Randy Brodnax and What I Learned When I Didn’t Want To Learn

It was a Monday morning. I didn’t want to go to class.

It was a class day, and it was class time, but I wouldn’t actually get to work on my projects for class. Instead, I was told, I needed to show up and then listen to some artist talk and do demonstrations.

It was a Monday morning. And I really, really didn’t want to go listen to some guy talk.

It might not have been as bad if it had been something I knew about or was doing, but the artist they had coming in was a ceramics artist. I haven’t taken any ceramics classes. I’ve only finished two classes: drawing and design. I’m enrolled in two new classes: design II (3-d design) and metal art/jewelry making. Nothing to do with ceramics.

It was a Monday morning. And I didn’t even care to hear about a topic I wasn’t actively engaged in.

But…but I’m so stuck in my head, always trying to get an A, and I knew that missing class would count against me. So I got coffee and went in, thinking that I could just hide in the back, write a bit on something else unrelated to the topic at hand, and maybe even sneak out a little early. Because I knew I wasn’t going to learn anyway.

Then it happened.

I learned something when I didn’t want to learn.

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

The artist in question was Randy Brodnax.  And he seemed like a cool guy – he had made breakfast (biscuits with sour cream and molasses; you were supposed to dip the biscuits into the sour cream and molasses…he was from Louisiana, and apparently that’s a local thing). He had a pot of gumbo going for lunch time. And his work for sale was set out on a table. The work was pretty cool. Big expensive pieces, medium-sized, almost affordable pieces, and small just about affordable pieces.

So I settled in with my phone, ready to play some games, with a notebook handy for when I got bored.

Except I didn’t get bored. I learned something. I learned how to be an artist.

Sort of.

Okay, so it wasn’t the most earth-shattering learning. But two things that he said stuck with me.

First, he said not to be afraid to try something. That’s the key to being an artist. And he’s right, of course. I quit teaching and began taking art classes and submitting my writing. I have no idea how to ‘art,’ and sending out writing is not for the faint of heart. Trying it is the key, though. Being willing to toss yourself at it, knowing that it may or may not stick, but that you put it out there…that makes all the difference.

The second thing he said was to be consistently inconsistent. Again, not new, not earth-shattering, but oh so important to hear. It applies to art, and it applies to writing. Doing the expected, doing same thing over and over. It’s boring. Not just boring – it’s stagnation. And that is true whether you’re designing a piece of jewelry, whether you’re making an awesome 3-legged toad, or if you’re writing a story. You want whatever you’re doing to be different. You want it to stand out. So you want to be inconsistent in what you do and how you do it, and you want to do that consistently. Which sounds like a contradiction, I realize, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true, and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

What was my point again?

Oh, yes – you can learn, even when you don’t expect to, and even when you don’t want to. Now go buy some of Randy Brodnax’s stuff. (My Randy toad has been staring at me while I write this, and I think he might be controlling me.)

Three-legged ceramic toad by Randy Brodnax

Three-Legged Ceramic Toad by Randy Brodnax



Semester Close…

grading mysteriesMy first semester of art classes are done. Sort of.

Classes ended last week, and finals began. Neither of my classes had finals, though, since they aren’t those types of classes. However, we did have critiques of our work and other fun ways to close the semester out.

There’s only one problem.

I have no idea how I did, from a grading perspective.

This entire semester, I received no grades. None.

I’m kind of used to not getting grades throughout a semester. During my MFA, it was pass/fail, and you either submitted your work or didn’t. If you did it, and you did it right, then you passed. But there were monthly deadlines, and your work was critiqued and returned, so you knew if you had to redo anything or not. In my drawing and design classes, I didn’t get that. I got some critique, but there was no chance to re-do, no offer to re-do, no grade or even idea if I’d gotten it right.

I’m stressed.

Seriously stressed.

Because while the classes ended last week, my final grades still haven’t posted.

The college closes on the 18th, so I know I’ll have my grades before then. But that means up to two more days of waiting…waiting…waiting.

But, hey, at least I’ll only have to go through this another four semesters or so…

What week is it again?

Caged Bird Singing Necklace - available for purchase in my Etsy Shop! https://www.etsy.com/listing/197542948/caged-singing-bird-necklace?ref=shop_home_active_12

Caged Bird Singing Necklace – available for purchase in my Etsy Shop! https://www.etsy.com/listing/197542948/caged-singing-bird-necklace?ref=shop_home_active_12

Seriously, I’ve lost all track of what week it is for school.

At this point, I know that we’ve hit the mid-point. And I’m still frustrated with what I consider a lack of progress.

But I know it’s not really a lack of progress.

I know that I’ve actually progressed quite a bit. My drawings look like what they’re supposed to look like. Not perfect, not wonderful, but at least the resemblance is there. I can look at it and identify my original purpose. That’s pretty good, compared to where I was when I started back in August.

Yesterday, I realized something about that progress – or lack of progress – too.

I was at the Dallas Art Museum (which rocks, by the way), and I just happened to wander past their Horchow Auditorium at five minutes to three. Which only matters because they were offering a free concert (part of the ‘Bancroft Family Concerts’) at three, and they were herding people into the auditorium for it.

So I went.

They performed ‘Maria’s Waltz,’ ‘Hymn’ (both by Bruce Patti), and then ‘Piano Quintet in F minor’ by Brahms.

It was awesome.

And it was while I was sitting in there, listening to the musicians, watching them and how passionately they played, how they literally rocked in their seats, totally immersed in what they were doing, feeling the music, that I realized something.

They probably didn’t play that well when they got started.

Simple realization, right? But so important.

I remember, way back when, I played violin for a year or two in elementary school. We didn’t play anything fancy. In fact, I remember playing lots and lots and lots of whole notes. They seemed to go on forever – just stroking the bow across the string, holding it. Ugh. But it was part of learning, and without it, I never could have moved on to anything else.

That’s what I’m doing right now in art class. I’m learning how to play those whole notes. I need to learn where to put my fingers, how to hold things properly, how to set them up, how to tune them. And maybe I’m not learning it that quickly, maybe I want to go more quickly, but I need to keep playing those goddamn whole notes until I get them right.

Weeks 4 and 5: Wow, time is going fast!



So before I knew it, two weeks had passed, and my poor little blog had been ignored.

I knew that couldn’t last.

The important thing is that I tricked my husband.

Let me explain. No, wait, that would take too long. Let me sum up.

I want to be an artist. I’m not very art-y, but I’m trying hard, and I think that I’ve been getting progressively better. I practice every day, and I’ve seen it in my jewelry, my book art, my drawing, and even in my ideas. Plus, I have an idea of shading! And I know to plan my work before I do it! It’s really been great. But you know what was even better?

I was looking for examples of my work from my classes in my phone (because I take pictures of it), and my husband looked over and asked, “Why do you have a picture of a spider in your phone?!?”

Because, for those who know me are aware, I’m terrified of spiders. My having a picture of a spider in my phone would just never, never, never, ever happen.

The thing is – that picture wasn’t of a spider. It was of a spider that I drew and then cut out of black construction paper for my first design project!

Okay, so it isn’t perfect. And you may look at it and not think that it’s brilliant. But it’s an amazing sign to me. It shows me that I can learn this, that I can do that – that I can art!

That all said – now I need your help to keep arting…

Indigogo is almost over!

It ends on October 6! You have just about two days to give me money! What’s taking you so long?

If you prefer to get more for your money and don’t just want to be a sweet, wonderful, caring individual, you can also go ahead and check out my awesome Etsy shop!

Buy something!