Many years ago now, I was three quarters of the way through an MFA program when I quit. I’m a person who completes Everything—compulsive, a little bit of a control freak? check. So this was a bit out of character.
Undergraduate vs: Graduate
Unlike with undergraduate courses where you enter an area of study in order to acquire knowledge, the graduate courses focused on independent studio practice, discussing trends in the art world, visiting museums and galleries, and critiques of students’ art.
The students, including myself, tended to be fairly quiet. Often artwork that was touted by a professor in one critique, was slyly (or openly) denigrated by another professor later the same day. The students were confused by the standards being used to voice opinions.
I noticed that many students started making artwork that mirrored this or that professor’s own work, or philosophies. I generated a good number of paintings and drawings, but I was certainly not inspired. I wasn’t convinced that I would leave the program being much of a master of anything.
The Creative Arts Workshop
Shortly after I left the graduate program, I happened to be living in New Haven, CT for a year, and was looking for a way to continue making art. At that time I was focused on fairly traditional printmaking.
Completely by accident I stumbled upon the Creative Arts Workshop. There, I found a workshop about making monotypes—a three hour class on Saturday mornings, run by Florence Hatcher. There were about ten artists in the class, exploring working with Createx products to produce painterly prints.
The energy in the workshop was unbelievable! So dynamic that most of us chose to stay way late into the afternoon, and Flo was gracious enough to stay too. We’d take a bagel break around noon, then continue on.
A Great Teacher
Flo had this incredible talent for meeting each artist where they were in their development, and helping them to get to their next level. Totally open and upbeat, she would make just the right observation, or ask the question that would spark the next print. We were all free to just muck around, to play, and see what happened. We were all making very different kinds of work. Artists with cars would transport our framed prints to open calls in the area, and we would tell each other about upcoming exhibition opportunities.
The tone of the workshop was set by Flo. There was a sense that anything could be tried, that any risk could be taken because nothing irreplaceable would be lost.
Stamina and Risk–Taking
Flo Hatcher was the best art teacher I’ve ever had. I owe much of the artistic philosophy I use in my daily practice to what I learned from her at the Creative Arts Workshop that year in New Haven.