The Summer That Came and Went and Was Somehow Revolutionary

Dear Patient Readers:

Year two is in full swing and where the heck have I been? Painting hard. You would be so proud. I want to catch you up on the journey and I think the best way to do that is with a photo-heavy post or two. I’ve been short on words but long on pictures over the past few months.

When I last posted in June, you may recall, I was getting a master copy pastel portrait ready for the Best of Gage Show. The show was on the last day of the atelier year, a Friday. Saturday I went camping on the Oregon coast and by Tuesday I was sitting in a kick-off meeting for new advertising campaign. Freelancing is like perpetually walking in late to a party of people you don’t know, but going back to work at POSSIBLE was more like the theme song from “Cheers.” I was sad to leave the atelier for the summer, but this warm reunion was music to my ears.

In July I worked and Emmett and I moved apartments across town. We also spent the 4th hiking in the Enchantments, a protected part of the Cascades that we had to enter a lottery for. I continued working right up to the week in August when I went to San Francisco for a figure drawing workshop.

Serendipity had a major hand in this experience. I was supposed to go for a workshop taught by Michael Grimaldi, a renowned artistic anatomist. A few weeks before the trip, I was notified that Grimaldi had to cancel the workshop and I was refunded. But I had flights. Emmett had flights too because we planned to stay with our friends and see the city and then Emmett would leave and I would stay to draw. The triple hat trick came when I reached out to Elizabeth Zanzinger, an alum of my atelier living in SF, who directed me to Sadie Valeri who was hosting teaching artist Katie Whipple for a figure drawing workshop in her atelier. In one move I was connected with three artists whose work I admire in the utmost and signed up to work along side them for a week in Sadie’s gorgeous studio. Bonus: I got to experience another classical atelier and meet other students. It was a week of dreams. Katie doesn’t keep a website of her work, but she brought in drawing examples and I took a few pictures with a very damaged iPhone camera that makes everything look pale and blurry, so just imagine:

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I was feeling super nervous about my drawing skills and also being the lone ambassador from my atelier because I had been art directing since the studio year ended and not drawing. I had sketched a bunch but I hadn’t Drawn or Drafted. I wasn’t ready to represent the Aristides atelier. Other things too were worrisome, like this class was all in graphite and I had spent the year in charcoal. Drawing is drawing, but felicity with materials makes a huge difference. I can’t boast any finished graphite drawings to my name. The point is, I wanted to have a successful class where I was drawing my best and being pushed from my best into growth. That’s ideal, right? But I hadn’t set myself up for that.

It must have been walking into a room full of enthusiastic students focused on that same weird sphere of knowledge I am that jolted me from worried to stoked. I didn’t feel anxious anymore, but like a desert traveler who stumbled across a watering hole. Katie was amazing at putting us at ease and asking us to relax enough to actually learn something. She admitted she puts a lot of energy into calming herself down while drawing. That resonated with me. For a lot of us, especially in life room when there is a literal timer going, drawing can feel like a race. But Katie reasoned that by slowing down, you actually speed up. You make fewer mistakes early on and that helps you avoid major surgery later.

My hand was possessed. It drew as if it had been drawing all summer and so I was able to grow. I was staying with our dear, sweet friends Mio and Julia:

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They fed me, loved me, housed me, played with me and endured me talking ad nauseum about art because I was back in the ring. At night I would do all of the exercises Sadie had on her website and watched all the videos she had, which I newly had access to because I had signed up for the class. My brain was so on fire I could barely sleep. And that was in August. I am still in that jam, working as much and as hard as I can while the music plays. Sleeping is tough when there’s so much to do!

Here’s Katie’s drawing process from the demo she gave (again, bad phone camera, I have since gotten a new one):

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Here’s my drawing from a slightly different view point in the room:


This was a jump for me in drawing. I was energized and came home ready to begin year two — grisaille painting. But first, to squeeze some beach fun out of the last bit of summer: We hosted our friend Ally in from London, his first time in America! We fed him big food and took him to the enchanted Washington coast. Then I went to Texas to visit with my family in Corpus Christi where we played games and fished. We weren’t too lucky at fishing, but I didn’t mind since what’s really fun for me is the nostalgia of being on the boat with my parents and overcoming small hurdles like baiting a writhing little shrimp onto a line and then just chillin’.

Back in Seattle I had only a few days to collect supplies and set up my studio. I have a new spot in the atelier. A new year and everything to learn.

(Featured image: figure painting by Katie Whipple, 2012.)