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October 29, 2011

Last Monday, October 24th, my buddy Jan Krol and I gave 3 workshops at the 2nd Art and Dementia conference in Eindhoven, Holland. For Dutch readers here is the link . It was a wonderful, well attended event and the responses to our workshop were very positive. We did a hands-on art exercise, role play, small group work, had a creative approach discussion, and sewed the handouts (excerpts from Chocolate Rain) into a pamphlet book. This all had to fit in exactly 60 minutes. There were 25 people in each group and we had three groups in the course of the day.

People especially responded to the role play that Jan (in Holland Jan is a man’s name pronounced, Yan)  and I did. Jan played a person with dementia, and I, an overactive pushy activity organiser. I barge into the room talking on my cell phone, don’t greet Jan, and more less push the activity I’ve been preparing for him for days under his nose. He isn’t having any of it and sits apathetically at one point picking his nose quite explicitly. I get more and more frustrated, and though there were a lot of laughs, and this was an exaggerated depiction, people recognized the situation. Then we invite participants to come up and act out a better way to engage the person.

Home again, recovering from a cold, I now have less than 2 weeks before I leave for Scotland to get illustrations ready for a DVD I’m working on with my friend Alicia from Glasgow. It is an e-learning course on dementia for social workers and caregivers. We’re supporting the lesson material with quirky cartoons and several video clips written by Alicia, in which she and I will be acting. This time I will have the part of Mary, a 67 year old lady in various stages of dementia.

After I come back from Scotland, hopefully I’ll have a few weeks to rest before the harpsichord case is delivered from Germany. Then it will be a feast of flower painting which I will record and post here as it progresses. Johan Hofmann (Dutch language site), my client for this project has some fresh ideas about the painting and colour scheme, so this instrument, while staying within the tradition of 17th century Flemish Ruckers harpsichords will also be gently declaring its own modern identity. The craftsman in me doesn’t mind doing one after another of the same kind of paintings, but the artist wants growth and exploration. So both will be fed with this commission.

I hadn’t had time to get to my oil painting in the last week, but am looking forward to getting back in the studio.

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First you get the mud

October 8, 2011

New work by Theo Leijdekkers

I bumped into Theo Leijdekkers, a Dutch painting colleague, and spoke to him about starting to work in oils again. I”ve seen his work in his atelier and in exhibitions and it is exquisite. You really have to be in front of one to feel the impact of all that colour and light. See the photo of his atelier below for an idea of the scale he is working in.

Anyway, during our brief conversation I told him how difficult it was for me to find a way in this, for me,  relatively new medium. And he told me that it took him about 6 years.

So, I’ve been letting that sink in. Amazingly, it is giving me solace as I create one after another substandard pieces, trying to master the medium and at the same time find out what kind of subject matter and composition feel true for me.

Theo's atelier

I’ve been through this process, ie starting to paint, about 10 times in the past 20 years, and always I’ve quit. Now I know why.  Because to get good at something requires failing a lot. And as an experienced artist in other skill areas, including watercolour painting, to be bad at something like painting with oils is almost unbearable.  Also I’ve repeatedly told myself I’m not a ‘painter’ but more of a draughtsman and decorator and now I have to challenge that.

In a weird way, the sadness at Steven Job’s death makes me realize anew that your life can be cut short at any moment. Now I am alive and have the chance to at least try to do this. Accepting that it could be a long road is to be graceful and grateful. If I keep to it, I should be painting to my heart’s delight before I’m 67. Actually, it may not even take 6 years because I”ve been accumulating good painting karma for the last 20 years every time I take it up again!
Here’s the thing, you have to be willing to start a canvas knowing it is going to probably be crappy in order to get that out one of the way. With each piece that doesn’t sing, you get closer to the ones that might. It is like an old fountain that gets turned on again. The first gush of water is muddy and has to be expelled  before the clear, pure spring water can flow.

Latest craft attack

October 7, 2011

Blue arch with beads

I have uploaded images of all my felt brooches (created during my latest craft attack) onto my Flickr site .  Someone has just taken an option on Happy Blues Medallion and Purple beaded shiboru.

Now, I have commissioned work coming in requiring writing and organising skills, so my felts, wools, silks and beads are all sleeping in their baskets waiting until I have the frame of mind to get to them again. I tried knitting because you can pick it up and do a few rows in between, but it somehow aggravates a problem in my right shoulder, so it will have to be no handwork for now.

(Cool, I just found out how to color text in this program!)