We at the Art Hall are delighted and honored to exhibit the gloriously colorful work of Valerie Miles, a pillar in Portland’s Waldorf and larger anthroposophic communities for years with her husband, John.
Valerie was born and raised in Nottingham in the English Midlands. She found satisfaction as a young child in drawing the nature that she saw around her. Valerie later studied at Nottingham College of Art and then at Hatfield University, gaining her first degree in Art and Literature.
Valerie raised her children in Germany. While there Karo Bergman, a well-known anthroposophic artist and professor at Dusseldorf University, invited Valerie to paint and draw with her on a regular basis, which they did for several years in Karo’s studio.
After the family returned to England, Valerie trained as a Waldorf Teacher and then first taught the History of Art in the High School. One of her first pupils, Gill David, is now the Director of Tobias School of Art and Art Therapy.
Soon afterwards Valerie became a Class Teacher, taking her first class through Grade 8. Partway through her third class the family moved to Canada and then at last here to Portland, Oregon. She again taught as a Class Teacher at the Portland Waldorf School.
Valerie then trained as an Art Therapist at Tobias and later, with her husband, John, founded and taught at the Micha-el School, which offers a full kindergarten through Grade 8 Waldorf education. She also has taught at the Micha-el Institute, especially at Summer Conferences, which among other things has provided teacher training and continuing education for many of Waldorf teachers in the Portland area and beyond.
Valerie has now retired and is developing her own work, “playing” with color, rhythm and form. Please join us for the Opening Reception Thursday, October 27, 5-7:30 and Valerie’s presentation at 6:00. Private viewing can easily be arranged by contacting Robin, at 503-222-1192 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Thomson’s enriching five-day Art Retreat, which took place at the Sunlight Community Building in Portland’s west hills, was attended by an enthusiastic and eager group of ten painters—some of whom had never held a brush before! Jennifer taught with love and reverence for the color beings, polarities, and composition, through well-prepared demonstrations, a sense of play, and freedom that was accessible, challenging and richly rewarding.
We all worked very hard and enjoyed well-deserved, catered lunches together, took time to observe others’ work and learn from one another, and participated in break-out sessions to talk about the work and learn yet another sketching or painting exercise. We had one large veil painting we worked on all week as well as subsequent smaller paintings and charcoal sketches, all of which helped build a layered appreciation for our tools for painting and the language for talking about our process. Some participants left the Retreat with over fifteen pieces of art!
The following are just a few of Jennifer’s gems from the Retreat:
- Being an artist means reaching for the spiritual, beyond what’s visible; play with what you find: light and darkness/periphery and point.
- When you get to an edge it’s an opportunity to cross the threshold: something more beautiful is waiting. Focus on the heart sphere.
- Try to enter the painting until it becomes part of you. Try to be brave; don’t worry about what it looks like; we can salvage anything. It’s your painting! Break the balance. You’re at the threshold.
- When you’re not sure what to do it’s good to try different approaches. Look for each step to improve: an artist’s spiritual path.
- Everyone must discover what’s built into us in terms of how we work (Jennifer works by communicating with the color, light and dark, finding balance). And when you work something out (“ugly work”) something moves in you.
- Get it in your bones by nature observation; then you can paint in the studio.
- Light and darkness practice helps compositional skills. If you have a question about it try it!
- Making art is like meditating: ritual, practice, gets harder; make it conscious when you have blocks of non-working time.
We learned to create and paint with three different grays by mixing complementary colors to give a shadowy feeling: tree trunk and branches would be the first layer, upon which we would then paint the fullness of trees from our imaginations. We also learned that the artist is always trying to achieve balance between two major forces: blue coming in and yellow going out, to experience color as alive.
We were encouraged to stretch our imaginations and reach toward the cosmos and play; to move from the periphery to the inside, drawing with charcoal to make our lines alive…creating organic, alive space, play and dance. And that we did!
With the gentleness of an attentive caregiver, the thoughtfulness of a good friend, and the knowledge of a true master, Jennifer Thomson humbly and fully shared her Path as an Artist with an intimate group of attendees on her opening night, Friday, September 16th. Everyone remained perched like a nest full of open-beaked baby birds waiting to be fed and no one left disappointed.
Jennifer poetically and generously shared a rich biography, from her roots in Tennessee through her attendance at the Fort Lauderdale School of the Arts, where she and fellow students first took up of the task of realism and where Karl Voster, an anthroposophist, then awoke in them an awareness to “what lives inside, such as the soul of a human being or essence of a flower. Studies with Beppe Assenza at the Goetheanum followed.
Documenting a number of artists with whom she worked, learned from and taught, Jennifer led us further through a carefully curated slide presentation of all the stops along the path of her life as an artist. We learned of her early years as a fellow student with Larry Young, who continued on the path of painting the evocative soul portraits of human beings. We saw slides of her beloved teacher Beppe Assenza, her former student and fellow Art Hall exhibitor, Laura Summer, and others woven into a complex and compelling story of her emerging as an artist who has learned through lots of hard work to paint with a sense of freedom, joy, laughter, intense observation and living consciously.
Jennifer’s show remains open by appointment through Friday, October 14th. Please contact Robin at email@example.com or at 503-222-1192 if you’d like to stop by! And last, please check in here again soon for a post about Jennifer’s week-long retreat.
All photos provided by James Lee.