Watercolor Society of Indiana
A Tribute to a Liberal Arts Education
There is so much talk and emphasis on Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education that the Fine Arts/Liberal Arts are being eliminated or downgraded in many schools and colleges. I fail to understand why we can't have ALL of it--STEM, literature, languages, music, art--all the creative elements that make our lives more enjoyable--and for some people make life worth living. What follows is a piece I wrote a few years ago at the request of the English department at Ball State University. They asked me to write a blog piece and answer the question, "Why Study English?" Here it is--something to think about as we begin a new year. Let's let the Liberal Arts--all of them--bring us some joy and pleasure.
I’ve always been a good student. When I graduated from high school, I really wanted to go to college, but my dad wasn’t sure that I needed to, so we compromised. He picked my school—Purdue—a great choice for me, as it turned out, and he also picked my major, elementary education. Not a good choice. I would have been a barely adequate elementary teacher, so I changed my major to Secondary Education/English and graduated four years later with many, many semester hours in literature and writing and linguistics and rhetoric and went on to spend 30 wonderful classroom years mostly at the high school level, having taught all secondary grade levels and loving it. While my undergrad degree was at Purdue--in English, not Education--I studied for my MA degree at Ball State. I taught freshman composition in the BSU English department as a TA while doing my own course work. I had some great teachers at Purdue and at Ball State and I am grateful for the time they took with me.
Why major in English? There are many reasons. You’ll know more than most people doing crossword puzzles. You will understand allusions to literature in ordinary conversation, news, plays, movies--conversations that people who are not avid readers may not get. But most importantly—and this is VERY important—you will learn to read critically and write clearly. You will have to read great books, short stories, poetry—all genres—and you will LOVE reading them. You will write—and you will become very good at it, too. Your speech and your writing will become more persuasive, and, via your communication skills, you will be able to become a leader.
People may want to know what you’ll do with an English major, and the easy answer is that you will become language literate in a society that lacks many of those skills, and that ability can be money in the bank in this culture where we write MORE than before, both because of and in spite of technology. It’s also true that an English major is great preparation for law school or for many graduate programs. There are also many opportunities in areas of corporate and non-profit communication once you have technology experience--and all English majors have technology experience. I used to tell my students to take all the writing classes they could. They were already readers, or they wouldn’t even consider becoming an English major, so I encouraged them to become first-rate writers, too. Excellent writers understand the concept of "audience." They learn to be persuasive. They learn to love the English language and to use it correctly.
While I loved teaching, after I retired I was offered a job as a technical writer. My job was to write for and edit user Help files for a medical program written by and for a major pharmaceutical company. Our tech writing team’s job was to look at the plan for the program and, from that plan, write user-friendly Help files. It WAS an adventure, to say the least. I received a good salary, met some really good people, visited often with the software engineers, and learned a great deal about the very specific requirements for tech writing as opposed to the writing I had been doing. In addition, I’ve been responsible for writing newsletters for one educational business and writing and editing for a not-for-profit organization.
Some years after getting my MA at Ball State, I again attended Ball State as a participant in the Indiana Writing Project, which was life-changing for me as a teacher. Finishing my MA did not finish my participation in learning. I went on to take 30 hours past my MA simply because I wanted to learn new “stuff.” I applied for an Eli Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant at the end of the 90’s because I wanted to study connections between writing and painting, and Lilly gave me a generous stipend to spend during the summer on anything I wanted to do to enhance my comparison of the written story and the painted story. That summer changed my life, too, because I have continued to be a painter. My love of language and writing morphed into a love of and fascination with art, and I continue to paint and study to this day.
All the arts matter in our development as interesting and complex human beings. Listen to music. Play music. Draw. Paint. Dance. Create. Problem Solve. Write, even if it's only for yourself. I value my liberal arts education because it helps me to bring joy and creativity to my life.
But that's just my opinion.
Wishing you a creative 2022.
Our Christmas trees keep getting smaller. From the days when the kids were little and we went to a tree farm and cut the biggest tree we could find, to today, when our tree is shorter than I am tall. The size of the tree represents the size of the celebration!
I sometimes envy those of you who have large families attending your holiday celebrations. It must be so much fun to catch up with people whom you haven't seen for a while (especially during these pandemic times) and to comment on how much the children have grown, and NOT comment on how much some of the adults have grown. And even if someone is wearing a mask, the eyes still smile. Have you noticed that? We might not be able to see the entire smiling face, but the smiling eyes are still welcoming and wonderful.
This year our Christmas has taken a new route as our son and daughter-in-law have moved to Leeds, England, where they both have happily found exciting new jobs. Their two children--our grandchildren--will be joining them there to celebrate Christmas, and our Christmas with them will consist of a Zoom meeting or a face-time call. It's not the best way to celebrate, but it certainly is better than no celebration at all. Thankfully, our daughter and her husband are here to celebrate with us, and they are always fun. I'm glad they live close by.
I have an English friend who commented that our Thanksgiving celebration in the U.S. is a bit of a puzzle to the Brits. She told me that it seems like it's just Christmas but in November. I told her that it's not like Christmas because at Christmas we have baby Jesus, presents, and a celebration that lasts for days--beginning with the Hallmark Christmas movies in October.
No matter what holiday you celebrate at this time of the year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, I wish you a beautiful time with family and friends.
My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving because, for me at least, it's about the gathering of friends and family to share love, good food, and appreciation for each other. We don't have to buy gifts or lavishly decorate for the occasion. We just have to show up, maybe with a bottle of wine or a home-cooked dish to share. We meet. We hug. We talk. We eat. And we promise to do it all again soon--or at least the next year.
We show gratitude when we act in a way that shows appreciation for others. I learned about gratitude and giving from two important women in my life, my mother and my favorite grandmother, my dad's mom. They were both thankful for many things, but "thankful" is a feeling. "Gratitude" is an action, and their actions toward others in sharing what they had showed their pleasure in just being alive and helping other people. I saw my mother one hot, summer day invite a homeless person--a boxcar train traveler (we called them hobos)--to sit on our back porch while she fed him food she had fixed for lunch. He asked for seconds--and she obliged. He said he was thankful for her actions because he hadn't eaten in several days. My grandmother--an amazing cook--was one of the first people at her First Christian Church to offer help to those who needed it. She brought flowers from her garden or chicken and dumplings or one of her wonderful pies. The actions of both of these women showed gratitude to other people throughout their lives.
Yes, at Thanksgiving we are thankful--at least I hope we are. Are we also grateful and willing to assist others? That's one way we can show thankfulness. Because WSI is a not-for-profit organization, we are required to share our talents with others. There are programs under way to help us implement that sharing and show our gratitude for our love of art and our ability to convey that talent to others.
My suggestion--volunteer. Sign up to show others the love you have for art and the joy it can bring to be able to create something belonging uniquely to the person who created it. If you are not only thankful but also grateful, share your gifts.
And have a lovely Thanksgiving.
PS: Paint beautiful things.
Welcome, September, and Beautiful Autumn. Someone on Facebook the other day asked a question about the four seasons of the year--which season did I like the least--and my answer is easy. I'm not a fan of winter. I do, however, love the other three seasons. It's one of the reasons I enjoy living in the Midwest.
Covid is still thriving in our area, but a return to appreciating the arts is thriving, too. There are many autumn arts festivals and occasions to support arts and artists in our area, and people seem to be showing up to appreciate the artists' work, especially if the gathering is outdoors.
I think it must be difficult to earn one's living as an artist. For one thing, artists are asking people to purchase something that they don't require; it's not like spending money to put food on the table or making a mortgage payment so families will have a roof over their heads. And yet those of us who appreciate art and DO art, find that we DO require the arts in our lives because the arts--all of them (and the humanities in general)--enhance our lives like nothing else can. I listen to music when I paint. Do you? I attend theater performances and music performances, and I read every day--sometimes more than one book at a time. I have a studio in my home where a friend tells me that I "play with paint." And he's right. I do.
I also support Indiana artists. In our home I have original work by Jerry Smith, Henry Bell, Bob Myers, Jeanne McLeish, Peggy Brown, photographer Mike Jack, Lee Popei, Rena Brower, Connie Sands, Rena Brouwer, Rob O'Dell, beautiful photos of the Michigan City lighthouse by my brother-in-law Kent Lange, and, of course, some of my own work. And, with the exception of the lighthouse photos from my brother-in-law Kent (which were a gift), I purchased the works of the artists whom I mentioned.
It's important that we support our own people. I had a decorator tell me the other day that when he decorates the homes of people in the area they sometimes pay a great deal of money for work from "fashionable" photographers and artists which is not nearly the quality of the work produced by artists here.
Therefore, my advice as this autumn seasons gets underway, "Support your local artists."
Poppies are an August birthday flower! When I first started writing this latest blog, I heard distant rumbles of thunder, but the storms were too distant to bless my bleached-out lawn with the rain that it needs. I'm still waiting for water that will relieve the parched earth that is our yard.
As we deal with 90 degree+ weather, no rain, and the Delta variant, I think this month I'm going to write about things for which I am grateful--and it's not any of the things listed above.
I am grateful for roses. I've had a rose garden of some kind in every house where we've lived, and I love the gorgeousness of this beautiful flower. These roses are from the garden, and the scent of the flowers fills the room. By the way, that's a painting by WSI's Lee Papai on the far wall and one by WSI's Rena Brouwer on the right in the great room.
I'm grateful for paper--good watercolor paper--and the beautiful colors of the watercolor paints that I can use to place my beautiful roses on paper and keep them with me long after they have wilted in the vase.
I'm grateful for artists. I had a conversation the other day with a new acquaintance who also loves art and whose work involves art, and we talked about how once we began painting and studying art, we never looked at anything the same way again. We saw more lights and shadows. Instead of "green," we saw many greens in the landscape. We saw different ways to compose a painting. Experiencing art in its many forms is life-changing, and I am grateful for that.
I am grateful for the beautiful WSI show at Newfields. If you haven't yet seen it, I hope you will. And while you're there, also visit the Van Gogh Lume exhibit. It's lovely.
PS: Paint beautiful things. And be grateful.
When I was still teaching high school and operating on a school-year schedule (NORMAL school-year schedule, not pandemic school year schedule), the Fourth of July would roll around, and, inevitably, people would ask me, "Are you ready to go back to school? Ready to start a new school year?" I'd get a bit snarly when people asked me that because--Really?--it's July 4 and you want me to go back to school already? What are you, jealous? Those days, of course, are over, but I am reminded that the warm July days are truly precious times, and we need to take the time to enjoy the month, whether we have to go back to school or not.
The photo above is one I took two days ago from the window of the house we are renting on Lake Michigan in Leland, Michigan. It's family reunion time for our small immediate family before our son and his wife leave to take a job in England. We are enjoying our time together because it will be a while before we can do it again. By this autumn, we will have family members on three continents! This time is precious to us.
What are YOU doing to conserve your precious time with people and things you love? I brought my travel WC paints with me and some photos and some WC paper and a sketch book, and I've started to draw and prepare to paint a watercolor from a photo I took of my husband sitting on a bench on the property and looking at a sunset on the lake. (He doesn't know I took the photo).
I am constantly impressed by the quality of work produced by our members--and everyone keeps getting better and better. I've heard great things about the Paul Jackson workshop just completed. Some of you have posted your paintings from the workshop on our WSI Facebook page, and the paintings are gorgeous. I know that Jackson specializes in teaching "Dramatic Light & Luminosity in Watercolor," and from what I've seen, those of you who took the workshop learned your lessons well.
I look forward to seeing the Juried Show, which, I am sure, will be excellent because of the talent of the artists accepted into the show. I hope to see you there.
Keep painting and drawing and creating. Don't be discouraged if you didn't get into a show you entered because the entries are chosen by one judge who has very difficult decisions to make when entries are defined by available space. I wouldn't have wanted to be Paul Jackson and judge our show! What a difficult task.
I wish you a lovely warm July and summer inspirations for your paintings and drawings. Paint beautiful things that will make you (and maybe someone else) happy.
Oops! It's past the middle of June already, and I'm just getting around to placing my thoughts on paper to share with you. I bet you wondered, "Where is Pat's blog for this month? I was hoping to read it." No? You didn't even notice? Well, your homework now is that you have to read it.
Continuing with the music from Broadway shows that has been running through my brain these past few months, June really IS "bustin' out all over." Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Carousel. The long winter that we thought would never end finally did. Spring arrived. Now summer. Masks sometimes or not. Sadly, over 600,000 Americans have so far lost their lives to this pandemic. I'm grateful that I haven't. And I know that you haven't, or you wouldn't be reading this, and I'm grateful for that, too.
Congratulations to those of you who entered and were accepted into the Juried Show. I've seen the photos of the paintings online through the WSI home page, and the collection is truly gorgeous. I can't wait to see the show itself.
You know what I wish one of you would do? I wish someone would come up with a list of juried shows in Indiana and the Midwest that watercolor painters can enter. Doesn't there have to be a list like that somewhere? I've googled and searched but haven't found as much information as I had hoped.
If you live in Hamilton County, Indiana, here's a juried show you CAN enter, and your entry can be oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel--whatever your fine-art medium is. Here's the information for you: Watercolor/acrylic/oil artist Jerry Smith will judge the juried show, and if you'd like to see his work, here are some examples:
That's all for now. I have to dismember the fresh strawberry pie I made today for my sweet husband and lovely granddaughter.
As always, paint beautiful things--and think loving thoughts.
But that's just my opinion.
OK, all of you Lerner and Loewe Camelot fans, sing along with me: “Tra la, it’s May, the lusty month of May–That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray….” Now that we’ve come through a year and a pandemic that none of us will ever forget, I wish you a “blissfully” wonderful month of May. Whether it’s lusty or not is really none of my business.
For the first time in quite a while, I did not attend the Membership show and luncheon, but people who did attend tell me they had a wonderful time. I love that Tanya sent the Juried Show entry images to all of us so we can see the work submitted even if we couldn’t be there. What beautiful paintings from so many talented members! Congratulations to everyone who submitted their art for taking the time during difficult times to produce such lovely work.
There are some things that provide comfort for me during difficult times. One of them is a loving family. It’s nice to see when one’s children are grown that all the hard parenting work was worth it. This parent stuff, I think, is both the most important and most difficult job I’ve ever had, and I am grateful for it.
My dog comforts me. He’s a stinker sometimes, but I am the most important person in his life. Everyone needs to be adored by someone or something, and I have my dog–and on really good days, I have my sweet husband, too.
And I have my room where I can go and paint. I have everything I need there–paper, paint, space to move around, and doors that I can close when I don’t want anyone to see the mess. I put my headphones on and listen to music or to a Podcast, and I think and work, and I enjoy the solitude. I have a bird feeder outside my studio window, and hungry creatures take advantage of the seeds I leave for them. If anyone tells you that you “eat like a bird,” it’s not a compliment. Those birds at the feeder eat constantly, and I watch them as I ponder what to paint next.
Even in difficult times the arts bring joy to our lives–music, art, a really great movie, a wonderful book, amazing theater–all have the power to help us get through tough times, and to appreciate the good times.
Thanks for spending a few minutes with me on this blissful May day. Now go paint beautiful things–and know that all of this is just…
In My Opinion
Welcome to Spring! What? Not yet? We had how many inches of snow in mid April? I had to cover HOW many peony plants so they could bloom when it warmed again? And this was the view from our front porch?
We DO live in the Midwest, where weather is likely to change in a moment and then change again shortly after. I am hoping for warmer temps so I can watch my roses and peonies bloom and plant some herbs and tomatoes–but just not today.
If you haven’t taken the time to read through the official WSI website lately–watercolorsocietyofindiana.org–I wish you would. Plans are underway to make the site more interesting and accessible to members–and to give more artists a reason to join WSI. Hopefully, we will have a place to display and market our work and workshops, and the site itself will be updated more frequently than it is now. The Facebook page where I post articles of interest and workshops hosted by members of WSI is not meant to be a substitute for full membership in the organization, where we can enter the Member Show (coming up in May) and the Juried Show AND–this year in November–display our work at the Art Gallery of Fishers in a display of our work sponsored by the Fishers Arts Council. Only paid members will be able to participate in these events.
The Daisy at the top of the page is one of the flowers of the month of April. I love flowers–I love their shapes and the variety of colors and the veining in the leaves and the light that rests on parts of the petals. Someone asked me if I have painted a flower for each month of the year, and I have. And then I had a good friend arrange them into one print that I could frame and give to a friend.
Speaking of things beautiful, WSI member and Master Watercolorist Stephen Edwards is presenting a workshop on May 1. Members get a price break. I’m taking the workshop because (1) I have SO much to learn, and (2) No one does watercolor better than Stephen. And if you follow him on Facebook, then you know that he’s also really funny–in a dry, image-filled way. I’m looking forward to it.
But that’s just my opinion.
Paint beautiful things and enjoy the new birth of spring–even if it is a bit late.
Those of you who know me pretty well already know that I am an English major--two degrees in English I love it so much. I'm clearly not an art major, which is one reason why I respect to a great degree the knowledge and beautiful artistry of those of you who have studied art your entire lives.
I have to say, though, that I've always loved the process of creating art and of learning new things, and I've also included both art and music in the teaching of literature and writing in my classroom. I included as many of the arts as I could because I think they're all related--and maybe sometime we can have coffee or tea or a glass of wine, and I can tell you how and why I think they're all related.
This pandemic year presented me with an interesting opportunity. I received a call from a former student living in Maryland who said he was looking for a writing teacher to work with his daughter since they were teaching and learning at home, and his daughter--who is ten--loves to write. My student asked if I would work with her this school year. I was intrigued. I really like kids, and I miss working with them, so I said "yes."
My student--Ashley is her name--is really remarkably bright. Her grandmother is an artist, her mother is a musician, and Ashley plays piano beautifully, and she also composes music. I've heard her play. She is amazing. Pretty good writer, too, for a ten-year-old.
You're probably wondering why--if this is my blog post--I've placed a photo of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" at the top of this page. It's because "Starry Night" is our latest writing assignment. I say "our" because when I assign a written piece to Ashley, I write, too. "Starry Night" is one of Ashley's favorite paintings, so for the last week or so (I meet with her on Zoom twice a week for about 30 minutes each time), we've been writing about our personal responses to the Van Gogh painting. This week we shared what we wrote and talked about how each sharing was different from the others (her mother joins us, too, in the reading and writing). It was interesting and fun. We decided that we would stay with our responses to the painting one more time, BUT the second sharing had to be different from the first. The first time I wrote about what I see as the sadness and turmoil in the painting, Ashley wrote about color and movement, and her mother wrote about losing herself as she moved into a closer study of the painting.
My written contribution this time is a poem--and I tried to write it as a painter. I don't share my poems very often, but I'll share this one because I think you'll "get it."
But that's just my opinion. Paint beautiful things.
An Artist's Choices
Cobalt, Cerulean, Quinacridone Gold
Van Gogh's favorite colors are a joy to behold.
Aureolin, Alizarin, Titanium White
Are all colors he uses to capture the night.
The mountains he covers in Ultramarine.
The lower hills--Cobalt--complete the scene.
The cedar that fills the left of the view
Is painted in Sepia, Turquoise, deep blue.
The stars and the moon, they first catch the eye.
The swirls and the whites make us wonder why
He chose so much movement and so much light
Perhaps the night sky needed more bright.
The point of it all, or so it seems
Is to capture the night sky in yellow and creams
And blues and purples and all colors true
Which show to the viewer night's beautiful view.
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