Friday, March 30, 2012

I was created to create.

Way back in January I teamed up with a new ministry aimed at reshaping faith into something that was more liveable and approachable for the 20 and early 30 somethings crowd. It is called the Painted Door and it is headed up by Pastor Mark (my church's newest pastor).

Pastor Mark approached me with the idea of taking some spoken word he composed and pairing it with time lapsed illustrations that would help illuminate the identity of the Painted Door and also help to explain what it aims to do. I was very intrigued by the idea if only because it allowed me to do THE thing that I aim to do every day in my life: create for the glory of Christ.

Now, just to clarify something, I very much consider myself a Christian artist. This is despite the fact that my body of work is not strictly composed of subject matter like stereotypical Christian symbology like doves, Jesus sitting around with children on His lap, the crucifixion, Noah's ark, and/or anything involving angels. Don't get me wrong, I love a good illustration of anything in the Bible but I just don't believe that the only way an individual can be a Christian artist is to do strictly things of the Bible. *shrug* I don't know. I'm sure something could be said that disputes my claim but I still maintain it.

As far as I'm concerned, being a Christian artist (or a Christian anything for that matter) means doing whatever you believe you are called to do in the best way you know how and with the greatest level of excellence and achievement you can attain. I firmly believe that God created each and every one of us to do and be different things for the better of the world as a whole. After all, if we all were created exactly alike, how would this world function the way it does? And as for me? I believe that I was created to create in the best way I know how and with all of my might from a place where the inspiration is always of Christ. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't done it like this all my life but I firmly believe that having the contrast of a creative life not so firmly planted within Christ has allowed me to see the amazing things that can and will occur when you do give everything you have over to Him. I hope I am a living testament of that kind of truth - with my body of work, with my identity of being visual artist, with the way I teach - ALL of it. Every last bit.

All that being said (and back to the video), it is an amazing blessing for me to be able to (literally) use my time and talents to evangelize the name of Christ and the message that He has delivered for all of us to receive.

The amazing thing with all of this is that when I agreed to do it, I had no clue what I was signing on for and when the day finally arrived for me to do all of the filming and drawing, I had no clue what I was going to do. Little known fact about me: right now I am being tested for some pretty serious learning disability issues that strongly impact my ability to have even decent reading comprehension and synthesizing of information.

When I arrived for the filming, I was told that I only had but a handful of hours to do the drawings and be filmed. Pair that time crunch with the fact that none of my cohorts had very many ideas for the drawing in mind and that left me holding a number of pages of very abstract ideas in a beautifully written spoken word poem that was lengthy for me to read and then understand. Amazingly enough (and after a good solid heartfelt prayer for some serious wisdom and guidance!), the Lord really provided me with some wonderful visually descriptive inspirations that totaled over 15 drawings!!! Here's the thing: drawing is NOT my strong suit and I am always better doing three dimensional and/or digital works of art. Still? I staked myself to the fortitude of the God who created me and I staked myself to the promise that I believe that is He created me to create. And in less than 7 hours of time, over 15 drawings were conceptualized, filmed, and finished and ready to be edited and pieced together into this amazing piece of video short...

I hope you enjoyed this and also were able to get the message that it attempted to present. The hands drawing were mine but the ideas and inspirations that originated everything you saw were strictly of my amazing Christ Jesus and what I believe is His Holy Spirit.

Thanks so much for being a part of this incredible life that I get to live for Him! Please contact me directly if you have any questions about this endeavor or if you ever want to talk more specifically about my walk of faith with Him.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not my art: Day of the Dead statuette of Frida Kahlo

This lovely little piece of finery is courtesy of a junior year student aide for one of the 3D Design classes. She did this work for the purpose of fulfilling a passport credit (one of the standard foreign language components here at my school) for Spanish class.  It's hard to tell but this little statuette stands only about six inches tall. It was modeled out of scupley clay and then she painted it with acrylics with a few extra embellishments like string (for the braid that you can't see).

It's very significant that I am a fan of this piece of artwork in the first place because I am normally not a fan of day of the dead stuff. Am I unreasonably unyielding to new ideas? Perhaps it's more than I'm bad at employing disinterested pleasure. Still, my lovely student aide brought this little piece to class (it's technically a work-in-progress for her) in an effort to ask me advice on some design decisions she was trying to make and I couldn't help but be completely enthralled by it. The picture above fails to show how well detailed it is (with her sculpting technique and overall attention to detail) and how truly charming it is in real life.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Forget instagram! Pixlr-o-matic is where it is.

While I really appreciate Apple and all of what it's done to revolutionize smart phones so that they can be that much more useful in everyday life, I am actually an android phone user. My phone is the HTC EVO and one of my most used apps on board is a photo taking and processing app called Pixlr-o-matic. As it happens, it's also a web-based app you can try out via the link!

While it helps that I have some good solid working knowledge of photography and digital processing/photo effects because of other work that I do outside of teaching and being a working visual artist, Pixlr-o-matic is a great app to use for even just the camera/photo enthusiast. Most all of the pictures I take and post here originate from the app and while I definitely go overboard with the processing sometimes, it's still fun to use to manipulate the photographic images I take to document every day life. Something else that is awesome about this app? It's F-R-E-E!!! And it also doesn't square crop everything like instagram does. 

Here are some of my more favorite images taken with my phone and processed with Pixlr-o-matic...

Definitely these are no pro pictures but they aren't intended to be either. Possibly they could be classified as annoyingly "artsy" because of the way they are processed and how the images themselves are composed but *shrug* who cares? It's fun and that's the real point.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Art Teacher Hack: Organize markers by color!

One of my greatest personal challenges as an art teacher is organization. Surprise, surprise! At any given time I have tons of "stuff" that is a real pain to manage because of just how much of it I have. I won't go as far as to say that I am a hoarder but, well... I guess I sort of am. As it works though, I think this might be a problem that most any art teacher has. There are just always bits and bobs and things that I might collect at any given time because... oh, I don't know - I might really need any one of things to make something!!!

Anyway, sometime last year I invested in Bic Mark-it 24 Color marker sets. They happened to be on sale (don't remember the price but it was AMAZING!) so I plunked down the money and got somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 sets. (I KNOW!!! Cool, eh?)  The students have loved using them (this is our third major project for them) and they have really held up for us to be able to get some solid use from them for another go-round. My only complaint? They are a pain to manage when it comes to keeping them in sets. No matter what I do to try and keep them in individual sets, it just doesn't work and I end up after class/at the end of the school day sorting them with the always faithful and wonderful art students who gather to socialize. *sigh*

After doing the above for close to a week and being annoyed beyond belief, it hit me that instead of just throwing them all into a big bin that will make it even harder to find the colors that you might want to use, why not save the cases and then sort them by their chromatic groupings/pairings! And voila!!  We had a new system that not only works but is really easy to manage.

In the future I might do this for all coloring materials that are not paint. It just works well and I'm all about well-oiled systems like that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lesson idea: Smart phone menu illustration

The students had a real love-hate relationship with this project. *heh*

It was the first long-term and self-directed project they completed and they used a tutorial found online to inform their design decisions.

I encouraged them to do nine original app buttons and to really "think outside the box" to come up with app ideas that would (essentially) be physically impossible to have. It really was fun listening and joining in on their conversations and some of the apps they came up were both fun, funny, and (at times) very ingenius. One thing I allowed them to do (outside of the normal scope of things) was to engage and interact with their own social networks via twitter and/or facebook. I encouraged them to pose the question "What would be a really cool app that couldn't exist but should?" They didn't get a ton of responses back but the ones who did were very excited to take on the challenge to create some of the ideas posed to them.

Something else interesting to note of this project: the male students have really outperformed the female ones. This isn't to say that the female students did poorly. The male students were simply a lot faster at completing the project on the whole and they were way more focused on the project as a whole.

Here are some of the student pieces that I've enjoyed...

I really liked this project idea because it really instructed upon how the basics of illustrator can be rendered and even stretched to create something that is very simply done but not without solid creativity and clean and well thought-out design decisions.

This project is leading itself into the illustrated recipe project (they have already begun and are working on it currently) and we will be making an illustrated recipe book just like we did last year. The only difference is this year's recipe book will be a 10x10 size because I just happen to have a groupon that I need to use before July that will help offset the production cost. *Yay for things being impeccably timed!!!*

Friday, March 23, 2012

Set Design: The scenes of the sights of The Sound of Music

It's been just less than a week since the production for Sound of Music closed and the pictures you see below are all that is left of the set. As it is par for the course of things around here, the set is taken apart/down and disposed of (or stored in the case of certain pieces being able to be used again) immediately following the last show of the production's run. 

I have yet to be a part of the disassembling of any of the sets I have helped design and produce because doing that requires me to come to the last show of the run. I usually go to one of the first showings for two reasons - 1) I don't want to be a part of the "calling out" for thank yous where the cast/crew is asked to come up on the stage and be spotlighted and 2) I think it would be kind of traumatic for me to be a part of the tearing a part of the set and I would just rather not be a part of it. (Seriously.)

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took for portfolio purposes - both for my own and for some of the students who really took the initiative to be a part of the set painting...

One single sophomore student did the majority of the mountain range work. The pine trees at the base of the mountains were done collectively by all of the visual art classes leading up to opening night.

A view of the whole mountain range taken from the audience.

Standing on the stage and looking left of the mountain range.

Standing on the stage and looking right.

Standing on the stage and looking at the center portion of the mountains.

The modular/folding archways in front of the mountain ranges were meant to suggest the inside of the Von Trapp family's  estate. 

This is a closer view of the back wall that is the staircase of the Von Trapp family estate. The columns are cardboard and wood and painted to imitate marble.

These are large arches that are supposed to represent the abbey of the nunnery . They were  texture painted to resemble brick/stone using sea sponges and dry brush technique.

Would love to take the credit for this but all I did was order the material for it. My lovely colleague at the lower school made four different faux stained glass windows collaboratively with a 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade class. They used an acrylic sheet called Dura-lar for the support. After they finished designing/painting it, we cut it out and then stapled it to the wood frame. We also covered it with matte mod podge to reduce the glare that occurred when the stage lights hit it.

A small stained glass window that was supposed to be seen in Mother Superior's abbey office.

I had such a good time doing the artistic direction for this production (as I always do no matter how much I fuss about it) and I learned so much! My biggest lesson was this: the students I work with can and should be saddled with an immense more responsibility than I ever permit myself to give them. Seriously! The student leadership I saw emerge and the ridiculous TALENT (more than anything) was just unfathomable at times. 

This production was my third one being a part of added to Godspell and the Diary of Anne Frank. Not sure what next year's big plans will be but I hear it might be Hairspray. We'll see!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The girl

It's been a while since I've done any masks. Here is one I finished up today for the visual thinking project I was assigned for a supplemental art course for my grad studies track. The assignment was to listen to a song and then use what you heard, felt, sensed (of the music) to inform the design and fabrication of a piece of artwork. There were very few limitations on the finished piece other than that it couldn't exceed a certain size. I went with the approach of putting my design idea on a mask form because I just always do better with a three dimensional surface.

The song I used to inform my design was by City and Colour and it's called The Girl. You can listen to it if you want to by clicking on the embedded link or you can just take my word for it and know that the song is very much of a Plain White Tee's "Hey there, Delilah" vibe (well, the slower ballad-y version at least).

The inspiration for my design also originated from someone I know as the song is also one they have said they like and have listened to enough recently. I guess it's a little bit of a visual depiction of how they have presented themselves and how I understand them to be.  The subject is female and right now she is going through a very challenging time in her life that I know can/will provide her with significant growth so long as she doesn't fight it. Still, she is not really in a good place and she hasn't been in quite a while. The difference between now and every other time though? She is finally willing to be authentically herself rather than a facade of what she wishes she would have been to begin with.

This mask is definitely a departure from the theme of my original collective even though I think it could sort of fit into it if I wanted to. I don't know though. I would have wanted to put a lot more time and energy into it and used different materials and spend a lot more time doing something very cleanly executed. My original idea was to do a Jonathan Adler inspired pattern and even though I did draw from something I saw of his, it is hardly worthy to be called even inspired by him because of how messy it is.

Anyway, this is my latest endeavor in my personal work. It's been so long since I've done anything on that note so it felt good to be able to do it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lesson idea: StampART for Black History month

Said it before and I'll say it again: I LOVE doing things to recognize the holidays that come and go!

My every intention was post this at the tail end of last month but it just didn't happen because of all of the set design and painting for The Sound of Music. *shrug* What can I say? I should make the tagline for this blog "better late than never."


This project was one I did to recognize Black History month. I stumbled upon the idea by way of This is Collossal when they highlighted the work of New York based artist Molly Rausch. I loved the way it drew in the nostalgia and real history of postage stamps as arts while also touching upon the idea of how important it is to "see the forest from the trees" since a postage stamp - while small and well designed - is such a small snippet of an illustration of a persons while big wonderful life.

Each of the students was allowed to pick whomever they wanted within Black History and I also allowed them to utilize the tracing table because, for some of them, this is their first studio art class in all of high school or in many many years.

This is a very VERY small sampling of pieces that were completed and I wanted to photograph a lot more but a combination of laziness and running out of time has yielded only this much. You get the idea of what we did at least with this much.

Fun tidbit of this project: The edging of the stamps (that were about 4"x5" in size) was done with this handy-dandy paper edging machine that my artsy-craftsy grandma gave me last year in a bin of other random art materials. The machine is specifically for card making and scrapbooking but I'm not into either one of those things so the only times I get to use the machine is during seemingly random times like this project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sweetest hook-up EVER!!

Such a beautiful (and DELICIOUS!) thing that right now my job/the current 3D Design class project requires me to pop in on a local cupcakery every so often to pick up what would be their discarded egg crates/cartons to do Egg Cubism paintings...

As it happens, I'm good buddies with the head baker of the place and I also "networked" myself with the owner last August and did some food photography for them of their cupcakes when they were first getting their website up and going so it's been no big deal for me to just call them up and ask them to put aside all of their egg cartons.

For whatever reason, the 3D classes ran out yesterday afternoon and at least half a dozen didn't have any cartons for their pieces! Oh! The horror that I had to go to the cupcakery this morning during my back-to-back planning period to grab some more and also a delicious hummingbird flavored cupcake for my troubles. My life is just so hard sometimes, eh? *wink*

I have already scheduled a second trip to the cupcakery for the end of this week because they have said they would save more cartons for me. Yay for another opportunity to upcycle AND eat a delicious cupcake!!!

WiPs: Think outside the stamp - Black History month project

*This posting is late and got lost in my drafts folder. Oops! It was supposed to post about a month ago. Oh well. Here it is anyway.*

Yesterday was the last day of studio/classroom time for this project and this was very much what was happening at every table.

I'm delighted to report that we will actually be finished with this project BEFORE Black History month is through this year (unlike last year - *pfffffft!!*) And while this year's project was decidedly less elaborate, I feel like it allowed for just as many "teachable moments" and maintained the general integrity of what it aimed to do from beginning to end.

Looking forward to showing you the finished works in the coming days! Here's hoping that I can get both that done AND get the actual pieces hung up in the gallery BEFORE the month is through. Thank goodness for my recent gallery hack! Hopefully that will make hanging the pieces a little more painless.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lesson idea: The Ombre Experience - A study of color and installation art

Not sure when my obsession with installation art started but it's been unrelenting by holding my attention in a serious way for at least the past year. I honestly feel like if I didn't love my job (right now) so much and feel like I really was answering a divine calling to do it, I would easily dive head first into the world of installation art and try any carve out my place in it.

I first stumbled upon this project idea on Princentenol under the name Tint and Shade Ceiling Hanging. I LOVED the idea of doing it but felt like it needed a little bit of something more to it so I mentally bookmarked it and then just forgot about it. Time passed, I got bored with some of what I had been doing in the 3D Design class, and a dug it back up in an effort to indulge my installation art obsession.

The learning objectives behind this project are multi-layered and touch upon so many great things...
  • Technique of painting evenly and with careful brush strokes
  • Experiencing tempera paint and understanding why it is so awesome
  • Color mixing, tinting, and shading
  • Understanding and creating geometric and organic shapes
  • Learning how art can be used to transform and reshape space
For as simple as the project was, it was also pretty challenging. While I normally do lessons/projects that last about 2-3 weeks, this one easily took five total. It really required the kids to stay on task and stay the course even when it seemed like the work was becoming monotonous and redundant - because, seriously? It was once it came time to draw and cut each of the 144 shapes that were needed to make up the 72 pairs of shapes that would hang off of each of their rings.

Since I share a classroom with my part-time colleague, storage is ALWAYS a challenge and this project didn't help at all. Thankfully, the issue was attended to beautifully by hanging things from the ceiling up by the front of the classroom/teacher's podium - this was to help keep students from wanting to bat at them while they moved around the class.

The whole installation is mostly hung up right now with the exception of a few yellow pairings that I have to finish up quickly and get hung up because few people wanted to take on the task of that color. The most popular colors were red, orange, and blue overall.  Kind of surprised me that orange was so popular but it's my favorite so I was delighted that so many of the kids wanted to do it.

Here is what our exhibit "The Ombre Experience" looks like hung up in the student gallery hallway...

I feel like (for the most part) I'm pretty pleased with it. We've gotten a lot of really great feedback on it and though I would have liked it to have filled out the space a little more, what it does look like really works for the space.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some advice: If you are sick, STAY HOME.

**This is TOTALLY unrelated to visual art of any kind.**

I can't tell you exactly how bad my school, community, family has been hit with all manner of illnesses recently but it's been bad enough that it's finally gotten to me and let me just tell you - I have been knocked right off of my feet.

While I might be able to take the stance that this has offered me plenty of opportunities to do things like stay home and rest (as I have really REALLY needed something of the like), I am rather hard-headed, stubborn, and unable to easily see something so obvious as that. *shrug*  As it stands, this is the fourth week (that's a WHOLE month, people!) that someone in my immediate household has been sick and this time its me. Can I just tell you that when mama (that's me!) gets sick, she gets it perhaps worse than everyone?

But, as I stated before, I am kind of hard-headed about things and when I started getting the tell-tale signs of a very bad sore throat last Friday, I ignored them and when about my business. The on Saturday the coughing started in and then, on Sunday, my voice disappeared all while my throat got so bad that my jaw ached because I was gritting my teeth so hard to bear the pain of swallowing even involuntarily. I finally bounced myself into urgent care and they gave me the OK to take a leave from work as well as antibiotics.That night I attempted to sleep sitting up since it was all I could do to keep myself from coughing so hard I would gag and choke myself.

I stayed home from work on Monday with the hope that would be enough and despite my best efforts to work, I was completely wiped out and just about slept all day.  I went back to work on Tuesday trying to be a champ about things but not even halfway through the morning and I was barely feeling like I could see straight. My face swelled up, my eyes started watering uncontrollably, and I was just plain miserable for the rest of the day. By the end of the day when I was trying to pick up my kid from playschool I was barely able to put one foot in front of the other much less drive the 55 minute commute home. (I was literally praying the whole ride that Jesus would reach down from the heavens and grab the wheel if it was so necessary at any point.)

When I finally got home, my husband took one look at me and didn't even think of disturbing me while I went and tried to take the hottest bath and then shower I could and then covered myself with blankets and curled myself in the tiniest ball I could squish myself into at the end of the couch in the living room. I stayed like that for probably close to an hour and a half.  When I was finally able to get up, I realized I was burning hot so I took my temperature that determined I had a steadily climbing fever (my first in maybe over five years!) and then called out for work the next day (that is today).

So here I sit, at home today. And the lesson I've learned is this: if you are sick? STAY HOME. This goes for teachers, students, ANYBODY!!!  I don't care what anybody says but it is irresponsible and NOT WORTH IT to go to work/school/wherever when you are obviously SICK because not only are you wasting time/money/resources because you aren't able to effectively use them (since you are SICK) but you are also exposing everyone you cross paths with to the SICKness that you have.

Let the record state that I stand corrected for everyone time I have said sick days were meant to be worked through.

And with that? I think I might actually finally be better enough that tomorrow when I return to work, I will actually be well enough to perform my job well (the way I always should) and well enough to be around people and NOT expose them to the cess pool of germy mess that I obviously was since last Friday. *wink*

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Set Design: The Sound of Music

Hard to believe but all of the visual art efforts for set design for the school's production of the Sound of Music are just about done!!!

A view from my favorite seats of the balcony. Best seat in the house (if you ask me)!!!

Earlier this week the lower school art teacher dropped off a MAJOR part of the set design: the faux stained glass panels.

Here they are lying in wait to be stapled into the standing window frames.

Here they are lightly coated in matte modge podge because though they were so pretty when they were so shiny, the stage lights bouncing off of them were blinding the audience members. I <3 Modge Podge!!! (But only the matte kind because the gloss kind is sticky and gross.)

One of my biggest personal challenges is the fact that I am terrible at delegating things. The fact of the matter is I have no issue sharing the "glory" or fun of whatever might need to be done but usually I end up swamped with things at any given time because I think so much within myself that it never occurs to me to ask for help. *shrug* What can I say? I'm working on it.  Thankfully, the Lord has been very provident and understanding and has provided me with amazing learning opportunities to learn both the advantages and wonderful value of delegating. (Read: "teachable" moments design just for ME to be taught such a lesson)

This week has just been such a crazy one for me because of all of the set stuff going on so I've really welcomed the frequently appearing "fun" projects (per request of my colleagues) that normally bog down my schedule and are hard to manage.  In the midst of all of the set stuff, I was requested to help decorate/upcycle an old basketball for one of our starting senior basketball player. He is finishing his high school basketball career scoring over 1000 points. I don't know anything about basketball but it's my understanding that that is a pretty amazing achievement.  To recognize this, the head basketball coach gave him one of the game balls and he asked that I help to make that ball a little more special. His simple request to paint just one section of the ball white (so that something could be written in that space) morphed into me painting two sections and also in a way that contributed to a real visual design incorporating the school colors.

Some of the buddies of said student had a grand ol' time helping to paint the ball. As I like to say, if you want something done right? Give it to the kids to take over and make happen!!! They are AWESOME at whatever you request of them and most of the time do a way better job at it than I would have done since I surely would have rushed the job.

This weekend the production opens and that means I am officially done with all the set designing for this school year. I estimate that I will have a little more than a month until discussion starts for next year's set design ventures (as steered by my amazing department head/the performance art department). 

[I will try and take pics to post of the finished set for you when I come to the show this weekend with my family. :)]

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lesson idea: Cartoon Planets - Digital Illustration

Here are some student pieces from the Digital Studio class. It took them approximately three weeks to do fundamental "skill-building" tutorials (hacked and then authored mostly by me from things I found around and about the web intended to teach the basics of the program) in Adobe Illustrator in order to get to a point where they could do a simple but mostly self-directed project like this. 

I gave them a hacked/adapted tutorial to make a cartoon sun to help steer them but told them they could use it to inform some of their creative process/design decisions and instead make an illustration of a planet (of their choosing) in personified form. Here are some of the best of the bunch. I think overall they did a really great job!

I REALLY enjoyed steering the students through this project and it worked out beautifully to be their first "big" self-directed pieces since it allowed for them to not only explore some of the more interesting functions of Illustrator and REALLY flex their imaginations but it also required them to apply some of the basic skills they had built for themselves thus far - working with gradients, closing paths, manipulating shapes, layering paths and shapes (with the pathfinder).

I also really liked how drawing in the idea of what it takes to personify an inanimate allowed for great class discussions to better inform their creative processes and decision making that toed subject matters outside of the visual art realm. (I LOVE when I can bridge the gaps into cross-curricular arenas!!)
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