The fact that I had registered for and was going to attend the Intensive Studies Seminar in Taos drove my work for over 6 months. It sharpened me, encouraged me to take chances, to try new ideas and to show them to people. Then, suddenly, I was there, in the middle of it all, meeting wonderful people and seeing so much incredible artwork! And now I'm back in my own studio space and thinking,
absorbing all the information and ideas discussed, looking at it's effect. For me, personally, the effect of the ISS was almost all before the event even occurred. I came home with one dozen new paintings. The first three, done before any comments or instruction, are my favorites. There are perhaps four more paintings that, after a little work, I will be pleased to own. The rest is potential collage paper.
Before leaving home I volunteered, mentally, to be at the bottom of the group. I wasn't. I discovered every one of the 60 artists in that conference hall were and are unique in style, subject, ability, interpretation, goals and temperament. Many had attended before, several for many years. And of those repeat attendees, many do not paint regularly. They
show up, year after year, hoping to get better. Think of piano playing. Practice piano once a year and see where you are in 10 or 13 years. I apply the same piano analogy to an instructor painting on a student's work - one does not learn by watching someone else play the keys. One learns by doing.
Some of the best moments in the 2+ weeks I was gone were in non-workshop moments. I was delighted with the galleries, talking to the owners, other artists. I was happy with Taos and particularly happy with the surrounding land, the "plateau", the snow capped mountains, the Rio Grande gorge. I ate antelope at a place that specializes in local and organic. I had several dinners out with new friends and a "fast food" Mexican place, Guadalajara Grill, an easy walk from the hotel and excellent food (plus margaritas and beer!).
I came home with a renewed sense of self-confidence. 3 of the 4
instructors said "keep on doing what you are doing". I take that as a validation that I am moving along my path as an artist (or perhaps they were at a loss to say anything?!!). The 4th advised that my work was "too noisy" and that competition is a waste of time and money. I think that depends on a person's goals.
I think that out of all the instructors, Katherine Chang Liu was my greatest influence. I painted to my SW desert theme, these three paintings, in the first two days. "Desert Signs", "Desert Wishes" and "Desert Summer" were my first three works, undisturbed by instructor comment. Notice how they got quieter. Katherine said that usually happens in workshop. She showed me how to find smaller designs for new pieces, which I did but ultimately found I preferred my own designs.
Take away advice: be true to yourself. The rest will follow.