Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Drawing Expectations

Tomorrow is the first day of class for the two sections of two-dimensional design at the community college that I will be teaching,  but I still have a fuzzy glow from the summer class that I taught in basic drawing.  How fortunate was it to be with a group of amazingly committed students...and how fabulous to see them gain skills and confidence over a five week period!

Our students are a diverse lot, both in age, cultural backgrounds, and art experience.  On the one hand there are students with years of art experience and instruction, and on the other there are those that have never considered the act of drawing!  In a college such as ours, students must have one art class in order to qualify  for their associates degree.  Often this class is the last minute choice for frantic students.  Sometimes it is the class of choice for a recently retired person who had promised themselves that they would make room for art in their lives once they had time in their schedules.  For those who expect to make their art their profession, this is a foundation course.

I had a lot of students who had no previous experience who took off like rockets...Sometimes I had to reassure students that they could could do it if they persevered.  It is difficult for some to understand that the basic exercises of blind contour and gesture drawing can actually help one build great hand/eye coordination.

I use a lot of analogies to sports and tell them to consider me their coach.  After the interminable basic exercises we move along into developing skills in sighting and the use of wet and dry media.

We explore the elements of line, shape, texture, and value as well as design principles.  Composition and simple perspective can challenge many but will ultimately help them to achieve what they wish.

Note that the "spiral" at the bottom of the drawing was drawn onto the page and not part of the physical pad itself!  Sweet detail!

Whether they are "kissed by angels when they were born" with incredible talent (developed or latent) or just your average run of the mill busy person, with or without learning disabilities, drawing is something that humans can do.  We are communicators after all and it is an ability that is a part of each of us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finding Shapes in Nature

  We are now celebrating the middle of the term with a week long break.  Weather all over the east coast has been eerily balmy.  This made my visit to New York to see the Renaissance Portrait exhibition at the Met and a quick trip to MAD easy.  While in New Jersey I stopped at the Summit Art Center to see a group show, Textility. I made certain to spend part of a day in Philadelphia and was able to take in a few of the venues of the citywide celebration, FiberPhiladelphia 2012.  Now I am flooded with ideas.

 Back to the design classroom on Monday where we will begin our focus on value.  Just before break we ended our study of shape with a study of natural forms.  Nature is the great designer.  Looking at proportions, curves, and the richness of detail found in the humble weeds and dried leaves, students unlocked wonderful designs in black and white.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Along the banks of rivers

What will we do when we no longer have a supply of fresh water?  For many in the world obtaining the minimum amount of water for daily usage is a constant struggle.  Soon many more of us will find that this will become our communities' most critical challenge.

Since the 1960's artists from all corners of the earth have been engaged in activist, collaborative and ecological aesthetics. A brief list includes: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, Mary Miss, Betsy Damon, Basia Irland, Navjot Altaf, Patricia Johanson, Susan Jennings, Jaanika Peerna, Maya Lin and Simon Starling.  Museums such as the Hudson River Museum and the Indianapolis Museum of Art's FLOW White River Festival celebrate and point to the need to protect waterways.  Was it last year that the city of Boulder, CO celebrated their Ditches throughout the community including works by 40 local artists? (Note that you can click on names to learn more).

Reading a recent blog by book artist Mia Leijonstedt I learned about Lee Tracy and her World Rivers Project.  Participants around the world have taken lengths of white cloth and dipped them into rivers.  These are dried and sent back to the artist who embroiders the names of the rivers on them then sews them into a continuous curtain.  Having developed a taste for working with fibers since attending two workshops with India Flint my studio contains a lot of textiles.
I walked down to the Northwest Branch during our recent "thaw".  I selected this small stream because it is so much a part of our lives.  It issues forth at the Quaker community of Sandy Spring where our son went to school and now teaches outdoor education.  This meandering stream is in our community's backyard and is a tributary of the Anacostia River which flows into the Potomac River and eventually feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.  This area is officially called the Rachel Carson Greenway and Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park.

This is the house that Rachel Carson built near this watershed, and where she wrote Silent Spring. I took the picture at one of their annual open houses. Her work in calling attention to the deleterious effects of DDT was an act of incredible courage and perseverance during an era when industries prevailed over the rights of individuals and communities. The Rachel Carson Council continues her mission at the house today disseminating information about toxins and sustainable alternatives for a healthy world. 
A piece of linen was placed in the stream and allowed to float and soak.

If you look closely you can see ice melting under the roots of some trees.
Here is a book that I made sometime ago inspired by another river, the Mino or Minho of Spain and Portugal.

The name of the river is derived from minius or red lead.  The pages are monoprints and collage.

Because this blog is about art and education I included this sample work.  I was teaching a high school class about content and this was the exemplar that I created.  Students selected a painting and then reproduced the composition using recycled papers.  Here we see the birth of a very different sort of Venus rising out of a polluted ocean.  

Developing art curriculum that allows students to go out of doors and develop a sense of stewardship is critical if we hope to have a world where not just the privileged will have the basic necessities of clean water and air.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Captured by light

I received a package today from a friend containing a trove of old photographs that she collected in Russia.

I wonder about the subjects of these pictures.  Some of the images were shot in studios but most are snapshots.  These are my favorites because they record fragments rather than official moments.

The subject is usually a family group enjoying an outing in the sun.

Some make me wonder.  Is this child in a hospital?  Did she survive her illness?  Are these dispassionate people her parents?

What are these Chinese and this man in western clothes doing with this machine?

Cameras record moments now lost. What story can these frozen creatures tell?
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