Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Value of a Good Workshop - Meucha and Linda Rothchild Ollis

Linda and I are both expressive and intense.
One difference is she needs a mic
(very soft spoken and gentle) and I do not.
I’ve just returned from a 3 day workshop with Linda Rothchild Ollis at Menucha Retreat in Corbett, OR.  The workshop was called “Stronger Design: Before and After” and the description fit with what I felt I need at this time.  The workshop was full at 18 artists.  It began late Sunday afternoon May 15th and ended Wednesday afternoon, May 18th.

When I signed up in January I was initially put off with the idea of sharing a room with complete strangers. Menucha is owned by the Presbyterian Church and, I discovered, run much like the Methodist church camps of my youth (except no tents, outhouses or homesick kids). One big benefit of holding the workshop there was that I was in the same building, whether in the workshop, in the dining hall or in my bed.   I shared a room with only one person (some had 2 or 3). The room had a bathroom right outside the door.  We roomies were respectful of each other’s privacy and nocturnal rhythms. Meals were very good with generous servings. We all volunteered as table “hosts” for two meals and I found that being a “table mommy” was a lot of fun with very little work.  We could leave our materials and possessions around in the studio or public areas and not worry.

My friend and table mate was Mary Rollins who took
this great shot looking down at the workshop area from
a balcony above.  
At the time I began the workshop I had just finished pouring a painting modeled after a collage I’d done a week earlier which I called “Peoples of the Earth I”.  During the first day I thought about and worked on 2 sketches for other derivatives. However I never actually started the paintings.  The process Linda took us through was completely absorbing. I let go of all other plans and ideas and just went with the flow.  We began with analysis of award winning paintings, using tissue paper to see large shapes, values and composition (without the trivial detail).  Then we stepped it up by evaluating our own work and learned how to expand our design skills using nonrepresentational pencil, paint and collage techniques. 

I came home with several thoughts.  I had become too focused on producing paintings that might lead to the next competition entry.  My work had become tedious which is reflected by the end product.  Linda taught several interesting methods designed to increase awareness of potential compositional forms, exercises designed to (if you will forgive me) “expand our minds”.  I had forgotten how to “play”, how to paint and create without concern about whether I would produce a competition worthy product or a painting someone wanted to buy. I came home excited, rejuvenated, and ready to add some new practices to my routine, try some new materials and, perhaps most important, I was out of my rut. 

From the first day I heard about the workshop to the day I got home (yesterday) I had a feeling that some powerful guiding energy was moving me along, presenting just the right stuff at just the right time. Linda proved to be just the right fit, in tune with where I am, and just the right instructor.  We had 18 participants and they were all positive.  The energy that flowed around in that group was nothing short of astonishing.   The work produced was as varied as the group and the talent in that room was amazing.  And Linda just gave and gave of her time and herself.  We all benefited.  We all came home blessed.