Week one of my summer program is a bit of a blur — a stroke of pigment that slowly fades across the page. It’s a jumble of new supplies, sitting down in one attitude much longer than I’m accustomed to, raising my hand, erasing, reworking, sweatily hauling my bodyweight in art material up and down the steepest hills in town, experimenting, trying again and again. There is so much I don’t know, so much to learn. About tube watercolors, figure drawing, the quality of paper, my expectations, habits to keep, tendencies and attitudes to abandon or adjust.
My instructor has merry eyes and a knowledge of the paint that hearkens to cooking without a recipe — expert and second nature. Steeping in that expertise makes the eight hours of studio time a day fly by as if the day is set to fast forward. The class itself is made up of 15 students and only three of us are working professionals — funnily enough, all teachers. For a continuing ed class, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be surrounded by current art college kids, but here we are.
Unlike my week long intensive last summer, which ended with a book dummy, this class is comprised of a variety of assignments that reflect jobs you could have as a children’s illustrator. The first two days in the studio, we focused on poetry. The assignment: choose a pair of poems with similar themes and paint a two-page spread that unites them. I chose a wintery theme, blending the idea of frosty breath being like dragon smoke and a poem about all the fun things you could do over the course of a snow day. In the end, I have two bundled up kids building a snow dragon.
All three characters came alive for me on the page, and I found myself getting more attached to them with every snowflake in their hair or twig for an eyelash. I hope I did them justice. Tomorrow morning will start with a critique of everyone’s final product. Wake up and smell the coffee!
But for now, the artist’s tape has been carefully peeled off the page and it’s high time to celebrate at a clam shack.
“Just bravely having a going at it with a good spirit is the only way you can learn.” Well said, Deborah Frances White, very well said indeed.