WC community observes, creates, and sketches with CES and Stephanie Wolff

By Autumn Scully

Elm Staff Writer

On Monday, Feb.19 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society hosted a bookmaking and nature journaling observe-create-sketch workshop in collaboration with Kohl Gallery’s Artist in Residence Stephanie Wolff and Adjunct Professor Kate Livie.

The workshop began at the Sultana Education Foundation’s Lawrence Wetland Preserve, which they describe on their website as an “8.5-acre urban nature center featuring a variety of ecosystems including upland forest, swamp, marsh, shrublands, meadows, and a freshwater pond.”

Livie and Wolff instructed attendees to quietly walk around and observe the preserve for the next half hour, picking up any small botanical specimens that interested them. At a time of year where people typically feel stuck inside, Livie and Wolff wanted to encourage attendees to experience nature during all seasons and notice things that people normally don’t pay attention to.

“It’s an opportunity to deepen your connection with nature and the environment around you in an undistracted way,” Livie said.

After the nature walk, attendees regathered and walked the short distance from Lawrence Wetland Preserve to Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall to complete the remainder of the workshop.

The classroom at SG Hall was set up with individual tables as workstations containing the necessary supplies for the bookmaking and sketching. The space was the right size to accommodate the intimate group containing WC staff, faculty, alumni, and students.

Wolff kicked off the workshop by guiding attendees step-by-step through how to make toroidal accordion books. When open flat, they are donut-shaped. After folding, they become small, wedge-shaped books.

Wolff brought 30 years of experience with bookmaking to the workshop, particularly through artist books, which she described as “when an artist uses the book form as a means of expression.” She wanted to expose attendees to new materials and highlight the importance of working with them physically.

“To have a place to put your observations and to be able to use materials that aren’t electronic is still a really valuable thing for everyone,” Wolff said.

Due to the small size of the workshopping group, attendees received personalized instruction from Wolff, who quickly learned everyone’s name throughout the bookmaking.

After attendees created their blank accordion books with Wolff, there was a short break before Livie took over instruction for her segment of the workshop on ink sketching and visual journaling.

Livie led attendees through a series of exercises including blind contouring, modified contouring, and diagrammatic sketching of their botanical specimens on scrap paper, which was intended to make attendees more comfortable with the process of creating art.

“For some reason when we pick up a paintbrush or pencil and we’re not excellent immediately, we think we don’t have talent. You do not need talent to be able to make art,” Livie said. “It’s just about the sheer fun of it.”

They encouraged attendees to begin sketching their botanical specimens in their books prior to the end of the workshop and to eventually fill in each page with observations in their free time.

“My favorite part of the workshop was getting invested in drawing the subject before me. “Time kind of stops when I get really invested in drawing something…it’s just fun,” alumni Ashley McEvoy ‘13 said.

Livie and Wolff hoped that attendees could walk away from the workshop with a new way to express themselves and enjoy being outside. Wolff noted that she appreciated the opportunity to connect with the WC community.

“I am really grateful to be here,” Wolff said. “Thank you for having me.”

Those interested in Wolff’s work can view it in an exhibit at the Kohl Gallery through March or her website at stephaniewolffstudio.com.

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