I will try not to be overly dramatic here, but its going to be hard! The Plein Air workshop on Pawley’s Island with Bill Davidson was spectacular. I meant to post everyday, but I was having too much fun to step away from the action in order to get on my computer! Imagine, just by virtue of the simple inn in which you are staying, the hospitality of the hosts and kitchen staff, and the beauty of the surroundings, that you feel as though you have stepped into a movie or back in time to a more simple, slower time. Then, add to that an exceptional artist/teacher and a great, fun group of other artists, and you have the makings of a nearly perfect, other-worldly artist retreat! It has been weeks since the retreat and I am still gushing! Not only that, but I am painting more and painting BETTER! Yes, it was the best investment in myself that I have ever made!
Let’s start with The Seaview Inn. I will admit (because my friends heard my ridiculous fears beforehand and one, in particular, will make me be honest) that I wasn’t too confident in the idea of staying in an inn without a full bath for every room, no heater or AC, and home-cooking-type meals at three very set times each day. By very set, I mean that when that bell rings, you had better come running! Meals are on time and you had better be, too! It sounds a bit strict, but after experiencing one day’s meals, it won’t be any problem to make it to the others. You will not want to miss a single one.
Me, of all people, probably gushed over the meals more than anyone else did! Every single meal was delicious and reminded me of so many good meals at my mother’s table or that of her friends. The ladies who prepare and serve the meals are warm and welcoming in every way. If you are near Pawley’s Island, make a reservation to eat with them for lunch or supper. Make sure to come early or stay later to sit on the Oceanside porch and enjoy to breeze and the rocking chairs. Perfect!
The room I had was on the second floor and ocean front. I raised my window a bit each night, which I wouldn’t have done if they had had air conditioning, and went to sleep and awoke to the sound of the ocean surf. My bed was so comfortable (thanks, in part, to a sweet friend who loaned me her weighted blanket for “ just in case!”). I had a sink and toilet closet in my room. The shower was down the hall, which I wasn't too excited about, but that worked out OK, too. This was my view each morning from my room! Peace!
I learned so many valuable things in this workshop. Of course, I am not a landscape painter and have less than three plein air experiences, but I think that everyone there, seasoned veterans included, learned so much from Bill’s instruction and from each other. In the first session, Bill asked each of us to share what we hoped to get from the week. I felt that, while paint application is important, no matter how good I may become at painting (I can hope!), if my compositions are no good then no one would will be drawn to my paintings or to what i have to say through my paintings. I also know that I know next to nothing about composition. So when my turn came, I said that I wanted to learn how to compose a good painting. This photo is from a lecture on the first morning.
I don't know if Bill was really listening to each of us or if it was just the plan anyway, but composition became a very important part of the week as did several other aspects of painting mentioned by others in the group. And that's the beauty of his style of teaching. For a full week we focused on such a few, simple ideas about painting, and those ideas were emphasized day after day and in each painting. He spent the entire day moving from person to person, giving us advice and sometimes demonstrating on our canvas. At other times, he demonstrated and taught in the inn. He was encouraging, warm and hilarious (which doesn't hurt! HaHa!)
How could you not learn from that? It was perfect! While it may seem nice to get loaded with information, i don't think that equates good learning. If you want to spend a week learning and come away a changed person/painter, then you focus on a few, simple ideas and work those ideas over and over. At the end of the week, your work will be changed! I have been to weekend workshops or three hour demonstrations where I was loaded with great information. I took notes and tried my best to retain the information, but, at best, I retained an idea or two but did not have the skill to actually incorporate those ideas on my own at home to see how it impacted my work. For this full week, we practiced those skills under his tutelage and, hopefully, took new skills home with us. At the end of this workshop, I KNEW that my work had changed dramatically (in my eyes). Now, keep in mind that Plein Air painting was relatively new to me. Those who were more seasoned may not feel the way I did, but as I think back over the review of our paintings on the last day, I think everyone would say that their paintings improved in some way. Most everyone commented on one or two ideas given by Bill which stuck with them. I believe their paintings demonstrated how they incorporated that idea even though their personal style may have been much different than his.
The workshop was organized by Mary Ferguson of The Brushwork Society in Atlanta (www.maryfergusonfineart.com). I appreciate her so much. She picked the best place and had such an easygoing, supportive attitude. Plus, she made sure we had great coffee and wine! I am afraid that she may have felt like the housemother a couple of times (sorry, Mary!), but she took our antics in stride, and I would follow her anywhere after being on one of her retreats for that week in Pawley's Island!
I will post photos of my paintings from the week in a couple of days. I need to photograph them!