Our Own Art Educations

Like so many of you, I am a regular reader of Robert Genn’s Twice Weekly Letter. This latest one looked at the traditional master-apprentice role in the arts, and I was particularly taken with some of the thoughts, especially since marbling has always followed this road. Apprentices worked with masters for years, learning and absorbing every trick and skills through watching – and later on by doing.

This made me think of how we get our own art educations, a topic near and dear for so many of us. I’m self-taught in virtually everything I have done artistically. I would hazard a guess that this is true for most of us baby boomer women. We were encouraged to go into paths that would support us or provide for families, with little thought as to what would make our hearts sing. As we’ve gotten older we have become more expressive.

Self taught. It seems to be fine in so many fields to say you are self-taught – tutored in life. But not in art. At least for me, I still feel intimidated when I see in a CV of someone in an art show all their schooling and formal coursework in the arts. My own art education early on consisted of a few art projects in elementary school and then a “class” as an elective in high school where we churned out particular projects. But nothing in creativity. Which ties in to a recent article in Newsweek on the dearth of creativity in modern classrooms and education.

I’m rambling, I know. But I’ve had to learn how to be creative, to break through the “OMG, what will it look like?” phase of making art. Would working with a master have helped this? I don’t know, but it probably wouldn’t have hurt any.

Who are our masters in the arts today? From whom do we study and learn? Enter the Internet, the cheap equalizer to getting an art education. The joke in our family always was that if my dad wanted to learn how to do something new, he would read a book. Well, I got that gene. I read everything I can get my hands on if it’s something I am really interested in. But that can get to be expensive, although still cheaper than a formal education or coursework.

The internet has opened up huge resources for us. I started on TV with Sewing with Nancy and Eleanor Burns and Kaye Woods. I picked up all kinds of hints – and reasons why something I was already doing (through guesswork) wasn’t working. Like many of us, I have taken workshops when I can afford it. Jennie Rayment and her muslin creations still stick in my mind – such possibilities for texture!

Just one of Jennie Rayment's books

The first professional workshop on marbling was with Galen Berry (over a year ago) and it was wonderful – lots of questions answered, problems solved, and energy renewed. We started to zoom ahead in our skills.

Galen Berry

Then I went to the School of Threadology with Superior Threads. Yes, I know I rave about their threads, but the professional education I received over the three days with Bob and Heather Purcell was priceless. My work has taken a dramatic turn for the better – and I don’t break thread anymore….

School Of Threadology

Now I’ve discovered Interweave and their dvds on quilting and other artistic endeavors. Better than a book because I can see things actually being done.


I watched a leaf tutorial by Heidi Lund and already picked up a bunch of hints to try something totally new for my bamboo piece. Carol Taylor’s video on her Arc-i-Texture techniques had me making a new quilt last night to try out the ideas…and I must say I’m loving it! And Susan Brubaker Knapp’s video on machine quilting corrected a whole bunch of errors I have puzzled over.

Carol Taylor

Susan Brubaker Knapp

Heidi Lund

And of course we can’t forget YouTube. I have been devouring and studying very closely the wealth of marbling videos on line.

So my question to you is: What’s the best professional development you’ve ever attended – the one that has changed how you do your art? I want to know!

PS – all of these recommendations are unsolicited – they’re just stuff I have learned from and appreciate – nothing comes to me as a result of you checking these out! (OK, FCC – happy?)

5 Responses to “Our Own Art Educations”

  • I agree that creativity has been wiped out of schools. there are several reasons, one being that a creative person is an independent thinker, has more tolerance for the unusual and can function outside the imposed *norms* of society. this is beneficial to the political machine—everyone think alike.
    NOW! That tidbit aside, from many of my friends that HAVE formal art educations, and some older than me, they say this: All it does is allow you to get a teaching or curating job. You spend your life unlearning your profs.
    I am self taught. It used to intimidate me.
    Now I could care less. the bottom line is this; if you are passionate about what you do, and you continue to learn and are good at what you are creating, that is all that matters.
    Find your own voice.
    Let it sing.
    And we’ll listen.
    The next generation of artists/ctaftsmen will, for the most part, be self taught or blog-taught. This is a wonderful sharing device.
    I’ve blithered enough…off to work! 😀


  • I can’t say that I’ve experienced one particularly great way of learning. I try everything……classes, DVDs, books, fiber groups/guilds, the web, internet groups…..I love them ALL! I try to learn from everything. If it’s a bad class I try to figure out why. Is it the material, the delivery, the location….whatever. The point is, if I am not learning the material of the class I am learning about what works and doesn’t about teaching classes. The same with DVDs and books. There is ALWAYS something to learn from everything we see.

  • I love the idea of “blog-taught!’ Leave it to Anne to coin a new phrase! And I absolutely agree – the net and blogging are wonderful learning tools. And Vicki – I do the same thing – what is it about a class that works or doesn’t. There are so many avenues available to us, and I am just beginning to explore all the alternatives to classes and workshops I either enver had the time or money for!

  • The more you circle your spirit with creative processes and generous artists the more you will bloom where you are planted. Robert Genn’s newsletter is always an eye opener and a very inspirational place to stretch your horizons. have a great weekend! I am addicted to Interweave publications! Imagine and Live in Pece, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  • Mary Helen – I can see I will become addicted to the dvds from Interweave! I watched the Carol Taylor one on Arc-i-texture on Thursday and by Saturday had finished a whole new technique – loved it, and now have some new skills in the repertoire. I do enjoy Robert Genn – his articles on wabi-sabi and miksang really helped explain for me why I look at things a particular way. I just love the net!! Peace, Linda

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