Monday, November 4, 2013

Teaching Landscape in Potomac, Maryland

I have been doing quite a few things that are outside my comfort zone lately; volunteering to help Susan in Rhinebeck , and agreeing to teach a landscape class down in Maryland were the big ones. My friend, Sharon Janda, invited me to come to her home studio to teach a felting group that she is part of. To me this was a BIG deal for a couple of reasons. For one thing it meant I would have to drive by myself for 7 hours in a very metropolitan area. Since I do not leave my house much and I live in a somewhat rural area the thought of driving down the coast through several major cities was rather frightening. Most of my trips are through New York state and New England, in more familiar and less populated areas. I also get a bit nervous teaching at a new venue. I know from experience that the facility does make a difference in how the class goes especially in the beginning. I need to remind myself that none of my classes has been a disaster because of the facilities and what matters most is for me to handle the challenges with patience and humor. But what was causing me the most anxiety was the fact that I would have Sharon and Renate Maile-Moskowitz as students. They are my friends but I am also intimidated by their talent, sophistication and mastery of felt making. I did not feel like I had anything to offer them, especially since my class is about traditional landscape painting and their work is contemporary. I am happy to say that I really had no reason to worry about any of these things. I am proud of myself that I took the leap and did not let my fears stop me. The entire time was a wonderful experience and I feel like I have gained a new confidence that I hope I can hold on to.
One of my goals when I am teaching is to help students achieve their own vision for their piece. I start the class with a lecture on the principles of landscape painting; the effects of atmosphere and light, techniques for seeing, value, color, etc.; all of which can apply to any medium or style. Then I try to guide students to use that knowledge to create a piece of art that reflects their own aesthetic. I did not discourage Sharon or Renate from using a reference work that I normally would try to steer a student away from, because I knew that a traditional landscape was not their style. For the class I want students to have a reference photograph that will give them a chance to explore the principles that I lecture about, the best is one that is a vista so that they can "create a sense of distance through color and perspective". 
Renate brought in a book of paintings by Samuel Bak and wanted to try to create a similar scene in felt. It was really interesting to me to collaborate with her on this and in the end I did feel that she found the class worthwhile. Here is one of Samuel Bak's pieces that I found on the internet that is similar to Renate's photo.

Here is her layout...

 And her unfinished piece at the end of class...

And here is Renate at the end of class...she was on her way to teach a class and I think she was feeling a bit harried (pun intended)....though come to think of it it WAS Halloween.

Sharon's piece was based on a photo that had been manipulated so that the detail was soft and the colors were adjusted to be rather vivid. Here is her layout.

Sharon has a FeltLOOM that she wanted to try using for this project. When she put it through the machine the layout got stretched a bit at the top into a kind of arch shape. We both liked the effect for her piece so when she wet felted it she stretched it a bit more. Here it is at that stage.

And here it is at the end of the day...and night, since we sat around drinking wine and talking while she continued to work on it.

Bev also had a photo that was dramatic in its lighting; not much detail showed since the contrast was so high. After she had been working on the piece for a while she said that it would have been better to have worked from a photo with a better exposure for the piece she did in class. She did a wonderful job but it was tough deciding what to do in the areas that were just black in the photo. Here is her layout.

After wet felting...

And at the end of class....

The other women worked from photos that were better suited to what I teach. The fact that several were my own photos might have something to do with that ;)

Here is Dalis's layout.

She had a lot of fun with the yarns and other embellishments that I bring. 
And here is the piece after wet felting.

And at the end of class.

This is Grace's layout...

After wet felting...

And after needle felting...

This piece was done by Paige...

After wet felting...

And after needle felting.

This piece was done by Joanne. She was having trouble with her leg and could not really walk but she was determined to take my class. We all helped her get the things she needed. It is so nice to work with a group of friends.

Here is the piece after wet felting.

And at the end of class....

I had a really wonderful time teaching these women, and spending time with Sharon. And things got even better when Joanne bought one of the 'paintings' that I brought as an example. I was so happy. This is the landscape that went home with her.

And one more blessing came my way while I was at Sharon's. I got a call from my Dad which made me panic at first, until he said that he was just calling me to let me know that someone from the Granby Land Trust had left a message and that I should return her call. The call was to tell me that I won an award for one of my pieces! Both of them got juried in so I won't know what piece won or what the award is. Either way I am thrilled and looking forward to the opening on Wednesday!


  1. I dearly wish you would teach this at Sheep & Wool in Rhienebck. I've been waiting several years for such a class, and no one close to me teaches it. Your work is beautiful, and such magic is in the work of your students....

  2. Hi Ashling! I am teaching this weekend in Glens Falls at Robin Blakney-Carlson's Luckystone Studio . There is still room in that class if you are free this weekend. This is the last class I have scheduled for the year. Send me your email addy if you would like to be on my class mailing list.

  3. Congratulations on your award! And for conquering your fears! I get anxiety about those sort of drives and new situations too.
    All the work produced is beautiful.. what a wonderful class to take part in!

  4. Thank you FeltersJourney! They were a great bunch of students. I am so glad that I have been taking these chances. Life is too short to let our unfounded fears stop us from having new experiences. Diane