Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It is well with my soul, it is well

Spent a chunk of the weekend on grad school work and also trying to stay ahead of the game with set design and painting of the Sound of Music production. Ever heard of that saying that goes something like, "If you're on time - you're late, if you're early - you're on time... " Amazing for us but we actually might be on time or even early.

This set design and painting as been the most intense undertaking we have ever done but it's going to be so worth it. On Saturday afternoon, before I went to the set painting, I actually dropped to my knees in the shower (actually one of my favorite places/ways to pray because it makes praying a truly sensory experience) and laid out all of my "issues" to God because I was just feeling completely buried and crippled by them. Prayers aren't like birthday wishes in that if you tell them they don't come true [I seriously don't believe in that anyway!] so I have no issue telling you that my actual prayer was pretty much, "Lord God, I CANNOT do any of this without you but I even if I could I WILL NOT do this without you!!!" My prayers were answered and deliverance was offered in ways I never could have imagined when I showed up to the set painting and had so many people with their hands and feet ready to go and boy did they go!!

I have NEVER been good at delegating but after laying all of my inadequacies and woes at Christ's feet and opening my heart for Him to just take over as He saw fit, it was like I was definitely on auto-pilot and everything just fell into place beautifully.  The amount of work that was accomplished was that which should have easily taken two weekends rather than just one evening.

Two of some of the advanced art students in the midst of the faux marble effect painting. I love seeing how they both ended up in the same place in the end (not pictured) but started out in obviously differently ways/approaches.

Just a sampling of the AMAZING mountain ranges done by one of the school's most talented student artists in maybe all of school history.

One of the best parts of the whole day that I have not yet mentioned is the fact that this past weekend's round of set painting included my daughter and my husband. I am a bit of a workaholic but that doesn't mean I enjoy being away from my family in the least. I guess it could be said that I want it all but I definitely acknowledge that I can't have it all. *shrug* Well, sometimes, (I believe especially when you give "it all" to the Lord and trust Him to do as He sees fit) I get way more than I could ever bargain for and that just happens to end up being ALL of what I wish I could selfishly have.

My daughter and my husband joined me for ALL of the set design and painting and my daughter was an absolute angel (she will only be four in June!!) and my husband was THE MAN and got some serious amounts of major set work done as well as managing a chunk of the people who were there to just help out. Seriously. The whole thing was orchestrated like the best well-oiled machine you could ever imagine.

(Pictured) Two of the loves of my life: hands stained with paint from a perfectly wonderful day of painting and my wedding ring set from my endlessly supportive husband specially designed so I don't have to take it off ever - even when I am doing plaster or clay sculpting!!!  And he doesn't just encourage me symbolically like this since he was getting his hands dirty right alongside me.

Hard to believe but it was just a little more than five years ago that I used to sit alone in my little condo (just outside of the boundaries of Charm City - that's where I was working before I gave up a pretty wonderful second career) and I would look out my windows at the sky and dream of a job that would allow me to design, create, and PAINT with the gorgeous colors I saw every evening at dusk. It was in my heart to do that and I knew that God had given it to me. As my work BFF Megan would put it, I hitched myself to that dream and then just recklessly pursued the path that I felt God would straighten for me to realize the dream. And here I am. I swear to you I am LIVING that dream!!! 

I know life will never be easy but I can tell you that life IS good because GOD isn't just so good but He is so very incredibly wonderful. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Everybody's favorite: Cave art!!!

The Interactive Art History classes started the prehistoric art unit and so far they are L-O-V-I-N-G the cave art project I implemented last Spring.

It is the messiest of all of the projects and even when you are doing all of the steps correctly, it's pretty close to impossible to not get your hands dirty. For as much as the kids fuss about the messiness though? They always cite it as one of their favorite projects of the whole course.  I can't blame them for loving it. Plaster of Paris is SO cool to work with!!!

Mixing the plaster of paris and then pouring it onto trays to start the sculpting process.

Some of the students ended up breaking their cave chunks but that's OK! Nothing that gorilla super glue won't fix and(!) the cracks that result from a broken plaster piece end up making the pieces look that much more realistic overall.

Some of the students weren't loving the uniformity of the edges of their cave chunks so they chiseled down the edges of their pieces to give them a more realistic feel.

Painting has begun!!! I expect that it will take them somewhere around 3-4 days of layered sponge painting in order for them to achieve the effect painting results they ultimately are going for. After they get the visual texture and coloring right? It will be another 3 days or so to do the actual designs/forms to imitate the cave art we looked at.

So embarrassing but this is one of the sinks in the art room!!  This happens at least once a year and Friday of last week seemed to be the day. There is no standing water in this picture but if I try and flush the drain that's just what happens. At one point I was standing on the counter plunging the drain (I am so hardcore like that *wink*) and then I had to call in reinforcements in the form of our building and facilities management. I am good friends with those guys despite the fact that I create so many issues for them on any given day.

So, that's where we are so far with the cave art project. I am thinking that the students will turn out even higher quality/more creative pieces this year because 1) I have more experience doing this project having done it before in two different forms, 2) I had some really great examples of last year's student work to really show them what they should (and shouldn't) do with their work, and 3) I just plain have a really fantastic and enthusiastic bunch of student artists this go 'round (par for the course as it has been for most all of this year).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sticking it out

Our first venture into installation art exhibitions is going well and coming to a close (as well).


Students are gradually finishing up their individual portions of the installation and I am slowly taking each of them and joining them to the others that are finished. Slowly (but surely) they are understanding what we are going for.  They helped me to figure out the best "formation" to create (see below) and each color will be grouped like this and hung from the hooks all the way down the art gallery hallway.

I am hoping to have all of the students finished with their individual portions no later than mid next week and then have the whole thing installed by the end of next week/beginning of the following week. I'll be sad to see them disappear from the hooks in the studio art classroom but at the same time? We are running out of hooks!!!

In other news, we have officially run out of glue sticks. *grrrrrrrrrrr*

I don't have any thing official to confirm how this happened because last week we had enough for more than one and a half classes and then Wednesday when I came back to work (after being out of work because my kid has been sick) there were maybe eight glue sticks that were all half used.

I know. (I will do my best not to get any more started than this.)


Truth: I am pretty territorial about the adhesive inventory. I have serious brand loyalty and I also do a very good job at keeping just about every kind of the best adhesive on-hand/in stock so that there (shouldn't be) any issues with dealing with sticking to/with anything.

So, that's that. And TGIF. I'm working on the sound of music set for the better part of this weekend in addition to some major amounts of grad school work so I'll see ya next week some time if I'm lucky.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

To be brutally honest

I am writing this post a little after midnight on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. You, however, will read it almost a day and a half later because I have scheduled it to post like that.

Things are hectic for me these days no matter what I might present here. I absolutely don't have it all together.

Much earlier today [so, very early on Tuesday morning to you since you are reading this on Thursday], I woke up before every one in my house and attempted to start the usual routine of making lunches but stopped because I went in to check on my daughter and she had a fever. This was after me picking her up early from her playschool on Monday (a work day of set painting for me while almost nobody else was there at school) and then a midnight stint [so that would be Sunday] of being (literally) thrown up on by my daughter. On Tuesday at 6:15am I had already gotten my kid up and set on the couch watching Caillou and eating a popsicle and we sat and waited until a decent hour rolled in when I could call out from work. And what did I do with the rest of the day? Well, I'll tell you what I didn't do...
  • Grad school work
  • Clean the house
  • Cook anything major
  • Laundry
  • Take a shower/Do my hair/Change out of my pajamas
  • Local errands that I might have been able to get away with
Yes. I was a total schlump all day Tuesday on my daughter's sick day. We sat together on the couch a lot, ordered her favorite Arthur movie on demand,  listened to the sound of music soundtrack and her favorite song she calls the "Swirled and swirled" (which is really a Britney Spears song #dontjudge), and ate copious amounts of oyster crackers. 

Right now I SHOULD be doing something like grad school work or at least drafting up the stewardship charts I need to have ready for my classes to refer to tomorrow when I'm back to work.

This is what it looks like when I am "on task" and being a good graduatel student.

But really? I would much rather be doing one of these two items instead...

Option 1 - Soaking in the bubbly with a book I have read at least half a dozen times already.

Option 2 - Eating a solo dinner of Truffle Mac N Cheese from Noodles & Company with paint on my hands because I was going from work to the local class I'm taking to supplement my grad studies that is an art and design class I absolutely love!!! *swoon*

Just this past Monday I started the process that is diagnostic testing for what is believed to be a completely legitimate but otherwise undiagnosed learning disability that could be hindering the success I am trying to hard to find in graduate school. It's such a long story why I have to deal with this now but if I don't deal with it, I will easily have to quit school all together. I don't want to do that. Just the same, I'm trying my best to plug away at the work and now the testing despite the fact that I dread every bit of it. Even just the thought of the fact that tomorrow my planning (and subsequent planning sessions after) will be spent trying to wade through stacks of reading and pages of what should be my own writing - it makes me not want to go to sleep and delude myself into thinking that maybe morning won't happen.

Now, I'm aware of how melodramatic I am making this sound but I'm also offering some serious transparency to you. My issues with learning present issues that fall into the realm of me being able to barely remember anything I might read and/or barely comprehending anything I might read especially if the sentences contain certain words that most all complex sentences contain. Seriously.


But here's the thing... if I want the rainbow at the end, I gotta put up with the rain, right? [thank you, Dolly Parton, for such outstanding wisdom such as this!]

And thank you to my 84 yo grandma for showing me the masterpiece you see above (at the top) and seriously blowing out the example piece that the recreational therapist did at the assisted living place!!! You still "got it" no matter how far away you might seem from any moment at hand. If you can stick with it? So can I!

So here's me saying, "I can do this. I can do this... I CAN DO THIS."  Because I can. I can do this. And I WILL do this no matter how much I hate it or how hard it might seem to be or how steep the mountain seems to feel when I'm climbing it.

Someone once told me that "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it" and that's what I'm going to recite as my mantra from here on out.

BTW... I realized the other day that I don't think I have posted any pictures of myself on this blog anywhere.  That hardly seems fair to me and I wonder if you are wondering what I look like. I mean, it's not like there are no other pictures anywhere else on the web where you can find a picture of me. However, I will admit that they might not be the easiest to find. My picture (as well as most any of my students) have been scarce because I've really tried my best to keep it about the visual art and nothing else. I have wanted to keep a focus on the content I'm offering here. Still, when I'm not doing this type of work, I'm logging countless hours as a seasoned portrait photographer so I know the value of being able to see a picture of someone - especially one that allows you to see their eyes. For this reason, here is a picture of me in case you were wondering what I look like.

I snapped the above with my camera phone and then (per usual) ran it through a bunch of filters so sorry if you were hoping it would be a little more SOOTC (straight-out-of-the-camera). Whatever the case, I pretty much look just like that and yes - I realize I look young for being (now) in my 33rd year. *shrug* It's an Asian thing for it to be like that. Just wait 'til I'm 55 or something! *BAM* I will all of a sudden look like I'm 75. (Another "Asian" thing)

Anyway, thank you so much if you've kept up this far with this posting and also kept up with this blog. I say prayers of gratitude every day that I get to be a part of a community that permits me to have this platform to share the thing that is my art as well as my heART. *wink*

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Throwback: My first endeavor into set design

Since I showed you some pictures yesterday of what I'm currently doing in "set design adventures" with my school's drama productions, I thought you might also enjoy seeing pictures of my first steps into this realm three short years ago.

My school was doing a production of  "Godspell" and my department head approached me with the idea of putting a little bit of a contemporary spin on it by setting the story in an urban environment that called into play grafitti art and black light effects. Here is a big picture of the whole stage painted with specially ordered stage paints with illumination by strategically placed black light systems.

I was tasked with conceptualizing murals that could be "read" from left-to-right to show the way the city scene started out - decaying, torn, broken, and sad...

... and then how it eventually started to be healed brick-by-brick... (words were from the songs in the musical/play)...

Until eventually Christ redeemed it with His resurrection and deliverance...

Sot hat it was eventually renewed, reborn, and resurrected itself into something bright, wonderful, and bursting with life and light.

Their was one main student artist who did only the grafitti lettering of the murals and then I worked with the rest of the student artists on the team to add other visual designs to make it appear more as if multiple street artists added their marks. We used Roscoe stage paint in fluorescent colors to achieve the most saturated color when they would be hit by the black light and we used paper support in the way of faux brick wall covering purchased from a prom decorations company (I think we ordered from Stumps).

What you see above took a little more than two solid weeks of diligent painting and was one of the biggest set designs the school had ever seen in the way of it being the most paint that had ever needed to be done. This was my first endeavor into the world of stage and set design and I think I did pretty well consider that fact. Little did I know that this would just be the first notch in my proverbial belt in this way. And little did I also know that I would fall in love with this part of my job so much that I would look forward to it ever single year after that despite how thin such an undertaking always stretches me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mountain moving faith

Just checking in!

I've been ridiculously busy lately because it's that time of the year again: time for the annual musical production!!!!

I have been busyBusyBUSY flexing my "Art and Creative Director" muscles all in the name of the sound of music. My department head (for the Fine Arts) is an amazing woman, teacher, fearless leader type and for this reason I am always willing to do just about ANYthing she wants me to. In this case? It's working on the set design and effect painting of our spring drama production. Some months ago you might recall when I showed a snapshot of a set I worked on bringing to life for a production of  "Diary of Anne Frank."  For as much extra work as it is for me to do this type of stuff, I cannot even tell you how much I love it. Seriously. This job that I get to do that enables me to do this type of stuff never ceases to amaze me.

One of my Art History students works on faux marble-effect on the columns.

Large view of the stage with the abbey window frames (four will have faux stained glass) 

The most naturally gifted student artist my school/art studio classrooms might ever see.

The student doing all of the mountain painting on the main panels is only a sophomore and his technical ability is turn-and-stare amazing!!! I had only a few brief conversations with him with lots of very specific (and challenging) ideas presented to us by request of the drama department and he hardly flinched when I explained that our didn't just need to properly depict atmospheric perspective in the most realistic way but also in a way that will closely imitate some of what has only ever been seen of master painters in their works that are currently being displayed at the National Portrait Gallery of all places. I mean, I certainly don't expect him to be a master painter but for his age? It's hard to deny that he's nothing less than completely awesome at what he does. He is single-handedly taking on the mountain ranges and I would hardly trust such an endeavor to any other student visionary or paintbrush other than his.

I cannot believe I get to do the work I get to do every day. Seriously. I thank only the good Lord above for not only knowing what is deep down in my soul to begin with and then giving it to me every day more and more and more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lesson idea: The Broken Window Painting

One of the mainstay projects for 2D is a painting in cubist style. I usually do it early as the second or third project (of a total of eight for the semester) for the sole purpose of getting the students to push themselves out of their comfort zones. I use it to help them understand the importance of the creative process as it pertains to their soon enough finished work of art. It also helps for them to understand that the style of non-objective art isn't something that is perhaps as random as it might seem.

In the past I've taught them cubism in a different way and after doing it that same way for at least three rounds running, I was just sick of it. I stumbled upon this lesson idea inspired by Paul Klee and it appealed to me not only because it was something fresh to try but also because it definitely encouraged the students to invest themselves on skills that were very necessary for good technique.  The 2D class is a foundational course but I always push them to invest themselves as much as possible and still try and be as polished as possible.

The main reason why I liked this project was because it allowed me to weave meaning into both the creative process and the finished pieces. Since I started teaching at my school, I've done my best to encourage all of the students to not create art for the sake of art but for a purpose that goes far beyond that. I work at a nondenominational Christian high school and for us as a school community, we do things to glorify the Lord so when we create, we are creating because He created us in His likeness (as scripture teaches) and since He was the greatest creator of all time, I encourage them all to believe that they have the power of creativity and the ability to create within them no matter what.

A fellow art education blogger mentioned earlier today on twitter that he was interested in infusing more meaning into the creative process/art lessons. I wanted so badly to speak up about the way I do things but I am always hesitant to do so. Why? Well, despite the fact that I am an active follower of Christ and His teachings and that encourages open evangelism, I am careful how I do it. There was a time when I wasn't so deeply rooted in my faith or active in and of my belief and I remember how it felt to be assaulted by the "idea" of Christianity. It always felt like people were throwing bibles at me and that only made me want to dodge them rather than catch one or hold onto it in any way. I am aware of the bad rep Christianity has in this world and I'm not interested in feeding into that any more than I need to. For that reason, I'm careful about how and when I bring it up.

Anyway, my point in even saying it here and now (because this is my blog and perspective so it's only fair that I practice a little more "freedom of speech" here but if it makes you feel uncomfortable, I understand and I'm sorry to have offended you) is that visual art can be such an amazing vehicle for so much more than just teaching art. I use ever lesson to instruct about life and (as I understand it) how life can be made more meaningful and worth living.

For this broken window painting, I presented the project to the students with a powerpoint that showed them photographs of real broken windows.We had discussions about them and I asked them how windows can be so broken but still manage to hold themselves together in their total forms. The students were unsure. I offered them this explanation...
"The windows are whole but their broken pieces support each other. That's the amazing thing about broken windows. They are broken yet somehow they stand together and whole. Broken windows are very much like people. People are broken in every number of ways yet we still walk around trying to hold things together as best as we can. For the most part, people can do it. At least it looks that way from the outside. They do indeed appear whole but really? Their lives are so fractured and if you looked inside of them they would look as broken and would indeed be as fragile as a broken window definitely is. One tiny little touch and they might fall to pieces. Something else about people? They can be broken and shattered and then still be broken again within their broken pieces. People who exist like that are even more fragile than the others. When brokenness occurs on top of brokenness, you have to be so careful not to disturb it or even the slightest bit of window will send it into a state that is completely impossible to repair. Yet, just as I mentioned before, you can't tell? And that's the problem, we are all somehow broken deep down inside - some more than others - and for this reason we must be more gentle to each other (no matter our beliefs or backgrounds) in order to fully live out the gospel according to what Christ teaches."
 If this sounds like some seriously heavy ideology to lay upon a bunch of high schoolers, well... it is! But I'll have you know that I do this with them on a regular basis. Definitely it helps that I am at a Christian school to begin with so I can even talk about things in reference to scripture and something as hard hitting as Christianity but I cannot even begin to tell you how it has transformed the way the students invest themselves in their art.

Showing them how greater meaning can exist in not only a finished piece of art but also the process itself pushes them to transcend beyond the paintbrushes they might not care to wash out correctly or the paints that accidentally get splashed on their clothing. For them, designing their pieces, fabricating them, and then having them evaluate the job they have done becomes something that makes art sacred to them.  It's because of this that the art studio classrooms are treated as sacred places that they aren't just required to respect but that they want to respect.

I consider myself a Christian artist that is a part of a community of many other Christian artists who also happen to be students in any one of my classes. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what does it mean to be a Christian artist and I feel like I have finally figured it out. It doesn't mean I should be making pieces that are solely focused on illustrating Bible verses or depicting Christ's crucifixion over and over again or using strictly religious symbols like doves and olive branches or arks filled to the brim with two-by-two animals. I think being a Christian artist is much more about answering the call I have always had inside of me to create with all of myself and to do that as well as I possibly can. I believe being a Christian artist is about looking at life as it is and really examining it in order to understand how a belief and following of faith can bring beauty even if that place is one of tragedy and pain and anguish and a place that is seemingly full of nothing but hopelessness.

Life can be many things but as far as I'm concerned? Why not regard at as something that is much larger than itself and is worth a whole lot more than we could ever imagine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Not sure how many of you are regulars here on the blog but thought I would highlight some things that have changed within the last week. I have been monitoring my blog stats for months now and am trying to make it easier to navigate based upon some of the data I have been gathering...
  • Restructured the navigation for the site so that the network I tap into (re: other art education/artist blogs) are linked with a thumbnail now on the right sidebar. These links are the same ones listed in the links section across the top navigational bar of the blog.
  • Added a section of popular postings (with thumbnails) also to the right sidebar 
  • Enabled subscription to this site via email - access this on the right sidebar. 
  • Added a search engine box so it's a little easier to find things in the archives.
  • Added a button for you to follow what I'm doing on pinterest (if you want an invite please email me!)
  • Tried to do schedule ahead postings so that fresh material is added daily! Not sure how long I can keep up with this but I'm going to do my best to do it with my grad school and work schedule but I'm going to try to do it.
Ways you can help me to make this site better...
  • Contact me via the comments sections OR email at andreareamphotography AT gmail DOT com to let me know what you would like to see more of (or less of for that matter). My goal is to give back to the online art community that gives so much to me (inspiration, encouragement, HOPE that the love for art is not dead!!) on a daily basis. One way I can be better at giving back is knowing what is needed and wanted.
  • Link up(!) by letting me know where you're blogging your best art/art education material!!! I am glad to offer you linkage in both the links section and the right sidebar. My only stipulation is that your postings must feature decent quality images in your postings of the work you do/your students do. I don't care if they are taken with your camera phone or regular camera. Just make sure you include images in your postings. I have a specific reason for this and I am going to be addressing it in the near future but in the meanwhile, please use embedded images!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I live to love and LAUGH

One of my favorite things about my job is the fact that I get to spend time with my student artists that doesn't just occasionally allow for fun and silliness but more like demands it on a regular basis. While it is encouraged and emphasized (during your formal education in order to be a teacher) to establish good rapport with your students/classes, it's not always easy for people to do or (at least) it can really take a while for it to happen.

I'm happy to report that I'm now three years in at the school where I am and I am finally feeling completely at home with just about any of my students and I can pretty much bet that is something mutual as well. One thing that is for sure in my classroom? It's a common thing for good conversation and definitely jokes, good natured jabs, giggling, and laughter to be in abundance right alongside all of the work that we are attempting to do. As it has happened, there are "inside jokes" that almost every one of my students is in on because of things that occur in my classroom.

Case in point: The story of Ethel Rose

There is this ongoing thing with two of my junior year artists that originated on a day when barely anyone else was in class (because of field trips or sports events or something) and amidst the joking that was already happening, we started on this idea that one of them (the male student) had met an "older woman" who was also a "senior" and what would happen if he went home and told his parents that but the individual happened to literally be an older woman who was really more of an octogenarian (vs. just being older per se) and also a legit senior citizen (vs. being a senior in high school).

Now, I realize how ridiculous this whole story is and that is the whole point. And this "thing" started between myself and the two other students and we have just run with it for months at this point. To make it even better, the two students in on this particular joke are incredibly clever, funny, and sarcastic students who are totally able to come up with some of the best (completely fictional) elements to make this thing even more entertaining.

The above picture is the WiP of a giant Valentine's card the one student (who is female) is helping me create for the other student (who is male and the "boyfriend" of the fictional Ethel Rose). Here is the finished card with other elements that all of my art classes helped me to brainstorm what "Ethel Rose" might prize in her own life)...

View of the outside of the card. The poem reads, "Roses are Red, Wheelchairs are blue, sometimes I can't see or hear you. (Please bring me new batteries for my hearing aid.)"

View of the inside of the card


The card was delivered just today to the one student and I am delighted to report that it went over very well and I can pretty much bet his heart is bursting with a newly realized love for the lovely "Ethel Rose."

Good times. Good times.

Monday, February 13, 2012

WiPs: The Ombre Experience installation - we're getting there!!

Here are just a few more snaps of all that is currently keeping the 3D Design classes busy.

Little by little, each student artist is finishing up the first stage of their piece of the installation by designing and fabricating 144 shapes that will make 72 pairs of shapes. Such a painstaking process that they are both loving and hating.

They were encouraged when I showed them these though! I mean, really? Who DOESN'T get excited over a box full of beautifully organized and separated brand spankin' new pony beads in glitter, gloss, and pearlescence? Even the boys of the class were intrigued by the idea of digging into these.  Amazing that at the start of this project, these were not even a part of the materials list! Funny how a shopping trip to Lowes for supplies that would have been ten times your budget lands you square at the Walmart next door to get something way more fun to work with and much easier on the wallet as well.

One of the more challenging issues presented with this project is how to store the works-in-progress until all of them are done and can be rigged up for installation in the student gallery (that's the other major challenging issue). Problem solved with the handy dandy ceiling hooks bought en masse last year and never used.

I tasked the tallest students of each class (three total) to help me to stand on the teacher stool and help me install hooks only over the front/teachers area of the room. I figure grouping them here instead of elsewhere will minimize the possibility of students trying to swat at the them and otherwise break them.

Anyway, this is where we are currently!!  The goal is to have this project DONE and installed no later than the end of next week. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In the spare time I don't have to begin with

I'm busy doing all manner of things like shooting and editing portrait sessions of both the engagement sort and the newborn kind...

I'm also doing stuff like soft sculpting fun and silly hats in free-form crochet for the sweetness that is my daughter... (also, crocheted the duck hat you see above)...

While doing all of this might seem ridiculous because I obviously don't have a ton of spare time, keeping busy is just something I've always done and probably will always do. Sure I might be seen as a bit of a workaholic. I see myself more as a visual artist whose work is just never done. *wink*

Friday, February 10, 2012

I *heart* my job (and How I got here from there)

In case I haven't made it obvious enough already, let me just say it outright so there are no questions to be asked...

 I really REALLY love my job!
I really Really REALLY love my student artists!

If you can believe it, where I am right now is my third (maybe even my fourth?) career at this point. The buck stops here for me though and I believe this is it for me.

Originally, I earned a bachelors in the social sciences with a focus on anthropology and sociology because I had major aspirations to be something of the next Jane Goodall. During my college years, I worked full-time and in the midst of it all ended up being promoted to  management level at a very popular Swedish furniture company that also included being THE quality assurance control contact for the whole store. (What a job/responsibility for a college student!!) (Something else I did there? Learned how to build just about any piece of their furniture line in record time and also know all manner of things of each of their product lines that any one person shouldn't possibly have a need to know in the first place.)

Upon college graduation, I had the option to stay with the aforementioned company and continue moving up the ranks but I was totally not even close to happy with such a prospect. Yes - it was a very fun place to work as one would expect - but it was so far from what I had been going to school to do. So, where did I end up working? Well, I joined the acute care staff at world renowned mental hospital (yes, I did just say mental hospital) and I worked doing crisis intervention and stabilization and therapy groups for ages three to geriatric folks who had everything from suicidal to suicidal to delusional tendencies (this includes - but is not limited to schizophrenia, multiple personalities/dissociative identity, all manner of addictions, etc).  I did this for almost two and a half years and while you might argue that this wasn't exactly anthropology and sociology, well... technically it was social sciences but it was also working with really interesting people and I liked that.

I switched from acute and direct clinical care to case management because I was emotionally burnt out (for the most part) and also interested in upward mobility and all of this led me to work with another internationally renowned company doing insurance and admissions case management work for (mostly) autistic children with severe self-injurious behaviors. I was 25 when I got this job and was (possibly) the youngest person in my department with my own office and also the responsibility to do things like represent my department at multiple weekly meetings with medical directors and such things. (The first time my dad came to visit me at this job he was both awed and jealous by the valet service that parked his car, security desk that guarded my building, and everything else that he saw until he was allowed to finally see my office with a door (but no window - see? I wasn't so big time!)

While I did the above, I was being mentored by an amazing landscape painter and also doing freelance photography that included Jewish Orthodox weddings (yes, I specialized in this!), portraits, and food photography. Why? Because way back when (in college) I actually started out as a studio art photography major until my family pushed me away from it and into the liberal studies track I ended up on at graduation.  I believe (not to sound cheesy but it's true) I've always had a heart of a visual artist so I firmly believe I was fulfilling/indulging that despite where I was walking in my daytime career path. My boss knew this about me though and during an annual review she looked straight at me and said, "What are you going to do with your life? SERIOUSLY! WHAT are you going to do with your life? I KNOW you are not happy doing this kind of work." I turned in my resignation within a month of that conversation and started on the crazy road that has brought me here to be in the classroom I am in today.

You might have noticed some things about the story above...
  1. I am not a classically trained teacher by any means yet I have taught not only in the private school I am currently in but also in the public school and am going on half a decade of what is now my teaching career.
  2. I am not a classically trained visual artist either, yet I am actively working as one not only in a way where I have been invited to public gallery showings but also to do commissioned artwork in both the traditional studio art capacity (in the way of paintings, sculptures, etc.). I also have a thriving photography business of more than a decade and I also do consults of visual branding, etc. etc. etc. Basically, I do visual art as much and however I can.
  3. It took what might seem like a long LONG time to get to the point where I am. However, it was really kind of fast when I think back on it and every thing that might have seemed like a misstep has actually been something more of a stepping stone to get to where I am and I am convinced that it has made me the able-bodied and full of heart (and ART!) teacher I am today.
I am bringing all of this up because I keep coming across folks who are either doing work they hate and/or long for work that they feel like is far beyond their reach because the passing of time or the requirement of additional schooling or training seems to be blocking the way they would rather go. I am standing here and doing what I am doing and I am a living breathing testament that those things don't exist as much as it might seem they do. Seriously. I feel like I get to truly "live the life" that is nothing short of a dream I once had and I know deep down that it never could have happened had I not just believed in the existence of possibilities that I didn't even see entirely. What I did was invest myself fully in faith

For me? Faith is something very clearly defined (and I've outlined it in my statement of faith above if you are interested). For you, faith might be something different and I don't blame you for going that way. I was definitely every other way than here (and believing what I do) at a number of different crossroads in my life before now. As I detailed above, I've been a lot of places, seen an incredible amount of amazing things, and also found what some might consider reasonable success. Still?  I swear on my own life that I have never felt more whole and fulfilled than I do today and I can't help but feel like the only other place I want to be other than here at any given time is on my knees with my head bowed in prayer filled with reverence and gratitude to the Lord almighty who I believe straightened every path and quickened every step of mine right to my heart's desire.

Tomorrow I turn 33 (That's right, it's my birthday!) and though my whole story isn't even close to being told in all of the above (hard to believe but it's true) I wanted you all to know this much at least. I also want to implore you to go confidently in the direction of your dreams and to stake that to an unshakable and deeply rooted faith that not only promises that it can and will happen but delivers on those promises as well. I consider myself to still be pretty young and to have plenty of life ahead of me to live just yet but (as I said before!) I only told a small part of my story and the part I left off (that I plan on sharing at some point here on the blog as well) is something that is nothing less than life or death in nature and has taught me that me that life really is too short to spend it doing anything other than what we truly love and feel called to do.

Have a great weekend, blog friends! Thanks for keeping up with me this week - I have noticed that my blog hits have really been skyrocketing and yesterday it was almost 200 alone! Since this is my birthday weekend this weekend, I'm tasking YOU to eat a slice of cake (of whatever flavor you choose!) on my behalf. Life is too short to not eat enough cake either. See ya next week!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lesson idea: Planar Landscape sculptures

Here's another lesson idea that was done only once two years ago and then never revisited again!

In theory, this project is an awesome idea. In reality, it was a huge challenge as a first project (for the 3D foundational kids) and it was a real pain in the patushky (overall) for me since it required me to just about push the project through to the end.

In my defense, this was the first project I ever did in my current classroom and I wasn't sure what to expect of the students/class. This project was the one the previous teachers did and because it had always been done, I was being obedient and doing it. That being said? Maybe I did it wrong - I really don't know - but I did it once and then never did it again.

The idea of this project was to teach the student to use flat surfaces (planes, if you will) in order to create 3D images. Basically, it's a similar idea as a diorama only it's not enclosed.

The materials we used were the following:
  • Foam-core board in white and black for the base of the structure
  • Pebbled mat board for the vertical planes
  • Xacto knives to cut, trim, sculpt the planes so that they could be presented in the vertical stacked presentation as you see above
  • Acrylic paints, markers, pens, etc. - basically mixed media for coloring
  • White glue and (eventually) hot glue to really get the piece to stick into the bases
The students who went with the simplest ideas were the most successful. Many came up with seriously elaborate takes on what could be done and almost every single one of those students was discouraged long before the end of the project happened which ultimately resulted in them being less invested and turning out seemingly subpar work. IF (and that's a huge if!) I ever do this again, I will approach it in a much different way and encourage them to employ the use atmospheric perspective so that their pieces look more like flat paintings that have actual depth.

[Funny thing to note: I just had to correct a typo where I wrote depth as "death" instead. If that doesn't sum up how I felt about this project I don't know what does! But enough with bashing it already. I mean, like I said, it was bad but I'm sure it was just particularly bad to me.]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lesson idea: Organically-inspired sculpture ceramic tiles

This project idea is another one I did two years ago (only once) in 3D Design and haven't done since.  It was the final project/assessment and worked out beautifully despite all of the issues that came along with it. Inspiration for it came from Etsy when I stumbled upon the work of Element Clay Studio.

I loved how refined the work looked while still offering a terrific perspective of what texture might look like at a more macro level. It drew upon not just the beauty that real fine art has but also allowed the possibility for cross-curricular teaching since it could draw upon biology and earth sciences because the subject matter was meant to be completely organic.

 Each student was tasked with coming up with just one macro-view and there were plenty of starfish and lots of other aquatic representations. Another student did a beautiful texture inspired by the back of an alligator and a another one (who was very naturally gifted) did a fingerprint. Sorry I don't have closer pictures of these! I should have taken them at that level but they were a real challenge to hang and once they were up in the gallery (they showed BEAUTIFULLY!) I wasn't about to disturb them. Here is a picture to prove that...

I might try these again next year but perhaps go for ones that aren't 6x6" in size and maybe more 8x8". We'll see. Another thing that is hugely important is if I can fit this in the budget. The kind of clay I used was VERY expensive - can't remember if I used porcelain or not and have to check my ordering archives on that - but if I buy it at the top of the year, I might be able to avoid budget cuts if/when they happen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lesson idea: Cassette Tape Portraits

[I'm in the process of cleaning out my hard drive in preparation to finally make the jump to Mac world *wooohoooo!* and I found a file of student work from my first year of teaching art at my current school I haven't posted yet! There are a little less than a dozen project ideas and here is the first one.]

This is a project I did with my 3D students way back in the Fall of 2009 when I was a newbie here at my present school. I came upon the idea in my blogroll long before there was the wondrous world of pinterest. The original works/artist can be found on flickr HERE where you will see a decade long collective of their body of work that aims to create portraits of all manner of artists and other noteworthy folks using cassette tape cartridges and the tapes they have within.  The total collective is known as "Ghost in the machine."

I loved the idea because I am a fan of just about any type of portraiture but nontraditional portraiture is one of my favorites of all.  I also loved being able to upcycle items that have seemingly "gone the way of the dinosaur" like cassette tapes. Funny anecdote that occurred during this project: One of my students picked up one of the cassette tape, shook it around and then put his ear up to it while curiously demanding, "How do you even listen to something like this?!!" *sigh*... I have such fond memories of cassette tape listening.

Anyway, this project was the next to last one on the project list for Fall 2009 and it was VERY challenging for the students to complete. I think I put aside a total of three weeks for the whole thing (and they also had the winter holiday break to take it home) and that still was barely enough. The project demanded that they have incredible attention to detail, ridiculous dexterity with an Xacto, and extreme patience to adhere all of the pieces of the teeny-tiny-hard-to-lay-down-in-just-the-right-way pieces of slippery cassette tape. Despite the challenges it presented (and for foundational students no less!) they were incredibly committed to completing exceptionally done final results. I was SO proud of them and when we hung them in the student gallery there was no shortage of raves about them.

In order to ensure the students started the project fully invested in the idea, I allowed them a lot of liberties in what individual they chose to illuminate in this way. This seems like a given of something to do but the more I teach art, the more surprised I am at how often it's not done like this. My goal in all of this was not to wield control but to inspire open-mindedness that despite this was challenging and questionnably above their skill-level - all of my students COULD do it so long as they committed themselves to the possibility that it was all within their reach.

We used pebbled matboard from another project for the canvas and then we collected cassette tapes (obviously) from whomever would give them to us as well as cups of diluted white glue for the adhesive. I allowed the students to use printed off pictures (from Google) as visual guides and while some of them attempted to free-hand sketches onto their supports/matboard, a number of them put their pictures on the matboard and then used the point of a compass to perforate through the picture onto the matboard leaving a tiny dotted outline where their major lines of cassette tape would go. It was a shortcut of a way to do it this way but I wasn't concerned with that detail and more with the overall scope of the project.

Fall 2009 was the first and last time I did this project because it was just way too time consuming and I also like to change things up from year to year so the same things aren't shown in the student gallery over and over again. Another reason why I never did this project again was because, toward the end, it became REALLY hard to locate more cassette tapes when we started to get strapped for them. If I do this again I will likely do it in 2D instead of 3D because thought the medium was 3D, the picture came out to be more 2D so it only makes sense that it should be done there instead.

Anyway, if you want to see another round of student work, you can check out Art of Apex High School!  They just did a version of this project just this past Fall and the way they approached it was decidedly less time consuming (but still plenty of fun!) than what I showed you here.
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