I’m happy to say that fall workshop series offered by papermaker friend Val Bembenek and I has gotten off to a successful start. So far, I’ve taught a Drawing Intensive and a Design & Composition workshop. Val has taught several papermaking workshops, one on using denim and the other on using vegetable fibers. Lucky for us, I get to take Val’s workshops and she gets to take mine. You can check out the rest of our fall offerings by clicking on the workshop button, above.

It is fun and gratifying to have people in my studio working away, delightful to not need to give out grades, and rewarding to work with students who are curious, ready to learn and courageous enough to try something new.

We have had participants who know nothing at all about art and we’ve had students who are quite sophisticated. I’ve been studying and making art for so long, it’s great to take the opportunity to review and figure out how to create a learning sequence that helps to demystify art processes for others. Each time I do this, I learn something new, deepening my own understanding. So far, both beginners and more advanced students have walked away excited and energized by what they’ve learned.

Schematic for the elements of art and principles of design

The principles of design, left, and the elements of art, right, joined by a maze of string

This is what greeted my Design and Composition students last week. Kind of scary looking, right? The thing about making any kind of art is that there are many possibilities and choices as one conceives of, begins and completes any project. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that one simply doesn’t start at all. This schematic shows just a few of the choices an artist has in designing and creating a piece of art. The benefit of taking a workshop like Design and Composition is that only one principle of design at a time is considered. Through various exercises, the students begin to get an understanding of how that particular principle of design works in isolation, but also how it relates to the various elements of art. Eventually it becomes second nature and not a stumbling block to creation.

When I start a new painting, it’s not like I sit around and think about how I’m going to balance the painting or what kind of variety I’m going to put into it or whether I’m going to use a lot of value or not. Or any of the other stuff listed above. But I do know what they all do, and this is a background of information and experience that floats around and influences my approach. I’m guessing it’s not unlike math, where you need the basic structure to build upon as you get into more and more complex stuff.

The group is looking at and admiring the results of "The Game"

Part of every learning experience is looking at and discussing the work (always in a nice way.) Here we're looking at the results of "The Game"


And here are “The Game” results. A group effort, lots of fun, and a great way to experience how to use design concepts.

The game designs

"The Game", a cooperative effort by workshop students

You, too, can find out what “The Game” is all about. I lifted the idea from Design & Composition, by Nathan Goldstein. Or better than ordering the book, take the workshop!