Newsletter: Student work from "Absence & Presence" classes

I am filled with the pleasure of seeing the students' work. It reminds me of William Stafford saying it is not my job to praise or blame, but only in the end, to be envious of your work. Below are examples from my classes this spring in Taos, New Mexico and St Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. The essence of the class, absence and presence, is in concert with the content, which is based in study of Ben Shahn's lettering and images. 

 Each student in Taos was given a small rectangle to enlarge and copy, without having reference to the larger image from Ben Shahn: Anne Goyer, Valerie Zeman, Happy Price, Agnes Tirrito, Care Hanson, Karen Chandler, Trudy Ray, Martin Ray, Joannah Merriman, Joyce Francis, Charlotte Jorgensen, Ellen Gager, Cindy Stanley and Romy Colonius.

Each student in Taos was given a small rectangle to enlarge and copy, without having reference to the larger image from Ben Shahn: Anne Goyer, Valerie Zeman, Happy Price, Agnes Tirrito, Care Hanson, Karen Chandler, Trudy Ray, Martin Ray, Joannah Merriman, Joyce Francis, Charlotte Jorgensen, Ellen Gager, Cindy Stanley and Romy Colonius.

The picture above was a drawing exercise based on Ben Shahn's image. I operate from the assumption that I can teach anyone to draw, as long as there is a desire to learn, and willingness to practice. Learning to see shape, whether it is a letter or an image, is the same skill. It is learning to see, and trusting the intelligence in your body. The students were delighted, in the end, when we put them all together on the wall.

We began with making marks from a letter in the alphabet I designed for the class, and later making pattern marks with a wide tool:

 Mark by Trudy Ray                                                                     Pattern marks: Frances Chamberlain 

Mark by Trudy Ray                                                                     Pattern marks: Frances Chamberlain 

We played with the idea of absence and presence by working white on white, black on black and with resist. Here are a couple examples from the book covers:

 Book covers: Rachel Bourneuf                                                                    Anene Tressler-Hauschult 

Book covers: Rachel Bourneuf                                                                    Anene Tressler-Hauschult 

Below is an example of Ben Shahn's lettering, and an image from the text drawn with a shell (every student gets a shell).

 Drawing with a shell by Joyce Francis                                                                  Ben Shahn Lettering 

Drawing with a shell by Joyce Francis                                                                  Ben Shahn Lettering 

Most of the students are not calligraphers, but want to learn about making letters. Ben Shahn's work is accessible to non-calligraphers and sparks new ideas for experienced calligraphers. Here are some more examples of the writing and images from class:

 Angel and text inspired by Ben Shahn: work by Brother Martin Erspamer

Angel and text inspired by Ben Shahn: work by Brother Martin Erspamer

 Book Pages by Martin Ray

Book Pages by Martin Ray

text.image.jpg
 Book page by Joanne Kluba                                                                        Book cover by Ben Shahn

Book page by Joanne Kluba                                                                        Book cover by Ben Shahn

At St Meinrad Archabbey, the bells ring for all the prayer services and feasts. They ring because, as in time past, there are monks pulling on ropes. It brought to mind this haiku from Basho:

The temple bell stops
but I still hear the sound coming
out of the flowers.

I am looking forward to returning to Taos in June. I will stay home for the summer and paint...

Do you have any thoughts or questions about the classes? I'd love to hear from you.