Summer Countdown: Day 19

Yesterday I got up at an ungodly hour to make the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Clarkesville, GA, for my One Day Art Camp.

For those who are coming to this late, here’s what the deal is. Forty years ago, in the summer of 1970, I spent eight weeks on the campus of Wesleyan College in Macon as an art major in the Governor’s Honors Program. Although art majors all had to cycle at one point through all three of the components— painting/drawing, sculpture, and textiles (hey, it was the 70s)—we could focus on one. I chose painting/drawing with the ever-wonderful B. Diane Mize.

The woman was amazing. She opened my eyes not only to new ways of thinking about art , and I famously say that while GHP taught me I was not an artist—which she disputes—she taught me that the creative process was at the root of everything we do. For that matter, she showed me what the creative process is.

I had not seen Diane since May of 1976, when in one of those scenes that you would disbelieve as too contrived if it were in a movie, I bumped into her in the bookstore at UGA one month before I graduated with a BFA in theatre. On the final night of GHP, six years earlier, I had performed with my theatre minor group to such acclaim that Diane had asked me if I had considered theatre instead of art as a major. Smart woman.

Three or four years ago, I was in my dorm apartment at GHP and somehow I thought of Diane. I googled her and for some reason found her Amazon wish list. I sent her a CD in gratitude for everything she did for me—you know, change my life forever, that kind of thing—and we re-established contact. This spring, I suggested that since I have the summer off, I should visit her and let her teach me all the things I failed to learn forty years ago.

And that’s what I did yesterday.

Once again, she has changed my life. She looked through my sketchbooks. She took notes on what my goals were and what my problems were. She showed me ways of looking at color—and mixing color —that render those tubes of Flesh Tint largely irrelevant. She set up an exercise in color mixing that will take me the rest of the summer to get halfway through. (As she puts it, a musician has to learn scales and etudes; why haven’t artists been trained the same way?)

She showed me a few tricks of the trade in drawing and gave me the title of a book—another book—that I need. She had me mixing paint and matching colors. (Jeff, did you know that part of you is lilac? No, not that part.) She looked over all my paintings and agreed with me on the good ones.

And the entire day she laughed at my feeble attempts and my frustrations, taking great joy in my revelations and my stubbornness and my acid struggles. It was enormous fun, and by the end of the day I was exhausted. I seriously wondered whether I would be able to drive home without falling asleep. But I was too exhilarated from what I learned. I flew home.

So did I get anything done yesterday? Not if you expected to see completed still lifes or portraits. But in most respects it was the most productive day of the summer.

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