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  • April Gavin

Roller Coaster

Just in case you forgot the song - here we go:

It's been such a long time since I've posted because I've been on a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters, but I guess coping with them is something we must learn to do in this life. I was the kid who refused to scream when the roller coaster went fast on the downward slope. Then there's the sharp loop and the easy stop so you can get off the damn thing and back onto your own feet.

The hard part of this ride has been worrying over friends. All of my closest friends are 16-23 years older. There was a long overdue knee replacement which has turned Lana into the bionic woman if she could get over the migraines. Then there was a lung node (benign - thank goodness) which resulted in 20% of Michael's right lung being removed and two week hospital stay. Mainly, I just feel useless to my dearest friends and recite the loving, kindness meditation which only slightly makes me feel like I've done something.

Then, there are these wildfires kind of like the world is spontaneously combusting. Meanwhile, the bay area has been it's normal climate self. Camp happened and so has art. Many of you know that I'll be the Artist in Residence at FLAX on September 8th and 9th. It's barely five weeks away. I'm looking forward to seeing how strangers react to my work.

I didn't get all the pictures I wanted, but here are some highlights. One of my students this year was a teenage girl named Zoey. Gosh, that girl is ready for art school. She first diagrammed her project.

Then flawlessly executed the lion below. She had never sewn before, but quickly learned the basics and was off like a shot. The thing I liked about her is that she was not afraid of hard work and doing the research was already part of her process.

There's always a moment when I'm teaching young people where I think "why am I doing this? am I going to do this next year?" Then something like the above happens. Or, a young girl named Clare who on a Monday said, "I hate sewing" then turns around and creates some of the best work I've seen (she's only 10). By Wednesday, she says I'm the best art teacher she's ever met. By Friday, I hear the sewing machine that has been in her mother's closet is now on the kitchen table. I had a number of converts to sewing this summer. I only need one to keep me doing this work.

Last weekend, I took a break from my studio and my book making to take a watercolor class with Karima Cammell at Castle in the Air. For those of you who have worked with watercolor you know it's a medium where unpredictable happens. For those of you who have never worked with watercolor, call me and I'll walk you through some of things I learned in this class.

Karima is a generous and skilled instructor. She walked us through her work process and then asked us to imitate the process. The first part is thumbnail sketches. The goal here is to sketch down your idea and then keep going until you understand your composition, values, and colors.

Of all my ideas that day, I chose the Navajo story of how the stars are arranged in the sky. The main players in the Navajo pantheon are carefully picking up the stars from a blanket and placing the stars into the sky. Then coyote shows up, grabs the blanket and flings the stars into the sky.

Our next effort was to go from these 1"x 2" thumbnails and draw our idea to actual size.

We then traced this image and used graphite paper to transfer onto our watercolor paper. Karima explained what watercolor paint was made of and how cheaper paints differ from more expensive ones. The analogy she used was cooking - know your ingredients and how they act. She took us through a number of techniques. I learned a lot. Alas, the final result.

I want to re-do this one and make it better also bigger. Hope you like it.

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