I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Monday, October 10, 2011

Finally... Petaluma Art Retreat .. revisited.

First of all I want to say something about these art retreats. You can go on line and look at videos, read other blogs that give you tutorials and Google all kinds of helpful websites that teach you how to create the kind of art that you are interested  in.... but, there is nothing like a retreat/workshop for really getting the hands on experience that is needed to learn a skill.
The ART IS...YOU West Coast Art Retreat was wonderful. It was well organized, offered great classes and really great teachers. This was the first West Coast venue for the retreat and I hope not the last. 
Art is ...Petaluma was held at the Sheraton Sonoma, just off highway 101 and very easy to find. It was close to downtown and to many of the beautiful surrounding historic areas that folks come to California to visit.
This is wine country and the hills are covered with miles of vineyards and wineries.
 Petaluma is also known historically for chicken and egg production. I don't think that they know which came first either but it was a big deal in the day. "At one time, Petaluma was known as the "Egg Capital of the World," sparking such nicknames as "Chickaluma". Petaluma hosted the only known Poultry drugstore and is the place where the egg incubator was invented by Lyman Byce in 1879." For more information go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petaluma,_California
The Petaluma River runs through the old part of town and out to the Pacific Ocean. 
The riverfront has been redone with walks and businesses but the old tracks and buildings are still there  from the days of producing and transporting goods.
I love that they left the old tracks and wood piers in some areas. Makes for great photo shoots.
Downtown is filled with great shops and restaurants.
That sell local wine, with half the proceeds going to Breast Cancer foundations.
Not sure what the MONKEYS have to do with "the cause" but  they do grab your attention.

 I always ask permission to take photos before I pull the camera out. This place, called Paperwhite, was so nice about letting me take some photos.

and when I told her that I had a blog, she said that it was like getting some free advertising. It's true. Some folks are really nasty about not wanting photos taken in their shops. Not sure why... but it's their store so I don't argue with them.
A feast for the eyes...
With lovely and varied items that were beautifully displayed.
And of course, it's all about the chickens and the eggs here... and BUTTER?
I love it! It's such a farming community... still.
Check out Paperwhite if you're ever in Petaluma.
So, on to the first workshop.
It was called TIME TRAVEL DIARY.
This was an altered book workshop. You take an old book and make it into a work of art.
The book has to be in fairly good condition. You remove about a quarter of the pages with an Exacto knife or just carefully tear them out. Then you use the remaining pages to add paint, paper and embellishments, gluing pages with mod podge or gel medium.
There should be a theme or idea in mind. We were told ahead of time to create a character or use someone from our past.The book would be their story.
I have a very hard time doing this to a book. when I created my first altered book I couldn't look at it for months. It was a book of William Blake's poetry and I had nightmares of him haunting me because I had defaced his pages of poems.
I found it very difficult to take a book apart and tear it's pages out. I still have the book but I will never do this to a book that means that much to me again.
This time I found an old book that had a wonderful vintage paper cover on it. It was called Valley People and was about people who lived in  Pope Valley, CA. My character for this workshop was my grandmother, Johanna, and her life in the Napa Valley from the 1900's to about 1940.
The artist/instructor for this workshop was Serena Barton. She was wonderful.
We were a very small class and we felt like we were getting individual instruction from her. We were!
It turned out there were only two of us that showed up so we had a very private workshop. Very one on one.
 Serena lives in Portland, Oregon. She  taught herself to paint and even though she loved art as a child, it wasn't until she went on a vacation to Italy that she became inspired to create paintings and mixed media work for a living.
These are Serena's hands..
She is talking about the different techniques that can be used on the pages of the book.
This is a book that Serena was working one. I love the handwriting. Watching an artist create art with their hands is so interesting. Listening to them talk about how they create and the techniques use is like a gift to someone who is learning.
This is the other student in the class and some of the pages of her book.
Hers was about the divine spirit in women and their beauty and strength. It was beautiful.
(click on the photo to enlarge)
She called her book The Divine Feminine.
And wrote, in her pages, about "the rhythm of primal brightness."  WOW! One page would be done in bold colors.
Another in soft pastels and transparent overlays.
It was a beautiful effort.

Mine on the other hand was a concentrated effort. 
I would have taken more photos but my hands were stuck together with glue and paint.
I have decided that whatever I do to change this old book, I must keep the integrity of that original book. I find it painful to pull a book apart.
What I do, has to incorporate itself into the older addition, as if I'm building on a foundation. This, of course, adds another level to the artwork but it's part of how I deal with taking this book apart... Penitence for the sin of defacing someones writing.
I glued part of the paper cover back onto the outside of the book. My grandmother was a "Valley" person too... just a different valley. And I also left the author's name.
When I created the inside cover, I left the handwritten dedication visible in the upper right hand corner.
And, again, the name of the book...
And the table of contents.
I think that once I make these concessions to the original book I can then continue to create my art on these pages and live with myself. If not... then I will find some other object to alter.
One of the artists at the first night's dinner said that you must do 6 or 7 of the same thing before moving on to something else. By the 7th time you will know how to do it and you will know, for sure, that it is what you want to do.  I think that is a cure for my habit of hopscotching  all over the art world trying to find something that I like.
So, I have five more of these babies to go. I will either become an Altered book artist or die trying.
OR... stick to Felting.
Thanks Serena. You made me think outside the book...

Tomorrow I will do a post on the Nuno Felting class. Um, um.. good.


  1. Connie I bet you had a great time at the retreat. I love that you got such individual attention in your altered book class. I recently took a class on altered books. I learned some new things and the teacher was so sweet. It was free too.
    I wish they had more classes and retreats within closer driving distance of me.
    I can hardly wait to see what else you have to share about your classes.

  2. Hi Connie, You are so talented. I enjoy all you do and wish I could see in person your many talented projects. Have a blessed evening. Madeline

  3. oh my goodness those first two pics of hte waterfront are amazing....and the time travel diary is just fascinating....so cool...thanks for sharing it with us...

  4. I really like the idea of you learning something new because I know it will bring me pleasure as you develop your new craft. Look forward to seeing your future creations! Your small class and individual attention sounds wonderful. I would need every minute of that attention!

  5. I know the feeling of a trip that's all about the art! Such a high! Thanks for sharing.

    I liked the part when you were talking about monkeys, of course.

  6. Connie, your art retreat sounds wonderful! I know what you mean about taking apart a book. The first time I did it I pondered using an old chemistry book (I hated chemistry so it seemed o.k. to tear it apart!) Thank you for stopping by my blog yesterday and leaving such a nice comment. Oh and fyi, you mentioned South Dakota being prairie...it is. The lake I was on is right on the Minnesota/South Dakota border, so looking across the lake you see Minn. Just a few miles further west you're in the flatlands!

  7. I adore Petaluma - and this all looks so wonderful! Your post has renewed my hope that I will be able to go there for a visit again SOON.

  8. Thanks for being in my class--your book is so touching!

  9. Petaluma looks lovely! Love the first two shots Connie.

    You are so artistic and I'm enjoying seeing your various projects. I just can't see you picking just one!

    Thank you for sharing your creative adventure :)

  10. Whoa! I feel like a hobo running after a freight train, just trying to catch up with all of your adventures! I love this book idea...I want to try one with my sister in mind. It would be a great gift to her girls.
    And that SCARF!! SO cool! Now you've got me looking to yet another form of felting and more projects for the winter.
    By the way, I loved the quote you left on my blog about 'mourning and morning'. thanks Connie.


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