Part 1: The whirlwind that is "holiday season"
If you're an educator, you know once November hits that it's the big stretch until the coveted Holiday break. No matter how your district allocates the time off, it is the light at the end of the tunnel for what feels like a very long haul of extra long days jam-packed with after school activities and school functions, progress reports, parent conferences, professional development days...you name it. That's just the work part. You have to factor in your life stuff too.
I took on a lot during November, so much that I was dreading it since September. Every time I opened my calendar I felt like falling apart. In the moment, the things I signed up to do were things that I wanted to participate in, because I like contributing professionally and I like being able to do as much as I can for the kids. I knew going into everything that it was going to be a struggle. Amazingly, by the time November came to an end I was still standing, and I accomplished a lot! I actually felt really great about everything, and almost guilty that I was complaining about the things I took on. I had the opportunity to teach a workshop to other art educators about my Pixel Art project that I did with my 8th graders. I posted the content of that workshop to this website, you can find it under the "more" tab. I also got to teach a 3 week course on Schoology to a small group of educators from my district.
What I learned from these classes is that I love sharing what I do with other professionals. I know some teachers say it's impossible to teach other educators, or teaching adults "is the worst". However, I really enjoyed it. I'd love to keep finding ways to share with others, and that's one of the reasons one of my 2019 goals is to keep this updated more and share more art ed content!
I also helped my department host our first Art Alumni Day, as part of our impromptu Art Careers week. This was also stressful at first but ended up being one of those majorly inspiring days that leaves you crying and understanding why you work so hard every day. I don't know if many other professions leave you with that feeling. I hope everyone, at some point, can experience what it's like to truly love what you do so much that it makes you cry. Former students coming back to talk about how they found their passion through fine art, video, graphic design, etc. and to see them doing their thing and enjoying their life, is hands down the biggest reward you can ever get as a teacher.
Alumni day was right after Thanksgiving, which went by with the blink of an eye, and lead us into the three week stretch before Holiday Break. December was equally as demanding, lots of projects going on in the art rooms, Breadth Critiques with my AP Drawing class, after school club meetings to make things for our holiday craft sales, and I still had my weekly Schoology workshop to host, as well as a concert to supervise. The burnout was becoming real. I felt like every day I was fighting off potentially getting full-blown sick.
Part 2: Holiday Break and A New Found Appreciation for Self-Care
I meet with my AP Drawing class 9th period, so they were my last class before the break. We had spent the previous 4 days critiquing their breadth work. These kids did a great job getting their 7 pieces together and (mostly) finished for their critique. They've been working hard since their summer assignments so we decided to kick back and have some treats for the last day. It reminded me that it's important to step back and make some time for yourself. I shared some self care ideas with my students because I know if I was feeling burnt out, then they definitely were.
I feel that we stereotype teenagers as being generally lazy and unmotivated, but many of the teens I encounter every day have hours upon hours of homework, they spend time studying for SAT's, PSAT's, ACT's, they participate in countless clubs at school, or outside of school, they might have jobs, they might have to care for siblings when they get home, they might have responsibilities at a place of worship, they might have volunteer work to do... and they're still in classes during the same hours I'm working at school too. I know many of the kids I teach are staying up, sacrificing normal sleep patterns and eating patterns, and we practically encourage it having gone through similar experiences- "oh you're young you can handle it" or "if you haven't pulled all nighters you're not doing it right". There are these really unhealthy expectations that we hang on to, like this is supposed to be a normal way to learn in these formative years.
So we took some time while we snacked on a smorgasbord of holiday goodies, and discussed how taking time for yourself is important. You have to be able to stop, take a breath, get some exercise, walk, do something just for you... Spend time with friends, go to a movie, binge a tv show, meditate, do some yoga, stretch, smile, pamper yourself, and not feel guilty...Say no to negative people and situations that drain your positive energy, eat healthy foods that your body needs, drink water... Spend time to regroup, refocus, go to a museum, read a book, listen to new music.
And then, since I didn't heed my own advice soon enough, I spent my entire Holiday Break home sick with bronchitis and acute asthma, forced to pretty much not leave my house or do anything remotely fun for the entire break. Cue the "I told you so's," It's time to practice what I preach.
Part 3: 2019
As educators, we aim to please- we want to make our school culture and our community amazing, we want to change the world, we want to give our students the very best experience, but we can't sacrifice our health or else we can't keep doing these amazing things.
I don't know if you're into the whole New Year's Resolution thing, but I think because I'm a virgo and I'm a teacher it is a double whammy; I always spend this time of year thinking about the goals I want to set and how I want my next year to be different.
I won't get into all of it, but I think the most important thing I can focus on is not feeling guilty for making the time I need for myself. It's ok to say no. I need exercise, I need to breathe, I need to spend time with my friends and family and my dog, and I need to be able to come to work focused every day- not just the day after a break or after the weekend finally hits. Our culture has programed us that we feel obligated to over work ourselves, so I am going to pick and choose more wisely about what I choose to focus my time on.
I hope everyone has a great New Years and I'm looking forward to sharing more content with you in 2019!
Let's take a look at what I've been up to in the art room this October!
Studio Art: Completed Dia De Los Muertos Projects!
Drawing and Painting: Completed Chiaroscuro Self Portraits with Charcoal
For this project students took a self portrait reference photo using one strong direction of light to create a chiaroscuro effect. They rendered their portrait using charcoal techniques, and scaled their drawings to 16x20 inch toned paper. We use Canson Mi Tientes, it holds the charcoal really well.
AP Drawing: Completed "Trapped in Technology Breadth"
For this breadth piece students take photos of themselves or each other using a strong direction of light coming from a technological source such as a cell hone or iPad. By selecting a color and displaying it full screen with brightness up all the way, the color casts on to the portrait. This project is inspired by Dan Witz's cell phone paintings that combine together the chiaroscuro lighting of Renaissance painting, with a modern twist. Students rendered these using chalk pastels, or colored pencil on black paper or acrylic paint.
November begins a busy season in the art room! We finished our first marking period, so we're on to the 2nd already. All classes are starting on new projects; Studio will be doing Pop Art Portrait paintings, Drawing and Painting will be doing figurative watercolors, and AP will be critiquing their concentration works and working on two breadths that stem from in class observational assignments that span 10 days.
We also are dedicated the end of the month to Art College and Careers in the arts. We have some great schools coming to visit, and our first ever Art Alumni Day which I'm helping to organize. I truly feel that by showing kids at an early stage in their high school career the options that are out there fro them to utilize being creative, we are going to have more young adults going out into the world with better tools they need to succeed in any career.
Students will also be going on a field trip with me to the Whitney Museum to see the Andy Warhol retrospective! I'm very excited about this!!
I'm also hosting a Pixel Art painting workshop where I'll be going through the steps to create pixel art paintings, and hosting a Schoology tutorial workshop for my district. On top of all of this, my National Art Honor Society members are prepping their holiday crafts and ornaments to sell. Busy, busy, busy! I can't believe Thanksgiving will already be here in two short weeks!! Can't wait to share more! Check back!
I love making cultural connections in my art room! One of the holidays I love to bring attention to is Dia De Los Muertos. Students start to see decorations of sugar skulls around this time of year but not everyone knows why. This beautiful tradition in Mexican culture honors the lives of their loved ones who have passed away with a celebration. Altars are created in their honor. Food, costumes and dance are utilized in the tradition as well. While I personally do not celebrate this tradition, I find it to be really beautiful and special. It's a great way to discuss themes of life and death with younger students, to set them up for discussions about future works they will encounter in art history (life and death=huge themes throughout art history!).
With this project, technology is incorporated. Students take a digital photo of themselves first. They need to utilize good lighting, a facial expression and use of a filter to express something about themselves in their portrait. They utilized apps like Artisto on the iPad, or Prisma on their smartphone. Some used Snapseed to filter their work further or just the regular filters on the iPad/iphone photos app.
Students decide how they want to cut their portrait, because one part of their portrait will be a skull anatomy drawing. Once they've determined what they want to do, they cut it out and paste it on their drawing paper. They watch a video about how to set up the proportions of their skull based on their portrait photo. They also have a shading tutorial video that they can watch too. Demonstrations are made for them via the videos. I also pause the videos to further explain tips.
Once the drawing is done, it's cut out and pasted on larger paper where students decide where to place it. They create designs inspired by Mexican Folk art, Dia De Los Muertos motifs found in sugar skulls, papel picado, etc. They also look up patterns and designs associated with their cultures.
The result is a mixed media art work that incorporates balance as a compositional element. I love this project because it utilizes drawing and shading, along with an extension of positive/negative space and abstract designs from their previous project.
If you'd like to check out the how-to video for this project check it out here! The video starts after the portrait/skull drawing has already been created and fully shaded.
As I expected, September was a blur. I had good intentions of posting weekly updates to the blog, but documenting classroom life here has been difficult. The last few weeks have sort of been a whirlwind, anyone who is in education will know the feeling. New students and some 150+ names to learn, adjusting to the new sleep/work pattern after coming off of summer break, updating lessons/keynotes, seating charts, planning field trips, getting the National Art Honor Society up and running, PD sessions, faculty meetings, coordinating fundraisers with other clubs, covering classes, contacting parents, setting up grades, doing progress reports....and it's ONLY October 3rd. Needless to say, even though I'm in year 11, I'm still doing tons of work outside of school and on the weekend. I also teach my AP Drawing class this year, which means free periods also include meeting with students to ensure they are each getting the best guidance on their concentration work. I am not complaining, but when you list everything out like that...it sounds insane. The physical work day can make you feel like you don't even have time to come up for air: there's a kid or a teacher or someone knocking (or not even knocking) at your door, or handing you a permission slip, having you sign on something, needing....something.
So what do we do? We don't let interruptions throw us off track, we lend our hand, we offer a smile, and we keep an open door because..That's. What. We. Do. We are teachers. We superhero-multitasking-amazing-humans. We live for this. And that's why after a crazy day, here I am. Finding some time to share these thoughts and lessons with anyone who may stumble upon this. If you are a teacher reading this, new to the profession or seasoned veteran, I hope you've given yourself a pat on the back today. Chances are you've dealt with a lot already, you may already feel overwhelmed but you're not alone. It's part of the gig. Everyday is different and that's what keeps it interesting. Keep doing your thing in the classroom, don't be afraid to find a co-worker to vent to, and make sure you do something nice for yourself (you deserve it and you do have time for it...just look around and see for yourself).
OK! Here are some project's that we wrapped up so far:
What's happening with...Studio Art
Studio art started off the year with our Tile Design project. In this project students grid out an 8x8 in paper with a 2 inch grid. Each box is filled in with a positive/negative space design based on an observational drawing. Students use viewfinders and their phones or iPads to draw observationally but focusing on the details, so they are creating abstract images from real life objects and spaces. They use sharpie techniques to create pattern and movement in their designs. Next up will be our Dia De Los Muertos inspired project about the design principle of Balance.
What's happening with...Drawing and Painting
Drawing and Painting students spent 3 weeks in Sept. studying the forms found on a bike. I introduced with lesson with a mashup of videos from Pop culture that were connected by kids and bikes (I.e E.T, The Goonies, Stranger Things, Napoleon Dynamite) and we discussed what a right of passage is, what a shared experience is and why is a bike important to teenage life. They did blind contour studies of the bike, along with longer contour drawings. They utilized their iPad with the brushes app to create gesture studies from unique points of view. They also completed a design based color study where they transferred a positive/negative space design onto tracing paper and on to a map. The negative spaces were painted in with monochromatic color schemes. We based these off of artist Leslie DeRose who was kind enough to give us permission to work in her style. For homework assignments students had to create a fully shaded pencil drawing of the bike plus a prop. They created their own reference photos to work from. These students did an awesome job working independently and building their skills through these creative projects.
What's happening with... AP Drawing
AP Drawing spent their summer working on 3 assignments: A bike with charcoal, a natural object still life with graphite and a portrait using their choice of medium. Upon returning to school, we spent time discussing the other parts of the exam and then did a critique of their summer work. This really helps me look for their strengths and start to get an idea of where their skills are. Sometimes the summer work also leads them into their concentration study. We started our first breadth, but it's actually their 4th. We do a newspaper still life with ink based on artist Stephanie Lange's studies. This project is based on current events, and students construct their own newspaper form and photograph it with strong lighting. String is used to create tension in the structure and to ultimately break up the composition, create more space through overlapping and eventually create emphasis in their drawing. Students build up layers of light ink wash to achieve a range of values then accent edges to create line with marker as needed. They can render their own parts of headlines to create content in their work and highlight topics that are important. I find that by starting with this project, students are able to see what they're capable of. It's usually a level playing field because not every student has manipulated ink in such a way, so they may feel uneasy approaching it. However, in doing so, more often than not, students rise to the occasion and are way more focused on the challenge and end up creating something really excellent. Our 5th breadth will be underway soon, and I'm excited to share that one!
Students have also started on their second concentration pieces, which usually start to show a better sense of the direction they want to go in. If you teach this course, it's important to be patient and flexible. Time is needed to really cultivate an idea that is going to work over 12 artworks, and to start to think like an artist. For most students it's the first time they're given full creative control and they get super lost. You might notice they create amazing breath work, but concentration work looks like a completely different kid did it. They need to get their own control back and remember to rely on the same things that may make their breadth work strong. I find individual meetings very helpful at the very beginning but I encourage an open ended approach and try to keep grades as place holders (low grades for unfinished work, which usually change at the end of the marking period).
October is the start of another busy month but that's not a bad thing. There are a lot of great events we do to fundraise for breast cancer awareness month, like I get to host Pink Pumpkin painting with my national art honor society members. We also have our first field trip to the MET coming up! Several contests for students are underway as well. Lots of great opportunities for the kids to take advantage of. I hope you had a great start to your school year!
Just like that, summer is over and we've had our first day back with students! I'm excited for a new school year. I love the opportunity in this career to have a blank slate, meet new students and give them new experiences in art.
Here's how today went: I woke up at 5:45 am. I got out of bed at 6 because...snooze button. By 6:15 my hair was done. 6:20, dressed and ready to walk the dog. 6:30 dog is walked and my hair is back to being as flat as could be because....HUMIDITY. Today was GROSS. So much for presentable first day of school hair. I got to school around 7:20 and inside the building was already bustling with activity.
My schedule this year includes first period hall duty, and I teach 3 studio art classes in a row, and then I have my Drawing and Painting class and AP Drawing electives later on in the day. For the first time in 11 years, I surprisingly didn't feel super stressed or nervous because my technology was actually working, I had back up rosters printed up and figured out how to do the attendance on the new E-School platform. I felt prepared.
Starting off this school year with the MacBook that was provided to me by the school made things easier for sure. The past few years, utilizing the iPad for first day items was stressful. In past years I had to upload my rules video to YouTube in order to play it correctly from the iPad, sometimes with slow internet on the first day, it would not go well. This year since the MacBook has a larger storage capacity, I was able to play it directly from there. I show this video to each of my classes, and pause it to go into more detail as needed.
I find that it helps switch things up since most teachers are reading their class rules or doing index cards or something else. I prefer to put together this compilation of silly snapchat videos of myself using iMovie and make a 10 min presentation. Next year I will also probably include a personal biography about myself to let the kids know a little bit more about me, this is also something I can ask students to do now that they'll all have iPads to film with and use iMovie on. The video definitely helps my voice for the first day, but I still always end up feeling like I leave work with a sore throat and end up with laryngitis by Friday.
My other first day items include providing students with a Grade Expectation sheet, which our district utilizes across each school and discipline. It keeps things consistent. It includes the rules, supplies needed and how the class is graded. Parents sign on it so they know what the expectations are. I also ask students to fill out an "about you" survey, I read through these to get to know my students better. I used to ask for parent contact info and all that stuff but I stopped since most things are very up to date on E School and I don't need to accumulate more paper. The grade expectation sheet gets scanned and turned into a class PDF via the Notes app on my iPad, and the About You sheet gets taped into the students portfolios- at the end of the year when they get them back and see what they wrote on day one, they usually are shocked at how different they are already.
New for this year is the addition of a cell phone holder that my colleague brought in, she uses it with her other school and it's been effective. I'm asking my studio art classes to keep their phones in there for the class period so they aren't a distraction. If they keep their phone in there every day for the marking period they get an instant 100 quiz grade added to their average.
I've included a copy of what our grade expectation sheets and what my About You sheet looks like for studio. I hope everyone has a great year ahead! Can't wait to share what's going on in the art room!
I've been trying to utilize as much time as I can in my last weeks of summer break to continue to experiment with my personal artwork. It feels great to be making things in my art studio and setting aside time to create. This summer has marked a pivotal point in my work and I am finally starting to feel things click and to enjoy the consistency in what techniques I am using. Below, I have decided to expand on the content behind my recent work.
A New Direction
I woke up one morning and took a walk. The rain from the night before was so intense it woke me up at 3am. After a rainfall like that, the sidewalk looks a little different. Colors are a little more intense. Cracks in the pavement are a little more noticeable. The dirt strewn across the ground makes waves and gradients where the water that flowed through it receded. Little particles are left over. Pieces of mulch create patterns over concrete. The moss on the tree bark looks a little more green. In this moment, the environment around me calls to me, to notice its beauty, to appreciate it. All of a sudden, I understood how things have survived for so long, and how the ground underneath me has held us up for billions of years. We are all survivors. We are all trying to make sense of ourselves. We are all in state of living and decaying; finding our balance. We are the rust and we are the stardust. We are constantly interpreting the messages we are receiving, by collecting and organizing them. These messages are the thoughts that come through our heads and keep us awake at night, the notes we jot down during the day when we’re day dreaming, the concert tickets we keep for their sentimental value, the things we notice on a walk. They’re all part of our quest to continue to learn about ourselves, where we come from and where we are going. Through my recent mixed media works, I am able to organize my world and thoughts into a physical thing of beauty and intrigue.
An Important Message
One artwork that I completed this summer is entitled "22 is Enough". It began after the 22nd school shooting of 2018, I started working on it in May. Everything about this piece is symbolic and important to me. As a teacher, learning of a school shooting becomes more traumatic and heartbreaking every time. On May 18th, a gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. This shooting began in the art room of the school. This left me shaken, even though I live 1,700 miles away. This one hit close to my heart. That day, I took home some of the craft paper table covers I reuse throughout the year with my students. This paper becomes the space where all the left over stuff goes. It captures their doodles, their stray marks, the paint that didn't make it on to their projects, their finger prints.
I hung one piece up on my wall and began my usual process. This time it felt different, I felt a different intention behind what I was doing. I felt reflective. I felt like I needed to get something off of my chest. Over 4 months, the work evolved. It started with some pieces of my personal sketchbook collaged into it. At one point I scratched in 22, number 22's with oil pastel to represent the number of school shootings. Then I started the process of covering up. I dug through more of my accumulated papers; my memories. I found a letter that I wrote to myself when I was 17 and in high school. Our english teacher asked us to create a list of 100 things we wanted to do in our lifetime. She later mailed this back to us upon our 10 year reunion. While my list had some really basic, mostly achievable goals on there (own "The Goonies" on DVD, eat sushi, drive my car to the mall...) it reminded me of what these children who lost their lives in school shootings for the past several decades had been robbed of. They won't make their own lists. They won't have the opportunity to try something new. Their parents won't get to experience these things with them either. By incorporating these collaged pieces, along with book pages from one of my mothers textbooks from the 1970's (silly names with hearts around them), I hoped to bring light to the things these students lost. They won't get to write their crushes name in a heart in the back of a book, and that makes me sad. These shared experiences of being in school, something most Americans experience from kindergarten through senior year and beyond, are no longer an option for victims in a school shooting.
When the work began my colors were dark, my marks angry. Over time, the final piece reflects some brighter and lighter color choices, and some more delicate application of textures. It is my hope that in the future we find a way to control gun violence in our schools, and not by arming teachers with guns. I hope we can get schools the funding they need to make schools safer. If we need metal detectors at doors, more security staffing, clear backpacks for students to use, ID badges that swipe, better locks and video surveillance...whatever it takes. I know guns are not the answer.
Some teachers have already started back, and in NY we start in about two weeks. I hope that everyone has a safe school year and that we as art educators, find a way to use our artwork to voice our opinions on important topics.
My last blog post in which I discussed my bouts of summertime depression was actually pretty therapeutic to get out in the open. It helped me to figure out how to plan things for myself over the past few weeks to stay out of weird ruts. So what have I been up to?
Annual Mother-Daughter trip- Marblehead and Salem, MA
For the 4th of July, I went with my mom to visit my aunt in Westford, MA and then we spent some time in Rockport, Marblehead and Salem! First time visiting Rockport and Marblehead. You definitely don't need a ton of time in either place if you're looking for a little day trip. We walked around and checked out the local shops, had the best fish and chips for lunch at the Red Skiff and some awesome ice cream at Molly's. In Marblehead we stayed at the Marblehead Hotel, a refurbished mansion. This inn was perfect for our stay; it was super close to town and the beach. We spent a few hours at Devereaux beach (that New England water was ice cold!) and then went to dinner at 5 Corners Kitchen and stuffed our faces. I've seriously never been so full in my life. I highly recommend this place, we loved everything we ordered. The few days we were in the Marblehead area coincided with their arts festival, there were artists displaying their wares in tents near the historic district. The old colonial homes dating back to the late 1600-early 1700's gave off the perfect Fourth of July, Americana vibes. The evening of July 4th was spent in Salem, which is always a favorite of mine to visit any time of year. We stopped at all my favorite spots, including Hauswitch so I could pick up a fresh candle (their candle collaboration with Soy Much Brighter produced my favorite scent ever- "The Furies" and close second, "The Sirens"), and I had to get a black Salem sweatshirt-The Trolley Depot has my favorite sweatshirt in all of Salem- $24.99 and its the softest hoodie you can find. Don't waste your time in other shops, seriously. I also had to go visit the Salem Witch House, which is one of the only legit properties in Salem that actually has a real connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Later on we took a charter boat on the Mahi Mahi cruise line to sail around Marblehead harbor to see the fireworks. This was a super legit boat ride, and we got the best views of fireworks!
Upon returning from the trip, I had the opportunity to work with kids at the Wantagh Library to create photos using only their iPhones. I brought my Amir lens for them to try out too (it does macro, and wide angle). They had a blast roaming the library, focusing on light and shadow, positive and negative space and abstractions. I'll be teaching part 2, where we manipulate their photos using photo apps and collage.
So far this summer I've visited The Met, The Met Breuer, and MoMA. There's still a bunch of exhibits on my list that I want to get to while I have plenty of time to bum around NYC. I spent one epic friday afternoon bouncing from the Met to the Breuer to the MoMA and it was super fun (and exhausting). I went in knowing NOTHING about any of the exhibits. I love doing this because then I feel like I'm really engaging with the exhibit and learning something totally new. There were a bunch of shows on the cusp of closing, so I'm glad I got to see what I did. I always have to stop at the ancient Egyptian wing first to get my fill of hieroglyphics and mummies. I've been reading David Wilcox's Source Field investigations, so this has brought a new perspective to how I look at art (I keep looking for pinecones in everything). Had to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit, which was an interesting juxtaposition between medieval and renaissance art, with contemporary fashion design inspired by Catholicism. I also enjoyed seeing work by Thorton Dial, specifically his piece "Powder Plant (2013)", through its heavily textured surface, evoked "the dangers of industrial advancement and the possibility of rebirth out of destruction." The rooftop exhibit "We Come in Peace" by Huma Bhabha was also a highlight to see, this sort of grotesque anomaly sitting atop the Met, surrounded by all this beauty, it starkly contrasted its surroundings and truly looked other-worldly.
The Met Breuer had an amazing sculpture show entitled "Life Like: Sculpture, Color and the Body (1300-now) in which contemporary sculptures were contrasted with older works from within their collection, and it made you question materials, form and content such as race and gender identity. Bringing together for example, Degas' The Little Fourteen Year old Dancer with Girl Ballerina by Yinka Shonibare MBE to create a discussion about West African identity and a larger critique on anti-colonialism. The other show was a collection of work by Picasso, Schiele and Klimpt that dove into their obsession with expressing sensuality in their nude drawings. While I'm a fan of all three artists, this exhibit made me question my place in this work as a female. I don't know how I feel about it, but while I wanted to appreciate Schiele's confidently awkward contour line drawings, I couldn't get passed that he may have been unable to detach from his models and it sort of made me feel creeped out. Was he exploring the sexuality of his subjects and letting women be seen as their own sexual beings, or was this coming from his own sexual desires? Not sure. On to MoMA!
I loved the Adrian Piper show at MoMA because I knew absolutely nothing about her prior to the show and it lead me to want to learn more about her. Adrian Piper is an American conceptual artist and philosopher and this was the first time MoMA ever devoted an entire floor to a living artist. A lot of her work explores what it is like for a black female living in America, the racism that is experienced on a daily basis, and her ongoing efforts to express these feelings through conceptual works. As a white female viewing this show, I was reminded of my white privilege and I left with a greater understanding of the struggles my black peers still experience today. I think Adrian Piper's work is a wake up call to all Americans and we should all be engaging with it and talking about it.
The next museum I'm interested in going to is the Rubin Museum of Art because they have a show about Tibetan Buddhist astrology that I would love to learn more about.
Ending the Month on a Lunar Eclipse
As I come to the end of this Blog post, I am looking back at the past months adventures and my heart and soul are full! I'm grateful for these opportunities to spend time enriching my mind and soul with travel and art. Today is a lunar eclipse, and sometimes these things can drudge up a lot of emotions. The days before a full moon are the days I find myself most restless and anxious. I'm looking to spending the next few weeks finding my balance again, and not getting hung up on events from the past. I'm going to continue to use the rest of my summer break to recharge and keep moving forward. Thanks for reading!
Next year will be year #11 of teaching for me. I've only recently been able to start making artwork for myself that isn't something created under the umbrella of academia, as part of a PD workshop, or as a sample for an upcoming class project. If you're an art teacher, you probably know what I'm talking about. The first few years as a new teacher were especially difficult for me to produce work during the school year. I had been at NYU for their MA in Studio Art program for the first 3 summers of teaching, and all my art-making experiences were really confined to those summers. The work I made, honestly, wasn't anything that I was proud of. The work I made was vastly different each summer. I felt like I was trying to take in all this new art philosophy and turn it into something. Critiques often left me confused and like I was still trying to make art to please someone else. I didn't find a particular method or voice that really spoke to me.
It wasn't until a few years later, when I pulled out an old artwork from my MA thesis show and began to draw over it, that I found the beginning to a new process that excited me. As artists and educators, we have to work with what we have sometimes. I had no money for art materials. I was lost in terms of making something out of one material. That just didn't feel right. I had no interest in working realistically or super representationally. I just wanted to get my hands dirty and transform something that already existed into something new. So I started drawing over old artworks. I started covering up things, scratching at them, peeling away layers, making marks. I'd leave it alone for a while, forget about it, come back to it days, weeks or months later and add something else to it. I started to get comfortable with not having something finished in front of me for quite some time. This way of working meant I could be creative in the confines of my small apartment kitchen/studio. It meant things I wrote down, calendars I used throughout the year, tickets to concerts and the dirt on my shoes could become a medium for me. It meant whatever art supplies I still had laying around from college studio days could be transformed into something new. Instead of using a traditional "palette", I used paper. My palettes and scrap papers where I would dry off a brush, or wipe away something would be come the foundations for new works.
I can't describe it, but it's like working on a puzzle. I feel excited again to play with shapes and colors and textures; where should they all go? Where will they end up? I like hiding and revealing things. I like the pictures that come into my head when I'm working. Landscapes and people flow in and out of my head. I picture ancient humans doing this exact thing, where they feel the urge to document their place and time. I think about how our universe exists while other universes are existing simultaneously. Everything is an exploration. I start thinking about texture and the surface of my paper, how I can make it not feel like paper anymore. I like to think these artworks are little things that I will be leaving behind one day for someone else to find.
These works I have taped up on my wall are a constant work in progress. I visit them. I talk to them. I look for connections to current events and how I feel about the things going on in the world. I pour my heart into them in little bursts. I walk away. I leave them alone. I let them become something.
That is my process so far. I encourage my fellow art teacher friends to not give up on finding your process. It's important to make something that's your own, not for work or for a course you're taking. Scale it down. Find a spot somewhere to keep a sketchbook page open, or keep something small with you. Try something digital ( I did that too for a while when I really didn't have a lot of space/time/money). Try some photography. Whatever it is, let that little creative voice speak to you, and promise to act on it sometime soon! Don't worry about what it's gonna look like, or if someone will buy it.
Lastly, I decided that once a month, I'm going to start looking for some kind of art show or juried show to enter work into. It's been a pretty long time since I've shown work. I'd like to start again and start a new CV. So this month I entered work into the LIC open call. I'll let you know if any of my pieces get chosen. It's exciting and scary to put yourself out there again, but I just want to have fun and share my work with more people, and I hope you'll be inspired to do so too!
The last day. Typically, teachers will breathe a sigh of relief, and sprint to their cars when they get the "OK" to go home for the summer. Teaching is a really special job, and it is definitely a perk to have the summers off. Don't let the giant smiles on your teacher friend's faces fool you on the last day though, we all love our jobs, and we all miss it when we're not here. That's right. I'm calling all my teacher friends out. You know when you're on summer break, you're low-key eyeing things in the store that would make for great motivational tools for your lessons, or thinking about what you might rearrange in the room when you get back, or you're taking the PD classes you really want to take since you've got the time. Or maybe that doesn't apply to you at all and I could be wrong. Maybe that's just something I do, because I usually experience the "summer blues" and get anxiety when I'm not in teaching mode anymore. More about that later.
Prepping for September already?
For me, the last few days of work are really important. I have to clear out the art room, re-organize the disaster that is the supply closet, order new supplies, and I (gasp!) prep for next year. Once we get our courses for next year, I hit the ground running. Next year I'll be teaching Studio Art, Drawing and Painting and AP Drawing. It's my favorite set of courses, and after a full year off from teaching an AP level course, I am refreshed and ready to get back into it! So how do I prep for next year? I put together my grade expectation sheets, and make copies of everything. I've learned to not trust the copy machines the first week back to work (they're still on summer vacay like most of us). I also get my AP students plastic folders for all of their first day course handouts (yep, purchased out of my own money, as so many teachers will do, but I think it's a nice touch for this special group). I also prep 5 days worth of sub plans for those emergency sick days you don't see coming.
Cue Lana Del Rey, I have that Summertime Sadness
Once all of my first week prep is complete, and I am left with nothing to do, I already start thinking of what else there could be. This teacher brain is really hard to turn off. It's part of the reason I decided to sit down and re-vamp this website and start a blog. And then, after an awesome breakfast with my colleagues, and I get home from the last day, this weird summer malaise sets in. I decided I wanted to talk about it here, because I'm not sure if any other teachers experience this.
I get depressed when I'm on summer break. It's a weird thing. I'm supposed to be excited, planning epic vacations, and relaxing for once. I work really hard all year, and I'm in constant "go" mode, and then this abrupt switch to nothing happens and bam, I feel sort of sad. It doesn't stick around all the time, but the first few weeks transitioning into summer mode isn't always easy for me. People ask me, "Why don't you just get a summer job then, if you're such a workaholic?", My answer to that is, I don't actually want to work in the summer, because I am actually quite exhausted from working. I just want to find meaningful activities to do that keep my soul and mind nourished and fulfilled.
I've learned to combat the summer blues; every year it gets a little better. I plan to see my friends and their amazing kiddos. I take advantage of getting to my Crossfit gym once a day instead of once a week. I make sure I get to the beach and I bring stuff to draw and read with me. I pop into the city to get to museums I haven't been to all year. I bring my dog, Lily Rose, with me wherever possible.
This year I'm looking forward to having my second bedroom as my art studio (finally!) so I'll be hopefully spending time in there creating new stuff! I also try to take on some commissioned artwork (so if any of ya'll want some art...hit me up!). And who knows, maybe a last minute epic adventure or trip will fall into place. I'm learning to just go with the flow and embrace the wonder that is summer. It really is a pretty cool feeling. That feeling of walking out the doors on your last day of school when you were a kid, and knowing that you had the summer ahead of you, I get to experience that every year for the next 20 something years. Sorry non-teacher friends. I don't mean to brag.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading! I'll be updating throughout the summer so keep checking back. Let's see how this blog thing goes.
Enjoy your summer!