|Joined: ||Tue Dec 12th, 2006|
|Location: ||Wyoming, Ohio USA|
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|Last week I was fortunate enough to attend week #2 of the 2013 Glass Painting Intensive course at Wheaton Arts in NJ. Ken Leap and Kathy Jordan were the instructors. They've done this several years now. There were eight students in our session.
I beleive that all but one of the students in week #2 were glass professionals of one sort or another, and some of the students were on their third or fourth repeat of the course. There were at least three scholcarship attendees with grants from the AGG, SGAA and local arts councils. Nevertheless the actual 'technique' instruction still had to start with the fundamental level for some of the students: 'this is how you hold the badger blender', 'this is how you mix the paint'. It wasn't as if they ran-off teaching how to read highlights on Jesus' eyelid without helping the beginners get the paint onto the glass. I particularly appreciated this.
The general focus of the class exercises were to utilize two techniques: Painting with 'Reusche Water Friendly Medium D1368' and a single fire process using vinegar matts, vinegar trace, and lavender oil matt. But there were demos of other things: airbrush painting, silver staining, enameling flesh, drain line diagnosis and rooting, pumpkin carving. Its hard to remember all of them.
Halfway through the course, after we'd been totally humbled by Kathy's technique and a little intimidated by Ken's skill, knowledge and fastidious craftsmanship, we had the privilege of Ellen Mandelbaum stopping by for the afternoon to give us a presentation and demo. Ellen pretty much obliterated all the fussy concerns and reminded us that its the art, the character and intent of a color field or brush stroke, after all, that most matters. I think that may be why people return to this course, even after they have mastered a vinegar matt: Kathy and Ken sense what your thing is, and try to steer you out of your comfort zone, and at the same time, show you alternatives to what you do. That being said, I suspect if you walked into the course and declared that you were an experienced glass painter and you wanted to improve your technique in the Mayer Style, or some other narrow focus, that they'd work with you and take you down that path. The nice thing is that the course isn't so strictly regimented that they can't deviate from the script. And Kathy and Ken could certainly confirm it beforehand with you via phone or email. I guess I shouldn't speak for them.
Then there's the interaction with your fellow students. We had an eclectic group. I really enjoy looking at other students' work and discussing technique with them. Just hanging out with other students and talking over dinner or during the commute to the teaching studio adds a lot to the experience. Some of us are a little physically isolated from other glass people, and a course like this is the only time other than AGG Conference where we get to talk with another living person about glass.
This reminds me of another good thing: If you check out some of the photographs of the studio, you see a big light table console, and a large lit-up easle behind it, usually with Ken Leap standing there explaining something. On that easel and on the table are dozens of small examples of advanced technique. We all spent a lot of time picking up and examining those little artifacts and asking questions of Ken and Kathy. It sows the germs of creativity in the students. They also serve as a demonstration of fine technique. I think that was something that Dick Millard always wanted to impart to his students: an appreciation of the really fine technique, apart from and equal to creativity. Something to aspire to.
We all stayed in Kathy's place in Cape May, or in a cottage next door to Kathy's. It helped hold the cost of the course down. Kathy provided wonderful dinners each night. We all sat around Kathy's table and generally behaved ourselves, in spite of what you might see in any unauthorized photographs posted online.
There are a couple things that I think could be improved about the course. I think a printed outline of the exercises would be a help so that some of the steps don't have to be repeated verbally many times by Ken and Kathy. If it was a pamphlet that listed the exercises and suggested timetable, materials, recipe numbers (just pigment names, mediums, binders, ratios, not step by step mixing and application directions) it would be helpful.
It would also be beneficial to be a little more dictatorial about housekeeping, in particular about 'where stuff goes after you use it'. We spent a lot of time looking for stuff. I personally accumulated a few things at my table, that people eventually found only by circumnavigating the studio a few times. A few of us are absent minded and would benefit from being reminded when we take a jar of something to put it back where it belongs. Those guidelines could be in the outline too.
We made a complete mess of the source material pages. They were organized in groups of subject matter. They aren't now. The source material pages should have a label that says what group it belongs to.
The lighting in the studio is difficult. the light tables are OK, the spot lighting from the ceiling is OK, but the ambient lighting on the work area and particularly on the pallets is too weak. I couldn't see my brush enter the paint very well. It's not a huge problem, and it would be expensive to correct with ceiling hung fluorescent fill light. It would be nice though.
I don't know if I've exceeded the forum limit for post size, but I could go on. I'll stop here though. I think you can tell that I'm an advocate for this course. My situation is probably atypical for the prospective student, but I was able to see the process with the other students, and in my opinion this is about as good a glass painting course as you can get. The teachers flat out know their stuff. They are communicators. They are as passionate about teaching as they are about glass. The venue is great fun.
I've started a flickr folder of photographs from the class. I'll be adding more to it, especially if some of the other students would forward their photographs to me, or point me to the facebook collections from where I can grab them.