Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reporting back

I just realized I never posted about my weekend mixed-media class at RISD.  It was wonderful, as we all knew it would be.  (Thank you all for cheering me on and saying such supportive things during my pre-class freak-out).

Our instructor, Mara Metcalf,  was wonderfully welcoming and  approachable and down-to-earth.  My fellow students were fun and interesting.  It was a total treat to meet Amy for the first time and I am SO glad I went.

I learned some new techniques, and got a lot of practice with image transfers.  I incorporated fabric into my art for the first time.  I pushed through some anxiety, took some chances, and came home with these four pieces.

image transfers on watercolor paper

fabric and paper over canvas board with the gel transfer of the cicada glued on top. perhaps the first thing I've made that didn't use any paint whatsoever. how unusual.

fabric glued to heavy cardboard, fly transferred directly onto fabric, circles stamped with gesso and colored with magenta ink. (note to self: ink will not drip down the fabric surface.  it will be immediately absorbed)

This postcard is the only remaining bit of three different failed experiments that were cut, glued, and rearranged all weekend. 

The most rewarding and helpful part of the weekend was asking for feedback about my work.  I had no intention of doing this.  I fully planned to quietly slip my work in my bag Sunday afternoon and go home.  Day one, Mara walked around the room, answering questions and offering suggestions to those who wanted it.  I was feeling rather shy and awkward about trying to create in front of others – inwardly I was screaming, “don’t look at this , it’s just the start of something, I don’t really mean it to be art, I’m just playing, I know it kind of sucks.”  I managed to work through the defensiveness since no one was actually watching me or caring one bit about what I was doing, but I kept myself very closed off from Mara so that she wouldn’t come over and comment.  At the end of the day I had a bunch of disjointed odds and ends, but nothing tangible to show for my first day in class. 

After going home and playing for another few hours in my studio Saturday night, I went back on Sunday feeling looser.  I started putting pieces together and playing with less inhibition.  I started getting into the groove.  As I eavesdropped on the helpful and supportive advice Mara was giving others, I finally plucked up the courage to ask her opinion and advice about something.   Lo and behold, I didn’t die of embarrassment, or feel like an idiot.  In fact it was really helpful.  (Duh!)

In the final few hours of the class she announced that anyone seeking feedback on their work should tack it up on the walls and come forward and she would pair us with another student.  I stayed in my seat and kept working while others started to mill about. Then, at the last minute, I dove into the mix.  I was paired with a very young, heavily pierced art student.  I offered her no help whatsoever, but she quietly and confidently picked up one of my collage elements from a work in progress and said “how about this?” – relocating the focal image and totally transforming the piece.  It was revelatory.  I started picking her brain about all my pieces and even got a few other people in on the conversation. Suddenly I was a feedback junkie. Who would have guessed? This little bit of personal growth was well worth the cost of the workshop.  All the new art techniques were just icing on the cake.


  1. Why will you never believe how fantastic you are as an artist, Karen? Your work is always so original and inspiring in a way that makes me want to improve my own work and be more productive. These are all fantastic. Wish I could have been on the workshop, we don't seem to have them in this neck of the woods. You sound your bubbly old self (well old is not what I mean in terms of age! Your just a youngster to me.

  2. Wow! Sounds like a truly rewarding experience. I have always enjoyed not only your work but your sense of humor and personality. It glows through in your postings! You seem like such a fun and wonderful person and it would be a joy to meet you.

    I never pictured you as shy, in fact quite the opposite, lol. I guess when it comes to showing our work in public and asking questions many of us are a bit shy but the thing is your work is so fabulous and free! You inspire me every time I visit as I marvel at your beautiful and fun art. Love the transfers! I am just now getting into them as well and I love, love, love them!

  3. Well I love what you did on the workshop, they're really interesting. Well done for taking the plunge and speaking up - that takes guts (says me, Mrs Wallflower!).

  4. Truly, I had no idea you were nervous about that--it didn't show at all. I thought Mara was great too. And a helpful crit is a fine line...constructive criticism is a wonderful thing but empty praise or just plain criticism, not so helpful either way.

    Loved loved loved meeting you too.

  5. glad you had a brilliant time, we all you knew you would, hell YOU knew you would :) your artwork is of course brilliant (I especially like the top one with the trainers) but the real prize was the constructive feedback you received. That is the one thing I would love to attend a course for. I've never done any sort of art "training" since my early teens at school, no online workshops or real life courses. And I really crave that criticism.....I get loads of people saying "oooh that's nice" on my blog or flickr or wherever. But what I REALLY want is for people to say "that doesn't quite work for me, if you moved this bit to the left or changed the colour scheme....etc" - as that's the only way I will learn to separate the wheat from the chaff......

  6. Go you!! I love the pieces you created. Love the one with the sneakers. So striking. And the fly, even though...ugh a fly comes to mind instantly. Love the way it is slightly off centre. And that you played with new materials and techniques and was brave enough to ask for constructive criticism. That is so hard to put yourself out there. I am always terrified people will be mean and make me cry!! :)

    I am so happy for you. I want to try an in person class sometime.

  7. My birthday is just around the corner and I'd pretty much kill for image #2. HINT HINT.

    Your stuff is awesome! Love it all, bitch. See you Thursday.

  8. Look at you! As I read through your inhibitions and self talk, I so hear my own words in my head! I signed up for my first class but it's not til Oct. I absolutely KNOW I'll be thinking the exact same thing - but it's only a one day class so I better get out of my own way a little quicker than you did!

    I love the transfer work - I've not tried any of that's on a list somewhere. The trainers are FAB. And making something with NO paint! Even though I'm not a bug fan, the pieces are really good. You're an inspiration (can I put you in my pocket when I go to class?)

  9. I was smiling through this whole story. Is it groovy? Do you want to do it again? I love those sneakers! And transferring on fabric... Isn't that just a plot from a science fiction story?

    Flies. Anyone who can incorporate flies is all right by me.

  10. Your work is awesome!! Thanks for sharing all of this. I love the transfers, the sneakers, the cicada, and for sharing your fears. Hurray for you for taking the plunge, for being brave. (Now you can drop a whole lotta stuff into Morning Pages.) And Karen, just so you know, you are inspiring to a lot of us out here, whether you like it or not, whether you went to this class or not. You create some awesome art.

    1. aw, thanks Jo. that just choked me up a little bit.

  11. That's really awesome, Karen! It is not at all easy to put ourselves out there where we imagine we will be picked apart by critical eyes. I can totally identify with your hesitation to jump into the mix. But I'm so glad you took the plunge, and felt such a definite sense of personal growth! And your art pieces look great.

  12. Perhaps Rushmore is coming into her much so, that she need no longer to call herself Rushmore?

    I see you take risks with every piece you create! Your art is more than just expressions...but personalities taking form :)

    ...and I like that so much about what you do!

  13. Strutting your stuff - wahoo. These experiments with fabric and transfer are way cool my friend. I am now totally looking forward to what emerges with these new ways of seeing. Be bold! xox