Saturday, August 31, 2013

My art studio - finally complete!

So the room is done, and I'm going to show you before and after pictures!  (and by the way, the wall color is NOT accurate in the photo above, but I can't seem to get it right in this photo, so..)

What room?  I guess I should explain.  My son will be 25 this winter.  He is 2 years out of college, and lives and works in Boston.  Unfortunately, he doesn't get home too often.  Meanwhile, being retired, I wanted to a place to do some artwork and assorted crafty projects.  I used to use my large classroom tables for a space when I was working on a project.  But I haven't had studio space in my own home since I got married almost 26 years ago.  Other than the kitchen, every single room in our home had wall-to-wall carpeting.  And I really didn't think I could afford  (or even want to) rent studio space outside of my home.

So I had an idea:  I asked my son if I could transform his old bedroom.  He said sure, as long as the bed was still there, and a drawer for some spare clothing. Hurray!  Then hubby, a retired architect, drew up a floor plan of the room.  It has slanty ceilings and he suggested putting in dormer windows for more light and headroom.  But the cost was prohibitive.  Plus I'm more than a foot shorter than him  so the headroom wasn't as much of an issue.  But I moved around little cutouts of the furniture and came up with a plan.

One day, I said "I'm going to Lowe's to get paint samples and flooring samples".  My husband was stunned.  He didn't think I planned to start the renovation immediately.  But I did.  I came home with cans of paint, cans of spray paint for the storage units, and dragged him back with me to look at the flooring and place the order.  His jaw practically hit the floor.  Now?!!?  Anyhow, less than a month later, it is all done!!

Actually, I don't have great before pictures, because by the time I remembered to document the process, I'd already taken down the heavy room-darkening dark brown and black patterned curtains, and my son's pictures were off the walls, the giant Phish poster was off the slanted ceiling, and my stuff was all over the place in boxes.  But at that point half the room looked like this.
 And now it looks like this:
It's hard to tell the colors from these photos, but when we started the work, the room had a beige rug, old tan comforter, light coffee walls, dark brown moldings, and darker brown modular storage units (which I have kept) - the colors were chosen by my son when he was in middle school - mostly browns, tans, and black accents, curtains always closed; very dark; the colors, especially with the slanty ceilings, made the room feel small.Here's the other half of the room.

So the first step (after emptying the room of everything but the bed, an old desk chair, and the cat) was removing the carpet, because you can't have an art studio that is carpeted!
Really?  I have to move?
 We have a helper.
 Padding is removed, and we are down to the plywood sub-floor. 
 Bored with the process.
 Kitty loved the tarp on the bed, whether she was playing under it, or laying on it watching us paint.  I painted all the moldings and the walls, and hubby did the ceiling.  I'm short, he's tall.
After we painted the moldings, and started painting the corners, the new light colors made the former color look like it was salmony-pink!  It was quite bizarre.
Newly painted walls! Moldings, a pale blue, I think called 'lagoon'.  Walls, 'fresh linen'.  My goal was to make the room fresh, light and airy, kind of like an ocean breeze.  I planned to also paint the door, but my husband had another (better) plan.  The door was painted with multiple layers of lumpy paint.  It looked awful.  He removed the door, and removed all the paint, and sanded and oiled it.  You'll see it later.
Then it was time to put in the new floor.  I selected a vinyl plank flooring that we could easily install ourselves.  Or that my husband could.  I really wanted to do the work, but he put on his best macho act and told me he would be doing it himself.  Who am I to argue?  So I went to a movie matinee (The Butler) and lunch with friends to stay away and not be too annoying, and also sewed new curtains and made a little cushion for kitty, and I primed and painted the terrific particle board table I had purchased.   
 Note: my husband did not like the fabric I picked; he thought the tab fabric should have been the whole curtain.  He did not like the molding color I picked; he thought is was too light.  And he didn't agree on my floor selection.  But it was going to be MY room, and I was paying for it, so my choices stuck.  But, when the painting was done, he loved the color of both the walls and the moldings.  (See?  I knew it would work!)  And he agrees the floor is simply fabulous.  But I doubt he's changed his mind about the curtains.  By the way, that's kitty's cushion on my old ch air.  It is two-sided, knotted together around a foam cushion, no sewing at all!  Cool, huh?
And when the floor was done, we carried the storage modules out to the backyard, and I spray-primed and painted them in 4 different colors - pale blue, pale sage, cream, and a soft yellow-gold.  Again, hubby was skeptical, but they turned out just as I had envisioned.  The room was put back together, he reinstalled all the light fixtures (the room has track lighting), the door, and anything else that needed screwing, wiring, or nailing in place.  I bought a new quilt for the bed, some throw rugs, some storage baskets, an loaded everything in.  Here are some views of the completed room, starting with some of the storage modules.  I still have stuff to organize and put away, but I've made a good start.  The two drawers belong to my son's spare clothes!
 The cat-patterned cloth on the bed is a coverlet for kitty, so she doesn't shed all over the nice new stuff.  It will only work if she sleeps on it.   Which of course she won't.
 The gorilla doesn't have a name.  Can you help?
 Here's a good view that shows my beautiful (and waterproof!) floor, and a fun textured (and quite comfy) rug I found in the clearance department of  TJ Maxx.  I bought all the storage basket-y things there too. 
 Yes, there's a little old TV in the corner, on top of a couple more storage modules.  It might come in handy for 'company' from time to time.  The red cart I've had for a while - I use it for my painting supplies and palette when I'm at the easel.  I can't show you the other side of what's on the easel.  It's a monumental mess, sort of a failed textural experiment.  I'm going to try to save it.
 And a poster of a sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, that I just adore.  And oh - there's the wonderfully antique looking door that my husband spent two days sanding, and more time still oiling it, and refinishing all the hardware.  Thank you, hubs!!
 Above is a view looking straight into the room, and below is my cute table, and a view of one of the tracks of the track lighting. 
 And a better look at the door.

 The shelf under the window is actually an old bookshelf that was vertical in my son's room.  Hubby sliced off the bottom and installed it for me so I can put stuff on it, in it, and under it.  And here's a cat's eye view of the table. 
 And speaking of cat's eye views, here's the cat on the other side of the closed door, looking for a game.  I willingly obliged. 
I don't know why this last pic posted sideways.  Maybe because the other photos were all shot with my Nikon, and this wasn't?  The pic of me, hubs and son was shot on a vacation trip to Alaska, summer of 2005.  Fabulous time there!!
Anyhow, it's done, and now I have an art studio, my son still has a place to sleep, and it will also function as a guest bedroom in the event of a visitor.  The room feels bigger, lighter, fresher, just like I hoped.  Hopefully in the future I'll be posting what I create in here!  By the way, feel free to ask questions about the strange things on the shelves.  Thanks for sharing the tour of my renovation project!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaching Art - the sensitive concept of nudity

This photo has nothing to do with this post (though the caterpillar is certainly naked) but I shot it today and wanted to share.  It is sometimes called a 'parsley worm' but will turn into a black swallowtail butterfly.  It would be great, I think, for teaching pattern and repetition, or for an Eric Carle lesson on the Very Hungry Caterpillar
Because of Pinterest, people often view posts I wrote a long time ago.  Today I received a comment on a post from December 2010 titled Surrealism again - 4th grade collages.  In this post I mention the video Get Surreal with Salvador Dali, as I have on several other posts on this blog.  I have shown it many times over the past few years.  The commenter said "I am appalled that you would show that video to fourth graders. It has SEVERAL instances of nudity. I am a teacher, by the way, and I would never expose such young souls to any form of nudity. That is precisely why this country is going down the toilet."  I responded by thanking the writer for his/her comment, and saying that I would address the topic here in a new post.  So here I am.  Though I must take a moment here and say I am flattered.  I  have never been accused of anything quite so profound as the demise of our country.  Wow.  I wonder how my showing a museum-made movie about a famous artist and art movement to 4th graders compares to the performance of Miley Cyrus at last night's VMA awards?  Which one of us is more morally bankrupt?  Do you think Miley learned those moves from watching a movie about a famous artist?  Am I being too snarky here?

So, about that video, referred to in the comment:  Get Surreal with Salvador Dali is an award-winning half-hour video available for free to educators from the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg Florida.  It is an educational video made for kids.  It is narrated by two kids.  By the end of the video the kids will be singing along with the Dali song.  They love this video!  A shorter version of it is also available on YouTube, though I personally use the full-length version.  Yes, I admit it has some brief glimpses of nudity, which I referred to in my original post as 'giggle-worthy', and will describe here.  First of all, at one point there is discussion of a double image in a painting, and there happens to be a part of a woman with her naked breast showing off to the side of the painting, though this part of the image is never discussed.  But the most prevalent nudity in the video is the use of quick clips which show this statue (below) chatting with another piece of artwork as part of the narration of the video.  The drawers open and close as she talks and it is very silly. 

 Before I showed the video to my 4th and 5th graders, I discussed with my students what they would be seeing, in regard to the nudity.  (I also discussed it with my principal, who absolutely gave me the go-ahead to show the video.  Believe me, I did give it the appropriate consideration before showing the movie.)  Anyhow, prior to the movie, I reminded the kids that lots of artwork throughout history has been done based on the human nude, because it is a beautiful source of artistic inspiration, and that if they went to an art museum they would likely see paintings and sculptures based on the human form.  I told them that sometimes when they saw a nude in the Dali video it would be funny and it was OK to giggle, but to control themselves so they didn't miss any of the movie since it moves very quickly and is quite informative, and I expected them to remember and be able to discuss what they had seen.  In truth, the kids laughed more at the flying mustache than at the talking 'chest of drawers'!  But the biggest giggle from the kids, the only place where I actually have had to stop the video briefly, was when the word 'crutch' is spoken with a trill of the letter R.  (crutches are mentioned in the video as a commonly used item for symbolism in Dali's paintings.)  The kids thought the word spoken had been 'crotch', not crutch!  Here's a Dali painting with a crutch.  This painting is one that is discussed in the video. 

When showing work of  famous artists to my students, I have always eliminated anything that I thought potentially inappropriate.  I clipped together pages of books that included nudes so that the kids could not see them.  But sometimes the human body found its way into art projects in ways that were unavoidable. For example, when my 6th graders built these sculptures of  'people in motion' (this was not a surrealism project), it was important to be as accurate as possible to create a realistic look.  So 'boobies' were added as needed with little wads of newspaper and tape, hips were shaped, and so on.  And aren't the results super? 

basic armature structure
adding plaster bandage
 And of course, adding paint and embellishment

Anyhow...  I did consider introducing the artist Niki de Saint Phalle to my students, and using her work as inspiration for some projects, and while I adore her work, I decided against it because I was concerned someone might be offended by the overabundance of large colorful breasts.  Here's a sample of her amazing, colorful, joyous work.
And I even edited some nudes out of the children's art books of Mike Venezia.   But lets face it, the truth is, when we get out of the shower, we are all nude, are we not?  So I'm back to the comment written by my reader, about my 'exposing such young souls to any sort of nudity'.  I don't think what I showed them was really that damaging or provocative, or even previously unseen.  What do YOU think is or is not appropriate for art class, and at what age?  Would you show this particular video?  I'd love your opinions, whether or not you agree with mine.  By the way, here are a couple of collages done by my 4th graders based on a  project they saw presented in the Get Surreal video. 
And now I'll end this post, with another nude from nature, shot during a recent kayaking sojourn.
I call this 'Turtle Ballet'

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rainy day, sunny days in Kennebunkport Maine

Parson's Beach, Kennebunk, Maine
at the Old House Parts Co.
What do you do in a seaside town on a rainy day, particularly in a seaside town that you have extensively explored for more than 25 years?  Yes, of course there's fresh seafood, and yes, there's shopping and art galleries, and in neighboring Wells there are antique stores galore, but we wanted something a little different, and the innkeeper at the B&B where we were staying suggested this place, the Old House Parts Co. (an architectural salvage business) where we ended up spending more than two hours! 
 This is just a small sampling of what we saw there.
 There were hundreds of glass bricks like I used to make bookshelves in my very first apartment.  There were dozens of claw-foot bathtubs, chandeliers, doors, stained glass windows, shutters, and more; hundreds of doorknobs and hinges; there was even a church steeple, and oh, an airplane hanging from the ceiling!  And of course the huge peacock being investigated by hubs in the photo above.  My hubby, by the way, is a retired architect with a special fondness for historic architecture, and he was having the best time at this place!  Afterward, we made a couple of antique store stops, and before we knew it, it was time to pick up our son at the train station and get a dose of fresh seafood.  
Napoleon sleeping
 The weather for the rest of our visit to Kennebunkport was sunny and magnificent.  I already showed you pics from our day building a dragon in the sand of our favorite beach, Goose Rocks Beach.   We also spent part of a sunny day sailing on the schooner Eleanor.  Hubs and son both enjoy sailing small sailboats, so this was a big treat for the two of them.  Not much of a sailor myself, I was along for the ride.  The day was so breezy that not all the sails were up!  But the ocean was calm and lovely.
my son, basking
  Then, after son returned to Boston we spent a fabulous day at magnificent secluded Parson's Beach, a hidden treasure.
tidal pool, low tide

Before we set out on our 5 hour drive home, we explored a secreted little 1.5m hike through the woods behind a graveyard, called the Secret Garden Preserve.  So of course there were mushrooms!
 So... I know this is primarily intended as an art education blog, and I've been busy showing you all my vacation photos, but I promise, more artsy stuff will be coming soon!  (Well, photos ARE artsy, aren't they?)  But soon, when it's complete, I will show you my renovation project start to finish (son's bedroom turned into art studio), I will update you on my DragonWing Arts business venture, tell you about a new jewelry technique I learned, and share some art ed classroom ideas in prep for workshops I'll be teaching.  So please don't give up on me, readers! 

And for those of you who have started back to school, welcome back, and for my friends here in NY who don't start until after Labor Day, enjoy the remainder of this lovely summer!