Saturday, August 10, 2013

Figure Painting Workshop with Rose Datoc Dall

Last week I spent 4 days in Buena Vista, Virginia at my alma mater, Southern Virginia University attending a figure drawing/painting "summer camp" taught by artist Rose Datoc Dall.  It was a tremendous leap of faith, and a wonderful experience.

Traveling away from Kyle and Dylan took a lot of planning and a very generous mother-in-law.  I left Wednesday morning and arrived at SVU to what seemed like hugs at every turn--I didn't expect to see so many friends there, both attending the painting workshop and the photography workshop taught by my friend Brinn Willis.  The two workshops were held simultaneously, and were pulled off without a hitch by my pal Taerra Pence and Carrie Brotherson, Director of the Travel Study program (and my freshman English professor).  This is the inaugural year for these summer camps, and they seemed very successful, so I'm sure there will be more in the future.

We jumped right into things on that first day.  The dance studio was transformed into the perfect group art studio.  At first I was disappointed that we weren't going to work in the art studios at my beloved Tucson House, where I spent many-a-long night in my undergrad being an art geek.  I was looking forward to basking in nostalgia, but it was all for the best because the dance studio was bright, spacious, and a perfect workspace for our purposes.  The lovely Kathryn Bouchelle was our model that day.  We watched a drawing demo by Rose, and began with gesture drawings.

Time rushed by, and 9 pm came like the shake of a lamb's tail.  The lovely Jennifer Brotherson modeled for us in the evening, in a pose that was straight out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Day 1, over. 

I decided to take the plunge into this 4 day workshop because it was taught by Rose Datoc Dall.  I've been a fan of her art for a few years, ever since I was introduced to it through the "I'm A Mormon" campaign, of all places.  I saw her video, looked up her work, and was hooked.  Now, by happenstance, we're in the same (LDS) stake.  Last month she opened a solo exhibition at the Washington DC LDS Temple Visitor's Center called "Jesus Once Was a Little Child".  The exhibit contains paintings she has made over the last decade of Christ as a young boy.  The images are powerful, moving, and evocative.  I went to the opening reception and listened to her gallery talk.  She spoke of how she had navigated being a full-time mother and an artist, "stealing moments" to paint after her kids went to bed, and accruing time in front of her easel like "drops in the bucket".  Her message was very impactful and applicable to my life right now, and I knew I had to take the opportunity to learn from her.  The fact that that opportunity also involved my home-away-from home at SVU, was just a fantastic bonus.

Bright and early on Day 2, we ventured out on a 2 hour drive to Richmond to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.  What a glorious drive it was!  Made glorious by a reunion with my dear friend, Amaree.  We gabbed on and on about life and art, and all in the car discussed how to navigate our chosen artistic pursuits and still maintain the high moral standards the Lord requires.  It was so bolstering for me to discuss these challenges with other artist, and I came away fortified.

The Museum as exquisite--more-so than my last visit over 7 years ago.  They've made tremendous improvements and renovations, and their collection is truly incredible.  What a gem!  Here are a few of my favorite finds.



The best part of the day was getting a short one-on-one pow-wow with the unsurpassed Professor Doug Himes.  My respect for him knows no bounds, seriously.  What an artist!  Through and through.  He's not an artist because of the beautiful images he creates, or the exquisite drawings he produces, or because of his profession as an art instructor--no, he is an artist because of his soul and his life and his PASSION.  He evaluated my drawings, gave me some invaluable advice, and inspired me as only a true TEACHER can.  I am so lucky to know him.

We were treated to a posh dinner at the museum restaurant (best crab cakes I've ever tasted) and headed back home after a long, beautiful day, talking of living history, faith, and dreams.  *sigh*  When we arrived back in BV, my dear little family awaited me and I hit my pillow complete.

Day 3 began very ambitiously with a 6:30 am jog down the "River Walk".  I forgot how misty BV is in the morning.  How everything smells wet and dewy.  How quiet it is in a small town, and how engrained it is in my bones.  It could have felt like no time had passed in the 6 years I've been away.  But, unusual for the old me, it never felt that way.  I am firmly rooted in the present, and that is an amazing feeling.

 Kathryn was back to model for us, a "long pose".  She sat in basically the same position for about, oh, 6 hours?  Well done, Kathryn.  I began oil painting.  I have never tried painting the figure or a portrait, and I gave it a decent attempt.  However, I am not going to post the results.  I know, with no filters or pretense, what my painting looks like and why I painted it.  It was not painted to be seen but to be painted.  End of discussion.  However, I have no shame in posting pictures of other people's lovely paintings:

It was a very long day, 14 hours in the studio, and I was glad for my bed.

Day 4
I spent the morning drawing the lovely Metta Himes in an elegant sitting pose.  Rose gave a pastel demo, and the time flew by.  Everyone in the class contributed their work for an exhibition, which we viewed over lunch.  It was wonderful to see everyone's work on display, but also slightly harrowing, as I had no desire to show my work to anyone.  I don't mean to be self-deprecating, but the progress I made during the workshop is not really evident in the drawings I produced, but was on a spiritual, intellectual, and theoretic level that will pave the way for real visible progress as I put my shoulder to the wheel.

Our gracious instructor with her pieces from each day of the workshop. 
A few other noteworthy occurrences:

Kyle and I spent the afternoon with the Shirakis, and later discovered a remarkable dirt road through the mountains that I can't believe I never knew about in the 6 years I lived in BV.  Why, oh why didn't I have access too/take advantage of Google earth back in the day?  Tragic.
My favorite adopted family.

 Dylan's first taste of southern style buiscuts and gravy in the SVU cafeteria, just proves that God is in the details of our lives and that he has a sense of humor.
He loved it.
All in all, it was a tremendous week and a wonderful learning experience.  I am so glad for the new friends I made, and the existing relationships that were strengthened.