Sunday, 20 October 2013

Being a Visitor at Home

Allowing myself to enjoy being a visitor was one of the tasks I set myself after the artist teacher workshop.  I am proud to say that I took the time to sit and do some sketches and watercolours even while I was visiting my parents in New Jersey, USA over the summer.  This is something that I had never done before.  It was quite fun.

The first trip I made was down to Fortescue.  I sat on the edge of the road and sketched a house up on stilts while my son explored the beach with my old metal detector.  It was not easy.  I can not get over how difficult it is to get the placement of the house fixtures correct.  I gave up trying to fit in everything correctly after a while.  I knew my son would get bored sooner or later and I wanted to try to get some colour in the drawing.

On the 4th of July I was able to get away and drove, with my old Chevy pick-up, to Landis Ave. in Vineland.  I parked and sat across the street from a set of three buildings that were fixed up quite nicely.  The colours and moulding were attractive.  I struggled with the same issues as in Fortescue but it seemed to work out a bit better.  If only I did not have to get back in time for the fireworks, I could have finished the piece.  I think I will work on it again from the photos I took.

It was a great summer to ride around in my 1965 Chevy Pick-up Truck.  A highlight of the trip was putting it into an antique car show.  There were amazing cars and a bit of time to start a sketch!  I tried some conte crayons and pastels.  I was quite pleased with the result of this drawing of the back corner of my truck.

There were some hot days in August and my son loves to swim.  Looking into Parvin State Park was a pleasant surprise.  We had a really good time biking and swimming in the lake.  This building near the lake had recently been renovated and housed the snack shop.  As my son was swimming I was busy with pastels trying to capture the likeness of this building.

 The drawings are not great but the experience was wonderful.  Taking time to just sit and draw was so rewarding.  It didn't matter how accomplished they were because I was just happy to be doing them.  I need to get out and do sketches of Leipzig now.  The weather will soon be getting cold so I better hurry up!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Finding Time to Explore a Familiar Source of Inspiration

Being an art teacher is sort of like working in an ice cream shop.  You quickly lose the desire for your favourite treat!  After spending all day working with the students and helping them sort out their ideas and artistic issues, the last thing you want to do is go home and start working on your own.

Discussions about this at the Artist Teacher Workshop made me realise that the students and I would both benefit from me making art in school.  I could take on a role of residential artist and work even in the classroom at times when the students were busy completing their projects.  Some non-teaching periods could be allocated for my own studio work or even studio evenings could be scheduled where I would work along side the students.  This would be an active step that I could initiate in order to make more of my own art.  Making more art and allowing the students to experience the process of an artist creating seems like a good idea.

I thoroughly enjoy brainstorming with engaged students; trying to figure out new ways of solving their artistic dilemmas and helping them when they are struggling to come up with ways of developing their own work further.  In my mind, they initiate sparks of fresh thoughts and trigger all kinds of exciting ideas that I can picture ever so clearly.  The work is created in my mind and ready to then be developed even further.  Then once it is out there ready for the taking, the bell rings and the students is rushing off to face a whole new set of obstacles that some other teacher must shed light onto.  I have often thought how tragic it is that these ideas seldom get explored or even considered.

Exploring the notion of making art in school then led me to contemplating the fact that I exert so much of my creative energy into potential art pieces for the students, which may simply be ignored.  This brought me to the conclusion of embracing those ideas and setting out to create the work myself.  Why not?  While I am at it, why not try to meet the students deadlines as well?  Why shouldn't I present work during their scheduled critiques?  Why not try to keep up a sketchbook with the ideas generated during discussions with students?

This seems to give some new purpose to teaching a subject that can feel so draining at times.  I am exploring the thought of accepting the collaborative work with the students as a source of inspiration for a new body of work.   I have just started to put this plan into effect.  So far the first piece made started with discussions I had with a grade ten student who wished to create some eerie image of some person or creature.  The keep a long story short, the result was him wearing a mask, that was still around the art room after being made years ago, while standing in the dark sink room holding a desk lamp toward his face during which time I snapped some photos at different angles and distances.  We looked at the shots and decided that some definitely had potential.  So I asked him if he would mind me also creating a piece from the photos.

Here is my first piece, "Boy in Mask":

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Being a Visitor in Pisa

I will never forget how excited I was when I went out for the first walk down into the town.  The smell of jasmine was so strong.  It was a clear cool day but warm in the sun.  I found a gelato store and sat on a bench in the town square of Calci Provincia di Pisa to eat it.

Across from me was a sort of typical Italian looking apartment building which I started to draw after only dripping chocolate on me once.  I started just with the black fountain pen.  The proportions are all wrong and the forms are not accurate but it was the first time in about 20 years that I sat and drew.  I was there for quite some time and when people walked by it felt like I may have been the only person to have ever sat on a bench in that little town square.

It was a breezy day and the pages of my sketchbook often blew up.  I was also getting eager to walk around more.  I finished the sketch, took a few photos and then went to explore.  I knew I needed to be back by 7 for dinner.

Seeing this drawing along with the photo is depressing but I remember that once I began drawing the first window too large, I could not turn back without starting over.  So it was a nice exercise.

Perhaps I should try again from the photo.  It is nice that the bench I mentioned above is mirrored in a second that was placed opposite the one I sat on.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Artist Teacher Workshop in Pisa with Heather McReynolds was so inspiring.

One of the most inspiring elements of the workshop was being encouraged to be a visitor and to allow oneself the time to enjoy being fresh in a new environment ready to sit and draw!  Back in 1992 and 1993 I first came to Europe and did two European Rail tours.  The people I travelled with were really patient and understanding with me taking time to do the drawings.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed making those sketches and then reviewing them at the end of the day.

In Pisa, I took time for myself and sketched.  This became part of my personal task.  I did pencil drawings, watercolour paintings, ink wash drawings.  It was challenging.  It had been a long time.  I was already looking forward to this because of reading about the personal task that would be set for the workshop.  While packing I think I took about two hours just sorting my pencil bag.  I can not remember how long I took cleaning out my precious Pelikan Fountain Pen.

I also had something that I did not have in the 90's; an iPad.  This was great for taking photos and then drawing from.  It was also great listening to Paul Simon in the morning when I was getting ready before breakfast.  The photos I have from there on the iPad play as a screen saver on the television when I play music through the Apple TV.  It is neat to see the captured moments scroll by.

What an entrance way upon arrival.  You can imagine the excitement.
This was the view outside my room.  What you can not see is the chicken coops below, so hence the mosquito net on the window.  Waking to the crow of the rooster was a delight.

This was a beautiful drive way that I just happened to pass on my way into town before dinner on the first evening.  There was the most lovely smell in the air and I was grateful my allergies did not kick in.

Video: ARTIST TEACHER WORKSHOP - La Vigna Art Studios 

This video was created from our session in late May, 2013.  The safe, rejuvenating, and creative atmosphere that Heather McReynolds arranges for the Artist Teacher Workshop is very apparent in this video.