Thursday, April 27, 2017

Olympics of the VIsual Arts 2017

 Every year since I've retired, I've helped judge a statewide creative competition called Olympics of the Visual Arts, or OVA, and I've blogged about it here.  This year's event took place a couple of weeks ago.  My time judging was a whirlwind and I didn't get to see as much of the work as in previous years, plus I was wrestling with a camera problem so my pics are not great, but still I thought I'd share a taste of the kids' works with you here.  I was a judge in the painting category, where the theme had to do with optical illusions.  The students have a lot of options for how to approach their creations.  The piece above is elementary level, and directly below is a high school piece. 

My personal favorite painted illusion is shown below.  The only thing "real" on the table is the pencil.  Seriously. This is a middle school piece!  Pretty impressive, no?

I thought the elementary piece pictured below was a lot of fun, with the infinite reflection beginning with the 3-D element.  This piece was huge. 

 Another awesome middle school level work of art, below.

 Honestly, I only got to breeze through the work in the sculpture, architecture, photography, and illustration categories.  And I didn't get to see the fashion creations at all, which was kind of disappointing, since they are always so amazingly incredible.  Anyhow, here's a few more pics of what I did get to see. 

I don't know what the challenge was, but the piece below seems to have an an Alice in Wonderland/underwater tea party sort of theme, I think?

I'll close with one more optical illusion piece with a 3-dimensional element, created by a team of high school students. 
 To see work from previous years, and read more information about this event, you can check out my prior posts at these links from 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It's easy being green!!

 My DragonWing Arts students  have had two weeks with no class, due to the school spring vacation timing.  But at least I can give you another sneak peek of what we were up to before vacation, in preparation for completing the gnome homes they have been making.  Here are my kooky kiddos, making "moss" to place on the ground around and under their gnome homes.
Everyone started with a protective glove and/or a plastic bag, to keep hands clean.  But within a couple of minutes almost everyone decided they should get at least one hand, and maybe two, covered with paint. 
Basically, we used polyester fiberfill and acrylic paint (various greens, and some brown and dark yellow) mushed together.  I've talked about making this stuff before, in this blog post here
As I said in that  prior post, it is NOT WOOL and this is NOT FELTING.  I am allergic to wool.  I swear, I get itchy just LOOKING at the pictures people post of their felted creations.  As a matter of fact, I'm about to make what will probably be a very controversial statement.  Please don't be too shocked!  Here it is:

I honestly don't know why so many people love felted stuff, creating it, or wearing it, or making little crafty creations out of it, even if they aren't allergic to the wool like I am!  It even LOOKS itchy!  And mostly it looks like mats of hairy dryer lint to me.  I just don't understand why you all seem to love this stuff.  Just an opinion, I know, but as for me, it's "no thank you" to felted stuff.   Don't hate me!! 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A little Pop and Op mish-mash and a Sneak-Peek!

My DragonWing Arts students have work-in-progress on some really fun projects, but I want to get them done before I tell you too much!  So in the meantime, I realize that I've never shared some of this winter's work with you, when we our class was centered around a theme of Pop and Op art.  For one project, we looked at the work of Roy Lichtenstein, and I introduced a project I've done before, creating words based on his style.  Based on the examples I shared, I had expected the students to all select words like "WOW", "POW", ZOOM", "ZING" and so on.  But, because of the nature of this class (my private business, it is an after-school art enrichment program) I generally am very flexible with adapting to and allowing the choices of the students, since I do not have to worry about meeting certain standards or doing grading and so on.  As a result, a couple of students selected their pet's names, as in the two pics below.
 Or their own names.
 Or just something they really liked
 For the steps we used to complete this project, go to this blog post from 2012 where I completely detailed the process.  In the meantime, the materials were simple: tempera in red, yellow, blue and black, paintbrushes, pencil erasers for stampers, and cotton swabs. 

 For an Op art project, I introduced the kids to the work of Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley.  I have a poster of a Vasarely painting that is a circular radial design, where it looks like concentric circles were cut in the design and each ring was shifted slightly, creating a sense of movement.  I experimented with finding ways to do this on cardboard or foam core, and the kids were psyched to try to create their own.  (My samples are pictured above.)  Again, of course, what they did was totally different from my samples, but I still think they are fun!  Here's some of their creations, below. 

And now for the promised sneak peek!  Our theme this spring is "the magical garden" and my seven students are making papier-mache garden gnomes, and gnome homes in tree stumps or mushrooms, made of cardboard and plaster bandage.  And then we have some adorable birds and bird houses, and hopefully we will find the time to make some flowers for our gardens!  Below, our garden gnomes before painting.
 And gnome homes in progress. 
 I wish I could show you more, but you'll just have to wait a couple of weeks!  Sorry!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hidden Treasures, Artistic Inspiration

A visit to a somewhat obscure museum and some other sightseeing have given me so much food for thought, as well as great lesson motivations.  The museum was The Nicholas Roerich Museum; the beautiful paintings above and below are by Roerich.
My husband and I recently spent a few days playing tourist in NYC, and decided to forego the big art museums that we've been to so many times (the Met, MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim) and instead explored a lovely little museum, discovered a magnificent cathedral, did some sightseeing of the city from the Top of the Rock, and communed with butterflies at the Museum of Natural History.

But first lets go back to the Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the inspiring paintings of Roerich (Russian; 1874-1947).  I thought his rich landscapes could be terrific motivations for multiple lessons.  For example, when teaching perspective - use these paintings to show foreground, mid-ground, background.  (By the way, Roerich spent part of his life residing in the Himalayas, which is why so many of these majestic mountains appear in his work.)
Perhaps the paintings could be used for teaching about color harmony and how certain color relationships can be effective in landscape painting, or how to uses values of color to create form.  Many of Roerich's landscapes were monochromatic, or mostly monochromatic with a focal point of a contrasting or complimentary color.  Other landscapes were more of an analogous color combo, and others  used limited color palettes.
Along with the color and perspective, there's also a lovely peace and spirituality visible throughout his work.  Subtle imagery from various religions appear in many paintings, and Roerich was responsible for the creation of the Roerich Pact, which has for its object "the protection of historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational, and cultural institutions both in time of peace and in time of war, and provides for the use of a distinctive flag to identify the monuments and institutions coming within the protection of the treaty."  The flag was designed by Roerich, and you can see the design below, and in the painting below it.
 Wouldn't it be nice to design a lesson that represents peace and the protection and preservation of cultural heritages worldwide?  I think, at a time when many of our cultural institutions are being threatened (public radio and TV, and the National Endowment for the Arts, for example), remembering that our nation has signed a pact to agree to protect these institutions is a worthwhile topic to learn about. 
But anyhow, let me just say this - if you ever are in NYC and have a couple of hours to spare, make a visit to this hidden gem of a museum.  And when you are done, walk just a few short blocks and visit The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  I'll be honest; I'm Jewish and am not easily moved by churches and cathedrals.  But this one....  it's soaring architecture is stunning and worth your time.  Below are a couple of views of the cathedral that do not do it justice (it is one of the largest cathedrals in the world but I didn't have a wide angle lens...).  There's also a pic of a nearby statue that I fell in love with.  I couldn't get closer to it because of the weather, but hopefully this will give you enough of a sense of this cool statue.

Now back to the butterflies....  This was my second visit to the Butterfly Conservatory at the Museum of Natural History.  It appears butterflies like me.  Last time (three years ago), one landed on my hair like a hair ornament and wouldn't leave.   This year, one landed on my backpack/purse, another on my forehead, and a giant one on my cheek!  How lucky am I??  By the way, if you want to have a butterfly experience and you will be in NYC, the Conservatory will be at the museum for another month or two.
Below is the butterfly that was on my cheek, and the beautiful blue butterfly underneath is the SAME species of butterfly, with its wings open!!  That's not my shoulder in the pic; it's just a random guy who was visiting the exhibit, who was lucky enough to host the butterfly sitting still, on full display with his wings open. 
 And a few other butterfly beauties...
Think of all the possible lesson motivations - repeating patterns, color, camouflage (like the "false eye" on the butterfly on my cheek).  And how about creating something with a pattern that looks dull on one side, and then opens to reveal a rich color like that gorgeous cobalt blue?
And while I'm at it, I have a pet peeve about the way butterflies are often drawn in kids' art.  Let's show kids photos of butterflies that clearly indicate where their wings are hooked to their body!  First of all, butterflies have two pairs of wings.  The wings are attached to the thorax, which is the body segment between the head and the abdomen (which is the longer end part of the butterfly).  Butterfly wings are ONLY attached to the central segment, the thorax!!  Let's stop making butterflies that are shaped like the letter B with its mirror image!

It was an inspirational trip to NYC.  Between this trip, and my time there for the NAEA convention, I've had a lot of touristy NYC time, including two museums that do not allow photographs.  I highly recommend them both: the Neue Gallery in NYC is filled with incredible Klimt paintings, and the work of other German expressionists.  And the Frick Collection is filled with masterful paintings by European old masters.  Also on display was an exhibition of magnificent work by Turner.  Photography was allowed only in a garden courtyard, which was where I took this photo below.  They never said we couldn't photograph the windows, and I'll be honest; I only took this photo after I saw someone else doing the same thing.  And then I felt guilty and put my camera away.
I love knowing I can have inspiring travels without having to fly across an ocean!  
Thank you, NYC!