Over the years blogging had taken me away from my spiral, hardbound notebooks, my multi-colored pens, my propensity to glue things (like ticket stubs, favorite articles, and paraphernalia found on bar counters, restaurants floors, and airplane seat pockets) into my journal . So, when I saw the Split Rock Arts Program offering the course called “The Visual Journal: Exploring Urban Landscape" taught by artist by Julie Baugnet (an artist featured in Drawing from Life by Jennifer New), I caught the first plane to the Twin Cities. I wasn’t disappointed.
(all photos by shamash)
The class was a strange mix of people with backgrounds in the arts: professors of architecture, art majors who work in museums, and professional graphic designers. Then there was little ole me, who had never taken an art class for credit.Most of the 13 other students had degrees in art and design, but what I lacked in education and experience, I made up for in enthusiasm.
What a ride it was.
We spent our days out and about in the Twin Cities, visiting sculpture gardens, public art displays, a 10 million dollar book, and riding the elevators to the top floor of the Guthrie Theater, to look down on the Mississippi as it bent around the famous factory buildings of of Gold Meal Flour and the Stone Arch Bridge. With white-gloved hands we examined the artist journals in the archives of the The Walker Arts Center. We walked through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden , sketching statues such the 1,200 pound cherry balanced on a giant spoon. Walking across the steel Whitney Bridge (painted sky blue and pale yellow) with the roar of 16 lanes of traffic below me, I read the John Ashbery poem written in 4-inch high steel letters across the wide expanse. (The longest poem in the world, perhaps?)
We spent a morning at the Government Center, just off the lite train, and visited the Minnesota Public Library where I was able to see the large etchings on the pages of an Audubon book printed in 1853 and valued at over $10 million dollars. We met the public artist
Chris Christianson (sp?), Keith Christianson who was commissioned to create a public art installations on and near the windscreens at train stops. (Here he is, with our professor Julie Baugnet looking on.)
After our jaunts into the city, we returned to the studio to create journals. We learned the various ways to bind a book. With needles and waxed hemp, we stitched the bindings of our books with Coptic knots, slip knots, and buttonhole stitches. We created hardbound books, and softbound ones, sealing papers together with book binder’s glue. We altered books, covering the pages in a thin layers of gesso. We created names of colors to suggest to Crayola such as "Guthrie Blue" and "Guinness Brown."
In the evenings I hung out with Gesso Guinness, who introduced me to the joys of sketching in bars. We went to the Local Irish Pub, passing Prince’s well-known 7th Ave forum, and then to hear some great jazz at the Dakota Jazz Club . We drank Guinness and sketched. We disproved the hypothesis that the more you drink, the better you draw, and we had a good time gathering data on the subject. I won’t bore you with the details about Cowboy Rancher Dude and how sketching can be a great way to pick up a guy, but will tell you that I have his sizzling ranch brand. (Sketched in my SKETCHBOOK, mind you!)
Our final night was grand: we gathered in the top floor of the Kauffman Center to share our week with the other classes who were learning digital fabric design, Japanese tie-die, water color, and book illustration. Looking out at the St. Paul skyline in the setting sun, I couldn’t help but be thankful for all that I’ve been given in friendship and in inspiration.
I feel a bit bad for not blogging as much, but I'm still writing minus the keyboard, battery, or power cord, recording my thoughts the old-fashioned way: with ink and pencil on paper. Thanks to my teachers, my peers, and my friends for inspiring me to glue and draw and paint, adding a tactile, visual element to my journal-writing.
photos by shamash