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I used to take workshops at a wonderful art gallery in Lodi, and after taking some on pastel and watercolor and still life and such, about a year and a half ago I took a week-long workshop on plein air painting with John Cosby. I hadn’t really done much plein air painting before. Some failed attempts, not really knowing where to start, and some painting-from-photographs in the studio to see if I could do it at all. Cosby turned out to be my best and my last teacher. His advice at the end of the workshop: stop taking so many workshops, and paint for two weeks straight. I did both of those things, since luckily I was scheduled for a two-week road-trip right after the workshop and I made it a point to stop and paint every day along the way. I didn’t take another workshop, until last week, when I took another workshop with John Cosby.

Cosby is the best painting teacher I’ve ever had. Have you ever noticed that most artists will stop talking when they start painting? Some say this has to do with artistic and verbal skills coming from two different parts of the brain. In any case, Cosby can explain everything he’s doing, the entire way through a demo. He can help any student, regardless of their level, and he can critique anyone’s work in a useful and meaningful manner, and he does it in a way that’s relentlessly kind. If he taught more workshops, or I should say, if I could afford to follow him around the country taking all his workshops, I’d take them all. For now, I just know that I’ll at least repeat his annual Fall workshop here in SoCal.

I had signed up for this workshop before the accident. In fact my deposit was due pretty much the day I ended up in the hospital. I wondered if I would still be able to do it. I wondered if I would be able to walk by then. Would I be able to stand all day? Would I be able to see? Would I be in pain? The day before the workshop I came down with a cold, my first since the accident, and the weather went a little nutso and gave us hot, humid, still days, even right on the coastline. We were all being seared by the sun and dripping in sweat as we worked and my head felt like it was in a vice. But for the thrill of being able to paint all day every day with my favorite teacher, it would have been miserable. But I could walk. I could stand all day. I could see. And I wasn’t in pain. My teacher and some of my classmates were kindof fascinated by my accident and recovery and we talked about it a lot. At the end of the workshop Cosby said to me “I don’t know how you did it, after what you’ve been through. Even at the end of the first day I was dying.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I also went for a run every night after class. It’s training and consistency that keep me strong and pain-free. As with art. I’m going to keep running, riding, and training, and I’m going to keep painting.

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