Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Tribute to Zetti


The challenge theme this week at Three Muses is "Zlightly Zetti" and this is probably my all-time favorite topic.  Since discovering the queen and king of Zetti, Teesha and Tracy Moore, my art has transformed from something stodgy and dripping with perfectionism (I began in scientific illustration) to something wonderously zany and imperfect.  Zetti means different things to different people but to me it means this: bright colors (or alternately, black & white with a splash of red), pointed hats, wings, mismatched patterns, transplanted heads and altered features.  Philosophically, Zetti means an opportunity to go a little bit crazy, to let loose the inner child so she can create a world filled with oddball characters who exalt in playing, dreaming, and wondering at all life has to offer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monkey Tales


My middle school students are snip, snip, snipping through their way through their Romare Bearden-inspired neighborhood collages.  I had so much fun on Friday listening to all their stories and descriptions of their art as I repeatedly asked "So tell me about what is going on here."  I was rewarded with elaborate expositions on door cities, umbrella hats, atom bomb factories (there's always one it seems), and funhouse malls.  I tried to soak in every enchanting and imaginative detail as the monkeys spun their tales, chattering as fast as they could once gently prompted to describe their creations.  The classroom becomes a hurricane of paper bits, rogue glue sticks, and the occasional "running with scissors" incident.  The noise level is just beneath a dull roar but I let it rumble on as long as I see steady progress on collage construction.  All in all, it was a morning filled with wonder and wild wisdom.     

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Saver


Here's an ATC I made for Helga's "pink & green" challenge over at My ARTistic Life.  This is my first piece ever using ArtChix products and I love them!  ATCs are about all I can manage these days it seems but I'll gather them all together and color copy to leverage for future journaling and art pieces.  Even these little pieces of art are saving my sanity as I work to find a path that can include teaching art AND doing art.  That's the challenge of the moment!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking Inside


Here's my entry for this week's challenge theme of "windows" at Three Muses.  Still trying to get my feet underneath me but I think things are slowly improving...at least I've been able to get a bit of art done for myself.  Yay for that!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Running Wild and Resting Much


The days are flying by in a flurry of frenzied activity and I am struggling to find balance.  I can't believe that it is the 21st of September already.  In just ten short days, my next show is scheduled to hang and I definitely don't feel ready.  Teaching is consuming all my energy and focus like some out of control wildfire.  All I can do during the in between times is lay on the couch and practice breathing....practice being still, inside and out.  I'm sure the fibromyalgia and lingering upper respiratory gunk is contributing to this extreme fatigue but I am hoping I will become acclimated to my new schedule in the next few weeks.  There's lots to do - stuff I must do and stuff I want to do.  But for now, I am just trying to go with what my body seems to need...lots and lots of rest. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Monkey Business


Well, I took a couple days off from blogging simply out of exhaustion.  This *cough, cough, hack* wicked little cold I've been fighting is lingering in my chest and it seems there is never enough sleep to be had.  However, when I'm upright, I'm on the run and going and doing, and being at the speed of light.

I met my middle school monkeys yesterday; 38 of 40 showed up, eager to hang from the ceilings as only this age group can.  I have to note that because the school is so small, "middle school" (traditionally 6th, 7th & 8th) in this case, also includes some 4th and 5th graders, who are particularly adept at monkey shenanigans.  My son tagged along to act as assistant monkey wrangler and together we wrestled the babes into their seats so we could get some fantastic art-making done.  As part of this year's "Art Around the World" theme, we have started with African-American artist Romare Bearden, using his nearly 18-foot collage "On the Block"  as inspiration for our own neighborhood collages.  Colored paper bits were everywhere, scissors were carving out all sorts of wonderously imaginative shapes, and glue sticks were used to stick fingers together as well as paper.  This collage process is a multi-layered affair; yesterday, the kids got started on their backgrounds, gluing down their big shapes.  In the next couple of weeks, we will add more and more details and I plan on bringing in a bunch of cool, textured and printed papers for them to choose from as well as magazines so they can add people and objects to their cut paper worlds.  When all is said and done, I plan on displaying the finished works all in a row to create one gigantic paper neighborhood stretching across the school walls.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

By the Light of the Moon

This is another page in Kelly's circle journal that I've been working on in between naps...just a little paper owlet that decided to flutter down from my imagination onto the page.  I may embellish this some more; I think the piece needs some text.  However, for now, this little birdie is content to rest on a branch and wait for my next big brainstorm.    

Monday, September 14, 2009

She of the Luminous Eyes


I am slowly getting better, recovering from a fast-acting cold/flu bug that hopped on board the first day back to teaching.  I felt well enough yesterday to manage a load of laundry, three days worth of dishes and some lovely time in the studio working in Kelly's circle journal.  I can't tell you how good it felt to get the brushes swirling around again.  I've been all about teaching prep the last couple of weeks and my paints have become dusty, my water cup dry as a bone, and my brushes stiff with neglect.  However, all my supplies welcomed me back in an instant.  My big challenge, now that I'm back in the classroom, is to find a balance between being an art teacher and being an artist.  The two are in no way mutually exclusive but one can certainly overtake the other and to be truly happy, I must find a way to make these two paths run parallel.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update from Plague Girl

Thought I'd pop in for a rare Saturday post and update my sweet well wishers on my mini (very mini) health drama.  Not long after my post yesterday, I started throwing up and spiked a fever.  As hurling my guts up is where I draw the line at working, I was forced to call in sick.  So sad but teaching with a bucket on hand is a bit much, even for me.  Fortunately, my talented and awesome son was able to sub for me and by all accounts, did an incredible job with only about 15 minutes preparation time.  (Luckily, I had had my entire lesson plan completed and ready to go.)

Then I proceeded to sleep...and sleep...and sleep.  16 hours or so.  Woke up at four this morning with all the congestion settled into my chest, no fever, very weak but I think (knock on wood) I am on the mend.  I think I am the victim of some sort of viral blitz attack as I can't remember ever catching something that moved so fast.  I've got the weekend so I will continue to rest easy and watch for any sort of upper respiratory complication.  Thank you for all your kind thoughts and support!  I'm sure they played a part in paving the road to recovery and back into the classroom...xo - Michelle

Friday, September 11, 2009

Small Things, Great Love

It is a minute past one a.m. Pacific Standard Time and I'm up, doing battle with a monsterous rhino virus that has me congested, coughing, and consequently, sleepless.  Bah!  I'm supposed to teach in eight hours and as it is my first day with my middle school monkeys, it is a day I can't miss.  I am frustrated that I will be less than my best, trying to just survive the morning.  But maybe today is the perfect time to heed Mother Theresa's advice:  there'll probably be no stellar performance in front of the classroom, no great big exciting day.  But maybe there will be circle time instead, a quieter, more intimate arrangement to accommodate my raspy voice.  Maybe we'll take a little bit more time to get to know one another before we pick up our pencils and try to tackle the six elements of design.  Maybe instead of following the grand plan, we'll try to just get done as much as we can and see what develops out of those eager, young minds when they are pushed gently with great love.  Maybe this cold is all part of some master plan to get me to slow down, to listen more than I talk.  Yes, I think I can make this work.  Now if I could only sleep...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patient Zero

Well, it's official: one day back on the job and I'm sick. Those sweet, bacteria-ridden youngsters saw me and my less-than-robust immune system coming from a mile away. It started with a sore, scratchy throat and a congested feeling and overnight, it rapidly evolved into the "drowning in my own fluids with my throat on fire" syndrome. Ick! *sniffle* What a lovely "first day" memento. I'm sort of chuckling though (in between nose blowing) because this literally happens every time I go back to teaching. Typically, it'll be the only time I'm sick during the semester even as, into the winter, the rest of the school begins to contract varying degrees of upper respiratory ickiness. As the school is very small, illness, once it gets started, runs like a wildfire through the school population. I wonder if I'm Patient Zero. Now there's a dubious designation. Anyway, not much I can do now except ride it out and hope the 33 middle school squirrels don't eat me alive tomorrow as my voice dwindles down to nothing. I have a day off today from any sort of compelling errands so I can stay home, bundle up, and get to the business of getting better. Sounds like a plan to me...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Is Art?

Art is...
...an expression of one's inner self in images and color.
...whatever you think is beautiful and want the world to see.
...a safe way to explode in any way.
...beauty and life.
...something someone thinks is cool or beautiful.
...an inspired drawing of an image from one's mind.
...a way to free your emotions.
...you in another form.

Today, I started class by asking my 12 high school students to write a succinct definition of art and the above words are some of their responses. Then we discussed the "official" definition of art as per the American Heritage Dictionary. We talked about how to make objective judgments about whether or not an image or object is art. I filled their tables with famous images, from da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Pollock's Lavender Mist. I gave them all sorts of objects to ponder: a decorative birdcage, carved wooden hands, a wind-up robot, a scary sculpted clown my son made in the fourth grade and more. Next week, we begin to build our artistic vocabulary by exploring the elements of design: line, shape, form, space, color and texture. Now at home, still dazed from all the pressure of recent weeks, I feel an ominous scratchiness in my throat, my feet hurt and my busy, busy head is racing ahead to Friday when I meet my middle school kids for the first time. But as I reread the wisdom of my young flock of artists, I am quiet, content. It was a good first day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Moonscape & Messes

The theme for this week at Three Muses is "Moonstruck" and in this ATC, I decided to zoom on in the moon's surface to see what mysteries could be revealed there. I confess that this is an old piece as I am swamped in teaching prep work but I wanted to make sure that I had something to show for my favorite weekly challenge.

My first teaching day for the 2009-2010 school year is tomorrow! I am excited to see what students are returning to my classes and who's new to the program. Time to learn names again! I'm told I have approximately 15 high school students and at least 33 middle school students. I was cleaning up the art supply room today at the school and one of my students from last year happened upon me knee deep in crumbs of sidewalk chalk and crayon nubs. "Are we doing art?" he asked. "Tomorrow," was my reply to which he brightened, "So cool. See you then!" High praise coming from a young teenage boy. Just that small exchange kept me wading through the ruined bits of paper mache models, sticky glue bottles, dusty pottery supplies, stringy fabric scraps, and wayward glitter. Oh, the glitter! It was everywhere! I keep my supplies in my office so maintaining the school supply closet is simply something I offer to do as part of my artist-in-residence duties. It is a thankless job, no matter how organized I get it, as it seems to be the "kitchen sink" room (as in "everything but.") With some of the remodeling that has been going on, I wouldn't be surprised to see a sink magically appear in there when I'm not looking. Anyhow, after three hours this morning, I was able to unearth the floor and recreate access to the washer and dryer. (Oh, yeah...it is also the laundry room.) I also tidied up my office, got my supply cart stocked and ready to roll into tomorrow's class. Go! Go! Go!

A Fine Line

Right when I need to be the most focused, I find myself wandering around the upstairs studio, fiddling with the stacks of files and whatnots bearing down upon and minimizing my workspace. I can't seem to settle in on any one project. Even the laundry has gone unfolded and outfits must be pulled piece by wrinkled piece from the pile covering the table in the downstairs studio. What is up?? I think I am a tad nervous about getting back into the classroom; in addition, my to-do list is so very long that I really don't know where to begin. I've been pecking away at it for a month or so but it seems for every one thing I cross off the list, two more get added. This September will probably go on record as one of the busiest months of my life. I'm having a hard time just remembering to breathe. My heart is swelling with all the opportunities presenting themselves - whoo hoo! Just trying to find a balance between crazy busy and just plain crazy! Now that's a fine line!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beauty Will Be Bloomin'

Happy Labor Day to all of my readers here in the United States and for my international followers, happy day in general! Hope it is a relaxing event for one and all! For my part, I am furiously writing lesson plans as I start back to teaching in a mere two days! For those late to the ballgame, I'm the middle and high school art teacher at a small charter school in my hometown and my schedule has expanded this year from one to three days a week. In the past I've taught semester length classes but this year is the first where I'll have two classes (one per age grouping) that run the length of the entire year. This is fantastic as it means I'll have the same students all year and have more time to fully explore the artists and activities I have lined up. The high school group will be studying Spanish and Hispanic artists including Jose Posada, Xul Solar, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. They'll be carving and printing, working with water-soluble oil pastels, creating Cubist self-portraits, sewing mixed media quilties, and designing and executing a mural. The middle school students will spend the year studying an artist or technique per continent so for them that includes Romare Bearden, Chinese brush painting, Australian bark paintings, and Georgia O'Keefe as well as Solar and Picasso. My supply shipments have all arrived on time so I'm ready to go...with the exception of all the lesson plans and visual aides. I'm a bit of a Last Minute Lucy so I've been busy typing up my thoughts in outline form so I have at least a rough idea of what I am going to babble on about each session. I am so excited! Teaching really energizes me and my own artistic process; watching fresh, young artists soak in information and then turn that into beautiful, soulful creations is the stuff of teachers' dreams. And this year, I will be blogging my experiences in the art classroom so maybe the inspiration that I have the privilege of drinking in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will inspire some of you to play at your own art with the eyes and heart of a child.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Itsy Bitsy Neighborhood

"When the last late, late show has gone off, I shall sleep. And then tomorrow..."

So reads the found word poem adorning the little houses in this collage piece for my upcoming show "Facades." This is an unusually small piece in the series - measuring just 6 by 12 inches. Most of the canvases are at least 2 feet long and a few are a foot by three feet in length. That's a whole lot of construction going on! Each little house begins with hand dyed and stenciled paper and then various scrapbook papers are cut, edged with ink and layered to create rooftops, windows, and doors. Each canvas then gets its own found word poem that tells a tiny tale about the scene presented. The assembly work involved reminds me a lot of quilting: tedious but meditative. I often pause midway through the process and wonder: "What was I thinking??" especially if it is a much longer piece. But somehow I manage to push past the doubts and fulfill the construction contract. So much of art is just that...pushing past doubts to completition. And when the doubt still lingers, it becomes all about letting go for a bit until you can return with refreshed eyes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Down, Three to Go, Go, Go!


Well, yesterday I managed to get my first show hung since my wrist surgery. 19 "inspirational abstracts" are now residing for the next two months at a sweet little hair salon in my neighborhood. The owner, having booked the show without seeing my work, said the canvases "made her feel happy" so I'll take that and run since sometimes abstracts aren't that well received and it was my first foray into something other than representational imagery. (Ironically, the salon is named "New Image," quite fitting I would say for this freshman look from me.)
Now that I've gotten my feet wet on the local show circuit again, it's on to the next one scheduled to hang the first of October. Entitled "Facades" and to be located at a trendy furniture store, this show is a comprehensive, definitely representational, collage exploration of the simple house shape. I have 15 pieces ready to go but as I have another show booked in December that is interested in this series, I'll need to be cranking out more house 'scapes over the next couple of months. That December show is at a venue that sells antique lighting and furniture for people busy restoring their Victorians. An art series featuring houses would be perfect! Hopefully, I can come up with enough canvases to fill both bookings.
Ah, but there is no rest for the weary! In November and December, I am showing at my physical therapist's office, a huge (too huge) venue that could easily and happily accomodate 50 to 60 pieces. I've decided that this show will be the perfect time for what I'm calling "A Post-Fusion Retrospective," featuring all the work I've completed since my wrist fusion in March 2008. Pieces from both the "Soul Terrain" and "Facades" shows will end up in this show as will a series called "Souls in Flight" and many other miscellaneous pieces littering my studios. Whew! Oh, and I start back to teaching next week! Should be fun! Stay tuned for updates as my crazy art life gears up for some rollickin' good times!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Channeling the Tramp

"...a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure..."

Thus, Charlie Chaplin described his most famous character (and himself), seen here in silhouette for this week's challenge at Three Muses. Charlie is drawn by hand and collaged onto scrapbook paper along with a ransom note quote. Quick, simple, yet meaningful...hope you laugh today!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stitched & Stenciled Part 2

Here's more scans of my project-in-progress, a little Asian-themed stitched and stenciled book. I built the imagery on the pages with acrylic paint washes, stencilling, collage, stamping, stitching and mark-making. There's a lot of serendipity involved in this book which makes for relaxing fun in the studio.









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