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On Art Markers

I had a former graffiti artist in to school to talk about his work and the fact that he had been arrested and incarcerated for graffiti. One of the boys is interested, and this is all part of the global problems we are working on. He brought in all the sketchbooks for the kids to see – some really great ideas, and stuff the kids could relate to.

What amazed me was the markers. Felt tip has come a long way – and as he said, they’re 5 dollars a piece. What I thought was watercolor was really marker. And I loved the accented lines and outlines that he created – I can see the beauty in this style – and it would be good to be able to bring some of this stuff to the kids – they could see a different type of art, and he makes a living with his art.

One of the things that made me feel old was in the questions the kids were asking, about “crews” and “productions.” I had no idea what they were talking about. Turns out a crew is a group of graffiti artists who worked together. A production is a challenge, or battle, between two graffiti groups to fill up a wall, to see who would be the better group of artists. I love the idea of an art challenge, or battle, to create art.

The kids would probably get into this style of art, as well as taking to scrapbooking. I could use a digital camera for those students who have no family pictures – I think enough teachers have scrapbook tools they could lend.

Doodle Art

My eighth graders finished their first art assignment, doodling, then creating a small frame to move around the doodle and decide on an area they would like to frame. Then they colored inside the doodle and we posted them. The kids kept sneaking outside the classroom to see the artwork. They were all really pleased at how they did. And – I got more of the work in from this group of eighth graders. The only issue this group has is horrible language – had to deal with the F word several times in that class….

And then in my enrichment class the kids wanted to know if the true meaning of “bitch” was a female dog. So I said yes and used the word correctly in a sentence – which about made them shocked that I would. Ah, adolescents….

But the kids seem to be settling in well to art – with a good dose of the optical illusions as a way of looking at basic line. They are entranced. As we look at the use of color in the illusions, I noticed for the first time that most of them tend to use complementary colors to create the idea of movement. Tomorrow the seventh graders will have a chance to look at the paper artist – they loved the pencil lady!

No more education rants – I have a new blog just for that!

Starting New Art Classes

In the midst of everything yesterday, I forgot that I had started new art classes. Yesterday’s group, especially, really resisted the first sketching. “I can’t draw” was the constant refrain. I didn’t push the first sketch, but when we came to the doodle, there was a little more freedom that I could sense. As I walked around, I made positive comments about everything I saw, and more and more kids started filling up their papers with doodles. Funny – they can doodle in class, but not when it’s an assignment. The eighth graders in particular were very difficult. Tomorrow when I see them they will use some math skills and create a small frame to isolate one part of their doodle, add color, and frame it for their first piece of art.

I introduced them to Photoshop as we started looking at line as an element. We were short of time yesterday, but today with the seventh graders I was able to show them a few web pictures – sent to me and I don’t know where – of some interesting advertising. I want the kids early on to think that art is much more than drawing. What follows is just two of them….

We still aren’t in the art room – the large tables are set up, but regular chairs – so trying to draw or paint would put a horrible strain on the back. Figures – and it’s a good thing I checked before class started. I will still need to bring computer cords back and forth if I want to use internet – which I do. Too many good things to see on line!


I tried, I really tried…….I kept calming myself, one thing after another, starting at 7:30 when I walked in the door. It just kept getting worse. Then I had my difficult class during fourth period, and they were wonderful – and we got loads done. I was very proud of them. But the rest of the day – sheesh.

No wonder my blood pressure was up at the doctor’s. I’m trying….I’m really trying……

Kinda Mellow….

It has been a very nice two weeks of vacation. I finished up my lesson plans last night, knowing full well if I didn’t I would hate myself today. So by 9 PM last night I had everything packed to go for Monday morning. A tradition for the last couple of years has been to have dinner with Ali so I don’t stew about going back to school. We didn’t do it this August because I thought I was okay, but I really missed our getting together for dinner.

I met with Yvonna today for breakfast. It is worse other places. We started teaming together almost 7 years ago in the sixth grade. We hit it off right away – two intellectual, smart women with the same approach to kids and teaching. We don’t see each other as often, so we always have lots to catch up on. Both of us are having a hard time coping with the changes in education and what we are being forced to do as a result of district demands. One thing I said to her, and again to Sam who is so depressed about going back, is that we have to remember at this time in education we have a mission to try and do what is right by our students, regardless of the roadblocks. This is a battle I am choosing to fight. Right now the most creative thing I can do is attempt to reach my kids despite teaching to a flawed test.

I took care of a lot of loose ends today, left over from my list-making on Thursday. I did very well. I have a huge list of loose ends for tomorrow and the rest of the week, but these are mostly so I don’t have to remember them and worry about forgetting and not having what I need for class. I ordered the 100 free postcards from VistaPrint – took me an hour to work through all the sizing and the problems with downloading. But – should be on the way in a couple of weeks. I chose the Cosmos piece, since it shows both the marbling and the digital manipulation.

I had a bit of an epiphany concerning my art classes, and I am going to dwell on this to get me through the remaining 92 days till summer. Maybe Fate decided it would be good for me to have art classes, as now I have a chance to feed children’s souls, beyond the testing situations. I have a chance to show them art, to explore ideas, to give them a taste of what they can do by following their artistic side.

Getting Started Again –

I am trying very hard to keep the depression at bay. Went to the movies today, saw the Golden Compass and really enjoyed it. The indictment on the church and its involvement in society is quite timely. And as I continue to watch the political scene, I get more and more concerned about the role of religion in our society.

Speaking of politics, Dean game me Tom Brokaw’s new book for Christmas, Boom. It is excellent, all about the sixties. Very interesting to see what is going on with names from the 60s and what they are doing today. The Vietnam War stuff is fascinating. I was 20, and I remember thinking that the year couldn’t get any worse, and then it did. in December of 1967 during our disciplinary term at Hartwick College, I studied game theory, and my paper was on the coming 1968 election. I had done a complete analysis of the political scene as of December 1967, and I had a complex matrix developed with the possibilities for the next election. I wish I could find the paper now. Under Bobby Kennedy, I had him taking the election, assuming nothing happened to him personally. Little did I know….at that time I had the current administration losing out to Kennedy, but who knew about King and Kennedy and riots, and everything else.

I am on the Obama bandwagon- I love the excitement, the spirit of change – so many things that I saw with Bobby and with the first Clinton. I have a signed letter of congratulations from Bobby Kennedy when I received my Regents’ scholarship when I graduated from high school in New York.

One day closer to summer vacation……

The Loss of Creativity and Meaning

Eric Maisel, a creativity coach, talks about the need to make meaning in our work. One of the things I notice about creativity, art, and teaching, is that to be really good in the classroom and create meaning for kids, you have to be an extremely artistic person – your creativity is in the brain power and not the art as we would normally think about it. Which is one of the reasons my blog talks about teaching, because I see that as my major art form at this time. I create other art, but trying to create educated, capable children with untold options for the future is to my way of thinking one of the highest art forms.

That said, math kept me awake last night, because I kept getting so angry at the school district. I spent about three hours working on my math plans for the first three weeks back, and since I have to cover four specific objectives, I looked carefully through the pretest on these objectives. Normally I concentrate on the math concepts and how best to work for understanding these concepts.

But nooooo – not with this district and school. I have to actually teach to this specific test, screw understanding. The first thing I have to decide is how to meaningfully get across all this new vocabulary – a minimum of 10 words just to get into this objective, which is all about surface area and nets. Now, the Connected Math unit does an exceptional job of volume and teaching surface area (filling and wrapping), but I have to deconstruct the unit to pull out what is essential in these next three weeks. So a program that has 15 years of extremely successful results is no longer valued in the attempt to raise stupid test scores.

This next week will be spent on various strategies for teaching vocabulary (and attempting to get understanding), as well as drawing nets and trying to understand the concept of wrapping for surface area and filling for volume. I am diagnosing the test, in an attempt to get the kids to really look at these questions and see that with a little bit of new knowledge they can easily do this. The kids are not supposed to write on these, but I’m sorry – that’s not gonna happen. The kids are going to write all over these, make their notes, and so on. At least if I have to teach the stupid test, I can also teach basic study skills that will carry over to other disciplines and tests.

This makes me so angry I could spit. I can do this, no question about my abilities, and I can no doubt sneak in lots of other information to help make this meaningful and maybe have it actually “stick” for the kids. There is no doubt that this deconstruction of public education is a deliberate effort to change how our society educates children. Sure there are things wrong with public education, but teaching to a test is not going to solve any issues. (Too bad you didn’t see the draft of this sentence – it was a pretty ugly condemnation……..)

A Good Marbling Session

We had another good session for marbling – a lot of remnants, plus a couple of good pieces of silk – and another good piece of velveteen – which we haven’t done in a while. Three hours, start to end of clean-up today, but that’s not counting the two hours of prep yesterday, plus the hour Dean spent getting paints ready for today. Nice and relaxing, everything worked. As we get ready to think about doing a new preferred letter, we have to look at how much product we can do with tight space and my not always being available. As we don’t do as much fabric any more, we don’t have to worry about taking one whole day of the weekend for the actual marbling.

I can feel myself getting depressed today, knowing that school vacation is almost over, and I still need to get ready – which I’ve allowed time for before Sunday, but I still have enjoyed the days so much, and I really don’t want to get back into the grind. I’ve started walking again, relaxing, getting my nails done, and I am SO looking forward to eventual retirement. At least I can “retire” periodically through the school year and then all summer.

I need to finish my Photoshop class, but the projects really aren’t interesting me, as I would rather look at the tutorials on NAPP and work from there. But I have learned so much from those lessons and developed a lot of confidence in what I am doing. There’s no big deal to finishing, just that it’s a loose end that I would like to take care of. I have discovered that I am really not into photo retouching or restoring per se – I like the original creations.

That said, I need to go read a few tutorials and work on a new piece tonight.

Thoughts on Bliss

As the new year starts, it’s always a time of reflection for me. I have two times like this during the year – one in January as I look ahead to the next calendar year, and one in August when I look at the coming school year. One of the newslists I get is from Education Week, and there was a link today on Steve Jobs and creativity. This was his commencement address to Stanford in 2005. Some very interesting things – never knowing when something you have done in the past (like his taking a calligraphy class that eventually led to the fonts for the Macintosh) will be the key to what you will do next in the future.

Do what’s in your heart, never feel regretful, because everything you experience builds who you are. A lot of what bothers me about teaching these days is that I have all these experiences from the past, and I would like to be able to have these skills utilized. It gets me angry, but then I realize that I am bringing all this to the students, and I never know when something from the past will be the key to reach a student.

Those words really resonated with me today, as I need to hold to that to get through the remaining years that I am teaching. If I can maintain the momentum from this past week, I will be able to draw on the digital marbling as a creative outlet for the spring. I think what’s really working for me with Photoshop is that I can see definite progress in a piece, whereas when I am quilting, the progress is always much slower.

Speaking of skills I have developed, a few years ago when I was looking for another job, I interviewed with Drive Time to set up their business partnership program with local schools. The first thing the CEO of the company asked me was, since my resume was so full and so diverse, just how much of it was true. Well, I guess, once again, I am determined to be a Renaissance woman – everything is true, continues to be true, and I guess I keep adding in other directions.

Suzan and I have done a couple of really amazing pieces over the last few days. This one is based on the original piece in yesterday’s blog – but you would never know it! Dean wants to call it “Tapestry Secret,” which I like.

A Busy First Day

A very busy morning – did lots of shredding of old IRS stuff, old business stuff – several bags for recycling. Did some cleaning (still have a very long way to go….) And I got a walk in – the weather is nice and breezy. We burned sage in several of the spots around the house – get the good energy flowing.

As I reflect back on 2007, it was a good art year. Not so much in terms of actual fiber created, but we were able to finally solve our marbling problems, I started on Photoshop, and I finally got into doing digital work from the marbled fabrics. We sold an art piece (Night Eyes, from some of our first framed attempts), had some good ebay custom orders, and felt like we had momentum with Marble T. Now it’s time to look at the coming year and what we would like to accomplish. Which I think will be our goals for this week – we definitely want to reactivate our Preferred list, so we get more hits on the website, as well as add more fiber work. I want to get a fiber portfolio completed, and I would like to enter a minimum of five different shows this year.

Lots to think about, and trying to balance the momentum with school with be interesting – as usual. I completed most of my art plans today – looked through standards, sketched out the semester projects, and developed the rules for art class – which I think are pretty good. One of the things that amazed me as I was working with the art standards is how much my kids were actually in the intermediate set of standards, between the various discussions and projects. I feel really good about that.

Math – that’s another thing to think about over the next few days. I’m avoiding it because teaching to the test really is morally and ethically against everything I believe that makes a good education for a child. Heard from Kathy in Vermont that the new principal is even thinking about doing away with their exploratory classes in favor of more academics. Who was it who said a society is judged by its art? The Bush years have not been good ones for civilization…..

I’m working on another piece off a freeform pattern – here it is in original, black and white lines, and then as the genesis of a Rainforest piece.

I Think This Will Work…..

I created my DVD and burned it to disk – it’s winding its way to Suzan today. I woke up during the night thinking about putting it online so we can see it and discuss it easier. I just created a slideshow in iPhoto, saved it to the desktop, and now I am going to attempt to add it to this blog……

Okay – first attempt didn’t work…..error….I’ll try again…..okay – I tried through Contribute, and still nothing- I suppose after this time I can do the eUpLoads that I used for my little banner. Hmmmm…

Okay – nothing works, but I do have a great screen saver – so much detail shows that you don’t normally see in the actual jpgs. I think I’ve stopped to look at it at least three times already today. This is good stuff – and I was able to tell one of them definitely needs more work, as it is flat, doesn’t have the texture that the others do.

So tomorrow I will set myself some artistic goals, especially since stuff came for a show at the Phoenix Art Museum. It has overall been a really good creative year. One of my goals for so many years was to learn Photoshop, and while I am no expert, I sure know a lot more than I did a year ago! I feel momentum – now I have to plan for it to continue…..Happy New Year!

Creating a Portfolio

I have been putting off doing a portfolio, because I figure with the internet and all the available technology, I need to have a digital portfolio. Which I didn’t know how to do, so I figured Suzan would tackle that. But then I was thinking – it really isn’t anything more than a slideshow, so why couldn’t I do it as part of a DVD?

And voila’! Once I figured the program out – and started saving, since the program wanted to keep quitting on me – we now have a digital portfolio ready for burning. The only thing still missing are the sizes, which we can add later. And I’m realizing that I can very easily add the fiber piece to the portfolio – just set up another submenu. Sometimes I amaze even myself…..

So I was productive today – I didn’t let the continuing cold and cough get me down. We did loads of shredding as part of our New Year’s cleaning and getting ready to burn more sage as the year begins. I did a partial cleaning of my bathroom, and even found the old cough drops, which I am going to need. I forced myself to stay with the cleaning, rather than bagging and trying for a nap, since afternoon naps are keeping me awake at night. Who knows what I’ll accomplish tomorrow?

Before I forget – a really incredible graphic artist from Africa, now residing in the US – I want to use his work (some of it) to show the kids that art can be a movement for change, as a way of motivating them. Check out Chaz Maviyane-Davies.

The Challenge This Time of Year….

Every year I go through the same thing, and I thought perhaps this year if I put the problem in writing, that maybe I will gain some insights into a better way. With the holiday break, I seem to do lots of lists, want to be very productive, and try to get zillions of things done. I always end up starting the new semester depressed, on a roll with my art, and then nothing happens again till summer – if I’m lucky. There’s got to be a better way.

One thing I think will help is this blog. This is by far the first time I have been able to journal for a whole year, even as much as I like writing. Part is that I can do it on the computer – I hate long-hand. I have had a number of insights this year, and I have been productive. Looking back at the early entries, I can see how far I have come with Photoshop, even though I am still quite the novice. I need to keep writing, and probably I need to start a blog that will be strictly my education thoughts – so I can be the wonderfully sarcastic person that I am….or maybe not. Maybe I just write here and then delete, once I have my thoughts down.

Right now I am avoiding making a list of things I want to get accomplished this weekend. What I have done this fall on Sundays is just jot down the really critical stuff for Sunday and then again for Monday mornings. I feel freer to do my own work, yet I don’t have to worry about remembering all the things I still need to do for school. I seem to be torn by wanting to be productive, screwing myself up by putting too many things on the list, and then freeing my mind.

I think because of the blog and a couple of self-imposed deadlines for shows that I won’t lose momentum in art come January. That has always been the problem for the last couple of years. Now I have been leaving as much work as possible at school and freeing my nights for Photoshop. And – turning out some pretty good work, if I say so myself.

So what do I do for this weekend? I check on the iBook to see what happened to it, I do an artist statement for me and Suzan, I find the jurying information for Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery, and I marble. Should be plenty……

Some New Ones

We are headed to Phoenix for our first monthly artist date to create some new digital work. Suzan’s coming down from Sedona – not a great day for traveling – cold and windy on our end – will be worse coming down to Camp Verde and then Black Canyon City.

Last night I did some more work. I like the circles effect – I am interested now in adding additional shapes to pieces and see what happens with them. You can see the initial fabric in the background on this one.

I started applying some gradients and using masks more.

I am particularly fond of the copper gradient – seems to work really well on the marbled fabrics.

I don’t know what I did, but every now and then I get a really interesting effect with one final gradient…..

Playing Around

It has been a very nice, relaxing few days, even with being sick. Saw Charlie Wilson’s War, which was excellent, even though I dozed through some of it. A great historical “if only.” Today we saw National Treasure, Book of Secrets – lots of fun, though highly improbable. Been to Mt. Vernon, Mt. Rushmore – always fun to see a few of the places we have been.

Worked last night on a new piece, and again today. Both easily came with titles. The first – Lord of the Rings – the original is a great piece of Japanese silk, marbled in dark greens.

The second – Fossils – from a great stone pattern, marbled on linen. I am finding I like adding shapes to the pieces – need to see about developing my own library of shapes.

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