behavior for me.) I know from past experience that it will take me several days to find my energy again.
In the meantime, I'll attempt to take it easy, but my to-do list will be on my mind-- I leave for my Italy workshop in just over two weeks. After that, I teach in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, then I go back to North Carolina, and will finish out the year with two workshops in Ireland. In all of 2015, I'll have made three trips to Europe, two to North Carolina, one to Ontario, one to Taos, NM and one to Tucson, AZ, plus several more local road trips to workshops and galleries in my area. Travel is enriching and exciting, and going overseas fulfills a long-time dream to see more of the world.
And yet...there are concerns that have come up repeatedly in the past few months of this very busy year. How can I find time for rest and relaxation, along with creative rejuvenation and time for my own painting? How can I keep from becoming overly tired and losing my art mojo? These are questions that many busy artists face, as various aspects of life pull us from our quiet, creative centers. Though I've resisted this issue for years, I've gradually come to understand the risk of becoming depleted, physically and artistically if I don't take more time for myself.
I've noticed the difference I feel when I do give myself more "me" time--for example, how important the silence and low stress environment was during my recent residency in northern Sweden. I love residencies for this reason--drinking in that quiet, centered time like cold water when I'm parched. I can also find this quiet, inner place when I'm at home, in my garden, on walks, and when I'm in my own studio.
Thinking about all of this, I've started looking more consciously for ways to give myself small breaks for relaxation and reflection. For example, before I left North Carolina after my workshop, I stayed on an extra night in my woodsy cabin accommodations, which I'd had little time to really enjoy due to long teaching days. I gave myself a lovely, quiet day to sit on the screen porch, write in my journal, read, take a walk. I wondered then when the last time I took a whole day off had been. Below, one of the photos I took as I walked beside a little stream that ran along the cabin property. It seems a metaphor for the flow of vital energy, which can only happen when the channel is free of excess debris.
After six years of holding up to 12 workshops annually, and with these insights on my mind, I know it's time to slow down. Not an easy decision; several times a week, I hear from new people that are eager to take class from me, or from former students hoping to return for another session. It will be a challenge not to give in and start adding on classes (please don't tempt me!) But my firm plan for 2016 is to teach only six workshops total: two with Cullowhee Mountain Arts (venues and dates TBA), two in County Mayo, Ireland in the autumn, and two at my studio (probably one in spring and one in summer.) The classes at my studio and in Ireland will be cold wax instruction for mixed levels, beginner to advanced (beginners will need to be experienced in some other type of painting.) At this time, I expect the other two workshops, the ones through Cullowhee Mountain Arts, to be aimed at advanced levels only--one for advanced painting with cold wax, and one for advanced painting in any medium, with a focus of developing personal direction in abstraction.
I'll publish full details before the end of this year, but in the meantime, if you wish to join a contact list for priority registration, you may email me
for the studio classes, or Una Forde
for the workshops in Ireland or Norma Hendrix f
or those associated with Cullowhee Mountain Arts. (Some classes will involve instructor approval and submission requirements, which have not yet been worked out, but you can still join the contact list.) If you haven't joined my mailing list, you can do so on the contact page of my website
or on my Facebook page
. By doing so, you'll receive full details of the scheduled classes for next year.