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Summer Brain and Hands

I didn’t realize how grateful I was for the artistic skills I have honed over the years until I realized I was a bit artistically rusty after my summer of travel. During the school year last Spring, I was able to remove the ‘scaffolding’ (or consistent guidance students needed to accomplish their artwork). This freed me up to be creative on my own during class time. I created watercolors, gouache, and acrylic paintings throughout the school day, as the students worked more autonomously.

When summer came along, I took advantage of the freedom to travel again, and spent seven weeks abroad in Italy and France. In Italy I got to complete a two and half week artist residency at La Macina di San Cresci in the village of Greve in Chianti.

a series of geometric abstract and depicted landscapes, painted in oil on canvas
La Macina Series, oil on canvas

During this time, I developed a series of oil paintings. In these works, I continued my exploration of blending depiction with geometric abstraction.

When I wasn’t working on my larger oil works, I also created pencil sketches and a series of mini gouache paintings.

Besides my residency however, I spent most of the summer enjoying activities like hiking, sight-seeing, and even a horse riding trek in the French Pyrennes mountains. There wasn’t a lot of time set aside for art-making.

By the time I returned to California, quite literally dragging myself home after getting covid Paris, I felt burnt out and a bit foggy about which direction to head next with my artwork. It was the first time I felt rudderless in my artistic practice since before quarantine in 2020. I felt a true sense of fear that I wasn’t inspired to paint, and my energy was depleted more quickly during my slow recovery from covid. Beyond the physical drag, my marks and brush strokes just weren’t as refined as they had been last Spring.

Drawing of hands in different positions
Drawing hands throughout the school day

Slowly but surely, as school has started to pick up, so have my skills. I’ve been drawing and painting consistently in class by doing demonstrations for my students. I see again daily evidence of how artistic technique is a muscle, not an inherent talent that people are born possessing.

My experience at the end of the summer made me realize just how nerve-wracking ‘Artist’s Block’ must feel to my high school students, and how defeating it can be when a person feels like their artistic skills just aren’t where they should be to accomplish their vision. The light at the end of this moment of darkness is that having a growth mindset, (a belief that that practice leads to skill acquisition as opposed to a ‘you’re born with it or you’re not’ mentality), is so essential in both teaching and continuing to learn how to make my artwork.

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