Summer Art Camp... HELP NEEDED

I am surveying my newsletter and blog readers concerning a potential workshop this summer in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico (about 1 hour south of Albuquerque). I have the opportunity to present a creativity/inspired by nature workshop at wonderful Camp Capilla, on the slopes of the mountains of Manzano Mountains State Park.

Before I get too far down the road, I'd love to know if there is interest enough to pursue this project , given its cost and the planning involved. [I'm counting on you to send me feedback!](

The content: With the incredible beauty of the mountains, the pines, the desert below and a field trip to the archeological ruins nearby, participants would spend four days in creative design, collection and recording their nature-inspired ideas. We'll make a simple hand-bound journal to compile the experience, too. And, if you wish to bring other media for work on your own, that's fine too.  I will include a couple of sessions on using  some iPad apps, in order to use the tablet as an art tool in this process. We would practice some fearless sketching, some color and design exercises and spend time sharing as artists. This will really be a creativity art camp -- and some great artists are already signing up!

As I currently envision it, the workshop would include 4 workshop days with arrival and departure on the days before and after (so supper one day and breakfast the next would be included with meals on the 4 workshop days (except for one meal at a local place in the village). Number of students would be limited to 10. We could provide pickup and delivery to the Albuquerque airport for $20 per person. Or you would be welcome to drive to the site and have your own car available.

Participants would need to bring basic supplies like a sketchbook, markers,watercolor, maybe collage papers, and iPad, if used. Participants would also need to bring their own bed  linens and towels (washer is available).


Meals: We’ll cook on-site, sharing duties, with all provisions included, and one or two meals out at a local cafe. Judith Rigler (my cousin and camp co-owner with Eric Rigler) will also include some New Mexico cooking classes for those interested. They will also sponsor a campfire each evening with so’mores! BYO for wine or other adult beverages.

Lodging is in 5 mini cabins [1 or 2 persons] on fold-down cot-type bedding, with large dorm-style bathrooms a very short walk away. Limited bedrooms also available in Main Cabin, with shared bathroom, as well as in the Barn, (where the bathrooms are located). 
RV, mobile home spaces available with dumping station on property. 
Tent or car camping would also be an option for those who wish.

Dates: week of July 7 or week of July 14 (exact days to come) -- 4 days workshop plus arrival meal, departure breakfast. "Fix your own" sandwiches available each day. Let me know if you are interested, which dates work best for you.

COST: Since this is a trial run for what I’d like to make an annual event (and because the owners are generously donating the space) the fee is a real deal! $200 to $300 per participant depending on housing.
$125 for non-participating spouse, partner or friend sharing a room.

So, any ideas?

Please send me feedback, especially if you think you might be interested in coming:
What dates work best?
Would you want to include or exclude weekend days?
Would you be driving or flying in for the workshop?
What kind of accommodations would you be happy with?
Is this a topic of interest or would something else be more fun?

Art App of the Week: Drawing Pad

How to choose? How to choose?

(And how to remember -- if you checked in earlier, I had the name of the software wrong, and the wrong list! Drawing Pad -- not free, but it is only $1.99 with some optional in-app pruchases, like coloring books, available.)

As I work towards getting my iPad on-line courses up and running, you'll find a weekly APP reccommendation here on the blog on Fridays, each with a few examples of drawings, photos, journal pages and more. 

I admit to an ongoing addiction for new apps -- OK,  consider it a line item in my art supply budget! Consequentlyly, after sampling free and paid versions of several hundred, I've found some really great ones and some real dogs. Some are simple "one-trick ponies," others are perhaps too expansive and overwhelming that unless you devote a LOT of time, you'll find them a bit overwhelming.

The iPad is such a powerful, intuitive creative tool, and the mobile software designers out there are certainly running though the paces. When my online course launches (next month, I hope), the format will include step-by-step tutorials, specific projects with step-outs, adaptations for use as fiber art tools -- both as part of your process and your works of art. If this sounds interesting, I hope you'll sign up for my newsletter HERE, in order not to miss the launch of the online series of workshops -- they'll start with an "iPad for Art Basics" and proceed through Photo Editing and Manipulation, Drawing and Sketching Tools, Keeping Track, Art Journaling, Photo Filters, Collage Tools and -- who knows!

This week's app is Drawing Pad. The interface is bold, easy to understand (the tools are in drawers, so explore them carefully! Some of the drawers give you the option to scroll right and reveal a whole other set of tools, colors and options. You can import a photo from your own camera roll and use it as a guide to trace or alter or paint, or you can start with a blank "sheet" of paper. If you wish, you can import a photo, sketch over it, then go back and change the paper to white or another color and have only your sketch! It's a very SIMPLE layering process, with only two layers. Of course I have other tricks for this -- to make it a multilayer tool. but you'll have to wait for the workshop for that!

Save the images to your email or camera roll or FB, Twitter, or an album inside the app -- think of this as a kid-friendly (for the kid in each of us) sketching and painting tool. I

These tools in the main drawer are options for saving, erasing, coloring book, colors of paper, stickers and, scrolling right, different tools.

 Sketching on top of a photo of San Fernando Cathedral, then replacing the photo with plain paper.

Sketching on the road. 

Fearless Sketching

If you've been waiting for the right moment to take a "pain-free, no-critic-zone" drawing class, this might be the workshop for you. I've had a cancelation due to one participant's planned move (she was coming in from afar!) so there is space available for one fearless sketcher on April 12-14 (Friday night potluck optional).

We'll do big and little sketches, drawing from life, some invisible drawings, lots of fun exercises that get your hand and pen in action. Some participants will bring iPads and use those, but it's not necessary, just an option.

There is a catch -- the only bed available is either a cot sized (though comfortable) bed in the studio (includes private bathroom) or a spot on the sleeping porch. The fee includes all meals and most supplies -- you'll need to bring a large sized sketch pad or loose paper and your favorite drawing implements -- and food to share at one pot-luck meal. Generally folk arrive here on Friday about 4, the "formal" workshop runs from Saturday at 9 to Sunday at 3, with lots of fun, conversation, time in the hottub and pool, walking in the hills and stargazing in between. 

If you are interested, send me an email -- contact list on the sidebar -- or leave a comment so I can get back to you. These are pictures from the last Fearless Sketching workshop, and some of the results. My friend artist Sarah Jones will co-lead this one with me. 

The workshop fee is $185 -- views into the Hill Country, infinite and free!

Sketching on the sleeping porch.

Hand studies, two exercises

The sleeping porch.


iPad Workshop at the Studio


Just a few pics!

Here are a few photos from the digital manipulations we made on the iPads. (I hope to have more from the participants to come later, these were my demos!)

All of the above were my quick demos using a variety (and combinations of) different apps for the iPad, using original photos (in most cases) for source materials. 

Here's another by artist/participant Zet Baer:

More Text on Textiles



Here are some details from a one of the pieces I am working on right now. I am hoping to finish this and a couple of others in time to submit them to the SAQA exhibit called "Text Messages"  -- submissions now online! Stay tuned for the finished work, which I will reveal AFTER I hear if and when any of these are accepted to the exhibit.

If you are taking my More Text on Textiles course on Joggles, you'll find out all the details on how these pieces are created, step by step -- especially this one featuring some of my soy batik work. You can see the obvious influence of Sister Corita (Corita Kent) one of my art heroes. Her work in the 1960s was such a revelation to me -- art that combined activism, pop culture, text as shape and form, messages to the world in a wide and wild variety of media. I was fortunate to work alongside some of Corita's students at Learning About Learning Educational Foundation and I learned to make serigraphs from them, as well as hand-cut letters, batik techniques, eraser stamp alphabets and more. They shared the work they were doing with Corita at Immaculate Heart College in California with us in San Antonio. I still use the ideas, approaches and techniques that her work and generous students inspired.

From the UCLA collection.

Again, to take the class, check this link.

More Text on the Surface -- Online!



My Joggles course MORE TEXT ON TEXTILES starts tomorrow. There is still time to get in on the fun, the supplies for the first class are things you will have at hand! And you can order the rest from Barbara at Joggles -- makes it easy! In addition to very specific instructions and pdfs of the lessons that you can download and keep on hand, there is an online forum during the course for questions and conversation. I will also bring up the various topics here on the blog, with some additional inspiration from other artists during the 4-weekly lesson series. Although this is a continuation of TEXT ON TEXTILES, this class does not require that as a prerequisite and you can take the two in any order. 

The tuition is only $45 and I think offers a really nice round up of creative approaches to getting text onto your art cloth or art quilt, with some interesting twists and turns. You can be upfront and obvious or subtle and secretive, posting your message in secret code or billboard boldness. Use a quote or just a fragment of your own journals or sketchbooks!

There is even a SAQA exhibit that you can enter with your text-centric work (if you make a quilt quickly) called TEXT MESSAGES, judged by Lesley Riley.



Here's the course outline from the Joggles catalog:

This class is scheduled to begin on February 19, 2013.

Add to your technique toolbox with interesting and “open-ended” ways to add words, letters and text designs to your art. 

This process-oriented course is organized around a set of exercises, rather than presenting one project -- you’ll be able to use these ideas and approaches in work for wall pieces, art-to-wear, art journals and other mixed media work.

Full of photos and examples, each weekly pdf workbook takes you through one or two new techniques, including making word stamps from craft foam, an easy way to cut original fabric letters to fuse or appliqué, sun-printed and mono-printed words and letters, and using soy wax with textile paint to add words to fabric. 

Susie will also offer a “bonus” fifth lesson that illustrates her process in making a small art quilt using the techniques taught in this course. This course is a continuation of Text on Textiles, but the lessons are not sequential and not dependent upon participation in the first course. 

Lesson 1 -- Learn to cut free-form fabric letters in a variety of styles, inspired by the work of Corita Kent. Start with paper (these can be used in mixed media and journal work) and move onto fused fabric, felt and other materials, too. 

Lesson 2 -- Make your own word and letter stamps from craft foam and recycled materials. Learn how to easily reverse your words and letters as you design, then make stamps with craft foam, string, cardboard scraps and other recycled materials. 

Lesson 3 -- Sun-printing with textile paints is a fun and easy way to make original fabrics for your art quilts, bed quilts, art-to-wear and other projects. And, given a hot sunny day, you’ll see how easy and versatile a technique it is. 

Lesson 4 -- Soy wax is a non-toxic, easy to wash out process that requires no solvents or special equipment other than a wax-dedicated electric fry pan (preferred) or a microwave oven. You’ll learn ways to make lovely fabrics that have a minimal change of hand when done, so they are great for all kinds of quilt and wearable applications. 

BONUS Lesson 5 -- See how Susie adds up some of these techniques to make a small art class. Use her approach and see what you can do! 

Curious to know how online classes work? Go here to read all of the details: 

The supply list will be sent to all students one week before the class starts. Once you buy this class you will receive an email order confirmation, but you will not hear from us again until the supply list is sent. 

A high speed connection to the internet is recommended for all students.

In order to participate in online classes at joggles you are expected to have basic computer and internet skills. You need to be able to browse the internet, know how to download and save a document to your computer's hard drive, and understand how to open and save email attachments. It is your responsibility to learn these skills before the class begins.

Please be certain you are comfortable with all of these skills. Class fees will not be refunded once the class has begun.


How to Make an Art Quilt -- at the Southwest School of Art

Starting today at Southwest School of Art in San Antonio (and the word is that there is still room for 3 students).

If you're on a textile path of your own, this class is structured with plenty of independent work time -- and the emphasis is on design process and creativity, rather than one or another sets of technical skills. I'll be demonstrating my own approach to making an art quilt, you'll make at LEAST four small journal quilts and a larger work -- no patterns provided, just some fun approaches to getting it out of your mind and onto the wall.

2369 | Art Quilts

Take your quilting skills into a more personal realm or your art skills into a new medium in this introduction to a variety of techniques for making wall art from fabric. If you have been exploring dyeing and printing, here's the how-to for putting your one-of-a-kind fabrics into art. Or if you've got a stash of cloth or scraps from traditional quilting take your skills into personal narrative. This class will introduce you to piecing and fusing fabrics, design and construction approaches that insure a personal creative vision, and time on the sewing machine as you learn various methods to free motion quilting. Each student will make a series of small journal quilts and work on at least one larger project. Sewing machine optional; please see SSA website for a list of materials. 

Level: All Levels 
Instructor: Susie Monday 
Dates: Mon, 2/4/2013 - 3/25/2013 | Time: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM Studio: Design Studio | Campus: Navarro 

 PS: I just counted and there is room for one more participant at the last El Cielo workshop of the year: Fearless Sketching, co-taught with artist Sarah Jones, on the weekend of April 12-14. If you are interested send me an email through the contact form on the sidebar!


Who is an artist?

We're engaged in looking at our paths as artists this weekend at El Cielo Studio. It's a large group and a diverse one: some of the artists here are painters, mixed media artists, stitchers, program developers and administrators, educators and curriculum writers, potters and movement healers. We are all artists. 

Seth Godin has a manifesto recently published, "We are all artists now". It may make you mad, it might make you joyous; it will certainly make you think. I was a little irritated at first by the "we are all artists" perspective from a "market expert" (even though I do think we are ALL ARTISTS by birthright) because it seemed to dismiss all the hours and work in polishing my skills and mastering my media.

But, the more I read it, the more I am challenged to make sure that my art has the emotional risk, the depth and the meaning that it has the potential to be. Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. 

Read it, and let me know what you think.  

(And while you're at it, here's another manifesto from Hugh McLeod, the guy who doodles on the back of business cards.)

The Power of Imagination

If you have ever doubted the power of imagination, take a look at this video about artist

Janet Echelman

Here are the lessons I took from this video:

Perseverence: Turned down by seven art schools, she kept on her path

Observe: Pay attention to the people, skills and resources at hand.

Just say yes: Did not knowing how to do something ever stop this woman?

and most of all

IMAGINE. Possibilities, solutions, collaborations, successes, the future.


AND, guess what, Janet Echelman is coming to San Antonio as the keynote speaker for the Surface Design Conference. You can attend by joining SDA and paying the conference fee, or wait and see if there are space-available tickets open closer to the date. There will be numerous fiber arts exhbits, events, workshops and all kinds of textile and fiber adventure going on at the conference. Dates, June 3-14, including pre and post workshops. 



For more about Echelman, see these other videos and links:

  1. Janet Echelman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. Janet Echelman is an American artist specializing in public art installations and sculpture. She graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with Highest Honors in ...
  3. "She Changes" Sculpture by Janet Echelman - YouTube
    Oct 16, 2006 - 6 min - Uploaded by jechelman
    This newly completed sculpture commission by Janet Echelman, changes shape in the wind. 160 feet tall, the ...
  4. "Her Secret is Patience" by Artist Janet Echelman - YouTube
    Oct 14, 2009 - 7 min - Uploaded by jechelman
    "Her Secret is Patience" is a new monumental sculpture, completed in April 2009, by artist Janet Echelman ..

Here We Are, iPads in Hand

And fun, indeed was had by all.

In progress:

Me, and Elements members plus one: Charlotte Bird, Kathie Cook, Margo Klass (back of head), Ree Nancarrow (below) and Margo. Not shown, Jerri Roberts. 

A GREAT GIFT:  Raven tile by (and with) ceramicist Nancy Hausle-Johnson.

Here are a few photos of some of the iPad art made by some of the participants.

 These are all just little samples. In order, the artists: Kathie, Margo, Charlotte, two in a series by Ree.

Where Do You Start with Art? Part 3

Drawing in a new medium might be your inventive step. Think outside your usual constraints.


The next step in making a study (see the past two posts for more information) is the big, fun one of actually doing something with all that brainstorming, experience and research. This is, of course, the point of it all. But even if you shortcircuit the PRIMING and just take one or two of my previous suggestions, you will end up with a much deeper, more resonant and powerful piece of work in the invention stage. 

If you have the time and inclination -- and the deadline isn't looming -- here are some of the INVENTION exercises we use with kids, and that I use in my fiber arts creativity courses. These activities may not be exactly in your comfort zone, but that's the point.  Whatever textile art (or other art) you create after playing in these ponds will be rich, rich, rich.


After the priming experiences, choose and play with materials in one or more of the following ways, and then express your own version or personal definition of the subject as uniquely as possible. You may have other suggestions or ideas for media or genres. This is just a wildman version of ways you can take your ideas! 

Movement Play

Use some or all of your bodies and/or locomotion (movement from one spot to another) to explore the subject, and then create one or more of the following:

  • ·         Physical games
  • ·         Dances
  • ·         Pantomimes
  • ·         Dramas
  • ·         Improvisations


2-D Play

Use the subject to create one or more of the following:

  • ·         Drawings -- on canvas, paper and fabric
  • ·         Paintings -- on canvas, paper and fabric
  • ·         Collages -- fibric, mixed media, paper cloth
  • ·         Prints -- screen, stencils, stamps
  • ·         Art Quilts
  •   Art Cloth
  • ·         Maps, graphs or diagrams
  • ·         Stories or poems related to your drawings


3-D Play

Use the subject to create one or more of the following:

  • ·         Puppets
  • ·         Masks
  • ·         Models
  • ·         Sculptures
  • ·         Constructions
  • ·         Stories, dramas, environments or exhibits related to your creations


Word Play

Generate words related to the subject and use the words to create:

  • ·         Stories (written or tape recorded)
  • ·         Poems
  • ·         Tongue twisters
  • ·         Monologues/dialogues
  • ·         Slogans
  • ·         Invented words and definitions
  • ·         Riddles
  • ·         Books or a library of books 

Tech Play

Use technology to create with the subject, creating one or more of these:

  • ·         Slide shows of photographs
  • ·         Transparencies on the overhead projector
  • ·         Videos
  • ·         Animations 
  •   Digital books
  •   Photos to print on fabric

If you'd like to have a guide through this process, and you live somewhere near San Antonio, consider taking my course at the Southwest School of Art. The first four weeks of the course will be devoted to Making a Study.


Where Do You Start with Art? Part 2

 A trip to a museum to see and photograph (if allowed) related art could be a "big experience."

MORE WAYS TO PRIME THE MIND. See the last blog post to figure out what and why-for this is all about!


Start with a list of questions about your topic. Write as many as you can. Review your questions and, if possible, discover additional questions to ask and answer about the subject -- perhaps by sharing with a group. Use one or more of these methods to track down answers, possible answers and even just hints of answers to your questions:

Search the internet.

Look in the library.

Read related books or magazine articles.

Interview someone.

Create a survey.


Check out YouTube or other online sources of video or audio.

After researching, draw, write about and/or graph what you learned, what was most important.

Generate ideas.

Use your imaginations about the subject in these and other ways:


Ask "what if" questions.

Brainstorm or mind-map

Consider the subject from as many viewpoints as possible

Think WAYYYY outside the box

Big experience.

Design for yourself, if possible, a large, concrete, “unforgettable” experience related to the subject or theme of your study. Examples:

An excursion (can be imaginary)

A live animal

A live demonstration/performance 

Participation in a big group or collaborative event

A visit to a museum or park or historical site that gives you ideas about your theme

See a movie or documentary related to your theme, if possible on the big screen!

PS: Dr. Cynthia Herbert (my friend Cindy) added two more great ideas to her list. Since she inspired this whole series, I want to include the ideas, so look below in the comment section -- and add your own ideas, too.

The next post will feature ideas for INVENTION.

Where Do You Start with Art? Part 1

 A collection of ethnic textiles might be where you start.

One of the creative skills I will be taking my Southwest School of Art class through is that of making a study as a way to develop ideas and images for a series of art quilts. As we work though these ideas (the course meets weekly on Mondays from February 4- March 25) we'll be building a stash of ideas and information focused on one theme or topic. This is often the way I work on a piece of art for a submission when the theme is one that I am considering for the first time.

These notes were written by my Missing Alphabet colleague Dr. Cynthia Herbert, and were originally developed for our teacher training program in Dallas for our afterschool program (part of Big Thought). I've adapted them for artists, with her permission, and will share them here in a series of posts his week.


A STUDY is a sustained investigation of a single concept, thing, theme or idea. In a study, a child explores many, many different viewpoint, contexts and materials. The Sensory Alphabet is used as nine “lenses” through which to view the object of the study. After many explorations, the child expresses a personal definition or viewpoint through one or more original forms.


Current brain research and cognitive psychology tells us that human beings can only learn very low-level tasks and ideas through drill and rote memorization. For learning to be faster, longer lasting and of a higher order, each of us must “construct” our own personally meaningful definitions. Although we will all have common notions, the depth and variety of our experiences will determine the depth and dimensionality of our understanding.

For any one of us to be able to use a concept to solve problems, make decisions, express ourselves, and enrich our quality of life, we need a well-elaborated mental representation—a concept that looks very like a complex spider web of interconnected experiences and ideas. The STUDY makes the development and elaboration of mental representations an overt process that leads to “deep understanding” and “transference,” what has been called the “so what?” of learning. This is a valuable way to start an art project or any project that needs more than superficial responses.  

FORMAT: A study is divided into three parts: Priming, Invention and Reflection. Today, I'll list the kinds of activities that are part of priming. Some of these are more appropriate than others for the kind of thinking that art-making is about, but since we do all of these with kids in our classes, I'm listing them all!

PRIMING: Priming activities are intended to prepare each mind to be ready to construct (create)  his or her own definition of the subject being studied. Here are the first two ways to PRIME the mind (more coming next post).


Connect the subject with your former experiences, current feelings or opinions and curiosity. Write, journal or search through your collections, stash and memories to make a connection to the theme. IF you can't find a connection, this may not be a good topic for your art -- but most of us, give our lovely capacity for experience, have many connections to much of the world!

Observe and Collect.

Make direct observations and collections in regard to the subject. Focus observations using the Sensory Alphabet and physical "lookers"  to make notes or drawings. Sometimes new ideas for note taking are employed. Take photos, videos or recordings to project/replay and share and use all your senses.


Design Workshop with Central American Teachers


Today, (a couple of days this and next week) I'm working at Palo Alto College in San Antonio with 20 Central American and Caribbean teachers -- part of an international education program that I have been part of for the past 10 years. These teachers (and those who have been here over the years) come to San Antonio for the equivalent of an education degree from rural "underserved" communities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic for 6 month or 1 year terms of study. They return to share their knowledge in their schools, communities and nations. This program, funded by USAID and administered by an international expert staff at Georgetown University (and our own Alamo Colleges International Programs) is one reason I don't mind paying taxes. 

These teachers who work under conditions that most U.S. teachers would find impossible (50-60 kids in a SMALL classroom, few if any books and supplies, often limited electricity and no running water, in communities with high incidence of absentee fathers, illiteracy and poor nutrition. They work long hours for not much pay -- many of them work second jobs to make enough to support their families.

Today I am facilitating a design workshop to help them find their strongest illustration style for personal stories that will become the first books in their classroom and school libraries of handmade books. These are simple products, made with inexpensive and recycled materials, and the teachers return home to teach their students and parents how to make the books based on their own experiences. I LOVE these books and have a great collection of art from throughout the past years -- I'll share some favorites over the next few days.



Rainbow Printing Revisited

I love to make Rainbow Prints. This is my go-to method for making one-of-a-kind versions of iconic images, saints and sinners, angels and other visitors to the design table when I want something specifically matching a color scheme or a one-of-a-kind version of one of my silkscreens or thermofaxes. Over the years, I have featured this technique in workshops, in a Quilting Arts issue, in a DVD (see below) and on many of my textile paintings and altars.

My lovely lightweight Airbook has one difficiency, it doesn't have a big memory. So I tend to have to juggle info and files and the go-to stuff I am working with on and off of external drives. And, (I don't suppose you will be surprised) I don't exactly have a uniform file naming or file storage system in place. SOmehow, I don't think this chore is going to come to the top of the list anytime soon,

So I just find myself on the occasional morning like this doing copying and deleting -- and the good thing is that I surprise myself with all the treasures that I have forgotten! So, before I banish some of these pdfs to the external drive, I thought I would share them here on the blog. 

First, here's a pdf of the "short version" of how to make Rainbow Prints --my term for multicolored screen prints made with watersoluble crayons.

 I'll keep this pdf on the computer for another week, so act quickly if you want a copy via email -- just send a request to me on the comment form on the sidebar. I'll also put you on my monthly mailing list for other notices, unless you tell me PDF only, please.

If this tickles your fancy and you need or would enjoy more information and examples, you can see a video promo on Quilting Arts website or right here

and you can also order the DVD if you decide a full-fledged video workshop is just the ticket to success.


Paying Attention

The just-past post covered a lot of territory. As I take on this new expanded adventure of art out into the world, it's a good idea to think about my story, and what I bring to the table. (Perhaps you should do so, too! Post a link in the comments to your blog about your creative path and we'll see where this takes us...)

Where does my story as an artist begin? With paying attention.

Paying attention, this skill, like any other, needs focus, practice and to be honored within the environment (culture) of its practice. Fortunately from my childhood, I had mentors, parents and teachers who gave me that skill and fostered it's development.

First, a family who loved nature and beauty: Birdwatching was the usual activity on any trip; a geology pick was always in the back seat; composition books for note-taking are STILL a Christmas stocking standard. We looked at plants and creeks on Sunday afternoon drives as we searched for farmland (soon thereafter purchased with the GI Bill). My chemist father shared his love of observation and my intellegent stay-at-home mom nurtured beauty in the everyday life; both of them honored the skill of paying attention and modeled it to us four.

The concepts in The Missing Alphabet speak to my second set of lessons in paying attention. When 12, I was enrolled in a Children's Theatre at Baylor University, part of the department of drama headed by legendary regional director Paul Baker (he also headed the Dallas Theatre and worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on the design of that forward-thinking structure on Turtle Creek). His wife Kitty, and the young woman who became my mentor for decades, Jearnine Wagner, had started a children's program based on the same principles and ideas that were at the heart of the college drama program. These were: that each of us is creative and has a unique story to tell in our art and that all art/perception and creative thinking can be discerned through a vocabulary of form: line, color, shape, movement, light, rhythm, space, sound and texture. These perceptual/sensory tools could be harnessed by the artist (no matter his or her genre or field) as tools for telling that unique story. These, called by Baker "the elements of form," have moved into our missing alphabet book as "the sensory alphabet," a change of language that helps us explain to parents and educators that these are not just "art" words.

I've been able to take these perceptual and creative tools into my life in so many ways, I use them daily as "screens" for my thinking and inventing and imagination. They are the tools that I teach to the participants in many of my workshops, retreats and courses. I find them invaluable in defining and critiquing, in helping other artists find their own strong suits, their own voices and their best ways of working, simply by asking them to pay attention to these perceptual elements in their lives and work. The Missing Alphabet, while its a book targeted at parents, is still a useful resource for emerging artists who would like some specific information about the sensory alphabet, as well as lots of activity ideas that have no expriration date according to age!

Art school introduced me to another set of tools for paying attention, principally, that of drawing. I am not a natural "drawer." In fact, as a young woman (and even in art school) I pretty much decided I could never be a "real' artist because my drawings in junior high and high school never measured up to the cpaturing of reality that I expected as artist should be able to achieve. And though my college drawing classes at Trinity University were dully attended, I still never really fell in love with drawing until much later -- like a couple of years ago.

Paired with the sensory alphabet, some simple ways to approach the blank page have helped  me to get over my fear of drawing and to actually treasure the time I can carve out to pay attention through drawing.* I have a new group of "drawing" mentors, in real life, my friend and artist Sarah Jones, in the digital and print world, the work and writing of John Berger


That's why I am looking forward to the next Fearless Sketching workshop here at El Cielo. It's scheduled for April 12-14, costs $180. There is still room for a couple more participants, so if you are interested, send me a note through the comments or on the contact form on the sidebar to the right. 


Three More Workshops, and That's It for 2013

Artist's Journey, iPad for Artists and Fearless Sketching

Wouldn't one of these upcoming El Cielo Workshop/Retreats make a wonderful gift? If no one you know has asked what you really want, perhaps your inner artist needs a restoration, recreation and renewal gift just from you! 

If you have meant to make it out here to the Hill Country studio before, now's the time to make the commitment --I've decided to take a sabbatical from the El Cielo workshops from May 2013 through April 2014 in order to spend more time in the studio, and to consider other ways to teach and share my approaches to creativity. I will be teaching online, teaching private workshops, and I also anticipate teaching at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2013, but for this year I won't be an instructor at the Southwest School of Art or holding any other workshops here at El Cielo after these next three.

Early spring (and that often starts here in mid-February!) is a wonderful time out here on the ridge, so check your calendar and shoot me an email if you are interested.
Limited spaces, as usual, are available, as each of these special events is designed for a maximum of seven participants. The fee is $180, but I am offereing a discount for all who send a deposit before the year is out.
Out of town participants are welcome to book an extra day or two of private work and consultation for an additional fee. As usual, first come, first choice on accommodations -- there are three private bedrooms ($30 for both nights) and a couple of comfy couches (free) as well as the sleeping porch (also free) and a cot-sized bed and private bath in the studio. The meals are great, the company inspiring and the views spectacular... and the hot tub is ready to go!

Artist's Journey/Artist's Journal

How do you make your time and space as an artist work for you? Where are you on your creative path? What do you want more of and what do you need less of? This retreat offers a beginning-of-the-year chance to look at and share your creative accomplishments, make plans for the future and put in place some new tools for reflection, renewal and re-creation of your artist self. The workshop is a combination of journaling with fun mixed media materials, using your own photos for art inspiration, and planning ahead for 2013. All supplies except for a sketchbook or journal are included and you'll take home a large calendar filled with artist dates and your own plans for the year.

Ipad for Artists

If you've recently acquired an iPad, this workshop will help you take it into your world of creativity and art.I've explored dozens of sketching tools, art journaling, collage and photo apps and this workshop will take you through some hands-on work -- then into the studio to print, make thermofaxes and use what you've done on the tablet for fabric printing to use in your art quilts, mixed media or other work. If you don't have a tablet yet (and are trying to decide what or if to buy), you may still want to attend, I'll have a try-out table that one or two participants can share (yes, we are a two iPad family!). This El Cielo workshop retreat will take place March 1-3 (optional Friday night potluck) ending about 3 pm on Sunday. The workshop fee, including most supplies, is $180.

Fearless Sketching

April 12-14 at El Cielo Studio we'll be attacking that sneaky little fear that so many of us carry into our work from early days in school -- when someone else drew the best faces or people or horses. Whether you consider yourself a talented textile artist, colorist or quilter, you may have a secret lurker within who disparages your drawing skills. I know I do! A couple of years ago, I made a conscious effort to address my fears and to start a fearless sketching practice. I'm still not a master draughtsman, or even "skilled" at drawing, but I am no longer afraid to draw, no longer hypercritical of my abilities and that makes me open to improving my skills. 

You can get there, too. And this workshop can be your first step-- we test piloted this workhshop in September and all the participants really improved both skills and attitudes about drawing! My friend Sarah Jones will be co-teaching this workshop. She is amazing and fun and so will be the retreat!

You can find the entire newsletter here at this link.