Sunday, March 18, 2012

Perhaps a Purse: True Confessions

I confess. After much hesitation, I took an on-line class. Hesitation because of the possibility that another artist’s hand might appear in my own work. Certain artists promote taking classes while others say forget it because you need to develop your own voice. The voice, I’ve got down, but can it be corrupted?

I wanted to:
     1. Experience an on-line class to see how it worked from a pedagogical point of view (methods, materials, handouts, videos, etc.) in case I should want to go back to teaching and use the new technologies.
     2. Learn something new and a class would be good to push me outside my comfort zone. I wanted to do more sketching, but have it linked to textiles
     3.  Participate in a forum, meet some like-minded artists/artisans through the internet.

1. The methods were interesting, the teacher was informative, the materials were satisfactory.
     2. It was more of a review, pulling up things I had forgotten, yet the class did push me gently outside my comfort zone. When faced with the empty page of an assignment, I found resistance and was reminded of why I didn’t do an art major in college. Ideas fled with an empty canvas glaring at me--I never have this problem when working with fabric and stitch. I sketch more often now in order to overcome the problem of the paralyzing blank page.
     3. The forum did not develop: I was the only person participating. Nobody is to blame. It appears to be a risk of the on-line class format. Students may not be motivated to actively participate because they must squeeze it in with the occurences of daily life. To attend a class in person requires more of a commitment.
     4. I finished a small project that began as my sketch, which I transferred to a piece of fabric. I used outline stitch as filler, plus running stitch and a few French knots.
Here's the rub: this looks like another artist’s work. And this brings me to another Mrs. H(e)art story.
Mrs. H(e)art, my first art teacher when I was eight, made only one mistake, but it was memorable. I was working diligently, but with some frustration, on a floral still life when she came to my easel. She must have been in a hurry as others needed her help as well. She took my brush, dipped it in black paint and with two deft strokes added an elegant outline that suggested the form of flowers.
When I took my watercolor home, my mother raved, I mean, she gushed, she went wild. She had it matted and framed professionally (it seemed huge) and hung it in the living room in a prominent position so that every visitor saw it and heard my mother gush further. I felt like a fraud because Mrs. H(e)art had made that painting work. I felt shame. And I never admitted the awful truth, until today, that the painting wasn’t mine.
The moral of this story is that one should never touch someone else’s work. It also helps clarify my feelings about the on-line class project--I feel like it isn’t mine because another artist’s hand has touched it (figuratively). I feel dissatisfaction because I didn’t come up with the methods, the style, and the colors. Will I take another class? Only in something that I cannot acquire by myself, something life-threatening such as glass blowing or welding.
       And yet, my class piece pleases me and I made a second one:

Since I can't show these embroideries as my own art, 
perhaps I’ll make a purse with them...


Cate Rose said...

Great post, Nadia! I love what you produced in the class and afterward, but I agree with you about the consequent replication of another's work when studying with them. Same holds for following instructional books too closely, of course.

I think the most difficult part of carving one's own path artistically is having the feeling that your work never quite measures up -- I feel this way most of the time. I'm always wishing I were doing someone else's work, and perhaps that's par for the course when one doesn't see their own work in all the relevant books and magazines.

Let me know when you take a welding class online -- it should be a hoot! LOL!

Becky said...

I love this post! It's really thought-provoking. I have an entirely different perspective. I never took any art classes growing up because there were none offered due to no funding in my Louisiana public school. I never had the opportunity, and only started taking them when I was an adult and could afford to pay for them. I've still only taken a few, but each one opened my mind in different ways...

Debbie said...

I understand what you are saying from your artist side. I often was blank when doing the journal quilt challenge, and would fall back on repeating something I had seen done. It took me several months to figure out I needed lots of original sketches from me as a starting point.
As to -- On line classes are hard to define, but require just as much work as a live class from a teaching point. The student must be self-motivated to really get anything out of it. Most unfortunately do not step up and complete the project. That's why I try to only teach techniques rather than exact examples. The student satisfaction level is so much greater when the project comes from their inspiration or idea.
I really like the pieces of embroidery you finished....color and design. I think they are beautiful and would be wonderful as a bag.

Tonya Ricucci said...

It's lovely work, whether it feels truly your own or not. I hear ya, I've thought many of the same things about wanting to take classes to meet people and yet not... I guess the trick is to keep the techniques that attracted you and then adapt them to something that is more you. I learned some great things from Susan Shie, but my own work is so much goofier that I don't think anyone would ever mix them up. She would never be making giant spiders!

maybe you could find some like-minded folk and do an informal forum with them...

Nifty Quilts said...

It's lovely work, class or not. I do like to take classes from quilt-makers I admire. I don't want to emulate them, but I think the classes help me experiment, add skills, and find my own voice. I'm OK with my voice being a conglomeration of myself and influences from others. Can you tell I didn't go to art school?

Francien said...

Hear Hear Nadia!!...i will never attent any classes....even when others don`t like or even hate my work...I LIKE IT...and that is the main thing...i also look at blogs and catch ideas from the internet..books/magazines. etc..but always give my own twist on it and never make a quilt from a pattern..... i would also never attent a challenge or what its called were everybody who attents makes the did a good job on the embroidery but i love your mosaic work!!.....i think you don`t need any classes in whatever!!.....greetings Francien.


Slam my dear..
Its good to know about your thoughts, Nice post..well The embroidery is looking so nice, I would like to suggest you that it will be good if you will make a wall hanging with this beautiful piece of art..
A purse is also good :)
All the best dear!

Teodo said...

Your piece is very interesting for the design and for the colours.

I've never partecipated to any on-line classes because there aren't in Italian and in English is difficult for me.

ciao ciao linda

Carole Reid said...

Nadia, this is a great post as it is a topic many artists ponder. Your stitching is beautifully executed. Whatever project you make from these will be different from anyone else's work. Possibly that will make these feel more like your own work. A bag would spectacular!

summerland cottage said...

Nadia, thank you for sharing.
I too have been curious as to how the on line courses are done, but I have not found a subject matter that piques my interest yet.
I think your pieces are beautiful, you certainly have more patience than I, the quality of your workmanship is stunning.
I would have to believe if there had been a group of students all doing this project each would be uniquely different. I do understand exactly what you are saying about it not being your own.
( I would have changed out the colors and the keys would have become teaspoons).
I could see this sweet piece as a tea cozy!
Great post!

rtquilter said...

This is just excellent, Nadia. My sentiments exactly! I WILL read a book and try a technique developed by another artist but I am always afraid of taking classes because it is way too easy to fall into the cookie cutter syndrome! Everyone in the class ends up looking like the instructor, stamped out of a mould. I do teach classes and HATE it when everyone wants to copy MY work. I much prefer to figure things out myself and if someone is curious about my work, I am happy to pass my knowledge along, so long as they do not COPY me. And, in closing, when I was a young pup at Teachers' College, our art master said we should NEVER touch a student's work or our pretty little hands would turn into ugly claws. As we were an all girl class, many of us recently engaged, we took that advice to heart:-) Trouble for me was , my hands were never pretty or little!! Ah,well ....

Roxanne said...

Your stitchery is beautiful! A bag made from it would be awesome. I know what you mean about the art teacher taking a brush and making an 'improvement'. I have a painting hanging in my livingroom that is half mine and half my teacher's. I've been taking online classes too. The last one was just for fun and not at all my style. I have also noticed that there are those who have a presence on the internet and you can tell what teacher they took a class with.

Elaine/Muddling Through said...

I am not a class-taker, but it's mainly because I enjoy muddling along on my own. Your work IS beautiful, no matter if it does feel somewhat corrupted to you. I'm sure it will add a lovely touch to whatever project to which you decide to add it.

Carol said...

I agree with you. I took one quilt design class when I first started making quilts after being bored with the process's that were in the quilt books and that everyone else was doing. I always saw another way or my way of getting to the final piece I had in mind. While I was committed to 8hours of class time during a four week period, I found she was using some of the same methods to draft and design that I had already taught myself. The class was interesting,but I felt I could have used my money in another way.

The Idaho Beauty said...

All your points are excellent, can pretty much concur right down the line. I suppose if one had no other option, an on-line course would be better than no instruction at all, but if I'm going to reach out to an instructor, I really need the hands-on help and the interaction with other students - it all adds to the experience. There are very few classes that I would take - I'm usually looking for something I don't feel I can figure out myself or through books. So so easy to veer off one's own path.

Hope you don't mind, but because I enjoy your blog so much, I've given you a blogger award - check it out here:

Merilyn said...

Interesting post Nadia! I have never done an on-line course, and have only been to a few classes and one retreat where it was mainly learning methods, where any creations from that would be our own, but I certainly understand where you are coming from! Regardless, however, we all put our own slant on what we make - your work in this case is exquitiste and very much your own as you have such an individual style anyway! I love it!!!

Unknown said...

I love you, Nadia.
Your Mrs. H(e)art story touches me deeply. Thank you for sharing so honestly of your experiences with the on-line class, and your thoughts, which I agree with, regarding what constitutes one's own original work. XXoo, sus
PS - making a purse is a great idea!! ;-}

Radka said...

Very interesting post, Nadia.
I have never done an online class, so I can't comment on that. Your Mrs H. story makes a very good point and I agree with your thought on that. Unfortunately I am not as artistic as you, I need to "copy", that is I need to see other people's work to get some ideas and then I might get my own inspiration. Does it make sense?
I like day workshops (if you can get them), mostly to learn new techniques. Very often I don't have enough time to sit and think and develop an idea, but that's life :) May be it will slow down one day :))

Anonymous said...

Nadia, this is a very thoughtful post. I've taught Art, and I agree...I would feel I failed if the students produced works that looked alike. I would give a lesson, on say collage, and this was the "techniques" part.Then I would get them to do their own drawing and then use this technique.
I have just finished a lettering course, on line, and I had the same feelings as you.
However, the "great masters" all copied works in the Louvre etc then developed their own style later.

It's complicated. Some artists just have their own style within, and later it comes out...others are crushed by imitating.I don't think you are one of the latter!Your style will come back.

Diane J. Evans said...

Not having seen the teacher's work, I can't really say that this looks like another artist's work -- knowing the incredible work that you do, I would assume that you've put your own signature on this piece, and I happen to think it's simply wonderful. I'd frame it and display it proudly -- it still has YOU in it, no matter who taught you the technique.


khadijateri said...

I once did a pen and ink of my husband while he was watching the news. I caught his expression perfectly. Later while I was at work he looked at what I had drawn and added a line or two - it changed it completely and needless to say I was NOT pleased. I seldom did any drawing after that. It was like a changing point somehow.

Your embroidery is lovely dear!

Katell said...

Avec tes dons, ta capacité à si bien t'exprimer, je comprends ta frustration de suivre des cours, ce sera toujours trop formaté pour toi.
Après avoir lu ton histoire et retrouvé Mrs H(e)art que tu nous avais déjà présentée, je retrouve chez toi les tourments qui habitent la plupart des créateurs. Suis ton coeur et ton inspiration, c'est ta vie! Pour notre plus grand plaisir...

Snail Cloth said...

I have to confess that I love to find on-line class. I love to read their descriptions and think how I would teach that class. Some that really intrigue me I have been known to write down their description in my journal. Doing this has inspired me to put a little gem in my inspiration drawer in which I polish and may translate later in my art. But taking a class from someone else seems to me a license to be able to make art like they make...and after seeing so many of those types of "quilts" I get bored and wonder why I would want one hanging around to remind me of this artist. It seems to promote the herd mentality and that is as far from what a "real" artist does as I can imagine.

Thank you for visiting my blog and for becoming a follower. I have listed you in my blog roll and am now following you as well.

I have enjoyed looking at your blog and really feel you have found your voice in expressing what is in your heart as you live today.

Sandy said...

The outcome from your class will make a wonderful purse. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about an online art class. I learned a lot.

Claire said...

I too am currently experiencing my first online course. It is more process driven subject though. As a teacher I am always interested in finding new ways of communicating and I'm finding the possibilities of the 'digital classroom' quite exciting. Your post is excellent - thanks very much for sharing it (and the stitching is beautiful too).

Katie said...

This is great, Nadia...don;t we all struggle with this a bit. I love to learn new techniques and am often inspired by others, but yes, afraid they will influence me too much.
It seems though that I always come through, we all somehow can never deviate from our true style, in art, the way we dress, or carry ourselves. Maybe like blue jeans and a t-shirt...we all make the look our own in subtle ways.
But, I'm with you- I generally like to find my own way, and the best stuff I do is what comes organically w/ no outside influence (well, not directly, I suppose...)
Your embroidery is really vibrant and fun. I like it. :0)
Take care. xo

Roxanne said...

Nadia I've lost your email address so I'm posting here. Passing on a blog award to you. Please see my blog:

Anonymous said...

Nadia I found very touching your story. I can imaging a little silent Nadia looking at her amazed mother. How could you dissapoint her? It was so sweet and candid of you to keep "the secret". Ah! mothers and expectations, that can be paralyzing, isn't it?.

Taking classes has been paralyzing for me. I can not bear expectations (mine or others!), neither copy a work. No matter how bad, plain, ugly or dissatisfied i feel sometimes with my work, it is the only one i can make...but i understand this is only a way of learning and other people learn better with teachers developing their style later.

You are an artist Nadia because you create, discover and develop your own techniques, those that serves your work. Those two embroidered works doesn't look to me so loose and free as your quilts and mosaic work.
You may love to read "Ecrits sur l'art" , Jean Dubuffet's wonderful essays on art brut, techniques and organic art lenguage development.

Thank you for sharing Nadia.

Linda A. Miller said...

Thank you for sharing this story, Nadia. Developing one's own voice is so personal and yet can be so influenced by others...even if their direct touch does not come into play. I am not a big fan of taking classes, though I know many find it of great value if only for the social connection. And not to say I have not taken some, live or online, for I have. Do I end up using what I learned? It seems like filling an already full vessel. In the end I need to discover my own way by emptying rather than filling. Then I might hear the true voice.