Year one of a 3 year art program - a different kind of year than expected

As we inch a little closer to the month of March a lot of us are reflecting on the past year since the pandemic really took hold globally. It’s been a year of severe stress and pain for a lot of people and that must be noted. For some, it’s been a time of unintended self-exploration as we’ve retreated into our own inner-worlds like never before - especially as the weather has gotten colder. Yet while we quarantine and cocoon, none of us lives in an actual bubble separate from each other's experiences. We find ways to connect with each other as a society of social animals. We truly need each other… even while we are “in here.”

As a typical Gen X-er (ehem member of the “sandwich generation”), I am noting how technology lifelines available to me and my family have been critical to connection. My kids have been home for an entire year (gulp!) with online school as their main source of "normal" access to their teachers and friends. Meanwhile, I have had to scour the internet for vaccine appointments for my mother and Dave’s parents - all in their 80s. We even tried gifting my in-laws a tablet so that we can video conference occasionally (with mixed reviews on that!)

Reflecting on a year of art education...

When the pandemic hit, I had been getting ready to embark on a three year intensive Master Artist Program (MAP) through The Compass Atelier, which had been in the works way before COVID reared its ugly head. In the weeks leading up to the start of the program, it became clear that in-studio instruction was out of

the question. Thankfully, the school director and instructor Glen Kessler was able to pivot quickly into online teaching with close to 30 brand new MAP students including myself.

One year later, the MAP program is thriving with weekly online classes and independent work in our own studios. I'm not sure where Glen gets all his energy running the program, but I'm pretty sure it's from his passion and dedication to teaching regardless of the platform. I'm in awe of all of that!

So, my home studio has become my oasis where I have spent a pandemic year in art atelier learning mode.

As it turns out, there is no shortage of reference material in my own little bubble. In order to practice new drawing and painting techniques, I have been setting up still lives, curating interior scenes, modeling for my own self portraits, and using my own kids as my muses.

I have gotten to know a great group of fellow students during our weekly 5 hour online class. It took a little longer than I would have liked to start bonding with my cohort of classmates but through this shared experience we are now really connecting (still virtually) and sharing in each other’s successes, fears, and growth.

While not a true representation of the program make-up, my cohort happens to be mostly women - several of whom have kids in online school as well. I find them to be a relatable bunch of kind, unassuming, and supportive ladies. We critique each other's work each week which can feel pretty vulnerable, so I'm thankful that we all like each other so much.

Most of the work that I've produced this year I would consider practice pieces and not final finished artwork that I would consider showing.

These little quick studies below might be the exception. Meant to be fast, colorful, and unpolished, I rather like the way they look framed! I plan to do more of these to keep myself loose and to further study composition, color, and various concepts.

On the horizon...

As spring inches closer I anticipate some new energy in our daily lives. Our kids' schools are preparing to open back up to in-person instruction (albeit different that what we've known). Dave and I are grateful that our parents are getting vaccinated and safe.

And in just a couple of weeks, my classmates and I will meet in person for only the second time in a year. The first time was last fall when we did our plein air assignment outdoors. Here's a photo of my new little pochade box in action during one of our outdoor sessions.

We will finally meet in the atelier classroom, which has been modified to accommodate some in-person instruction safely, so that we can conduct an in-person year-end review and critique of ALL the artwork we produced during the year ONE of our atelier studies. A great way to round out a challenging but productive first year.

Lessons in life and art...

I’ve learned a tremendous amount this past year and am so grateful for that. Each lesson built upon the previous - in life and in art-education - perhaps too much for a single blog post. As for the atelier program, each skill and technique practiced has revealed insight into my future art-making options and that's exciting.

As we round out the first year of studies, I am filled with gratitude for the new relationships and experiences gained in this program during an unprecedented time. I also look forward to year TWO in this 3-year program, which will allow me to move beyond technique-driven assignments and into incorporating lessons learned into my own voice as an artist.

Stay tuned as I will be sure to share how that goes.

But more importantly, take the time to reflect on what has carried you through this past year.

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