Structure is key, to art, and to life. by Paige Stewart (class of 2014)

by Paige Stewart, class of 2014

I've been at Mount Gretna for about two weeks now and I've never felt more confident that I have been on the right path.  I'm at a point in my life where my enthusiasm for art matches my intensity of creating and it's bringing me a feeling of personal achievement.  I'm not afraid to make failed paintings because I realize that failures are part of the learning process and will ultimately bring about a successful piece.  I'm learning that there is no right way to paint, which is very liberating and brings me more freedom in my process.  The voices that have continually haunted my practice, by constantly telling me "this is the the way painting should be done", are disappearing and i'm rediscovering a way of painting that simply works better for me.  I'm finding the value in working in repetition and multiples while painting, drawing, and studying an object. Martha Armstrong has said "why would you move on quickly from a subject when you're just beginning to learn it."  I'm paraphrasing of course.

 Martha Armstrong conducting a critique of the day's work.

Martha Armstrong conducting a critique of the day's work.

 As I'm discovering a process that works for me, I have also been encouraged and reminded by Chris Dolan to be scientific, yet childlike, and keep playing in my artworks that focus on the same subject.  He has given me the very helpful advice that if working in multiples, it can only be helpful to make small changes in each painting, as a way to see and know if that certain change works or not. By doing so you will understand what exactly was the success or failure of the painting and what made it captivating or disengaging. What amazing and helpful advise, as I would usually try too many different changes at once and then be confused to what worked and failed. 

Bryan Kreydatus has brought a great deal of knowledge to this program and I'm envious that I can't work with him longer.  He helped me rediscover looking and I mean really looking, by only seeing what's essential.  I never realized how much of my drawing and paintings have become made up, created on assumptions and quick tricks I have developed for myself, habits that needed to be broken.

 "Make the familiar unfamiliar by the intense act of looking" - Bonnard

 Brian Kreydatus teaching a mono print session from  the model.

Brian Kreydatus teaching a mono print session from  the model.

I am continually reminded by all three of these artist how important it is to study the old masters, draw from them, steal from them, learn from them.  I have also have learned of how color is relative.  I have always been taught this and thought I understood, but I have just recently made a connection to what those words really mean.  I can not just mix what colors I think I see on my pallet, then expect them to read the same way when placed next to another color on the canvas.  If there's a really saturated color that can not be mixed, I may have to put a muted color beside it.  If I need a light area, I may have to darken the other colors to give that illusion.  If I have a color in the background, say green, I can't have that same green in the middle or foreground and still have the same space and structure.  Everything I have needed to hear for the past two years since college, has been said and has been understood.  

Not only have the teachers and my peers been of great importance to me, but the way this program has been structured has promoted a work habit in me that I needed to be exposed to.  Jay Noble has done an outstanding job with the structure of this program and it is by far one of the most important parts of my experience. We have two eight hour in class work days, two four hour in class work days, and then a lecture day, with the rest being independent study.  This schedule is so helpful to me.  The eight hour in class days are the core structure and foundation to what my work ethic should be.  The four hour in class/lecture days get me up and moving early, keeping me from distractions, while also setting the pace for the rest of my independent study.  In between class, we have lunch and dinner breaks, which are also of importance because they are like scheduled relax time off.  We are busy from the time we wake up to the time we're too physically and mentally tired to do any more work.  I have never been in a program as well structured and intense as this one and I will try my hardest to bring this structure into my practice after this residency because I feel it is the biggest foundation to creating, learning, and growing.  I have learned more in the last two weeks then I have in the last two years and I'm really excited to use all this knowledge to develop as an artist.

I could go on and on about this program, everything I have mentioned so far was only a little slice of heaven.  I could create an entire series of blogs about how welcoming and supporting the Mount Gretna community is, the New York trip to see galleries and the met, and the weekly artist talks, but I think i'm going to conclude that I highly recommend his program and I hope I get a chance to come back next year.  


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