“I’m interested in nowness,” Jenene Nagy shares during her Advanced Topics in Drawing workshop. “I was working in that spirit when I developed this workshop and series of projects… practices that grow our cognitive ability to embrace nowness.”
As a nonprofit director helping to see Sitka through these years of constant change and challenge and perpetually attempting to anticipate the pandemic future, Nagy’s invitation to present moment awareness is jolting. Nowness? Observing the series of exercises Nagy introduces over the next four days, I feel myself slowly coming into real-time consciousness and snapping out of my contingency planning coma.
“Each day we are exploring a theme,” Nagy shares. “The first day is unexpected outcomes… ways to get outside of yourself and truly experience the world… We spend a lot of time thinking we’re looking when we’re not really looking or not looking closely.”
This insight resonates, as I consider how much daily effort and attention these years have required and yet how blurry the passing of time feels.
“We’re starting with blind contour,” Nagy continues in a low voice as people draw so as not to disrupt the sense of immersion in the studio. “It’s a common exercise in beginning drawing classes and one I still like to revisit as a working artist.” Using transparent YUPO paper, participants draw one continuous line, observing their surroundings without attempting to directly depict them, winding up with “unexpected, undulating images.” Next, they flip the paper over and observe what they’ve drawn from the other side and explore shapes and volume from a fresh perspective, “…not knowing what something will be and then looking with increasing visual criticality – really looking.”
Reflecting on how these past years of organizational improvisation have felt, the image of a continuous, undulating line is apt. Flipping the paper over in my mind, it is astonishing to observe just how much we have navigated together as a community, how much progress we have made at Sitka and the new shapes and forms our work is taking.
One inspiring, new form born during the pandemic is Sitka’s Youth Program. In this newsletter, you will read more about how Sitka is partnering with local K-8 schools to bring free art and ecology enrichment programing and supplies to local kids this summer. The collaborations Youth Program Manager Leeauna Perry is fostering will help inform how Sitka creates more funded opportunities for visiting artists and scientists to connect with kids.
Our July newsletter also includes a preview of some of the first-time Sitka artists who will show work at our Portland-based Art Invitational + Sale in October. I am inspired by Art Invitational Coordinator Katie McClintock’s commitment to supporting and celebrating regional artists as she brings this annual show into a beautiful, artist-centric gallery setting. In addition to the new event venue, other healthy evolutions include adding a third full day for you to see the show and an expanded, daytime buyer pick-up window for those who purchase art.
You’ll also find upcoming workshops that invite seeing the world in new ways, including a stitching-meets-meditation workshop inspired by the gibbous moon with beloved Sitka Instructor Carolyn Hazel Drake and a just added one-day “Light in the Landscape” workshop with Scott Gellatly, whose June plein air workshop earned rave reviews from all. Sign up now for these new additions to the 2022 schedule while seats are still available.
Following Nagy’s drawing workshop, one participant reaches out to share this reflection about their experience:
“I loved this workshop! …we explored perception and really looking; we talked about the idea of drawing itself; we focused on responding to the unexpected in our drawings; we experimented with mark-making using different media and papers, with attention to the materiality of the drawing; and we practiced carrying an intention through an extended creative process.”
While 2022 continues to undulate, I am grounded daily by the intentionality Sitka’s instructors bring to their teaching and that Sitka’s team brings to creating an unpressured and freeing learning environment. It is uplifting to see so many hands raise when we ask at the start of each workshop, “is this your first time at Sitka?”
With fresh appreciation for the creative relationship between nowness and newness,