Midterm season is in full swing, and some students are in desperate need of a creative outlet. DukeCreate, a program that provides a series of free hands-on arts workshops, created another outlet for students with the “Self-Portraiture Using Watercolor and Oil Pastels” workshop on Sept. 16. Sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts (DukeArts) and University Center Activities and Events (UCAE), DukeCreate provided free art supplies to on-campus students and those living in the Durham area for this program.
Due to limited supplies for the workshop, space was limited to the first 20 participants. Students who signed up for the workshop were eligible to pick up art supplies in the Rubenstein Arts Center Lounge the day of and before the workshop. Ths supplies included a flat paint brush, a pencil, an eraser, oil pastels and watercolor paints.
“There is a lot more planning that goes into this distribution,” said DukeCreate director Kevin Erixson. “There is a lot of thought that goes into putting the packets together and making sure we are picking them up safely and socially distanced.”
The workshop was conducted online via Zoom. Many DukeCreate offerings this semester provide students with supplies ahead of a virtual workshop, including the upcoming partnership with Duke VisArts, “Paint Like Bob Ross: Autumn Fantasy” on Sept. 28.
“DukeCreate was well-positioned to pivot in virtual programming, it's a flexible program by nature, and we have very talented and knowledgeable instructors,” said Erixson. “When the pandemic hit in March, we were among the first to adjust our offerings to online. We initially focused on arts-related software skills and we also had workshops like dance and contour line drawing.”
DukeCreate partnered for the first time with local abstract artist Candy Carver. The workshop combined the use of watercolors and pastels to create abstract self-portraits. Carver is known for expressing her own positive outlook on the world through the use of vivid colors. Carver encouraged students to do the same: mixing contrasting and vivid colors, exploring symmetry and drawing geometrical patterns.
“John Brown, the new vice provost for the arts, is very committed to deepening the ways Duke engages in supporting local artists,” said Erixson. “Given the current limited ways artists can make money during COVID-, we are more committed to this than ever and have expanded to work with new local artists like Candy Carver.”
Since the workshop required no prior artistic experience, Carver was sure to clearly describe each step of the artistic process. The workshop provided enough guidance for beginners to feel confident in creating self-portraits, and enough creative freedom for other students to add unique personal touches to their self-portraits. Carver also made sure to explain the mechanics of the medium, informing the class that pastels and watercolor repel, much like oil and vinegar.
Her focus on positivity transcended her art into her teaching style, as she sang words as part of her instruction and made sure she addressed every participant’s worries. Carver constantly reassured students that it is okay to make mistakes.
“We are focused on providing a space where you can fail, unlike a lot of places at Duke,” said Erixson. “We are trying to spark some kind of interest and maybe from that interest get you involved in the arts in some capacity.”
DukeCreate workshops have increasingly focused on collaborations with local artists, student groups and academic departments, expanding the breadth of their offerings each semester.
“I’ve put a huge emphasis on partnerships and collaborations so that DukeCreate can support entities with arts interests across the University,” Erixson said. “DukeCreate is working with DEMAN (the Duke Entertainment & Media Network), the Co-Lab Roots workshop series, the Cinematic Arts Filmcraft Series, student organizations and other departments and offices to provide programming that shines a spotlight on the wonderful things that are happening in the arts at Duke and around Durham.”
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Carver’s positivity throughout the workshop made for a supportive and relaxed atmosphere, translating well for DukeCreate’s goals. In the midst of a pandemic and strict social distancing guidelines, DukeCreate, like other campus organizations, is trying to build community and a feeling of togetherness.
“We want to encourage students and employees to explore techniques or concepts within the arts that they maybe haven't had an opportunity to try before,” said Erixson. “I hope by creating together, we feel closer to each other and build community, especially during this unprecedented semester.”