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.
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 week I put the totem together in the garden. It’s cold now and the garden is covered in leaves and we can’t take kids outside. It does look great though. I put the sections together with landscape adhesive and shimmed it level as I added parts. I have never never used construction adhesive to join this kind of thing so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. In the spring it will get grouted between the parts or taken apart if the adhesive fails and mortared together.
I love this photo of the proud artist and it’s even in focus.
Yesterday I did 3 workshops at the Moore symposium “Sculptural Practices for Diverse Learning Needs”. I work with kids and doing the professional development with teachers required by grants always scares the shit out of me. I’m not a real teacher and I find them intimidating. I had to write an academic sounding description for the workshop so it was Creating a Large Vision through Cooperation. Writing really isn’t my thing as those of you following this blog may have noticed.
Most of my photos are out of focus but I’m adding some anyway. Not only do teachers scare me but I rarely agree to do one time workshops. I think of them as fast food artmaking like a McDonalds happy art meal. I like to work with a group for at least 12 days so I get to know students. I found that it wasn’t so bad and wasn’t so scary once I got started. Somehow there were classes full of grownups smiling, talking, and playing nice with others. The room was full of laughing, and chatter. The big creative mess we made pleased me the most. It is possible I prefer the longer experience because I see progress. In these one time workshops I just have to have faith that some learning has taken place and get used to it.
It went well. When I looked at the photos I took there were lots of smiles in a room that looked like art was happening. I might be open to doing this kind of thing again!
One young woman disappeared at the end of class and left this piece. It says it all.