For many college students, summer means beach balls, bonfires and calypso rhythms, but for me, the school year’s biggest break looked a lot more like sketchbooks, art museums and classical music.
I’m an art minor at Central College, and I’ve been teaching myself to paint since I was 13. This summer, I decided to throw myself fully into studying the masters.
First, I requested some art books and instructional DVDs by Scott Christensen and Rose Frantzen through the Geisler Library’s InterLibrary Loan program. ILL is great because I can get almost any item from anywhere in the world, usually within a couple weeks, for free.
Not long after, I headed to Wisconsin to take a workshop with living master Daniel Gerhartz. Gerhartz is one of my favorite artists and also a fellow Christian. I spent five eight-hour days studying masterworks, watching demonstrations and painting portraits of live models in his beautiful home studio.
It’s amazing what Gerhartz can do not only on his canvas, but on ours. We students made a mess for 20 minutes, then he’d come over and put two strokes on our paintings and suddenly they’d look like the sitter.
It was truly a historical experience. Gerhartz has a personal connection to masters like Spanish landscape and portrait painter Joaquín Sorolla and Nicolai Fechin, a Russian-American painter known for his paintings of the American West. Now I feel like I’m part of this tradition.
Once home, I couldn’t shake the networking bug. Just like Central’s Career and Professional Development Office teaches, I reached out to award-winning artist Andrew Peters of Council Bluffs, Iowa. He not only agreed to meet and give me a tour of his studio, but also gave me a drawing lesson and let me email him pictures of paintings I’m especially proud of.
On a spontaneous trip to Fairfield, Iowa, I met the proprietor and featured artist of Americus Gallery, Christopher Kufner. Kufner was incredibly hospitable. He told me about his techniques and shared the stories behind the paintings on display—many of which had never been shown before.
I also tried my best to get to museums to see the works of the masters in person. There is nothing like seeing a painting in real life. I can get an idea of how a picture was painted just from looking at the brushstrokes.
I visited the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Iowa; the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.; the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri; and both Newfields and the Eiteljorg Museum of Native Americans and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I got plenty of hands-on experience making art, too. Besides completing 10 paintings, I made a glass ornament at Bloom and Bark Studios in Keosauqua, Iowa. I was intrigued by the glassblowing class offered at Central, and thought I had to give it a try.
After a long summer of artistic adventures, I was ready to return to campus for a year of academic pursuits.