Saturday, April 30, 2016


The exhibition was a great experience. It was a nice feeling to be done with the workshops and to have all the products of everyone’s labor cleaned up and on display. It was enjoyable to show up and just take in the students’ work and spend time talking with them like everyone else who was attending. Meeting the students’ family and parents was interesting as well.

It was also slightly bittersweet to be done with everything knowing that I probably would not see my students again. But there wasn’t a lot of time to think about that during all the mingling and conversing—which was a bit exhausting for this usual introvert.

The one thing I wish could be more apparent in a final exhibition like this is all the learning that took place. Maybe someone would look at a few products of the students and say “Wow! How did my kid do that?” Or conversely “What in the world? That’s not that impressive.” No matter which thought a viewer may have had, what is lacking in an exhibition is anything that communicates skills and processes learned and student growth.
I think I need to do more research on how to show student growth and communicate more about learning processes in exhibitions. I know there are teachers doing this and knowledge available in this area. Overall, I was pleased with the exhibition and I think the students were as well. It was really gratifying to see students excitedly pointing out their work to siblings or telling their parents the process they went through to create something.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Workshop 8: Preparing for Exhibition

This workshop was all about preparing the student pieces for exhibition. This is the workshop I felt least prepared for. The entire subject of finishing pieces for display and installation is probably my weakest area of knowledge to begin with. I know what teachers generally do for student art shows, but I also know that school methods of art display don’t usually correlate with professional methods of finishing and art display. 

While I understand that cost is a huge barrier, this discrepancy does bother me. I’m not sure what can be done about it. Maybe having students work on higher quality materials (papers, canvas, etc.) would help in that nicer looking grounds typically don’t have to require a lot of framing and decoration.

I usually work on large box canvases myself precisely to avoid having to figure out methods of display. Displaying can get pricey and canvases can be directly hung on the wall.

I’ve matted pieces before, but that generally requires a bevel cutter, and you usually only do that if the piece needs a frame. So, for our group, it seemed like the only real skill to impart to the students was how to mount their work.
I talked a bit to various students about cutting the mat and how a 2” margin is ideal. We also experimented with which color mat would look best with some of our pieces. Overall, though, I felt that this workshop day was just a rush to finish things up, get things sorted and titled, and a small selection mounted. Some students worked on finishing up old projects and others experimented with materials in the room (dry felting, and water balloon paint bombs).
One of the high schools mentioned in our text (Studio Thinking) had a course every year that centered around museums/galleries, installation, and display for artists. I think this kind of thing would be really useful for artists everywhere. I really wish such a course had been offered at the college level or maybe even offered by an art gallery or museum, but I’ve never seen one. Maybe this is because this is generally left to curators and art historians? Not sure. All I know is that my own lack of knowledge here is uncomfortable.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Workshop 7: The Scream

For this week’s community time, the students were tie-dying their UAY shirts. It was a messy process, but everyone seemed to have a lot of fun doing that. One thing that I wish we, the instructors would’ve thought out better, was making absolutely, 100% sure that each student had their name somewhere on their shirt—not on a piece of paper taped to the shirt—not on the tub they put their shirt in—on their shirt. There were only three shirts that had no names, but in the end it felt like a lot more when the student’s wanted to know whose was who. Hopefully we can figure that out without any disgruntled students. 

One girl, who we know should claim one of the nameless shirts was adamant that none of them could possibly be hers because the colors weren’t right. She didn’t seem to take it to heart when we told her that the colors would bleed and mix and turn out differently than she expected. 

Amanda taught this week’s lesson. She was using Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” as her art history reference. Munch made many different versions of this painting. Amanda instructed the student’s that they would be designing a sketch and then making four different versions of it. From what I could tell, each version needed to be made with a different medium; chalk pastel, oil pastel, colored pencil, and paint. 
I was highly interested in following Maggie’s lesson this week as well, so I bounced back and forth between the two. 

If someone had told me last week that Amanda would task the girls with creating not one, but *four* different drawings/paintings in a single session, I would’ve had my doubts about that getting accomplished. But to my astonishment, the students were more on-task than I’ve ever seen them (all at once) and did a great job, each one completing all four pieces requested. 
Three students chose subjects that were animal/anthropomorphic while three choose traditional self-portrait drawings and one chose to focus in on eyes. All the faces/eyes were sad. I did ask about that (to the group—not singling anyone out) and they just kind of laughed. Hopefully just teenage angst. 
Maggie was having her students watercolor paint with dye derived from cabbage leaves! It was intriguing how she achieved different colors with the same dye by which vehicle she put in the dye/water (baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar). Her kids seemed to be having fun with the different watercolor techniques (resist, salt, etc.)

Maybe it was the weather, but this seemed like a really good day at the school of the arts. Aside from the unidentified shirts, of course. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Workshop 6: Projected Photos

Caley was the instructor for this week’s workshop. The community time was fun. I highly enjoyed watching all the students create blind contour drawings. Some did self-portraits, some drew friends, all turned out great, as blind contour drawings tend to do. Then we combined them on an overhead projector into one amazing, terrifying drawing.

Caley was using a different space than we normally use because she needed a dark room for her lesson. The students were going to project images onto a wall over themselves, and then take photos of the resulting shadow/light image. It’s a really interesting concept and from what I could see the students enjoyed it and got some interesting photographs as well. I also was very interested in the artists Caley pulled in as references.

It was hard to observe directly what was going on in the dark room because it was a small room and in order to get the best photos the door needed to stay shut.

I did notice that for the girls not taking photos, other activities needed to be found. After they had finished looking up possible imagery for their photographs they had to wait for their turn in the dark room. Caley brought in the clay projects from a couple weeks ago and later on I brought in some unfinished overpaintings and got one student started on her fiber selfie since she had missed that day.

I think this turned out okay because of our small class size. However, with a larger class size, how to go about getting photos and turn-taking would need to be thoughtfully considered so some students weren’t sitting around unsupervised. I think the students will be really excited to see their final photographs.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Workshop 5: Fiber Selfie

Disclaimer: I had a horrible migraine for most of this Thursday afternoon and evening! After the workshop I went home and lay in a dark room for several hours until I could face sound and light again. But *during* the workshop I ignored the pounding, heavy, clenching behind my right eye and powered through.

The community time was relaxed and went by quickly as usual. The students were “marbling” paper with Prang pastel shavings in water, a really cool little project that I enjoy a lot. When the students in our group asked what we were doing for our group lesson that day and I told them, “Fiber Selfie,” they replied, “Yesss! I’ve been waiting for that one since the beginning!” So I knew they were excited for the lesson, which was great.

I did feel a bit discombobulated, however, as the workshop started. I had written a bullet point list for the order of activities and discussion: First, talk about gel transfer. Next demo gel transfer. Next, they do it. Moving on, show artists examples and demonstrate some embroidery stitches and needle felting. Tell them they need to create a sketch and then work time. (Pass out “Attitude Scale” survey at the end.)

I mostly followed it. A good way into work time one student decided she was done after doing one or two things to her portrait. In my attempts to inspire her to keep working, I suddenly remembered my artists’ examples would be quite inspiring. D’oh. (They weren’t to her, though.)
(Above images--Left: Nick Cave. Right:
Maurizio Anzeri)

Going back to the work time, the students seemed interested in the gel transfer process and did a decent job with their transfers. I explained that if we had had time, they could have transferred their portraits to the canvas in the same way, but that in the interest of time, I had just collaged them. I also had tried printing their portraits on vellum for collaging, however, my printer is not the right kind and the ink smeared on the bottom of their portraits. I still liked the effect of the image on vellum though, so I brought these portraits for the girls to keep and use at home in whatever projects they like. 
I showed the students the sketch I had quickly drawn for my own fiber selfie. Half of them made a preparatory sketch like I asked. Half didn’t. Two of the students who did generate a sketch used their vellum portraits and sketched directly on that, which was clever enough that I announced everyone should consider doing that.

I was a little disappointed that only two students of seven actually tried some embroidery techniques. The contrast and texture of the thread had been my favorite effect/part of this project. However all students, except one were interested in using needle felting and used it in their portrait with some fun results.

Studio time went really fast and everyone seemed engrossed in their work. Most students finished their portrait by the end. I noticed one student incorporating a technique in her work that I had taught in the over-painting lesson (blending markers for space colors) and I was pleased to see two girls, one who wasn’t even in my workshop, staying behind to play with the felt and create things that weren’t related to my lesson at all.
When there were about fifteen minutes left, I told the students to keep working but that I was going to pass out a little survey to help them think about their learning and help me figure out how to improve the lesson. Everyone filled it out and handed it back in. The results were good (lesson was mostly exciting, good, pleasant, enjoyable, valuable), so I’m not sure exactly what to change. I did notice that nearly all the girls marked neutral between challenging and easy, which makes me think that the lesson needs to be slightly more challenging. In a more structured environment (like an art classroom in school) I would have required that they include embroidery in their project for full points, and probably more than one sketch as well. In the future, I could add the gel transfer step for getting the portrait onto canvas.
Despite the headache, I enjoyed teaching this lesson and I had some verbal and written positive feedback indicating that the students enjoyed this lesson, as well. And I’m pretty happy with how their altered self-portraits turned out!