Friday, April 23, 2010

Kanuga - Go On, I Dare Ya!

James Toogood, Nicholas Simmons, Ted Nuttall, Mike Bailey

While Olga was in Shanghai, I was in Hendersonville, North Carolina for the Kanuga Watercolor/Watermedia Workshops. And what a week that was! About 250 people from all over the place enrolled in courses taught by eleven artists: Mike Bailey, Linda Baker, Mary Alice Braukman, Gerald Brommer, Jeanne Carbonetti, Lana Grow, Ted Nuttall, Beth Patterson, Pat San Soucie, James Toogood, and myself. Also there for presentations and independent study projects were Carrie Burns Brown, Joan Fullerton, Don Getz, Taylor Ikin, Carol Ann Sherman, Susan Webb Tregay, and some others I'm forgetting (sorry, send me the names!).

I drove down after spending a night at a friend's in Richmond.* Kanuga Conference Center is 1400 acres of gorgeous woods set on a lake in the Smoky Mountains. Guests stay in cottages and cabins, congregate in the lodge for meals, and fill the auditorium for large events. Several other buildings house studio spaces and classrooms, some of them converted for the purpose of workshops during this event. That's a lot of tables, chairs, and demonstration mirrors.

The first day everyone arrived, Sunday, there was an exhibition of the instructors' work and a meet & greet with enrollees. I was surprised to see a few people I know from my workshops in the DC area, and even more surprised to see some internet buddies there, including Myrna Wacknov. An introductory presentation took place in the auditorium, and then a concert by Barbara Bailey Hutchison (see above), Grammy-winning singer and songwriter. She was fabulous -- if you haven't heard her on one of her seventeen CDs, you've heard her on a number of commercials. Wonderful voice, can play the axe and keys, really entertains an audience, and is beautiful on top of it. What's more, she was in my workshop - yes, she tears it up with a paintbrush too!

The next four days were consumed by the workshops and a schedule of activities that kept the whole group of painters together and talking about art. There was a huge critique session, a night with five painters demonstrating at once, a studio walk, and enough after-hours fun to keep the creative party going non-stop. The studios remain open all night, and I was stunned to walk into mine one evening at about 10 PM to see almost everyone in there working - made me feel like a slacker! One night the instructors were invited to dinner at the fantastic aerie home of Stan Hubbard, president of Kanuga, which offers a breathtaking vista.

The whole class was great, really nice and interesting people who got a lot of new work accomplished. Special thanks go to my assistant, Karen Bell! (see pics below) I also met many from the other workshops and of course got to know the instructors. Most all of them are people I've been very aware of but had never met until Kanuga. Others were new to me, but I now feel we are friends, not just colleagues. I had lots of fun hanging out with Linda Baker and Joan Fullerton, a couple of spirited and mega-talented painters who added a lot of sparkle to the experience. The well-attended evenings in Cabin 3 and 8 won't be soon forgotten!

One of the best parts of the week for me was getting to know Mike Bailey and Ted Nuttall, two guys who are so high on my faves list it's not even funny. I bumped into Ted that first Saturday night in a dark hallway, a cool way to have it happen. Besides being a giant among the greatest watercolor portraitists, he is truly one of the kindest people I have met in this business, and I have a feeling we will be friends for a long, long time. Mike Bailey....hmmm, what can I say? A brilliantly imaginative artist who doesn't seem to have a clue how asskickin' dangerous he is (or does he?!), and one of the finest writers and educators I've encountered. Reading Mike's blog is like getting a masters in fine art - for free. He's also one of the most hilarious cats ever, and that night in Cabin 3 he had me on the floor gasping for breath. (please don't quote that out of context!) I'm happy he's the new president of the National Watercolor Society; of the two major organizations in this country, NWS is generally the more progressive and they couldn't have invented a better artist to lead the way. The last night the three of us and James Toogood stayed up into the wee hours solving the watercolor problems of the world over a bottle of Glenlivet, courtesy of Ted. Things should start looking up. :)

The Kanuga watercolor workshops would not be possible without the amazing Robbie Laird and her husband Will Rasmussen. How they put all this together and make it so successful year after year (this was the 25th anniversary) is beyond me, but I saw it all happen with my own eyes. Thank you Robbie, it was a marvelous and memorable week!

*Easy trip until I got to Asheville via I-40 West and needed to get on I-26. Detour. That was Slight Hitch #1. On the map I-26 goes south to Hendersonville, but it's actually 26 East. That's Significant Annoyance #2. Weird stuff going on with those two roads, exacerbated by what has to be the worst signage this side of the Khyber Pass. Headache #3. Two wrong turns taking me about 10 miles out of my way, and an elaborate set of defective directions from Asheville "native." Cussin' Like Stable Boy #4. Look at watch, realize I'm missing instructors' Saturday night dinner. Punch The Dashboard #5. Then....the sign. I mean the sign:

"Future I-26"

What???? Yes, I was driving on Future I-26. I had catapulted out of our space-time continuum and was on a highway system that exists only in crystal balls and the perverse fantasies of the North Carolina DOT. I needed I-26 Of The Present, and would have considered I-26 Of The Past a bargain. I'd tell you more about the Future, but I'd hate to ruin it for you - drive to Hendersonville yourself....go on, I dare ya.


Marta said...

I see beautiful, happy people, lovely weather and fabulous place. I wish I could be there...

Patty said...

Wow! Sounds like watercolour heaven!! Thanks for the link to Mike's blog, it looks fantastic!

Crystal Cook said...

Ok, that looks like a simply AWESOME time!! I love Ted Nuttal, he's very high up on my list too, although I've never met him (one day maybe).

Yikes about the Future I26. Craziness :)

picaza said...

You certainly had fun playing with the big boys and girls! Loved the pix with you and Mike Bailey! See you in 2012!

Lauren said...

Looks fantastic. Had to laugh at your drive in the future. Great blog Nick!

RHCarpenter said...

Great art, good drinks, beautiful and creative women all around you...and you complain about your little fastforward in to the future? ha ha Oh, well. I do hear you, having been there myself once with Sandy Maudlin driving (she didn't get lost once but it was close a couple of times).

Mike said...

Yep! It was a complete blast. I don't know if you mentioned the fact that the painters were all hungry to learn and were as industrious as I have ever seen.

Nicholas . . .you made the trip extraordinary for me. Thanks for the good words and encouragement. We gotta stick together!!!

thomas w. schaller said...

looks like a genuine blast!
(and i wonder if mr. toogood would be willing to sell the rights to his last name? he's a great painter, isn't that enough???)

Nancy Standlee said...

Great post and Kanuga is on my list to attend. I've taken workshops with Lana Grow, Myrna W and several with Ted - even once to Italy and I agree he's a jewel.

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Great write up, sounds like such a fun experience! So glad you finally made it back from the future and got to schmooze with some other greats of the watercolor world. I Love Mike's blog and Myrna's too. Thanks for all the photo sharing. I'm still cracking up at those three last pictures of you and Mike. Reminds me of my dad who was always doing silly stuff in pictures like that. Too funny!

Nancy Lee said...

You were having too much fun, Nick!! Painting almost looks like an after thought what with all those pics of you and Mike yukking it up or with a glass in one hand and some ladies in the other... :) Kanuga looks wonderful and your trip down a comedy of errors. All in all an eventful and fruitful experience! Thanks for the great post - it brings it all to life!

Nick said...

Marta - JA życzyć ty miał był tam , oprócz JA mogą mieć zmartwienie utrzymanie mój umysł od warsztat!

Patty - you might try to make it to one of those, they already have the line-up for next year set

Crystal - Ted is way up on everyone's list!

Picaza - looking forward to SDWS, I know you guys are a major watercolor society - couldn't happen to a nicer town! can't wait!

Lauren - had several people from Michigan, lots of watercolor talent up there ;)

Rhonda - I've driven through some true navigational and traffic nightmares here and abroad, but Asheville has a special "something" that I wasn't prepared for!

Mike - not to belabor the Casablanca thing, but this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Tom - heheh, you're not the first to wonder that. Actually, I looked up "Toogood" in Webster's and it said "see T.W.Schaller" ha

Nancy - you mean you...YOU..of all people haven't been to Kanuga yet???

Tonya - Mike is a scream, he has one of those laughs that is alarmingly infectious, and I came down with a bad case!

NancyLee - looking at those pics again I appear to be feeling no pain - hey, it was the last night, time to cut loose! You might sign up for a Kanuga, a great experience. BTW, about 12 months to go before your show, don't get lazy - that will go by in no time!

Stacy said...

I was surprised to come to your blog and see a picture of you with James Toogood. I've taken several workshops with James and my dad studies with him at the Perkins Center for the Arts in NJ. He's a great guy, a wonderful artist and has taught me a ton about pigment properties.

Thanks to your descriptions and pictures I think I need to add Kanuga to my wish list. It looks like a great time was had by all!

Thanks for sharing all of your adventures in the world of watercolor. It's nice to live vicariously through your blog and it helps me dream big.

Wishing you much continuted success!
Stacy (aka Fireman's Kid on WC!)

Patty said...

Nick, I'll have to start saving my pennies for sure! After all, someone with the last name Henderson, should really travel to Hendersonville at least once in their lifetime! :-)

perugina said...

Thanks for sharing the marvellous time you had with us all..don't know what else to say other than.. we are so darn far away!
ps.. or is that you're so darn far away!

Susan Liles said...

Looks like a great time. Must be so amazing to meet so many artists in one place! Laughed about your trip into the parallel universe on the interstate, guess it wasn't funny at the time. Grrrrr...

devotedmomof7 said...

What an amazing gathering of talented people! I LOVE Ted Nuttall! He was the first workshop I took part in and he is an amazing teacher. Your blog is so fun to read. It's like a watercolor magazine of events and people.

Nick said...

Stacy - Another artist who bases his style around that technical knowledge is Roland Palmaerts, you might check out his site, or follow Catherine de Ryck's excellent blog. I don't know any of that stuff. :) Don't waste time dreaming, just do it! And I hope you're one of the gazillions who left the WC watercolor forum, that place is fatal to artistic growth thanks to the mods and their cronies. Good to see you!

Patty - ditoo ^^^^^!

PG - I know it. You have no idea how badly I want to come down, and now I even have good opportunities there, but it's :(

Susan - that story is 100% true!

Cheryl - I remember you did his workshop and your portrait painting was transformed. I've seen this with a number of people who have taken his classes, and the way he goes about it has made me reconsider my own approach to that part of the biz. Wondering how 4'x4' piece of paper is going to look on the materials list, haha.

Catherine DE RYCK said...

Great Post, Nick !!!
The landscapes and panoramas seem to be beautiful.
I don't know all these artists you are talking about but I will try to find their websites and see their works, not that I am stupid but they are not known in this part of Europe :-)
Thanks for sharing !
Have a good trip !

Myrna Wacknov said...

Hi Nick,
I was without internet connection in Oregon and just found the time to check other blogs. I was doubled over with laughter at your descriptions of all the events, especially the trip to the twilight zone! You not only have a magical way with paint, but words as well. No wonder you and Mike are now so tight! It was fabulous getting to meet you in person and I hope we have many more opportunities in the near future.

Robbie Laird said...

Thanks, Nick, for all your super comments about participating in the Kanuga Watermedia Workshops. It was fun to hear about your experience from the perspective of a first time Kanuga instructor. I guess it really was a great week for a whole lot of fact comments were overwhelmingly "another great year!", and "The best year yet at Kanuga!" Of course you had a part in that and I have some great pictures of the other part of your Kanuga teaching, surrounded by fascinated and smiling painters!
As for me, I'm enjoying warm Southern spring air here at Hilton Head Island where Will and I are spending a few days of slowing down to walk on the beach and taking deep sighs of relief that once againg "Kanuga" is complete and we have a little break before it all starts again for 2011! The registration doesn't open until this August 1st, so I'm planning a good block of time in my studio when we get back to California.
A good friend and regular at Kanuga said "Kanuga is like a duck! It appears to be gliding smoothly across the while underneath the surface it is paddling like crazy!" Thanks again for paddling like crazy with us and helping to make it look so smooth and easy. I look forward to when we can do it again. Robbie

Nick said...

Catherine - I was just talkin' 'bout ya! ^^^ I imagine you'll be meeting a lot of these people eventually, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed about Brussells this summer. :)

Myrna - what a total gas it was to see you that first day. It's a credit to Kanuga that an artist of your standing would actually be signed up for a workshop, and an object lesson to all that no matter how good you are, you never stop learning...that is, if you choose to, and keep an open mind. Wow. In the famous words -- or I should say, word -- of David Burge: chilling!

Robbie - thanks so much for the generous post, I'm surprised you have the strength to type after all of that! You and Will did a magnificent job, and I'll say again that you possess all of the perfect qualities to orchestrate such a grand event; I never noticed any paddling, not even a ripple. BTW I heard from someone who apparently is already offering you a deposit on the next NSimmons Kanuga workshop - how's that for a happy camper! Seems a bit premature, at least until Stephen Hawking heads down and works out that I-26 situation, heheh. Thanks again for a wonderful experience, Nick.

W. K. Moore said...

Nicholas - meeting with peers (that you dig) has no equal (had to resist the urge to use peer). Sharing a good time telling stories, joking around without the pall of neurotic jealousy is a cherished event. Glad one of my amigos could dive into the workshop wonderland just for the fun of it... well the cash doesn't hurt either.

Stacy said...

Nick, thanks for the artist recommendations. I'll check them out. And yes, I did leave WC about three years ago when I started my blog. Although I admit that I went back recently to look up some of your WIPs. I was doing a little online research on movement in paintings and some of your works came to mind.

Nick said...

Bill - sorry I didn't respond to this earlier. I'm hoping for a Chicago-style reunion soon, anxious to experience those fabled winds, which I believe now originate from N. Winthrop Ave.

Stacy - everybody left WC about three years ago!