"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you."~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Two weeks ago I returned from Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I was lecturing, exhibiting and critiquing students' artwork at Western Kentucky University.
This adventure came about when Ebony, art student from WKU found my paintings online . We began a dialogue and through our Twitter and email correspondence we developed a plan to have me travel to Kentucky and engage with the students and faculty. Last month it came to fruition and away I sped in my car full of paintings to western Kentucky.
I left early at 6am. My GPS told me that Detroit was the best crossing. Other than a brief fiasco at the border with routes and tolls and temporary export permits for my paintings, I was off and running. The entire 900km journey took me 12 hours with rest stops included. I headed directly south through Michigan, and drove across the entirety of Ohio. This brings me up to 36 states visited, and 8 Canadian provinces. I'm working on visiting all of them. Eastern Kentucky was quite attractive, with its rolling hills and lack of any great industrialization. I had eleven paintings neatly stacked and packed in the back of my Subaru, they were covered with a sheet to protect them and lots of bubble wrap and foam core to keep them from jostling about too much.
Shortly after my arrival I met with my new friend Ebony, a talented painter and the catalyst behind my visit to Kentucky and the university. She, her brother, her friend Jesse and myself went to Mammoth Cave National Park. If you haven't been here, you must visit. Not only can you hike and explore the park above ground but you can tour some of the over 300 explored miles of underground caverns that make this National Park a true wonder. It reminded me a bit of the movie The Descent. Fortunately our fate didn't end up like the characters' in the film :)
Some of the cave formations can be seen here. I found the undulations of limestone and rock to resemble gills of mushrooms and waves of kelp floating in the ocean. At one point our tour guide even turned off all of the ambient light in the cave and lit a match to show us how completely and utterly pitch black it can get. You can see the tiny flame below...
For a claustrophobe like myself, it really tested the limits of my sanity but the payoff was knowing I could be trapped in a labyrinth of caves with tonnes of strangers and survive :)
Monday morning and through the rest of the week was spent primarily at the university. I was assigned my own little parking space, which was pretty cool.
It was wonderful to meet all of the students in the three levels of art classes and find out what makes them tick, find out why they love to paint and where they see their art going from this point onward. I realized in my time at WKU that to be a small cog in the wheel of the teaching of art is immensely rewarding. Teachers are students too, and I came away from the week learning a lot from these young, talented and self-directed folks. They were mixing paint in interesting ways, asking for my assistance sometimes to help mix flesh tones and simply sharing their philosophies about their work. We need to be excited about something to put our best into it. We need to want to learn about a subject or a theme in order to put that energy and excitement into our interpretation of it.
My exhibition up in the Cube Gallery at WKU.
Some QR codes were printed on the little tags next to the paintings, leading
viewers to the associated back story to the painting on this blog.
On the night of my lecture I was, not surprisingly, very nervous. However, having spent time with many of the students and faculty earlier in the week, I was happy to see not only faces but friends in the audience...it made speaking a lot easier. Then again, as I've mentioned before, speaking about what you love rarely leaves you at a loss for words. I talked about my background as a painter, education, solo exhibitions, representation with Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville and also mentioned technical elements of the work, along with slides of paintings in progress to show how pieces develop. There were some great questions during the Q and A phase of the lecture. I can really see how art instructors and teachers love what they do...to have enthusiasm and keen students to offer thoughts and advice to is very rewarding!
Trying not to sound or look too nervous during my presentation :)
I have to extend a huge thank-you to everyone who made the Kentucky and WKU adventure possible. It was a very enriching experience and I am hoping to travel to do more speaking engagements at other schools and universities in the future. Please drop me a line if you are interested in having me speak at your school.
Thanks to Yvonne, Kristina, Brent, Vicky, Jesse, Wesley, Katie, Alex, et al, and most of all Ebony for making WKU a truly unforgettable experience :)
Now I am back in Ontario and working steadily towards my solo exhibition this November at Abbozzo Gallery. I do hope to see you there as I feel it will be a terrific show!
If you have not checked out my new website please do so. I am adding sold paintings to it all the time so it is still in progress, but you can now see the site on your mobile devices, which is an improvement!
Be well, live and love fiercely and keep painting!
A great little card on the office door of Yvonne Petkus, a talented
painter and instructor at WKU.