The John C. Campbell Experience

John C. Campbell painting studioEach spring and fall for the past several years I have had the privilege of co-teaching a plein air painting class with Kathleen Wobie at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N. Carolina.  We originally taught classes by ourselves, assisting each other when we had full classes.  We realized how much we enjoyed teaching together and how our completely different styles of painting seemed to liberate our students into exploring their own natural painting styles, so we decided to team up and co-teach.  It has been working well and has been fun for all of us!

The school itself, based on the Danish concept of “folks sharing with folks,” is a relaxed and happy place to holiday for a week in a rustic and beautiful rural mountain setting while learning or developing everything from painting to metalwork, woodwork, fiber arts and glass (have a look at the link to see the wide variety of offerings).  We leave our cars behind and walk across pathways in the forest or in the fields, sharing meals together in the community dining hall, and enjoying a host of activities open to all in the mornings and evenings if we wish. What I personally love is the chance to open the windows at night for the fresh breeze, the sounds of the many birds and critters, watching the fireflies in the fields and ducking out every time I wake up at night to see a sky full of stars.  We always return with new friends and all kinds of memories!  Aside from teaching, I found a new hobby for myself ~ making kaleidoscopes!

This past class was particularly interesting.  We had five professional artists/teachers and an intrepid retiree who had made the most interesting outdoor easel and transport carrier and who has jumped headlong into painting.  It was a great opportunity to talk about our “comfort zones” and how we all long to push our boundaries to discover new things in the way we see the world, think about it and express it in paint.  We learn so much ourselves in the process of sharing with each other.

The weather this time fluctuated wildly between rain and overcast skies to hot and sunny days, giving us perfect opportunities to study light in the landscape.  The school has acquired a new property, so we found a new place to be sheltered outdoors when it rained.

Painting at John C. Campbell Folk School

painting from the porch




I’m looking forward to taking another class at the school as well as to teaching our next class in September…

~Mary Jane Volkmann


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