I have spent the last week in Juneau, conducting a plein-air painting workshop for a wonderful group of Juneau painters who have painted together outdoors for years, and call themselves "Plein Rein." It is the first workshop I've taught since I retired from the University of Alaska in 2000, and it reminded me how much I love teaching, and how I've missed it.
It was a magical week. Not a drop of rain fell on us during 5 full days of painting over the course of a week. We worked in stunning locations--near Thane Ore House south of town, at Amalga Harbor, Auke Recreation Area, and Eagle Beach from 12-30 miles north of town, and in Last Chance Basin, high above town. In the environs of Eagle Beach, as elsewhere, meadows of wildflowers were in full profusion--irises, shooting stars, chocolate lillies, cow parsnips, lupine, and more--and they were mere foreground to the wheeling eagles, dramatically changing tides, and still snow-covered Chilkat Range across Lynn Canal.
As impressive as the locations were the work ethic, devotion, openness to experimentation, and talent of the 13 Plein Rein painters. Some of the group work together every Saturday, rain, snow, or sunshine, in all months of the year. Few are full-time painters, but all are incredibly devoted to realizing their visions on canvas, paper, and board with oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, and more. This was almost the antithesis of the typical plein-air painting workshop. Each day I threw them curves, demanding on the first day that they work for 2 hours and then swap paintings and work on, swapping again 2 hours later. Another day I asked them to begin their paintings by paying close attention to the value and intensity of their colors, but doing them in complementary hues to their real color. On another I told them they could do anything they wanted, as long as they didn't have a horizon. Each day, they took my directions seriously, stretched and broke some of their preconceptions about how they work, and to my great surprise and delight, achieved remarkable results.
They treated me royally, as well. Cristine Crooks and her husband Dean housed and fed me grandly for the first 4 days and hosted two parties. Jim and Katharine Heumann took amazing care of me the last 3 days, and Jim and I each rowed in the ocean in his rowing shell a couple of times. Mary Claire Harris spent 6 hours taking me to all the birding hotspots in the area on our day off on Saturday. Mary Pat and Paul Voelckers fed me, hosted another party, and along with Cristine made most of the arrangements for the workshop itself. Everyone was incredible...gracious, excited, flexible, alive to possibilities.
It was a treat in every way, and as always, I learned as much from them as they did from me, and was at least as inspired. What a lucky guy, to get to do things like this and call it work!