Wednesday, November 12, 2014
My love of art is a life-long one. I have fond childhood memories of coming to Jackson from Meridian to visit the Mississippi Museum of Art, of making ceramics at my church, and of countless art and craft projects at home. I majored in art history at Millsaps College, and upon returning to Jackson after law school, I quickly and happily found a burgeoning creative class of artists to befriend and support. But I love art as one who appreciates it, not one who makes it. The two studio classes required for my major (beginning drawing and beginning sculpture) really stressed me out.
When I read in the St. Andrew's Cathedral newsletter about local artist William Goodman's four-week art and faith course on Wednesday evenings, I decided to give it a shot. I've been a fan of Goodman's work for years and feel privileged to own a number of his pieces. To take a class with him—and in the context of discussing the spiritual nature of creating art—seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up.
And so, a week later, I nervously headed to the cathedral for the first session. The Parish Hall awaited, with blank canvasses, bowls of paint, brushes and stacks of vintage magazines spread out along tables.
Goodman began the class by talking about his art and his spiritual journey before explaining that over the next weeks, we'd create mixed-media works on canvas by laying down a background with paint, then cutting out images to collage on top. After a quick demo and explanation of his technique for paint application, he set us loose with our supplies and our artistic impulses.
Some folks seemed a bit intimidated by the blank canvas, but making the first brushstroke is really the hardest part. Layering and blending colors is pretty therapeutic, as it turns out, and I quickly became engrossed in my own work, not paying attention to what anyone else was doing. The hardest part was figuring out when to stop. After determining my background was complete, I looked around at what others had done. The variety of approaches was as varied as the participants: Some created abstract washes of color, others created distinct patterns and shapes, and a few created landscapes.
There was no right or wrong—only what we each felt compelled to paint.
Next, we learned how to wield an X-ACTO knife to delicately cut around the outline of images we found in magazines. Flipping through vintage magazines—particularly the ladies' publications from the '50s and '60s—was a lot of fun, and the retro ads were hilarious. While some people used their pictures and text to create a narrative or story of sorts, I simply found images that I liked. And yet, as I culled them, I realized that they resonated with me because they spoke to some impulse, feeling or experience I had. I suppose our subconscious works that way.
While collaging, I found myself chatting away with my classmates at the table. As it turned out, we weren't merely making art; we were participating in a community of sorts, learning from each other. As we worked and talked, Goodman moved about the room, providing instruction and guidance—and encouragement—and brought one person up to the front of the room to talk about the story her piece told.
Halfway through the four-class series, I've started collaging my images and am eager to see how everyone's pieces turn out. After it's over, will I suddenly find myself making art all the time? I can say with certainty the answer is no. Will I even want to hang up my piece? That remains to be seen. But would I take another class? Absolutely.
For me, the act of creating something is the fun and powerful part. It's what I love about art, even merely as an appreciator of it, and why I insist on having original pieces (as opposed to prints) hanging on my walls.
There's something of a spiritual force that's part of the creative process, and that's what makes art.
In Jackson, we're lucky to have so many local working artists and opportunities to explore our creativity. Dean O'Conner at the cathedral indicated that the church may offer similar classes, but the Mississippi Museum of Art and Millsaps College's Enrichment Series provide regular chances as well. I know I'll be on the lookout for more.
Search for some yourself, and you might be surprised what happens when you flex a little creative muscle.