Teaching my first workshop — a brief recap


All week-long, I had been running through the things that could go wrong.  Rain was foremost on my mind. I imagined 45 of us sitting in a humid wooden dining hall, drawing each others’ feet, like a bunch of overgrown summer campers, praying for this blighted weekend to end. Then I worried about cicadas, crawling out from their 17-year hibernation to drown out my lectures with their screeching. Oh, and may flies are supposedly virulent this time of year in Northern Massachusetts. Them too.

I worried about my ‘students’ too, of course. When I set up a special Facebook group for us and invited them to start drawing in the weeks before the workshop, they began uploading amazingly good sketches which made me sure I had nothing left to teach them. I had been hoping for people who didn’t know how to uncap a pen and instead I had graphic designers and architects and art teachers and people who had been in the EDM community for a decade or more. Gulp.

JJ and I drove up from New York on Friday morning. The weather was perfect and the air smelled of freshly mown grass and late Spring.  We parked, unpacked, and headed up to the large wooden building that was to be our HQ for the weekend.  Then I discovered an obstacle I hadn’t been imaginative enough to dread — the projector didn’t work. I had several hundred Powerpoint slides and videos I’d made and now I might be reduced to just tap dancing and making stuff up. By dinner time, fortunately, a new projector was in place.

Before dinner we had a little mocktail party and I got to meet the folks who traveled in from all over, some from neighboring spots in Massachusetts, others from far way — Baltimore, Chicago, New Mexico, British Columbia and England.


We had dinner and then trooped up the hill to our classroom. We had arranged rows of chairs and cushions and fans (it was damnably humid and hot) and introduced ourselves.  Everyone took a turn talking about their creative wishes and then I lit into my presentation, explaining what I hoped we’d accomplish this weekend, my view of art, my life story, the magic and power of illustrated journaling and more.


After breakfast on Saturday, we started to draw. I explained some basics, we did some exercises and people started to unwind.  There were loads of great questions and I managed to choke out some sort of answer to most of them. Our group was wonderful—  open minded and enthusiastic— and we struggled long together through contours drawings, negative space, measurements, plumb lines and the like.

L1010320We took a break after lunch and I collapsed under a tree.  It was exhausting! Meanwhile everyone else seemed full of energy. They drew their sandwiches then hiked into the woods to draw frogs and trees and things.IMG_5987Mid afternoon, we headed into the town center where the fire department and hauled out their fire engines so we could draw and paint them.

IMG_5924During a brief sunshower, some of us retreated into the fire station.The attic was full of old fire suits and extinguishers and musical instruments and piles of chairs from the local school — an endless treasure trove of stuff to draw.


Others drew the church, the gazebo, the hills and trees, or strolled back up to draw in the barn.


After dinner, I talked about composition and calligraphy and then hauled out my trunks of journals. I brought about fifty different books and we spend the rest of the evening talking and sharing our work.


On Sunday morning, I described what steps people could take next to further develop their creativity and then we shared what we had learned over the weekend.  I was amazed and touched at what a profound effect it had on literally everyone as people shared emotional stories about the discoveries that they had made in these short few days.

It was a wonderful experience for me and I realized yet again what a profound effect drawing can have on one’s life, and how developing a creative habit is so important and rewarding.

This is just a brief description of what we experienced.  I hope those who were there with me will leave their comments below to round it out further.  Also, JJ and I are working on a little film about the weekend that we’ll share with you soon.