Although Summer is just beginning, now is the perfect time to get back to the books – or rather the pencil, paintbrush, or darkroom.
I’ve always been interested in art. As a child, I would entertain myself for hours by drawing pictures of dancing bananas and then making up elaborate narratives to go alongside the images, and although I won the “Young Authors Award” when I was seven, my inspiration for the story of My Pet Hamster came from my desire to work up image after image out of crayon and pencil (with a specific focus on rendering closets full of one-shoulder ball gowns in the closet of my protagonist). In high school I took every art class offered to me, and signed up for night courses at a nearby university so I could learn metal craft and jewelry making, and in college I minored in art. I loved the possibility of making ideas come to life, the ability to express my own definitions of beautiful through the power of my hands. Making art opens up pathways in the brain and translates into more flexible, creative thought in other areas of life. Yet, in the last few years my life has been distinctly free from conté crayons and etching plates. My prized Nikon camera sits dusty in a box, and my tubes of pthallo green and cadmium red have dried to unusable. I miss making art. I miss the gritty, messy feeling of getting into a project, of being absorbed for hours in the way a shadow casts against a rustle of fabric. I miss the physicality of pushing a sculpture into submission. I miss the tangy smell of a darkroom, the precision of working film inside the sightless confines of a black bag. But I feel like I’ve been away from art so long now, I’m unsure of how to begin again. Often, when I walk my dog in the morning, I see half a dozen people set up with easels in City Park. I stroll around them, pretending as though I’m not looking on with envy as they work their canvases of the heavy-limbed oaks. I want to be doing that.
So I decided that summer was the perfect time to look into ways in which I could. New Orleans has such a wealth of artists, and it turns out that it also offers all kinds of opportunities to learn from them. At the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art, I can get my fill with classes in drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. Founded in 1978, the academy adheres to the idea that a background in classical traditions and forms is an essential building block for artistic fluency. The academy offers courses for all levels, so even if my chiaroscuro is a little rusty, I can get up to speed again without worry. And for those with concerns that they may not be the next Picasso, the academy admits all who have a desire to learn. Summer courses begin June 7.
Housed in a restored historic building in the arts district, The New Orleans School of Glassworks and Printmaking studio will give me a chance to learn something new. They offer courses in glassblowing, metal sculpture (who doesn’t want to use a blowtorch), printmaking and bookbinding and more. The school will even custom-tailor a course to provide one-day lessons on techniques, which sounds like the perfect bachelorette activity to me (hold the shots of tequila until after the class).
Or maybe I could finally learn the coordination of the wheel at Hands in Clay – a pottery studio and teaching space.
I’m excited about the possibility of rebuilding my china cabinet with a series of things I made myself. Oh, the possibilities. I’m feeling more creative already.