Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Workshop Report: Valparaiso, Indiana

Jan Sullivan with her beloved chickens

I've been coming to the Art Barn in Valparaiso ("Valpo," the locals call it) for several years now.  My introduction to it was Ann Templeton, one of my early mentors, who also taught here many times.  She suggested I contact the Art Barn and look into teaching a workshop.  I'm glad she did, because she helped me discover a wonderful retreat for my students.  At the Art Barn, we can focus on our craft and enjoy the quiet and beauty of this northern Indiana landscape.

Mentors are vital to artists and art.  I mention this because the Art Barn's founder, Jan Sullivan, was a mentor, too.  She introduced abused, homeless women to the arts; invited school groups to the Art Barn; scheduled nationally-known artists to teach; and ran an arts camp for children in the summertime.  

In the 1960s, when Jan retired from her position as an art supervisor in the Chicago school system, she and her husband purchased 69 acres of farmland with a pond, pasturage and woodland.  In the 1970s, she started teaching art classes in the barn, which at the time had neither water nor electricity.  Since then, the Art Barn acquired both plumbing and power.  Not too long ago, Jan donated the Barn and acreage to the Art Barn School of Art, now a non-profit organization.

I had the pleasure of having Jan in my workshop every time I taught.  She was in her late 80s by the time I met her.  Each morning, she arrived from her house next door in a golf cart, which she also used to tour her property.  When we went off to paint, she would drive merrily to a favorite painting spot and then return with some amazing piece full of color and vigor.

I was very sad to learn of her passing at the age of 94 just a few weeks before our arrival this year.

After class, I like to take walks in the woods here to see the spring flowers:  white trillium, wake robin, jack-in-the-pulpit, may flower and violets.   Jan would have said this is a fantastic spring.

Here's an article from 2005 about Jan and the Art Barn:

This season, our first two days at the Art Barn saw drizzle and cool weather.  We stayed in to paint, but the Barn has large windows, allowing us to paint en plein air the views of the fields and trees.

Our third and last day we started off with fog, but that quickly turned to filtered sunshine.  We were able to get out and paint the dogwood tree and other subjects around the property.

I did demonstrations in oil, pastel and - surprise! - watercolor.  Here are a few of the demonstrations plus a short video of an alla prima painting started as a monochromatic underpainting with Gamblin Portland Greys.  (For those of you who can't see the video, here is a link to it.)

Some Enchanted Afternoon 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson - SOLD

Two Watercolors by Michael Chesley Johnson - SOLD
Overcast Study 8x10 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Now, the workshops are done.  We are off to Vermont to visit family, to Bar Harbor for an oil change, and then on to Lubec and Campobello.  I'll post again once we are comfortably in our home and all systems are working.  (Will the well pump come on?  Will we have sprung a leak over the winter?  Stay tuned!)

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