My Very First AENJ Conference

During my two day stay at the Art Educators of New Jersey Conference I learned a great deal, met a lot of people and was disappointed just as well. Since this was my first conference I was so excited, I signed up for four workshops, two on Sunday, and two on Monday. I did not stay for Tuesday as I was afraid to miss too many classes at college.

Before I went I scheduled to help Jane Graziano with a workshop, or really anything she needed. I arrived about 9:30 in the morning on Sunday, found Jane and was put to work, hanging signs on all the side doors. I was then asked to help with a General Pencil, and somehow I needed to watch a little bit of the round table since this is something I will need to do next year.

The General Pencil: Creative Pencil Techniques was run by Kathi Hanson. I only had to help with the door, so I was able to sit in for free. This session was by far my favorite, so much that I bought her DVD with all the techniques learned. Because I was helping I did not actually do anything, but listened and took a great deal of notes. During the session she had everyone try different techniques with charcoal pencil; techniques I never thought of. One of my favorites was extremely simple, use sandpaper and rubbing alcohol; basically you’re making paint with the charcoal. She explained how to use this paint with textures, and odd textures, like bubble wrap, cheesecloth, etc. It was simply amazing, and she was extremely nice and supportive. What was even better, because I helped out she gave me one of the charcoal sets she gave out to all who attended.

I must admit, when I first signed up for the conference I thought the price was outrageous. I am a student; I don’t have side money to use for frivolous stuff, like say a conference. I wanted to make sure I got everything out of it I possibly could. If each workshop was $15, and they gave you a charcoal set, pastel pencils, textures, and more; than it was well worth the $15 and the $90.

My next workshop was the Rockin Rauschenberg taught by Carla Valentino. Because I went out with the girls to lunch, not paying attention to time, I was late to the session. I wasn’t that late, but enough to miss the good stuff; like what the heck we were doing. All in all, the people running it opened their arms to me as I walked in. Everyone was nice, they told me what to do, and helped me along the way. A printout of the PowerPoint was on the desk where I sat, along with a plastic bag of a ton of textures, and mixed media items, a 16×12 canvas, and a 5×7 canvas. The canvases that we where given where pre painted; which help speed up things. We were told grab paint on a dish and get to work making your Rauschenberg. I had so much fun, I learned allot and took chances. I usually have a hard time with abstract or mixed media artwork. I always feel the need to be symmetrical and balanced, something Rauschenberg is not. Again, I was allowed to take everything home, but the glue; well worth $15.

I know we only had to write about two workshops, but since you asked my opinion on the whole conference I feel the need to tell you how I felt about two more workshops. On Monday, I was signed up for two more workshops, $15 each. However, they fell around noon, so I chose to roam the vendors once or twice, and hit some of the free workshops. Since my daughter loves Science so much, I am constantly trying to figure out how to keep her engaged since she is only in 5th grade. I saw a workshop on What do Scientists need from Artists presented by Lisa Hirkaler. The workshop was amazing for the first fifteen minutes, but then I found myself falling asleep. It seems Lisa Hirkaler only presented her husband; physicist Gerry Hirkaler.

Now Lisa was amazing, very intriguing, and a great presenter. Her husband; not so much. I listened for as long as I could, then ran out and got coffee. Here’s the problem, he is a physicist, amazing mind, horrible at speaking. And you could tell he was amazing, brilliant, and kind; but boring as all hell. I do not think he needs to make balloon animals or anything, but he sat the entire time and lectured, never moving around the room, never asking questions, never engaging people. I feel many teachers in the art world need to be engaged, need to be thrilled, that is why we are creative, and that’s why we are artists and not physicists. I have no problem with what they taught, so much as I learned a lot in the twenty minutes I was there, but he needs to learn people skills.

And lastly, I attended the workshop from hell. I paid fifteen dollars to be in hell; I was not a happy camper. So much as I left and drove home; never attending the last fifteen dollar workshop. This workshop was properly named Hybrid Creature Drawing; and the one lady running the workshop, Gale Gruber was a by all means a creature. The attitude that came out of her from the moment I walked in the room early, left me dreading to come back. It seemed, she decided, I didn’t even exist, so I was forced to talk to the other lady running the workshop. By the end, I was calling them frick and frack, not sure which one was frick or frack, but if one is worse than the other; Gale would be that one.

As a child I was bullying a lot, mainly from the Gale Grubers of the world. You know those types that feel they are so awesome, there’s no room for you the normal little people in the world. My tattoos were hidden, so I am not sure what the problem was. But the attitude was apparent. As she was talking to us, she glanced over to me, and the look literally reminded me of walking into my high school class and feeling like I shouldn’t be there. Grant you, back then I dressed in all black, and was usually being sent out to sit in suspension all day. But this was 27 years later, I was in jeans; I had a nice jacket on, I looked normal. If you know me, that in itself is not normal; so what gives?

The entire lecture was 10 minutes, she told us her lesson plan, and then told us that the remaining time was for us to make a hybrid creature of our own. She never actually taught us anything, it was more or less; this is what I do, give or take a few things for different grades, here are some resources, and lets draw.

At one point she was walking around the room telling people how nice their artwork was, and at my table there were two of us. That’s it; two! She walked by me and told the other lady how nice. Inside I was laughing so hard, I stayed about 5 more minutes, felt not welcomed, as no one ever spoke to me and walked out. I hope these two ladies never teach a seminar again. Their behavior was a disgrace, and to think they are teaching children, I hope all the students fit inside her standards of what students should be, otherwise they will get nothing out of art. This workshop was a waste of fifteen dollar, so much I wish I could ask for a refund.

All in all I had a great time, met great people and had a lot of fun. It was the first time I actually felt like someone important in a long time. Maybe because I was treated like a teacher, not a student. But I cannot wait for next year. Hopefully I can become more involved this coming year.

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