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Studies in Art and Design has been a Game Changer for Me….Guest Blogger : Ellen Meents

June 18, 2019

Level 3 Studies in Art and Design – Exhibit – Class Name: Heliconia – Blog 5 and last in a series.

Studies in Art and Design has been a game changer for me.

One of the most beneficial things I learned was how to develop a concept beginning with design development then from there go on to decide on color, texture, and other techniques to complement and complete the design.

I learned to look at pictures from my travels or from nature to identify and develop lines I like, refining and allowing the process to change and evolve until I am happy with it.

A second take away for me was overcoming the dreaded “D” word.  I have always said I can not draw, I now say I can not draw (well), but rather than let this deter me I have learned there are ways to create art despite limited drawing skills.

Another huge area of growth for me was learning how to make use of my time.  Family, work, and necessary responsibilities can make it difficult to carve out time to be creative.  I like to create when I have a block of time to spend on the process.  This class forced me to re-evaluate and learn to use small increments of time versus no time to complete the necessary projects from class.  I also learned that it is ok to say yes to spending time taking care of myself when other responsibilities have left me with no energy to spare.

The past 2 ½ years have been full of growth and I look forward to continuing to use all that I have learned.  Remembering to look, always look, then look some more and the as Gail would say “let’s just have one more look”.

Read about new Level 3 Art and Design class to begin in Aug. 2019 – Class name Acacia.

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I Have So Many More Woods to Explore..Guest Blogger – Ruth Lane

June 2, 2019

Level 3 Studies in Art and Design – Exhibit- Class name: Heliconia –  Blog 4 – 2nd to Last in a Series

I have always been a literal and organized sort of person. I felt I needed to create artwork that was a perfect representation of what I could see, like a photograph. My goals when taking Level 3 Art and Design were to learn more about design principles, develop my own artistic voice and to learn how to be more abstract and “loosen up”.

The woodlands around my house have always inspired me daily no matter the season. While hiking in the woods, I now look much more closely at all the different colors, the variety of textures, the effect of light and shadow; finding beauty that is not at first glance obvious.

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By studying famous artists work, I have begun to realize that not every detail needs to be included. A tree can be suggested by a squiggle or a mass of color in a distant landscape. Other artists have shown me that trees and landscapes can be any color. This has been very freeing for me and I now can take “artistic license” in my compositions.

I have learned to take an idea that inspires me and create work where everything doesn’t need to be spelled out. I can leave a bit of ambiguity and mystery allowing the viewer to have their own interpretations. As a life long learner, my art journey is continuing, and I have so many more woods to explore. Thanks, Gail, for all that you do!  Ruth Lane

Read about new Level 3 Art and Design class to begin in Aug. 2019 – Class name Acacia.

Guest Blogger: JP MacConnell – Mastering Materials and Techniques comes with Practice and Repetition

May 2, 2019

Level 3 Studies in Art and Design – Exhibition – Class Name: Heliconia….Blog 3 in a Series

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I attended an exhibition of the Level 3 Art and Design at Gail’s Studio in August 2016, responding to an invitation sent out by Marilyn Olsen.  It was there that I was drawn in to the variety of media and the wonderful individuality of each student.

I had just returned from a 10-week

trip through Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark. The experience of being surrounded by the raw, remote and natural beauty stirred a new desire to express myself through art. I wanted to share some of what I saw, photographed and felt. This 8-session course taught me basic design principles and encouraged me to take some new risks. I began the process of expressing in a tangible way through multi-media.

Gail taught me to tame the little, worried voice inside that would demand, “Wait, what are you doing? What is going on here?” She taught me to replace it with relaxing thoughts of confidence and determination. To relax and think with my hands. As I loosen up and have fun with it, I see that the mastering of the materials and techniques comes with practice and repetition.

I learned that it is OK to be vulnerable, to ask for help, (even when it appears that the others know right away what to do after a demonstration and I am baffled). The issue is not to plead, “Just tell me what to do! Is this the right way to do it?” Gail would ask, “Well, does it please you? Loosen up, try another way and have fun with it.”

This practice allows me to slow down my mind and focus on one cut, one stitch or one brush stroke at a time.

Thank you, Gail, Ruth, Tesi and Ellen for your support, guidance, friendship and humor.

Allowing My Inner Child to Emerge…Guest Blogger: Tesi Vaara

April 18, 2019


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Level 3 Studies in Art and Design – Exhibition: Class name: Heliconia. Blog 2 in a series

On the first day of class in February 2017, Gail asked each of her Heliconia students what they expected to learn from the Level 3 Art and Design Course they were about to embark on. I was keen on studying the design principles and elements further and learning to become comfortable using them in the creation of my art quilts. Little did I know the adventure I was about to embark on!

We began learning about colors and value as well as tints and shades and complements using acrylic paints on paper. And we began our discipline of documenting our learnings in sketchbooks. We studied various artists and their methods. We learned how to color our own papers using acrylics, Procion dyes and various other media. Once we had a good supply of colored papers, we began learning how to use different mediums to add another layer to our papers—stamps and stencils made from scratch, various gels and pastes, inks, colored pencils, markers. We studied rocks and trees and practiced sketching them.

At the beginning of each 5-day session, we would review all the students’ work and learn more about the design elements and principals of each piece. Then we would learn a new method and process to continue to push us to develop our own designs over the next 3 months.

I feel that this course has given me a whole new way to view my environment and assist me in my creative adventures. I am comfortable trying new methods. I am not worried about “failing”. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and let go of my fears. For me, this course has pushed me to allow my inner child to emerge and learn and grow and play. And I’m happy to let her out!  Tesi Vaara

First Exhibition in New Studio

April 7, 2019

Level 3 Studies in Art and Design –  Exhibition  – Class name: Heliconia

This is the first exhibition we held in our new studio on 503 Morris St. in La Conner. Level 3 work focuses on the fundamentals of art and design learning a variety of techniques. The 4 students spent their last of 8 sessions organizing and placing their artwork on the walls. Sketchbooks were displayed and we changed the room from a work space to exhibition space. The students each gave a short presentation to 40 visitors of their artwork and working methods during the course. Here are a few photos I took of the exhibition on the weekend of March 23rd and 24th. Watch for more in the coming days as each student will be presenting their individual artwork. Gail Harker

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Stitch – A Common Language…Guest Blogger: Carol Reynolds

March 17, 2019

Level 2 Studies in Design and Experimental Stitch – Class name – Jade #6 in series

Two things sparked my interest in stitching.  Memories of my paternal grandmother from the hills of Tennessee who had amazing sewing, quilting and embroidery skills was one.  The other was Claire Wellesley-Smith’s Slow Stitch.  I was inspired by her words ” I see stitching as a common language with the ability to relax, unite and inspire.”  Claire goes on to describe the therapeutic qualities stitching and other fiber arts have when an artist is thoroughly engaged with a task.  I couldn’t wait to make my mark.

The Surface Design Association website has a list of fiber related classes organized by area.  It was there that I noticed Gail Harker’s class in hand stitching.  Not only were we to learn how to stitch but we were going to dye fabric and thread as well.  The Level 1  5-day class was great and I was hooked.  There had to be more.

And there was.  I have completed Levels 1 and 2 of Experimental Hand Stitching classes, so now, two years later, I have developed greater knowledge and skills as well as a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

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Thank you Gail and Penny for your inspiring classes.  I hope level 3 is somewhere in my future.

Appreciating Textiles..Guest Blogger: Valerie Gleeson

March 1, 2019

Level 2 Studies in Design and Experimental Stitch … Class Name: Jade #5 in a series

I was inspired to take hand stitching courses at Gail Harker’s School after taking a weekend course from Anita Mayer, a local but well known fabric artist, who mentioned that Gail had been one of her teachers. Also a friend, Nancy Drake, was taking classes there and I had gone to see her work.  So inspiring!  So I took Level 1 and then embarked on Level 2.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, nevertheless I was able to learn and explore techniques new to me and enjoy creating pieces I was proud of. I learned to judge the progress of my work against myself and not to compare myself against others, but rather to appreciate all.  I am looking forward to Level 3 but in the meantime will continue to practice my new skills, hopefully using some to embellish handwoven clothing.

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