Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old habits. Die hard.

It's true what they say...

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

I feel sorry for people who live their lives looking through eyes that are only willing to see things in one color and of one way.  If God truly created each of us in His own likeness and it's obvious that each and every one of us are unique in how we look, talk, act, dress, etc.... why is there so much judgement in the world of things that honestly don't matter?  People who live and breathe to condemn others based upon things that cannot be helped are doing anything but living.  The hatred that stirs and brews inside of them eats them from the inside out and every day that they believe they are living well, they are actually decaying themselves.  It's like a death wish or the worst kind of cancer you could never imagine because it's the kind that you don't know is killing you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Series: Negatives of Positives

Other than being a high school art teacher, I'm also a professional photographer (here and here).  The market is flooded these days with all kinds prosumer-type photographers but I've been using the photographic medium for nearly ten years now to create pictures.  That means I've been in the business way back before digital photography was so affordable and film was king.

Over Thanksgiving break last week, I dove head first into photography work with portrait jobs and also my own endeavors and I got to thinking about how the photographic medium isn't the same without the use of actual film.  Granted, it's nice to have the instant gratification of the pictures popping up immediately on your camera's LCD but overall? It really lacks a certain something in wait time of actually getting rolls of film developed.  And because I'm such a "geek" of things of yesteryear, I got the harebrained idea to take some of my favorite digital shots and transform them into the filmstrips that they might have been long ago.

Here's what I came up with...

I created the above using digital images of my favorite positive moments and memories (hence the name of the series - Negatives of Positives) but then I transformed them to appear as negative strips using both photography and photoshop skills.  The images above are supposed to appear as if they are being illuminated on a lightbox/light table.  I took some creative license and tweaked some of the ways the colors showed up but overall I'm really pleased with how they came out and I will definitely do some more of these and include them all in my portfolio.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Student WiPs: Cartoon busts

Since the 3D class is a foundational course and most students come to me with very little advanced visual art understanding/technique, I try and give them a course that is explorative (is that even a word?) in nature.   They work with as many different types of materials/mediums as I can figure out of the budget but one of the most popular of all is when we work with clay.  We have a kiln and I used it last year but I'm still not great at it and hate using student work as "guinea pigs" that potentially become ruined because I don't know how to fire the kiln correctly. (But I am getting better and will be firing it up within the next few weeks.)  Anyway, I favor air-dry clay for the students and one of my favorite brands is called Boneware.  It comes in gray, white, and red but I always get the red because (I believe) it's usually the cheapest.

Before I came, they did clay egghead sculptures in the style of Robert Arneson.  It's a good inspiration to take and follow because the egg shape is simple enough and students can really explore the human expression of the face but after doing it one time around with the kids, it was clear that it wasn't enough.  The students wanted more room to do more heavily detailed work and I wanted to give them more creative freedom than what the egg shapes allowed.  Enter: claymation art.

I really brainstormed to come up with something that would not be overly unfair with regard to the students' limited/novice skillsets but still forced them to focus on the subtle details that lent themselves to facial expressions.  Human figure/form was out because it was a little too far out of what would have been fair to ask them to reach but then I got to thinking about cartoon characters.  They were mostly of simple shapes (to teach form) but still would require them to create facial expressions in order to properly bring the character to life.  And doing cartoons in bust-style was a fun take on the ol' classic of so many of the classic and legendary bust sculptures of so many in art history.  So I kicked the idea off in the Spring of last year and it went reasonably well but I learned from my mistakes (and the ones I let the students make) and really improved for this time around.  Bear in mind that these were sculpted and I gave them almost a full week to dry and they will be fully painted and detailed within the next week.

Materials and tools used included the following:
- Sculpture House Boneware clay
- Boxwood tools sculpting tools, class set
- Buckets of water at each table
- Small individual wooden platforms (these are rinsed/washed and reused every semester)
- Gallon storage bags with the slide zippers (one per student) and wet paper towels to keep the clay workable until the student was finished

I'll post pictures of the finished works in coming weeks but thought  it would be neat to show them in this state.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Student work/Lesson idea: Scratchart animal portraits

There are many different approaches for how to carry out visual art education and instruction.  Some people think teaching by theme is the way to go (I feel like this is best for the more advanced students) while others go by way way of teaching whatever they feel like is "neat" at the moment.  Me?  I prefer to teach in the way of dividing the semester into teaching the elements of art and principles of design.  I start the first nine weeks with the elements of art (in no particular order:
  • Line
  • Texture
  • Form
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Space
  • Value
And then I try to introduce the principles of design (again, listed below in no particular order) concurrently while I'm teaching the aforementioned elements:
  • Emphasis
  • Balance
  • Harmony
  • Variety
  • Movement
  • Rhythm
  • Proportion
  • Unity
By the end of the first nine weeks, all elements and principles will be used and the students will have a reasonable grasp of each of (what I consider) the fundamentals in order to do complete work that is more complex and largely self-directed.

For the very first lesson/project of the 2D class, I almost always do a scratchart piece.  This teaches the students how to use the simple element of a line in ways that can show both texture and variety to differentiate difference surfaces and things.  Last year I did landscapes and used some of Van Gogh's landscape art to inspire the students.  This year I went with animal portraits because they seemed more fun (read: LESS boring) and lent themselves to (what I felt) greater creative self-expression.

In order to prepare the students for their final scratch art works, I ran them through a battery of steps to ensure that they would 1) know exactly what they wanted to do before they started and 2) not waste the expensive scratch boards that I try to spring for (always as close to if not actually artist-grade quality).  These are the things they must do to get their final scratch board for their final piece.
  1. Small rectangle of  "throwaway" scratch paper in neon or sparkle divided into 12 boxes and each box must have a different pattern, texture, or small picture => For this I take larger sheets and cut them down to smaller sizes.
  2. Brainstorming of ideas for animals/subject matter
  3. At least (3) thumbnails of their ideas so that there is one good idea interpreted three different ways or three different ideas tried out in order to narrow it down.
  4. One large scale drawing with details and labels of what will be scratched out and how
Once the students successfully completed step four, they were issued their scratchboards and then they went through the process of transferring their images to the board - some did it by going over the lines of their drawings repeatedly in order to impress a light design into the ink of the board but many transfered their image with free-hand.  The students were repeatedly remind to work from the foreground to the background and also to lay a piece of clean paper underneath of their hands to avoid transferring too much oil from their skin to the inked board which in turn makes it harder to scratch through/out.

With regard to the designs, I encouraged the students to take unique approaches in illustrating their animals other than in ways that might be commonly first thought of.  I encouraged them to illustrate perspectives from different vantage points (like, worm's eye view, bird's eye view, or of the animal's eye view) and even employ (if possible) a little bit of humor and/or fun in the way they depicted their animals in their natural settings.  I also made required them to scratch out/texturize at least 85% of the scratch board surface in some way. 

All of the students work really hard to push themselves creatively and when it came time to pick pieces to go in the school's student gallery hallway (set up like a legitimate public gallery) it was really hard to pick which five would represent the over 75 students who had created work.  The truly remarkable thing about all of the work is that most of was done by first-year visual art students who have little to know intensive visual art training/education.  Perhaps I'm biased but I feel like all of this work is very exceptional  in light of the fact that  it's from the foundational/introductory courses. (Please note: pixelated portions of the pictures were my doing to block out student names)

Not bad for student artwork, eh?  I'll do this one again and forego the landscapes.  These were way too much fun and the students learned a tremendous about how many ways lines can be used other than to just connect to points in addition to adding all kinds of visual art vocabulary to their natural vernacular - background, foreground, contrast, negative space, etc.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Obedience is key

The word obey sneaked into my every day vernacular about a month or so ago and these days I'm using it so often that I can hardly believe it.  This is due in large part because I have a two year old daughter who likes to throw things for (what seems) no good reason at all but it's also because it is something that I feel is necessary for my own commitment to living a life of faith.

I've never been a terribly rebellious person in the most literal sense of the word but I definitely have a history of trying to move and shake things about for no other reason than it seemed like a good idea at the time. (Hmmm... maybe this is where my daughter gets that whole thing of the aforementioned.)  It's not that I have been a troublemaker per se but more that I am not afraid to step up and take a stand for something I believe in.  This means I'll do it if I have to step to someone/something or stand block for something/someone.  Something interesting to note?  I'm barely 5'2" and most people think I'm just a little beyond a hundred pounds. (My weight is more like a dollar and a quarter and I really don't care who knows it.)  For this reason it's always surprising for people to see how naturally strong willed I am and that my presence can carry so much more weight than it might appear. *shrug* You can't push me around so don't try.  That's just all there is to it.

Still?  For as much as I might be a real force to be reckoned, there's one thing that can and will always get me on my feet and moving in whatever direction necessary: the Lord God Almighty.

Just to be clear on something, I haven't always been a Christian let alone a devout believer and follower of Christ's teachings.  I've been a terrible keeper of faith for a huge part of my life for a myriad of reasons but I was raised in a Christian household and taught from the very beginning that living a Christian life was the right and best thing to do.  I strayed from it too many times to count but even in those times when I felt it was wrong, there was always something about it that was nothing other than magnetic and it always pulled me back.  It wasn't until my mid 20s when I completely submitted myself to it and actively tried to walk a straighter path of faith and draw myself closer to the Lord.  And thank goodness I did that because it was the best thing I've ever done and probably will ever do.

Since my realization that living of Christ is the only way to go, I decided to completely commit myself to whatever He calls me to do and do wherever He calls me to go.  That's included severing relationships, walking away from rock-solid careers, and making myself just about homeless at times (but He never let me out high and dry like that, don't worry).  Still?  He's always provided and always asked me to keep walking even when the ground isn't visible.  And here I am because of it.

There's so much going on for me right now and for as crazy as it all has been, it's the most exciting time of my whole entire life.  I honestly feel like I'm on the verge of something so big that I can't even tell you how big it is because I only have a small glimpse of it and the rest of it is just sky high.  Don't get me wrong, I'm completely  intimidated by the things I feel like I'm being called to do but I'm going to do.  I'm going to do it all.  And I'm doing it all for nobody other than HIM.  It's the least I could do, y'know?  For all He's done (and will do) for me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So young and unknowing

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little feet where you go
O be careful little feet where you go
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little feet where you go

O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say

There is nothing more exciting to me than a person who has discovered and starts to embrace a belief in God.    Their eyes, ears, and hearts are wide open and open to everything and anything that will help them be as close to God as possible. (I remember being in this stage myself and it was so exciting.)  The efforts that come from  a new believer - someone who has been so recently reborn of Christ - are so earnest.  They are willing to do just about anything to get closer and be closer to God.  Ultimately though, too many of them miss the mark with their efforts and they end up sprinting down paths that they feel like they should walk only to be reeled back in by the very thing that inspired them to begin with.  They start seeing God in everything and in turn study the wrong types of doctrines, listen to the wrong sermons, and act and speak in ways that are just plain wrong. But here's the thing: they can't help it.  At least not yet.

You who cast the first stone

This was one of my least favorites of the bunch and the most recent one I finished.  And now that it's done, I almost hate to look at it and feel how cold and harsh it is.  But that was my intention when I even planned this one so I should be rejoicing about the fact that I achieved such an effect, right?  This type of person does nothing but steal joy from others only to replace it with their own judgments and condemnation.  You can't see it well in the picture but in the eye sockets, I placed big giant diamond-like stones.  The diamonds are representative of how cold and hard their vision is of everything they see.  Even cursory glances from them can pierce and cut.

I can't even explain any more of this one.  I'm sure there are redeeming elements of this type of person but I doubt that (in real life) they will even see those things of themselves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More will never be enough

Information is not knowledge.

Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
(the aforementioned by Frank Zappa)

But truth can bring hope.
Hope can inspire faith.
Faith can bring love.
And love can and will conquer all.
(If only you let it!)

It doesn't matter how many books you read because if you aren't reading and believing in the holiest of all, you might as well set fire to everything else you're reading since all of it will end up burning you anyway.

Handle with care

... and create with caution.

I suppose this is a bit of a self-portrait.  I've always been told that I'm wise beyond my years and I know that if my life experiences could be represented visually, I'd make even some of the oldest trees look as if they hadn't been around long enough.  I feel as if I've lived through droughts and floods and even survived threats of being stripped from the very places I wanted to root myself to.  And through it all, I'm still here.  And in large part, it's due to my inability to do anything but create and just get paint everywhere.

I'm so compelled to create but it's something that will always be a bit of a double-edged sword for me.  It always cuts me in two ways: one that can really be painful at times and another way that helps me to gradually whittle away so many things in my life that have brought me nothing but trouble.

Lookin' for love in all the wrong places

Well, I spent a lifetime lookin' for you
Single bars and good time lovers were never true
Playin' a fools game, hopin' to win
Tellin' those sweet lies and losin' again

I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes, lookin' for traces
Of what I'm dreamin' of
Hopin' to find a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover
Another heart lookin' for love
And I was alone then, no love in site
I did everything I could to get me through the night
I don''t know where it started or where it might end
I'd turn to a stranger just like a friend
'Cause I was lookin' for love
In all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes, lookin' for traces
Of what I'm dreamin' of
Hopin' to find a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover
Another heart lookin' for love
(lyrics from Johnny Lee)

The puffiness around the eyes was completely unintentional but so appropriate for what this one stands for.  The way they put themselves out there time and time again.  Every time they compromise what they said they would not do every again for anyone or anything but still, they can't stop themselves.  Why?  Because the very thing they lack within themselves (LOVE) is the absolute thing they cannot stop themselves from seeking out because they know it's out there somehow and somewhere just waiting to be found.  Still, it doesn't make the heartbreak they are forced to endure over and again any less painful or those nights they spend full of wanderings and wishes any less long and late.

Take the bad with the good

Take the good with the bad...

smile with the sad,
love what you've got and remember all you've had,
always forgive and never forget,
learn from your mistakes but never regret.

Not sure how to explain my inspiration behind this one.  It's an illustration of too many people I've come to know whose lives just continue to unravel despite all they do to keep and hold things together; they become almost outfitted in their own pain.  And (too often) their only deliverance from the pain that exists in their lives are things that make them merely numb to it all.  If they would only learn to deal with it all so that they could separate and extract themselves from everything that hurts them, they would find the peace they seek so desperately.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Of faith and will

Yesterday was kind of monumental for me and my studio art endeavors.

I have been feeling kind of blocked/stalled with working on the masks and I haven't been able to put my finger on what the issue is.  I think the time has finally arrived that happens with all of my projects: a crossroads of  deciding to either 1) push myself beyond a block of boredom and/or frustration OR 2) quit a project and abandon it all together.

It's not uncommon for me to be unfocused.  My attention and focus naturally shifts and sometime I can hardly help it.  I have my own theories of why this kind of thing exists but I think that I legitimately might have some form of ADD.  For this reason, I start and stop projects and quit endeavors left and right.

This mask project is something I'm trying to complete for a much larger purpose though.  I'm trying to create a statement and illustration of faith and how it plays itself out.  I'm trying to use my visual perspective to show how Christ fits into any person's life and their walk in faith - no matter how different they are from everyone else and no matter where they come from.


I'm committed to being a Christian artist and changing the face of Christian art.  The world doesn't need any more pictures of lambs, doves flying around carrying willow branches, or Jesus wearing "pretty" robes and walking around barefoot while holding hands with and/or carrying a bunch of children.  In my own experience,  walks in and of faith are a lot more than idealistic imagery and being saved and committing yourself happens when you're feeling much more like you're living in hell itself than in any other place.  Hell doesn't have pretty little lambs and snow white doves and squeaky clean kids certainly aren't hanging around in the fiery pits of hell telling stories with Jesus.  Real life and real faith and real deliverance just aren't like that to me or in my experience.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is it Monday yet?

Tonight I took a studio night. This means I stay after work and use the time to work on my own personal art endeavors. I've got a studio at home but it's about 1/8th of the size of my classroom and not even close to as well stocked with the odds and ends I always end up needing. So... it just works best if I stay here a little longer.

Honestly thought?  It's very much a place I would want to be every minute of every hour of every day if I could help it. But, as God knows best, I'm terrible with decision making when it comes to what I should do with my time and so He's given me a wonderful husband and family that I not only need to be with but want to be with.

Still, I can't help but relish in having studio time when my schedule allows. Normally it happens on Monday nights but next Monday it can't happen so I finagled tonight instead.


What can I say?

Being in the studio will ALWAYS be home sweet home to me...

(Here's one of the big flat drawers that I've claimed for myself.  I'm aware of how much it needs a good straightening, cleaning, and organizing.  But I never said I was a good housekeeper now did I?.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...