Sunday, February 28, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

The night is dark. A light here and there, six miles down, but mostly purple black darkness through the window of a plane winging through the desert air at an amazing 600 miles an hour. A trip that once took more than a day takes place in the miracle of a couple of hours. Suddenly, a glow in the distance and the night gives birth to a bubble of light completely incongruous with the surrounding inky blackness. Las Vegas. City of perpetual light and life, energy and electricity, greed, desperation and loss...and for a lucky few, the sound of a jackpot.

I am here to teach classes at Art and Soul in the place of the talented Judy Wise, whose eye betrayed her at the last moment, stealing her away to the comfort of family and the healing warmth of home to recover. A scary proposition to step into the shoes of a talented artist such as Judy....but I love to teach and I will have the opportunity to join my friend, Tory Brokenshire, a talented artist from Salem, Oregon, who has come to take classes. And I am excited to be in a city I once loved, back when it was a sleepy desert town and the bathtub warm waters of Lake Mead were a dream to water ski.

I arrive just in time to attend the last few minutes of Vendor Night, and the opportunity to purchase collage materials from one of my favorite vendors, Collage Closet. She did not disappoint and I came away with an armful of old papers and metal pieces that I will squirrel away for future art projects. Sadly, I did not get an opportunity to look at the talented work of the other vendors, but my pocketbook was thankful. I could hardly have said no to such fabulous art. Afterwards, we walked over to the Flamingo for a late night Burlesque show, before going back to our room at Bally's and collapsing.

I woke up early on Sunday, eager to teach my first class....only to find that none of my supply boxes I carefully shipped to arrive before me had shown up at the hotel. I was dumbfounded. In all the years I have taught classes, the post office had never failed me. I ran for Maria's store and bought what I could to teach with, but what a blow that was. But I received a warm welcome from the students and we enjoyed a day of journaling techniques and shared approaches to writing that left us all richer for the experience, despite the lost supplies.
Sunday evening, we explored the passageway between Bally's Hotel and the Paris, crafted to resemble a quaint French village and full of restuarants and shops. As you stroll through the passageway, you are surrounded by a soft sky full of whispy clouds, the facade of old buildings graced with stone carvings, hand lettered signs and windows filled with lace curtains. Were it not for the noise and commotion all around, it would be easy to pretend you had found your way into a rural village. How fun it must have been to plan, create and dress a French village!! What a change from the normal bland office venue that form the bulk of clients for most architects and designers. A dream job right out of Disneyland...

Well, you have to admit it is a novel idea. A no smell toilette bowl....hmmm............................

And Tory comes to terms with the gorilla that guards the entrance to this store.....

Monday I woke to find the message light on and to my delight, three of the four boxes I shipped had arrived. I breathed a sigh of relief as the wood panels I had cut for the encaustic class had mostly arrived. But still, I was in need of a griddle and a toaster oven, and supplies for another instructor who did not receive her supplies, either. And, well, yes, I love a good adventure...and what better way to get the flavor of a town than by jumping on the the transit bus to find your destination. And what fun to ride a double-decker bus and take in the sights of the town from a different perspective.

Two buses and several stops later, I found Michaels and Wal-Mart together in a distant shopping center. I scooped up lucious colors of paint, a tub of candy corn for class and my utensils, and stopped. I had left my third and fourth arms somewhere and there was no way to haul my hard won finds back to the bus stop. I contorted and twisted, balanced and pushed...and finally gave up and called a taxi.

As the driver fought his way through rush hour traffic, he delivered a constant stream of Las Vegas trivia. He talked at length about how the recession has so horribly affected this city built to fleece the unwary of their money. He pointed out entire skyscrapers that are immaculately finished on the outside (called a "skin"), but completely empty of improvements on the inside because the owners ran out of money or went bankrupt. The "skins" were added so the average person would not know that the building had stopped and the city could keep up its "image" and customers would not be deterred from visiting (or being cautious with their money).
Tuesday morning I arrived early to set up the encaustic class and start the skillet warming. Soon the room was filled with the honey sweet scent of hot beeswax. One by one the students arrived and began working on their collage base for the encaustic. And then the fun began. After a first coat of wax over the collage, we incised, we gilded, we painted with encaustic crayon, we embedded and best of all, we shellacked. Borrowing a bit of Bullseye Amber Shellac from Leighanna Leigh, who graciously shared, we painted our encaustic with shellace and lit it on fire with a match. The base burns off and leaves the most incredible designs in the wax. The art created in this class was amazing and we all had a wonderful time. The last package arrived during lunch and I was able to hand out a second backing board and almost everyone created at least two works of art to bring home with them.

When class was over and the classroom tucked in for the evening, Tory and I skipped out the door and into the wild night life of Vegas. Colors so hard and bright that you can wear sunglasses at midnight. Colors so vibrant that you can taste them on your tongue and your artist heart wants to pluck them from the sky and create art. We started with the world buffet at the Rio. Billed as the largest buffet in Vegas, the buffet brings together food from the ends of the earth. The food was okay....the dessert bar was to die for! But as always, the eyes are hungrier for more than the stomach can hold and soon there is no room for more.

So back to the Paris to walk off our calories and up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Vegas style. At the top is a 360 degree view of the "strip" in all it's glory and a bird's eye view of the fountain show below the Belagio. Timed to the music that is played, the fountains sway and dance to the beat, jetting up into the air with a crack and a boom and then twisting delicately together like lovers in a chorus line. But the air is cold and bitter and we scurry for shelter as soon as the show is over.

The Bellagio fountain that moves with the music of the moment, leaping several stories into the air.

On our way back to our room, we stopped at a Harlequin Romance cover art show. I can almost hear the words here....that's've snuck out of your room and broken your curfew for the last was fun to make up our own stories to tell the character's tales. One of the most notable things we observed was that one artist literally used photographs of faces and hands and then painted in the rest of the painting, leaving a medival knight with a decidely 20th century face...

Wednesday morning I set up the last, but certainly one of the most enjoyable class, Dolls for Big Girls. After readying our clay, each of us created one-of-a-kind dolls. The dolls insisted on who they were, often guiding the artist in creating and dressing her, with each becoming her own personality.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye and head for the plane home. What an incredible experience Art and Soul provides for the student and instructor alike. We learn and grow in art together, becoming sisters (and brothers) in creativity and shared experience.


Unknown said...

Hi Jan!
I sure did have fun on Sunday with you. I love my art journal, and I am grateful to you, for stepping in for Judy.
p.s. I love your night Vegas photos.

Dreamcicle Journeys said...

What a great trip and thanks for sharing your photos of the city and the wonderful creations made in the classes that you taught.

Anonymous said...

What fun, you sure hung in there after the supply debacle. the encaustics look especially good! wow, I would love to take the doll class....
see you soon.

Janet W. said...

Hi Jan,
Thanks for teaching the Encaustic class - hey my bird showed up in the class pics! I'm pretty happy with it and my other bird in pink. I still want to finish off the back by painting it black. Thanks again. It was fun to see your Vegas and Australia pictures. Thanks, Janet Wilson