Sense and nonsense of workshops…(part3)

July 6, 2007

What do you need a workshop potentially for?

For working in a group – synergy – this would mean to take the opportunity not to learn special skills but rather the chance to understand how combined effects can be greater than the sum of their individual effects. I think this works best for the student when s/he choses a completely different medium, style or technique than s/he usually works with. An innocent approach to such a workshop would be the best.

The intent for attending such a workshop is not to learn new techniques and material primarily but to profit from the synergy of a group and work on a purely intuitive basis. This can be achieved only if the single group members work well together i.e. if the teacher is able to create a well balanced and harmonious atmosphere between the students.

This requires a great deal of personal involvement and experience from the teacher as well as sensitivity and personality. This also requires from the students that they know exactly what the workshop is all about and are ready to work in a team not as individuals.

An example:

Susan Shie, an outsider artist and instructor from Wooster, OH, offers workshops she calls “Turtle Art Camps” at her house which are regularly held on a 5 day basis. Besides teaching airbrush and airpen techniques Susan puts the emphasis on “non-judgemental and intuitive art making, finding one’s innocent artist voice, which has been ignored for so long” and she says “Emphasis in this class is on letting your intuitive creative energy flow out fresh, only the fabric, without judging it. We’ll use sketchbooks to develop ideas, but not erasers or tracing paper. There will be a lot of class interaction, in the form of show and tell.”

Shie helps organize and develop local art events and projects. She sees the making of art as an integral and important aspect of healing: balancing, cleansing, and unstressing the mind. “When people interact in creating art, the process and communication involved cause us to realize more clearly our connection to each other and to the Earth.” (excerpts and quotes from her website:
Turtle Moon Studios ).

The example shows that it is extremely important to know before what you can expect from a workshop. This requires a good description of the course as well as students reading and preparing for the workshop which is not always natural.

The synergy of a group can lead to great results. We have seen many examples in art history where a group of artists working closely together initiated a completely new art style. It would be presumptuous to expect this to happen as a result of a single workshop or a few more – I mentioned it just as an example.

Seldom artists are prepared to work in groups together over years and contribute the same intense commitment as at the beginning. The days of an art salon such as “Le Salon” de Gertrude Stein, where writers and painters (Picasso, Matisse, Bracques, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder and many others) met to discuss new ideas in detail are long gone.

Of course there are still artist groups today which develop their ideas working together but not in the same intensity and exclusivity as in the past. The requirements of today’s ordinary life have changed dramatically and the distractions of a consumer society indeed do not help the artist to concentrate on her/his mission alone. Competition has grown large, the market is flooded with art work, so the chances for the individual ever getting the recognition s/he deserves and financial success are smaller than ever.

On the other hand the opportunities for the individual have multiplied. In the relatively free societies of the western world without the necessity of keeping traditions, women and men, young and elder people have the same chance to work as artists if they want to. Recognition and acceptance is a different issue. In the past this was unthinkable for women artists and many talented women had no chance to get their work seen publically.

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