This past September, a group of 8 wonderful folks gathered in my home for the very first Casa Joshua Tree Watercolor Workshop. What a day. I dreamt of having a creative space where I could teach people for SO long...Having this day actually happen was HUGE. Not gonna lie, I got a little misty-eyed quite a few times. I couldn't have imagined a better day- fabulous students, beautiful weather, and (of course) lots of #desertvibes.
For me, the day started early (last minute brillance!)-- putting the finishing touches on the living room-turned-classroom. I used rolling studio tables, a few chairs, and simple pine benches that my neighbor Sean built for me (they look so clean and modern!) I moved the living room furniture to the dining area, and shuffled the big dining table to the porch, opening up the living room for lots of learning space. Flexibility is key to everything in Casa Joshua Tree, all furniture has to be movable and re-stylable for use elsewhere in the house.
Each workshop student received all the supplies they'd need to get started with watercolor. I had so much fun putting together each place setting. Supplies included: Sakura Koi Watercolor Tubes, Canson Watercolor Pads, a set of four brushes, white tape, a palette, a pretty pencil, a Field Notes mini notebook, a S'well water bottle, and a canvas tote to take it all home in. Sakura Koi paint tubes were the very first "real" paint set my mom bought me when I was a kid, so it was pretty cool to give my students the same sets.
At 11am the students arrived, and we had some time for coffee (yes please!) and to shoot the breeze. Making friends is my fav part of workshops, so I made sure to factor in hangout (and caffeine) time.
After introductions, we dove right in to the good stuff: painting. My philosophy of teaching is a positive, make-it-your-own approach. Anyone can be an artist with practice, dedication and a good mentor. Despite what we're told repeatedly throughout our lives, I believe there aren't any rules to art making, just some basic principles of of paint functionality. I asked students to stay positive...Saying "I messed up, I'm no good" or "I'm not an artist" was not allowed, but all questions encouraged. Gotta keep the positivity flowing, be vulnerable and ask questions to truly reap the benefits of art . Most folks were beginners, so we spent time going over the basics like paint mixing, using the water as your friend, and brush techniques. Through several exercises, we played with paint and light. What a thrill to see each person interpret the practice in their own way! Every single painting was beautiful (cue the misty eyes!)
Midday we took a break and sat down on the porch to a delicious vegetarian lunch. Quinoa salad (made by me!), a yum cheese plate, veggies & hummus, fruit and nuts (and don't forget the Caliwater!) were on the menu. Sitting around the table, we talked about the morning's progress and had a lively discussion on the magic of Joshua Tree and what it's like to live here (hint: it's totally awesome).
The afternoon painting session was all about realism and abstraction. I spent most of my life striving for realism in my artwork, and only recently discovered how enjoyable abstract painting is. Such freedom! It feels like a meditation. Giving one's self permission to go wild with paint is so much fun, and releases you from having your work "look like something."
After the lessons were over, we ended up sitting around the work tables talking about how easy it is to bring watercolor with you on trips. I showed my travel kit that I take on every adventure, which was fun to share. We wound down the evening with happy hour on the porch, as the desert light slipped away, a few of us retired to the couch to chat and have a glass of wine. A cozy way to end a creative day.
Photography by Anastasia DiGiallonardo