A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to lead a workshop for students at Augustana College. The concept for the workshop came from one of my previous pieces, The Guitar Strings.
Two previous pieces, The Guitar Strings and the Wisdom of Axum, were both good preparation for this workshop as I worked to gain an understanding of the materials involved, the colors and the relationship between the pieces. Some materials have similar colors, and we can use these materials as one large brushstroke. We applied the materials as one would apply oil paint or watercolor to a painting. I believe this kind of exploration gives each person, each artist, the opportunity to take the work in his or her own direction.
Once one has started an oil painting, for example, it’s very difficult to use watercolor on the same canvas, because oil base doesn't allow the water to stick. So we need to use another medium to put watercolor on top of the oil paint. The question is how to use properly media that are not traditionally used side by side.
One goal of this workshop was to give the students some experience outside of the traditional, single media format. In this project, the students used a variety of very different materials to create one unified composition. "Composition," according to Wikipedia, "is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work." The work created is reminiscent of Alberto Burri's art. (See image left.) Antoni Tápies used similar techniques in his work. (See right.) Both of these artists applied many years of experience and knowledge to the work in front of them. I'm always inspired by seeing their work, and their skill.
Given the short amount of time that we had to work, the students worked well and created some really nice pieces. I’m glad to have an opportunity to participate in the curriculum in this way. It’s very beneficial for the students to have a variety of experiences like this, and to be exposed to a variety of professional artists and teachers. For the benefit of the artistic community, and the community in general, we want students to graduate with rich, wide experiences. I would love to see students coming out of local art programs prepared to exhibit their work at a professional level, and ready for professional work in the arts.