Day One

The really early stuff
I totally nailed it and went to 6 a.m. yoga like a boss with a packed breakfast and lunch and day clothes and face wash and everything. I got to Gage around eight and ate a hard boiled egg and grapes in the car while blissing out to the jazz station until it was time to get nervous. And then it was time to get psyched.

The people
We met in the life room which is usually full of easels set around a modeling platform. Today there were rows of folding chairs set up and students beginning to fill them. I greeted a few of the friends I’d made this summer from drawing at open studios and was very grateful to see some familiar faces. Then I started introducing myself. My classmates are great people, compassionate, talented and intense. They’re from all over the country and a few from abroad. I find them humble and open. I hadn’t expected that. And it’s not false modesty as one often encounters, but rather a group acknowledgment that this training is difficult for everyone. They have a deep respect for the training and each other. It’s pretty rad.

The talks
The first day mainly consisted of demonstrations of material preparations and talks to get us mentally prepared for the challenge while simultaneously reminding us to be thrilled. A lot of great advice was given and, as motivational talks go, some interesting anecdotes.

Juliette began with a recent article titled “Apple Releases Brief, Fleeting Moment of Excitement.” It was from The Onion satirizing our consumer culture that craves the next flash in the pan. She contrasted that idea with a paraphrasing of R.A.M. Stevenson’s book on the art of Velasquez, stating that the best way to experience art is slowly. Art isn’t a brief, fleeting happening. It sits quietly across from you while it slowly takes effect. She wanted to set our expectations about learning to create art as well. It goes even slower.

She talked about her role and those of the supporting teachers as being here to push us. She related a story from Michael Phelps’ coach when he was training for the Olympics. The coach stepped on Phelps’ goggles before a meet because he wanted the swimmer to experience water coming in through his goggles. He  wanted him to experience everything that could go wrong so that when he was finally swimming in the Olympics, nothing could stop him.

Another teacher offered an anecdote from a book he read this summer in which adults go to a magician school, like Hogwarts for adults maybe. He said it made him think of the atelier because it talked about how learning the basics is the hardest part. He said we’ll find this to be true.

Picking up on that, Juliette emphasized the hardest thing you will come up against is yourself. That really landed. We’ve all been there.

Another interesting piece of advice was “don’t hold on to the outcome of your art this year.” Meaning the point is not to make perfect pictures, the point is to get better. She said “hold onto it loosely” so we could challenge ourselves and take risks.

Finally she said:

 “Show up everyday wanting to be an artist and you’ll leave an artist.”

The Letter
With that, we were given a blank piece of paper and asked to write out goals and thoughts as we start the atelier to be opened at a later date in March for perspective. It’s been useful writing this blog because I have articulated thoughts on hand. I made sure to come up with some new ones so that I can be surprised and encouraged in the dark days of March when it’s cold and rainy and I’m struggling to make something look right.

The Studio
We learned how to sharpen pencils, as I expanded on in the previous post, set up our drawing boards for various projects and selected casts for our cast drawings. From tomorrow on it’s life room in the morning and cast drawings and other projects in the afternoon. I’m all set up and ready go. Tomorrow, we draw!