Help From Morandi


A few weeks ago I led my annual drawing retreat at Emandal, A Farm on a River.  Emandal is a truly special farm camp in Mendocino about a half hour out of Willits on the Eel River.  Residents stay in small cabins or lodges, eat the ample food grown there, and sink into their chosen subject for four days.

This photo was taken on the last day after our final discussion about what happened for each of the participants during the week.  At the beginning I had asked them what they hoped to gain from their time at Emandal, and I finished the week reviewing their wishes to see if they were met or if something else happened for them.

To be sure, growth is what happened.  And that meant something different for everyone there.

 On the third day I led a conversation about the work of Morandi.  I wanted to show how his landscape paintings and drawings were made with an emphasis on shapes moving into deep space.  

 One of my wise and heartfelt students (they were ALL wise and heartfelt) asked why this was so important to me as I was getting impassioned in my talk.  Why did this seeing or reading of space make me emotional?  

 I said that drawing space has helped me to understand my world better.  There is a direct relationship between drawing space and knowing our world, and I try to bring that to my students’ lives as it has happened in my own.  It has helped me see my world and feel comfortable in it. At my beginnings in drawing (at 14, with my siblings off at college and my parents working) I sat down in my quiet house and drew objects from my life; my desk, the hallway, my old VW Bug.  Drawing the things of my life helped me to see them better and to feel more at ease and less lonely in my world. 

 This alone feels powerful. But there was more that pulled at me in that moment.

 In my painting I have been very focused on space and light. Painting has helped to show me myself – what’s important to me, where I’m curious, where I want to be or where I find myself.  It has been showing me my heart.  At the same time, looking at and discussing the work of Morandi and his colors, values, abstractions and space, helps me to feel my connection to those things even more.  And seeing the understanding in my students’ eyes - the ah ha moment for them – makes the experience doubly powerful. 

 I felt impassioned because Morandi and I were sharing the importance of reading space with my students, and they were getting it. 

Melissa Weiss