photos of Tracy’s workshops on her blog, with large groups of women standing at the end of her weekend workshop all sharing very similar paintings. Beautiful, colourful paintings but variations on a theme. I was concerned that it might be a paint by numbers, or "paint my way" kind of instructional experience so I took student acrylics and purchased a cheaper store bought canvas. I limited my suppy of expensive Golden paints and instead took Australian made Atelier Free Flow to ensure that I enjoyed the experience and was left with a painting that I could keep as reference rather than trying to create something to sell. I also packed some acrylic inks but wished I’d packed chalk.
Another apprehension was the name Paint Mojo and the fame that surrounds Tracy. Her Magical Mixed Art Community facebook group is huge, with over 7,000 people posting all sorts of art. It’s a tsunami of creativity, quite overwhelming at times. Recently, she has started another facebook group Paint Mojo - worldwide creative mojo ... in preparation for the book she's in the process of writing and it’s already got nearly 1000 members. I imagined her, with her enormous internet following and performing arts background to be a loud extroverted go-getter kind of girl, whipping us into a frenzy of paint. I’ve come to realise I am a quite artist who needs to listen to a painting, let it unfold and I feared it might be an all bang, bang noisy event.
I was pleasantly suprised. Tracy is a beautiful unassuming, gentle soul who smiles and giggles with delight, sharing the sheer joy of a weekend spent in paint. She encouraged us to value the opportuntiy, the dedication, the allocation of time in the week, the simple importance of making space in our lives to nurture creativity.
This is something I value highly and encourage my students to do as well. Holding space for others is an art in itself and very quickly Tracy made us feel welcome, totally at ease, focussing on having fun. She took us gently step by step through a process which, whilst incorporating similar techniques to others, included steps that definitely made it her own.
|a few of my personal symbols|
suzi poland 2013 30x30cm
I was thankful to have spent so much time doing Intuitive Art, because it felt very familiar and easy to get going. Making marks, painting brush free, spraying, dripping, scribbling, resisting, applying an abundance of colour, turning the canvas along the way, all work for me. I love sketching too, but in this intuitive process, the outcome is completely unkown and initially it can be quite daunting.
Tracy gave us a humous way to call out for help, but as it turned out everyone seemed to dive in happily layering their paintings step by step. I particularly enjoyed a step that incorporated poetry and found myself doing a fun little side painting (something Tracy encouraged us to do to record the steps we enjoyed). I will definitely try this again as I enjoy creative writing and I’ve been looking for a more spontaneous way to illustrate than what I learnt in the Childrens Book Illustration course I took early last year.
|inspired by "Spring" by Robert Frost|
suzi poland 2013 30x30cm
At the end of the first day, we gathered at a very long dining table in a local cafe. It was strange to feel I was on a retreat, walking around my local village, saying "Hi" to many people I knew in the street. The evening was lovely and those of us who could make it had time to share stories and laughs. One story I had in common with another woman was growing up in a family of boys. I am the first surviving girl for 150 years in my father's family and I have not been in such a large all female environment since I was in high school. An exercise earlier in the day, had revealed three words, “will” “make” “happy”. By this stage I was very happy. That night Tracy posted another photo of our dinner as part of her 30 Days of Gratitude project on her blog.
|Gathering for dinner.|
Can you see the heart in the background?!
In addition to the ridiculously close proximity, I was lucky to have friends come to the workshop. One flew from interstate to stay with me, another very old friend from the other side of Sydney as well as a few others I've met online and another local artist, but if I hadn't known anyone it would not have mattered, Tracy created a lovely vibe making it easy for everyone to meet.
Day Two was a lot less structured, giving us time to find our flow. I am not a fan of collage on a painting, I love texture and enjoyed stencilling, but I’ll confess, sticking glossy magazines onto a painting is not really my thing. For the first time in the weekend, I was out of my comfort zone, but tearing out and isolating images, gave me the idea to scroll through the photos on my iphone for prompts and being able to connect to the internet, I found my Lotus sketch which I did back in January at the Urban Sketch Crawl in the Royal Botanical Gardens.
|my Lotus Sketch done earlier this year.|
I still believe in finding not imposing imagery when painting intuitively and I am happy to admit that if I was painting alone, I would have taken a lot longer to listen to the painting, possibly putting it aside for a while and working on another, but I was conscious of the time constraints of a two day workshop and I wanted to push on, to keep up. I am a huge fan of releasing paintings but interestingly instead of struggling, I actually had a lovely AhHa moment.
I realised my tuning-in is not simply listening, but feeling the painting, I'm not looking for imagery, rather observing the feeling I get from the colours and marks on the canvas. Sometimes, my response is so strong, I am transported to another place, I go into the painting, as though I am right there sketching and what I am painting is real. Sometimes a whole scene evolves, occasionally with poetry. AhHa moments are special and although this wasn’t something Tracy taught us, it did spring from the poetry exercise we did on the first day.
|my painting's progress on Day Two|
Throughout the workshop Tracy worked on her own painting showing us the steps and it was no suprise that an elephant appeared. Elephants are a major theme in her paintings right now. Everyone else’s paintings were going in all sorts of directions, some were turning from abstract to realistic, others poetic, fun and celebratory, painterly or collage. There were birds, elephants, cherry blossoms, rabbits, still life, peacocks, waterfalls, buddas, fish, turtles, and others with no imagery at all. None looked the same. It is clear, that just as her painting style has evolved, so too has her teaching methods. It seems she's gained much experience from running these workshops and it was lovely to see.
|Tracy Verdugo's painting|
By the end of the day, little was said, but silence isn’t discontent, rather utter content. It's the silence of total absorbtion in the artistic non-linguistic right brain. Bliss and exhaustion all rolled into one! 14hrs is a long time to paint and many of us are not that "paint fit". This is the first BIG painting I've worked on since moving my studio home back in May. After all my Winter Dreaming, it was a lovely break and with Spring's rising energy, I am now ready to do more.
|Stephanie, Teresa, and Xanga showing their paintings|
So if Paint Mojo ever makes it to the end of your street, sign up for sure. If, like a few others there this weekend, you have to cross an entire country to attend and you have the means, with a bit of preparation and some nice accomodation, I would recommend going. I am still not sure if Paint Mojo describes the vibe, Paint Muse, Paint Flow, or maybe Sweet Tracy’s Paint Glow, might describe her approach, but who cares what it’s called, next one you hear about, just go!!!
|Lotus pool, suzi poland 2013 900x900cm|
This is how my painting looked when Paint Mojo finished. If it looks like it's influenced by Flora Bowley's Bloom True, it's probably because, like a few of the others there this weekend, I have done her online course and have her book. Since doing that class, part of me is still sitting, dreaming beside the blackened pool in my Paradise Poem. If it looks like my sketches in the rainforests of Nth Queensland, it's because I love to sketch and I spend a bit of time up there. If it looks like tropical flowers, it's because I sold them for years and if it looks like a garden, it's because I originally trained as a Landscape Architect and studied Tourism as well. All these things are part of my story. What I am really enjoying is that the more I do, in different directions and locations with different teachers and on my own, the more similar my work is becoming. It's great! I am beginning to find my style ... then again, maybe the blue is simply a subliminal response to the drop sheets that covered the floor that weekend! Who know's, who cares, my face says it all ... it was lots of fun!