Goings On About Town

Big things are in the works. Baby steps!!!

Though my drawing a day project has once again fizzled, I have in fact been making art nearly every day.  When I started the project, my intention was to do all kinds of work, showing progress, drawings, sketches, and finished work as it went on.

But as the project went on, my parameters got more and more narrow.  First, somehow, I decided it had to be a drawing. Then I decided it had to be a drawing on a particular size of paper.  But as an artist, I’m all over the place.  I do several bodies of work in several media all the time.  All those limitations are not how I work, but somehow I talked myself slowly into that consistency and regularity.

Some of the work that I do as an artist is less photographic.  Like the above shot, a photogenic rearrangement of something much less exciting to look at: making the “paints” for my “paintbox.”  Each sheet has to be torn and in order to use them more efficiently be rolled into a ball so when it comes to making the carpet, no detangling is needed.

In any case, I wanted to outline for you some of what I’ve been working on, though each of these things will get more attention as time goes on this summer, perhaps you would like to know the whole list of “what’s up” in Adventurous Art land.

Recycle Ann Arbor had an Earth Day Art Contest, and my “Sun Rug” was selected to be a finalist.  Though the turnout was small, I stuck around for the Public Reception and made some good connections to people in the community.

My small success in that contest persuaded me to shoot higher and I’ve been working on a proposal for a larger series of rag carpets to be displayed in narrative series from Cloud, to Rain, to Rainbow, to Sun.  The first proposal contains some mistakes and omissions, so we will see.  In either case, I’m excited about the project and you will see some progress shots soon.

One person I met through the program was the Outreach and Zero-Waste coordinator for RAA with whom I’m coordinating the translation of some of their materials about how to recycle in Ann Arbor into Spanish.  It’s cool to get to do some translation work, if only as a volunteer.

She also introduced me to someone at the Ecology Center, and I’m volunteering with them to do an interactive recycled art table at the Eco-Ride on June 23 at Riverside Park in Ann Arbor.  Yes, Ann Arbor, not Ypsi.  I’m going to do a whole entry about this since I made them a video and I think you’ll enjoy our project, even if you can’t attend the Eco-Ride.

Another of the people I met through the Recycle Ann Arbor Earth Day Contest was the director of FLY Art Center, an Ypsi organization that does outreach to under-served public school children.  We met up and I’m going to teach some “Studio Skills” classes (one about no-sew upcycled t-shirts, and one about rag rug coasters or placemats), and do some volunteering for them in their outreach and public programs.




Red and white exercise on symmetry and mirroring

This week I was digging through some old image files for one reason and another.  This one stood out as something interesting.

It was done during one of my private lessons while I lived in Madrid.

At the time, most of the drawings from those classes seemed un-interesting.  During classes, I mostly did figural works, both because it made it easier to present ideas to the children, but also because at a certain age (that these students were), students are more interested in plotting ways to draw real things.

But one of the students who was just learning to write was having a problem writing her letters facing the correct direction, and this was a visualization exercise that my mother found for me when I was a similar age, with a similar problem.  I’ve since used it to help students learn to see line and proportion in drawing as well.

Anyway, it’s funny that a drawing done in less than a minute during a class should stand out as something that I want to write about today.

It just goes to show that the values we place on our actions are often misaligned with reality.  Because of the context, and the fact that it wasn’t part of my pure artistic practice, I denigrated this drawing at the time.  But now, years later, I look at it and love the motion of the lines, and the play of positive and negative space.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t see value in it at the time it was made, just not artistic value.  At the time I saw how the series of mirror drawings we did helped the little girl get her “e” facing the correct direction.  I also saw what it could teach for future lessons.

Someone once told me that you never know how important something is at the time you do it, so you should just do things that seem to go in a direction that you want to go.  I guess this drawing is an example of that.

Putting the act of drawing into another context helps reduce self-imposed limitations of what a “good” drawing is.  It creates a separation from the usual process of drawing’s purpose, allowing a re-direction.

Life can be like that too.  Sometimes it’s easier to meet people, or make professional progress, when you are doing something unrelated.  It is easier to meet people, for example, when you go out with the purpose of walking the dog.  People talk to you because you are there with a dog, and they have a dog, and eventually you make friends.  But if you go out to the park (or a café) alone, it’s often harder because you are more intent on the purpose of meeting people, so your behavior can become stilted.  (At least this is true for me, and I suspect it is for many other slightly shy people).

Basically, moving through life with purpose is important, but assuming that the only thing that is being moved is the purpose that moves you is limiting.  I’m trying to remember this lesson right now.  That even if what I’m doing seems small, that in the course of every day life, other things of value ripple out from my actions and influence my life and the lives of others in ways that may not be visible now.

Itsy Bitsy Spider Projects

This is a lesson which I prepared to teach EFL students in Spain.  In it they practice numbers, learn to indicate up and down, practice the weather, and learn how to ask some questions.  This project was done with children between six and nine years of age.

[Coming Soon, more videos as well as clear step-by-step explanations.]
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Puppet
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider Book

ABC Segovia

This project was done with three little girls, a family with whom I went on a vacation.  They had been my students for a little over a year, and the younger girls were in kindergarten, and the older girl in third grade.  Through prior lessons, we’d studied the alphabet.  We’d begun to make an alphabet book , which I’d also done that year with a kindergarten group that I saw four days a week.  With the full-class, the alphabet books were easier, because each kid had to find only one letter’s worth of things.

Anyway, my small group and I took pictures as we went along.  Mostly, they were things that the girls knew already like zipper, tree and fountain, but in some cases I would point to things and say, “Ok, that’s an aqueduct, what letter do you think it begins with?”  either because the object was too perfect a tourist attraction, or because they were stumped for a letter.
That evening, we edited together the video, with all three singing the song and naming objects into my laptop, and then with the older girl helping me to put the names onto the images.  I later made the poster version which you see above.
This lesson would work with larger groups of children on field trips too.  They could be given the mission to find things (with their adult chaperones) that began with certain letters.  As most class sizes are somewhere around 20-30 students, it’s perfect.  Either more advanced students could be paired with less advanced ones, or the more advanced students could be given extra letters, depending upon how many actual students are in each class.
The editing would not be as easy to do, since each kid would want to participate, but given the way the alphabet books worked, it could be done, on a day by day basis.  Once we had the photos on the computer, each child could go up to the teacher in computer time, record his word, and paste the word into the image in photoshop.
The poster can be printed large, up to 20″x30″ although I’ve never printed it bigger than A4.  It could be hung in the classroom to allow the students extra time to look at and remember each letter.
This kind of reinforcement worked with my small group and their poster, as well as with the kindergarten and their alphabet books.  When they finished lessons, or had a free moment, students went to the poster, or to their book, and started looking at each object and trying to remember what it was called.
When I was able to be present, I scaffolded by mumbling the first sound in words that they couldn’t remember: “bas” for “basket.”
That same kind of reinforcement is the logic behind making a DVD that the children can use at home:  they think it’s really cool that they themselves are on the TV, even if it is a DVD that they made themselves.  It also can trigger deeper parent participation in the children’s learning.  This supportive culture is created simply by making an object that the child wants to share, be it a book, a dvd, or any drawing that the child takes home.

*Video and images reproduced with assent of children and the consent their mother.  Names kept secret to preserve the privacy.