Category Archives: PLAYshops

(What I Love About) Art in the City

“Art in the City” offers young people an opportunity to experience the city differently – looking for art in all the wrong places, or at least, in unexpected places, as well as looking at art where you would expect to find it – in art galleries.  Throughout the day, the art explorers interact with art they see,  by sketching, writing, and sharing their thoughts with others in the group about what piece they love best or which piece arouses their curiousity. Each stop is a surprise. With their eyes attuned to art, they see art everywhere – on the delicate hoar frost on winter trees, in a park bench, in the pattern on a rug. on the side of a truck.

Alley Art

More Alley Art, some spontaneous and some part of an Alley Art project

Looking at ourselves in a convex mirror in one of the Twin Towers, downtown Regina

Sketching near the warmth of Joe Fafard’s bull

enjoying our Ujrainian Co-op picnic inside the magical spaces of Spafford Books. No one wanted to leave! Ever.

The most beautiful thing at Spafford Books – Oxford, the Bookshop dog

More beauty at Spafford Books

Beauty tucked into every corner of Spafford Books

At the Assiniboia Gallery

Playing Fox and Geese at the Art Gallery of Regina (making a huge doily) in the snow

At the art Gallery of Regina, viewing “Tedium”…about doilies….dancing the doily dance

Every art day needs a napping place! So much beauty, so much to take in – here we are enjoying a calm moment with the kitties of Excalipurr Cat Cafe (with cat birthday cake to follow)

With thanks to the Ukraianian Co-op, Tania Wolk, Leah, Robin and Oxford at Spafford Books, the Assiniboia Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Regina, and the Excalipurr Cat Cafe, and Vera Saltzman, intrepid research partner

To view another Art in the City blog, by the explorers themselves, see  Guest Blog: Art in the City

Befriending Wildflowers (the noisier version)

It was a very hot and humid day when we set out to explore the wildflowers of Pheasant Creek Coulee, with small sketchbooks in hand.  Each sketchbook had several line drawings of flowers we hoped to find, with a space to name it ourselves, and a space for the common name. I had anticipated moving quickly across the pasture to the hills below but this gaggle of 5 girls and 2 moms stopped to look at  and appreciate every wildflower – they did not miss one – and gave each some very fun names. We collected a few to paint later and proceeded to a very steep hill full of western wild bergamots and a scary climb down  (for some!) that ended with a slide several feet down to the road!!

We returned to Kerry Farm a little overheated, but cooled down with a delicious potluck lunch. We found some shade to really look closely at our wildflowers and experiment with watercolour painting. Along the way, we visited Grandmother Willow (for a little tree climbing and some feather collecting) and said hi to the horses. We ended the day with some flower yoga and gymnastics as you can see.

This is a companion piece to Befriending Wildflowers (the Quiet Version)

Befriending Wildflowers (the quiet version)

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” Georgia O’Keefe

“Befriending Wildflowers” was a two day art retreat which gave us time to “really see a flower” and to befriend some of the  wildflowers who live on the slopes of the Qu’Appelle Valley. By spending time with the wildflowers on the hills, by painting and drawing the flowers that called to us, we came to know a few flowers more intimately.

We were so fortunate to be able to hold this retreat at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer  which is

Photo by Tania Wolk

nestled in the hills above Echo Lake. We painted under the shade of trees during the hot days, and hiked through woodland trails up to the top of the hills where grasses and flowers bloomed profusely in the early mornings and evenings. We were so warmly welcomed and cared for by Glenn, Margaret, Kathy and Tim.  Silence and quiet are encouraged and allow us to connect with nature more deeply than usual. For those who wished, Eucharist and “silent sitting” enriched our experience. The Qu’Appelle House of Prayer is a sacred place.

some of our “cat flowers”…instructor Kami Jo second from right

While the land (and the flowers) were our greatest teacher(s), we also learned so much from each other. Our youngest participant, Kami Jo, led a session on creating cat flowers which was fantastic. Tania helped us draw flowers in their simplest shapes, getting to the essence of the flower, and helping us see flowers in fresh ways. We painted with dominant hand, non-dominant hand, standing, sitting, upside down,  and we sometimes timed ourselves to get the feel of a flower rather than the details. We did flower yoga, and played flower charades, and  did breathing exercises. We laughed frequently. We moved  very slowly (to Kami Jo’s frustration). We called our unhurried pace “wildflower time”. We learned how painting on the ground in a meadow was a completely different experience from painting a vase of flowers.

Wildflower Joy! Photo by Tania Wolk

Photo by Elizabeth Gavin

Photo: Tania Wolk

Speaking for myself, It was pure joy to be with others who take notice and delight in wildflowers. Being with others  who are totally absorbed  in trying to get the feel of a particular flower on paper is very settling, calming and joyful. I saw wildflowers in new ways, and sometimes through the eyes of others, I saw familiar wildflowers in completely unfamiliar ways. I treasure my friendships with wildflowers – through the presence and teachings of my companions, my friendships continue to grow and thrive.

Once upon another PLAYshop, this one focusing on trees, hypnotizing chickens became the most fun thing to do. During our Befriending Flowers time, the most fun thing for Kami Jo was having the chance to drive Margaret in the golf cart! You have to scroll to the bottom for photos of that one.

I feel gratitude for the sacred place that is the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, for the people that care for it, and for us; for the beautiful hills, grasses and wildflowers; and for each of those who took part so wholeheartedly!! Thank you.

Diane getting to know gaillardia

Gaillardia seed head, Diane

Gaillardia sun and shadows, Liz

Gaillardia, photo by Tania Wolk

Gaillardia Seed Heads by Tania

Purple Prairie clover, first impressions, Liz

Purple Prairie Clover, Photo by Tania Wolk

Cat flowers, Kami Jo

Purple Prairie Clover, Tania

Trying with marker, Kami Jo

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Diane

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Tania

Wild Rose, after the petals fall and before the rose hip forms. Beauty in every stage. Tania.

Liz’s flowers…gaillardia, bergamot, wild rose

Cat Flower, Liz

Wild Bergamot (using Tania’s shape method), Sue

Wild Bergamot makes us go wild and free, Diane

And the wind blew, and the bergamot got wilder!  Whoohee!!

Dancing in the Meadow, Sue

Kami Jo’s flowers, photo by Tania Wolk

Who painted the fastest of us all? (Kami Jo)

Early morning painting in the meadow

Totally absorbed as we “befriend a wildflower”

Mai Jo befriending Margaret, Margaret befriending Kami Jo. Margaret is one of the co-directors of the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, along with Glenn Zimmer. Photo by Tania Wolk.

Saving the best for last!! Finally we are speeding up, says Kami Jo. Photo by Tania Wolk.

through the looking glass, Northern Bedstraw, photo by Tania Wolk

 

Hand – Word Play

Hand (noun)
Old English hond, hand “the human hand;” also “side, part, direction” (in defining position, to either right or left); also “power, control, possession” (on the notion of the hand’s grip or hold), from Proto-Germanic *handuz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch, German hand, Old Norse hönd, Gothic handus), which is of uncertain origin

hand (verb.)c. 1400, “take charge of, seize,” from hand (n.). Earlier verbs were hend (Old English genehdan), handle. Meaning “to pass (something to someone)” is from 1640s. To hand it to (someone)“acknowledge someone’s ability or superiority” is slang from 1906, the it perhaps meant to suggest a trophy cup, award, etc. Related: Handedhanding.

Are you handy?

Are you a handful?

(I bet you’re HANDsome!)

Hands on. Hands off. HANDS UP! All hands on deck. Hands across the ocean. I want to hold your hand. Put your hand in the hand of the….I’ve got to hand it to you…on the one hand, on the other hand….first-hand, second hand. Living from hand-to-mouth, handmade. Let us walk hand in hand. Hand over hand. Sleight of hand.

Out of hand. In hand. At hand.

In good hands.

An old hand.

My hands are full. My hands are tied.

firm handshake. golden hand shake. limp handshake

high five!

handiwork

handicap

handyperson, handywoman, handyman

Clocks: the minute hand, the second hand, the hour hand

How many hands high is that horse?

Measurement: a handbreadth

A handle is held by a hand.

At hand.

By hand.

Off hand.

To have on hand.

Off one’s hands.

Underhanded.

Peekaboo.

Lay hands on someone.

Handhold

I wash my hands of this!

Handkerchief

Handicuff (put up yer dukes!)

You are a handful!

Expressions

To bite the hand that feeds you.

To know something firsthand.

I head that secondhand.

To force someone’s hands.

To gain the upper hand.

To get your hands dirty.

To give a hand.

To lend a hand. (Can someone borrow a hand? Would you ever get it back?)

To hand something down. A hand-me-down.

To give a hand up.

To hand something to someone on a platter.

To win hands down.

To be hands off. Or hands on.

To have blood on one’s hands.

To act with a heavy hand.

When the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I know it like the back of my hand. (How well do you know the back of your hand?)

What we do with our hands

gesture, touch, clap, wring, hand-writing, stir, soothe, touch, caress, drive, drink, eat, paint, pat, tap, sign, stroke, slap (if we’re Batman), wash, handshake, scratch, reach, grab, carry, blow kisses, wave, hold….

If you are curious, check out these recent blog posts:  Shane’s Hands  about my husband Shane’s hands or Gestures which asks a question (or rather poet Mary Oliver poses a question)

 

(Source: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hand. I checked our dictionary at home which has several pages of words deriving from the root word “hand”)

Art Buddies

 

When I was about 10, an uncle who was a  “Sunday artist” spent an afternoon  showing me how to draw cups and bowls. He taught me about volume and perspective, taught me how to shade with my pencil, and encouraged me to draw  with a “light touch.” He was patient and seemed to enjoy himself. I soaked up the attention. My aunts and uncles loved us all, but it was very rare for one of them to pay particular attention to one of us cousins. They were in their world and we were in ours. I now suspect that this uncle wasn’t so comfortable in the adult world, so for an afternoon, he crossed over.

When I was imagining “Explorations in Art” I wanted the young people who came to experience that kind of attention.  I have often worked with large groups of children and youth. Let the wild ruckus begin! Sometimes big group art experiences are more about handling materials and general chaos and completing a project  than learning about art.

My first ever Explorations in Art student was Lanelle. For the past two years Lanelle has come once a month, sometimes more and occasionally, less. Among her consuming passions are dragons, so we have learned a lot about art by exploring dragons. But we have also explored tractors, wildflowers, pencils, faces, cubes, cylinders, dogs, ski hills. Together with others we have explored art in the city, both in galleries but also in back alleys, restaurants and tattoo parlours. We have visited the horses, skated on the ice rink, climbed the hills and visited Grandmother Willow in all seasons. We play weird games in the car.  Lanelle has brought along her sister, her mom, her cousins and once, eight of her friends! We have favourite snacks – hot chocolate, ginger cookies, pizza. I have been promising her mango smoothies. She has promised me a fiddle concert under the willow tree.

One of the guiding principles of “Explorations in Art” is “Teaching is a two way path”. Nothing could be truer. I have a wonderful group of students and I do not doubt for a moment that they are among the very best  teachers I have ever had. They inspire me to see the world in new ways. Their interests take me in new directions. They shake me up.

While the one-on-one approach of “Explorations in Art” allows me to offer a student my full attention and tailor our time together according to their various interests, abilities and working rhythms, it also offers an unintended benefit – the very best art companions. It is about relationship as much as it is about art.

As such, the way Lanelle and I  create art together has changed. This summer we spent many happy hours creating in the same room…just enjoying the calm, creative, entirely enjoyable, and beautiful world we were inhabiting together. Lanelle is in charge of music – sometime roots music, sometimes calming music and sometimes dance music – for that, we have Marvin Gaye. Sometimes we have to shake it up and dance or do calisthenics. Sometimes we listen to a book. We have the same quirky (and sometimes dark) sense of humour. Sometimes Lanelle is absolutely quiet. She can be incredibly focussed. Sometimes she talks my ear off.

During the spring, we were having a wonderful talk and I had an epiphany. Lanelle is a kindred spirit. Friends for life, I am sure.  Renegades. Art buddies. So, this blog is for you Lanelle – with a thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s also for my long ago (late) uncle who took the time. Another thank you.

(Question for Lanelle: How would you paint the bottom of a heart? Have you ever seen a person’s ear fall off because the other person was talking a lot?)

Lanelle’s most recent project, summer of 2017

Close up

We both love working on the floor. Keeps us down to earth (sort of).

Lanelle’s piece inspired this “Sprites Dancing in Full Moon” .We both love this lovely blue paper and I was inspired by the simple clean lines in Lanelle’s piece.

Lanelle’s first dragon with piles of gold coins plus some wonderful food, fall 2015

Sketching around the farmyard, spring 2016

Spring 2016

Collecting ticks and painting wildflowers, Spring 2016

Painting Pots PLAYshop, Spring 2016

Dominique and Lanelle, Art in the City, Summer 2016

Art in the City, Lanelle’s 7 minute sketch, summer 2016

Lanelle’s surprise Christmas gift for her family. A watercolour (framed by Lanelle) of her family skiing at Mission Ridge, fall 2016

Paper Playshop, Fall 2016

Lanelle’s friends, winter 2017

Self- Portrait #1

Watercolour, Winter 2017

Neve’s mermaid (Lanelle’s little sister) and Lanelle at work

 

 

Guest Blog: Art in the City

by Lanelle Muirhead and Dominique Baggett

Su’p, I am Lanelle (left) and I and  want to tell you about Art in the City. This day was so much fun (laughing ha! ha!) and I hope that you have as much as me while reading it. (Fun, that is!)

Hello, I am Dominique (right) and this is our post about Art in The City, a day we spent with Sue, Rebekah, Ruth and Brenda way back in July. It was Rebekah’s  birthday!!!!

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

Brenda, Rebekah, Ashlie, Ruth (peace sign), us (Sue took this picture)

 

picking out our sketchbooks at Regina Public Library

picking out our sketchbooks at  Regina Public Library

We started at the doctor’s office which was not really a part of Art in the City and was really boring.

Things got better!! We went to the library and borrowed  our very own sketchbooks which we borrowed for a year (you can see them in the picture at the top.) We never want to return them.

 

Riding fake trikes outside the library

Riding fake trikes outside the library

We saw art everywhere - even on the rug at the library!

We saw art everywhere – even on the rug at the library!

 

 

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

 

 

 

We sketched in the park with our new sketchbooks.

 

Lanelle:

“Sue would not tell us where we going next. It was a surprise. But we accidentaly guessed it! I was telling a story about a henna tattoo place and then Sue said, “Was that a guess or were you just telling Dominique a story?” We were confused….Suddenly Dominique said, “Are we going to somewhere they do henna tattoos?” Sue said, “Nooooo, but you are so close.” We thought and thought and we guessed and we guessed and finally we guessed we were going to meet a tattoo artist. We were right! Sue told us we were going to meet Ashlie of Tattoo Nebula! We were so excited!!

This is Ashley, owner of Tattoo Nebula

Here is the real Ashlie, owner of Tattoo Nebula. Look how purple her walls are.

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Ashlie sharing her sacred geometry designs(Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Lanelle

Here is the real Ashlie!   Artist: Lanelle

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Ashlie’s hands. Her tattoos come from sacred geometry in nature, like on the book cover

 

Tattoo Nebula was deep purple inside and very magical and we learned all about tattoos. Ashlie loves mandalas. She gave us all temporary tattoos. Rebekah chose first because she was the birthday girl.

Rebekah's tattoo

Rebekah’s tattoo (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right

Look at our tattoos! Lanellle on the left, Dominque on the right( Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Dominique

Artist: Lanelle

Artist: Lanelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

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Photo courtesy B. MacLauchlan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we went to have a picnic with the cows at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows

Picnic, Joe Fafard cows… (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Riding cows (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Picnic (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

We saw art everywhere - even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery

We saw art everywhere – even in the fossils on the Tyndall stone at the art gallery (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery

meeting the statues in the lobby of the MacKenzie Art Gallery…where is the statue?(Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry

Dominique telling us about her statue Henry (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

Lanelle and her statue Susan

Lanelle and her statue Susan (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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Rebekah and Ruth (Photo Courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We are doing a great job imitating this statue!

At Rebekah's house, time for a rest!

At Rebekah’s house, time for a rest!

Us two snuggled under a quilt

Us two snuggled under a quilt

We saw art everywhere - a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah's

We saw art everywhere – a purple kitchen floor at Rebekah’s

Once we were done napping, we just had to have a snack. What better place than the Mercury? There were even nebulas in the art at the Mercury!

Milkshakes at the Mercury. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck!

Milkshakes at the Mercury, plus drawing in our sketchbooks. Dominique: I was mad at Lanelle because she dipped her fries in the milkshake. Yuck! (Photo courtesy of B. Maclauchlan)

 

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How could a day of art make us so hungry?

After the Mercury, we went in search of art in the alleys and on garage doors.

In the Cathedral area

In the Cathedral area. (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

 

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon

Pretending to be in fear of the dragon (Photo courtesy of B. MacLauchlan)

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We had so much fun!

What we learned is that you can find art everywhere!

Thanks for reading our post!!

Thanks for reading our post!!

how to behave in an art gallery

Note from Poached Egg Woman: Lanelle and Dominique’s next blog will be  about how to behave in an art gallery ha ha

 

 

How Creating Art Benefits Children

 

 We focus when creating art.

Creating art is relaxing. I often notice a kind of “let down”, a “settling in” to the art activity when children and youth come to my studio (or elsewhere) to create art. Most children find it easy to really focus on what they are doing and while they are creating art, they are not thinking about other things. They may be excited about what they are creating but they are excited in a grounded and calm way. Creating art can very meditative. Studies have shown that when tested after creating art, people’s cortisol levels went down significantly, irregardless of their skill level or prior experience. This was most true with younger participants in the study. Cortisone is the “stress hormone” and increased levels of stress interfere with learning, memory, and general health as well depression and mental health.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

Creating art helps you look at the world in new and different ways. We have fixed ideas about art. We often think we need to paint something particular like a beautiful scene or a still life. Everything around us can be the subject of our art practice; sketching common items like salt and pepper shakers, your shoes or your pet can teach us a great deal and provide inspiration for more artistic pursuits.

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Creating art helps us express ourselves. There are many things all of us would love to express but have no words for- joy, sadness, delight, confusion, peace, anger. Like music and dance, art is a wonderful way to express some of these emotions. People often feel “lighter” after working on a piece of art. Art is a fantastic way to express yourself without having to talk.

What colour do I choose?

What colour do I choose?

Creating art helps us learn to make choices and problem solve. Every step involves making a decision: what color to use, how to make a line, what size to make something. With every choice the object becomes more and more their own.

Having fun with imagination!

Having fun with imagination!

Creating art stimulates the imagination. It is such a great thing to have an active imagination. For one thing, you will never get bored. The ability to imagine other ways of being helps to create empathy in children. Imagination is thought to be “exercise for our brain” and benefits both the memory and the intellect. Through art, children create something that, until that point, was only imagined. Creating art is a terrific outlet for an active imagination.

What mistake?

What mistake?

Creating art lets us respond to our mistakes in a positive way. Some of my own favourite pieces have come about because I made what first seemed to be a huge mistake. I had to be resourceful and figure out a way for the piece to work. Responding in this way to art can help up use our mistakes positively  and solve  problems in life as well.

 

image-37Creating art brings together the generations. As a parent, I remember dropping my kids off for their activities. I loved swimming lessons or going to the library or hiking because we could do these things as a family. Creating art is something all generations can enjoy doing together.

 

Proud!

Proud!

 

Creating art offers satisfaction and a way to make where we live more beautiful. Children feel satisfied and proud when they have finished a piece. They can put it their room, give it as a gift, put on the fridge or even better, frame it and hang it in a place of pride in their home or school.

 

20160712_132534Creating art is pure fun! Creating art has a wonderful element of play, so that even when we seem to just be “fooling around” or doodling, we are learning new skills and expanding the possibilities in our life.

Water, Colour, Paper

Water

Colour

Paper

And  a brush. (But not necessarily!)

“Follow the brush,” writes Lynda Barry. “The paint travels down the brush and the brush travels across the paper. Once I noticed this I found I enjoyed watching the paint meet the paper. I liked watching it so much, I forgot I had a part in it!”

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Here are some photos from a recent Fearless watercolour PLAYshop sponsored by the Lumsden and District Arts Council. With thanks to all who made it possible and for the fearless participants, teachers each and everyone of them.

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A maple bug loved this play sheet

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paying with the "rigger" (brush

paying with the “rigger” (brush

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Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.
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Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

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In Praise of Play

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

The absorption of the simple act of cutting paper

I recently had someone ask me if my art PLAYshops were for adults. Most definitely, they are for adults. Sometimes they are also for all ages and at other times exclusively for children and youth. Most often I tell people that PLAYshops are like WORKshops, only we play instead of work. I offer PLAYshops in paper collage and watercolour painting, but the spirit of playful exploration is possible for so many endeavours. People do learn techniques at a PLAYshop but almost by accident  as they ask themselves “what if I tried this?” It strikes me as a sad commentary that “play” for adults is often the domain of adult only sexshops or professional football. The recent popularity of adult colouring books is one sign of how hungry we are for pure play in these busy and often serious times.

IMG_1512Here is what I notice about those who attend my art PLAYshops. Many of us learned in elementary school that there are one or two “artists” in the class and that that artist is not us! No wonder there is often initial concern about “getting it right”. Part of my job as a leader is the open up the space for experimentation, exploration, skylarking* and simple play. Once people get past “getting it right”,  and they usually do, I notice the great comfort that comes with the simple act of cutting with scissors, tearing paper with fingers or wielding a glue stick. The same is true of dipping a brush in a tray of pure colour, dipping it again in water and applying it to paper. Many of us have not enjoyed these simple activities since we were in school, or perhaps when we sat down to show a child how to cut or paint. It is as if by cutting or gluing, we are remembering something, some pleasure, that we long since forgot. We feel that pleasure deep in our bodies.

Although there is sometimes chatter as we create and experiment, there are also often periods IMG_1811of silence, when participants are so absorbed  and focused in what they are doing that they forget to drink their coffee or go to the bathroom or worry about when they will buy groceries. I love this feeling of a group of people being being wholly absorbed in what they are doing. I sense a sort of “hum” of contentment in the room.

I have just started taking an art class based on learning some very specific techniques. I feel excitement about trying out new things. What I noticed right away though, is how frequently those of us in the room criticize and put down our own work, even though we are there to learn something new. We can’t help ourselves. We are afraid to make mistakes. We take ourselves pretty seriously.

I understand this terror of creating visual art a little because I am terrified to dance in the same kind of way. I don’t seem to have natural rhythm, I trip over my feet, I try to take the lead. I need  to draw on this sense of play and fun when I hit the dance floor. Well, actually, first I need to get near a dance floor!!

Image 2Part of the appeal of the PLAYshops is the “play” part but another part of the pleasure is returning to work with our hands. We can get this same kind of tactile pleasure in a myriad of ways – carving wood, sewing by hand, kneading dough, painting a piece of furniture, raking leaves, polishing silver or leather. In an era when our fingers and thumbs are so busy sending messages via screens, we crave this ability to touch something real, something not virtual, something that we can transform and something that will transform us, even in the smallest of ways.

 

 

*skylark
n.
the common European lark, 1680s, from sky (n.) + lark (n.1). So called because it sings as it mounts toward the sky in flight.

v.
“to frolic or play,” 1809, originally nautical, in reference to “wanton play about the rigging, and tops,” probably from skylark (n.), influenced by (or from) lark (n.2). Related: Skylarked ; skylarking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Rice Paper Birds on a winter's day

Rice Paper Birds on a winter’s day