Sunday, June 28, 2009

Painting Palekh in Pennsylvania with Paul

Hello Friends,

Okay, the alliteration is a bit goofy but I put it in anyway! Our summer schedule has been crazy. We have been working lots of long hours to prepare our lessons for the new Heritage Education Program, continuing to teach our weekly classes and preparing for our seminars. Our studio is really hopping with activity and we are so thrilled with the artistic energy that we are creating.

This weekend we had the first of our three summer seminars. Our seminars are not long, extended seminars that span several days....our market could not absorb that. Our seminars include a three hour Friday night painting session and an 8 hour session on Saturday. The day and a half seminar is perfect for our students and our market. It provides a concentrated period of study but allows our students to have limited time away from work and family.

Our current weekend seminar was based on the Palekh painting style that I studied with David Jansen in May. I took the class from David because I wanted to learn the techniques that are associated with Palekh painting. While I was sitting in the class I realized that this painting style would translate beautifully to one of our condensed weekend seminars. It was really perfect because the style was new, the techniques were not too difficult and the finished painting would be beautiful. I decided that I would not do the lesson on the small Santa surface that David used so I resized the design and taught it on a sled that our woodman had already made for our studio. The upside of the resizing was that some of the tiny details were bigger! When we painted the Palekh at David's seminar we used a magnifying glass for the small details. Our resizing avoided that need.

Anyhow, the seminar was such a wonderful experience. We had 13 students in the seminar which was a nice size for our studio. I had a goal of completely finishing the painting during the seminar so that meant that I had to be a drill sergeant! No slackers allowed! I told the students to strap in for the ride and for the next two days we worked very hard. The students rose to the challenge and they all have a gorgeous piece of Russian Folk art to display in their home. Following is some pictures from the seminar. I am so proud of all of the students and truly had a wonderful time. Also...a special thank you to David for designing such a wonderful piece.

Nancy is building the snow in layers. Her final painting is gorgeous.

Nadine is adding a wonderful border to her painting. She decided to do the painting on a round plate with a scalloped edge. Her painting turned out great. I hope to post about it after it is varnished. Nadine always thinks outside of the box.

Cathy and Betty multi task as they complete an intermediate step on the painting. Cathy loved this painting and was excited to learn the style. We will often sit as students in each other's seminars. I have to tell you that she was a very good student but she gave the teacher a very bad time! HAHA.

Here I am doing the "teacher thing" as I help Nancy refine her Father Frost face.

This is a picture of some of the class...unfortunately a few students had to leave early and missed the class photo. You can tell by their smiling faces that they were fulfilled by the seminar. I am so proud of everyone. Thank you students!



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hello Friends,

I have to share with you the fantastic experience we had this past weekend. Paul and I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy one of the best side benefits of teaching or taking regular painting classes - the phenomenal camaraderie that comes from a group of people sharing something they love.

My Tuesday night class had a double session on Sunday so that we could wrap classes up by the end of June. After class, we celebrated the year of learning together by having a cookout at our house. Class members brought their significant others and we all enjoyed a beautiful evening filled with fun, laughter and good food. It was so fun, and it made me realize how much painting has enriched our lives - from the beautiful artwork in our home to the friends we have met and enjoyed. Students we would have never known if it weren't for the painting classes we teach, we now consider to be our good friends. And this wonderful class of budding artists has developed the rhythm of friendship and camaraderie that a teacher can only hope for. I dare say they truly care for one another and the painting class and this group of people has become a sanctuary for each of them - a place to go to forget all problems even if only temporarily. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in decorative painting classes, weekly or not, run, don't walk, to register. It's an opportunity you won't regret and it has side benefits beyond learning to paint that may surprise you.

Take care,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The painting room!

Hello Friends,

Cathy and I are blessed to live in a lovely home. We live in a turn of the century rather large Victorian house with oak beams on the ceiling, lovely floors, nice woodwork, a modern kitchen, 4 bedrooms, a couple of baths, a nice large linen closet, an upstairs family room and .........the dreaded paint room.
To preface this article I must tell you that my wife is a wonderful homemaker. In spite of the fact that she works two jobs (the shop and public school) our house is almost always wonderfully clean and she is a wonderful cook as well. She works tirelessly to make sure that her family has a nice, normal home life and it is important to her that her house is tidy. Even with the 3 kids, the three dogs and me, the house manages to stay in great shape. But there is one room in the house that we have given up on.....our painting room.

Originally this room was some sort of closet or storage room...we aren't really sure. It is a very small room (8x10) and it has a bunch of stuff in it including two big tables, a big amoire for wood storage, bookcases, shelves, about 709879 surfaces, lots of paints, patterns, etc, etc. During the winter months we are in that room a lot but during the summer it is not unlikely for us to be in there for 8 - 10 hours a day. We paint all the time. It is funny that we have this huge old house but we spend most of our time in this little, tiny, over-crowded room. It also amazes me that this "black hole" is the home of so much beautiful art work. We stay in our painting room because at this point the mess is contained. We have a huge studio/store but it is away from our home and we want to be near the kids so for us... painting in a postage stamp is the best option.
I know that our painting room is a casualty of our unbelievable schedule. We have to prioritize and, quite frankly, a room that no one else ever sees and that would take us forever to clean, we let go. I know that if Cathy weren't juggling all of the things that we do our painting room would be spotless like the rest of our house. But for now it will have to do.
As we have reported before Cathy and I do a lot of shows in order to recruit new students. We have done well at these shows but one of the excuses we hear from people is that they do not have room to paint. Poppycock!!! If you have a kitchen table or a card table you can paint. We painted at our kitchen table for a long time before we started using our painting room. Currently we process about 300 paintings a year through our painting room. The point is doesn't have to pretty, it doesn't have to be particularly organized or clean, it doesn't have to be permanent but, if you want to create beauty you can find the space. So for now we will continue to paint in our little tiny, messy, cramped room and love every minute of it.
I don't want you to think I am exaggerating so I have included a few pictures of our "lovely" space. When you are looking at the pictures please keep in mind that we spend many, many lovely hours in this room together! Thank God we like each other.

Have a great day,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Parent's bragging rights

Hello Friends,

It is 6:30 am on the last day of school. Summer means so much to a teacher. The most important thing is that summer represents a time for renewal. So...over the next three months I am going to renew..and renew again. Life is good!

Yes, life is good this morning but there are lots of times when life is a struggle. I am sure that all of the parents that are reading this can relate to what I am about to say. Parenting is the most difficult and most rewarding jobs that we can undertake. My children bring me more total joy and more intense worry than I could have ever imagined. This year has been no different. My kids are truly wonderful people but they have all of the flaws that the rest of us have. The only difference is that it is our job to condition our kids so that these flaws don't interfere with their life. Not an easy job but so important.

Lately, we have had a month of "prouds". Gabe is doing a wonderful job on his baseball team and is a real contributor. My brother John is his coach and I love the fact that they are interacting on their own level. Devon has completed her freshman year in college and is taking summer classes to help her along in the fall. She is also working a very difficult job this summer and earning minimum wage for doing it. I am hoping that she gains an appreciation for those that struggle day to day to simply exist and that she gains a deep appreciation for her education. Mariah is finishing her junior year in high school and has established herself as a really wonderful singer. She has done very well in lots of local, regional and state level singing competitions and truly works very hard.

Which brings me to my next point. Don't you just love when a plan comes together? Mariah has been taking French for the past 3 years and has developed a true affinity for the French culture. She has a wonderful teacher that inspires her to learn and examine the language for all the beauty that we associate with French. This teacher has exposed Mariah to music theater in French. One of the musicals has a song that truly captured her heart. I won't try to spell the French title but the English translation is "You are My Everything". Mariah listened to the song and she and a fellow classmate researched the music and put together their own performance of this song. They didn't practice a tremendous amount and they recorded this at 8 am with no warmup or thought to quality. They just sat down and made music. The results are lovely, and honest. I am particularly proud that Mariah has become a true student in her own right. She didn't do this because her parents expected it but she did it because she had a truly inquisitive mind that led to this discovery. Below I am including the link to "You are My Everything". The actual link might not work so you might have to cut and paste it into your address bar. Please enjoy. I am quite proud and Cathy and I claim "bragging rights" on this one.