Thursday, June 26, 2014

Labyrinths and Creative Process

A labyrinth is a path to the center but it is not a straight path, it winds and doubles back, curving round the center and leading the walker toward and away from the center in the process of walking.
This sort of movement provides a wonderful metaphor for the creative process. Creating doesn't proceed neatly from point A to point B.  It winds, circles back and can seem to take forever - a maker may move close to completion only to discover another option and take things apart again to try a new form.

At times it can feel like you are in a maze but a labyrinth will always lead to the center - you can't get lost. The challenge is to persist and keep going even when it feels like you are just going in circles.
Often with anything we want to make, the greatest challenge is getting started.  When the path winds or it becomes unclear that we are making progress, staying the course becomes the new challenge.  What is important is just to keep moving, because even when it seems you are just doubling back the same way you came you are still always moving toward the center.

Learning to trust that there is a path and taking time to enjoy the process offers the opportunity for surprises and unexpected discovery along the way.  This is where a guide can help. Having the knowledge that the path is supposed to wind and double back and seem confusing can help in persisting through challenges or discouragement.
This is the role of the teacher: to support the process even when it looks messy or repetitive.  Knowledge of development helps here too - so often we grow in fits and starts, moving forward then doubling back as we integrate new skills and understanding.  When we are taught to enjoy the winding walk and not worry so much about our final destination, we often find that getting to the center is that much more satisfying.  We end with a product that is a true reflection and even a celebration of all the steps we took along the way.  
Visit our website to see our new dates for Labyrinth Workshops or Visit Kathryn's Etsy site for handmade labyrinth art.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gaithersburg Book Festival Community Collage

I felt SO welcome at the Gaitersburg Book Festival on Saturday.  Thanks to all the volunteers and the great team who put this event together.  In addition to wonderful people, the event was topped off with beautiful weather and so many creative visitors.
Thanks to everyone who helped create this community collage.  As you scroll through the photo see if you can find new elements in each new image of the collage as it grows...

 The finished piece at the end of the day.

 And a tour of some of the details... an alligator...
...a person... anteater...
 ...a cheetah...
 ...a cat...
 ...a tree with leaves and cherry blossoms...
 ...Collette and a face in the grass...
 ...Collette, where it all began.
Thanks also to everyone who helped create this poster of many faces of Collette.

And finally, special thanks to my relief crew who helped take down my exhibit at the end of the day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Green Snow Green Glue Green YOU

Art at Home for a Very White St. Patrick's Day 

Fill a spray bottle with water and food coloring and use the white snow as your canvas for spray art.
Add a few drops of watercolor or food coloring to your glue for a fun variation on collage.  The glue sticks just as well and any visible glue will dry to a light green.
Experiment with different household objects to create  a green filter for photographs.  The photo below was taken through a glass of green water.

Most of all, have fun and THINK GREEN.
Let's hope Spring is on it's way soon. 

The Washington Post Magazine Peeps Show Contest 
Deadline is Tonight

Celebrate Youth Art Month with Your Family

This year for Youth Art Month I have been thinking about ways to support parents.  It seems to me that so much about young people making art depends on the adults who accompany them on their creative adventures.
It is a true delight to see parents and children making things together in the studio.  Joy is found in the stuff they make - the collages, paintings, drawings and sculptures as well as the more intangible things we build - relationships, confidence, creativity, persistence and the many ways we make meaning through art. 
In February Krista Tippett interviewed artist, Ann Hamilton for her NPR radio program On Being.  Ann Hamilton is a self-described "maker" - the photo below is of an installation she made at the New York Armory a little over a year ago.  It was a truly magical space. 

Hamilton's life is full as a mother, college professor and professional artist.  It is the identity as a maker that she feels ties all these roles together.  She said that if she sees them as separate - motherhood, teaching, and art - they constantly complete.  If she sees them as connected by the shared aspect of making - one naturally flows into another.  She doesn't only find ideas and inspiration in the studio and sometimes the next thing to make isn't art but soup for a sick child.  Whether you struggle to balance work, parenthood and volunteer roles or just the recent snow days, stomach bug and general everyday stress - this idea of finding a common thread through the things you do is valuable.  The idea of practice is also valuable.  Making in general and art making in particular is really about a practice.  It is why we offer classes where kids and families can come to the studio weekly over a period of time and make each week.  Having a space and community for creativity be part of your routine sets the stage for making to become a habit and for finding inspiration in many different aspects of daily life. 

Creative practice can be developed in homes and classrooms as well.  For our March Focus Group we hope to reach a wider group by opening up the focus to parents and making at home as well as in the classroom or studio.  Collage lends itself well to getting started in art because the materials are familiar.  Simple materials often offer the richest results.
Another idea from Ann Hamilton was that of setting up experiences for things to happen - not directing the outcome but creating a space for exploration and experience. So much about making with children is about setting the stage for wonderful things to happen.  My best days are when the creations of the young artists in the studio are things that surprise and delight me.  This sharing also energizes my own creative practice.  So for the month of March, I invite you to notice kids art and other things kids make - forts, messes, stories.  What can you learn from observing the process of making?  Also think about the people in your own life who, as Fred Rogers describes "loved you into being."  What part did making or working with your hands have to do with that? Happy Youth Art Month! 

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Where Do Ideas Come From?

An Evening with Jimmy Gownley

I attended the book launch for The Dumbest Idea Ever last night at Hooray for Books
Cartoonist, Jimmy Gownley drew throughout his presentation, creating characters to illustrate five sources of creative ideas. 
He encouraged audience participation and had us all laughing with his stories and spontaneous comic characters.
So where does Jimmy Gownley get his ideas?

1. Inspiration - Sometimes they just come to him, maybe from a doodle or listening to music, something spontaneous. 
He also noted that inspiration becomes more likely with practice - drawing, writing, playing music A LOT gets you ready for those moments of inspiration. 
2. Yourself - Jimmy encourages telling stories about your own life.  He even said that the more embarrassing the story is for you - the more likely it will make a GREAT story for other people to read! 

3. Other People - After yourself, other people's experiences, those of family or friends also make great inspiration for stories. 
With other people or yourself, it is not about telling exactly what happened but using what happened as inspiration in a story.  His example last night was a friend who "sneeze barfed" at dinner.

4. Your Medium
Medium is artist-speak for what you use to make stuff.  For Jimmy this is comics so he used an example of how different types of speech bubbles around the word "WOW" can make you say the word in different ways.  This is something comics can do that other kinds of writing can't.  It is interesting to think about other artistic media and what they can do.  For me I love collage because it can create something new while also reminding people of familiar stuff.  (See COLLETTE for examples of this).  What is unique about your favorite medium?

5. Influences
Influences can be stories, artwork and artists you like.   Jimmy described his own influence from a comic where the character who didn't speak just had thoughts written all over his shirt.  Jimmy took this influence and created a speechless character who wears pajamas and his emotions are shown on him with emoticons.
Finally, the kids in attendance got to call out a character (boy, girl, animal), a job and a favorite movie or book.  The group then worked together to build characters around these ideas. 
This also seems like a great way to get started creating your own characters and stories at home. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Children's Art: How to Appreciate, Enjoy and Display It

It was an honor to be a part of the panel at this event at Carroll Square Gallery on January 19.  I was truly impressed with the crowd that gathered on a cold Sunday of a holiday weekend to come out for fellowship and discussion of the children's art.  For me, it was great to get to present beside one of my most important mentors and to realize that although my path as a professional has taken me to a different kind of work, my work with Tracy Councill was truly foundational in developing my own ideas on children's art and the power of building relationships through art.

  Tracy began the discussion with a talk on three elements to keep in mind in looking at children's art: development, expressive qualities and relationship.  She elaborated on development, describing how children's art provides a constantly changing and evolving visual record of how children see and represent the world.  Each stage in development is unique and children are constantly growing and changing in their perceptions; their art is a wonderful record of this.  She also spoke about the expressive qualities of children's art and the importance of seeing childhood emotional experience as real experiences with the same power of feeling as adult emotions.  She spoke of how art can allow children to express and then see and reflect on these powerful emotions.  Finally, my favorite part of her talk was on relationship and the importance of relationship in the studio and in the art making process.  Children need to feel safe, respected and able to grow at their own pace in a supportive environment.  This is what I remember most about my time in the studio with Tracy at Lombardi Cancer Center.  Not only did the studio and art therapists provide a safe and supportive place to create art, there was something about sitting together creating that opened people up to connecting and developing relationships through shared experience.   For my part of the talk, I built on Tracy's idea of relationship in describing my work at Art at the Center.  We are a community based studio lab for children and families.  We are process-focused and aim to provide time, space and materials for children and families to explore and create.  Knowing child development and sharing Tracy's fascination with getting to watch these stages unfold is an important part of working in this way.  Process art is also about letting go as a facilitator and letting the participants lead you through sharing in their process.  My favorite thing that happens in the studio is when a child delights or surprises ME with a creative solution to a problem.  I believe the studio offers a unique opportunity for building empathy between parents and children because of the inherent vulnerability of creativity.  Many adults are still intimidated by art making and so are not too far ahead of their child in ability when they enter the studio.  I love watching adults learn and explore alongside their children and hearing children share their expertise with parents on different materials and processes.  It is not unusual for young artists to know more than their parents about clay and the firing process.  The ateliers of Reggio-inspired schools are a source of inspiration for my own space.  An atelier is place for exploring ideas, emotions and theories through the use of materials in a supportive space.  The latest project for Art at the Center is to encourage the extension of the spirit of the studio into homes through my new books designed to build on shared reading time and to help families begin the process of creating together with printing and collage. It was delightful to have COLLETTE: A Collage Adventure and Oops Paint be a part of the event.  Thinking about children's art in homes, the final presenter, Shazalynn Calvin-Winfrey  shared thoughts on ways to catalog, preserve and display children's art in the home.  I was interested to learn how much she notices that early environment influences personal taste in her interior decorating clients.  She shared ideas for display that included mounting, matting and framing as well as using ledge shelves to be able to rotate a collection as more art comes home.  It was wonderful to see her own images of her two children's art sprinkled throughout her home, often amid displays of pottery or painting by professional artists.  She really got my attention when she said how even though her children may not notice or even think about their art at home on a regular basis, when they look back they will remember their creations as being an integral part of their daily living.  We teach children what we value by how we set up our environment and take care of things.  The question and answer session also included other ideas for cataloging and displaying children's creations including recording sculptures with digital photography, keeping portfolios, and inviting children to tell and record the stories of their creations.  
A rich question and answer period and discussion followed the presentations and it was great to be among a group of people so dedicated to children's art and creativity.  Hemphill Fine Arts did a lovely job displaying the art and Shira Kraft was a wonderful resource hosting the event.  Thanks who all who came out to join us!