Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Artful Excursions!

Since I'm retired, I can't really talk about Artful Excursions in terms of field trips with kids, but I think, even if you are still actively teaching, it's important (informative, restorative, and enlightening) to take your own artful excursions, whether it involves visiting museums, or traveling to take an immersive class, exploring a botanical garden, or simply hitting the road with a camera and/or a sketchbook.  I'm going to highlight a few of my favorite artful excursions.  I'm leaving out the obvious: the Met and MoMA in NYC (though the pic above is from a visit to MoMA a few years ago).  I've been to both dozens of times.
I love to visit sculpture parks, both big and well-known, or small and off-the-beaten-path:
  • The Storm King Art Center (pictured above) is an incredible place, a 500 acre outdoor sculpture park, in NY's Hudson Valley, filled with monumental sculpture.  I blogged about a visit there a while ago.  You can find the post HERE.
  • You've probably never heard of the Circle Museum.  We made a chance discovery of this quirky roadside attraction while driving to take a hike at Bash Bish Falls, near the border of NY and MA.  You can read about my visits to the Circle Museum in two blog posts, HERE and HERE. The pics below are from this really cool place, all the work of one talented artist, Bijan Mahmoodi.

Oddball little museums:
  • Check out my post about The Museum of Bad Art in the Boston area, HERE. It may make you feel better about your own artwork, if you lack confidence!  But don't think that it's mean to have a museum like this.  It's all very tongue-in-cheek fun, right down to the Somerville location, in the grungy basement of a movie theater.  Admission to the museum is simply your movie ticket. There's another location in the Boston area as well.
  • I posted about The Barbie Expo in Montreal HERE.  If you're into fashion, or Barbie dolls, or both, this is the place to go!  I was really inspired.
  • At the little Harvard Museum of Natural History, there's an exhibit of glass flowers.  Pretty amazing works of art, they were made for botanical research.  Somehow, I forgot to post about it, probably because we visited it on the morning of the same day that my son got married.  Anyhow, below is a pic of some of the glass flowers.  Maybe, if you go to the NAEA convention in Boston this March, you could visit this awesome exhibit!  By the way, there's lots more at the museum.  I was especially inspired by exhibits of gorgeous colorful insects. 
  • In tiny Shushan NY, I discovered an exhibit of fairy houses at the Georgi Museum.  Magical!  Read about it in the blog post HERE.  This exhibit inspired me to make gnome homes with my students, who were building papier-mache garden gnomes. You can find a post about them HERE.
Favorite museums:
  • I can return to Mass MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) time after time.  It's a super-cool place.  And if you're in the North Adams/Williamstown MA area for a couple of days, you an visit Mass MoCA one day, and the nearby Clark Art Institute the next.  Read about my visits to Mass MoCA HERE and HERE, and in other posts as well.
  • There's so many wonderful museums to visit in NYC, and I've been to the Met and MoMA many many times.  But it's always worth hopping the subway to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Museum, a real gem.  (and bonus, there's a nearby botanical garden, too!).  While at the museum, you'll get to see Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, a spectacular piece of feminist art. And on your way back to Manhattan, walk across the fabulous iconic Brooklyn Bridge!
  • It may not be an "art" museum, but I return repeatedly to the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Along with all the other treasures there, each year for a period of time in the winter, there's a butterfly conservatory.  It's certainly an artistic inspiration!  Blog posts HERE and HERE. 
  • And if all else fails, take a walk.  It can be just a walk in your neighborhood, or a walk in the woods, or a walk on the beach.  All are artistic inspirations for me.  Bring a camera if you won't have time to sketch.  Below, from a walk through Central Park in Manhattan. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Project: People in Motion

I love inventing new projects.  My DragonWing Art students (2 girls and one boy) just completed a couple of these first-time projects, one of which I'm sharing with you today!
The theme for our 7-week session was 'Let's Get Moving'.  For the project I'm sharing today, the theme was 'people in motion'.  Each student created their own movable template for a person, cutting out out body parts and assembling them all with brass fasteners so that the limbs could be arranged in various poses.  I thought about showing the students Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, but not knowing two of the children or their parents very well, I decided against it. The kids did a great job, nevertheless.
Once assembled, the templates were traced repeatedly performing a moving action, such as the bowling image below.  The outlines were traced over with a black Sharpie.

Then, class was postponed for a week because of an unexpected visitor in our classroom. I'm terrified of rodents, and was freaked out to see a squirrel standing on the table next to the drying rack.  Pest control was called, and after a few days the invader was trapped and released hopefully very far away. With my husband's help, the gap at the bottom of the classroom door was covered with metal stripping, and the building was better secured.  Nothing had been destroyed in the room but with the squirrel trapped in there, he'd made a big mess, with stuff knocked over on the floor and squirrel droppings here and there.  The custodian did a first cleanup but was afraid to move the art stuff.  So then I took everything out of the room and did a thorough cleaning, and put  it all back, getting rid of some useless stuff in the process.  Then the custodian did a final cleaning/disinfecting.  Hopefully no more rodents, ever!

Anyhow, once the classroom was ours again, and the templates were traced, the students had a choice of three ways to add color.  One way was to trace inside the outlines of the figures with markers, and then use wet paintbrushes to pull the color into the figures and let the colors blend, as being done by the boy below.
The girls used the same method to color their figures.

 For their backgrounds, the girls used a second process.  They colored with pastel chalks, and then dipped a finger into liquid starch and used the wet finger to blend  the chalk colors.  The starch helps to blend, and also to 'fix' the chalk.
 One of the girls had missed a class and never outlined her figures with Sharpie.  I think it added an ethereal look to her diver in front of a beautiful sunset (or is it a sunrise?).

Instead of using the chalk and starch, the boy chose to paint his background with tempera paints.
I only had three students in the fall session of my class; one 4th grade girl, and one 5th grade girl,,and a 3rd grade boy.  The two younger kids were first-timers in the class, and none of them had ever met each other before.  After a rather quiet first class, they suddenly all became a wonderful unit, treating each other so nicely, laughing and relaxing and complimenting each other on their work.  By the end of the session, the two girls had exchanged phone numbers to arrange play-dates.  I couldn't have had a nicer little group.

One more time, here's the transformation of the piece at the top of this post, from before and after the chalk color had been added. Pretty cool, isn't it?
Look for another one of the new projects (hint: its based on the 'Let's Get Moving' theme, and was created with papier-mache) in a blog post coming soon! 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

My college sketchbook discovery

Looking for something on my bookshelves yesterday, I came across several black bound sketchbooks from drawing classes and painting classes, taught by professors Alex Minewski and Alex Martin (I adored them both), during college in the early 1970s, in New Paltz NY.  The sketchbooks are filled with drawings such as the articulating cube study of a couple of boots, above.  But what especially intrigued me was discovering a number of assignments written on the inside covers of the sketchbooks. 
We were never given a finite number of drawings to do; instead, we were told to do "endless" articulating cube studies of hands, or drawings of the bases of trees, etc.  Whatever the topic, the number of required drawings was always "endless".  Many drawing assignments refer to the book The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides.
 *By the way, the paper in these sketchbooks is white, though maybe a little discolored by time.  But nowhere near as yellow as they appear in these photos.

Along with drawing assignments, I evidently wrote down assignments for a Freshman Studio class in the same sketchbook.  I remember finding them very obscure and confusing.  I didn't like the teacher.
I  recall doing a vividly colorful abstract painting based on the work of Hans Hoffmann, And then, suddenly, I was instructed to tear open a hole in the painting, for a reason I never totally understood.  I'm guessing it had something to do with getting us to understand that our work was not so precious, and not to be afraid to explore how it could be transformed.  But I had really liked the painting, and the transformation never sat well with me.  I got rid of the painting after the end of the semester. 

If I ever did the drawings of ears, I must have been so embarrassed by them that I made them magically disappear, because they are nowhere to be found in my bound sketchbooks.  But there's plenty of gestures and cube studies of hands...  Even then I was smitten with Flair pens, one of my drawing tools of choice.  I also favored soft pencils and charcoal.
 The sketchbooks have lots of drawings - gestures, cube studies, weight drawings, contours, etc, done of friends doing yoga in the lounge my roommates sleeping or hanging out, and so on.

I especially recalled some of the weekend painting assignments, such as drawing and painting in the old Huguenot cemetery in the town, and a weekend painting assignment based on a still life of a (very smelly) fish on a platter in the painting studio.  But I have no idea what ever happened to most of these paintings, or most of the drawings and paintings I did in college, both in class or as out-of-class assignments. 

I did a bunch of Rouault studies, as well as studies from other artists, in my sketchbooks.  Somewhere in my house I actually still have the self-portrait that I did working in the style of Rouault. 
 And then there's this bit of wisdom, straight out of Mr. Minewski's mouth to my sketchbook.
The sketchbooks of that era were vastly different than the much more journal-based sketchbooks students do today, and I suspect the drawing and painting classes were vastly different as well.  While we were asked to research various artists, we were not asked to keep written notes or reflections in our sketchbooks.  We did absolutely no copying of images from magazines or books or photographs, other than studies of the work of famous artists.  And of course we didn't have cell phones or tablets and such, and honestly, I am glad that we used observation as our primary source of inspiration.  Other than the famous artists studies, ALL of our drawing and painting was done from observation, or at least based on observation with expressive interpretation of what we saw.  We learned, in painting class, to model form using color.  We learned to manipulate the weight of our line and to explore the way forms bent and twisted.  While a lot has changed for me in the decades since my college education, I'm glad that this was the way my education as an artist began.  I'm working to rediscover the skills I learned at that time! 
I hope I haven't bored you too much!!