Sunday, August 30, 2009

Emerging Vocabulary

One of our goals in the studio is to use artistic vocabulary and to build community through talking about the creative process and explorations with materials.
In this class, we began with mandalas on both black and white paper, exploring how the colored pastels looked different on different backgrounds. This young artist noticed that the lighter colors "camoflaged" with the white paper.

Other color combinations created a contrast or seemed to "pop" off the page.

The kind of mark making also contributed to qualities of camoflage or contrast. Layering and rubbing the color on the paper created more blended and camoflaged colors (the lower circle)while there was more contrast when marks were made directly as in the concentric circles.
We also explored different kinds of mark-making, beginning with making direct lines with the point of the pastel.

"Indirect" marks were created using a stick on the back of a colored paper to transfer color to another paper.

The paper on top with direct marks was used to create the indirect transfer design on the paper behind it.

Talking about our artwork provided the opportunity to reflect on the process, share our intentions and discoveries, and ask each other questions.

Exploration and Intention

In observing this painting process over two weeks, it was interesting to see how the artist explored so many different techniques the first week and created such an interesting abstract composition. By my observation, the whole thing seemed to evolve and grow as she went along. In contrast, her second week painting seemed much more planned from the beginning and I thought it was interesting she incorporated many of her mark making tools and experiments from the week before into this painting. Below are the artists' comments on her process.
I wanted to make an abstract picture with a bunch of shapes.

I was trying out different techniques using different brushes.

I wanted to make craters in a thick layer of paint. I blew on it to achieve this.

I got a bigger brush and decided to make thicker lines.

Kathryn wanted us to fill in as many spaces between the lines and shapes so I began to do that.

My picture turned out more colorful than I had expected at the beginning.
When my dad saw the picture, he held it upside down and thought I had made colorful trees. I didn't realize that my stalactites could also be seen as trees.

Sunflower picture: When I started this picture I was thinking about how our sunflowers in our garden were not growing. I knew what I wanted it to look like before I painted it. It was not an experiment. I had a plan in my head.

I used some of the same brushes from my first picture and I especially liked the small brush and the big, thick brush (looks like a BBQ brush that you would put sauce on the grill). I mixed fewer colors than the first time because I wanted to use less colors.

I like the way it came out because the sunflower is the main idea and pops out of the picture without you focusing on the smaller background details.

Asking the artist to comment on her process provided an opportunity for us to learn more about her intentions and ideas. Prior to reading her comments I had forgotten about the conversation about stalactites as she was exploring dripping paint in the first picture and had not know the motivation for her very purposeful sunflower picture. The story of the creative process and the stories that motivate it enrich the viewing of the picture.

Risk Taking and Happy Accidents

Observing new painters of all ages, it seems to be common to put colors down in distinct areas on the paper, leaving some white space in between. Filling in background and in-between spaces seems to be a risky step, what if my original intention is ruined or covered over? What if I don't like what I add? In parent child classes I have watched adults sit with the same dilemna as young children, resistant to adding something new and unsure if it will work.
It is an opportunity to witness a courageous moment to observe a new painter considering the in-between spaces in their compositions and to paint them for the first time.

The stories children tell about their paintings and materials bring great joy too. Here the paint ran because there was a lot of water in the brush. Rather than be upset, the young painter was delighted. "The water is drawing too!" he announced and indeed it was.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eric Carle and his Caterpillar Share a Birthday

My family and I visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts this summer. In the main hall are four large sheets of Tyvec stretched on frames and painted by Carle. Beside each is a description of how they were painted, laid out on the floor using a variety of materials including brooms and carpet squares to brush and stamp designs. Viewers are encouraged to try to find places where each tool was used. The fields of color are very vibrant, Carle is an artist who clearly enjoys playing with his materials and with color. In an interview excerpt, below, he advocates for giving children opportunities to make choices in their work and to play with color, texture and materials.

Eric Carle is celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and his 80th birthday. This excerpt comes from an inteview posted on the National Education Association (NEA) website.

If you were an art teacher, what would your class look like?
"When I was an art student, we painted colorful paints, all kinds of colors on sheets of paper, and that way we accumulated a nice collection of color. Then we tore out shapes, cut out shapes, made collages. It's not so important that right away you go ahead and do houses and animals. The children could make birds or elephants, if they like, but I'm not saying to do anything. If you just do abstract shapes and squares and you play with them, it would be a wonderful thing.

Some schools I've been to, they collect all kinds of discarded things -- wools and papers and sticks and stones. They make collages out of that and I think that's wonderful, rather than sitting a child down and saying, "Now draw a tree!" Maybe the child is not in the mood to draw a tree!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Papermaking at Caretaker Farm

Teresa led papermaking in the garden at Caretaker Farm in Williamstown. Flower petals and leaves made lovely designs pressed into the wet paper pulp.

What an inspiring setting for creativity.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mosaic Making - A Community Project

On July 21 we hosted an open house asking members of the community to join us in creating a new mosaic sign.

Participants worked side by side to piece together the design.

We also had a team outside breaking tile into smaller pieces.

As the spaces filled up, it became more puzzle-like to find pieces to fit in-between others and to fill in background space.

The mosaic so far - a combination of our logo surrounded by invented free form designs. Can you find a turtle, a star, and the word Art?

Adding more designs at a second work session in August.

Piecing in the background - our progress so far.

An Evening of Printmaking

Our evening printmaking workshop began with playing with paint using different tools on sheets of plexi-glass.

A freshly pulled print (above) and monoprints laid out to dry (below).
Here the print on the left was created from the plate on the right, a collograph. A collograph is a collage that is later printed. This collage included a variety of textures and the print included two color applications.

The plate above created the print on the lower right below.

The prints take on a new interest seen on the light table.

Resourcefulness and Inspiration

Ideas and inspiration come from many sources. Here, L looks at the shape of her temporary tatoo, a carriage for a princess.

She suggests her friend use the tatoo as inspiration for a carriage she wants to add to a large group story drawing.

The drawn carriage borrows from the round shape of the inspiration.

Mandala Design

This mandala is created from the inside out, using the oil pastels to create unique shapes of color that fit together adn fill the space, building from the center.

The outer edge of the mandala form provides a guide for the outer most shapes. This sort of building with shapes of color is often attributed to the "design stage" of drawing development.

The design stage typically precedes the representational stage. However, the stages are non-linear and tend to mix and overlap. Here, the artist adds a flower, a representational image.

In the finished image, the flower also becomes part of the design, a sort of hidden picture. The shapes around its form are filled in to add to the overall design.

Exploring Tools in Clay

E began by exploring flattening the clay, pressing it into a slab. She used a stick to create a collection of caterpillars.

A close-up of the caterpillars.

Tracks in the slab from scraping out the pieces of clay to make the caterpillars.

E noticed my camera as I took pictures of her process and improvised a camera of her own.

Working Together in a Studio

In the studio children generally mix colors in a group, sharing discoveries as they watch the magic of stirring colors together. They spread out to have more elbow room when they are ready to paint. Here, is very intent on his work on his painting.
A couple friends come over to see R's work, pointing out parts they notice.
It is delightful to have others come see your work, R tells them it is a city.
The friends now notice more, picking out parts of the city. One of the joys of working in a group in the studio is the opportunity for peer feedback and learning. Sharing artwork, ideas and strategies enriches the experience. As the teacher/observer, it is lovely to stand back and watch conversations develop.