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Welcome to Ellen Michel Art School 2021

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

by Ellen Michel | Feb 19, 2021

See above a photograph of an Atom. It’s the fuzzy edges interconnecting with the background. Atoms love to connect. Welcome to 2021 everyone, it is good to be here. There is much to be grateful and optimistic about. Even though the pandemic is still a threat, our island home has protected us from much of its effects.

I hope you and your families are all well and the worsted of the pandemic has not impacted on you.

We can probably all say we will never forget 2020.

My 2020, was a crazy year of new and old experiences brought into sharp focus as the turmoil unfolded. There were moments of complete joy and other moments of anxiety and sometimes unimaginable sadness. All of which has brought me here, to 2021.

While I am not advocating breaking the rules, I think it was hard for some people to accept the rules of social distancing and isolation and by the end of 2020 I was struck by how unnaturally these rules run counter to the laws of everything – physics, chemistry, biology, consciousness. Connectivity is constantly happening whether we like or not. No wonder it was so hard for some people to do this.

Connectivity is why the universe and everything in it, exists. On a chemical, biological, energic level life is bound together with a series of connections that have reactions or act upon connecting with outcomes which are not necessarily predictable or desirable. The crisis of Covid-19 was a result of connectivitybetween two animals and demonstrates how a chance connection with the right variants creates something new and not so desirable.

‘As Nadeem Aslam put it­­­­­­­ ‘Pull a thread and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.’

Yes, connectivity is the theme that won’t let me rest. And I have been working on unravelling the idea and have become so serious about it I have now decided to let it all go, heeding the wise words of T.S. Elliott:

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.’

So for now it’s on to Morocco

Losing my connection to Home. Gaining new connections

2020 started out as a fairly genteel excursion to Morocco with a group of Artists and Writers for a three-week sojourn from you, my students with a promise to return with great gusto and new insights and stories of the colourful fascinating culture.

There are many examples of writers and artists drawn to Morocco’s shores for inspiration and to find a connection? It’s culture which is influenced by the Berber, Arabian and European cultures inspired such artists and writers like Painter Henri Matisse and Eugene Delacroix to leave us timeless colourful images that we can connect within our imagination; and writers like Paul Bowles who spent a lifetime writing about Morocco and collaborating translations into English with Moroccan writers like Mohamed Choukri.

My intention for the trip was to tread lightly but immerse myself and connect in a gentle way with the culture, the art and the landscape. To wander the narrow-cobbled streets of the old medinas. Explore the work of today’s artisans, the glazed ceramics, textiles, spices, metal work, jewellery and oils. To see the exquisite art of mosaic in humble and holy places. And experience the natural landscape, its agricultural practices of crops and herds, desert life with its vast, mind opening drifts of sand rolling on forever.

Connecting the gamut of visceral experience

It was true, it was a wonderful trip and I loved every moment of the creative journey with fellow artists to the final bang at the end which brought dimensions of anxiety, drama and great sadness: in a sense a connecting catalyst, rounding off and heightening my awareness, that chance connections are either fortunate or unfortunate.

When I left for Morocco on 29 February 2020, Covid was barely a subheading in the news in Australia. I met with the little band of writers and artists, numbering eight, in Tangier, then onwards, through the blue city of – Chefchaouen, then Fezand the Riff Valley, to the eastern edge of the Sahara desert where we stayed at Cafe Tissardmine, an artist’s retreat situated in a small oasis village in Rissini, in the south east corner of Morocco finally ending in Marrakech.

Read more bout the art and the artists I travelled with Goat’s teeth and rusted wire

Arriving in the vibrant flourishing culture of Marrakesh, from a high, totally visceral experience in the desert oasis at Café Tissardmine we were confronted with the devastating news of the monumental advancements of the pandemic Covid-19 around the world. I and my fellow travellers were flung into a state of emergency being brought back to reality. Shocked out of our creative dream so to speak. And from then on, we spent the evening and night contacting home to arrange new flights home as the Moroccan government had decided to close the borders at midnight the next day and that we could not wait for our original flight home. Further adding salt to the wound the original flights were cancelled too.

The original plan was to spend three days in Marrakesh in the Chambres d’Amis, a lovely little riad in Morrocan/French style. Such a peaceful tranquil environment, a retreat from the bustling marketplace of the city centre outside its walls.

Having finally secured a ticket home my trip was only cut short by 2 days, so I was very grateful for that as has been demonstrated in more recent times there have been many Australians stranded for many months in very uncertain situations overseas.

The hasty retreat from Morocco was very dramatic and tragic compared with the wonderfully festive atmosphere of our arrival in Marrakesh. Arriving just after sun set the city square was alive with dancing, music, street stalls and crowds of happy people.

On leaving at midday the next day it could not have been more of a contrast. I felt the heavy cloud of uncertainly. It was an eerie feeling of doom and that I was a participant and witness in a pivotal moment of history. It was a solemn walk, the same square now so sad and weeping. Traders packing up their stalls watched by police who wanted them off the streets in a hurry. The atmosphere was so heavy with grief and lose. I could hardy breath and the only relief I had was to shed a tear as I walked the last steps to the taxi. I felt for the Moroccan people, who are not the wealthy merchants of the silk road but ordinary people eking a living on a day to day basis. So uncertain was this moment, it made history in the mind. Arriving at the departure airport there was more turmoil this time it was Australians rioting and demanding they get a flight home. It was so dramatic and confronting to navigate through them to present my flight ticket at the desk. And then the flight home was longer than normal as the only way out of Morocco was by Air France, who still serviced Morocco, which meant we had to have a spot over in Paris. Arriving home exhausted it was not difficult to sleep and isolate for 14 days.

The final dramatic ending was a bonus for creative material and I went into 2020 fuelled with so many questions, thoughts and links to explore. Which has always been a driving force as a painter, teacher and art theorist.

Embarking on a new way of teaching painting classesa new way of connecting with my art students

Another positive and new way of communicating was discovered in 2020 when I connected with my students by Zoom, running Oil Painting Classes. Amazingly the experience now has developed my teaching style as more articulate and accurate in demonstrating painting, explaining theories and corrections to paintings. While it was new to all of us, I have great admiration and am grateful for students who persevered to work out how they could manage the zoom classes from their homes. Between us we have had very successful classes, which will continue in the new year. And depending on the Covid situation we will also resume studio classes in 2021 starting on Saturday, 20 March.

  • The benefits of Online Zoom Oil Painting Classes.

  • The new mode of communication with the Zoom classes has shown there are great benefits in working remotely for students. Students learnt to be self-sufficient, managing their painting experiences and painting equipment which in the end has led to students gaining more confidence in their own abilities. Now they feel they can set up and paint with confidence on their own.

  • When students go on holidays, they can have a remote, on location class. And if I travel to a remote location, I can share the experience in a Zoom class.

  • We don’t have to be in the studio to have a connection. Our connection can be a wider world on the World Wide Web.

Connectivity in practice and theory

Unable to remove the teacher in me I realize what I teach is all about connectivity.

I teach the natural order of perception. The method teaches using patches of light carefully observed in the Order of Perception that is everything is connect and edges will only appear when the patches are different tones. Essentially the visual world never has a smooth hard cold edge between objects even when there is a change of tone . Even the physical edge of precisely engineered steel is pixelated under a microscope. The building blocks of our world are the atoms, like a sphere but with a fuzzy edge in varying degrees of density. The outer layer of the atom composes entirely of the electron orbitals, which are like a cloud of different densities at different times. Learn more What is the shape of an Atom?

The first photograph ever taken was so grainy that the impressionist painters connected with the idea and started the Impressionist Movement . Below photograph made by a camera was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce The World’s First Photograph

Photographer Studio 1893 Visit: 20 First Photo from the History of Photography Connecting to old friends in 2020 Also, I encourage students to listen to what the subject is saying and respond accordingly.

  • I have taught for many years painting is a language of connectivity. And in my own painting career I have many ‘go to’ motifs which I have developed a deep and abiding relationship with to which I return time and time again using the language of painting. In 2020 this practice seemed even more poignant than ever.

  • One of these motifs is my blossom tree whose inspiring floral display over 20 years, reassured me that the seasons come and go and will return, like a miracle at the exactly right time. Every year I feel compelled to communicate with her. I want to honour her, preserve her in perpetuity, admire her intellect in knowing when to flower and when to lose her leaves. I want to thank her.

  • Another reassuring connection in 2020 is that my Blue Tongue Lizard returning with her young. And again I marvel at this little creature, her wisdom and knowing so connected to the rhythm’s of her body and her environment on which she relies for her survival. I find poetry is my way of connecting to her. In 2020 I have slowed to her pace and have spent more time in her company communing throughout the day when she feels the right conditions prevail. I know she comes out at night because there are often silver snail trails leading to her perfectly air- conditioned snail trap-hide away, where they suddenly disappear. It’s pretty obvious too, since my lizard has made her home at my home, she has impacted on the snail population in my garden as I am not crunching on snail shells on the path to my front door in the dark anymore. I am grateful for her presence and I have learnt so much from her. My writing is a physical language by which to make a connection helping me to feel closer to her, to honour and thank her for the joy she brings to my life.

Even though I promised myself I would not be the teacher today I am afraid I slipped into old habits. But the main thing is I have made the connection with you and I send you much love and happiness for the coming year. And I look forward to seeing you either in Online Classes or in Studio Classes in the first week of February, all being well. Ellen Michel

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