Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Joy of Teaching

My first class EVER in Amelia Island, FL

Sean working on his boat collage

Teach? Oh no, I couldn't
If you asked me a few years ago about the potential for teaching collage art workshops, I'd probably tell you that I didn't know how to teach anyone anything. But SOMEHOW I agreed to teach a collage workshop one day when some folks emailed me from Amelia Island. My husband had always told me to say "yes" when asked to do such things, and then figure out how to do it later. So I did, I said "yes" and then I wondered,... how the hell am I going to do this?

In those days my kids were in elementary school and I had volunteered in each of their classes, every year, with the PTA Art See program where we centered a lesson and a project around a famous artist once a month. I taught K-5th grade. I also was the co-chair of the national PTA Reflections program for three years. 

"If you can teach and organize elementary kids and art programs, you can certainly teach adults who actually WANT to be there." 

True, very true. 

The Answer is Always "Yes"
So sure, I agreed to be The Amelia Island Artists Workshops Inc. FIRST visiting teacher. AND the man all the way to the right in the above photo is Sean Callahan, an amazing pet portrait and watercolor artist who emailed me prior to the class to ask me a few questions. I visited his website and then I said... WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO TEACH THIS GUY? His work is amazing, check out his website.

Sean Patrick Callahan's boat collage, which he promptly SOLD

Guess what? Sean liked the class so much he called me three years later and asked me to come here, to Key West, where I am teaching this weekend and taught last year as well. AND he invited me to show in Stone Soup Gallery on White Street. This weekend was the opening for my second solo show here.

Not only have we stayed friends, but these days I am also Sean's hairdresser

Guess What? I could get used to this
Truth be told, I really enjoyed teaching that very first class on Amelia Island. They enjoyed having me too, since they asked me to return the following two years. Sean reminded me this weekend that during the Amelia Island class, he went out at lunch time and purchased a copy of Hemingway's "Old Man of the Sea" and wove the printed pages into his boat. He said he learned a lot from me in that class (despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing) and he TELLS ME that he had no idea it was my very first workshop. I think he just wants me to remain his hairdresser, so he's being nice.

Flattery will get you everywhere.

Terrance Michael making us all eggs in the morning

Just Hanging

I have to give a shout out to Sean and his husband Terry for their AMAZING hospitality while I have been here. Despite my trying to work my way into the kitchen and do my share, Terry has been cooking almost every meal and juicing all kinds of crazy veggies for me (beats are amazingly purple when served over ice), as well as running three miles every morning at the sea wall together. Sean makes me coffee, pours me wine, drives me all over the island, and does his very best to sell my work at the gallery.

The True Joy of Teaching
I enjoy teaching workshops because it's great to be the center of attention (right?) and to have folks really interested in what I have to say about the subject I am considered an "expert" at. Truth be told, the true joy of teaching is in the people I meet, the friends I make, and continue to stay in touch with. I'm sure you can see how Sean and I have changed over the years from the first photo to now. How cool is that?

Cheryl and I having too much fun posing with my demo apple this weekend in Key West

This weekend was no exception. I met an amazing woman named Line who came here to visit Key West from Denmark and decided to take my class while she was in town. I met Leni and her husband David (soon to be first time grandparents) who drove all the way from Hollywood, FL (4 hours, people) after admiring my work in multiple galleries and stalking me online! I had two returning students, and met more locals and snow birds. There is a huge sense of community here in Key West, I've saw a lot of familiar faces at my show opening from last year. Folks here are close.

Don't Be a Stranger
"I've had some of my best conversations with strangers, she said, because they have no idea who they're dealing with." -- Brian Andreas

I love Brian Andreas because his limericks really resonate with me. I TOTALLY talk to everyone I meet without any issue, when this quote showed up in my e-mail box as my subscribed story of the day, I forwarded to everyone I knew. 

I'm outgoing and certainly not shy, I love to joke and laugh with everyone and that's what makes me a good fit for teaching. I'll tease you, make you smile and have you feeling good about yourself and your artwork. There's no pressure and no wrong answers or dumb questions. 

Watch out, I might even encourage you to run a 5K! I've had at least three students dust of their running shoes and get off their couches after listening me say, "If I can do it, anyone can." This weekend I'm teaching at the Craft Shack in my hometown of Longwood, FL. I might just be a little late though, on Saturday morning I'm running the Seasons 52 5K in Winter Park. 

Stone Soup Gallery opening reception last year

People Make All the Difference
I'm forever thankful for the people that I meet in workshops. My student and friend Maritza took my third class in Amelia Island and then brought me to Bermuda (where she lives) to teach at the Bermuda Society of the Arts. I've had students in my class from Alberta, Canada, Denmark, and even Qatar!

Maritza and Yours Truly in Amelia Island, Florida

I have a lot of return students as well. If you have taken my class and want to come back for more, I'll modify your project so that you can work at an intermediate level. This weekend we had two returning students at the gallery from last year, Gretchen and Karen both wanted more! LOL.

Chuck Seaman popped into Stone Soup this weekend to say hello, he took my class last year. I gave him some pointers on how to use fluid acrylics to color his traditional Gyotaku fish prints and he offered to make me some small fish impressions, and maybe even some plants in return. SCORE! Are you kidding? I can't wait to collage with fish impressions. Chuck's work is amazing:

Kim and Yours Truly in Traverse City, MI

Kimberly Kelly Santini the amazing painter I met online, now that's a story! We met via this blog and became fast friends. At least a year later (maybe two?) I was asked to teach in Traverse City, MI by the Arts Center there. I asked Kim, "How far is TC from you?" (I know nothing about geography and I'm too lazy to look things up) "I'll pick you up at the airport and we'll drive up together" was her immediate response. I met Kim for the first time the weekend she took my workshop. (Actually I met her for the first time a the bottom of the escalator stairs, I nearly missed her because I was wondering how the heck they suspended granite slabs from the walls of the tiny Flint airport without serious architectural challenges... Good thing she was waving a sign around) 

This August I'll be teaching with the Art Center in Traverse City again, and so will Kim -- same weekend.

And speaking of TC, I'd be remiss if I didn't say how much fun I still have with Katie, our classroom monitor and our social director for the weekend. 

Come out and Tear Paper with Me
My workshops are listed down the right hand column of my blog and also on the EVENTS tab at the top of my Facebook Fan Page, which features work in progress and photos of fun things (like my shoes, my dogs on the shelf in my studio, and an occasional dried out lizard).

If you have never visited, stop on by!

Paper Paintings Collage Artwork Facebook Fan Page
No FB account required
Just creative curiosity AND a sense of humor. 

NEW Collage Process Video!

My 14-year old put this together for me and once again she did a stellar job. Thank you Emilie for your creativity and technical expertise. I'm very lucky to be able to share my work through your video process, it's much more interesting than still photos.

Filmed and edited by Emilie Nelson.

See it on YouTube here

Monday, January 7, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond!

My husband spent his Christmas vacation 
remodeling the studio

"No one gets anywhere without help." 

That's what artist Chuck Close said in an interview I recently watched and it made me think about this blog post, which is long overdue. 

Mad Construction Skills
Nobody supports and helps me more in my art than my husband and my family. Doug Nelson spent his much needed holiday break not relaxing on the couch, but remodeling my studio. Building shelves, installing countertops, and painting things purple, he kept busy for several days straight. I could have helped by painting, but he insisted. He wanted to do the whole job for me. All I had to do was keep him company and provide a beer and some food every now and then. 

I'm only moral support and manual labor, 
I'm not allowed to measure or operate power tools

Remodeling the studio, isn't it beautiful?

I took this photo of Doug taking a photo of me, 
with my fancy iPhone camera

Behind the Lens
Doug is a professional photographer by trade, this is a talent that is very difficult not to take advantage of! Many of you have witnessed my ever changing look as a result of the many head shots he has taken of me! I am NOT an easy subject to photograph either. I am fussy, I have no idea how to pose, I squint, I am fidgety, I hate 90% of the photos, and I have partial facial paralysis on the right side of my brightly colored head due to a lost battle with Bell's Palsy over 14 years ago. I am super sensitive about this, and my husband does his very best to work around it. I think if you only ever saw the photos he takes of me, you would never know. And THAT makes me super happy. 

400,000 photos of me to get one good one

Poppies on canvas at Pier One Imports

As an artist it's important to have a photographic record of all your work, for website, for printed materials, for archiving. My needs for images go even beyond the average artist. My collage work is licensed with Lang for calendars and gift items as well as retail outlets such as Pier One Imports for canvas reproduction. All of this reproduction is done from the photos that Doug takes with meticulous accuracy. 

My riding partner

HELP! I Need Technical Support 
and can you put air in my bike tires?
Despite being a graphic artist by trade and by Monday through Wednesday, I cannot create a website. I kid you not. My husband has not only designed my Paper Paintings website, but has also set it up in a manner that I can add and subtract images from the online gallery, this I can handle, and I'm very proud of that ability.  

If you own my Collage Process DVD, Doug filmed and edited that major undertaking. He sure did. And this was NEW to him, he figured it out as he went along. Just like he figures out how to fix my computer when I mess it up, throw out my hard drive, lock up my e-mail, or crash the system.

Are you beginning to think that I am very demanding? Or high maintenance? LOL I guess I am. 

Mister Mom
When I am off teaching workshops, as I am this week in Chatanooga TN, my every helpful husband takes care of the kids and the dogs and runs the household while I am gone. That means driving to dance and swim team, cooking, cleaning, running laundry, procuring food, and loving my two little Maltese, and trouble shooting.

Guess who took this amazing photo?

My Crazy Kids
And speaking of the kids, I'd be remiss if I did not thank my two teenagers for having patience with me sometimes missing swim meets or dance competitions in order to pursue my artistic dreams. I make every activity I possibly can, but I do miss a few.  I'm hoping that I'm setting a strong and positive example for them of following your dreams and always reaching for that golden ring.

How About a YouTube Video?
Did you know that my daughter Emilie created my "Progression of a Peacock" YouTube video when she was only 13? She filmed it and edited it all on her own. I owe her a great debt of gratitude because that video has gotten a lot of play! Thank you Emilie. :)

Emilie, my dancer, and Yours Truly at the Nutcracker

Studio Assistant
My son Connor has been helping me in and out of the studio for a long time. He used to under-paint backgrounds for me when I was making small bird collages. He also made sure every one of my Noah's Ark Series pieces (all 50 of them) had bumper feet and hanging wires the day before I packed them up for delivery last year. These days he's almost as tall as I am and he's very handy when it comes to carrying boxes of art into FedEx! Thank you Connor.

Connor, my swimmer, and Yours truly enjoying the Cupcake Bakery 
and our monthly second Saturday in DeLand

A Heart Felt Thank You
Even though you may think it in your head and in your heart, it's always nice to say it out loud. Thank you Doug, Emilie, and Connor for supporting me in all of my endeavors. I wouldn't be who I am today without you. 

Nobody gets anywhere without help.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gustav Giraffe and the Year of the Giraffe

Gustav Giraffe / 16x64 / collage on cradled birch panel

Lots of attention for my new larger work on Facebook this week as I post the professional photos by my husband (Douglas Nelson Photography) which really outshine my iPhone images. 

A Facebook follower mentioned that Carla Sonheim has penned 2013 as the year of the giraffe and that I should show her this piece. Now, I am familiar with Carla, having taken her online class "The Art of Silliness." 

Carla's "Giraffe Creativity Experiment" class began yesterday, but you might still be able to get in on the fun. This class is 12 months/ 12 projects - an experiment in creativity. The "Year of the Giraffe" is about making the theme of "Giraffe," and a community of artists taking a year long journey with Carla. The more I read about this class on her blog, the more I like it! Carla says that giraffes are a bit absurd looking and that she just can't get them off her mind. I had the very BEST time creating Gustav, playing with the patterns on his neck. I could see myself revisiting this theme. 

It's not just drawing either, Carla is challenging you to create 2D or 3D work, photography, sewing, sculpture, you name it! How fun would a giraffe art quilt be? Wow. 

Carla was cool enough to comment on my giraffe collage and tell me how much she enjoyed not only Gustav, but all of my work. I totally admire Carla's ability to be so organized and resourceful as to run creative online classes that last a year. That's an accomplishment!

Guess what? you CAN still get in on this class, through January 31st.