Crazy week

IMG_1497I am back in New York  for a couple of weeks — I was tired of lovely weather and plucking tangerines of my trees each morning. I need rain, cold and bagels.

Jack is here until Monday, meeting with artists/mentors about the upcoming summer, and we have spent a lot of time talking about art and philosophy and other sophomoric matters. Such fun. I haven’t seen him since New Year’s and while he seems to be stopping at 6’2″, his brain keeps growing. I am super-proud of this boy.

I lost my wallet when I was here last, a real pain in the back pocket I managed to laboriously replace every credit card, my license and all the rest of the ephemera that seems important. Then, when I got back here and opened my bed side drawer, I discovered my old wallet and all its contents lodged therein. Grrr.

The upcoming week is gonna be nutty.

On Friday morning, we launch the first semester of Sketchbook Skool.  We are pulling together the last strands and it is kind of amazing.  I took Jack through the klasses and videos yesterday and he was surprisingly surprised by it. “It’s really rich. You shoulda charged them more.” True, tuition is cheaper than I pay for RISD (oy!).

Here’s a little summary of the semester:

  • I’ll be talking about why we need to be creative and what happens if we suppress the urge. How to draw expressively and yet accurately. How to choose art supplies. And much more from L.A.!
  • Koosje on taming your inner critic. On drawing better with colored pencils and on braving the frigid outdoors. And a whole lot more from Amsterdam!
  • Prashant Miranda on 20 years of journaling, on travel, on watercoloring and on discovering your family history through your sketchbook. And much more from all around India!
  • Jane La Fazio on mixed media, on how to uncover beauty and on turning sketchbook pages into developed works of art. And much more from sunny Southern California!
  • Roz Stendahl on how to draw animals of any kind, alive or dead(!), and what are the best media to use and why. And loads more from snowy Minnesota!
  • Tommy Kane on how to turn mistakes into masterpieces, and how to combine ink, watercolors and colored pencil to make rich, beautiful journal pages. And heaps more from deep in Brooklyn.

On Friday afternoon, I talk at the Thinking Creatively conference at Keane College.

Then on Saturday, I go to the Open Center for my workshop, Everyday Matters. I am excited to launch some new ideas for this class and to meet some folks in person.

On Sunday, I go back to LA, to work on my next series of presentations in Columbus, Boston, California….

It also looks like I will be doing an artist-in-residency in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur this fall. Details are almost nailed down.

Busy. Crazy. All good.

SBS Update: Roz!

Roz Stendahl has long been my friend and my teacher and I am really pleased that she’s a part of our fakulty.  I think her klass will open eyes and change lives.  If you what to learn how to draw animals of any kind, and, by extension, lots of other things, I hope you get a chance to see the incredible, rich and info-packed videos she’s put together.

We talked about them on Skype recently:

Prash @ SBS

deepsouth-11I first met Prashant Miranda a decade ago and I have been a huge fan of his lovely watercolors, his gentle spirit, and his infectious smile ever since. I have included his work and his story in several of my books — he has been a compulsive journal keeper for twenty years and has a huge amount to teach us.  Prash was one of the first people I thought of when we started to assemble  a list of teachers for Sketchbook Skool and mainly for selfish reasons — I really wanted to learn from him and unless I was willing to fly to Varanasi and disguise myself as a small child, this was as close as I was likely to get to being on one of his watercolor classes anytime soon. I knew that he was assembling the videos for his klass while traveling alone around  a far-away country with uncertain support so I waited for bated breath for his first materials to come in. All I can say is that they are so wonderful they validate the reasons we started this Skool in the first place. I found them so inspiring and uplifting and I hope you will too. Prash will appear several weeks into the first semester and there’s still time to sign up. In the meantime, here’s his update on what he has in store for us:

Me, talking.

micSometimes when I talk, I use my mouth, teeth, tongue, hands, and lots ‘n’ lots of slides. Some people find that interesting. Hence, I have a few  speaking things coming up:

You are welcome to attend any or all of them.

Let them draw cake.

alliknow tshirt

I never paid much attention in art class in high school. I never went to art college. I’ve never gone to a single weekend watercolor workshop. I’ve just blundered along for a decade or more, spilling ink, contaminating my palette and painting on non-archival cardboard.

I’m uneducated. And so when it came to teaching other people how to make art, gulp.

This year though I’ve committed to shedding my “aw, shucks, I never lurned nuffin” guise and start trying to be a decent teacher. At first, that was like sitting down with a delicious, lavishly decorated three-tiered German chocolate cake and trying to work out the recipe. I thought I’d have to retrofit everything I have layered onto my brain through all these years of experimenting and dissecting art in museums and talking to people whose work blows me away and weeping bitterly at another god-awful journal page.

I like talking about ideas and all of the experiments I’ve done and the discoveries I’ve made but when I taught classes I thought to give folks their money’s worth I’d better start with the basics of drawings as they come out of all the how-to books in the library. Contours, negative space,  proportion, etc. That is useful stuff to know, in hindsight, but it can be awfully dry. Like starting to learn a language by spending a few semesters studying grammar or learning music theory before you pick up your first guitar.

My old hobo pal, Dan Price would say to me, “I just draw a shape, then the shape next to it, then the one next to that and before long you got a drawing that looks like something and then we can go have  a beer.” And that’s probably the most valuable art lesson I ever got. Just start somewhere and keep it interesting so you keep going.

Keep it interesting.

What’s been so incredible about working on Sketchbook Skool is seeing all the ways my friends approach the assignment we have given them all: to boil down everything they know about drawing and journaling into a one-time, one-week klass. And they’ve all done completely different things! Nothing you’d find in a  textbook. Just the stuff that comes out of them when they sit down to draw, as varied as they are. There’re no detailed recipes, but there’s lots of delicious cake and, by watching them bake it, you come away just knowing how you will do it. And that’s the key, how you will do it.

All of which has made me do two things: one, rethink the workshops I’m going to be doing, starting with the one at the Open Center in New York as the beginning of next month.  and two, have really fun doing it. Because instead of teaching others how to do what I  was never taught to do, I’m just going to grab them by the scruff and toss them into the deep end. I’m thinking of all kinds of ways of getting people who are deathly afraid of drawing and stabbing a syringe full of adrenaline into their artistic hearts. And the same and more goes for people who think they all know there is about drawing but want a little something to spice up their marriage to the muse.

I have had that feeling so often with drawing, when you sort of sigh and the pen feels like it’s made of lead dipped in shit and then suddenly there’s a hairpin turn that rattles my bones, and I’m off on some wild groove through a place I’ve never been before and it’s all very new and energizing and the page I’m making is fresh and sparkly. Hey, and don’t forget, at this point I am a clown school grad so I know first hand how to slip on a red nose and get embarrassing.

My revelation: it’s not about showing people how to read a map and use a compass and where to get their shots and what to pack and where all the tourists go for pizza. It’s about flinging open the door of the plane, grabbing hold of them and jumping the hell out in the middle of the jungle.

So I’m thinking of weird and silly things to do that will either send them off itching to draw every waking minute of every day or lining up at the registrar’s office to get a full refund. (Hey, and if you have any genius thoughts I can totally steal, let me know.  I still have twenty-three days till the workshop).

I think there’s a week left on The Open Center’s Early Bird rate so if you like worms, fly over to their web site and sign up.