Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maybe I will take a nap instead

Merely taking up space for the past 6+ weeks

I suppose I could have pulled myself out of bed at a reasonable time this morning in order to get things accomplished but I didn't. And this is the third morning that this sort of thing happened.

I would use the excuse that I am on Spring Break and that's why this sort of thing is happening but I don't know. To me that's hardly a reasonable excuse or justification or whatever you want to call it in order to explain that my serious lack of anything creative in the direction of personal works.

I mean... I don't know. I don't have any very good excuse other than the fact that when I am sleeping I am even dreaming about being able to take a nap so I'm just going to say that I am tired. I am REALLY tired and worn out.

I have one more day (tomorrow) of this Spring Break where I could possibly get in some really good uninterrupted painting time without having either a husband and/or a child wanting for my attention in some way, shape, or form so tomorrow I gotta get back to the easel and make SOMEthing happen.

Today, I really do think that I will take a nap instead. It just goes like that sometimes.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bye-bye Google Reader!

So... if you didn't know already... Google Reader is about to become a fondly spoken of and awfully missed thing of the internet past. (Have you noticed that the link to it has even disappeared from the navigational link lineup already?) I don't remember where I originally found out about this but there have been at least four other art ed blogs that have already brought it up and started the process of figuring out how to contend with the problem that a life without Google Reader present. Thankfully, some of their solutions to the issue are very workable and Google Reader being gone won't be so so terrible or awful when it happens officially come July.

As it is working out, two of the most popular alternatives are to start using Feedly or Bloglovin'. Both are free services (so far). And I will tell you (from my own experience) that I prefer Bloglovin' over Feedly if only for the visual presentation/organization of my blog subscriptions that number in the hundreds. Visually, Bloglovin' just seems a lot more similar to what I am used to in Google Reader. Another thing about Bloglovin' is that it allows you to "claim" your blog in their web-based system in order to better personalize your blogging reading experience and enable you to do some blog analytics within your Bloglovin' account. One last thing about it is the fact that you can migrate all of your blog subscriptions over when you start your account! So easy-peasy to make the jump from Google Reader, right?

I have already added a Bloglovin' button to my right sidebar ------------------------------------------------>
for your convenience and so long as you have a Bloglovin' account? You can simply hit that button much like staying connected through Google Friend connect (which I believe is also going away) or manually adding the url of this site to your Google Reader. And if you don't want to join Bloglovin' (or Feedly for that matter) because you don't want another account/log-in to have to manage, I understand and you can also just follow this blog via it being delivered directly to your email by entering your information at the top of the right sidebar where it says 'Follow by Email.'

Hope you all are doing well! We just got one of our biggest snows (which honestly isn't saying much) this year) despite the fact that it's supposed to be SPRING now.  Perhaps I will end up with a little more of a Spring Break if the weather keeps up like this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Keep Calm and Paint Sumi-E

In addition to Spring bringing all of the studying of installation art with the 3D Design class, the other thing that Spring brings is the Interactive Art History's class unit of doing Sumi-E ink painting...

I have already shared the lesson/project idea HERE and it's quite popular as it's become a real mainstay in the popular posts list link in the right sidebar over there. ------------------------------>

This year I found a great instructional video on how to paint Sumi-E on youtube and I shared this in addition to showing them some quick demos. I think this particular video is really great for an introduction to Sumi-E painting...

Also, as I mentioned previously when I originally shared this lesson idea, I ban the listening of "personal music" (that is: music that the students listen to from their own music players with headphones) and everyone listens to nature sounds while they do their ink wash painting instead!

Here are two that I used this year and they were quite popular and it was amazing how calming it was for the otherwise hustle and bustle of the classroom...

I would turn either of the two videos above and just play the sounds through the speakers as I would quietly circulate the classroom in order to check on the students as they worked. Also? There were very few protests from the students! Well... at first a few kind of fussed about it but after just one class period of this - and we had four total - there wasn't a complaint that I remember because I think the students really appreciated it in the midst of their days.

I don't have finished pieces of work to show you right now because I am currently on Spring Break and I forgot to snap some pictures of them before I left campus but I hope to share them with you in the coming weeks when I am back to school and in the swing of things.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Put a fork in it! :: Pt. 5 of 5

Without further adieu... I present to you The ROYGBIV project in all of it's finished glory!!!!

The installation makes the gallery hallway such a happy place!

Once the students got to the point where they were able to start installing their individual sections of the total installation and they got to see it all come together they were really motivated to get the whole project DONE and it took only a matter of a few days for them to all really pitch in and get things hung up and adjusted no matter what subdivisions they originally volunteered themselves for.

One element that was a final "finishing touch" was hanging painted (with tempera) sheets of acetate sheeting on alternating window panels all the way down the hallway. The hope was that the natural light could shine through the painted sheeting and then cast colored light into the hallway. It didn't work but it did look pretty interesting from the outside and it has served as great encouragement for people to see it across the "quad" and then come walk through the gallery hallway when they otherwise didn't have a reason to venture that way in the first place.

Next  year when we do a different ROYGBIV installation I will allot money in the budget for colorful cellophane.

The sun group had some serious challenges with trying to rig up something that would support the overall structure, girth, and unexpected weight of the finished work. Fishing line did not work after trying it multiple times so the winning solution was to use 14 gauge aluminum sculpture wire that supported the sun from three different points. It doesn't look like a literal interpretation of what the sun looks like but I think it works being abstract the way it is.

The sun is suspended at one end of the hallway where it can hang the highest from the ground.

Obviously a good number of the rainbow drops didn't hold their shape perfectly but I think it's OK. The student artists who worked on them weren't totally disappointed and I was really proud with the way they pushed through to the end even when it was very VERY challenging and discouraging at times. Their perseverance is so commendable and they really pulled things together in the end.

And the clouds group? Well, they had a bit of an unexpected advantage from the get-go because they didn't have to figure things out since they followed some directions found online. *shrug* They did have one of the messiest portions of the whole installation though so they had their fair share of challenge at times. Their original plan was to shade the clouds a little to make them look "stormy" but in the end that wasn't necessary and they simply used some of the natural darkness that was cast from the inside out that derived from the newspaper that they used for the center form of the sculpturing!

For a second try at studying installation art with the 3D Design class, I would say this attempt was successful. So many people - students and faculty/staff alike - have commented really positively on the entire installation and part way through the hanging of everything I already had inspiration come upon me for what will be done for next year's endeavor! If you can believe it it will be much of what you see here PLUS a little bit of some extra that is pure fun and lightheartedness. Hard to believe it can be bigger than this? I guess you'll have to hold me to that and visit me next year to see what it will be all about.

Thanks so much for sticking with me for this week long series! Next week is Spring Break for my school but I will be queuing up some postings that have been waiting around for their chance to be shared in addition to working on graduate school assignments and also (FINALLY!!!) doing some painting at the easel at my home studio.

Have a great weekend! See you next week!

This installation art study was student-centered and collaboratively designed and constructed (across two classes). It utilized paper sculpting and papier mache, string wrapping, spray painting and brush painting, fiber application in order to create a sun, clouds, and rainbow display suspended from the ceiling of the student art gallery hallway. It was originally presented in a week long series that showed the planning and creative processing, the beginning part of the sculpting/working stage, the point just about when everything was done being sculpted, and then some notes about when things went awry and how those things were dealt with. The final view of it can be found HERE. This project was meant to be a re-imagining of The Ombre Experience project idea.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Hiccups and Snafus :: Part 4 of 5

If you've been following me from the beginning of this series, you might notice something rather curious: It's all gone swimmingly well!!! Well, I hate to break it to you all but I'm about to show you some of the nitty-gritty that has gone on in spite of all of the stuff that has been really cool and incredible.

As I said in yesterday's posting, this project was chock full of "teachable moments." I find that most all of the project endeavors that I attempt to steer my student artists through provide more than enough fodder of that type but this one? Well! THIS one really provided!!! I'm going to discuss two of the biggies today.

 The first one was helping the student artists to deal with the challenge of figuring out the best technique and materials to be used and that this can sometimes only be figured out by way of trial and error. This meant that they did what they felt like was a lot of work only to have at least half of it fail "epically" (as they like to put it) after discovering that of the three different types of string we used, the one that was the colorful acrylic yarn (donated by me from my ridiculous "yarn stash" at home) would not hold up on the balloon forms even after it was coated in both of the different types of adhesive mixtures - one modge podge and the other watered down white glue.

The sad stringy mess of modge podge that had they attempted to salvage but in the end was just thrown away in the end.

They used watered down glue mixture but the  yarn just would not soak up the mixture in order to hold the balloon shape.

I predicted that this would happen and that they needed all cotton yarn/string to do the balloon wrapping but I withheld this information because their reasoning to do different types of yarn was for them to try and stay within the supplies budget and I wanted them to try out their alternative idea to save money. In the end, when they discovered that they had to have all cotton string, they were still able to stay in budget because the 100 or so balloons were cheap as they were sold in packs of 30 and were only a buck a piece. It was a good learning experience that taught them that even the best laid plans can't be totally sound and sure-proof. I was really proud of how they all handled the setbacks they experienced which required them to lost almost entire class periods of work just because of the type/quality of materials.

The second very important lesson of this project was a real biggie. It did not focus on supplies or really anything art related and was completely about interpersonal skills and the importance of effective and diplomatic communication. 

A little background that I haven't mentioned until now: 
The student artists worked in two different class periods - that sometimes didn't even meet on the same days - that I affectionately called East Coast division and West Coast division. I likened this arrangement to a large company that worked in different time zones but were expected to work on the same project because it was such a large endeavor that one division alone couldn't manage the whole thing. There were subdivisions within each division (sun, rainbow, clouds) and each of those worked in tandem with the subdivision from the division/class period. They coordinated the workflow by communicating with one another through handwritten notes that they wrote to each other. No names and personalization were allowed and they could only recognize the other group by simply addressing in a collective and general way. This was so no one student artist could demand that they were the one in charge and then call whatever was going on THEIR work that others were simply making happen for them. It wasn't about individual glory. It was totally about working together as a team and being unified.

So, the communication system mostly worked until individual egos started getting inflated and some student artists took it upon themselves to take up a real passive aggressive tone toward the other group (in written note form, of course) that started inciting some serious animosity between one subdivision across the two classes. (I won't tell you which one though. That's not important.)

A sampling of some of the note exchanges from all of the subdivisions.

I was monitoring the communication exchanges pretty carefully - both the written ones as well as the verbal and non-verbal ones that precipitated the written ones - and I addressed all of the issues almost immediately with redirections and reminders about what should really be focused on instead of what was being stirred up. The students had difficulty with accepting my pacification of all of the incidents but they did it with as much grace as you can expect they would seeing as how they are high school young men and women.

Then I ended up getting the stomach flu that has been going around everywhere and I was out of school for three days plus one more when school was out for inclement weather and when I came back? Well... I discovered that things had gotten UGLY and one subdivision found out what class and what individuals were in their partner subdivision and they started accosting each other outside of the art classroom in order to criticize about work being done/not done according to certain individual standards. My return from being so sick I lost seven lbs in less than a week that almost landed me in the hospital because of dehydration was me walking into what had become a pretty hostile warzone between two classes of one subdivision. I wasted no time addressing what needed to be addressed and in the midst of it all I discovered that one of the students actually tried to write an apology letter to the other group/class and their fellow group members tried to rip it up and throw it away to keep the reconciliation and apologies from happening! It was a MESS!!!

I devoted one day that could have been working time to each of the class periods and we had a discussion where I re-established what was most important and I offered them some wisdom to help establish PEACE and ensure that it be kept and maintained. I told them that for the rest of their lives it would never be important who started what in whatever situation but that it was only the reaction that you might have that could ever stop what was allegedly started. I told them that I was not concerned with who was pointing fingers or where those fingers were being pointed and that if ever people wanted to reconcile? That had to be permitted to happen because peace and reconciliation is way more important than "being right."

The students all took "the talk" very well and I think this was, in large part, due to the fact that I focused on the big picture of the problem instead of micromanaging the issues. This is actually how I approached most all of the issues that cropped up throughout the project and though the students were frustrated at times in the beginning, the quickly got used to me presenting things back to them with questions like, "Well... what do YOU think we should do?" or when I responded to some of their multi-layered questions that were loaded more with their lack of confidence than anything, "YES. *smile*" From the get-go I wanted them to feel like they could handle things and that I trusted them to handle things in whatever way they needed to be handled and by and large they did this with everything except the communication issue. I kind of expected something like this would happen though and I was prepared to deal with it.

And that's about it for the hiccups and snafus for the most part. Come back tomorrow for the last day of this series when you get to finally see everything all put together in the gallery!

This installation art study was student-centered and collaboratively designed and constructed (across two classes). It utilized paper sculpting and papier mache, string wrapping, spray painting and brush painting, fiber application in order to create a sun, clouds, and rainbow display suspended from the ceiling of the student art gallery hallway. It was originally presented in a week long series that showed the planning and creative processing, the beginning part of the sculpting/working stage, the point just about when everything was done being sculpted, and then some notes about when things went awry and how those things were dealt with. The final view of it can be found HERE. This project was meant to be a re-imagining of The Ombre Experience project idea.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Pulling it All Together :: Pt. 3 of 5

A view of the sun and some clouds without embellishments
The sculpting/fabrication process for this project went surprisingly quick despite how much work needed to be done. Before we got started I predicted that the clouds and the sun group would progress faster than the rainbow group and I was indeed right.

Every day I would have a brief discussion at the start of the class and give them feedback and also insight about how and why things were going as they were during the sculpting process both from my own observations as well as from the perspective of me being the "expert consultant" or the mentor to all of them. I would also remind them of the timeline that we were attempting to keep to and I would offer them suggestions about what could be done in order to either speed things up of the whole process OR attend to issues that might be arising. They also had the opportunity to ask me questions or present concerns about the overall scope of things and I was able to address things in some reasonably timely ways.

The second most exciting thing for them to do was to take each of their different elements to the next stage beyond just the foundational sculpting phase. The sun group needed to do some careful cutting work and then paint their object before embellishing it...

And the clouds group had to use a glue mixture to adhere the cotton batting and fiberfill to the cloud forms in order for them to look more realistic and have real texture...

The rainbow group? They plugged away wrapping more and more balloons in glue covered string while they also took breaks to spray paint what they had already made and dried completely...

One of the greatest challenges for me apart from managing some expected challenges betwixt and between them (and I will be address this in tomorrow's installment) was the fact that all of the fumes from the glue mixtures and spray paints being used were not fun to contend with in the studio classroom that I have which was never intended to be the studio art classroom that it is today. After about a week of me doing the best I could to air out the classroom just by propping open the door and then having all of the fumes waft out into the hallway, the building maintenance finally gave me my own window key!!!

The coveted GOLDEN key to the windows!!!

I am on pretty decent terms with the building maintenance team/management AND custodial staff because my path crosses with them in so many endeavors I might have but they like me enough because while I can present challenges to them, I am also one of the folks who can take care of their own messes and I frequently do so in such a way that I don't create a huge amount of extra work for them to do. For this endeavor? They finally just slipped me a window key and told me to be responsible with it - meaning, don't go opening everyone else's windows who might be asking for such a thing and also only use it in the art room when absolutely necessary!

Tomorrow I will share with you some hiccups and snafus of this whole endeavor chock full of some serious teachable moments before Friday when I will share with you all the final view/unveiling of everything as it is all installed in the art gallery.

This installation art study was student-centered and collaboratively designed and constructed (across two classes). It utilized paper sculpting and papier mache, string wrapping, spray painting and brush painting, fiber application in order to create a sun, clouds, and rainbow display suspended from the ceiling of the student art gallery hallway. It was originally presented in a week long series that showed the planning and creative processing, the beginning part of the sculpting/working stage, the point just about when everything was done being sculpted, and then some notes about when things went awry and how those things were dealt with. The final view of it can be found HERE. This project was meant to be a re-imagining of The Ombre Experience project idea.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Making it happen :: Pt. 2 of 5

This stage was the absolute messiest of all of the stages but it also was the one that the students really enjoyed because it allowed them to really explore and experiment with the creative process and truly give life to the ideas that they were tasked with. Here is a little of what each of the groups were attempting to work with...

Sun group
Idea was pretty close to THIS idea that I had originally shown them
  • Wanted to paper mache in order to sculpt a single extra-large spherical structure
  • Needed an exercise/yoga ball for their form
  • Wanted to pull in some texture by adhering muffin/cupcake paper cups to the outside of the structure after it was completely sculpted
  • Wanted to use lighting in order to illuminate the structure from the inside out

Clouds group
Idea derived from THIS I found and showed them during the lesson intro
  •  Required them to do paper mache to sculpt multiple different but similar structures
  • Needed lots of balloons for the form of each structure
  • Required cotton batting/stuffing for the texture of the clouds
  • Wanted to do at least seven clouds in order to fill out the gallery hallway space

Rainbow group
Idea was inspired by THIS that I found and showed them during the lesson intro
  • Required them to use watered down glue mixture to soak string so that it could adhere to individual forms
  • Needed lots of balloons for what would be over 100 individual forms suspended from the ceiling
  • Required paint in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet

We spent at least a week and a half total of class time doing just the fabrication/sculpting of all of the different elements of the total installation. It was definitely messy and that's not something that all of the students were keen on but with lots of encouragement and redirection from me that this was a GROUP effort and we needed to be unified in order for it to really be successful, it became a rare thing for any of them to sit and be idle for too long. Most all of the students wanted to play an active role because they fully understood that the effort we had to put forth was major and collective. They truly started understanding that if one person didn't invest themselves, the whole of the project would ultimately suffer.

Two groups needed newspaper for papier mache so they banded together to create triangles - because that's the best shape for seamless and smooth coverage - in order to prep the paper.

The sun group gets started on the first of many layers!
The clouds group also got to work but they had an easier time than the sun because there were multiple cloud clusters to work on.

The rainbow group had perhaps the most challenging of all of the elements of the installation to work on both because of the sheer number of items that needed to be sculpted - they were shooting for about 100 total to fill the space we have - and because working with string coated in glue mixture? Well... it's just way messier than papier mache. Surprising that anything could be that way compared to papier mache but it was true! Also, wrapping and layering the string had to be done a little more strategically (read: it was less forgiving than papier mache) so there was a bit of a learning curve for everyone in the sun group.

The sun group discovered it required at least two people to coat the string and then wrap a balloon with the glue coated string. They tried to have at least two stations of this going at once.
One of the balloons that they did as a "prototype" to figure out if it would work, how long it would take to dry, etc.

One of the major challenges from this stage (as with almost every project endeavor I do) is dealing with how to store things when they are in the WiP (work-in-progress) phase. I share the studio art classroom with a part-time faculty member and while it might sometimes seem like I have a pretty cushy set-up (based on what I share on the blog) the room I share with the other teacher is about 2/3 the size of what I know most art classrooms are that are not shared. This always creates problems when it comes to storing supplies or student works on top of the fact that I know my colleague is not usually thrilled with some of my zany endeavors. (They are much more neat and tidy than I am.)

For this project I solved some of the project by storing some of the bags of balloons behind this huge canvas that another student has been trying to work on when they can...

Far from ideal but making the best of what I have is all I can do

Tomorrow I will show you the next phase of the project when we were getting to the stage of finishing up the sculpting and fabrication of the different elements and starting to install it all in the student gallery hallway.

This installation art study was student-centered and collaboratively designed and constructed (across two classes). It utilized paper sculpting and papier mache, string wrapping, spray painting and brush painting, fiber application in order to create a sun, clouds, and rainbow display suspended from the ceiling of the student art gallery hallway. It was originally presented in a week long series that showed the planning and creative processing, the beginning part of the sculpting/working stage, the point just about when everything was done being sculpted, and then some notes about when things went awry and how those things were dealt with. The final view of it can be found HERE. This project was meant to be a re-imagining of The Ombre Experience project idea.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Kicking it off :: Pt. 1 of 5

 Last year one of the big winners of all of project endeavors was The Ombre Exprience that sought to allow my student artists to study installation art. It was a lot of work but it was very well received not only by the blog audience I serve but also the school community as well! People couldn't say enough about it and the success inspired me to make an installation art study a regular thing that I would do at least every Spring with the 3D Design class. The big challenge for me would be to do something that was just enough of the same thing to start a tradition but just different enough that it would offer something unexpected as well.

This year I think I really managed to do what I set out to do by focusing on the idea of hanging a rainbow of some sort in the student gallery hallway but rather than me coming up with all of the ways it would be done, I decided to make the project completely student centered and have them come up with how it would all play itself out. The only stipulation I made was that (unlike last year) there had to be representations not only of a rainbow but also the clouds and a sun.

In order to help them be inspired and have ideas start to take root, I showed them examples of installation art and otherwise "outside the box" art via youtube...

And then I conducted class discussions and friendly debate about what was most important in order to accomplish what we were setting out to accomplish and then each of the students spent a day or so coming up with individual proposals about what we could possibly do - either for the whole she-bang or for specific elements like focusing on the sun and clouds. Students were not allowed to put their names on their proposals - that were drawings with brief narrations and explanations - and I presented them using a document camera and projector to the two different classes that were doing this jointly for everyone to vote anonymously with post-it notes that I simply collected and adhered directly to the paper proposals. The ideas with the most ideas automatically became the actual inspiration of what we would end up doing with the three elements of the total installation.

Once voting was done, I presented the final selections to the two classes and then I had them sign-up for the three different ideas/inspirations offering them both the pros and cons presented by each idea. I challenged them to not pick portions of the project where they would be working alongside their friends and I also told them to not let the difficulty that might be presented to dissuade them from working on the element of the project that they really wanted. They all did a great job at divvying themselves up and I was very pleased with not having to make that decision for them. I wanted there to be some real ownership of the creative decisions and actions they were making and taking and doing things this way established it from the get-go.

Good ol' fashioned sign-up sheets! Nothing beats doing it like this.

After the subdivisions of teams were established in BOTH classes that met during two totally different times of the day, I took each class to the school's computer lab for them to do research about materials and supplies that would help facilitate the ideas established with the class voting process. I invested a total of about $75 for the project of my own money and gave each subdivision (rainbow, sun, clouds) $25 to stretch as they needed. I had things like paper mache powder and newspapers and some raw materials already in the art room inventory but felt that a $25 cap was reasonable for them to be both challenged to use wisely and also get what was needed in order to bring life to the idea overall. Each class had about one class period in the computer lab and then they collaborated and coordinated their ideas for a "shopping list" for me at the local Wal-mart for me to get what was needed.

Another part of the process was letting them have some time in the actual space were the installation would be hung. Basically, they got to have a site visit so they could take real measurements and have a better visual understanding of taking the idea of paper and placing it in a physical space. It was helpful for them and "mini field trips" are always a welcome change from staying in the studio classroom.

The planning stage was capped off with me having full confidence in them because they provided me with pretty comprehensive plans WITH supplies lists that also included pricing information in order for me to ensure that I wouldn't end up spending more than I told them I was willing to. I told them to think of me as being a client of theirs who had a zany idea that I wanted to make happen but no manpower or know-how to be able to do it. They were really able to imagine this scenario and treat with some real-world type interaction and appropriate reaction for what needed to be done.


Tomorrow I will show you what happened when we actually got our hands on the materials and start bring life to the ideas that they came up with and were working towards.

This installation art study was student-centered and collaboratively designed and constructed (across two classes). It utilized paper sculpting and papier mache, string wrapping, spray painting and brush painting, fiber application in order to create a sun, clouds, and rainbow display suspended from the ceiling of the student art gallery hallway. It was originally presented in a week long series that showed the planning and creative processing, the beginning part of the sculpting/working stage, the point just about when everything was done being sculpted, and then some notes about when things went awry and how those things were dealt with. The final view of it can be found HERE. This project was meant to be a re-imagining of The Ombre Experience project idea.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The ROYGBIV Project :: Sneak Peek of a series!!!

I am so delighted to bring a whole week/full series starting next Monday of a look at the start-to-finish of an installation art study and project I just completed last week with the 3D Design students. Two classes did the project together and it took about a solid month to do it and while collaborative learning can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare for both the teacher and the students involved, this project was a HUGE winner overall. Not one student felt excluded and wasn't whole-heartedly invested and I also didn't feel like I was ever trying to push or shove the efforts of the over 45 students that did the project together.

This project is one not totally different from what I did last year with The Ombre Experience endeavor but it twisted and expanded it some with the intention for it to be totally student-centered in how it established and unfolded itself. It was quite intense and consuming and for that reason I don't feel like I could come close to sharing it and discussing it with you all in just one or even two blog postings so that's why I am stretching it out. Anyway, come back and check in on Monday! That's when I will be kicking everything off. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Social Media for GOOD :: Turning Emoji into ART

I am a fan of Emoji. (There I said it!) Do you know what Emoji is? It's a Japanese term for a keyboarded language (think texting and online communications) that used picture icons and characters in order to communicate messages. Basically, it's modern day pictographs and while it's not something that all smartphone users have/can do, it's something that is a bit of a fun bonus if you are an Apple/iOS user because it's the Emoji keyboard is one that you can enable on your Apple device (iPhone or iPad) in order to create little scenes in the screenshots below that I created in text exchanges with a friend of mine...

To put credit where credit is due, the above Emoji art scenes were not originally designed by me and I searched through #Emojiart on Instagram in order to be able to find ideas and then I created them and sent them to my friend through texting bubbles. Still, they are fun right? And Emoji keyboards have TONS of options that include food items, animals, people, transportation vehicles, and buildings! And after I did the above, I really got to thinking that Emoji art could really work for art education and would be a great way to interact with my art students electronically if I wanted to. I mean, it seems like it could really lend itself to an Emoji Art contest or something and I think that could be kind of cool. Also, even though you sort of need to have an Apple mobile device to be able to do it, it's becoming a standard enough that kids could do it as teams and submit their Emoji Art jointly from one person's phone.

Anyway, Emoji Art is pretty fun as it goes and if you haven't tried it before? Try your hand at it. It's pretty fun and can lend itself to a unique outlet for creativity.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Social Media for GOOD :: That time Gamblin sent me FREE paint!!!

Last month, in the midst of all of the craziness that was the production of the musical, my birthday happened!! And despite the fact that my birthday has been known to bring about things that are not worth celebrating - like one year my grandmother died and my other grandmother was diagnosed with cancer - I usually let it go by unnoticed if I can help it.

Times they are a-changin' though and this year? Well this year's birthday was STELLAR compared to what every other birthday before has proved to NOT be. Why? Because I came home to a package from none other than Gamblin Oil Colors that included F-R-E-E tubes of paint from them!!!!!!

Did you get that? I said FREE tubes of GAMBLIN brand Oil Paint!!!!!!! The stuff is NOT cheap even if you get a deal on it through Utrecht. And they sent me (3) tubes of it along with a ton of literature about pigments and color palettes and all sorts of other useful stuff as well. My artist heart could not have been so blessed if anything else would have showed up in my mailbox and what a thing to come home to on my birthday!!!

My three tubes of paint! Alizarin Permanent, Torrit Grey, and Cote d'Azure (limited edition)

A terrific selection of reference materials for me that will be so helpful in my painting endeavors.

So, are you wondering how I went about getting such a lovely package delivered? Let me just tell you!

Now, I am NOT being compensated to review or hype up this brand in any way shape of form. I am a loyal user of Gamblin brand simply because they so awesome that I can't not use them. My painting professor from last year got me started on using the brand and I have used some store brands before but there is just nothing that compares to Gamblin and I stick with it for that reason. And because I am a real "talker" about things I love, I am all about shouting it via every conduit I might have access to about how much I love Gamblin brand. I regularly post pictures on Instagram of paintings I might be working on and I almost always tag them with either hashtags or the Gamblin username in order to let them know that I am using AND loving their oil colors.

About a month after I took my vocal love about Gamblin brand to the social media avenues, I was contacted directly by one of their marketing folks who asked me if I might be interested in trying out a new version of Alizarin that they were now producing. *WHAAAAAAAAA?!!!! YES!!!!!!!* I, of course, graciously accepted the offer and then I just waited and waited. A little more than a month passed and I started thinking that maybe they had changed their mind because they started to dislike some of the work that I was still posting on Instagram. I sort of lost of painting "mojo" and some more time passed and then my birthday showed up and with it came the long awaited package from Gamblin!!!! I was BLOWN AWAY. And I (of course) took it back to Instagram and thanked them very publicly for supporting me and my art with the free "swag."

From my own doings and understandings of Gamblin's activity on Instagram, there were a handful of other people who they sent paint to as well so I wasn't the only artist who they hooked up so nicely. I don't really care about that though and I just feel like it was such a blessing not only because it was free paint and REALLY amazing paint at that but also because I feel like them recognizing me by sending me some of their products to use really legitimizes me that much more as a visual artist and I (honestly) doubt myself and the talent I do or don't have on any given day. Seriously. I won't say that I am super terrible at painting but I know I have a lot to learn and there are a ton of artists/painters who are "better" than me and I am not every kidding myself about any of it.

Still, I wanted to be considered and respected as an artist who is serious about creating and being a working artist. I mean, I don't aim to be in a gallery necessarily but I also don't want to be one of those folks who people look at and just kind of gets lumped together with anyone else who might also be holding a paintbrush and painting for the fun of it. Painting and creating and artwork means so much more to me than just it being for the fun of it, y'know?

So, yeah. I am here to tell you that Gamblin Oil Colors seriously sent me FREE tubes of paints and I know it happened by and large because I was willing to talk about how much of a fan I am of theirs on Instagram. See how awesome social media is? It's not so bad really.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Social Media for GOOD :: Viral Marketing on Instagram

Besides blogging, how much social media do you use everyday? Are you big into Facebooking? Are you a Tweet-a-holic? Can you not get through a day without Tumblr or jumping on Stumbleupon?  As I have made painfully obvious at this point, I am a heavily addicted user of Instagram. I use it probably every day and likely post an average of three images per day. It's been incredibly useful for me to be able to connect not only with people I know in real life but also folks I have a lot in common with (other visual art educators and working artists) and companies whose products I loyally use. (More on this later this week! It's so cool!!!)

Earlier this year, one of my administrators approached me and asked me if I had some suggestions for how to do more effective job to "hype" up school activities like homecoming and otherwise. The posters and announcements that we do all the time simply weren't cutting it the way they needed to and this administrator knows that I am pretty well tapped into what's going on with the kids so he asked me if I could help him devise some more clever and creative ways to connect with them. I immediately told him to take it to social media and try and do some mini viral marketing campaigns because that's basically all the kids are doing these days. He was warm to the idea but hesitant because... well, social media gets a bad rep and understandably so. I pushed for the idea though and fought the notion that social media is an entirely bad thing maintaining that if we ventured to demystify it and show the kids appropriate AND not-boring ways to use it, well, what we did could be a great learning and connectivity experience for all of us. It could be win-win all around!

My idea was to take the platform of Instagram, establish a user account for my administrator, and then post silly images with trending and relevant hashtags once or twice a day that specifically aimed to "hype up" whatever student activity might be in the coming weeks. Some of them would require some orchestration and possibly face painting and/or photoshopping of images of my administrator but he would post them from his account - that students could "follow" officially or more openly - and that would warm the kids to the idea that the events would be just as enjoyable as the hyping itself. I made a pretty decent sized list that played on trends like Harry Potter and Hunger Games as well as the crazes over zombies, mustaches, and using terms like "swag."

My administrator presented all of this to the school's superintendent, got a solid blessing on the venture and then? Well... I proceeded to make my administrator into a bit of a social media mascot (if you will). Since he knows very little about how to use social media and trending hashtags and stuff, I would help him to do whatever needed to be done at the end of every school day and then I would help him post it for all to see. Below are some of the things that were posted since Fall when we set out to do this...

While this mini viral marketing campaign didn't "blow up" in any way beyond our school, it has had some moderate success enough that it's been worth it enough for us to keep the account open for us to use as we need to. Some of the ideas that I "force" my administrator to be subjected to are definitely ones that I (at times) have to really convince him to do but since this is all in good fun and he has seen it be worth it, he continues to be more and more open to all sorts of things that are basically ridiculous and hilarious at his expense - for example: painting his face to look like a giant basketball.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Behind the Music(al) :: Hairspray :: The only free t-shirt I ever passed over

Quirky thing about me: I LOVE a free t-shirt and I used to have a slight obsession with acquiring them.

Seriously. I don't know what it is about free t-shirts but I just really really like them and I almost don't care where they come from or what they say so long as they aren't offensive. My favorite free t-shirt to date was one I got in college for a face painting gig at one of my friends' jobs at a Tex-mex restaurant. It said something like, "I'd do anything for a burrito," or something equally as silly.

All of this being said, I usually love working on the stage productions at school because that usually means I get a free t-shirt for any of my troubles. To date I have a real collection of almost half a dozen shirts with my favorite being from Godspell from this production that prominently displayed very colorful "painted" Godspell lettering on a black t-shirt. After that I didn't really have a least favorite but now that Hairspray has came and gone? Well... the Hairspray t-shirt is officially my least favorite which kills me seeing as how I kind of designed it myself.


From the beginning I knew the logo I had designed would be a bit of a problem when it came to the t-shirt design. The problem: it had too many colors and would be VERY expensive to screen print. I had high hopes that we would be able to overcome this issue with digital printing over screen printing but my school has a working relationship with local printers/producers of shirts and/or marketing material so we always do our best to honor that relationship whenever possible. For that reason? We couldn't get away with digital printing because our shirt printer doesn't really do it.

The shirt printer told us not to worry because they were going to give us as much color as possible and try and simplify the design to make it a win-win for everyone. As soon as I heard this I was immediately skeptical and asked if I could tweak the design myself to ensure that the most logical tri-color palette would be left for printing. I was assured that the printers had done this before and they had done a decent job of it so I was not given the blessing to do it for them. I let it go.

Then a week or so later the t-shirt came in and to say I was crestfallen of what the final product was? Well... that would be an understatement.

I don't know what it is about the design but I just don't understand why they selected to keep the colors they did instead of what they could have kept. The hairspray can came out OK enough but then the rest of it? I don't know. It just seems like it looks strangely washed out and I don't get why they didn't exchange the white for yellow at least that IS the complement to the purple shirt and also would have worked fine enough in lieu of the yellow. And why the pale pink they selected and not a more a more hot pink instead? I guess I am just fussing over the fact that the printing lacks a real balance of contrast to it.

Now, I realize I am being ridiculous about this whole shirt printing thing because if this is the least of my woes about the show? Well, that's not so bad at all, right? Yeah. I know. That's why I brought this up at the end and also acknowledge that I'm being a bit bratty to even mention it. I didn't want to neglect talking about the shirt printing though since this is a major part of the production. Needless to say, I quietly opted out of the free t-shirt I was offered this year. Such a shame since this is the first year that I had a major stake in the design of it. Oh well.

Anyway, this pretty much wraps up the whole series of Hairspray's "Behind the Music(al)" for the set design and production this year. There is one more thing I will be mentioning but that's going to come after I spend some time thinking about what will be said since it addresses the initial inspiration  behind why a Christian school (such as mine) did a production like Hairspray to begin with. There is quite a bit to be said about this specifically having nothing to do with visual design and much more to be said about creation, creativity, and how the arts plays into both of those things. I will be getting to this eventually so don't be surprised if you see it pop up a little after I take some time away from doing all of the Hairspray stuff I have been doing.

As far as next year's musical endeavor, there has been some light discussion about doing Westside Story but who knows. One of the major issues with that right off hand is the fact that in order to do the show we will really need to have a strong turn out of males to fill the cast. As things stand? Well, that's a tall order and the ratio of guys to girls is ALWAYS tipped more to the girls in just about every production we do so... yeah. It might easily happen that we can't do Westside Story for that reason alone.

All of this being said, I hope you all have enjoyed this ongoing look I have been able to share with you about how and what goes on with my experiences with set design. For as much as I know I fuss about it, it always is something that I consider to be quite a blessing to be able to do with the work that I do. I mean, it's stressful for sure but I really and genuinely do enjoy the challenges it presents with each and every show and you want to talk about creativity and creation on one of the grandest scales possible? Well, set design certainly IS that more than anything and I am all about going BIG or not going at all usually.

Thanks for humoring me with all of this! There are about 13 or so weeks left for me of instructional weeks until the official end of this school year so I guess it will be mostly back to regularly schedule blogging from here on out.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Behind the Music(als) :: Hairspray :: Asterisks EVERYWHERE!!!

One of the final touches to the Hairspray set was something that (in retrospect) maybe should have/could have been done first. *shrug* Live and learn, I guess.

If it's not ridiculously obvious already, one of the major graphic themes of the whole design of this production has been the use of the asterisk. When the directors/producers initially sat down with me to discuss everything one of the first things that was mentioned as very important was the fact that they really liked and wanted to include the "star" (which was an asterisk) as a unifying element throughout the show. I obliged them because what difference does it make to me, right? As a matter of fact, the fact that they had something decided upon like this actually makes it easier for me because I don't have to come up with a number of options only to present them all to them and then have them be rejected and me have to just keep starting over and over again.

That being said, the venue where we put on our shows is a bit of an open space type of a performance art center where there is no curtain and so this means that while it's idea for choral and instrumental music performances, for dramatic and performance arts? It's pretty much a major issue. The way we always deal with it though is to use gigantic mobile flats as a way to section off the stage so there is a backstage (of sorts) since a curtain can't be closed for scene/set change purposes. These flats are used over and over and OVER again for just about every performance we do and while they work for what they are supposed to do? They are a pain to deal with because painting 15-18 foot flats - like, 10-12 of them - is a pain. I mean really.

For the set design of this production, they were all painted different colors from the (mostly) open and very bright palette picked out for the show initially. But the way they work for this show is they were supposed to stay stationary almost the whole time and serve as a backdrop for the whole show so it's not like they could be painted like Baltimore row homes - THANK GOODNESS!!! - or otherwise. To keep them as generic as possible we just used their flat painting and then put clusters of asterisks in contrasting colors all over them to keep things looking minimal and clean but at the same time intentional.

This was the last thing we did for the show because after all of the other snafus that happened, I just didn't want to deal with asterisks everywhere that seemingly would take me forever to do since it was only myself and one other person who were left to do it AND each cluster took two coats of paint for them to actual look presentable - the bright color palette required multiple coats for full coverage. By Wednesday of last week I had only just started the process of asterisking everything and it become very clear that I would barely be able to make it by Friday's opening night especially considering the fact that during full dress rehearsals I was told I couldn't be on the stage in order to paint. I basically begged for mercy from my colleagues and a select few students who I KNEW could pull off on-the-fly painting of these asterisks - meaning, there would be no sketching of the designs by me or anyone else and just plain straight paintings and GETTING. IT. DONE. - and that's exactly what was able to happen all day Thursday during the school day.

My department head (who was the set producer) stepped in and covered two classes and then three other coworkers stepped in and either covered my classes OR flat out excused the four students from class who are probably the most dependable students in the whole school. Amazingly, the flats all got asterisked and by the time the bell rang last Thursday, the set dressing was DONE and I was amazed.

 I would show you a panoramic view of the whole stage but I wasn't able to do that before I left last Thursday because I had to skip out as soon as the bell rang to get my daughter some place for an activity of hers! I will be able to get one up here at some point though so you can see the whole view of the stage.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Behind the Music(al) :: Hairspray :: The Corny Collins desk

I pretty much had very little labor invested in this piece until the very very end. Just the same? It was a bit of a pill to deal with for the two lovely art students who took it on. The desk was built by the set builders and then it was painted by some parents who basically have spent the entire last month painting everything and then the individual letters were designed and then hand-cut from foam core board by two very dependable art students in order to echo the original design of the Corny Collins desk.

The major issue with this piece is the fact that this piece was discussed as one that wouldn't be used and would be dismantled and rebuilt because it was questionnably too large to use in the show. This means that the girls ended up making the lettering and then it was shared with us that that work might have really been done for nothing.  o_O

In the end, it was decided that there wasn't enough time to scrap the desk and we were actually able to go forth as planned. But amidst all of this? One of the L's got damaged/lost so the lettering couldn't be affixed until that issue was corrected and then when all was said and done and we thought we were ready to put the letters on? It was discovered that we still needed the words 'the' and 'show' to bookend the lettering. *ARGH!!!! IT WAS LIKE A NEVERENDING BATTLE!!!!!*

When I realized the aforementioned I took it to Google Image searches and realized that we could get away with two small signs in black/white and not have to bother with cutting out little letters like the big letters. I got two scrap pieces of foam core board and tried FOUR TIMES to make little signs that said 'the' and 'show' with a sharpie marker but for whatever reason I made them too small or too big or too messy/far from the style of the big letters. Then I just sat there being mad for a little while and thought, "Why in the world don't I just make them in Microsoft word and then paste them to foam core board and call them done?" So I did just that! And within 10 minutes the whole thing was DONE and it actually even looked kind of awesome despite all of the strife involved with the process of it. One of the big lifesavers was the fact that I could just staple the letters as you see them arranged and so there was barely any fuss getting them all on there finally.

Tomorrow I will show you the final touches of the set that only happened because I basically spent a whole work day painting with hand-selected VERY dependable students while several of my colleagues covered my classes (very last minute!) and the whole process ultimately landed me home for a very legitimate sick-day last Friday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Behind the Music(al) :: Hairspray :: Two items I loathed doing

I don't know why I detested doing the bed side of the front door flat and the scoreboard for one of the final scenes of the show but I just did. They were two of the last things I did and even though they were both really simple they just seemed to go on and on and ON. I mean, there was very little to do for both things but every time I did some of that and it seemed like it should be done there was just a little more that was left to be done that ended up making both of them take the longest.

For the bed side flat it was the stinkin' real pillow that only need to be stapled to the flat. For whatever reason nobody had to spare pillowcase that could be donated to cover the Wal-mart pillow that was only $2.50 to buy and so the bed flat was pretty much one of the last things to finally get finished. The way the bed flat works is the show opens up with the audience seeing Tracy laying in bed - that's why it's an aerial view and she's actually standing up straight against the flat - and then she jumps out of bed to sing "Good Morning, Baltimore" with the whole cast as she gets wheeled around briefly while she sits on the front stoop.

To start off with, the shows directors/producers showed me some pictures of what they wanted but then said, "We don't really like this so this is what we want but we also don't like this." OK then...

Basically what it came down to is that they didn't like the cartoon-ish appearance of the original picture they showed me (fair enough). Just the same, they had no other options to show me that they liked better and then when I tried to hunt down a 60s style bed in aerial perspective that a teenage girl living in working class Baltimore might sleep in? Well... that picture for reference was darn near impossible to find. *pretty defeated*

The other thing of this flat? Well... it was so flat when we painted the bed as you see it. I mean, I get it. It looks flat because it IS flat and it's so briefly seen to open the show to begin with so who cares, right? Well... I care about stinkin' nit-picky things like that and so that's why I ended up going to the length of doing things like getting a foam bed roll, trimming it to the appropriate linear perspective and then acquiring and covering it with a period-appropriate floral bed linens a teenager might use so it would look a lot more realistic as a bed that could/would be slept in. If I would have had my druthers I would have also gotten some slippers and stapled those down to the flat as well to make it seem that much more realistic. I couldn't do that though because the space on the flat didn't permit such a thing AND I had to deal with the stinkin' scoreboard for the dance competition at the end of the show.

It's pretty much finished except for the pillow but I kind of hate it because it just looks so plain. I gave up on it (obviously).

Oh the scoreboard... the dreaded scoreboard...

The thing of it is, it really shouldn't have been something that took forever to finish. Someone should have been able to just put the lettering and arrows on it and then call it done. It was built, primed with white, and then it just sat waiting (and taunting me) and it was almost the last thing that was finished. And then when it finally was finished? "People" kind of fussed and said, "Isn't it too white? It's kind of plain, isn't it? It needs more color, don'tcha think?"


Seriously? Once I got it to the way it was pictured below? I seriously just as well would have been happy to carry it straight to the dumpster. It was so easy but annoying to use my time for to do and people still had issues with it! WHATEVER. Whatever.

I am pretty sure that some of the folks who fussed about it after I finished it did something more to it to make it more colorful but I kind of told them all they could do whatever they wanted to and that even included painting over it all just as long as I wouldn't be required to "fix" whatever mistake was made by someone else.

So, as far as I know, this is exactly what it looks like for the opening of the show. And if you detect my tone is becoming surly about all of this musical business you are spot on with that assessment! I will eventually reveal to you how/why that has managed to happen.

Tomorrow I will show you the most surprising item of the set dressing that I hated and then ended up sort of loving once it finally got done.

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