This blog is intended to encourage others on their journey into their creative "artscape". I have enjoyed many years as an artist learner, creator, and teacher. Life is inspiring, and I want to share the vantage point that I have been fortunate enough to view life from. I want to move a smidge over, and invite you to sit right next to me, and enjoy a 360 degree view of my "artscape". Join me in discovering and uncovering the creative soul that we all possess.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wonderments: make it yourself games

At the end of the school year I love to give students ideas for ways they can use art to keep from getting bored in the summer. I often teach them some paper folding, and making things from recycled stuff, anything that will capture their imagination and motivate them to be creative at home. This year I am showing some of my classes how to make a simple game, then they can springboard off this idea to invent their own games! Here are a few results from 1st grade. The board game is on one side- and the spinner is on the other side of the cover. They can invent more boards and pieces to add to their book all summer!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

revelation: "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" and crayonology...

Search for art history books
"Crayonology" the study of art students as they create with crayons and related art materials. 
I believe I am an expert "Crayonologist" :)
As I watch my students grow and challenge themselves in art, I see them going through some of the same problem solving approaches,  reasonings, and struggles that I have also experienced. From my small sampling of artists, I am drawing the conclusion that given the opportunity all of man probably goes through these same processes; collectively and individually.  I think it's fascinating that given the same materials for means of creating, students at like stages will do the similar things with them. Their stage determines their interaction with the materials, with the other students, with me- the stage they are in determines how they will manipulate the materials, what they will be interested or fixated with, what they will think is funny, what they will think is "dumb". I don't get tired of watching them go through these stages.  
Just as all of man drew simple shapes on cave walls- I see young children draw these same simple shapes.
At about 9 or so they strive to be realistic, it's what they call "good". It reminds me of the "good", proportional realism of classics. As they are striving for this, they go through some rather awkward disproportional phases- Mideivel?
Then, the rebellion against classical as the search for answers to questions about line and color, they experiment, and stretch, and look for ways to express themselves- Modern?

wonderment: last few days

We are ending the school year earlier than was initially planned. Due to lack of funds, we are ending June 2nd! We are in the final days of school. Here is my wonderment; it doesn't seem to matter when the last day is- we still rise and fall to the occassion. There is a rhythm to the end, regardless of the date. Students and staff alike start getting rather excited when we are down to counting weeks not months, then even more excited and rather frenzied when we are down to days not weeks! We are trying to stuff the days so full they are busting at the seams. Our emotions are barely below surface with the dangerous recipe of staying up late and being more active with the longer daylight hours, testing students, packing our rooms up, preparing for summer and next year, and tear laden goodbyes to the classrooms of students we have grown to love! These last days are full of field trips, class picnics, plays and performances, field days... Anything that will corral all those wiggles and giggles while the anticipation builds! ...until we can set them free, and let them bust loose into Glorious summer Vacation!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

tip #9- what inspires you?

 Inspiration is everywhere... in the repetition of colorful giftbags... rainbows in my backyard... children's artwork...

Do you need inspiration?
Look around you. Where do you choose to spend most of your time? What do you love? Who do you love? Where do you love to be? The people, places, and things that we love most are the easiest things to create artwork about. The more familiar, the deeper our understanding, the more extreme the attachment, the better the art! We have the most to say about the things we are most passionate about. Making artwork about what we know is almost mandatory. Then we can branch out from the places we are rooted.
Where does your curiosity lead you? What do you want to learn about? This is another area that I find I want to create artwork about. When I wonder about something, an idea starts forming. I let myself be led from there. I read about it, I hunt down visuals, I collect objects, I talk about it, and I mull it over.  Sometimes I come up with something good by going down this meandering path.
Watch what's going on around you. What are other people into? What are the popular shows on TV? What's on UTube? What are people talking about? What are current themes? What's in the news? What books are on the best seller list? These can all be great sources of inspiration.
Some artists keep idea boards, or binders. Some artists make lists. My daughter uses a 3 ring binder with the clear sleeves to keep picture that she looks through for inspiration. I use my sketchbook to develop ideas. I also use my camera to collect ideas. 
If you just need a place to start, start with something in the room you are in right now. What attracts your attention? What seems significant? What do you think you would like to focus on that you can see right now? What can you make, draw, or build that could tell about it? Just get started and do it. Sometimes starting is the hardest part.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wordle your blog!

Wordle: Artscape 360
You can wordle your blog! or any collection of words. See my links on the right column.

tip #8- Find tools you love to work with!

I have fallen in love with Sharpies! Now my daughter loves them too! She bought a new one for me that is black with a thin line and it clicks in like a pen. Love it!!!! There are Sharpie pens too- that don't click in...
I also am in love with my liner brush for painting! Do you have one? If you don't, it's worth trying. You have to thin the paint way down, then you can write or draw pretty thin expressive lines with it. I used it a lot in my summer flower series, and in this sunflower field painting.
I have an 8 year old student who has fallen in love with a certain color of blue glitter crayon. I know just how she feels! It's a joy to watch her put her heart into it!
Find something you love to use, some materials are downright addictive!

Wonderment: Following directions

Two classes, 56 students, same directions- What a difference! Class make-up completely changes a lesson! Each class has a personality. Some classes are the calm, quiet, studious type; some are active, silly, and on the go, some are moody, mysterious and a little disturbing... I find it fascinating what a difference it makes in the outcome of their artwork! Here's an example:

See if you can guess the personality of these 2 classes! They are both Kindergarten classes, and they come to art in the afternoon- one right after the other. This is a "Crazy Hair" assignment that I have taught a lot. I didn't make up the lesson, a lot of art teachers use this one because the students really love making these (I love to make them too :)

Here are some pictures from class 1-

Here are some pictures from class 2-

Revelation: Artist Personality

There is a stereotype of the "artsy type". Maybe you think of someone who is a little spacey, or not grounded in the real world; maybe a little crazy comes to mind; maybe you think they are all creative and therefor not very logical or practical. It's interesting to me that being "artsy" can be somewhat of an excuse for being eccentric, or irresponsible. People almost expect that of you when they know you are an artist. You can take advantage of this and use it to your benefit, or conversely, you can be embarrassed about it and try to discredit the myth!
I find it a little humorous, and a little fun that art people are forgiven and accepted for things that other more academic people wouldn't necessarily tolerate otherwise. It's expected that artists are on the edge in looks and in actions! "Oh well, you're an artist, you can get away with that!" We hear about artists that explore the weirdest, wildest things in their art. We see artists who wear the craziest outfits, and have the strangest tattoos and piercings. I guess I really love this about the art world, social rules are regarded as mere suggestions or discarded altogether!
I used to teach reading, and the assumptions people had about me were completely different than what I perceive from them now that I teach art. I wonder, do we subconsciously live up to our label, whatever our label may be? As a reading teacher did I act more studious or more "readerish" than I do now? Do I act more artsy now, so I won't disappoint those who expect me to personify the term?! Perhaps the stereotypes came about because that truly is the basic persona of an artist. Which came first the personality or the label? Do I fit the label or does the label fit me?
Title: Jena's Heritage
This painting is one of 2 that I painted to depict our heritage as women- our genetic code is depicted by the quilt. This pattern is from a quilt that my great grandmother made. I wrapped my daughter in the quilt to show how her great grandmother is part of her, even though she never knew her. The love of her grandmother, and all of her traits are ingrained in her. This grandma must have been creative too, she did a lot of beautiful hand work!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art and Flowers- Saturday! with Cara and Mary

In this picture Jamie is putting up a couple of my paintings at the Java and Jazz Cafe in Albion, MI. That was a fun exhibit! The music there was great!

I wanted to let you know that I will be at "Art and Flowers" on May 22nd. 7455 King Rd. Spring Arbor, MI 49283. This is a very sweet, home town event! It is an Art Fair held at the local greenhouse. Mary Sprague, Cara Garnett (my daughter), and I will be sharing a booth. This is a small, but wonderful Art Fair- just the kind of thing Norman Rockwell would paint a picture of! If you purchase any flowers at the greenhouse this day, please ask them to donate to the Western High School Band! They have their annual fundraiser the same weekend!

I am also very pleased to have an exhibit at Oakwood Heritage Hospital. It will be up for the remainder of May and June. This hospital is located at 10000 Telegraph Rd. in Taylor, MI 48180. I have about 30 florals and country scenes in this exhibit. The exhibits are throughout the Oakwood Healthcare System in 4 locations. "Arts for the Spirit" sponsors these exhibits, and it is supported by the Oakwood Foundation.

In Coldwater, MI, I am participating in the exhibit "Kick up your Heels" at the Tibbits Opera House. The Gallery is open before and after performances. I have a couple of roller skate paintings on display there.

Coming this summer is the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. I will be in booth 259 on Liberty St. The fair will be July 21-24th. It's always a huge event! You won't want to miss it! 734.662.3382

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

wonderment: nymphs undergoing creation

Cara is building more sculptures of nymphs! I can't wait to see how they turn out! We also found out today that her sculpture "Sisters" is in some sort of brochure or magazine advertising things to do in South West Michigan. This is a picture of the sculpture at the "Heirloom Love" exhibit we had last Spring. There was also a picture in the paper of it!

revelation: fragrance of nature

Can there be anything more inspiring than the change of Seasons? In Michigan we enjoy beautiful Spring flowers. The trees are budding, the flowers are up, the birds are singing, the days are getting longer, and beauty is all around us! We have lily of the valley by our back door. You can smell it as you go in and out. It's a real treat this time of year. We have lilacs by the back door, and later we will have lavender by the front door. I really love to have fragrant flowers near the entrances. I love the reminder to slow down and notice the changing flowers as I come and go throughout the day. I enjoy painting flowers, some of the joy of flowers is the smell. It's hard to look at a photo or painting and not be reminded of the beautiful smell. It's important to enjoy the world with all of our senses, and to bring that to our artwork.

tip #7- surround yourself with like-minded, positive people

If you want to be a creator of art it helps a lot if you are around other people who are creating. Choose people that inspire and encourage you. You will grow as an artist much faster when you allow yourself to be nurtured by positive, creative, productive people. It's easy to think that artists need to isolate themselves and spend endless hours working alone in their studios. There are times when I need to paint alone, but I have found that I actually get more done when I meet on a regular basis with other artists. I love seeing what they are making, and hearing about their work. Hearing others' ideas can really rev up my production. I really enjoy my artist friends, and look forward to the times when we can work together. I wish I could work in a group several times a week, I think I work best that way. I can only manage once a week, and for now, that will have to do...
This is photo is of a small section of a painting I worked on tonight- Tuesday nights I meet with my friend Mary.
I suggest you find a local art group that you can join. In Jackson we have the Jackson Civic Art Association, I just joined this year. They have a lot to offer. They organize workshops, critiques, and exhibits. There are also groups for specific media in many areas. Google your media such as pastels, watercolors, photography, etc. and your town; you just might find a great group that you can meet with!

Monday, May 17, 2010

tip #6: be healthy, be a better artist

One of the things I talk to my students about is keeping your brain healthy. The healthier your brain, the better you can function to create your artwork!  Think about it, when you are super tired or super hungry it's like thinking through molassas! Here are a few things you can do to keep your brain at its best:
1. get a good night's sleep
2. eat right- your brain needs good nutrition to function well
3. drink water- lots of water! 8 glasses is a good target
4. exercise- get the oxygen to your brain
5. learn new things to stretch and grow your brain
...and always, laugh and have fun! it's super good for your brain!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

wonderment: fun and games

Clay portraits by elementary art students

This was the last week of art for one of the buildings I teach at. The kiddos got to take their "portfolios" home! I wanted to teach them some games they could play this summer, so we played a game with the art books (this can be played with any book) where one person is the "caller" and the rest of the players have to find whatever they call out.  For instance, one thing I told them to find was "portrait", and the first person to find a portrait in the book was the winner. We also had winning teams- when the whole team found a portrait they all won! Now, I have been talking about portraits all year and I was amazed how many of them still didn't know what to look for... depressing :( However, it's amazing what one game and a little competition can do! All of a sudden, after one game, they all seemed to know what a portrait was! What a great way to reinforce vocabulary.
The other game we played was a version of 4 corners. I put the colors of the rainbow around the room. Everyone had to go stand at a color. I made a dice that had all 6 colors on it, we rolled it, whatever color was on top was out. Everyone could choose a new color- we rolled again, etc. The last person in was the winner. Then the students made their own color dice so they could play the game at home this summer. The game was a big hit! Making the dice was a great 3-D project, it's a very difficult thing for some students to figure out how to make a cube from a flat piece of paper...
Lesson learned, note to self, I will definitely be playing more games with them next year. The proof is in the puddin' They definitely learn better when they are having fun!
Search for art games

tip #5- organization

Well, this is a tough one for me. I am somewhat organized, somewhat NOT. I have tried lots of different things to help myself. My biggest problem is that I think I need to keep everything! Over the years I have done so many different crafts and artwork that I have stockpiled a lifetime of materials. I have sewing supplies, beads and jewelry tools, soap making, every imaginable pencil and pen, sculpting, macrame, crocheting, etc. etc....  My husband has built me closets, shelves, cabinets... and I have the house and garage attics stuffed! It really is ridiculous. I have paintings in the dining room- where I organize them for framing and to go to shows. Cara has also added to the dilemna. Her sculptures are everywhere!
Anyway, here are some tips that I have figured out along the way. But, keep in mind, I am a long way from organized- but I am trying!

In this picture are Cara's tote and tackle box that she uses for her paper clay artwork. The wooden box contains grandma's pastels... There is a sketchbook on the left, and I have no idea why the fireworks are in the picture????? One of my latest paintings are in the background, daffodils.
  • keep like supplies together- all brushes together, all pens together, all pencils together
  • designate a cupboard or shelf for your art supplies
  • use clear storage containers so you can easily see if what you need is in there before you even open it
  • if possible, keep your supplies next to your workspace
  • keep some supplies in a tote if you work away from your storage area, even if it's in another room
Here are some products that I have found helpful:

  • portfolio
  •  any clear shoebox size containers
  • clear drawers on wheels
  • plastic crates
  • plastic totes with handles

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    tip #4: sketchbook/ journal

    My art tip today is to keep a sketchbook or journal.
    It takes a bit of using one to decide how you really want to use one:) I used to just use any scrap of paper that was near me to draw on, and I didn't keep them very often. I do still have some napkins, paper towels, book pages, etc. that I have tucked into a spiral pad of drawing paper- but a sketchbook is a great way to keep a record of your progress. I have tried different sizes and bindings, have made my own, have purchased them and have been given some.  I find that I like to tuck one in my purse, so I love the little moleskines with the pockets.  I also carry the little skinny brown moleskines sometimes. Cara and I are in love with moleskines, they are quite addictive. Last night Cara read a quote to me that said a moleskine was better that a little black dress! so true!
    A sketchbook, for me, is just a collection of my ideas, drawings, and sketches. It's a place to play. I write down scattered thoughts and ideas, practice contour lines, work out designs, create thumbnails and predrawings, try new materials, collage, tuck momentos in pockets, etc. etc. Sketchbooks have no rules. If you make a mistake, oh well... if you don't use it everyday, oh well... The only boundaries or rules are self imposed.  So, be easy on yourself and give yourself lots of freedom to create pages any way you want in your sketchbook!
    I was very dedicated to my sketchbook for awhile, but lately I have gotten away from it. I miss it, so I am giving myself a new challenge- a self imposed rule that I have to draw 3 flowers from my garden this week.  The lily of the valley is in bloom and I don't want my sketchbook to miss that!

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Revelation: Tuesday nite inspiration

    I wonder exactly when Mary and I started painting on Tuesday nights? Maybe four years ago? It's amazing how much work has accumulated because of meeting every week. I really look forward to these nights. We  have "family dinner" together. Others join us from time to time, Cara, Mary Lou, Peggy, Julie D., Julie E., Sara, and we keep waiting for Jamie to paint with us :). Tonight we had a huge surprise because Sara brought her new beautiful baby. We are in love with him! Maybe he is a future artist!
    I worked on the crabapple blossoms and Mary worked on her steam engine.  Cara has some sculptures going, but she was mostly working on something on the computer. We love having American Idol on while we paint! We love predicting who will go off, or who will win- we all have our faves.

    Last week I went on and on about Laura Bush... I love her!

    and she has a new book out! I couldn't believe it- this week Mary brought me the book! What a great friend.
    This night is so inspiring to me.  I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't have nearly as much work if it wasn't for Tuesday night paint night with Mary.

    Wonderment: smelling your art

    After thinking about the need to color, I wanted to make a conscious effort today to notice what other very basic things my students choose to do.  I've been telling my family lately about a little 5 year old in one of my classes that likes to sit right right by my legs during group time.  He gets his little nose right up to my knees so he can smell them :)  He likes the smell of my lotion.  What can I say?  He is working on backing up a little... Kindergarteners don't really know their social bounderies yet!
    He got me noticing how important smell must be to my art students.  Today there was a small group of 1st graders rummaging through our crayon cakes together to see which one they liked the smell of the best. (I don't think they smell at all.)  I saw 5th graders going through the magazines looking for the perfume ads to rub the smell on their project- now, I thought that was a pretty cool idea!  My students pretty much put everything up to their nose and take a whiff.  Many of them aquire marker or chalk marks on the ends of their noses at some point during class.  Mr. Sketchy markers are made with fruity smells.  I used to have a lot of them, but I got rid of them because I was constantly telling children to go wash their nose.  I do love those markers however!  I don't blame them for wanting to smell them, they smell wonderful!
    Art and wonderful smells just go together.  I used oil paint when I was in college, and the smell is such a great memory for me.  Someday I'm sure I will go back to oils.  In elementary school we used to use paste, don't some of you from my generation just love that smell!  and, of course there is that kid in every class who doesn't just smell it, they have to eat it!  Gross! (but I bet you have all snuck a taste of some kind of glue or paint :) Taste is a whole 'nother topic...

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Tip #3- Just do it!

    Here are a duo of huge canvas' painted orange, ready for whatever is next!
    Sometimes it's just hard to get started. So many people want to be creative, and they wish they could draw or make artwork. I can't tell you how many people tell me they wish they could draw, or they used to paint and they wish they still did... I am here to say, just do it! It really is like exercise. You have to just do it. You don't have to wait to be good, or to have the right equipment, and there is no reason to be afraid of failure. If you want to make something, just make it! The more often you do it, the better you get, the more you understand, the more confident you get. As with exercise, start simple and easy. Begin with scribbles and doodles, or simple shapes, or cut and paste some fun pictures together. Enjoy yourself! Don't think that everything you make has to be a masterpiece. You don't have to frame everything you make, and it doesn't have to be a gift to anyone. If you want to throw your work away, who's stopping you? Don't let anything get in the way of having fun, and enjoying the process of what you are making. Unlike exercise, you don't need a Dr.'s permission to start, no matter how out of shape you are :) Let me know if you get creating. I'd love to see your progress.

    Revelation: capture the moment

    Even a driveway can be so beautiful. My front drive captures the sky at sunset, and can look quite astounding! I have never taken the time to learn about photography- but I sure wish I could capture moments like these better. I will have to leave that to the real photographers I guess, and just try to engrave these quiet, colorful stills in my memory. A photograph aids the memory, but I am working on "unframing" the snapshots I am storing in my brain. I have spent a lifetime learning to crop pictures in my "mind's eye". For the last few years I have been refocusing my mind's eye, and retraining myself to see without framing and cropping everything! I am freeing myself, and unframing my brain. I want to store these scenes further down in my soul- past the analytical cropping and framing part of my art brain. I want to emotionally store them, and get them deeper into my being- where there are no words, or static, tangible means of expression. I want to choose these treasured moments to be the pallette that reveals itself in brushstrokes of all my life's work, whether it is a painting, teaching, cooking dinner, or doing laundry.

    wonderment: coloring/ basic needs

    As I am watching my schoolchildren today I am struck by how many choose the stations where they get to fill in areas with color. Today's station choices include: chalk -landscapes, or finishing portraits; yarn -weavings; craypas -abstract line designs; paper strip constructs or weavings... I am trying to be intentionally aware of the choices they make, and considerate of what the draw is to that station. So many of the students choose the stations where they are coloring, whether it is with crayons, chalk, colored pencil, markers, or craypas. Perhaps they like the mindlessness of it, and the big results. They love the abstract designs where there is no pressure to create a likeness. I am really wondering if coloring fulfills some type of basic need? We need love, shelter, food.... and coloring!

    Tip #2- Listen

    In developing your artscape it's so important to listen to your heart. Follow your instincts, let your real self guide you. It's so easy to get distracted. You see someone else's creation that you love, and it's tempting to try to fit yourself into that mold. There's nothing wrong with trying your hand at other artists styles and materials, but it is necessary to come back to yourself. You can never find your own true voice if you are always swayed by others. Don't be afraid to be unique, to be yourself in your artwork. Take risks. Be prepared to fail. What's the worst that can happen? You waste some paper, paint, etc. ? Messing up is part of the process. It's ok to make something that doesn't turn out that great, you always learn something about yourself as an artist whether or not your piece was successful. I like to think of my whole body of work as an artwork in itself. It's all a part of a continuum telling a story about myself. The compilation of my work speaks my heart. Think about what you truly love, listen to yourself, and create something that describes this love.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Wonderment: daughters

    This is Mother's Day. A day to wonder about, and enjoy all that motherhood means to me. These are paintings I did of my daughters about a year ago. Here they are hung at an art show Cara (my oldest daughter) and I did together last Mother's Day. I wanted to show their heritage, so I wrapped them in a quilt design that a great grandmother sewed- and I still have the quilt.
    The girls truly are a blessing. I treasure the day each of them were born, and I am amazed how swiftly they have grown into beautiful young ladies. They are beautiful inside and out, as my Grandmother Mills used to say... I wish my mother, and my grandmothers were here to see them today. They would be so proud of them. These girls are a tribute to the mothers before them. I see so much of my mother in them- especially Cara. Cara has many of the same expressions, movements, and interests as my mom. I also see my husband's mom on them- especially Jena. She shares my mother-in-law's looks, and personality. The girls have certainly seemed to have inherited the best traits of all, they have been handed down a love of family and friends. They are lucky girls, and I am so very proud of them. I'm lucky to be their mother!
    They are both artists themselves. Jena's major is Human Centered Design, and Cara's BFA is in sculpture, and her Masters is Art Admin. (she's currently looking for full time employment) Cara and grandma are working on artwork right now. Cara is making beautiful, and slightly quirky, little fashion sculptures, and Carolyn is making lovely, floral reliefs. What a great hobby to share!

    Revelation: Magazines

    I picked up two new magazines and browsed through them this Mother's Day. I found them inspiring, and can't wait to try a few new ideas. I want to try some mixed media pieces. I love old papers, materials, and what nots... I am a boderline hoader.... I love keeping little odds and ends of junk that I have some sort of emotional attachment to. I love tucking them away somewhere that makes no sense, and then rediscovering them later and reminiscing... does anyone else love finding that old ticket to the movie in the jacket you wore last Spring, or digging deep in your jewelry drawer and finding the soap bar from the hotel you stayed at in 1983! I just love that! Somehow I want to work that feeling into a mixed media piece. I have been mulling this idea over for years. Someday it will come together for me.
    Magazines of the Day:
    Somerset Studio:
    cloth paper scissors:

    tip #1- LOOK

    My first tip is to LOOK!
    Really open your mind to long, soaking-it-all-in looking.
    Open your eyes, and enjoy the "artscape" all around you!
    What do you enjoy looking at? Start there, and feast your eyes on it.
    Savor what you see. Mull it over in your mind, don't rush, take your time and let it all sink in. Think about the tangibles.... the color, the texture, the lines, the shapes within your view.
    What does your view remind you of? Let your mind take you there. Let your mind wander a bit, then come back to looking through your eyes to what you actually see before you.
    Pick an object and slowly trace it with your eyes, trace every nook and cranny. Take your time. Try to memorize your lines.
    See what you are seeing. Engage your brain in your seeing.
    When you learn to really look at things you are never bored. I like to think that I am good at waiting because I am an intentionally practiced "looker". When I am waiting in line I often pick something to analyze or trace. I try to trace faces in my brain a lot. It's a little tricky, I don't like people to think I'm some kind of weirdo stalker- staring at people so intently, but it's great practice if you can get away with it!
    Have fun LOOKING! really LOOKING!