Restorative Painting: Sitka Workshop

I wrote a blog post on May 8 about how I was asked by Pat Wheeler if I would take over teaching her Restorative Painting: The Architecture of Memory class at both the Oregon College of Art and Craft and Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, as she was unable to make her annual trip to Oregon. The OCAC class wasn’t a go, but the Sitka class was and it took place last week. What a week.

I arrived late on Monday, and got settled into McKee House, my cabin in the woods.

I spent Monday evening preparing the classroom, one of my favorite things to do. After getting it ready, I turned off the overhead lights and turned on the party lights. A magical space.

Tuesday morning, my students arrived ready to work. I was loosely following Pat’s syllabus, including the addition of her idea for the class to create small works of art on heavy watercolor paper. These pieces could be used as a warm up, as inspiration for bigger pieces, or just for the pleasure of creating small pieces of art. I decided I would start off with a timed warm up, where I quickly told students what to do on three squares of paper spread out across their table: Draw a line, add a swath of paint, make a mark using a color, using a sharp object, draw into the wet paint, make a mark with your eyes closed, ending with the instruction to do whatever they wanted for five minutes. It was a great ice breaker and got everyone ready to jump in with their big boards.

Samples from Pat’s “Art Box,” which she sent to me in advance of our class.

 

Pat mentioned that she had a couple of boxes in storage at Sitka, which the Studio Tech had pulled out. It was pretty exciting to see what she had left in anticipation of this year’s class. If only Pat had jumped out and surprised us!

Getting down to business, the first step was painting our boards, which was a great way to get our bodies moving. I bought Pat’s signature paint: Benjamin Moore’s Tomato Red and Carbon Copy, along with a periwinkle blue of my choosing. After all of the boards were painted, outside they went to dry.

It was then time to break open our buckets of mud, technically known as joint compound, but the fancy term for using on show cards, limestone clay.

And then the boards went back outside to dry. Fortunately, the weather cooperated for three of our four days.

On Wednesday morning, we began doing one of the messier steps: sanding.

A signature of Pat’s process is incorporating photo transfers onto plastered and sanded boards. I’ve never been very proficient with this technique and although I practiced at my home studio prior to class, I was less than successful. Todd and Kell to the rescue. Both have worked with transfers with great success and I asked if they would be willing to demonstrate this technique.

After their successful transfer demos, everyone jumped in.

Wednesday afternoon, and it was time to begin sharing painting techniques. How to do washes and stains with paint, add and subtract, push and pull, a little of this, a lot of that, writing, stenciling, scritching and scratching . . . .

Sometimes more plaster was needed either as an eraser, or to add interest.

 

On Friday morning, my final demo was adding a layer of cold wax to seal the layers. Here’s Kira adding cold wax to her beautiful painting.

I worked on a demo piece during the week, and on Friday morning I sealed it with cold wax as well. Here are a few of my favorite areas:

During the week, the studio was a hive of activity. I opened the doors an hour early every day, and kept the studio open into the evening so anyone who wanted extra studio time, could take advantage (and almost everyone did).

On our final afternoon, we created time for show and tell, sharing what we enjoyed about the process, as well as what was challenging.

I drove home grateful for a class willing to accept a substitute teacher, who gave their all and worked hard, and left with a beautiful series of art. Because their work was so beautiful, here are photos of the pieces they chose to share with the class.

 

 

 

 

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