An Ode (in prose) to Life-Long Learning

Hello dear Friends,

Happy New Moon today! We’re on the upswing of lunar energy — what kind of project are you beginning now? I decided to take an art course, Design Boot Camp, from Julie Fei Fan Balzer. I’d been following her blog and youtube channel for years. She’s a mixed-media artist, and has literally hundreds of videos available, most of which demonstrate techniques to make all sorts of art from collage to gelatin printing to Christmas ornaments to painting. A testament to her teaching abilities is that even though her art style and mine are very different, she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever learned from. She teaches HOW to THINK about the choices involved in our art rather than showing us how to copy her artwork step by step.

The images above are experiments in my studio notebook, aka Sketchbook. The course, Design Boot Camp, is about the Elements and Principles of art: to use the analogy of food, the Elements the ingredients. They’re what makes up our art, and we all use the same ingredients such as line, shape, form, texture, color, et al., while the Principles are the recipes, or how we use our ingredients. It’s giving me an awareness of the different things that make up my art, and a vocabulary and skills to identify what might be missing in a work that I don’t quite like —- and helps me to try different things to fix it. And for my artwork that I love, it helps me discern if there is anything that may enhance it, or communicate my intentions more clearly. It’s a very intense course, two intense hours twice a week for 5 weeks, and with tons of homework. Julie teaches us how to learn on our own, and I imagine that I’ll have enough material and ideas to keep my learning going for months and months.

Did I NEED to take this course? Of course not. I’m not an artist who is trying to make a living from my artwork. In fact, I’m in the middle of writing a book! But learning something new, or going deeper into an area of interest, is always enriching, and I believe that the creativity within seeds the other creative works one is involved in. As I grow and expand in one area, the other areas of my life grow as well, filling up the spaces I’m making in my neurons and in my life.

Intentionally learning new things has so much to offer us. It keeps me engaged in something interesting that isn’t scrolling more on my Facebook or Instagram feeds. It’s cheaper than therapy and a lot more fun! Not to diss therapy, which has been a lifesaver at different points in my life —- but if you’re doing therapy primarily as a form of inner growth, oftentimes taking on a new learning project can fulfill the same goal. It’s also less expensive than travel —- which we can do so little of these days, anyway! And I never get carsick or have an uncomfortable bed, either.

I’m really enthused about this learning. I’m always reading and learning on my own, but having the guidance and accompaniment of a gifted teacher is such a delight. This course is so different from the other art instruction I’ve enjoyed. Instead of new techniques or inspiration from a particular artist’s style, this is art theory, or graphic design. Had this been the first art course I’d ever taken, I probably would not have gone on to play with paint and try to communicate my visions. I needed to have enough experience to know the real limit of my skills and to be ready to study the more “boring” things in art. But I’m not finding them boring at all! New ways of looking at art, more skills with color, and learning how to learn from other artists’ work are all percolating through my days. So thankful that I can do this now, at this time in my life.

This artwork is a perfect complement to the re-reading and the editing of my book that is filling the rest of my time. It’s a magical time, too: The Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the cross-quarter time (the day right between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox), and even Groundhog Day are all happening in the next day or so. And the New Moon. I sincerely hope that you are involved in activities that you love that can spice up all the things you have to do! There’s so much to worry about. Do what you can to be as prepared as possible, and then turn your attention to what brings joy.

With much love and many blessings,


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