Tami Sanders Using Balzer Designs Stencils
Art Journal Every Day: Back to the Beginnings

On Learning, Sickness, and Kindness

As the title of today's post suggests, there are a number of things to discuss.  This past weekend I went away for a three-day workshop with Tracy Verdugo.  She's currently traveling all over teaching her "Paint Mojo" workshop.

Every year I try to take at least one weekend-intensive class.  In other words, a class that spans multiple days in an intense period of time.  This year I was planning to take a five-day class with Jesse Reno.  Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to lack of enrollment.  Casting about for another class, I had the good fortune to stumble into Tracy's class.  Most of her classes are completely sold out, but wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, checking her website about two weeks before the event, there happened to be one spot open in her class on Long Island.  Doubly lucky, right?  An open spot AND it's relatively close to me!  Awesome!

In the week leading up to class, I started to feel a bit ill.  And on the fateful day that I was set to get on the bus out to Long Island, I started to feel worse.  I seriously considered not going.  But I had plunked down more than 800 non-refundable dollars, so I was going.  No matter what.  

Class was held in a beautiful home.


The house was filled with inspiring art, including some original works by Calder, Chagall, and Paul McCartney.  Definitely a lovely environment for creating.

We often met to outside to chat...


...however we painted in a big open basement.


Tracy gave demos...


...and people created gorgeous art!

I mostly made a colorful mess:

On the second day I started to really feel terrible.  I called my doctor just to see if everything I was feeling was okay and she suggested a trip to the emergency room.


Not the greatest way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening, but I was glad I went.  And this is where I have to talk about kindness.  I asked, Dvora, the organizer of the event, for the number of a taxi company because I needed to get to the emergency room and I didn't have a car.  She offered to drive me instead.  It was way out of her way and caused her to miss the communal dinner with all of our classmates, but I was so very grateful for the company.  Going to the emergency room is a scary thing.

On Sunday I still felt icky, but as my tough-love Mom said to me, "You have two choices, either go paint or go home."  I opted to paint.

I finished three paintings.


It was an interesting experience to have to paint, learn, and be social while feeling terrible.  

I definitely feel that I missed out on some of the learning -- both because I actually missed parts of class, and because I was so focused on how terrible I felt.  It's difficult to take information in when you're focused on yourself.  I think learning requires letting go.

On the other hand, my illness was a learning experience. I felt very raw and vulnerable.  I hate feeling that way -- especially in public.  I hated that I was falling apart and that people could tell.  I did everything I could to hide how miserable I felt.  But people could still tell and they were lovely generous spirits in response.


LeeAnn was my roommate.  We had never met before this weekend.  She went out of her way to drive back to the cottage we were staying at and pick me up each day (because I slept in and she left early to get breakfast at the main house) so that I wouldn't have to walk fifteen minutes to the main house for class.

Larie, another lovely spirit I had never met, offered to drive me home after the retreat so that I wouldn't have to take the bus.  She lives in New Jersey.  I was very grateful the ride.  It made a huge difference.  Otherwise I would have had to take the bus and then schlep two suitcases across town somehow.

And, of course, there were other generous spirits, like Mo, who gave me her sweatshirt to wear, and Brenna who offered to pick up medication for me.  People really are amazing, aren't they?  And I guess that's my learning -- not that people are amazing.  I already knew that.  But that being vulnerable is okay.  Sometimes you need help.  And that's okay.

It's also a good reminder to me to be extra kind to everyone I meet. You never know who really needs it at that moment.

I'll leave you with a class photo from Tracy's instagram feed:


Thanks for stopping by!