jennifer thomson: the art retreat
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!