Something different for this post. The LT has been getting spruced up meanwhile……

I’d written exactly how it all felt but unfortunately I did so on a piece of paper…. An ordinary piece of paper in the jungle of pieces of paper. The world didn’t used to have so many pieces of paper…  or maybe there was a place for these things but now they take over. I saw that paper last night…  it was on my bed but today it is gone.

The exhausted would be artist.

The exhausted would be artist.

What I wanted to tell you was how I fared in my first week-long printmaking workshop. I had a nice title not whatever I will title this with….  it expressed the conglomerate of exhaustion with the ray of anger…  yes anger to break out of the non-being of art into the beingness of the artist.  Can one become an artist?

My workshop was in Ojai an hour drive over a curvy road. The first day I stayed up too late and could not sleep… due to a late conversation about dogs. ….  how dogs are telepathic. . . I don’t know if they are so much as they communicate in a more basic process….  brain stem, intuitive, picking up subtle clues and electrical signals we humans don’t notice. In any case I spent the night mostly awake and lost another hour due to the spring forward dilemma.

I’d been frustrated in my once a week 4-hour printmaking class, feeling stymied for almost the entire year. My art was getting worse. Anxiety was taking over…  anxiety of the clock, anxiety of being unprepared, of having nowhere outside of the classroom where I could spread out and work, anxiety of loss obliterating the present. Anxiety was winning. I couldn’t make emotions of loss and grief transform into two dimensions but I kept trying. Even bad art is art, I was learning something, right? One should just keep going. One line after another.

The highlight of my weeks was teaching Nose Work. Even on those days that began with headaches, teaching melted it away. All those smiling dog faces. The dogs were so happy! I looked forward to them and their happy owners. I did not look forward to printmaking class but I longed for it. I longed to find myself and settle into a rhythm—to break out into the realm of an artist. So one very expensive workshop should fix that right?

This is what I learned:

  1. Next time one signs up for a workshop, do a little research into the techniques that will be covered. Printmaking is a huge field. Come with some questions about the media.
  2. Prepare some images / designs / templates  / ideas for practice with the new techniques which will be presented. Don’t do what I did and sit there dumbly in front of an empty plate rolling on the ink, knifing on the ink, smooching it around and then in disgust wiping it off over and over until fed up and the hostess has to take you outside to the chicken shed because you think you’re just gonna scream.
  3. Get some sleep —  no I’m not sure how to do this.
  4. Bring some good food with you and actually eat it. Drink lots of water, don’t just carry it around.
  5. Hire a dog walker to take the dogs out.
  6. Hire someone else to clean the house for just this one week.
  7. When you do come home don’t try to do everything…  clean house, scrub floors, water yard, walk dogs, laundry, take care of bills, answer e-mails and then stay up really really late trying to prepare some images for tomorrow on the computer even though you don’t know how to do it.
  8. Actually pretend that you are a student and just try things without any expectations.
  9. Other artist in the workshop are really really really nice!
  10. Forget about the idea that time has any logical meaning….  10 or 11 hours at the workshop equate to something like 30 min except for those hours when the instructor is giving his lectures and you want to listen and pay rapt attention but you’re sooooo tired.

So I wound up printing dog stuff…. I was more anxious during this workshop than any other educational experience I can remember. The pressure was self-induced.  I had to produce something good! I had to perform under the watchful eye of the instructor and get those… oohs and aahs from the others as I pulled my piece from the press, as opposed to the “oh, it’s good really,” comments, which meant…  nice try, but really, you did that? ….  oh okay well I don’t feel so bad then.  (The women were all around my age and kept telling me how great I was doing for my first workshop and how hard it’d been for them…. bless their hearts!) It was close quarters and I was in the back where people gathered to work on some of the equipment. I couldn’t stand having people (i.e the cheerful instructor) in my space. I sort of shrank and spent time sulking when I couldn’t get a question answered.  The woman who owns the house / studio was incredible.  She took care of me. Took me out to the yard more than once to help me relax; it wasn’t her fault it didn’t work. She brought me things like an exacto knife, scissors and template material so I could make some stencils, she brought me ear buds so I could tune out the others, she brought me a stabilo pencil, she showed me how to organize my material and offered advice on the media and the art. Whenever anyone needed anything she had it. Her yard has chickens, ducks, dogs, koi, a thriving vege garden and art, she provided a young art student to wash our rollers and bushes, amazingly she made lunches everyday for her husband and live-in visiting international guest yet spent the entire workshop time in her (amazingly organized) studio helping us….  scolding only once in a while when someone really made a mess.

Ron, the instructor was great too…  I learned some new concepts and skills that will take me to another reality, but she really amazed me. So I was very stressed, anxious, exhausted and yet soaking it all in. After five grueling days I wanted more. I could do this for a living, I could give up sleep and sanity. I could slave away over a blank plate.  I could stay up all night trying to process.

I can’t explain this reaction. There were days I swore I’d give up art forever. I hated my work. I misjudged the ink. I was very tired. Our instructor had a talk about love, he said that if we loved something we did we should destroy it. He told stories about the harsh lessons of art school….  We should never get into a rut of repeating something we loved and then grow stale.  Art is not about rendering, it’s not about a pretty arrangement or a safe path it’s a risk, it should say something. I have no idea what that is…..     so I have work to come….


All images and text belong to me, Jamie Rosenthal and may not be copied or  reproduced. 2013