I just returned from a two-week woodblock workshop at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, Colorado - "New Approaches to Monumental Woodcut Prints," taught by the amazing Paul Mullowney. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my artistic career, pushing me to my physical and mental limits. I had gone to Colorado with my cloudy heart. I had gone through a lot of ups and downs in early July and so as I walked around the Denver airport, on my way to my new class, I was worried that I would not be focused for the full experience. What do I mean by full experience? Well, I was going to take a workshop with a Master Printer I have always respected and admired, and I wanted to make sure that I was fully present to learn and to grow. But I was worried about distractions and was exhausted from months of travel... actually, I was kind of a mess.
But as I shared in an earlier blog (Investing In Myself - read here), when I take time out of my busy life to focus on my own growth and to improve my artistic techniques - I get to a place of great satisfaction. When I spend time in solitude, learning something new or working on my art for long periods of time, surrounded by people who are also doing the same - something magical happens. I think one reaches another level. Not sure if its the collective energy of artists in the room, combined with the power of the surrounding nature. For me, being in a remote village, surrounded by the beautiful mountains and wildlife, really gave me the mental space to try something new.
And that's exactly what I did at the woodblock workshop I attended. I tried to get out of my comfort zone, to try to be playful and to not be so obsessed with a plan - yes, I have plans everytime I make an art piece. I have a sense of where I want to go. But this is not always helpful. Sometimes, its stifiling. In this session, I tried to combine my thick lines with the monoprint techniques I had learned a few weeks before. I experimented with being more free with my lines and even tried using a Japanese brush and Sumi ink for the first time on the wood.
It was a physical challenge for me. My arms would hurt and I would get sore in my elbows, but it was like exercising. The sweating and the pain made the experience all that sweeter, and I left Colorado feeling renewed, and most importantly, inspired. I realize many of you know me for my political posters, but those bore me sometimes, I know how to do them well, seems like my formula works well. What I want is to go to a space where I don't know what the heck I'm doing. I want to try to go to that crazy place in my imagination where things don't make sense - and put that on paper.
Here is a photo diary I did of the process I followed. Check it out! You can see more pics here.