Art Teacher

11 Mar

It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which…
you may find really marvellous ideas. 

Leonardo da Vinci

fairy class 1

my samples of abstract emotion painting

I’m an art teacher among many things, and have found unexpectedly over the last two years that I really enjoy it. I started offering the classes as a way to trick myself into doing some art. But it brings its own rewards.

I try to design each class for the specific kids signed up (knowing many of them ahead of time from the homeschool community helps). I look for ways to engage them, yet sneak in academic stuff like history and geography. I can get them to consider challenging ideas along the way by using games, wide ranging examples of art, and interesting conversations.  Talking and listening to them like adults helps. Focusing on the process and not the product helps.

Kids naturally want to make art but they have confidence issues. Some have already learned what’s “good” and “not good”. Just like grown ups. My mission is to help them recover their curiousity and undo the preconceptions. To show them the surprising possibilities of art – the power and the fun of it.

The first Fairy Art class went well yesterday. The kids responded to the Rapunzel story and the process of abstract painting. They had a lot of ideas about emotions and colors. The basic class structure I designed seems to hold up and the girls (ages 8 to 10) seem to be easy and open.

In another life I would have liked being an art teacher in a school, with my own room full of supplies, big tables, inspiring quotes on the wall and a parade of young artists coming through.


The Use of the Hands

10 Mar

Renate Hiller speaks about the use of the hands in fiber arts and it’s connection to community and the cosmos. Beautiful.

From my favorite radio show On Being.

…in handwork, in transforming nature we also make something truly unique that we have made with our hands, stitch by stitch, that maybe we have chosen the yarn, we have even spun the yarn — even better, and that we have designed. And when I do that, I feel whole. I feel I am experiencing my inner core because it’s a meditative process. You have to find your way; you have to listen with your whole being. And that is the schooling that we all need today.


9 Mar
leaf 2

Winter begins to turn to spring

Bless me Father for I have disappeared. It’s been 3 years since my last post.

Confession done – I’m here again now! Good things have happened over that time in my art making quest. Our business is doing much better so some of the money stress is off of me. C is 15 and can work more independently at homeschooling. I’ve found a puppetry community. I have gotten older and more determined. There have been many false starts and some baby steps, it’s all good, as R says.

I’m currently taking an online art history course with C. It’s a Coursera course offered by a professor at CalArts, my alma mater. It’s strange to see those white cinder block walls again. The assignment this week was to list ten influences and inspirations.

I dug up the sign-in info for this blog and updated my link roll as a way to make my list. I hope to use the blog again, as it was intended. The links will keep some inspiration close at hand – or is it doomspiration?

Have you ever said, after seeing someone’s amazing artform, “I don’t know whether to be completely inspired and get back to work, or to give up [insert creative activity here] altogether.”? That’s doomspiration. I got the concept from Robert Genn’s The Painters Keys.  Read on:

Here are the signs:
Pounding heart, shortness of breath, sweaty.
A feeling of unexplained longing.
Simultaneous melancholy for making things, and joy at the meaning of life.
Willingness to work, plus temporary unpleasant realism.
Emptiness and fullness.
Ecstasy, laughter, fantasy and fanaticism.
Urgency, lethargy, confusion, clarity.
Worshipful gratitude.

How to move forward:
Try to make something you deem equally great, if only for a few moments, and remember you were moved and that’s what art is for.

I know that feeling. Some of these artists in the link roll do that to me. I found many of them by mining my bookmarks sidebar, which was quite out of date but had some forgotten gems. Some of this work is new to me and some I have loved for years.

There are many others not on the list that have fired me up, given me that doomspiration. These include: Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Joseph Campbell,  Dr. Suess, Marc Chagall, Odillon Redon, Joni Mitchell…

Now I’m going to take advantage of this gorgeous spring Sunday and go make something!


4 Feb

Isaac Amala & Liz Simpson

I was at my favorite art supply store (The Binz again) yesterday and found a giant pile of neckties. Wow, what could I do with those?

It provoked a familiar conflict – should I buy these things that I MIGHT use in an art project even though we are on a tight budget and I don’t have much room to store them AND I don’t have a specific project in mind for them?

BUT they will not be here tomorrow, and they are so cool and colorful and interesting. They will inspire something good I know it.

I weighed them (the store sells clothes by the pound) and thought about it. I sorted through them all and got rid of the stained and torn ones. Because of my new commitment to my art I decided, yes. I bought them for 17.00 and there are 175 of them.

When I got them home I sorted them into piles by color and tied them into neat bundles. Fun. Forgot to take pictures though.

This morning I spent way too long researching what other artists and crafters have done with ties. Here are some amazing links:

via Flickr made by Eileenaway

Steampunk corset dress 
Formal gowns  

Recane your chair seats with ties

And these 2 artists Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson take neckties to their ultimate artistic end with tie installations.

I also found a 1963 high school yearbook from Gastonia, NC at The Binz. More about that in the future.

Altered book – Divine Comedy

3 Feb

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

I’ve been working 2 part time jobs now on top of everything else, so I’m behind on posting but I HAVE managed to get some art done in the last few weeks.

It started with some books from my favorite thrift store – the Goodwill Clearance Center (we call it The Binz). One was an old student copy of the Divine Comedy AKA Dante’s Inferno. It’s marked up with pencil notes and highlighted passages. The paper is yellow with age.

What an amazing book! I had a general idea of this classic but never read it. Since working with it I’ve become enchanted by it’s strange imagery and language.

The other book was a Winnie the Pooh board book. I read on another blog (?) about how board books are great for altering because of their thick sturdy pages. So I thought I’d try one.

I started by tearing up random pages of Dante and covering the whole board book with it (a total of 6 spreads plus a front and back cover).  I didn’t have a plan yet but I knew I had to get rid of Winnie. I read fragments of Dante’s journey as I tore it, and then researched it more online. Here’s a detailed summary if you’re interested.

There are many levels of meaning in the book and all kinds of juicy allegory and symbols. The structure has a magical numeric pattern to it: 9 levels of hell, 7 steps to the top of Mount Purgatory, plus 2 sub levels, and 9 spheres of heaven, plus the last invisble one where god lives. The book is made of 100 cantos, divided into canticles of 33 each, plus an intro canto. Nines, tens and threes all over the place.

I’m using 2 different ideas of the levels, one is like an elevator going up/going down in a steely corporate office building with straight lines and boxes on one side of the page. The other is made of curved torn scraps, spiralling in, a journey of self-discovery.

On the 1st spread I blotted on some gesso and rubbed charcoal into part of it to bring out the layers. Plan to do more of that.

Because Dante is on the ultimate journey, I decided to use an old Thomas Guide map of Los Angeles, my previous home. The City of Angels has often been called a paradise and has been luring people west for centuries. There are decidedly hellish aspects to the place as well. So I got a kick out of cutting up the San Fernando Valley into little cirrus clouds shapes and glueing them on.

I’ll share the rest of the idea as it develops.

Wood Stove Cookery Creativity

26 Jan

I’ve been busy with some altered books and sewing projects but don’t have pics yet.

I DID document my attempt at cooking on the wood stove. See the whole series of pics on Flickr. Inspired by my homesteading friend Anna who is an excellent and adventurous cook, I decided one snowy gray day last week, to make the whole dinner without any electricity. We had baked potatoes, chick peas and onions, and hotdogs, all cooked in various ways on the wood stove which we use to heat our home. Everyone had fun and it tasted great, especially those creamy roast potatoes.

I tried to make veggie broth on the top but my stove doesn’t get hot enough on the surface. Anna actually makes casseroles in the ash pan (cleaned of ashes first of course!). But my ashpan doesn’t get hot enough either, only about 225 degrees).

On Sunday I cooked beets in foil on the coals. Try it!

Stage 2 Visual Journal Workshop

18 Jan

The second week of the workshop involved putting a semi-transparent layer of gesso over much of the page; drawing into it with oil pastels and charcoal; and adding handwriting/text as a mostly illegible pattern. Here are my 3 pages.

I’m still happiest with #3. The torn printing of the halo, and the shapes of the torn textured pieces nestled into the roots harken to my old work. I’ll find some pictures of that to post soon. I probably would never have used all those mediums on one page without the workshop instruction to nudge me. That’s a good thing.

Been working on a self portrait that started with the old fashioned technique of “put your face on the copy machine and see what comes out”. It’s got a gorgeous blackness to it and shows all the pores and gray hairs, but I like the strange distortion of it.

I’m trying to love the gray hairs and wrinkles, thus the self-portrait exploration.

I have several other possibly related elements that I hope to scan in and play with tonight.

Speaking of faces, check out Face a Day.