Vine Gogh At The Gorge Art Series

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Q+A with Jenny Schildan, Skamania's Artist in Residence.

Every third Saturday of the month, guests at Washington’s Skamania Lodge can tap into their inner artist with a guided “Vine Gogh” class by resident artist Jenny Schildan. The Portland native reveals advice for the budding artist, why she’s so passionate about teaching, and why it’s important to never give up. $40 per person plus tax; advanced reservations required. Next class is October 15th, 2016.

How did the concept come about for Vine Gogh?

My business partner, Kim Pringle, is originally from Colorado.  She traveled back to visit family and came across a studio in Denver teaching canvas painting classes while serving wine… and was blown away by the idea.  She was my neighbor and knew that I was a painter, so naturally, came to me with the concept.  Four months later we had our first little space in Sellwood.  I had a great background in teaching art, as Artist in Residence at some elementary schools, so I knew I could do it. Ultimately, we have Kim to thank for finding the original concept.

What is your background?

I was lucky to be born into a family of artists and musicians, so as soon as I showed talent it was strongly encouraged by my parents and grandmother.  My grandfather had a great career as an artist designing movie posters for Paramount Pictures, starting his own graphic design firm, and instructing at university level (where he met my grandmother, also a very talented artist).  He died when I was only two, but passed his legacy on to several of his offspring. It’s been fun to see and is still going strong in the family.  I like to think he’s watching over me.  I know he’d be extremely proud!  I had a lot of private lessons and studied at different schools, but the best instructor I ever had was Dave Selleck at Portland Community College.  He successfully got me to leave my comfort zone of over-perfecting every painting.  The end result was I had 9 paintings in the Street of Dreams show, so, it worked!

What are some tips for beginning artists?

What I notice when students come in is that many of them are extremely nervous.  They feel like in order to sign up they should have experience. We are absolutely designed for the beginning painter in mind!  I want to get everyone to try it, because I’m convinced it is one of the single most therapeutic things you can do. People don’t realize that until after class and they’ve managed to leave all of their stress at the door for two hours and focus only on pushing colors around on the canvas. There’s a lot of stress in the world these days. I love to see people leave that behind. You can literally watch it go away as they are painting. People are amazing creatures. We’ve created so many new hobbies for our customers. I absolutely love when they tell me that they’ve started painting at home on their own and come in for additional tips. 

My advice for new students is:

Relax. We’re all in the same boat and no one is judging or planning on having their painting in the Louvre.

Step away from your painting.  See it from a different perspective.  When you are 15 inches from your painting your brain is processing every little step you’ve taken and remembering every step that you’ve perceived as a “flaw.” Sometimes people will get up to use the restroom and come back and not even recognize their own work. The first classes are the most difficult because you are getting used to holding a brush, when you’ve been used to holding a pencil. I always compare it to having to learn to eat with chopsticks when you’ve spent your whole life eating with a fork, or vice versa. By the second class, there’s a profound difference in the confidence level.

Enjoy the experience. Loosen up, laugh, drink wine, and breathe. We are far too hard on ourselves. The nervous feeling goes away quite quickly into the process. Of course, a good wine helps with that.

What is your favorite aspect of these classes?

I am definitely a "people person.” I spent a lot of my youth on stage with a microphone as a singer and actor.  I love performing.  I love making people laugh, I love putting them at ease and connecting with them on a personal level.  I love that they can come in and call me by name and the class has left a lasting impression on their day.  I make sure to go to other studios when I’m traveling, because you literally feel good all day long.  I can’t even describe why it’s just such a positive experience all the way around.  And it’s so good for your right brain.  

What is your best advice for guests who want to continue drawing and painting past this class?  

Experiment!  Even if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Pick up a tool and try it.  No one is judging you.  The more you practice, the better you know what works and what doesn’t.  The best artists are constantly learning… there’s never a period of time when you are “done.”  If I’ve stopped learning, then I’ve failed.  Even the great masters considered their famous works “studies.” Under those famous works are other paintings that were studies and painted over. Don’t ever give up and keep learning. When I was 18, my college professor told me: “copy the masters.” At 18 and an artist, I thought: ‘No!  I want to be creative!’  As I got older, I realized this was super good advice. I’ve copied some Van Gogh paintings and learned some new techniques and color experiments that I worked into my own original works.  Keep at it and always try new techniques.  Step out of your comfort zone.  What’s the worst that could happen?  

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