Tag Archives: Pinkney Herbert

The Joys of Teaching Mixed Media

DSC_0029This is Part 1 of a series on teaching mixed media

A rewarding result of going back to school was my exposure to many great teachers. Their technical knowledge, teaching styles, communication, critiques, and guidance helped me become a better artist. One consequence I did not foresee, was these teachers would also help me become a teacher. I suppose it is deep gratitude toward these people that makes me want to share what they have shared. As a way of honoring and thanking such talented professionals, I strive to be a great teacher.

Teaching the “Happy Accidents” mixed media class at the Arkansas Arts Center provides me with an opportunity to channel my former teachers. Students see me at the front of the room lecturing through a demo, but they are actually getting a David Bailin inspired drawing lesson. Or as I circle the room with individual instruction, the students are experiencing the questioning technique of DavIMG_6106id Clemons who taught me that listening is essential in critiques and often more important than talking. I’m finding as I teach workshops, most students want to learn new techniques but most of all, they want to be heard and want to use the workshop, and their art making to help them communicate. And people want to experience moments of success and joy that art can bring. As abstract artist Pinkney Herbert (as seen at an Arrowmont workshop on the left) taught me, kindness and caring about students can go a long way in helping them learn.

How does a mixed media class meet these needs? Well, for starters, I ask the IMG_0249students to leave their fear at the door. The class is a place to try new techniques, to experiment, to focus on method and not on results. This is a chance to stop trying so dang hard to achieve and stop comparing ourselves to others. What a relief! The more students are able to take this advice, the more they accidentally create amazing pieces of art.

In this series of posts, I’ll describe the workshop and outline specific techniques in case you want to try them at home, or share them with a friend. Perhaps you can sign up for a workshop at the Arkansas Arts Center. Over the next three weeks, I’ll post five or six entries discussing:

1. stencils and stamps
2. image transfer
3. collage
4. text and language
5. drawing
6. building texture and layering

So, to get started during Day 1, using acrylic paint we quickly add a ground layer to two pieces of paper. The paper must be heavier than drawing paper in order to handle the multiple layers to come. As the paint dries, students answer a few questions that are meant to prompt them throughout the three day workshop, and offer ideas if they feel stuck. I ask questions such as, “What is your favorite place to spend time?” “If you had a completely free week, what would you do with your time?” and “Do you have any favorite words, quotes, poems, lyrics?”

IMG_0267And then the action really starts. We cover various tools and ways to apply paint to paper. A paint brush works fine, of course, but imagine the marks made when dragging the paint with a squeegee? Or using a straw to blow paint around, or dabbing paint on with a sponge, or splattering with a toothbrush?

While that layer dries, we review compositional guidelines and elements of design. Version 2Throughout the workshop, students can look at the terms on the chalkboard and learn to self direct and analyze their work.  We discuss scale, value, contrast, line, the color wheel, texture, and pattern. We discuss how to abstractly represent an idea and how to simplify subject matter. And one of my favorites – we discuss layering, and how the additive and subtractive process of layering builds an alluring surface that is rich with information and history. Though we could spend days on these lessons, the 20 minute discussion helps students learn language and methods that quickly improve the quality of their work. To really drive the key terms home, and get a deeper understanding, we watch a few short videos on artists such as Chris Wool, Joan Mitchell, and Sigmar Polke. The work of these iconic artist leads to many “Ah-ha” moments and the students rush to get back to their work stations.


DSC_0411In the next layer, we work with stencils and stamps while considering pattern. Artist Traci Bautista has fabulous demonstrations on the website Stampington.com and we all agreed that this is not stenciling as we remember from childhood. While places like Michael’s Arts and Crafts carry beautifully designed stencils, you can make your own for free. Using parchment paper, drawing paper or cardboard, you can cut all kinds of shapes, patterns, and letters for one-of-a-kind stencils. Notice that when cutting your own stencils, you will end up with two pieces: a negative (the hole that remains in the paper where the shape used to be) and a positive (the shape you cut and removed from the paper). Both pieces can be used for stenciling. Additionally, instead of laying the stencil on your surface and painting around it, you can paint directly on the stencil, flip it over and press it into the surface where it acts as a stamp (styrofoam works really well). Once you start stenciling and stamping, and get a handle on all the possibilities, you might notice all sorts of products in your trashcan that add pattern and shapes to your paintings.

photo 1For example, pictured to the left are two store bought stencils and two from my trashcan (one piece of cardboard and one styrofoam tray that I cut a leafy pattern into with an exacto-knife). These four items were used to add the pink and white layers to the green and yellow background seen below.

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Using hand drawn stencils cut from drawing paper (which I stick on the window for possible future use), my goal in the painting below was to create a dream-like Venice inspired arrangement. First, with a large brush, I applied brown loose brushstrokes. Then I applied a muted watery green partially covering some of the brown. Next, came the stencils. Using a thin consistency of off-white paint, I painted around the stencils, repeating the architectural forms and the horse shapes that were each based on images from Piazza San Marco in Venice.

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So, what’s the point of using stencils? When creating a painting, I think often about CONTRAST. Work that has contrasting colors, subjects, shapes, or brushwork, for example, tends to engage the viewer. Stencils allow an artist to contrast hard edged shapes with loose brushwork, as seen in the above example. They also allow for recognizable imagery to contrast abstracted areas. One artist who provocatively contrasts stamped or stenciled images with loose abstracted areas is Firelei Báez.


Detail, The Last One Who Remembers It, 2015 by Firelei Báez

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Detail, Trust Memory Over History, 2015 by Firelei Báez

Her exhibit, currently showing at the Perez Museum in Miami, explores identity of a group of people. Initially, many of the pieces appear to be organic and bright, with perhaps a focus on animal life and the natural world. However, once the viewer’s eye lands on stamped chains, fists, foot prints, and hair picks, we begin to see much more than nature, pattern, color and abstraction. We see symbols, shapes, stereotypes and history associated with a group of people. Suddenly, our minds are forced to acknowledge a darkness amongst the beauty presented by Báez. Again, CONTRAST is an important element used by the artist. And stencils and stamps are one of the tools she uses to create powerful contrasts.

Next up, a student favorite: Image Transfer. Until then, cut out some stencils and experiment!

Arrowmont Part 2: Painting with Pinkney Herbert

IMG_6117For those interested in a fairly detailed account of a class at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, read on. Also, for admirers of abstraction, and for painters looking for tips, I’ll share a few helpful lessons I learned in the painting class, “Abstract Landscape Painting as Self-Portrait.”

The instructor, Pinkney Herbert, is a well known abstract painter. His teaching style mimics his paintings: energetic, unpredictable, passionate, insightful and colorful. During the first day of class, he condensed an informative color theory lesson into our morning session. Any level of artist, from beginner to professional, could benefit from his review due to entertaining antidotes as well as his perspective on how to use color. We spent hours on mixing and applying ground colors to multiple surfaces, which prepared us for the rest of the week. Just before lunch, we watched a film about abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell, and afterward, Pinkney had a surprise exercise planned. Hoping to mine inspiration from Mitchell’s uninhibited, spontaneous IMG_03491and energetic work, we had stations along the wall and painted with a very limited palette on butcher paper. Knowing the paper was cheaply made, thin and temporary, none of the students thought of it as precious, and we painted freely, with no self inflicted restraints. For the rest of the afternoon, we painted abstractly, trying to remain uninhibited when shifting to our canvases and boards.

On a side note, it was clear imagejpeg_2from the start that our small group was going to have fun together…spending time with kind, funny, and talented people was icing on the cake and I think we all felt very grateful for each other.

Pinkney Herbert, oil and digital print on wood, 66×66 inches, 2015




On Day 2, Pinkney gave a glazing demonstration to share his method of working with very fluid oil paint. Due to mixing copious amounts of glaze medium into the paint, which was a brand new experience for me, two ongoing problems were immediately solved: I’ve struggled with loosening my painting style and getting the paint to really move and spread across the canvas. Should I have figured this out on my own? Sure. But to quote my new friend, George, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and I’m thankful to our teacher for providing a solution. The workshop itinerary was diverse: a mixture of painting, discussions, films and slide presentations. For example, after the rigorous morning of painting on Day 2, we cooled off in a small auditorium and looked at slides exemplifying artists, such as Milton Avery, who compellingly abstract nature.IMG_0047_2

Then it was off to another fabulous meal (it is downright comical how excited we get about the next meal here at Arrowmont) followed by a class hike in the Great Smokies. Though it was peak sun hours, the Rainbow Falls trail was shaded and ran close to a cool stream. The hike provided countless visual references to take back (in our minds or in our iphones) to the studio for an afternoon of painting….right up to dinner time. And who would be late to dinner at Arrowmont? Not the painters! After dinner, we were again treated to faculty artist lectures: Jerilyn Virden (hollow form potter), Graeme Priddle (New Zealand wood worker) and Mark Shapiro (social activist and renowned potter). And then, to IMG_0100bed….just kidding! Back to the studio, of course! Except for the group walking into Gatlinburg for some late night karaoke, the painter-hikers will sleep well tonight.


Laura Raborn, “Duthman’s Curve – Study,” oil on wood panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2015

Though I arrived a little late to class on Day 3 due to a walk around town, Professor Pinkney was lenient and made no comment about my tardiness. I felt myself, for the first time ever, being able to see shapes in our world abstractly, and finally painted from life in an abstract manner. (Ok, so it wasn’t exactly abstract, but it was progress for a realist like me). What’s the point, you ask? I LOVE the juxtaposition of real versus unreal, of representational versus abstract. When a figure is fully painted in a realistic manner, I want to take a nap (no offense, there certainly are many incredible realist figure painters out there). But when areas of the body or space are abstract to counter other areas that are specific and recognizable,IMG_0058 well, that’s a thrill. Each style improves the other, magnifies, electrifies, livens, contrasts. Abstraction with representation is my yin and yang. And a class with an abstract painter is just the focus I need now. It was nice to be making some progress and I think it was the combination of film, slides, demos, and class discussion that wormed its way into IMG_0099my perspective.

After a productive morning and lunch, we had a thorough group critique which provided everyone with helpful insights. What really made the afternoon feel like a boon, was the thoughtfulness and thoroughness toward each person’s work. Pinkney asked lots of questions, and provided antidotes, suggested artists to study, and worked passionately and carefully to help each student in one way or another. Admittedly, I was initially excited to take his class for slightly shallow reasons: I like his work and he is established in the art world. But those two factors don’t necessarily make a great teacher. I am deeply grateful that we got a gifted and caring teacher as well as a renowned artist.

After the critique, we painted and then headed for another feast, this time in the form of a picnic behind the big red barn, which is one of the dormitories on campus. And then another evening of artist lectures in the auditorium and more painting in the studio.IMG_0069_2

Though our teacher did provide plenty of specific suggestions, technique and instruction, one shining skill was his desire and ability to instill confidence, daring and esteem in his students, regardless of our ability, experience, or style. His quirky brilliance shined during many unexpected moments. For example, one morning in the studio, he announced plans to show a film about Philip Guston. He said we could continue painting in IMG_0079_2the studio or go see the film at 11:00 am. But shortly after the film started, he rushed back into the studio and announced to those of us who remained, “I was wrong! Watching the Guston film should not have been optional! This is important for you to see! You can paint at home, but I don’t know if you will ever have another chance to see this film. So, after lunch, meet in the auditorium at 1:00 sharp.”

Pinkney taught me more about teaching, too. As mentioned, he used film and the study of other artists. He used critiques and discussion; he asked lots of questions. He distributed IMG_0096multiple articles that ranged from basic technical issues such as color mixing or brush care to more esoteric reading such as “Looking Within” and “Playfulness” (and pictured down to the right, see Pinkney and two star pupils exemplifying “playfulness” with great finesse). He cared about his flock of students, about us learning as much as possible during our time at Arrowmont, and about enriching our education. Just as my professors at UALR, Pinkney shaped my own teaching methods and I look forward to applying what I learned, not just IMG_0093_2about painting, but about teaching, to my workshops at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Thank you Arrowmont, thank you classmates, and thank you Pinkney. And thank you readers, for visiting my art blog. Until next time!




Arrowmont Part 1: An artist’s experience

IMG_0075_2For years, I’ve heard glowing reviews from colleagues, teachers, artists and friends about Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and for years I’ve dreamily combed over the course catalog. This summer, with my daughters away at camp, and an admired instructor on the Arrowmont schedule, I seized the opportunity to finally attend.

The nine hour drive from Little Rock was happily interrupted by a weekend of gallery hopping with an old college friend in Nashville (scroll down to see previous post if you are interested in Nashville galleries). I then headed to Gatlinburg, TN on Sunday. After battling the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg traffic, my arrival at IMG_6091the secluded and serene Arrowmont campus was a relief. Making me feel welcome, Cynthia at the Registrar’s desk had a nametag, map, and instruction sheet ready and waiting. After depositing my belongings in Hughes Hall, I headed to dinner where meeting students who would soon become peers was quick and easy. My worries about not knowing anyone here faded as I joined several diners, all excited about the upcoming week at Arrowmont.

During dinner, a student who has attended over 20 classes here shared tales and tips with our table of plebeians. Afterward, we all headed to an auditorium for Orientation which included guidelines, class information, a history of Arrowmont, and an introduction of the teachers. It IMG_0085_2become immediately clear, as if I hadn’t noticed in the course listing, the teachers are world class. It was also clear that Arrowmont is a highly organized, well run program. I liked knowing our time here would be used wisely, and that there were multiple opportunities to learn, from artist lectures, to studio tours, to an extensive and beautiful library (see photo on left).

At end of this article, I'll list the artist websites I made note of...I'm sorry the list is incomplete! They are all very talented and worth a visit.

At end of this article, I’ll list the artist websites I made note of…I’m sorry the list is incomplete! They are all very talented and worth a visit.

Each night at Arrowmont, there are artists lectures beginning soon after the incredibly healthy and delicious dinners. OK, OK, side note, I can’t delay this any longer, I know this blog is about art but I must talk for a moment about something else very important: FOOD. The food at Arrowmont is incredible. I had zero expectations…of all the great things I’ve heard about the place, I didn’t pay attention to reports about the food and as I was more interested in the art class experience. IMG_0080_2I simply purchased the meal plan with my enrollment in order to save time by avoiding downtown Gatlinburg for IMG_0094_2meals. There were multiple salads served each meal, several freshly prepared vegetables, vegetarian options at every meal, soups, homemade desserts, and delicious coffee, tea, and beverages available throughout the day. I cook often at home, and having three healthy vegetarian meals provided each day was a delightful surprise.

At 7:00, on the first night of lectures, we heard 15 minute presentations from Pinkney Herbert (who came out dancing and jamming on a harmonica), Andrew Kuebeck, and several of the artist residents. As soon as Pinkney’s harmonica sang, I knew the evening lectures should not be missed. IMG_0084_2So, there were daily lectures, films, instructional time in the studio, open studio time, group critiques, and reading assignments. And just when one might need to get out of the studio (and take a break from the oil paint fumes, in our case), Arrowmont wisely provides an event called “Studio Stroll” on Thursday evening. Brilliant. Get your target audience hooked on yet IMG_0082_2ANOTHER medium. I can’t decide if I became more enamored with enameling with Mary Chuduck or felting with Stephanie Metz. I’d heard these artists lecture earlier in the week so by the time I visited their studios on Thursday evening, I’d developed a great appreciation for the process and their work.

Overall, on top of the incredible instruction, unparalleled course offerings, and scrumptious food, Arrowmont is a place where artists can build a community of peers who inevitably feed our ideas. It is a place that elevates the direction of our work and softens the sense of isolation artists often feel. Whether you are a newcomer to the arts, a hobbyist, or a professional artist, this place is a heavenly balance of on the job training and summer camp. In addition to technique with materials, we can glean from the faculty tips about lecturing, teaching methods, and gallery business. We can learn about ourselves, our goals, and more about our own work. And we can experience the feeling of really getting away from it all while conversely getting a ton of work done. And that, to me, makes every moment at Arrowmont time well spent.IMG_6106

Thank you for reading! Up next, I’ll describe our painting class, lessons, and work samples in more detail in “Arrowmont Part 2: Painting with Pinkney Herbert.”

Artist websites: