One of the most rewarding things about teaching art workshops is the wonder of how unique artistic talent is to each individual. I don’t teach workshops where everybody expects to paint the same thing and have them all come out looking like a row of cookie cutter canvases. The freedom for each artist to express what is inside themselves makes for constant surprises. It is truly rewarding to watch personal expression reveal itself through art. It is like a window into the soul what might otherwise stay hidden from the outside world. The cookie cutter can’t unmask the heart. The heart of all art is in the freedom of allowing each individual to bring out their own personal inner light.
Changeable artistic expression is a great way to experiment with what is inside working its way out. One day the feeling may be one of quiet, of solitude and the art that is made will reflect that. A maple leaf painted with slow, painstaking detail comes from the still quiet heart. Another day when the fall wind is crisp but the sun is breaking through the clouds bringing a light heartedness depicted with a few quick swishes of bright color on the page. Instantly, joy pops out for the world to see. (Let’s Make Art can show you how to do these!) There are as many ways to depict maple leaves as there are artists ready to depict. And as many maple leaves as there are ways to capture their essence through art.
One artist chooses the softness and gentle color changes of a sweet gum leaf with its starfish-like structure. She expresses silence and an inner choice of order and attention to structure. God’s amazing creation in fine detail. While another artist decides to go for bold bright color in a “larger than life” oak leaf hydrangea. Two different artists, two different leaves, two different approaches. We would never see this beautiful expression of uniqueness if we were all painting the same exact thing, exactly alike.
Last Saturday at Watkins College of Art at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee, our workshop focused on painting fall leaves and flowers. We decided to go foraging around the campus to see what sparked our imaginations. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” Giving artists the freedom to let the sparks be lit is a wondrous thing. You never know what might be expressed. Every little bit of expressed light means that much less darkness. While I am there to give direction and impart knowledge of skills to use, my biggest job is to stand back out of the way when the light starts shining! And that is a thing of beauty!
Saturday was a beautiful 62 degrees (F). (Last week we had an ice storm!) It was the perfect day to go downtown and play tourist. My friend, Sue and I walked around and mingled with the tourists, seeing Nashville from their eyes. When you live in a popular tourist attraction you forget why people come until you step into their shoes and pick up the holiday spirit. The tall glass buildings on the hill overshadow the famous Ryman Auditorium and the Honky Tonks of Lower Broadway. From the Hard Rock Cafe we watched the horse drawn carriages, the bicycle taxis and the Pedal Bar go by. We could see people crossing the Cumberland River on the foot bridge and the crowd on the rooftop of the RockBottom Brewery. From Lower Broad, we walked up the hill checking out the reflections in the glass of the AT&T building affectionately known in Nashville as the “Bat Building,” for it’s resemblance to the Caped Crusader. We looked at churches beneath tall bank buildings. We went up to the old Arcade, almost deserted on a Saturday, where art galleries line the upstairs balcony overlooking the little cafes and shops that serve the downtown office crowd. Finally, we inspected the scrollwork on a few old buildings tucked away amidst the newer glass ones. All in all, it was a day to remind me of why, after years of traveling far and wide, I finally came home to Nashville. It was a good day.
For more on Nashville and the Pedal Bar check out:
The fall Art and Craft fairs are in full swing now. Who decides whether it is Art or Craft? Are there a set of rules that say this is craft and that is art? The debate has raged on and on with no definitive answers. A search turns up numerous articles and forums on the subject.
Attending the Tennessee Arts and Crafts Fair in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee yesterday, I walked around with this idea in mind. Could I distinguish which was which? Sometimes. More often, items seemed to be both.
The blog, Divine Caroline has an article written by Mary Francis. Francis says, “This entire discussion is particularly touchy in an artistic world where a lot of the products can be gasp useful (like quilts, or wearable art or jewelry) but does its use and technique demean it as art? Personally, I don’t think so.” Maybe it is in the eye of the beholder.
The lines between art and craft are very blurry at times. It is and, perhaps, always will be a matter of opinion. You be the judge.
Ceramic artist David Gurney talks about the difference on a You Tube video here