Wrapping Up Teaching…What Does That Mean?

September 28, 2020
Direct brush sketching with ink on watercolor paper. I’ve spent the month of September showing a couple related videos and discussing inks on my Patreon subscription blog. Click on the Patreon-related monthly boxes in the right column of this blog to subscribe. Any of those boxes will take you to the subscription page.

This is the first in a series of posts in which I say goodbye to teaching. For the next two weeks I’m going to have posts and a couple fun videos which I like to call “‘The Final Lectures’ Series.” I hope you’ll join me.

So what does the title of today’s post mean? Am I leaving teaching behind?

Never say Never, as Sean Connery once said.

But as the Magic 8-Ball might say, “Outlook not so good.”

Since the side effects of cataract surgery became evident in 2019 I’ve been looking at ways to maximize my eye-time for drawing. That means I have to minimize other things which use up that eye time.

Students who’ve taken online classes with me know that before 2019 I daily spent hours in the classroom giving feedback and suggesting new possibilities. I like that kind of hands on teaching. It has been fun and also rewarding watching the students follow through.

But before 2019 I could spend time with the students and then get back to my work. 

After surgery something had to give.

The decision wasn’t easy, but it was simple. While I enjoy teaching and the interaction with students I didn’t have the eye health to make it my full-time gig. Additionally, I haven’t been able to attract the volume of students necessary to support the teaching platform that made online teaching straightforward and fuss free. Before deciding to stop teaching online I looked at a number of options and none fit with the financial realities.

As announced last year, I’m closing the teaching platform of RozWoundUp on December 31, 2021. There’s only one teacher participation class left to run. I write about that class and the two self-guided classes still available at the end of this post.

Patreon Option

As soon as I firmly decided to give up online teaching I of course could think of nothing else but teaching.

Post eye surgeries I was videotaping my sketching sessions—I had hit upon this strategy as a way to help preserve my own drawing habit while dealing with the permanent “artifacts” of the surgeries and my odd eyeball shape.

Video taping my sketching sessions had an odd effect on me. First I found I was looking at the computer all the time and not at the paper, it was funny. Then in rewatching myself work, especially on days when my vision had already tunneled down by the time I sat down to sketch. I became aware of things that for me hit the nature of sketching, the process of sketching, which is what I have always loved even more than the end results.

The taped sketching sessions made me feel positive about what remained of my eye-health and my ability to have a sketching practice. It isn’t ever going to be what it had been, but it is something that will be with me for a while longer.

I thought some of my past students might find the sketching videos interesting. Because of that I started my Patreon blog which is a paid-subscription blog. You can read about it and subscribe here.

We are 10 months in and I have found it incredibly fun. While I try to treat the months as “themed” entities (there’s no getting away from the teacher in me) there isn’t the intense filming and video editing necessary for classes. Additionally having a webinar tier level allows me to be more impromptu in my interactions with subscribers interested in what I have to say. They seem anxious to try things out. I think some of the best things I’ve said and written about art and the act and practice of sketching have happened in that atmosphere.

Bottom line, Patreon has allowed me to continue to say things about art and what it has meant in my life, at a time when it seemed art might not be possible in my life any more. It allowed me to teach in small doses when giving up teaching altogether seemed unthinkable, or something miserable to contemplate.

I feel I have new breath in my life: the fun of teaching, without all the the burden of filming or editing lengthy classes. My technical costs have been reduced drastically—I still need tech support, on-site and off-site digital storage, and a video hosting platform from which to import videos to Patreon (since Patreon doesn’t let you store them on their site).

All in all less stuff to worry about and to keep track of. 

What Will Happen with RozWoundUp?

I’m not sure yet what exactly will happen with RWU. I’ve been writing it for twelve years!

It’s been great, but the hacking and the switch to a new platform resulted in a reduced readership. Also I don’t have in-person classes to promote any more. Even before COVID-19 hit I had given up in-person classes because of eldercare conflicts and a recurrent shoulder issue—it’s very difficult to prep boards for a binding class when you have a shoulder problem; and hard to be in a classroom when your loved ones need you in the hospital.

Since RozWoundUp is a free blog I have to eat all the costs associated with it. The biggest cost being the hosting service; but it includes plug-ins and services I use to support it. In addition, considering that the email program alone costs $600 a year it’s clear costs add up. 

I do enjoy writing the blog posts however, but I have a feeling RWU might become once again about all of my enthusiasms, and less about art and sketching. In recent months I have been pulled to think more about television, movies, and books. And of course, just before the Pandemic hit I started baking bread again, and that’s become a “thing,” check out my Instagram!

So what’s the Magic 8 Ball say about what will happen with RWU?

“Reply hazy, try again.”

I’m leaving that up in the air for now. I feel comfortable doing that. I have over 265 folders waiting to be turned into posts in 2021. I think that the blog might turn out to be the thing that keeps me out of trouble (the way sketching once did). And Dick will probably be glad of that!

The Immediate Future on RozWoundUp

What is not hazy to me is what is coming up on RWU for the next couple of months, because I just reviewed the schedule and worked out posts through the end of this year. (And of course next month I’ll start turning some of those folders I mentioned above, into blog posts for next year.)

Also, in the immediate future there’s my two weeks or so of posts on saying goodbye to teaching that I also already mentioned. Self-indulgent? Yep, but some of my past students only keep contact through the blog and I said something in my end classes I want them to know. (I want everyone who reads the blog and tries to draw to know these things too.)

Besides the eye-health changes there are other big changes happening in my life and those changes require some work and adjustment and I’ll share them when it’s appropriate. As you know by now, the blog is always run at a little bit of a “delay,” not only because it means the swearing can be edited out, but also because I like to do a little bit of processing, in the hope that I can find within my reaction to events, something of truth to share with you. (That’s the house captain in me. Can’t get away from that either.)

So come back this week and the next for that series of posts I’ve mentioned. And I hope you keep coming back after that because you enjoy reading about my many enthusiasms.

One Reason to Never Say Never

The universe is a strange place. You try to do something for long enough and just as you start wrapping it up people come and ask you to do more of what you are just wrapping up.

No sooner did I decide, finally, to stop teaching, than several people started talking to me about doing exactly that.

Nothing is the right fit at present.

But when we step back from a situation and take a broader view we begin to see how other possibilities for something exist. Patreon was like that for me.

I believe other things will be too. 

Online Classes Still Available

My last teacher guided class is a binding class. If you’d like to join my Sewn-on-the-Spine Journal class which begins October 3, 2020, registration is now open. The registration page explains the class and provides a downloadable link to the supplies list. (Registration closes October 2, probably around 5 p.m.—it depends on when I get up from the computer; keep that in mind if you’re on the fence.)

I’ll be in class answering student questions during the first month. And we’ll have a couple live webinars as well. Students will have about 14 months access to the classroom (which will close on December 31, 2021). (Students can ask me questions through class after the month of class ends, answer turnaround time will just be slower because of other scheduled work.)

The other two remaining classes are: 

The Simple Pamphlet Book. This is a free class you can join at any time until December 31, 2021—that means that you will have access the class videos and materials right up until the platform closes. Since it’s a free class there isn’t any point not keeping it open. But I suggest you allow yourself a month at least to go through the materials.

By Design. This is a self-guided class. Because I’ll not be in class and you’ll be working on your own the tuition is low. It was always my hope that all my students would sign up for this class. It was created because design of a printed or a drawn page is such a big part of my life that it impacts all that I do. I could easily talk for hours in all of my classes about my thoughts on design. Instead I decided I wanted to talk once about it to avoid repetition within my art and binding classes. I’m glad I did this. Feel free to check out this class at the registration link in this paragraph. Registration will close on December 31, 2020, and you will have one year after that until December, 31 2021 to access all the videos. Students can also ask me questions in that class—however I am not in that class on a daily basis.  

    • Michelle
    • September 28, 2020

    I’d be glad to keep reading your blog even if you move away from discussing art stuff. My favorite posts have been the non-art stuff—the elder care, your relationship with your in-laws, and your book recommendation by Roz Chast.

    1. Reply

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed all those. I know I’ll be adding a lot more posts on TV and movies. And Right now I’m downsizing my book collection and doing little “Book Breaks” discussing some “segments/sections” of my collection. Sort of my way to say goodbye to those books before they are off to new homes or storage. (I learned in eldercare that one should sort through and downsize one’s possessions way before one becomes infirm!) While “Book Break with Roz” happens on my Facebook page currently I will be trying to set it up so it goes onto YouTube. I don’t typically have time to announce them so people just have to be online to catch them live—but they can always watch the taped version. For now you can find a couple under videos on my Facebook page (Roz Stendahl). Thanks for reading along on the blog!

    • Lynn
    • September 28, 2020

    I have been a regular fan of RWU for at least 8 years, and I can’t imagine NOT having the pleasure of reading whatever posts on whatever topics you feel the need to talk about. I can’t begin to tell you how many posts ended up being just what I needed that week. Knowing that I can count on my regular dose of Roz each week has been a blessing, especially in times of uncertainty. I look forward to you continuing the conversations with us, and I am looking forward to being along for the ride!

    1. Reply

      Lynn, thanks for the kind comments which are much appreciated. I love knowing that what I’m typing away at has touched someone in a useful way. I’ll go write some more posts right now. Hang in there.

      When things get really tough, and they are tough right now, I find it really helpful to read a favorite book from childhood.

      I’m thinking of rereading “David Copperfield” before seeing the new movie version (with Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick and Tilda Swinton as Aunt Betsy Trotwood—I mean really it doesn’t get any better than that, my own dream casting. I’m convinced Dev Patel will hit just the right notes).

      I might see if “Swallows and Amazons” series holds up.

      I have re-read all my Delano Ames mysteries (a short project as I didn’t have them all) before passing them on to a friend…

      And so it goes. Books have a wonderful ability to sooth us even in crazy times. stay safe, be well!

    • Eleanor
    • September 28, 2020

    Dear Roz, last night I got caught up in your Patreon. You continue to amaze me with your art, teachings, generosity and how you have “forged ahead” through difficult challenges.
    I am so grateful for all you do and all you are. I totally understand and support anything you decide about your future,
    Love and Hope,

    1. Reply

      Eleanor I figured you must have been playing catch up in Patreon because your comments on posts came through this a.m. (I’m going to respond in a couple moments.)

      Thanks for your kind words. Know that I appreciate how you have such an appetite to explore and learn new things. It’s been so fun to work with you.

    • Gail Hight
    • September 28, 2020

    Roz, like Michelle, I’ve enjoyed all of your blog posts, and the non-art posts she mentioned have been very important to me as well. I’d be happy to read anything you write about, even if you left in the swear words! Your attention to detail, your book recommendations, anything you share about any topic is worth reading. Your health and well being are of extreme importance to all of us who follow you and care about you. I support whatever path you choose and wish you good health and wellness. I look forward to whatever you want to share with us.

    1. Reply

      Gail thank you for not minding the swear words. It is definitely “Roz Uncensored” around here these days.

      I have more book recommendations coming in my “Book Breaks with Roz.”

      Thanks for the well wishes. I’m trying to get out on the bike every day before snow interferes with that outdoor aspect. And I’m just feeling better and better about all my decisions. Thanks so much for reading!

  1. Reply

    I so understand, Roz. I had to stop interactive teaching some years ago, and it was a hard decision but necessary. I offer self-guided classes, and fantasize about a new class, someday, but we need to be kind ot ourselves, don’t we. All best to you, you’re an amazing inspiration.

    1. Reply

      Kate, I know you understand all this. I have you as my art hero and even here you are a constant role model. Please take care. You inspire me every day. (And even though my book collection is being stored and downsized, nobody is getting their hands on my Sierra Club books by you, and your lovely works in journaling.) Take care of yourself.

    • Corinne McNamara
    • September 28, 2020

    What difficult decisions you have had to make! Thank you for sharing; it made me think about how I’m dealing with the intersection of age and changing abilities. Working beyond “retirement age” has been necessary, but ongoing eye problems led to burnout last fall. Now, I’m a tutor rather than an instructor—much less reading and eye-strain and a bit of income to keep me in art supplies! I’m a teacher; what I teach has changed a lot over the decades, but I’m grateful to still be able to work with students. I wish you continued health and thank you for your generous posts.

    1. Reply

      Thanks for writing Corinne. I always hoped that the online teaching would be something I could do when I retired, so I’m a little bit at a loss as you know from DP discussions. I can’t very well open a bread shop during Covid! And I’m not young enough either for such a physical job. But there are still parts of my workflow in publishing that I can keep up with for a little while. I might start a ukulele band!

      It’s interesting what you say about being a tutor. I’m not sure exactly what in England (I think that’s where you are) that involves. Next year I might return to mentoring. I know I’ll miss the fun and excitement of working with students.

      Thanks for the good wishes. Except for the eyes I’m doing really good and have been getting on my bike daily (which will stop when the snow falls and I have to switch to the inside bike). I will not miss riding with a mask!

  2. Reply

    Very mixed emotions reading this, as I am scheduled for cataract surgery myself next week! Wishing you all the best and hoping RWU continues, because you make me smile! I love your humorous writing style, in addition to your art. Of course you are making the right decision to take care of yourself. The trick will be to stick with the decision I expect! Getting older sure “ain’t for sissies” and I’m right there with you. Do take care!

    1. Reply

      Dianne, don’t worry about your cataract surgery. You probably have nothing to worry about with the cataract surgery. I have an anomaly that is present in something like .01 percent of people. It’s just my bad luck that my job requires I use my eyes 12 or more hours a day. Most people I know, including my husband, have had no issues with their new lenses. I wish you the best on the day of surgery (it’s really a simple thing and quickly done), and a speedy recovery to your normal activities. (The reality is that we have to have these surgeries or lose our vision completely and that’s not a happy result.)

      As you suggest, the trick is to stick to the decision to take care of myself. But with any luck I’m still young enough to have a lot of years learning this trick.

      Thanks for your readership over the years. It means a lot to me.

    • Pat Cameron
    • September 28, 2020

    You have been an important part of my ‘arty’ life since I first met you at Sketchbook Skool. The advice you have given has been so helpful and practical and a glimpse into your personal bits has been a joy as well.
    All the best and I hope you will still touch base with us all from time to time.
    You have a unique and valuable way of sharing your knowledge, thank you!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Pat this comment means a lot to me. I’m glad I’ve been able to be part of your “arty” life.

    • Krista
    • September 28, 2020

    I also met you through Sketchbook Skool. That short class gave me permission to march right into my local Nature Center, and Art Museum, with a sketchbook and some drawing tools and sketch away. Most places don’t mind me doing that, people are curious. Your materials reviews are a treasure trove of information. If I’m thinking about a different paper? pencil? brush? I check your RWU first. Your spirit of constant making is remarkable. So many ideas, faces, demonstrations, lessons. You know your stuff! Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Reply

      Yay! For going to the Nature Center and Art Museum. I love it. And I’m glad you find the materials reviews helpful. Thanks for reading. Keep sketching!

    • Jen
    • September 29, 2020

    Roz, I have taken all your online classes and they have been inspirational. I have learned something in each one of them I didn’t even know I needed to know, and having you as a distant, online ‘mentor’ has been lifechanging in the way I approach and view my own work. These days I am more productive, even given limited time. You give so much to your students – thank you. I wish you all the very best with your plans for the future, and I will continue to see you on Patreon.

    1. Reply

      Jen it has always been a pleasure to have you in class. I love seeing how you dive in and experiment. Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad that you can hold on to your drawing practice during these difficult times.

  3. Reply

    Roz – I’ve spent 15 years writing Making A Mark – and 16 million pageviews later I haven’t spent a penny on hosting or emails during all that time.

    Consider switching your content – maybe with some edits – to Blogger and develop a whole new following.
    All you have to do with existing people is tell that you will be using Feedburner in future – and the problems associated with emailing blog posts are solved immediately

    I’m currently building websites to transfer perennial content from my blog to a website in an organised fashion – and that’s another alternative.

    1. Reply

      Katherine, I don’t spend a lot of time in regret. I make choices and I move on. Clearly I made what turned out to be some costly choices with the whole blog thing—but it was like a frog in water being brought to a boil. I am taking a moment now to outline them so others can see and learn from them. (I’ve discussed them in more detail in the blog.) Clearly you’ve had a sane way to approach what has become a huge money drain for me. I’m glad you’ve outlined it for others.

      I started in 2003 with a website only. I had the help of a friend so it only cost me hosting.
      Later when I started a blog Blogger didn’t do some of the features I thought I would use on my blog so I looked into WordPress, the free version, but ran into difficulty in set up. (I’m a print graphic designer not a web designer.)

      I ended up going with Typepad who had a reasonable platform and a help level that I think was only about $139 a year, certainly not more than $250 a year. And between the inexpensive hosting (at that time on GoDaddy for my website) and the Typepad cost it was just money spent to stay in touch with students, and do what I like best, “write letters.” Also the website fulfilled one huge function for me—I didn’t have to lug 150 books around me every time I taught a class!

      But in 2016 that all changed when my website was hacked. I was running my design business, filming online classes, teaching online classes which required daily in-class time, and handling eldercare for my in-laws—I didn’t have time to learn more web-stuff.

      I got some technical help which turned out not to be appropriate to my situation. (Few people really grasp the volume of what I have up on the internet in images and words and kept telling me it would be easy to shift.)

      I’ve said this on the blog and it bears repeating: nothing is easy to shift from Typepad and that’s just one element I learned the hard way.

      But having made that choice in 2008 it was a little late to regret it in 2016. I took the best advice I could find at the time. The result was disastrous.

      First, as I mentioned, moving things from Typepad has been made impossible if you’re as visually heavy as I am. It can’t be handled with “global” actions. I don’t have the time to do that for the 2100 or so posts I had already available before the move. So now we are one step further removed and I would have to massage them to get them to a new platform.

      I did a quick run through of fixing 100 posts and how long it would take for me to do that and extrapolate out. Just to see if I could afford to hire someone to do it. It would have been astronomically expensive, even if they got minimum wage—which computer techs don’t. And I would have been spending all my time doing that instead of things that help me earn a living and things that I love.

      So for me moving it all to another platform, even a free one would be a time suck of huge proportions and not physically possible with my daily “eye time.”

      Anyone with an image-heavy blog on Typepad, please be aware of the issues of their image organization and instead of trying to shift any of that my best recommendation is that people make their typepade blog an ARCHIVE, that people can go to from their current blog’s menu bar, and search separately. My life would have been so much easier had I just done that. And I’d be driving a new car!

      Feedburner, for reasons I never understood, simply didn’t work for me when I was at Typepad. I didn’t realize that it would allow you to do email blasts as well. I really needed that functionality. And if I were going to be teaching in the future I would need the email blast capability going forward to keep in touch with students by class topic. I’ll look into Feedburner for going forward.

      For now things will stay where they are. As they are. While pre 2017 posts have images that don’t enlarge they still have their images and people can understand what I’m writing about. There are other issues that I go into fixing when I have a few spare moments, but they won’t get much attention going forward because I’m saving my eye time for things I love doing. Overall the readers have been really understanding about that.

      It’s great that you are taking time to move material to new websites in a way the fits the new organization plan you desire. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts. You helped me discover “Portrait Artist of the Year” which is one of the joys of my TV Viewing life. And I enjoy the thoroughness with which you address your topics. I know that any switch in organization you have in mind will be valuable to your many readers. I know you’ll approach it in a sane way and avoid hassles and issues.

      While we work out what the next chapter of my life will I’ll maintain things as is. The teaching platform will of course close, but that was specific only for my students in paid classes. That’s an expense that can’t be supported if there are no new students. And again, given my eye health, that isn’t something that’s going to happen.

      When things don’t work, when things aren’t supported by interest, the only sensible thing is to shut them down. And that has made these decisions clear and rather simple. I don’t dwell on it and regret things. I made the best decisions I could based on what I knew, what I needed for functionality, and the advice I could get at the time. The fact that I now know I would do so many things in all this differently only makes me happy. It confirms I can learn.

      I certainly hope people follow your internet approach for role modeling on free blog building. And I’ll just say one more time for people who haven’t been paying attention—don’t start a blog on Typepad. Even if Blogger doesn’t do all you need to do, there are other companies you can turn to that do platforms where things are easily importable and exportable because they follow the WordPress “model” which is so pervasive, or for other technical reasons I’m not aware of.

  4. Reply

    Dearest Roz…. I will take and devour everything you can share…and with you, that is a LOT! You are hugely generous but as stated, you need to look after your precious eyes and we will continue to enjoy whatever conversations we can be a part of with you. Onwards and upwards ! love and hugs from me

    1. Reply

      Thank you Deb! I appreciate the good wishes. I look forward to seeing your art adventures!

    • Tina Koyama
    • September 30, 2020

    Thank you for all you give to the art community, Roz. I always look forward to seeing what you are doing, whether it’s watching TV or baking bread. And I’m still reading here. Carry on!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Tina for your kind comments and for checking in and adding to the conversation in great ways. I really appreciate it.

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