Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Making Special

Its hard to believe its been a week now since the Parke-Kooyman Painting Retreat (a.k.a. Painting Camp) has ended. Painting Camp was held in the form of a 3 day/4 night plein aire workshop in at Camp Tosebo in Onekema, MI hosted by Painters Melanie Parke and Richard Kooyman. See link for their website.

This was definitely the gold standard of workshops. First of all, Camp Tosebo was a perfect place to hold an art intensive. The main lodge, outbuildings and and the grounds are absolutely charming and meticulously maintained. There were 11 of us in attendance and I would have to say that the team of Parke-Kooyman, Cre Woodard, and Carol Spaulding didn't miss a thing when it came down to even the smallest details. We were all greeted by fresh flowers, not only in the public rooms of the lodge, but in our separate accommodations as well. Meals were an art unto themselves with Chef Cre and Woman-of-Many-Hats Carol (Assistant to the Chef, Wine Pourer, Bottle Washer & most importantly Art Camper) manning the kitchen. The food was fresh, local, and non-stop. Got to LOVE a woman who serves cake for breakfast - a cardamon cake to be precise. This was some seriously good slow food. Fresh Corn Chowder, Rustic Goat Cheese & Squash Pizza, A Creamy Cauliflower Fettuccine, Key Lime Pie, Brownies, Gallettes, Sesame Cookies and blueberry pancakes! And wine, lots of wine! Who cares if we ever even painted!

Paint we did though. Three solid days from 9:00 to 5:00 with a short lunch break. We filled what seemed like miles of surface! We worked quickly through several small studies. We worked even more quickly trying to capture the essence of the essential on larger surfaces. Under the guidance of Melanie and Richard it was if we were all learning a new language. Part of my language is learning to speak with a bigger brush in broader volumes. On day two, my dear Melanie, who I now refer to as the "queen of all painting evil" walked up to where I was painting and handed me this monstrous brush ( think blush brush for an elephant). Of course, I am working on a little canvas and was like, "just where do you expect me to use this?" She just smiled and walked away. However, I am now having a big brush love affair!

Both Melanie and Richard are extremely talented painters. In addition, they both have the gift of being natural teachers. Being able to support and enhance the positive aspects of their student's work seems to come very easily to them as a team. In addition to freely sharing their wealth of personal knowledge, they shared a library of catalogs, books, dvds and spirited discussions during our daily evening fireside "wrap ups".

One of the highlights of camp was the Wine & Cheese Field Trip to Parke-Kooyman Studios. Richard and Melanie graciously opened their studios and home to us for hors'd ouvres and wine. Yes, this is how a field trip should be. I have some serious studio envy. Both studios are light and airy, plenty of space. Melanie's is in a beautifully updated old store front and Richard's space is literally a stone's throw away in a restored barn. Both spaces held many framed and "in progress pieces". It was interesting to see the progression from the unfinished to the framed. I think its pretty safe to say we all came away from the outing visually enriched.

This workshop brought together a patchwork of strangers and by the time we were all packed up and bound for home it was obvious that we were all connected by the same sutra. I made many dear friends here and the inspirations that this group generated will be resonating in my work for months to come. To steal a line from Ellen Dissanayake, "Making Special" is an art form in itself and what Parke-Kooyman did exceptionally well at this retreat.

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