Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Artists that Inspire Us

Welcome to the first of my monthly posts as a member of the new Art Ed Blogger Network!  A group of bloggers have all gotten together to post on the same day each month all on the same topic.  You can find links to all the other blogs in the network at the bottom of this post.  Have fun checking them all out!   

 For our first month, we've selected the topic "Artists That Inspire Us"  I've chosen three artists to talk about today: Henri Matisse, Laurel Burch, and Dan Reeder.  I hope you'll join us all each month!

On Facebook, I recently shared a pic of a new painting I was working on, and a friend told me it reminded him of a Matisse.  To me, that was the ultimate comment; it's no secret I'm a huge fan.  I am always smitten by artwork with vibrant,cheerful, and rich color, and the playful use of patterns and shapes.  Matisse just has it all for me, along with a joyousness of spirit that makes me happy.  Which is why, I suppose, I've used his work as inspiration for so many art lessons over my years of teaching, a number of which I've posted about on the blog and will link for you in this post.
First up is one of my favorites Matisse lessons: 3rd grade "Fauve Fauves" - wild beasts (we used African animals as our inspiration) painted in wild 'fauve' colors!  Ive blogged about versions of the project HERE and HERE.  And my 2nd graders made inventive collages of 'fauve fauves' using various scrap materials.  I posted about them HERE.
And Matisse was the inspiration for my 4th graders' wonderful still life paintings (example above) that I shared HERE, and my second graders' still life work (below) posted HERE
And first graders used Matisse's 'painting with scissors' process as inspiration for the colorful and textural pieces that I shared HERE
You can find a link to another 'painting with scissors' project that I developed, for Pacon, HERE. You'll have to go there to see what it is!

It is many of the same characteristics found in Matisse's work, the rich joyous colors and use of decorative pattern, that excite me in Laurel Burch's work.  I love that her work is so commercially accessible, too. And just as Matisse faced physical adversity (we know his physical limitations, due to his health, are what inspired the 'painting with scissors' body of work), so did Laurel Burch.  She lived a life of pain, with a disease that caused her to have fragile bones that broke easily.  Yet the pain is never visible in her vibrant and joyous artwork.  We looked at her Fantastic Felines as inspiration for these gorgeous papier-mache cats, made by my 5th graders. I blogged about them a few times, including HERE and HERE
Her Celestial Dreams were the inspiration for these works by grade 2.  I posted about them HERE

When I first began teaching elementary school, after 8 years teaching high school, I was terrified.  What do elementary art students do?  I thought "they make stuff out of papier-mache, of course!"  Unfortunately, I'd never used papier-mache in my life.  While at a state art ed convention, I came across a book named The Simple Screamer, that outlined the process for making a goofy-looking papier-mache monster.  The book was by Dan Reeder ("Dan the Monster Man"), and I was hooked.  A couple of students and I worked together to build a silly 'screamer' using his instructions.  Dan's hints on the process really got me going and helped me be successful.  When I discovered that Dan was actually a teacher (he's now retired; he taught 5th grade), and had a passion for making papier-mache dragons, it excited me even more.  You can find out more about his and his work on his website, Gourmet Paper Mache.  Here's another one of Dan's books. Many of you have probably seen his work, in particular his time lapse videos of the construction of his dragons.   
Since that time, papier-mache has definitely become one of my passions, both to do myself, and to teach.  Over the years, from time to time I've touched base with Dan via his blog. I contacted him a couple of days ago.  Knowing he lives in Seattle, I thought maybe there'd be a way to tour his studio while I'm in the city for the NAEA convention. But his studio is in his basement, and since he retired from teaching, he no longer lets people tour his studio.  I'm disappointed but I'm retired too, so I understand.  I'm hoping there's some places in the city where I can actually get to see one of his dragons or other creations.  By the way, while my process wasn't identical to his, he inspired me to build Lucy, the dragon in my art room!  Yes, there was really a dragon!  Here she is, relaxing on an art room table while her wings were undergoing repair. 
 I used Dan's 'cloth-mache' process to build her.  Because she's about 5' long, I had to work on her in my backyard over the summer, and it took me about 3 years to finish her (it was weather-dependent, and I'm easily distracted)!  Then she went to live in my art room, where my students loved her.  She is named Lucy (in the Sky) after the Beatles song, of course. For the complete story on Lucy and her construction and life, check out this old post, HERE.  In the pic below, she's under construction.
Nowadays, Lucy is, like me, retired.  She resides at our 'camp' in the Adirondacks.  Most of her time is spent snoozing on the bunk bed, but sometimes she gets out and suns herself on the rocks.  
I hope you'll come back on the first Tuesday of each month to see what the Art Ed Blogger Network has in store to read! (also in between, because I have lots of other posts planned, too!)

Art Teacher Blogs
This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger's Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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