Just four weeks now until the school year is over. These are the most hectic weeks as students are especially restless; they sense the impending summer vacation like sharks scent blood in the water. They are scrambling to finish end-of-the-semester work and participating in traditional end-of-the-year field trips and school-wide events. Today, my art students begin a three-week field/urban sketching journal in which they will carry around a small watercolor journal and supplies for 21 days, recording the people, plants, landscapes, objects, places, and events they encounter. It is their final project after a year of study in observational drawing.
As for me...if you said that it seems that I've been bouncing all over the studio lately, dashing in and out of projects...well, you'd be exactly right. I've settled into the habit of randomly selecting a sketchbook or journal each morning and working in that particular book as long as my schedule and attention span allows. I work for about an hour prior to work and a bit after. And since my teaching gig is also part "artist-in-residence," I work on my own art here and there while at school. I believe it is important for students to see their teacher practicing her own art for many reasons. Most importantly, it shows students that regular practice is the key to good art, NOT natural talent (a common misconception among middle/high school students.) My classroom mantra is that "talent" is merely aptitude in a subject studied with passion (a good attitude) and persistence (devoted practice.) I work to dispel the notion that some students are simply more gifted in art than others and that all others are simply pretenders. This is not something I have to deal with at the elementary-school level; young kids are enthusiastic and fearless experimenters. That carefree mindset, however, shifts as students approach middle school and they face more peer and academic pressure.
In other news, I devoted two intense hours this past Saturday to finding the title for my upcoming show. The show title/theme is an important thing I usually finalize early in the show preparation process; this year, the title was very slow in coming and I felt my momentum starting to grind to a halt without the guidance of a central theme. I had a few ideas but nothing satisfactory. So I made myself sit down and get to the business of discovering what this show needed to be named. To this end, I do what I call "word-sifting." I make long lists of words and phrases that I love, working through a vintage thesaurus to find obscure synonyms and a dictionary (bound not electronic) to research word origins. I work in a zigzag but forward fashion until I stumble upon the perfect word(s) to encapsulate my intentions for the show. Once I settle on the show title, I tuck it away in my brain and heart like a precious seed. In private, it will take root and begin to weave its way through each piece I produce. When I feel that title/theme is strong enough, I'll bring my title out into the world. Show prep for me is rife with small superstitions and odd rituals. As the next four weeks tick down, I'll be spending most of my free moments moving through those studio traditions so I'm ready to hit the easel once the last student skips out the door toward summer.