Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Break

The best thing about winter . . . bare trees, clean air after a rain, mashing duff (a mix of flora decomp and packed dirt) under your boots on a hike, hot soup, mini mince pies with brandy butter, colored lights, and finally, the time away from the job--2 weeks if you're a high school teacher--to notice things like bare trees, duff, and colored lights.

Anyway, here is my latest picture. Not my latest to draw, but latest to make it onto the computer. I'm pretty lame when it comes to this technology thing. Okay, maybe not lame, but definitely lazy. Try not to notice the great gaps of time between posts--but hey, things happen.

Are you wondering if I actually have fiery red hair these days?

One of the great things about art is the recreation involved in the creation. I get to make images the way they could be if only (--fill in the blank with any alternate experience--). We can be as free as we imagine, at least within the products of our imagination. Then the phrase "I can only imagine" takes on new meaning and value. Image+imagination. Imagine that.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

a small yet significant collection of faces . . .

. . . I shall be creating and attempting to record on this blog. The drawing technique is modified contour. The rules for this type of drawing are: never look at your hand as it draws, but only at the subject. If you get lost or want to check on your progress, stop drawing and look, find your place or move to another place on the paper, but look back at the subject before resuming the drawing. If you need to lift your drawing instrument, replace it on a line you've already drawn so as to keep the appearance of a continual line.

I don't know why these are the rules, they just are and I like them.

After the line drawing is complete, color your picture with color pencil in layers. At this point you should look at your paper when you draw. Berol Prismacolors are creamy and lay down smooth. Try them and your drawings will be molto bene.

Draw anything you like, your face, your friends' faces, even your feet, especially if they are very wrinkly. You might soak your feet first to get an ample supply of wrinkleage . Wrinkles and folds are an artist's friends. They respond well in controlled lighting conditions and provide opportunity to practice shading. As far as models go, the older and fatter the better, I always say. Not always.

I believe these drawings are best done in a sketchbook while sipping cappucinos at Peet's--especially the Peet's on The Alameda. If it's too busy there, Peet's on Lincoln is a good substitute. Take a friend as a model. You should buy them a cappucino too, although it might make them a bit figditty. Perhaps a decaf, but what's the point?
Try putting a bit of honey in your cappucino. It's heavier than sugar and drops below the foam layer into the coffee below; it'll feel better in your mouth.

Friday, August 10, 2007

school-start is just over a week away . . .


And what the hell happened to the summer? For teachers, this is a time to recover from the challenges of the the previous school year, to regenerate, to recharge, all that. I'm sure there's been some bizarre mistake, some awful tripping over a wrinkle in time from June to August. Did July even happen? I didn't see a single firework on the 4th (we live in the city and aren't supposed to see them), so I'm not convinced it's actually passed yet. And if I could check my battery the way I check the one on this laptop, I know it would tell me there's a plug unplugged, I'm running on 8% power, and I better switch to a power source because I'm about to shut down and lose all my data.

But summer is almost over and my brain is already switching over to high school art teacher mode. What changes will I make to the assignments, to my teaching methods, to the way I relate to the administration? I'm not worried how I relate to the kids. I think I was born with a gene that makes me automatically care about the kids. I'm always optimystic (odd spelling intentional. It's good to make up words when you need them). But administrators and teachers often experience and move through the world differently. At least it seems that way when I try to compare--which may be a bad idea anyway.

You know, the apples and oranges thing.

We teachers, if we care about what we're doing, are constantly figuring new ways to "get the kids", and by that I mean understand and reach them, as well as snag them into wanting to learn from us and be in our classroom, and be happy their counselors put them there even though they didn't sign up for us.I'm a high school art teacher who teaches drawing and painting to beginning artists as well as more advanced artists (between the ages of 13 and 18). I used to really resist the idea that I could be a high school teacher for life. The first few years I promised myself and everyone near me that "this year is my last year of teaching, I swear to god!" Then summer would happen and I'd relax and somehow convince myself that I should try maybe just one more year. I mean (I'd rationalize), "I spent all that time and money on credentials and all" Somehow I've made it to my 10th year and I've noticed that for the last couple of years I've been making the promise to quit less and less often.

And it's for one reason.

Young people amaze me. And they kick my butt. They are thinking, creative people with phenomenal energy and good will. They make me think, they make me laugh, they make me be creative. I suppose there are other jobs that could do that for me (and plenty that wouldn't), but the fates have given me this one. I'm a lucky woman. Mostly.

Still, with all that said, there is also a lot to say about the educational system and American society as a whole. Right now I guess I'll say a little and later, a lot more.

When I walk into my classroom on August 20th, I walk into the beginning of a year filled with joy and learning, yes, but it's a year guaranteed to be filled with difficult situations, students who don't trust the world (especially the adults in it), students who will bug the shit out of me, and who I will bug the shit out of. I'll meet students who check out of school because they don't "fit in", some who spend most of their time high or escaping into video games, who believe school is "gay" and will be shocked (or not) when they find out that I am. That will no doubt be fodder for this blog later, as the issue comes up (and out!) every year. There will be students who I will be successful with and students who I will be unsuccessful with. But I may never know which are which (I try not to pretend I do). My high school teachers most likely had no idea if they were successful with me or not--oh, but that's another story for later. Some students will be surprised when they find out the "easy art class" they signed up for requires them to read and write and think about art, along with actually learning to draw, and they will push against it. And I'll let them lean on me a little, then give them a gentle, yet firm, nudge, because I want them to know what art can do.

It's an optimystical thing. Making art is an optimistic act. Which writer was it that said that about writing?

So, my hope for this blog is to share some of my teaching year with you all.

Each year teaching changes me a bit more, some years more than others, and I hope I can relate some of the process that occurs this year. High school teaching can be creatively draining, so I'll give this my best effort--which I actually have worked into my grading criteria because in art class anyway, effort counts.