Day Three of Art and Soul - Hampton
Day Three and I'm quite firmly in the routine of this whole art camp thing by now. Up for breakfast, scramble to find whatever corner of my luggage all the items that I need for the day's class have fallen into, chase into class and grab a chair, WHEW...
Vintage Metal Deck with Leighanna Light
Transform ordinary metal into fabulous thick, chunky beautifully embellished decks of cards. Each card will represent a meaningful word or theme which will be explored in text on the back, and upon completion they will be bound together with wire and danglies. Learn several surface altering techniques using patinas, rust, gesso, and wax...(bring Modern Options Patina)
So a few days before I left, I was raiding my local Joann Crafts for Modern Options Patina. I am pretty well versed in the exact placement of every item in every row of their store, so after devoting a good 20 minutes to finding a pile of fake rust and striking out, I knew this was not the place to go. (Must be at other craft store...) This theory was supported by the inquiry of the cash register chick, "Did you find everything you needed?"
Note: if a cashier asks you if you've found everything you need - just tell them yes, it saves 30 seconds of babbling inquiry. They don't really care, and they have no idea how to fix the issue. They are apparently just conditioned into asking you a rhetorical question. If you indicate that you haven't found what you needed, they seem universally confused and unsure as to what action to take next. So, they proceed to ring up your items and say, "Oh, well, sorry about that...Did you look in paint?"
Anyway, I made the mistake (against my better judment) of saying, "Well, no I am looking for Modern Options Patina..." Was greeted by blank stare. (me) "It's a two part surface finisher, makes objects look like rusty metal..." (sales person) "Well, can't you just leave whatever it is in the yard for a couple months?" (me: "That will not produce rust by Wednesday!") But I digress...
Leighanna's class quickly grabbed the metal "decks", sandpaper (the worst part, you have to sand everything to get proper adhesion), and were busily pounding away with hammers and dapping blocks and daubing our patinas in new and excitingly rusty ways. (Michaels Crafts carries it, by the way) Class was a smorgasbord of different techniques to try - venetian plaster, stamping with gesso, alcohol inks, paint, tissue paper, and after about four hours, lovely rust! Even in places I didn't realize could get rusty, such as on the drip paper I put beneath my "rust." Lovely effect, by the way!
I have to admit, by afternoon I was getting a little tired. I'm not sure if everyone experiences this, but the creative muscle was shaking a bit from all this flexing. Our class was really great, and I had wonderful table mates, but I felt the need to eat lunch by myself in the empty class room. Batteries were starting to sputter just a little. Art and Soul learning - don't overschedule yourself. Although the idea of studying with all the Big Names at one time sounds fantastic in your studio at home - I really suggest you don't try to push yourself to day and night activities. It's exhausting! Also, there is so much to take in, so much color and funky stuff, so much total creativity - it just gets physically and emotionally overwhelming after a while. A while, for me, was three days.
I kind of got my second wind after lunch, and I wound up with a good start on the deck, but I must confess it is still a UFO (unfinished object). It's on my list of things to do. Leighanna's sample decks, however are really amazing, and I truly strive to be able to embellish as she does one of these days. Our class had a lot of esprit de corps, and I think we all really enjoyed meeting and supporting each other creatively.
Skip ahead - early dinner - more drinks at happy hour - to the potential promise of parting with unseemly amounts of cash at Vendor Night. I met up the New Zealand gals and hit the convention center with a hundred bucks to spend. Word to the wise - don't get cash advances on your credit card; turns out your trusty credit card company penalises you to the tune of $10 an advance - damn you, Chase Visa! I was quite determined that I wouldn't spend past my hundred. I have the ability to lie to myself quite convincingly. What a crush of people! All the big names are at their booths, with lovely bounty of their creativity for sale. Oh my - the good news was that the truly important stuff was way beyond my budget, but some of the artists had things in the $30-ish range, and that's about where I am. So, one Jane Ann Wynn necklace, a Kerin Gale pendant, a Sally Jean Alexander soldered goodie, and some lovely bits of old sari fabric strips, paint, bits and bobs later - I managed to make it out with only minor credit card damage and quite a few new trinkets to finger covetously. I managed to avoid buying a mini-theater, and my friend from NZ bought the vintage mortician's document box so I didn't have to. We get buy with a little help from our friends.
Me with Sally Jean, the Soldering Queen
Day Four - Paint, paint, paint....
The toughest class yet (though still much better than being at work) that I'd scheduled myself. Adventures in Color, with Claudine Hellmuth. This was a "real art school" type class, in which we mixed colors of paint, mastered the color wheel, and tossed around words like "value", "tone" and "hue" with impunity. Sure enough, within a couple of hours, we were mixing up various shades of red, and green, and getting to match fairly close to the color chips we were given, and starting to branch out on our own with selecting colors and duplicating them. As Claudine put it, "paint matching for the recession!" You too only need red, blue, and yellow paint to make pretty much any color, and I definitely want to practice this new skill some more - I'll put it on the to do list, right after that UFO from the previous day. She definitely made it a lot more fun than my dreaded junior high school art teacher, and I felt like I got at least a glimpse into why people could get into heated arguments of which is a bluer blue, technically speaking.
Me with the spectacularly glam Claudine Hellmuth
By now, though, my energy level was really flagging, and no reflection on Claudine (who is a sweetie!) but I was ready to be done and outta there by the last hour of class. I spent my lunch outside the convention center lying in the sun next to a fountain and not speaking to anyone. I think my nerves had been though every emotion that it's about possible to feel - I was so happy, but so wrung out that I remember bursting in tears at some point and thinking, "But I'm happy!!!" What can I say, it's a life experience. Next time, though, I'm going to take it a lot more easy.
After class I went for a swim in the Embassy Suites pool, fortified myself with one more glass of wine for the road, and went to my last class, Fab Art Boxes with my my roommate - Traci Bunkers. By now, I think most of the conference attendees were about where I was. Creatively satiated and perhaps ready to sit back and put it all into perspective. I had a sense of "I'm ready for this to be done, but at the same time, I'm already missing it and all my new friends..." I decided to just take it very easy and just do whatever with my box in the class and if I didn't finish, if I didn't do a great project, well, hell with it.
May I say I got so much technique tips from this class! Traci is a very laid back, quiet teacher and I think was the perfect person to end the week with. This was not a hard, intellectual stretch - we just started painting and texturing our cigar boxes, and laying on layer after layer of papers and stamps and paint - I felt like I was back home in my studio except with a great art journaler by my side to help and advise. I sat with one of my New Zealand buddies and we just relaxed and did whatever, and it was really great. We went to the hotel lobby and had the last huzzah of the event - just curled up in the big armchairs and drinking gin and tonic and just laughing and relaxing and realizing that it was all over. Other attendees came over and joined us, and it was a laid back, comfortable old velvet kind of party in the lobby. The richness of the time we had all shared, the laughter, the feeling of sisterhood and of finding your tribe. We all reflected on it, and we knew that it was time to transition back to the "real world" but we didn't quite want to let it all go, now that it was done. Not yet....
Two months later - Fab Art box is still not finished, in fact, it contains the bits and pieces from all my other UFO projects from Art and Soul, but one of these days I'm going to finish it. Friends and I went our separate ways, some I've been in contact with since, life has gone back to normal. Most of the attendees have told me they haven't really done too much creatively since, but they're just getting ready to....and that's why I think in the end that I enjoy this so much. It's all part of a bigger circle of life and art and love and there are no time limits on that. It's not about the hours, it's about the moments of transcendent happiness and quiet satisfaction that comes from expressing your art, and by extension your soul.
Thank you all Art and Soul sisters, tribe members, gentle readers - I've enjoyed getting to share my tale with you, and I strongly encourage you to go if you at all can. Invest in yourself, and take your art seriously but lightly. And bring an apron - you never know how many places gesso can get to if shaken without the cap on...