Santa Fe artist leads students on journey of self-exploration


Nationally-known Santa Fe artist Amy Stein encourages her students to explore their creative selves by drawing self-portraits.

And she's coming to Payson this weekend to help residents here do just that.

The very first thing she wants prospective students to know about her local workshop is that, no matter their level of art training and talent, they're in for some big and very personal surprises.

There are two parts to the six-hour workshop, Stein said by telephone from her New Mexico home.

"First, I teach the technical parts of self-portraiture, like how to draw an oval, divide the oval into eyes, nose and mouth for the actual construction of the face. It's like a how-to book."

Once that's done, Stein said, the program takes an introspective turn.

"What follows is a meditation, where the person gets in touch with what they've drawn," Stein said. "The fact that they have drawn their own self-portrait accesses emotions and feelings that they were otherwise not connected with. And the meditation shows them where they need to go in their development.

"It's a very emotional, mysterious, powerful process, which I have tried to understand myself, and don't. I have no idea why so many profound issues come up when your own self-portraits get you in touch with these things. I've spoken to neurologists, and they don't have any more answers than I do.

"But you can feel it happen," she said. "You can see how it affects people, how it connects them with their creative selves."

A native New Yorker, Stein has lived in Santa Fe on and off since 1978 "More on than off," she said. It is there that her national reputation was cemented by a switch of focus toward Southwestern styles and subjects, such as her popular portraits of Native Americans and Hispanics.

Portraiture has been Stein's specialty since the age of 9, she said. And her art gallery work is not the only outlet she's found for the talent.

Stein happened to attend the highly-publicized East Coast trial of "Scarsdale Diet Doctor" murderer Jean Harris and, furthermore, happened to be seated next to the courtroom artist.

"I learned how to do it right there," said Stein, who returned to Santa Fe and added the title of Professional Courtroom Artist to her resume.

Although she retired from that calling about three years later, when television cameras were first allowed in courtrooms, Stein said she is now experiencing a "reincarnation" in that line of work because so many judges are booting cameras back out of the courtroom. Her current assignment is the Albuquerque trial of Wen Ho Lee, the former Los Alamos scientist accused of copying and perhaps selling nuclear secrets.

The primary outlet for Stein's talents, however, remains her Southwestern portraits and, of course, the workshops the concept of which came to Stein after she received a federal grant to spend two years teaching as an artist-in-residence for a Santa Fe elementary school.

"That's where I first wondered how I was going to teach portraiture to children and I figured out a step-by-step, failure-proof method utilizing charcoal to help them make very realistic, three-dimensional portraits," Stein said.

"One day when I looked at each individual portrait, I realized that each kid even though they had never drawn before, and weren't looking in a mirror had drawn an exact self-portrait. It was a true epiphany. It became clear to me that every portrait a person does is a self-portrait, whether they want to or not. This became the basis of the workshop."

Stein said she has held the class throughout the United States for a myriad of students from psychiatrists to social workers, from children to women in crisis.

"What I've found is that it's failure-proof," she said. "Anyone who is not 100 percent (happy with it) gets their money back in full. That's how much I believe in it.

"And the most important thing is, you do not have to have any prior art experience. In fact, it's better if you don't. And it's even better if you think you're untalented."

If you go


What: A reception for Amy Stein

When: from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, July 14

Where: The upstairs exhibit hall of the Rim Country Museum, 700 Green Valley Parkway

Features: A silent auction of a fine art print by Amy Stein that will benefit the museum's School Outreach Program


What: Amy Stein's "Exploring Your Creative Self Workshop"

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 15

Where: The Senior Circle Center, 215 N. Beeline Highway

Cost: $50 per person

Price includes: A continental breakfast, lunch, and all necessary art materials

For information: 474-8392

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