Rainin’ California Style

The rain outside is welcome to my ailing yard plants which withered under the unrelenting Summer sun.  They have not recovered, even after my attempts to nurture them back with daily watering.  I have since surrendered my yard to winter, and now look out at the muted greys of bare trees and scraggly vines covering an otherwise barren fence . I  am ever hopeful that things will bloom in Spring in spite of my own benign neglect and the vicissitudes of nature.

It was raining in California this weekend, where I spent four days immersed in a calligraphic wonderland. The setting was Kellogg West Conference Center, tucked away on the beautiful Cal Poly Pomona Campus. Who knew such a treasure existed amongst the freeways and urban development that characterizes so much of the Los Angeles area?  I was delighted to discover that the view from my classroom not only included trees, but a lovely view of the green hillsides of Pomona, and the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. The air was clean and cold as it rained. Whereas once a deep breath in Los Angeles might fill my lungs with smog, in Pomona, my lungs felt cleansed and refreshed when inhaling. The rain was a welcome boon to a parched Southern California, so none of us complained.  As a Texan who has watched her own backyard succumb to drought, I was thrilled with the moisture.

Indeed, I loved the rain in Pomona as it invited my calligraphy class to embrace an interior space, to come inside gratefully and willingly, with no sunshine to invoke a desire to be out of doors.

The Letters California Style Conference is unique among such venues because of its location and size. The conference organizers are sensitive to the need for art students to have time and space to create–and the Kellogg Center with its lovely accommodations, delicious food, and stunning views offers such a haven from the distractions of the outside world. Limiting the number of classes to 10 contributes to a peaceful atmosphere, where one is not only able to visit with one another between or after classes, but can do so without the distractions of evening performances or Must See exhibits. Indeed there are exhibits at this conference, but they are refreshingly small–the faculty of 10 exhibited pieces, and the conference attendees participants’ exhibit.  All in one room, alongside blessed Brenda Broadbent’s traveling Paper and Ink store which supplied us all with the tools and materials of our trade, as well as a plethora of delightful books and new art-making stuff. Ward Dunham and lovely Linnea held court in the corner of the auditorium where they offered for sale beautifully-crafted wares, including custom-designed seals and sealing wax, and exquisite fountain pens.

As challenging as it is to teach a class with all the accompanying anxiety of preparation and travel, I am once again struck by what a priveledge it is to be invited to offer a workshop to such interesting and willing participants. The calligraphy world is so unusually blessed with curious, gifted, motivated individuals who are invested in a lifetime pursuit of artistic growth. No one I have ever met–however skilled– rests on their laurels, but continues to devote time and energy to skill-building, to stretching their capacities and their visions. My class this weekend was one such group of calligraphers, courageous in their willingness to risk plunging into unfamiliar territory.  I congratulate them on submitting to a “write of passage” and moving closer to calligraphy they can call their own, based on their own personal, energetic and unique lines.

The major delight of this conference (besides the afore-mentioned), of course, was to reconnect with the TRIBE as I call it–to visit with beloved friends and discover new ones. The facilities were conducive to stealing away to a comfortable couch with a couple of friends in the evening.  With  glasses of wine in hands, maybe poring over a new book or publication, we could relax and visit in a deep and satisfying way.

And while it rained in California, my creative drought was surely washed away.  Back in Texas, watching the rain from my studio,  I feel the burst of new tendrils of ideas growing, waiting to flower on my canvas….

Leave a Reply