Sunday, May 8, 2016

Workshop Report: Batavia, Illinois

Down by the Fox River

On our way east this spring, we stopped in Batavia, Illinois, where I taught a workshop for Water Street Studios.  You wouldn't think there'd be a small town like Batavia just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago, but there is.   Batavia, founded in 1833, became one of the biggest manufacturers of Conestoga wagons ("prairie schooners") and windmills.  Today, still surrounded by farm fields and straddling the Fox River, the town offers several beautiful parks and maintains a quiet, small-town feeling.

Batavia also has a thriving art scene.  Water Street Studios, which sponsored my workshop, has a gallery, two classrooms and 26 studios.  It takes its workshop program seriously, which is why I teach there regularly.

Fox River Dam
9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Although this was only a two-day workshop, we were fortunate with the weather, and hit a dry slot between storms.  It was warm the first day and cool the second, but both days were pleasant.  Our first day found us down by the Fabyan West Forest Preserve along the river where we had beautiful trees and a Japanese garden to paint.  Although I didn't see them, a pair of nesting great horned owls kept photographers busy with massive telephoto lenses. The second day, we went to the Batavia Riverwalk Park, which juts out on a peninsula that gives views of some of the old industrial areas across the river.  None of these industrial areas are big, but lovers of rusty corrugated tin and brick smokestacks will find them very paintable.  Both days, we had flocks of Canada geese honking and hooting.

Now we are at the Art Barn in Valparaiso, Indiana, where a three-day workshop begins tomorrow.  The dogwood tree is blooming, which guarantees some good painting!  I still have space in this workshop, so visit for details.

Here's a taste of what's to come this week at Art Barn:  the dogwood tree.

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