Plein Air Folk School Experience by Mary Jane Volkmann

Plein Air Folk School Experience by Mary Jane Volkmann

Painting the rolling hills and mountains from under the shelter of the carport.

Each spring and fall for the past several years I have had the privilege of co-teaching a plein air painting class with Kathleen Wobie at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.  We originally taught classes by ourselves, assisting each other when we had full classes.  We realized how much we enjoyed teaching together and how our completely different styles of painting seemed to liberate our students into exploring their own natural painting styles, so we decided to team up and co-teach.  It has been working well and has been fun for all of us!

Suzanne DesLauriers absorbed in landscape painting (also a Folk School teacher!).

The school itself, based on the Danish concept of “folks sharing with folks,” is a relaxed and happy place to holiday for a week in a rustic and beautiful rural mountain setting while learning or developing everything from painting to metalwork, woodwork, fiber arts and glass (have a look at the link to see the wide variety of offerings).  We leave our cars behind and walk across pathways in the forest or in the fields, sharing meals together in the community dining hall, and enjoying a host of activities open to all in the mornings and evenings if we wish. What I personally love is the chance to open the windows at night for the fresh breeze, the sounds of the many birds and critters, watching the fireflies in the fields and ducking out every time I wake up at night to see a sky full of stars.  We always return with new friends and all kinds of memories!  Aside from teaching, I found a new hobby for myself ~ making kaleidoscopes!

Pebbie Mott happily painting (also a Folk School teacher!).

This past class was particularly interesting.  We had five professional artists/teachers and an intrepid retiree who had made the most interesting outdoor easel and transport carrier and who has jumped headlong into painting.  It was a great opportunity to talk about our “comfort zones” and how we all long to push our boundaries to discover new things in the way we see the world, think about it and express it in paint.  We learn so much ourselves in the process of sharing with each other.

Bob Boulden painting from the porch of the painting studio.

The weather this time fluctuated wildly between rain and overcast skies to hot and sunny days, giving us perfect opportunities to study light in the landscape.  The school has acquired a new property, so we found a new place to be sheltered outdoors when it rained.

I’m looking forward to taking another class at the school as well as to teaching our next class in September…

~Mary Jane Volkmann

Mary Jane Volkmann was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She studied art education at university before traveling in 1974 to southern Africa where she remained to live and work for 28 years. Her artistic career has included commissions as varied as art workshops, portraits of an African king, coin designs, seven issues of postage stamps (three of which have won world awards), book illustrations, greeting card designs, murals and paintings for private collectors. She teaches frequently at the Folk School. Mary Jane Volkmann and Kathleen Wobie’s next class, Painting the World around Us, is September 16-22, 2012. Visit the class page to register.

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