Since starting to draw this way awhile back I’m getting better and learning so many new things. I’m finding it addictive to draw like this. I started with the Adobe Draw app. I really enjoyed drawing in this app but it kept crashing so I looked for something else. Part of my problem with the app was a stylus. Once you start drawing more you find your finger just isn’t as precise. Then it’s off to learn about stylus. The types and choices can be daunting. I bought a box of 10 for under 5 bucks and quickly switched to a box of 2 for 14 bucks. The box of 2 has a clear disk on the tip( like an Adonit Jot) so you can see where your lines start. It has a fiber like tip on the other end that works like the cheaper stylus and it came with extra tips. Then I found a discounted Adonit Touch so I bought that to try. It is pretty great and lets you draw with pressure sensitivity so the line width changes like a real world fountain pen. It crashed Adobe Draw alot though. So I switched to the Concepts app.Concepts is more complex and a cross between a drawing app and a CAD app. I’ve been using the Ipad app Archisketch for simple CAD drawings that need scale and measurements. Now I start there and then color them in Concepts. Mostly I’m playing. I’ve been drawing my tin toys. In Concepts I only had to draw one gator and then duplicate,rotate ,and scale. You can drag and drop from anything on your Ipad which is really amazing….even from the web This one of tin fish I will probably change. Layers are so liberating. I can delete the water bit and try something else without starting all over again because the parts are drawn on different layers. Both programs are great fun to learn. Concepts does more so a steeper learning curve. It is worth learning though. I am having so much fun learning this stuff.
Abdulla drew an amazing image of Gail’s dog. So much changes in the translation to 3D. I did my best to get the spirit of it. It will continue to change. These group projects are like whisper down the lane and what you start with transforms along the way as you add new techniques and materials. In the end it seems everyone involved feels a sense of ownership. I love this. Personally, I made some great discoveries about foam cutting tools this week. I will never use a corrugated shaper again because they make a fine mess that sticks to you and everything else by static electricity. A “knife” of all sorts is the way to go. I found some info online about using a sharpened drywall knife to cut foam and it is great. The trades are an excellent source of information to tweak to art. I bought knife blades for my portable jigsaw..also great. I then tried a knife blade on my Fein multitool and wow…amazing too. No more little bits to clean up! this is such a BIG improvement for me not only because power tools make things easier but doing hand cutting works better too. I now have shavings to collect and they don’t respond to static electricity the same way. We started making clay bits last week but I am having too much fun to photograph it…hopefully next week I will take some pics. The students are doing so well…I only wish I knew what was going on in their heads.
We are covering the forms with paper now. These students are doing so well that they complete whatever I bring in for the day. This is another messy job but we have a big tarp under the work table to contain the mess. This time I am using unyru paper rolls and diluted elmers glue. I love this paper but it has gotten too expensive to use in my future school projects. I will switch to bogus paper available at places that sell packaging material. It is recycled newsprint and kraft paper but slightly heavier. You need a paper that is unsized so it is more malleable. Sized papers are stiff. Unsized papers eventually become pulp. Unryu is very strong,stays workable for a long time and covers in one or two layers. Bogus paper usually requires more layers and isn’t as malleable but it works well enough and it’s cheap. My personal favorite is blotter paper. It is thick and covers in one layer but turns to pulp fast so hard to use with kids. Last year I used what I called art snot as an adhesive with what I called bogie paper. Great art terms for 2nd graders. It is methyl cellulose and I used Elmers art paste. I had trouble with the layers de-laminating and haven’t tested it again so I went with white glue which I know works. The paper needs to form a hard stable surface over the foam.
Last Thursday was our first day getting our hands dirty. Our design is becoming large foam forms to paper mache. I’m putting the forms together at home and bringing them in for the students to paper mache. The students are enjoying the process and do very well at this task. They are working well together which is good to see. These are the forms for the center of the mural. What will become the sunflower is almost 8 feet tall. We are using 2 inch polystyrene insulation board available at building supplies. I insert wood furring strips or washers in places so that our installation hardware will not tear through the foam.
The tools I use to cut and shape foam are pictured here. Knives cut foam better than saws. I tried a hot knife but wasn’t happy with it especially the smell. I use a utility knife and an old bread knife. I use a fine tooth handsaw for inserting wood. I tie the wood to the foam with rebar wire. You can use packing tape,duct tape,whatever works to attach other things together. You can make a shape out of more than one piece and join them. I often pin pieces together with dowels. Like doing drywall the form doesn’t have to be perfect but the better it is the easier it is to cover. It also needs to be structurally sturdy so no wiggly loose parts. I shape the foam with the bread knife and smooth it with a corrugated shaper. It is a messy process. I had the bad experience of having a school order the white foam made of little balls. Don’t ever get this. We had little foam balls everywhere!
This month at Bancroft I’m doing the typical Picasso portrait lesson of abstracting a face but with a new twist. Being a facilitator I drew the shape of each kids head and drew the figure eight and some lines to divide the head into shapes. The students made color choices and sometimes provided some direction as to where to put the color or pattern. Jaquese made some marks of his own and crumpled the paper as usual. I then took a photo of the drawing and used an a free app Gifycam to add a gif to the drawing. These kids often respond in some way to movement and light close to their faces. There was a good amount of reactions today because of the gifs. Reactions can be an awakening, a smile, eye movement, a vocalization or in one case holding the Ipad up to a face. Every response is so small. One just has to believe that something is happening. They help me live in the moment,to really listen, and better accept what I don’t understand. Adding the gif was fun for me and I think my enthusiasm rubbed off on the staff and students. I really had fun today.
Happy New Year. This week I start 2 new residencies. As always I am excited and scared. I never get used to meeting new students and always have the jitters. Age has perfected my on top of it teacher facade. This year I am doing another big messy public art like project in Warren NJ. I will be working with special needs teenagers building a high relief mural.
I often feel like I am the only teaching artist in NJ that does these projects that require scale shop drawings, budgets,and material lists to be approved by building staff to meet code. This school got it right in getting these things out of the way in the beginning. I have had a few projects that did not and I left the residency without an installation because of building approvals. We started planning in September and are just now ready to dive in. The drawing lays out a basic template for our design. Student input will determine what it will actually look like within those parameters. I have found that it is very important with special needs kids to have a concrete clear simple plan to follow. I have also found that it helps with all schools to have a preplanned template to improv from. The key is to listen,be open to what is happening, and feel free enough to change it up if you see something great or it isn’t working. I try really hard to be a facilitator not a prima dona artist. My second residency is an after school program in Vineland doing stopmotion…with 3 Ipads. I have been so inspired by the ipadartroom.com website but her kids all have Ipads. I am still working on having a few Ipads with kids that are so hungry to play with them.
So like I always say…Let the fun begin!
This month at Bancroft we continued playing with a basic electric circuit by making a ping pong ball contraptions. You can find instructions on YouTube for all sorts of things using little motors. Vibration motors work so well with this population. If you can see they move and have color. If you can hear they make sounds. If touch is your dominant sense they vibrate. Staff and students all got a ping pong ball massage. Unfortunately I got a few teachers hair caught up in the propeller but no harm was done. I put it on kids heads and called it a brain massage. Great responses today from kids that don’t always respond. I got all the parts…motors,switches, batteries etc. on Amazon(contact me if you need details). I do so miss Radio Shack and the mad scientist section of Edmund Scientific though. It’s a new world.
I’m just getting to know Michael. He was fascinated with the whole process. He along with his classmate Ethan chose colored sticks and Michael didn’t try to eat his. They chose ping pong balls and we played with them before getting down to business. Ethan lost interest but Michael watched and listened to the entire assembly process. I gave him the finished project and he was still playing with it when I moved on to another class.