Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Earlier this fall we had a wonderful exhibition at the King Street Gallery at Montgomery College, "Beyond Text: Contemporary Book Arts".  A popular art form, book arts and more specifically, paper engineering is a natural addition to the art curriculum for all age groups.  Yesterday we had a brief workshop with Carol Barton whose work is illustrated in this post.

Barton has been engaged in the process of exploring design through the manipulation of paper for thirty years and she is a natural and talented instructor.  Her method of teaching is inspired: no rulers, no rules, quick cuts and folds and there you have it, some delightful results.  Her Popular Kinetics website offers up excellent examples of her work, links to other paper engineers around the world and also serves as a gallery and a place where you can order her two books. 

The cover of another work by Carol Barton.

Poor photo but the "text" are seed packets.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Two Room School House

Catalouchee is a town that no longer exists.  Located in the eastern section of what is now the Smoky Mountain National Park, only a few of the original buildings of that town still exist.  The park maintains the outward appearance but the insides are in slow decay.

All of the grades met in the same building with one teacher.  Today the building stands alone with no houses nearby.  The forest and a stream next to it provide the only company of sorts. 

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Color marks end of semester

In Two-dimensional Design we end the semester with color.  Last week was the final exam.  Students used color to explore the four seasons of Washington, D.C.  We are located in the temperate zone (sort of).  We have a definite winter, spring, summer and fall but most people only remember the summers.  These are a bit hard to take....vicious heat and humidity.

The final piece in this posting is not the four seasons but another non-objective color assignment.  Again, we are working with inexpensive children's grade tempera paints.  We might switch over to using Holbein brand acryla gouache which is a reasonably priced artist grade media. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Value/Composition Exercises

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It is always amazing to me the results that students can obtain with very inexpensive brushes and paints.
This design exercise and the color work that the students are doing now is executed in children's tempera paint.  If applied in several thin layers, the surface is flat and chalky.  A simple but elegant surface.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Fever

 When the spring weather turns up the heat everyone begins to dream of summer.  This kills motivation in the classroom so I just go with the flow.

It is a treat to say, you are all going outside today.  We are beginning to study texture and making rubbings is a great way to start.  Everyone is given a graphite stick and some newsprint and it turns into a giant treasure hunt to find an array of textures.

Since it is an open-ended assignment the collages that they make in this single class session vary in size and shape.  Content also varies from one student to the next.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Once is Not Enough

Once the students experimented with making patterns from letters they were set.  They created their own naturalistic "biomorphic" shapes.  Then, using rotation, reflection, glides, and other symmetries they created their own compound shapes. 

At this point in time, they are able to understand how negative is just as important as positive space.

Initial Voyage

Pattern making is a great design exercise.  Using simple symmetric devices such as rotation, translation, reflection and glide reflection, students discover a sort of "magic trick".  This homework assignment was to create a letter of their choice and it did not need to be from my alphabet.
The students had to experiment with the letter using the four above named symmetries and then they were to create a design and ink it in.  The bold contrast between black and the white made the images all that much more compelling.

I love the variety in this design.

This design is made from a letter from the Burmese alphabet.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yellow is the Darkest Color

Just home from an evening at the Hirshhorn Museum attending a "conversation" about Josef Albers with design great, Ivan Chermayeff, museum director, Richard Koshalek, and curator, Valerie Fletcher.  Currently on exhibition until April 11th is Josef Albers: Innovation and Inspiration which includes close to sixty works that spans his long career in visual art and design.

Josef Albers

This is the  beginning of semester break so this event marks the kick-off!  I have not seen the exhibit yet, or the exhibition, ColorformsI could not pass up this opportunity to see and hear Ivan Chermayeff talk about his former teacher, who was head of the design department at Yale University

My notes in the darkened room are not entirely reliable so I will not use quotation marks.  He said that Albers was concerned with magic and opening your eyes.  If 90% of how humans learned was through their eyes, hence they need to see well in order to understand the world.  He did not really teach theory so much as observation. He also sought to open the eyes of others to emotional content.

Albers allowed all types of students into his studio.  His classes were open-ended and enjoyable creative sessions. He related his work to a larger context and cautioned that things are not always what they seem, so look and think.  Students should not be easily satisfied and should be willing to reject their own work in order to reach a more satisfactory outcome.  Perhaps the most heartening bit of information was that he felt that teachers are only justified in leading students if they themselves are students.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Effet de Neige

In 1868, a reporter recalled an incident near Honfleur from the previous year: "It was in the winter, during several days of snow ... It was cold enough to split stones. We perceived a foot-warmer, then an easel, then a man, swathed in three coats, his hands in his gloves, his face half frozen. It was Monsieur Monet, studying a snow effect." (House, John; Monet: Nature into Art; New Haven: Yale University Press 1986.)

Several years ago 63 winter plein air paintings by French impressionists were exhibited at the Phillips Collection in a show entitled, Effets de Neige.  This exhibition also traveled to San Francisco, and Brooklyn and lives on in the memories of those of us lucky enough to have seen it at the time.  Today, with blizzards raging on the east coast, it is even more meaningful.

La Pie (The Magpie) Claude Monet, 1869

Whenever weather is not the usual fare as in the mini-ice age of France in the mid-19th century, (and our current situation here in Washington, DC) our responses are heightened.  The art serves as a visual record  documenting both the excitement and challenges of the moment.


This monoprint created by a secondary student examines snow in a wood behind his home.  Because extreme winter weather is unusual it is memorable.  Our senses are heighten  by the crisp temperatures, wind, flakes, ice, smells, and warm clothing.  The landscape becomes changed and how we act on the land is different.
Having students record their responses to a major weather event especially with monoprints is an excellent way to preserve these complex feelings and responses to the natural world.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Art and Act

Diego Velasquez's Los Meninas  is considered by some to be a modern painting.   Executed in 1656, it captures a moment in time.  The artist shows himself in front of a large canvas as he paints a portrait of the King and Queen of Spain, whose  reflections can be seen in the mirror in the background.   Visiting the salon is the Prince Margarita and her meninas or maids.  But who is the nobleman exiting the room through a staircase in the background of the painting?  Velasquez employs chiaroscuro, light and dark to lead the viewer's eye throughout the image.  Below we can see Picasso's abstracted adaptation in black and white.  The scale of his artist is gigantic!

Pablo Picasso, Las Meninas, 1957

Eve Sussman's video "89 Seconds at Alcazar" was exhibited at the 2004 Whitney Biennial.  Pairing a viewing of her work with an analysis of the painting and a recreation of the painting either as a tableau vivant, or as in Picasso's reinterpretation could make for a meaningful unit of art history for secondary students.  Please scroll down to see the video.  It is stunningly beautiful.