Jane Davenport Weekend Retreat

Jane1Guess who got to spend the long weekend at Jane Davenport’s house?

I arrived at The Nest (her gorgeous acreage home) and went up to the deck in the sunshine to meet her, a bit nervous but excited too.  She greeted me with that huge smile of hers and a big genuine hug, making me feel instantly welcome.  There were tables set up on the deck that overlooked acreage farms all the way to the ocean.  It was a beautiful day with a light breeze that kept lifting the tablecloths like sheets on the clothesline on a late summer afternoon.  Hmmm…. I could get used to this.

Jane4Before we started playing in our journals, she took us down to her studio.  I officially died and went to heaven.  A cute little studio with the best storage you’ve ever seen for all her paints and pens and pencils and books and other wonderful things.  Everything at her fingertips. It was like an artists curiosity shop – I could have walked around looking at everything for hours.  Her desk looked onto it’s own deck and then onto more neighbouring acreage.  Built among the trees, we heard the soft rustle of the leaves as a soundtrack.  Such a gentle, peaceful setting.   “Imagine getting to play here” I thought to myself.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t quite the same as my pokey little room shared with my Hubby’s computer stuff and the dodgy dark yellow light globe that makes me squint to work.  Kinda thinking where you work can make a big difference.  I feel a makeover in the art room coming on.

We had been asked to make our journals before we arrived.  The pages were about A3 size.  In other words, gigantic.  I’ve walked away from my A4 journal because I was struggling working in a big format.  I’ve been working mostly in a teeny tiny A6 journal.  So you can imagine how I was feeling about working this big.  And you could tell by the glint in Jane’s eye that she knew we were all a little nervous.

Jane5But Jane had us using all sorts of techniques and materials to cover our pages in colour to take away the fear of the white page and where to start.  Then we started playing with faces.  This is where I got a bit nervous.  I’ve done Jane’s ‘Supplies Me’ course where I learned to draw faces.  But the only practice I’ve done has been drawing them on my jotter at work in about 2 minutes.  In blue biro.  Next thing, here I am, painting and using my Prismacolour pencils to bring out a face from our background.  My girl was supposed to have a pale cream face, but the Dylusions spray’s I’d used reactivated, so she had a blue/green face which turned out pretty good.  Can you say happy accident? The eyes turned out to be across two different colours on the page.  Jane suggested I leave them that colour – so she has a blue eye and a hazel eye – just like a Husky.

jane10Then we had homework – we were supposed to have copies of faces we had drawn, but I just brought copies of pages without faces.  So guess who had to do two coloured faces before she went to bed that night?  And I struggle to create when I ‘have to’.  I usually bin everything.  I couldn’t do that this time.  But I pulled it off and I reckon they didn’t turn out too bad.  I painted over a picture of an owl, leaving one of the owl’s eyes showing.  By the time I painted over it though, it looked more like a shell.  Whatever.

Jane6The second day, we started with a journaling exercise on the deck of Jane’s dreamy studio.  I’ve kind of struggled with journalling before.  I often resort to writing my favourite songs and TV shows at the time I do the page.  Which is kind of a fun record to look back on, but I’d like to write more than just that.  When I first started art journalling, I made the vow that I would not write sad or negative things in my art journal.  I thought I’d had enough of that in my life and that for me, art journaling was about happy, beautiful thoughts.  But somehow, it’s usually just factual.  I went here, I did this.  It’s all kinda boring.

This exercise was only about 15 minutes but it was my favourite part of the whole weekend.  It was so calm and relaxaing and the journalling I came up with was beautiful.  Truly beautiful.  I felt like I’d been in a blissed out state all day, even though it was only the start of the day and it was only for 15 minutes…..

Jane11Then we worked on our homework pages.  I don’t think mine quite worked but I got the theory behind it and I know what would tweak for next time.  I wasn’t disappointed with the page, it just didn’t quite work as well as it could have.

Jane2Then we worked on the cover.  The cover is the most important.  It’s the least forgiving page.  Of all the pages in a journal, that’s the one you don’t want to muck up.  Everyone else’s pages had splashes of random colour that looked amazing.  Mine was typically square bear, all straight and clean and simple.  As always, it didn’t look like everyone elses.  I used to hate that my work always looked different in a class.  But now I love it.  I know I’ve created something that is me, not just a copy of the teachers art work.

Jane3I am still glowing a week later from this workshop.  Jane is a gorgeous teacher – so funny (you know how much I love that) and gently encouraging.  She’s one of those teachers that makes the workshop so fun, you don’t realize you are learning so much until you reflect on it later.  And she just chat’s away as she is demo-ing, giving little droplets of art theory and cheeky tips that transform your artwork if you listen closely.

I cannot tell you how different I feel after this class.  To see the studio of a successful working artist and to hear her talk about the business side of art.  To see her journals in person after seeing them on her blog and in videos.  To have her teach me one on one.  To learn the art theory behind what I was doing.  To learn a new way of doing what I thought I was already doing and seeing how my artwork transformed.  And the effect it all had on me.  I cannot even describe how grateful I am that I said yes to doing this class.  So, so grateful.

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