A Recent Teaching Excursion: Color Theory at the Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat August 2012

August 16, 2012

Above: My classroom in the Weitz Center on the Carleton College Campus, Northfield, MN. There is additional room at the back where I am standing and taking the photo. There were 7 tables and 14 students. The back wall of the room also had one of those marvelous blackboards. There were high windows on the inside walls into the hallway.

On Wednesday, August 8 I left Minneapolis for Northfield, MN which is about 1 hour south of my home. (My drive home on Sunday night was only 45 minutes as there was no traffic.)

From August 9 through August 12, 2012 I spent from 9 a.m. to noon and then 1:30 to 4:30 teaching color theory to 14 engaged and talented women.

The class was part of the Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat put on by the Colleagues of Calligraphy. You can read the class description here. 

(People have asked me if I'll be teaching this course online. At present I don't have any plans to do so. I do believe that I will reconfigure these lessons in a less intense format and at some point make those into an online class. This won't be for at least a year, so if you see me offering my 6-week color theory class and you are local, you might want to take advantage of it.)

I don't have photos of the stunning charts and discoveries that the students made and I didn't ask permission to post the class photo we took at the end of the last day. I do, however have some photos of the facilities that I want to share with you because I thought the whole campus and the facilities were great. (You can click on the "continued" line to view the rest of the images.)

The group does a retreat each August and in 2013 the retreat will be one week later. It's a great group of people and it was fun to get to know them. My students were fantastic. They gave me the great gift of working hard and trusting that I would take them on a path worth traveling. And they laughed a lot!

The retreat was unusual for me in a couple ways. I didn't have any chocolate from Tuesday evening before I left until Monday after my return. (I can't teach if I'm eating chocolate.) I also had to miss 4 days of cycling. (I rode before I left on Wednesday.) That was difficult. Cycling centers me and gets my energy up, but it also focuses my mind and clears out stress. I found that it was difficult for me, though I sketch all the time at home, to find the concentration to sketch during the retreat. I did a sketch the first day in the rain (the drops spreading the ink), and I sketched Hector (my rubber Toucan Puppet) a couple evenings before bed. Other than that I didn't sketch at all and it's the longest I can remember going when I didn't paint. (I did some class demos of course, but most were charts; and always I was talking.)

I stayed focused enough to capture in photographs some interesting details that I didn't have time to sketch or write about, because I needed to get back and set up the room for the next session. All of these, and some written notes from the evenings are in an 8 x 10 inch kraft brown paper journal from Hahnemühle. I feel things went the way they needed to go. (Next time though I really need to find a way to take my bike!)

So here are some things that caught my eye.

Click on any of the images to view an enlargement.



Dorm Entrance. (I was one flight up and one window over to the left.)










Inside my dorm room looking back towards the entry door and closet.

Inside my dorm room standing at the door and looking towards the window. We all had single rooms even if there were two beds.

Lounge area in the Weitz Center. Notice the salvaged antique blackboards.

This is the other wall of this lounge on my classroom's floor.

Door to my classroom. You can see all the retained features of this former grade school (and then high school).

The classrooms had a computer set up you could call up as Mac or PC and also a digital document projector.

The character of the original building was saved in many details.

Here the exterior wall of the original school building was left exposed in its new role as an interior wall, with a new wing added on.



The hallway from the lounge area, aiming down towards my classroom on the far left.

The fortunate students have many lounge areas—all filled with useful and comfortable furniture. Here you see a portable desk that can be moved into position as needed.

The stair well. I couldn't get over the beauty of the original railing.

At the entrance hall to the cinema the old auditorium chairs had been saved and hung with the lights to create an interesting ceiling.

The old cinema box office was retained.

The ceiling at the box office at the cinema.

The lounge portion of the atrium. To your right there was table seating in a space about three times this size. Windows on that side looked out onto a lovely park.


    • Frank Bettendorf
    • August 16, 2012

    Wonderful photos! I cried when I saw the blackboards, what wonderful memories for me. My first reaction is that luckily someone with smarts was given the opportunity to create something, a marriage of the new and the old without sacrificing. It demonstrates creativity and appreciation without making a big noise. Made me wish I could have been there. And seeing you in action without a chocolate lift would be worth the price. Thanks so much for the post. And, when do I get to see your new book “Meet Me At The Fair!”
    Frank in WA

  1. Reply

    Frank you and me both! When I saw the chalkboards I was in heaven. While dust bothers me you can take precautions and be careful (when cleaning the board etc.) but white board markers make me ill. So this was the best thing possible.

    And they are SO GORGEOUS!!!!!

    You would have loved the entire building!

    Ah, the Fair is coming soon. Next week it all starts. Too exciting.

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