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.

 

Artist In Residence

I’ve been in my studio this week doing a little sorting and exploring and remembering. I used to be so good with names and memory recall… Not so good anymore. I’m leaning on the theory that highly intelligent, creative thinkers brains prioritize memories to best utilize brain function… something like that :) lol, I can’t quite remember.

I’m going to be the Artist in Residence at Viera High School, here in Brevard County next week and have been thinking about my current creative processes. With 24 years as a practicing artist there are a lot of experiences, workshops, materials and creative exploration that have brought me to where I am now. This will be an important message to share with young artists. Experience and exploration is just as important as profiency in specific techniques. I love teaching… sharing information and my personal experiences. My number one goal is to express the excitement of living a life that values the beauty and wonder of everyday.

Good Stuff to Share

  • The “Golden Mean” and why it is so “golden” thanks Greg Grant for the best introduction into art!
  • thin darks, thick light, thin darks, thick lights… thanks to Greg Grant for repeating that over and over. I say it at least twice in my painting class every week.
  • limited palette… mix your own colors
  • create obstacles to explore and conquer!
  • we are not re-creating a photograph, we are creating an illusion of the image with paint, paper, charcoal etc.
  • layer, layer and layer some more… then start your composition
  • paint 100 paintings of something… then you will start to understand that thing… paraphrased but one of my favorites from teacher Frits van Eeden.
  • Don’t be afraid to show people… artists, art snobs, your mod podge! Or your foam plates. Mod Podge is archival. Use new stuff and old stuff and never before stuff…but less talk, more play please. If you are talking about paint colors or if an isolation coat is necessary… you are not in your “right brain”.
  • Don’t get attached before the 5th layer! As soon as you LOVE something you’re working on, fear of “messing up” can kick in. Try to discourage that for as long as possible!

Wish me luck… my husband says to “be on guard, don’t show any weaknesses or they will devour me”. I say, “these are budding artists, we are all sensitive, emotional, expressive people… we speak the same language”.

Updates to follow!

Remembering

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Selfie

It’s been a busy summer! I like a good thing when I find it… and 16 years ago I heard about a wonderful place to go to in July (when it soooo hot in Florida), up in the mountains of North Carolina and make art.

For the last 16 years, minus the summer I broke my leg, and last summer leaving early, I have spent a week at Wildacres, NC with the continuing education program of Ringling School of Art, located in Sarasota, Fl. I love it there… the location, the tranquility, the comradery, open studios and some years there have been very “memorable” events.

I was so happy to get back there this summer! I spent the week in a mixed-media with beeswax class, taught by Elena De La Ville with 12 other artists, working with paper and wax. I have always loved work with a wax element… it’s such a wonderful tactile medium that is difficult to control but has so many options as to how it is utilized. We had several assignments involving composition and one was to photograph our surrounding looking for examples of good composition, then re-create the image with our materials.

I took lots of photos on my morning walk, but the last one was an elongated shadow of myself standing on the pathway. I liked the design and the emotion of the picture…and used it to create a piece. One of my classmates pushed me to work on a series of “selfies” and I ended up creating 5 pieces.

It’s good to step out of your artistic comfort zone… although my work is definitely “out there” at times. It’s also good… even though I don’t love it, to listen to other artists about my work. I love challenges in all aspects of my life. I never want to be too comfortable in my art, but to push forward and hope to discover and relate more about who I am and what message I want to share.

Piece by Piece

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a fresh beginning filled with hope for a happy and healthy 2016.

2015 was a good year for my art endeavors… most importantly I love the work I am doing. Secondly, a lot of work have found new homes :) , which is very gratifying.

One of my recent sales is “The Visit”, a large mixed-media collage on cradled board. It is the 7th piece of the “Girl Series”; young women who are confident, connected to their environment, feminine and strong. I captured the process of “The Visit”as I worked… starting with a small drawing in my sketch book and translating it to a 36″x 48” cradled board.

For a look at more of my work, go to my website reneedecator.com 

To see more about painting papers go here.

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underwater, listen to your heart

Many years ago… before I painted things like turtles and fish, coral reefs and octopus, I was primarily painting the tropical landscape. I had a commission to paint a piece with bananas and big tropical foliage. I started the piece as I start most any painting… with big areas of color, followed by more layers of overlapping color. I was working at a studio on the piece when a friend strolled by and innocently stated that the big shape in the middle “looked like a turtle”. “It’s going to be pink bananas”, I replied. I took the piece home and leaned against a wall to observe for the next few days until I could get back to it, but every time I looked at it, all I could see was that big turtle shape. I planned to continue on painting it as bananas, but in an attempt to be a more intuitive artist, I started the pink bananas on another canvas and finished the original piece as the turtle it was meant to be :)
I’ve learned to listen to my heart a little more… and voices, creative voices of my own and those of my friends, now and then.

I paint turtles… thank goodness. The ocean is a mighty mysterious place. Just as in every other part of creation, it’s design is amazingly beautiful and mesmerizing. I’m working on two commissions of underwater scenes right now at my studio and thought I would share some of the progress.

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Crunch Time

November is always a busy month for art show preparation… then comes December when Christmas is the focus of my time and energy. January means organization, creative focus, super productivity, sort of… and always that feeling that “I’ve got all month to get caught up on lots of artwork that needs finishing.” I have absolutely  been working steadily since the new year began, and loving being back in my studio… but I’m still trying to get a few pieces ready for this weekend. I’ll be in IMAGES, a festival of the Arts in New Smyrna Beach this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Booth 21). It is always a really nice show with wonderful patrons and visitors. If you decide to come, stop by and say hello.  I will (if progress continues as planned) have a new LARGE mixed-media piece to debut. It is a diptych (2 panels) over 6 feet long of an underwater reef with 3 turtles, a shark, jellyfish and lots of little fishes. I am using both hand-painted paper collage and acrylic paint on textured cradled wood panels. Don’t forget… BOOTH 21

Work in Progress:

turtles, sharks, and jellyfish

It’s January the 22nd and I am sitting on my back porch without a sweater or jacket. I love Florida living, except for mosquitos. I had a great time this week in the studio; in addition to just enjoying being down there, it was a fairly productive week.
I am working on several pieces inspired by Florida living. If you live in Florida, or are moving to Florida, the absolutely best feature is of course the ocean. I have lived for short periods in the interior parts… what was I thinking? There is nothing like waking up to pelicans flying overhead, ocean breezes and seashores.
My newest mixed-media work features underwater reefs and sea creatures… turtles, sharks and jellyfish created with bits of my hand-painted paper collaged onto painted boards with lots of surprising textures. Here are a few pictures of a big piece in progress.

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It’s Just Like Riding A Bike

It’s great…wonderful and exciting to be back at the studio. I have finally moved all the art materials that my family brought home for me when I was laid up with my broken leg, back down to my studio. I am also managing to make it down there regularly and get busy working… I know it’s art and I love making art and it may not seem like “work”… but while I could happily paint, collage, collect stuff, read… dream 24-7,  to make it each day’s priority is work. Planning around other commitments, responsibilities and chores, takes lots of creative strategizing :) My 2015 goal is to be super creative and productive.
I am trying my best to “go with the flow” and find that I’m happiest with the pieces where I trust my instincts and enjoy the process of art-making. Several of the pieces “on the table”, or easel, depending on the size of the piece, are moving toward completion and I’m hoping to have them at my next show in a few weeks.

This week I realized I was running low on the painted papers I collage with… so, I took a day and painted paper. It’s a part of my process that I LOVE. A large artwork that is primarily collage, requires a lot of paper inspiration. One portion of a painted paper can also lead to a brand new artwork…

Here are some of this week’s work:

The Process is Magical

Oh those “lazy days of summer”… they disappeared years ago; It was a very long summer though, broken leg and all.  I have spent much more time making art this summer than usual, due to my limited mobility. I am so excited to be focusing on combining many of the processes I have worked with over the last 5 or 6 years. I prefer using acrylic paint because it allows for a more intuitive approach to the artwork, due to it’s fast drying time. I love printmaking, and paper adds a tactile element to my art. I also love wax… it’s wonderfully fragrant and can enhance the mood of a piece. My current path is leading to a merging of those mediums. I “print” the paper with design using stamps, stencils and found items, then use my painted or printed paper to create the composition and finally finish the piece with acrylic glazes and paint and sometimes a layer of beeswax to tie it all together. The very best thing about this is that I LOVE each step of the complicated process. The finished pieces have wonderful depth, texture and the design draws the viewer to stop and look closer… I hope.  Connecting with the viewer is always my end goal.

The subjects of these new works are varied. Along with adding to my series of strong, confident and feminine women and girls, I re-visit my love of the tropical landscape and the ocean. The latest large pieces combine the figurative work with the landscape. The time involved in completing new pieces is considerably longer than just using paint, but the process is magical for me. It’s like taking a puzzle or image that has not been fully imagined, deconstructing it and piecing it back together with bits of design painted on paper. I love solving problems… and there are many opportunities for that, throughout the process.

Moving forward in an unfamiliar direction is not always easy. It can be scary to present “new work” to a host of critics;  we artists are fragile at times.  Most artists understand that change is inevitable… it’s tied to creativity. All the more reason to enjoy the journey, and the challenges that expose those creative opportunities.