Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dance of the Calaveras

The biggest decision on my docket this morning is what color scarf a little sculpted rabbit requires to stay warm this wet and blustery day. *sigh* (I could get used to this.) Anyway, I'm finding it hard to surface to get real world stuff done like laundry, dishes, and lesson plans. Since tailoring for small creatures is so taxing, I'll keep this post short on words and long on pictures. 
I thought I'd show you a sampling of my students' work from our last project in Art One (upper middle/high school level.) In September, we created cardboard relief sugar skulls inspired by Day of the Dead imagery. In October, we discussed Mexican printmaker José Posada, who originated the calavera image. Posada used calaveras (skeletons dressed up in fancy finery) in political cartoons to comment on the excesses of the rich and the government in the face of the overwhelming poverty that marked Mexico during the era of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Today, calaveras are a popular everyday image in the Americas but they are particularly prevalent during Day of the Dead celebrations.
Students designed a calavera character, transferred that design to a 4x6-inch block of Speedball pink carving material, carved, and printed. They were required to submit at least two prints, one white ink on black paper and the other, black ink on white paper. The process took several weeks but the results are delightful as I'm sure you'll agree. I am so lucky to have such wonderfully creative and dedicated students. I love how each piece really reflects the taste, style, and personality of the individual student.

Friday, November 20, 2015

On Thanksgiving Break

You have no idea how happy I am that I'm currently on a break from teaching. Frankly, all the teachers get a weary look in their eyes this time of year; the kids are extra distracted by the general chaos of the season and the nasty weather that traps them inside. A little break is welcome by all. As usual, I have big plans for my time off; I don't always get around to actually doing everything I aim for but whatever I do, it will still be a quiet, relaxing time that will recharge my batteries. At the very least, it will be nice to have longer than 15 to 30 minutes in a day to make art. It will also be fabulous to gather with family for Thanksgiving. I hope everyone reading gets to have some quality art and family time this coming week.

Note: Even though readership drops off dramatically in November and December, I'll be posting right up until Christmas when I traditionally take a blogging break until after the first of the year. Hope you'll continue to bless this space with your time and interest.

Monday, November 16, 2015

I Am, Therefore I Can

Just four days of teaching stand between me and Thanksgiving break...can I get a "WhooHoo!?" I need some uninterrupted time to tackle a few persistent ideas that are demanding attention. I'm also looking forward to visiting family for the first time since last Christmas. I'd like to get some crafting and gift-making done for the holidays and of course, I need some time to just sit and do nothing except watch Netflix/Hulu and sip coffee while the rain pours down outside. (Please, please powers-that-be...can it rain my entire vacation?! My state needs it but I think my soul needs it more.) I adore teaching but it dominates my days, leaving little time or energy for anything else.  

I jumped back into my "Exultation" journal this past weekend. In case you missed its introduction, this is my "coloring book" journal where I scribble images in ballpoint pen with my left hand and then paint, doodle, and embellish. The first photo shows you the page prior to coloring; This picture is how the page ended up. Originally, the bird's head was painted just like the rest of the body but as I was shuffling paper scraps around on my table, that purple and green circle literally fell onto my open journal. I've learned to go where serendipity leads so my birdie acquired a brand new noggin! Such a handy thing...wish I could do that myself sometimes...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Flip-Through of Scraps Journal

So I uploaded my first video to YouTube, a flip-through of my Scraps journal which I completed in 2014. I posted all of the pictures here individually but I thought you might like to see how the journal evolves as a whole. Be gentle; I'm still learning and the camera is zoomed in a bit too close. In addition, I'm working with an extremely basic camera so the quality is not the best. One step at a time.

Note: For those who couldn't see the little practice video in my last post, know that it was uploaded directly to Blogger as a Flash video and if that program isn't up-to-date or enabled on your computer, you won't be able to view it. This one, however, is on YouTube and although my channel is currently unlisted, the above video should work for everyone *crosses fingers*

Friday, November 13, 2015

Look Mom! The Picture Moves!

This is silly times a hundred but I'm doing a wild "I Conquered Technology!" dance around the studio as I somehow managed to make my first ever video in iMovie!!!! 32 seconds of miracle here people! I'm posting it here with zero idea if it will play OK for everyone (and even less idea how to fix it if you can't.) You'll just have to bear with me as I experiment. For me, the only way to learn something (especially new technology) is to just play and fail and play some more. It is an uphill climb for this entrenched PC user but if I can figure out Mac, the door to Lost Coast Post is going to swing W-I-D-E open! (Cheering section and tips are deeply appreciated!)

PS...Thanks go out to Özge in Turkey for the soft nudge in the comments of my last post! Sometimes a small challenge is just what I need to get started...

EDIT - November 14, 2015: Apparently I uploaded this to Blogger as a Flash video, NOT to YouTube so if Flash is not up-to-date on your computer, you will simply see a patch of white where my little video should be. Never fear...I've figured out how to load my videos to YouTube so future videos should be available to all. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tinkering in Journals

I'm continuing to work on art things here and there so I'm having trouble finding completed stuff to photo and show here. This is an odd time of year and not always my favorite: I'm very sensitive to environmental noise and general busyness and wintertime simply seethes with chaos. I'm trying to work on government paperwork, cleaning the house from top to bottom for an inspection, preparing for the next two months of teaching (plans, step-outs, samples, research, lectures) and thinking about the coming holidays. This is also a time when I do some serious contemplating about the new year looming. Overall, 2015 has been pretty good to me but I do want to aim for some major changes and goals in 2016. For now though, just trying to stay present and peaceful. Journaling helps with that and so I tinker in all sorts of books whenever a few spare moments arise.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Lost Coast Post Tale

(A post sans photos so that the reader can imagine his or her own pictures...that and I didn't think to grab the camera...)

3:30 a.m...I stretch in bed, contemplating a new day while still half entangled in the dream world. I am reluctant to exit the warmth of my covers but I finally pull out my earplugs, deciding that a return to sleep is unlikely. What's this?! Rain, steadily drumming on the roof, sweet in sound and its mere presence. A long statewide drought has made rain sorely missed so I settle back in, letting the peaceful rhythm relax my muscles and mind. I begin to drift back to slumber.

Suddenly a long, low, urgent howling begins. I sit up instantly. I know it is Marley Bear, my giant marmalade cat, but in the dark, I can't see him. I call out his name and the howl gets more insistent, frequent. A crash of dishes and I half stumble, half run into the kitchen. Marley has a fondness for forts: blanket, box, cabinet. He often explores without an exit strategy and I have had to rescue him from whatever hidey-hole he mistakenly thought could accommodate 22 pounds of furry orange love.

I throw open cabinet doors, calling his name, and rattling glassware, thinking Bear's thankful face would poke out as it has done so many times before. Nothing. The frustrated and fearful howling is now joined by frantic scratching. Confounded, I stand in the kitchen, yelling "Bear! Bear! Where are you?" I am still draped in the vestiges of sleep and unable to think clearly. Where could he be?

I happen to look back towards my bed and see Tuscany, my calico, calmly staring in the direction of the sliding glass door at the far end of the room. She looks amused. I run toward the object of her attention and finally spy Bear, standing on his hind legs, head poking through the blinds, tail puffed out like a gigantic bottle brush. He is raking the glass with his claws and howling for all he's worth.

At first, I try to pull him away from the door. However, Bear is utterly focused and he leans his considerable weight against my hand, continuing to howl in long, deep tones. He sounds exactly like a beagle or bloodhound, alerting his mistress to an exciting discovery.

Finally, my brain seems to catch up to reality and I remember the light to the upstairs balcony. I flip the switch and push aside the blinds. Bear's howling strikes a new level of anxiety. I look out, see a flower pot overturned, its succulent crushed. "I'll have to repot that," I think. Bear is standing again, trying to dig his way through the glass but I can't see the source of his distress. "Bear! Calm down! What is wrong?" I'm starting to get annoyed; it wouldn't be the first time Marley has dragged me from bed before I'm ready. And then, in one last visual sweep of the balcony, I see what has Bear so worried.

There, clinging to the opposite side of the railing like a monkey, face etched with an unmistakable "Oh shit!" look, is a young raccoon. Blinking in the light, it looks at me and the wild cat at the window. The raccoon doesn't move and I begin to wonder if it is trapped on the balcony by the netting I installed to keep out nesting birds. The howling seems deafening and I am now anticipating a knock on the door from an angry, sleepy neighbor. The coon and cat are frozen in their respective positions and attitudes. I run downstairs and drag my sleepy son from bed. (He is even less functional than I when half-awake so I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish. Daniel is much stronger though and I guess I thought he could pull Bear back from his quarry.)

We rush back upstairs. Daniel, asleep on his feet, non-verbal, lumbering behind me like a lazy zombie but obviously trying to respond to his mother's urgency. I throw open the blinds and (of course) the raccoon is gone. Marley Bear is still pacing but now silent. I drag my poor son back downstairs to the patio door, searching in vain for the raccoon. Everything is quiet except for the dripping of rain on leaves. Daniel gives me a long, skeptical look, pats me on the shoulder, and turns back to his room. He mumbles something unintelligible and closes his bedroom door. At 4, on this wet Monday morning, I am left alone with a broken flowerpot and this story: "The Day Bear Treed his First Coon."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tinkering with Time

There just isn't enough time in the day, week, month, lifetime to do all the things I want to do. It is a familiar problem (for probably all of us) but I am reassessing my days to see if I can squeeze in a bit more studio work. Last week, in Ashland, Oregon, I had some rare time to wander about by myself, shop, eat lunch, sightsee, think. Out of financial necessity, I am currently living/working a schedule that is negatively impacting my health. However, I believe that if I work smarter and pay more attention to my personal needs, I can improve my ability to handle stress (which has a huge impact on Parkinson's Disease.) I have to have more time to make art; it keeps me sane and it can help to slow the loss of fine motor abilities I face. The old saying - Use it or lose it - is true. Anyway, I'm taking some time to ponder big issues and tinker with my schedule so I have more moments to consider the little things, like what color sweater a monster needs to stand out in a crowd. (Buster here says that orange stripes are in this season...just a heads up...)       

Monday, November 2, 2015

Returned from Travels

Last week, I traveled with 79 students and almost 20 adults as my school made its annual trip to Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Remembrances, musings, and photos (including those of the travel journal I kept) are forthcoming but it might be a couple of weeks. I returned home to the usual daily workload so I have to squeeze in finishing up the journal and processing photos in between teaching and an annual housing inspection/income verification. In addition, the holiday season is looming and that heralds days more chaotic than ever. I can say, however, that I had a wonderful time and that I survived in better shape than I anticipated. I cannot wait to return and I look ahead to traveling to Mexico next June with excitement. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dem Bones

This is another doodle from my "Drifting" journal, created earlier this Inktober but most appropriate for today. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bouncing from Project to Project

If you follow my blog even semi-regularly, you can probably tell that I'm all over the place in terms of what I work on from day to day. It isn't my preferred way to approach my art life (for more on that see this post) but given my current teaching workload and health challenges, I'll take what I can get: 15 minutes here, an hour there. I'm letting my whim lead me around by the nose; when I find the time and energy to make art, I just pick up whatever is at hand and get to work. So if you're looking for consistent updates on any one project in particular, you're out of luck. The wide variety of art that I post is a true reflection of how I can make art right now. When summer comes - and if I'm not in post-surgery mode yet again - I'll have time to get more focused. Anyhow, today I'm posting a page from my sketchbook...just a pretty flower I found on a walk and wanted to document.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Take a Tiny Seat

Daisy Yellow's Tiny Museum class initially sparked a foray into small abstracts (the focus of the class) but now I'm happily cavorting in the realm of illustrations fit for fairies. First landscapes and now chairs...because you need teensy-weensy seats to sit and appreciate itty-bitty landscapes...obviously! It took me a week to finish this sampler of watercolor and ink chairs only because my personal art-making time is very fractured as of late. Honestly, I think I could draw and paint nothing but chairs every day for a month - maybe two - and feel totally fulfilled as an artist. These were so much fun to do! More minuscule museum pieces are already under construction!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Under the Weather Just in Time for a Field Trip

So I'm supposed to do some traveling next week (for the first time in 22 years) and I am sick. I suppose it was inevitable: there's been a wave of illness washing through my art students and I guess I finally got caught in that storm.  Terrible timing! Luckily, I have a couple days at home to rally (or at least work through the worst of it) before I have to make a decision one way or the other. I was really looking forward to seeing Guys and Dolls and Pericles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The kids (76 in all) will be creating a visual journal/sketchbook of their 4-day trip as well as completing a three-hour sketchcrawl in downtown Ashland. I need to be there for that so I'm going to hide away for a little bit and gather my strength...and the Sudafed, cough drops, hot tea, Advil, vitamin C, voodoo, hoodoo, and anything else I think might help me conquer the germs currently partying in my head and throat. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Drifting at 20,000 Leagues

Another page in my Drifting doodle journal where I simply play with shapes, repetition, color, and story. This one's titled "Unseen Peril at 20,000 Leagues." These little pages are good, quiet fun after a long day teaching and keeping tremors at bay.

Monday, October 19, 2015

In the School Garden...Magic Happened

Last week, I had one of those teaching days where I think "This....this is why I teach."

I had the day's sketching lesson all planned out. We were going to do the third (and final) in a series of coffee mug drawings, this time adding color as I had just introduced watercolor pencils the week prior. However, walking into the school, it was impossible to ignore the gorgeous garden, flowers everywhere, swaying gently in a light breeze that softened the heat of a brilliant sunny day. On the spot, I decided the kids would be drawing en plein air, out in the world for their first "live on location" journaling session.

We've been at this observational sketching thing for nearly two months now and the kids are progressing by leaps and bounds. There have been, of course, a few hiccups along the way due to the usual self-doubt that arises when you ask students to stretch outside of their comfort zone. In addition to a basic survey of drawing principles, we've been practicing letting go of perfectionism. Each sketching session is approached as an exercise in relaxation, mindfulness, and truly seeing. Up until this point, we have strictly focused on drawing objects set up in the classroom so I wasn't sure how this new assignment would be received. In the very least, I thought the kids would embrace the chance to get outside as any time away from "studies" is always greeted with enthusiasm.

After a brief discussion of composition, journaling, and the history behind plein air work, I sent the kids out into the garden armed with pens and paper. I thought maybe that they would be a bit restless but they settled in almost immediately, each in his or her own space, positioned in front of a flower or tree, silently drawing. The intensity was astonishing and after observing how focused the students were, my principal effectively cancelled the balance of afternoon classes so the kids could keep working (something that a charter school environment makes possible.) Some kids worked on their pages for nearly two hours, first inking their sketch, journaling, and then coloring with watercolor pencils. I listened to detailed conversations about the qualities of various pen nibs, the finer points of shading rocks, and color-mixing ideas to create the perfect shade of green for leaves dappled in light. I heard students complimenting the work of their peers and, more importantly, praising their own work. 

"In the garden I sat and observed the things all around me and just took it all in. The sun shining on the plant. Beautiful."
The writing was just as insightful. The gardening teacher/garden manager was especially moved by the students' renderings and writings. He told me that he always hoped that students would "see the beauty in the garden" he was working so hard to create. These pages are a testament to both the garden's simple elegance and the students' appreciation of the natural world. 

"I saw this flower and fell in love with it. It looked like this inside like it couldn't show how beautiful it really was. I felt like [I] could see [its] inner beauty."
This page in particular makes me teary-eyed every time I read it. I don't feel comfortable hinting at the the backstory of this student - even anonymously -  so my emotions surrounding this piece probably won't make complete sense. Let's just say that I want to whisper in this student's ear" "Honey...that flower is you." 

I am so honored to be these kids' art teacher. To my delight, they are absorbing the lessons, pushing for more, relaxing into their power to capture a moment with both delicacy and impact. Each student is finding his or her own style, even in the short time we've been at this. Questions are flying about art supplies, urban sketching, and travel journaling. "Can we do more drawing?" That question in particular is music to my ears.
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