Month: December 2011

Low-light

Every now and then it helps to have a topic to get you going on a page. I recommend making a list of things about you when you start your journal, and if you ever get stuck in a journal block you can reference the list to see if anything inspires you. Typically I will give out one or two journal assignments to my students over the course of a semester or year. One of my standard assignments is to create two pages, one should be a low-light of your week, the other should be a highlight.

This page is my low-light of the week. I have four sinks in my classroom, and I love my sinks. I really appreciate them because in the past we have had two art teachers at my school, and one always had to be in a room without a sink. If you know anything about teaching art you know that a sink is practically a requirement. So, I really do appreciate my sink… However in addition to my long job list as artist, teacher, maid, and counselor, I also have to add plumber. Some people don’t understand that you can’t shove every unused art material down the sink… You really need to throw excess in the trash (or even better save it for later or just don’t start with an excess) before you rinse off brushes, etc. Every now and then (and by every now and then I really mean at least once a week) one of my four sinks gets clogged, and fills with water, because people want to use the sink even though it obviously isn’t draining… and I whip out my plunger and get to it.

Even though unclogging my many sinks is a low-light in a way I can still look at it as a highlight because once all the nasty stuff is out of the way sometimes beautiful splashes of paint remain. I hate clogged sinks, but in a way it can turn into a work of art.

I used gesso to create a hazy base, then I drew the sink outline with pencil, and added value to create depth. I also used India Ink in the dark areas to emphasize the darker value. After I added all the shadows I went back with gesso to emphasize the highlights. To create the paint splatters I used bleeding tissue paper and blew it to create the splatter effect.

Please Be Careful

When my now husband Nick and I were first dating Nick had a motorcycle. He loved that motorcycle, but as most things with early college aged students, it didn’t last very long. About two months after he got his bike he was changing lanes when he ran into the back of a mini van, which was turning left with no signal on and no brake lights. He flew off the bike and his head hitting and breaking, the back windshield of the van broke his fall.

 

That morning I was making my way to my painting class, riding on the bus to get to North Campus, when I got a call from Nick. He cheerfully (cheerfully for the situation) asked, “guess where I am?”. I figured he was on the bus, so I began to look around as I asked where he was. His response was “I’m sitting in the back of an ambulance and I think I broke both of my legs”. I guess his response caught me by surprise because after I got off of the phone with him a complete stranger sitting across from me asked if I was okay. I was in such shock I didn’t know what to do, I should’ve stayed on the bus, rode it back to my car, and gone straight to the hospital. Instead, I actually went into my class and asked permission from my teacher to miss class because my boyfriend was just in a motorcycle accident. I’m sure my teacher thought I was crazy for even being there asking that question. I found my senses around the time I was pulling out of the parking lot to head to the hospital, and I sped down a road known for speed traps. Of course I was immediately pulled over and the poor cop had to walk up to the window of a very upset young lady. Luckily he let me on my way and I finally made it to the hospital.

 

It turns out Nick only broke one leg, severely bruised the bone on the other, and busted his lip. He had to wear a cast up to his hip for weeks, then get surgery to put screws in his leg. Which brings me to the explanation of this page… Nick had screws in his leg for four or five years when he decided to have them removed. They often bothered him, and he was about to go off of his parents insurance and decided to take advantage of it one last time. Going through surgery again brought up the old feelings related to the accident. I know that Nick will get another motorcycle, he loves riding them way too much. Therefore, this page is for his past motorcycle experiences and future experiences, me hoping and praying for his safety. The skeleton represents the danger of motorcycles, and the printed words “please be careful” are my hopes that another accident doesn’t await him in the future. I placed a red, capitalized “BE CAREFUL” over his chest. The black stripe on the right side flips open to show another skeleton on their knees praying for safety (me).

 

I printed and layered images of screws in the background to represent the screws that were taken out of his leg. I wanted the road to transition from a nice looking street to a scarier road. I used magazines for the beginning, I found images of roads and green for grass, etc. I then overlapped black construction paper that I painted with browns, blacks, and reds to continue the road. I printed an image of the motorcycle Nick had and two skeletons from the internet. On the skeleton I used to represent Nick I put it back through the printer and printed the words “Please be careful” on top. It was tricky to position it just right so the red “Be careful” ended up on the skeleton’s chest. Before I glued the bike and skeleton down I splattered red paint to look like blood. I cut the skeleton out, and detached his arms and legs so I could position the body the way I wanted. To create the flap I glued a piece of black construction paper on the backside of the right page. I then glued down the next page to cover up the backside of the flap. I used the extra’s from the printed “please be careful” words to layer under the flap and glued the other skeleton down.

Cookies!!!

I’m not so much a cake, cheesecake, rich dessert type person. However, I love cookies! I have spent a long time perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe… and I won’t lie… I am proud of them. Cookies are so much better than cake in many ways. You can easily transport them, they don’t require silverware, and when you make them you end up with 40 something cookies, rather than just one cake. I wanted to keep some of my pages more lighthearted, especially following my superhero page. If you only focus on the bad things then looking back on your journal won’t be the best experience. You need to strike a balance, you need to be able to show multiple sides of you and the going ons in your life, good and bad.

This page is mostly made from paper. I cut squares of blue construction paper and glued them down, slightly spaced, in the background. I then took gesso and painted it in between the pieces of construction paper to create a tile look. I then watered down gesso and splattered it to make it look like milk. For the cookies I cut ovals out of white paper, and water colored them using browns and yellows. I cut the chips out of brown and black paper and glued them on top. I typically add the words with sharpie.

Tip: If you are using wet material (like gesso, watercolors, bleeding tissue paper, etc.) I have found that it works best to cut pages out of your book, create the pages, then glue them on top of a page still attached to the binding. This will prevent you from ending up with wiggly, warped pages.

I Wish I Could Save the Day

When you think “superhero” I feel like images of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and the like come to mind. Going through college we were often told we were going to have the opportunity and ability to change kids lives, we were going to become heroes. Recently I was talking to a future teacher. She was finishing up her degree, working on student teaching. She was talking about how excited she was to get out and start teaching, how she wanted to look into inner city schools, how she loves the “bad” kids because she feels a need to help them. I remember feeling that way… and I also remember my first year teaching when I had to realize I couldn’t save everyone. After talking to the soon to be teacher I told her that I felt the same way she did when I graduated. However, since then I have become more realistic. I found out that some students you can’t help, and if you fully invest yourself into those kids you will take your work home every night and it becomes harder to sleep. After the word realistic tumbled out of my mouth I felt guilty and very cynical, and I am not a cynical person.

At the time when I created this page I was dealing with one of the first students who I truly felt lost with. He didn’t want to do anything, he didn’t want to listen to directions, he didn’t want to be in school, yet he was in school… and he was there everyday. He didn’t have much of a home life, so I had no one to call to help me get him into shape. He was a fifth year senior. I heard more than one rumor that he had his hand in some drug dealing and various not so great things. I tried talking to him, I tried listening, I tried more structure, less structure, compromise, I went to the counselors, I went to the administrators, but what do you do with a student who doesn’t care. A person who doesn’t care about anything, who is relieved to be given a detention so when he doesn’t show up he gets ISS, then suspension so he has a reason not to come to school. He was the inspiration for this page because eventually he didn’t come back to school, eventually I guess he realized there really wasn’t a point, because he really didn’t care. I tried so hard, and on more than one occasion I went home and had to lay on the floor, take deep breaths, fight back tears, and consider other career options. This page is for him because I wish I could save the day… but I can’t. I hope I have helped other students, but he will always be in the back of my mind, because in the end I feel responsible for him not coming back.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure despite overwhelming obstacles”, I hope to live up to this one day. I guess in a way I have because I continued my job despite the many obstacles and difficult students who I didn’t break through with. It feels cynical, I feel more cynical… but maybe it really is more realistic, and sometimes you need that to get through your day.

This is one of the more complex pages I did in the beginning. Remember, you need to experiment to create interesting pages. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. This time it did work out, but it took a good bit of trial and error. I printed images of superheros, cut them out, and glued them to the background on the right page. I found an interesting American flag image in a magazine and glued it to a sheet of computer paper, then printed the words “I wish I could save the day” repeated, as well as the hero quote, on top of the magazine page. I then printed batman on a transparency sheet (if you try this make 100% sure you get a safe to print on sheet… I have melted a transparency in a printer before…). I then cut him out and glued him on top. I emphasized the quote by outlining it in sharpie. To tone down the superhero images on the right I watered down gesso and painted a layer on top to create more of a hazy look and help the flag stand out.

Your Present Plans Will Be Successful

Anyone who has gone through grad school can probably relate to this page. This is supposed to represent the year I spent getting my Master’s of Art Education. The page was originally inspired by a fortune I got in a fortune cookie that said, “Your present plans will be successful”. At the time I got that fortune a lot of things were happening, including me researching and writing my thesis. Because a thesis is basically a very large research paper, you have to find a number of sources to support every SINGLE thing that you say and claim you make. I felt like my room was beginning to resemble a library and my computer was filled with journal and newspaper articles. I really wanted this page to capture how I felt, and I was very proud of it when I was done. My life was being swallowed by research and books, the same goes for this page. 120 something pages later I finally finished and got my degree! It was the best feeling in the world to know that I was 100% done with school… unless I decide to pursue my MFA…

I cut out as many images of books as I could find in magazines and glued them down… it was as easy as that! I also ripped up images of hardwood for the floor, then found lamps, a desk, chair, and the computer I wish I had to complete the scene.

At this time not only was I pursuing my Masters, I was also working on getting my first real live, grown up job. I had been doing research for my thesis at Eastside High School twice a week during my Spring semester, in 2009, and it just so happened that one of the art teachers decided she wanted to quit to go back to school for her Masters.. It worked out perfectly for me to fill her space since I already had experience in the school, the Principal basically skipped the interview process and told me if I wanted a job he would give one to me! Since I felt the fortune I got also applied to this transition in my life I decided to have the fortune tie into this page as well. This was an experiment that worked out really well!

To create the base I ripped up pages from the Newton County job fair (which is the county I work in) and layered them. I then ripped up all of the visitors passes I wore when I was doing my research at the school to bring focus to the fortune. To create the hand I sketched it out, then filled it in with gesso. Gesso creates a really nice base to draw on because it is such a smooth surface. After the gesso dried I used a normal pencil to add details and shade. I used an Xacto knife to cut out the hole to allow you to see the fortune through the three pages.  I put packaging tape where the computer screen is meant to me to create more of a screen look. Between the work page and future page I left the hole open.

My present plans at the time were to finish school and get a job. Both worked out for me in the end. To wrap up this “series” of pages I wanted to have a page the represented my future. Since I really had no idea what was coming next I decided to fill the pages with black sharpie lines to represent the unknown. The mascot for my school is an eagle, which I decided to add to the very first page so you can see through the hole on the left page. This was an important addition because work is the future of most adults… and it was a possibility that this job was going to be a part of my future. It also tied into the first page because my Master’s degree was another step towards my career. This series is very personal to me, and I think that is is more successful because of that.