Monday, February 29, 2016

Workshop 1: Marbling & Pareidolia

I was pretty stressed out for the first workshop. Not necessarily just because of the workshop, but also because of the busy-ness of life, currently.

I did find the idea of teaching older students unnerving. I had almost zero anxiety about the kids themselves for the elementary workshop in the Fall. I have a lot of experience being around kids in the 0-12 range. But much, much less experience interacting with adolescents and teenagers.

I found the community time to be a little awkward at first. Some students were much more outgoing than others. And of course, those students were easy to engage with and talk to. Others seemed very quiet and maybe withdrawn. I tried to engage of couple of these quiet youths, but often found that it was like trying to squeeze blood from a rock. They didn’t seem to want to give a foothold for further conversation. Or maybe they hadn’t developed the social skills for that yet. I know some adults who haven’t. Most of my attempts involved commenting on their exquisite corpse drawings, trying to extrapolate a few questions and answers from those drawings or other sketches they were working on and not getting very far.
I did hit my stride when I noticed a couple girls drawing some manga/anime style characters. I *do* have a pretty decent knowledge of anime and have watched a few different shows with my kids. So I was able to discuss some shows and characters and manga book series with relative intelligence. One girl had brought her personal sketchbook and began showing me example of her drawing. (Later on, during my workshop, another girl wanted to show me her charcoal drawings on her phone, too.)

By the time we gave our pitches, I was pretty pumped. I hope I didn’t step on anyone’s toes in my excitement. The topic I choose has always been near and dear to my own heart (symbolism in art…and in the world period). I wasn’t sure how well this topic would connect with a group of modern teenagers, but I figured I couldn’t be too far off base. This is a serious searching time for many kids. I remember reading a myriad of books about mythology, world religions, and symbolism when I was in high school.

I was glad to see that at a few students were on board and selected my and Caley’s workshop.

For our first lesson, my goals were to teach the students about the concept of pareidolia, the technique of marbling paper, and how to construct and bind their own sketchbook.

I started with passing around some Rorschach ink blot cards and asking the students to discuss what they saw. They could then check the back of the card and see if it what they saw was listed among any of the common responses. The back also contained an “interpretation” and I stressed that this was not an official test, but rather a game.

I showed the students common examples of pareidolia, tea bag drawings, and I also took a photo of the class and uploaded it to Google Dream to show an example of computer-generated pareidolia. (Tea bag drawing below by Austin Kleon.)

Then the girls used watercolor paint and paper to create their own inkblots.
After the students had each made an inkblot, I directed them to watch a marbling demonstration I was giving. After this some girls continued to make ink blots and chat while others used the marbling baths and marbled their sketchbook cover.

The working time went pretty well. I had one more girl than expected, but my partner Caley was very helpful and volunteered to cut some extra paper and covers for the sketchbooks. Since our working time was shortened we didn’t actually get to constructing the sketchbooks this time. I had worked out a way the girls could still construct the sketchbooks even while the covers were still damp. But the process of marbling took longer (taking turns) than I expected and also made a bigger mess than I had expected. 

(We had a whole drying rack full of marbled paper and covers. Then the papers started migrating to the floor.)
As you can see, they turned out pretty great!

If I were to make changes, I would probably break this lesson into two days, just because then there is a chance for the covers to dry and a chance to clean up the space before making the book. 

I had set up two marbling baths. I was expecting about four students, at most, due to the numbers we were given, so I figured four students taking turns with two baths wouldn’t be too difficult. But we ended up with six students, and some girls had to wait longer than others to marble. So, another change I might make would be to have prepared an extra marbling bath and also extra marbling solution. A ratio of 1 bath per 2 students seems about right. Also, the solution got pretty messy in the baths after many, many turns, so extra marbling solution to refill the baths with would be useful. 

I did have enough extra marbling solution to refill one bath once, but now I know to have more than that on hand for the future. 

While the girls were taking turns I handed out post it notes along with a list of my possible lessons for future workshops. Then I had the girls write their top three choices for lessons. I informed them I would use majority vote to pick the next two lessons I would teach. 

There was an overwhelming vote for overpainting (a lesson I didn’t even have my own example for, but only a print off of some other artists work) and the second place choice was for the fiber/sewing on canvas self-portrait. There were also votes for all the other lessons I had proposed, so I’m bummed we won’t get a chance to do those, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what my partner, Caley, comes up with and getting a chance to both teach and observe. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

New workshop--New media!

I was preparing last weekend for another teaching workshop this semester. This time I'll be working with middle and high school students instead of elementary students. So I thought it would be really fun to experiment with some new media. Things that I wasn't exposed to in high school.

I'll write a more exhaustive post about the process required for each of these later, but here are the experiments in no particular order:

Monoprinting (without a press):

 Paper marbling and sketchbook construction:

Dura-lar Collage:

Encaustic painting:

Sewing and Fiber art over photograph on canvas: