Sunday, December 27, 2009

Color Works

What can you do when you limit your palette? Students were asked to take a high contrast image, preferably one of their own, and transfer it twice. The finished works were rendered using a set of three analogous colors (colors that appear next to each other on the color wheel) plus black, white, or gray. The other palette consisted of a pair of complementary colors, allowing them to  intermix the complements, or add black, white, or gray.  Getting your values right works every time!

The following three examples include using a simplified image and using four color ways: an achromatic palette of 7 tones from white to black;  three analogous hues with the option of mixing in a bit of black, white, or gray; and two sets of tetradic color relationships. Tetradic color schemes employ four colors arranged into two complementary pairs.

When you fail to alter the saturation of color it can be a bit overwhelming...or thrilling, depending on your own response!

Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let there be light

"All perceiving is also thinking,
All reasoning is also intuition,
All observation is also invention."
Joseph Kosuth, Conceptual Artist

Joseph Kosuth, 1965, neon

Color is light and light is energy.  We love how it looks and it can profoundly affect how we feel.
Not everyone sees color the same way.
Some people even "hear" color.  I once taught a student with synesthesia.  Letters and numbers each had their own color.  Sounds appeared in her mind as colored textures.  David Hockney is a synesthete.  He is now deaf.  How much of his world is he missing?

Students worked on color wheels and color scales: tints, shades, monochromatic, and complementary color pairs.  They were forced to work with the incredibly cheap tempera paints.  The end result was often dreadful, but it also bordered on the sublime.

Both of these students broke with the idea of the wheel, instead exploring their own vision of how a system of hues can be mixed and presented.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cheap Thrills

Texture, value, shape, composition...collage is the perfect art technique to explore ideas.  Finding inexpensive art materials is always helpful.  Recycling printed matter is a must today.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shape Families

"With the most primitive means the artist created something which the most ingenious and efficient technology will never be able to create."  Kasimir Malevich 1879 - 1935

Collage of Student Compositions of Shape Families

We humans enjoy organizing everything in our world and then labeling it.  The students work this time around explored shape families...shapes that would fall into either rectilinear or biomorphic categories.    Any shape that you would encounter in a geometry class would be placed in the former; shapes found in nature, or having an undulating form are placed in the later category.

Each student was charged with producing two designs including each of the shape families.  One could employ values using graphite and the other was rendered with tempera paint.  These are small works, approximately 5" x 7".

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rising by Degrees

"The United States is facing a dramatic demographic challenge: Young Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the population, and they are the least likely to graduate from college. Experts say the future of the American economy is at stake, because higher education is essential in the 21st century economy. Rising by Degrees tells the story of Latino students working towards a college degree—and why it’s so hard for them to get what they want."

Last year my drawing classroom was visited by producer, Emily Hanford, who was documenting the experience of several Latino students at Montgomery College.  Katy Sorto, a student enrolled in this class is the subject of one of the profiles.  I hope that you will visit the link and listen to or read the transcript.  These students face amazing challenges but those who succeed deserve their success.

Everyone wins when these students succeed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Bones

We can live without color but we cannot see without light.  Values formed by moving from light to darkness form how we view the world.  How artists weave values into their compositions can be the support for the image itself.  This foundation can help the viewer make their way through the picture plane.  They can also cause the work to be memorable.

When we look at art we often search for meaning.  Some viewers are discontent unless they can discern the subject of the work.  Sometimes the formal construction eludes us, or it is overlooked in favor of a thirst for content.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taking a Leap

Everyone was happy to leave the realm of lines behind.  They had learned a lot about composition and design principles. Their grasp of vocabulary and also use of media had improved.  Of course I am showing you exemplary works, however, even the learning disabled students had made great progress.

Shape is sexy.  There is so much more to see and experience.  It is visually far more enticing.  We began by thinking about rectilinear and biomorphic shapes.  Students were asked to create designs inspired by something that they could see in their world.

Can you guess what the inspiration for this one is?  A stalk of brussel sprouts.

Here we see a very balanced apple tree.

More about shape after the weekend! 

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Curved and Diagonal Lines

The transition from the severe diet of horizontal and vertical lines to the more robust world of curves and diagonals is like adding sugar and salt.  For many, it is a relief from the restrictive atmosphere of becalmed horizontals and rigid verticals.  

We all require a little fat in our diet, and the voluptuous quality of the curves combined with the powerful movement of the diagonals kindles a burst of energy in the designs.

As you can see, there is a hunger for shape. 

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Horizontal and Vertical Lines

"With your unaided eyes you can look into a pond and see clear water.  With a magnifying glass you look into the same water and see thousands of small organisms.  With a microscope you see bacteria and detect viruses, and with the most sophisticated tunneling electron microscope you can see the atoms that make up the water and the creatures in it." Edwin Schlossberg, Interactive Excellence

Please note: The artwork in this posting was produced by my students this semester.  Please contact me should you wish to use it so that I can get permission.

I am teaching two sections of two-dimensional design this semester at the community college.  Students from all of the various programs must take at least one art course in order to fulfill their curriculum requirements.  Therefore, I teach students from every discipline, and since our population is so diverse, from many parts of the world as well as different ages, cultures and backgrounds.

Design is the grammar and the beginning of the spiral is a point.  A line is made up of points.  Our brain can register an implied line by viewing a series of dots lined up in a row.  The points in the illustration above show distribution, variety, and dominance.  

We start with the line combination problem of horizontals and verticals.  This is a natural set of groupings because much of art is made up of horizontal and vertical relationships.  Students put together designs using this combination which is the most common sort of directional relationships in art.  Of course, they first have to learn how to create thumbnail sketches and test out their ideas in order to generate ideas.

The illustration above shows a design that mirrors itself but with different weights of line and even an implied set of graduated lines on the top left.

So when does a line become a shape?  Is it merely a question of proportion?  We have a lot of arguments
about what constitutes a shape.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 30, 2009

AR 103 Line

Collage of student work with the art element Line.

"A line is a dot that went for a walk."  Paul Klee

Every 2-D Design classes starts out the same.  Our curriculum introduces the fundamentals of art elements in conjunction with the organizing principles of design.  The course spirals upwards starting with a discussion about subject, form, and content in art, and also the drive to art that humans have always had.

Students then begin to explore the art element of line with all of its qualities of dimension and direction.  Perhaps the most difficult thing for people today is to learn hand/eye coordination.  It is incredible that many people no longer know how to use a ruler and do simple arithmetic.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living Small: Sustainable Architecture

The three-dimensional design class at the private high school began the semester with the regular curriculum...creating wire sculpture to explore line,  and hand-building clay masks in order to gain an understanding of ceramics, shape, and various cultures.  In my final year there I decided to tackle building for the largest portion of the semester.
I felt that it was critical to help students who are going to be living and having their families in the new century come to terms with sustainability in a rapidly changing world.

These drawings were the result of some of the teams' first explorations using Google Sketchup

A growing awareness of environmental issues is promoting change in architecture and all other aspects of the design world.   Our mission was to work in teams to learn about how to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainable methods and products in the construction of a house with a footprint of under 1,000 square feet.  Students learned how using the sun to heat, and having excellent indoor air quality is beneficial to occupants.  They also discovered how using land and natural resources responsibly would insure that something would be available to others in years to come.

Fortunately many of the students had visited The National Building Museum the previous year to see the exhibition, The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design, and some had visited the National Mall to see the Solar Decathlon in previous years.  By the way, the EPA competition is in it's fourth iteration and twenty teams from around the world have houses open to the public until Monday, October 18. I believe that Team California won the competition this time around!

Beginning with measuring our carbon footprints and listening to a TED Talk with architect William McDonough in order to help create awareness, students had to research products and issues associated with sustainability, and also research and write about a "green" architect.  We had a virtual field trip to Dubai to see the building boom of architectural fantasies and pleasure domes in this oil-rich culture.  The students developed a sophisticated vocabulary and understanding of many of the dimensions of sustainable building practices while also questioning greenwashing products and rhetoric.

I brought in a lot of Dwell magazines, and books such as: The Big Book of Small House Designs; Christina del Valle's Compact Houses; 500 Ideas for Small Spaces; and Lester Walker's A Little House of My Own as well as architectural and design product samples and brochures to familiarize them with the bewildering array of issues. We learned about the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification System.  We learned a lot about the need for stewardship as well as the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Only then did the real work begin for the students.  Now that they knew why they were designing houses with a small footprint, and having decided how they would like to plan out their less than 1,000 square feet, we all had to come to terms with a computer aided design program.

This team incorporated a green roof as well!
Google Sketchup is amazing.  There are excellent tutorials available to help get you on your feet and building the house of your dreams, and then situating anywhere in the world.  Not only can you design the exterior of the building but you can also design the interiors, furnish them and then move throughout the rooms!  Teams of students taught themselves how to use the program and together they designed houses.  Despite slow computers, a teacher with no technological ability, and team logistics all of the students were successful in becoming architects of their dreams.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Form, Function, and Beyond

In 1940 Pablo Picasso was one of the first dignitaries to be invited to tour the recently discovered caves in Lascaux, France. His critique of the artwork of the ice age artists that covered the rocky surfaces of the caverns, "We have discovered nothing".   He knew perfectly well what we should all know, that the lack of illusionist representation in artwork does not equate with the idea that an artist lacks imagination and creativity.  

All artwork in this posting is from collections housed in the de Young Museum in San Francisco.  

Artwork found in museums, literature, and in commercial galleries is frequently grouped by culture.  According to art historian, Deborah Root, in her book, Cannibal Culture (1996): "When ethnology constituted itself as a science in the 19th century, it appropriated as its object of study traditional, generally land-based people living outside of European and North American cities--in other words, people classified as nonwhite, defined as un- or semicivilized, and incidentally subject to European colonial authority..."

Over eighty years ago, anthropologist, Franz Boas, pointed out that the differences between art of "primitive artists" and "western artists" were due to constraints by culture rather than lack of ability, "...each culture can be understood only as an historical growth determined by the social and geographic environment in which each people is placed and by the way in which it develops the cultural material that comes into its possession from the outside or through its own creativeness."

In his seminal work, Primitive Art, Boaz refers to the work of Ernst Grosse, among others, who felt that the work of tribal groups " by origin and by its fundamental nature not intended as decorative but as a practically significant mark or symbol, that is to say as expressive...this practical significance implies some kind of meaning inherent in the form."

Sometimes the end use of an art object determines the form. Often, too, the works relate to religious or other ceremonial rituals.  The stylistic elements of an artwork extend beyond its aesthetic effects.  Susanne Langer, wrote in Problems in Art (1957) "...I think every work of art expresses, more or less purely, more or less subtly, not feelings and emotions which the artist has, but feelings and emotions which the artist knows; his insight into the nature and sentience, his picture of vital experience, physical and emotive and fantastic."

Seated Figures, 2nd century
Earthenware, pigment
34.9 x 19.7 x 14.6 cm (13 3/4 x 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 in.)
Gift of Lewis K. and Elizabeth M. Land

Artists from all societies are able to create work that evolve as they produce them.  How can we help students construct knowledge based on the work artists from the global visual culture?

Sydney R. Walker outlines B. Stephen Carpenter, II guidelines for teaching performance arts in Teaching Meaning in Artmaking, 2001.  His suggested seven steps include using the body and representing ideas in a respectful way. Students will need to  research knowledge about the culture in order to use symbols, movements and words authentically and substantively.   Performance pieces need to be planned with preparatory sketches and scripts that are reviewed with the teacher.  The work should be timed and rehearsed with a defined beginning and end. 

If I were to teach high school art programs today I would introduce students to the costume and performance work of Chicago-based artist Nick Cave.  His response to materials around him and also movement would be exciting to adolescents, and I am supposing that this would be a fabulous way to introduce performance based work.

"As we manipulate, we touch and feel, as we look, we see; as we listen, we hear."  John Dewey, Art as Experience