The Magic of Artfest
For 3 unseasonably warm days, I was surrounded by grazing deer and sparkling sunsets, flinging paint and audacious imagery — and just like that — the magic of Artfest was resurrected.
About Art Fest
If you aren’t familiar with Artfest, it is Teesha and Tracy Moore’s amazing art retreat in the Seattle, Washington area. When Teesha announced it’s revival (after concluding the 12 year tradition in 2012), she summed up the event quite well. “This new version of Artfest will happen…once again at the amazingly beautiful, Fort Worden State Park. Like past Artfests, it will start on a Wednesday night and end on Sunday morning. You will get 2 teachers a day, 3 hours for each with a 2 hour lunch break in between.”
Moore continued, “Tracy and I have our team already picked out for this first one: 3 Men and 3 Women! Michael DeMeng and his wife Andrea Matus DeMeng, Jesse Reno, Orly Avineri, Tracy Moore and Me. We will each teach you our unique styles and techniques involving drawing, painting, collaging, lettering, mixed media, methods, and more all on the pages of a large journal. When you go home, the journal will be filled with juicy art, your own essence, and tons of good energy from a weekend with friends, both old and new.”
To be perfectly honest with you, I had little to no experience with these teachers. I’ve watched some of Teesha’s YouTube videos and used her method to create art journals for my round robins, but that’s all the background I had on this group. None of that stopped my heart from palpitating when I read this announcement. My sister, Paula, and I attended ArtFest in 2012 (pictured) and it was nothing less than transformative. I was so saddened to have found such a magical experience just as it was ending. So we jumped at the chance to go again – and this time we took our mother and Paula’s mother-in-law along.
Day One: Marital Bliss
Our first class was with Andrea Matus DeMeng. We were to create a collage portrait with a large headdress. She had us collage the background of our journal spread, paint it, “audition” collage pieces to create an interesting large portrait and surroundings, adhere our chosen pieces, add more paint, collage more, and adorn it all until it felt right.
It was a comfortable way for me to start. I collage and paint frequently, so the class did not stretch me. It did frustrate me though, because three hours was not enough time to make significant progress and I didn’t have the right materials. In hind-sight, I wish she had asked us to bring a fashion magazine. I think I would have been able to work more quickly and utilize the instructor’s expertise more. If you click on her website, you’ll see how her work is more than just a fashion magazine collage. I want to evolve my piece much further as she does. In the evenings, at the dorm, I continued to work on my collage and I love what it became although I am still only half finished as you can see in the photo.
After lunch, we attended Michael DeMeng’s class. It was interesting to have this wife-husband pair in one day. Michael is known for his assemblage, so I had no idea what he would teach us for our art journals. His approach started similarly to his wife’s: a collage background, but then he had us add a series of paint washes, alternating with back-lighting shapes with white paint. Conceptually, you just continue to add washes and highlights until you have a dark scene with zombie-esque creatures emerging.
It was definitely a cool technique, but I need to practice it. The results varied throughout the class. As we experimented with the technique, many of us realized what we wished we’d done differently, but it was very difficult to change course once you were in the process. You pretty much had to commit and move forward. Mine ended up a lot brighter and more colorful than his. I ended up back-lighting my family and outlining each figure with things I love about them. I like it; I don’t love it. I think I just needed to add a lot more wash layers or something. One take-away from his class: Golden has a fluid Van Dyke Brown – who knew?
Day Two: Black and White
Jesse Reno took us through a series of mark making exercises using a fan brush and then helped us to “make moons” or focus in on the interesting parts. To take the piece even further, he had us try to see a figure or creature and use black/white to define it.
We loved this class — it was my favorite. I loved squishing paint in my hands. I loved “seeing” in a new way. I loved Jesse’s frenetic energy and humor. I loved the work the class produced. What we learned made an impression on me and I foresee Jesse type marks making an appearance in my future art. The concepts were new and fresh for me and I’m grateful for the exposure to an artist I will continue to follow.
Tracy’s class was focused on the concept of social journaling and the positive impact it can have on your life. He led us through a series of doodling exercises to practice drawing as we talked with our table mates. Then, he had us continue to fill in the journal pages as he regaled us with anecdotes about interesting people met and adventures had which resulted from working on his art journal in a public space.
I found Tracy’s class very relaxing and inspiring. He’s so incredibly likeable. I would be shocked if anyone didn’t leave that room thinking, “what a nice guy.” I was a tad disappointed we weren’t prompted to actually write words in our journal since that was the focus of his lesson. Above all, I adored looking through his hand-made journals. He’s so talented. If I had a journal like that, I’d be inclined to write in it daily, too!
Day Three: Look Within You
Teesha asked us to bring in 4 photos of ourselves with different facial expressions. Her class project was to collage yourself in 4 different figures then try to determine what personal “superpowers” you subconsciously highlighted. Lastly, she had us use Pan Pastels to create a horizon.
It was a fun class with fun results. There was not a lot of instruction; it was more “here’s an example and some time to work” with a small demo of Pan Pastels towards the end. I wish there was more technique teaching, but I did appreciate the feedback from Teesha throughout the morning as she circulated the room. I also appreciate that collage art takes a lot of time, so she gave us time. One thing Teesha emphasized was creating borders on your pages. I collaged my four figures, but didn’t complete my borders yet so I haven’t glued “me” down. I think I’m going to really like the finished piece.
Orly took us on a journey through a series of paint techniques with no clear concept of the end result. Let go and let the piece evolve on its own. Let your artwork be a journey and tell you what it will be. Shasha the bad.
It was a great class. I really enjoyed the process. It made me think. It made me feel. There is something very vulnerable and accepting about Orly and the artwork we produced. It was a total departure from anything I’ve ever created. As such, I think it was a fitting end to my Artfest classes.
A side gig that occurred before and after classes, in the evenings, and during mealtimes was “trading.” Attendees that wanted to participate created some kind of art token to trade with other participating artists. The trades generally have the artist’s contact information included, so I consider it an art business card of sorts. I chose to participate. I wasn’t sure how many to make, but my sister suggested 50 or so. I ended up with 48, but I was up until 1:30 in the morning before my 6am flight to complete them! I traded the little bird art cards pictured. I’ll post about that process separately. I had my contact info stapled onto the back. I received a host of goodness from the other attendees that I poured over when I got home and split with my daughter as payment for her helping me create my birds 🙂
The Artfest Impact
I’m still on a such a high from Artfest. The entire process is like a breath of fresh air to the creative mind. I was exhausted from the cross-country travel experience, yet I couldn’t put down my paint brush and go to sleep at night. So, I think we can go ahead and check off the “successful art retreat” box.
Artfest is more than just a retreat, though. It’s tough to put into words, but when you put 144 artists together, oddities will abound; yet in this like-minded group, each one is just quietly acknowledged and respected. It is a tribe of like-minded people stepping away from their daily life grind and honoring their passion for making art. It is relaxing, refreshing, and recharging. I will definitely jump at the opportunity to go again, to experience the magic a third time. It truly is an unparalleled experience and I’m ever so grateful to be part of the Artfest tribe.
Teesha lived up to her promise. My journal is filled with juicy art, my own essence, and tons of good energy from a weekend with friends, both old and new.