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thoughts on teaching, from greeceJerry McLaughlin and I have been teaching a two-week cold wax workshop since early May at Skopleos Foundation for the Arts on the Grecian island of Skopelos. As I write this, the class is almost finished. Tomorrow is a wrap-up session to review the work that's been done, and an open house and party for us and for the community. Then about half the class will stay one more day for some additional work time. After that Jerry and I will have the last day to unwind here, and then I'll be staying in Athens for a few days on my own. It is my first time in Greece, and hopefully not my last.
Skopelos Foundation for the Arts
We have a varied group of students in the class, with artists from eight different countries, and ranging from those at beginning stages of their work with cold wax to more advanced and professional. Through these varying differences, they've come together as an enjoyable and motivated group-- curious, serious about their work, and open to exploring new ideas. A challenging aspect for Jerry and myself is that this workshop is twice the length of a normal "long" workshop, and it's a large group of 16 students. Moving from one to another throughout the day, making a sincere effort to listen to and connect with each person, and attempting to understand their concerns and offer appropriate solutions means that we're constantly calling on the resources acquired in our teaching experience.
This aspect of teaching goes way beyond the preparation of demos, materials, presentations, discussions, and class agenda. It requires insightful, in-the-moment responses that originate in the eye, the heart and the intellect of the instructor. It takes not only a firm understanding of what makes a good painting, but a personal approach of flexibility and compassion, and an analytical mind that can explain (or try to explain) difficult aspects of abstract work. When all of this comes together in interactions with a student, it's very rewarding. But frankly, teaching can also be exhausting, and this has never been more obvious to me than now, at the end of this long and intense session on Skopelos. Yet in the big picture, Jerry and I also feel huge gratitude for the students who allowed us into their creative lives in such an open and trusting way, and for the opportunity to be here teaching them.
view from the Foundation
Here, of course, means the spectacular setting of the Foundation, the beautiful town of Skopelos, and its natural surroundings. All day as we work, the sea and sky outside change in color and texture, and when we have some free time we've been able to explore the area. The village is set into a steep hillside (many, many stairs to climb every day!) beside a harbor, and is full of narrow, winding streets, whitewashed buildings with colorful shutters and doors, lemon trees, many beautiful flowering plants, lots of cats, and little shops and restaurants. The aged surfaces that so many of us love are everywhere. It's a place of wonderfully friendly people, great food and wine, and stunning natural beauty. Jerry and I are staying in a small pansion, where the kind host delivers fresh breakfast pastries every morning with a cheerful "kaliméra!" We've spent many evenings on the balcony outside my room that overlooks the whole glorious scene. Yes, life is good!