RENEE DECATOR, life stories

ART. FOOD. LIFE.

Working with Teenagers

 

I just finished my “residency” in Dr. Susan West’s classroom at Viera High School. 7 days, 150 students, 5 classes, lots and lots of paint, paper and glue. The plan was for me to teach my mixed-media technique of painting paper and creating a collage incorporating the paper and acrylic paint.

Day one: First of all… school starts early! I’m not really a “morning person” but managed to organize myself and wake up early to get to school on time each day. Time is limited! By the time I explained a little about myself, showed some examples of my work and talked about the project… the bell would ring. Wow… how in the world can we make this project happen within the 2 week plan.

Day two: I went home day one after 5 classes seriously considering a nap. Today was our project start day. I explained the process of painting layers of pattern on paper to provide for materials for collaging. Dr West had pre-cut their work surfaces (watercolor paper) to size. They decided on their subject choosing from a variety of Florida wildlife, sea-life or flora. They sketched 2 thumbnails of their chosen subject in their notebooks.

Day three: Today they prepared their background papers by deciding on their palette to contrast their background and foreground. They applied washes of acrylic to their backgrounds.

Day four: Finally… today we paint paper! Some of them really didn’t understand the necessity of these papers. My instructions were to just layer pattern in paint, fill up the paper eliminating the majority of white. Paint 3 to 5 pieces. We switched from paint brushes to small roller to speed up this part of the process. 30+ students in each class, with rollers and trays and lots of paint… I loved it!

Day five: Some of the students thanked me for coming to their class and teaching them. I really was enjoying this. Most of the students were on board with the project, making changes, thinking forward and being very creative. A few were avoiding eye contact with me… lol. I loved talking with them about their artwork. “Tell me about this”, “and why are you painting a green piece of paper with green paint and your animal is going to be green”?

Day six: We are painting paper and gluing and changing backgrounds. They are realizing now why they needed 5 pieces of painted paper in their different palette colors. It’s quiet. They are really engrossed in their projects.

Day seven: My last day. The goal was to continue with collaging the subject, adding collage elements to the background, correcting, refining etc. They had been required as part of their lesson plan to submit questions pertaining to being an artist, art education, art marketing etc. So today I answered some of the questions while they were cleaning up their spaces. Dr. West also emailed me a list of questions which I answered. They will be using those answers to write an article about the experience of having me work with them as an artist in residence.

They are still working on their projects… for a few more day. A lot of the artwork I saw them producing was excellent! I cannot wait to see all the completed projects. It was so interesting, getting to know them. They had very distinct personalities but were all pleasant and welcoming to me.  I enjoyed working with them and talking with them each day.

I applaud you teachers! So many requirements, restraints… I can also see the appeal of teaching. You have such an impact on young lives.

 

The process took me several years to develop with lots of trial and error. It’s not a one-step thing.

ps.

1. Thanks to the bubbly, positive, kind girl in period one that ask everyone how they were, complimented their outfit and just cheered everyone on, every morning.

2. Thank you to the quiet young woman at the first table on the left who thanked me several times for coming to teach and share my art and helping her with her project.

3. Thank you to the young man doing the turtle who I didn’t think was at all interested in the project because he was working so slow. Thank you for coming up and asking me if I was returning this week to work with the class.

4. Thanks to Dr. West for inviting to come.

 

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