Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pacon Plastic Poster Board - part 2

 A couple of days ago I told you about a new product from Pacon that I had the opportunity to test.  I loved the assorted vibrant colors I used for my collage experiments, but the color choice that intrigued me most was the "clear" (which I think can be more accurately described as translucent), so I experimented with a couple more possible project ideas for the Pacon website.

When I was a kid, my parents purchased a pair of paintings on glass at a fair, that the artist had painting while they watached, and they hung on our living room wall for decades.  I wish I knew what happened to them.  The artist had painted the landscapes on the back of the glass, beginning with the foreground details.  These paintings were the inspiration for my ideas for the translucent plastic poster board.

I decided to use the translucency to create some atmospheric perspective.  One side is very smooth; I will be referring to this side as the front, and the other is slightly textured; this side is the back.  I sketched a quick skyline on paper, put it under the translucent board with the back side facing UP, and began by painting yellows and whites for windows and lights.
 I painted with acrylic, which dried quickly. As soon as it dried, I painted some buildings in black and various grays.  I painted these right OVER the windows, so you could no longer see them on the back.
 On top of the buildings, still on the BACK, I quickly painted the sky, with clouds and some smoke coming from smokesacks on the buildings.  Here's what the back looked like at this point. 
While that was drying, I also painting this sunburst sky on another piece of the poster board.  I cannot seem to get the color balance accurate in any of these color photos, but you'll get the idea.
When I set that aside to draw, I went back to my skyline painting.  I flipped it over, and this is how it looked on the front.  Since the windows were painted FIRST, their detail was all visible. 
Then, I used some more acrylic paint, this time on the FRONT, to paint some foreground in front of the buildings.  I hadn't planned well, so I didn't leave a lot of room for the foreground, but I was able to fit in some foliage.  Here it is.
 As a final step, I used a black Sharpie marker on the FRONT and added a few line details on the buildings here and there.  This is the final product. 
I think the "backwards thinking" required to plan this out would be a fun challenge for upper elementary or mid-level students.  You will be painting FIRST what you usually paint LAST!

Meanwhile... the color burst sky on the back of the other piece of translucent plastic poster board had dried, so I flipped it over and, using a black Sharpie on the front, I created this silhouette of a bare tree.
 Viewed from the backside, this is what it looks like.
 I decided to do one last fun detail.  I flipped back to the front, and, using a white Sharpie paint marker, I added a skim of snow on the top side of the branches and the ground.  I also added a few flakes flying through the sky.  Here's the final product.
I'm still toying with other ideas for the clear board, so maybe, down the road, there will be a "part 3" post about the Pacon Plastic Poster Board.  I'm busy playing with colored Sharpies on the board, using them on both the front and back to experiment with the color mixing possibilities when light passes through when hung in a window.
By the way, for those of you intrigued by this product and want to get some, it is currently only available at Michael's, in both the clear and white, but School Specialty will be picking it up soon, and they will offer all colors I shared in my previous post.  So keep your eyes peeled!  This is a really fun product, with lots of possibility! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pacon Plastic Poster Board - part 1

 I have been lucky enough to have an opportunity to test a new product for Pacon to develop some lesson ideas for its use, that will eventually be posted on their website.  The product is Plastic Poster Board, and I've gotta tell you, I kinda LOVE this stuff!  So much possibility!  The poster board is 22"x 28", and I received an assortment that included a selection of black, red, yellow, azure blue, fluorescent green, fluorescent pink, and clear.  The clear is, to me, more translucent than clear.  It also comes in white but my pack didn't include any white.
When I started playing with it, Matisse's cutouts, such as the one below, immediately came to mind.  I also  thought about Calder's mobiles, and the colorful paintings of Stuart Davis.
So I cut it into rectangular chunks, and then, while sitting in the passenger seat of hubby's car on the drive to Maine, I did some "drawing with scissors", saving all the negative and positive shapes from my cutting.  My original idea was to use these cutout shapes to make mini collages to hang in a window perhaps, or to string the shapes together to hang in a Calder-esque window mobile.  But instead, I ended up gluing larger collages, beginning with the first two pieces at the top of the post.
Then, especially smitten with the translucent stuff, I made the collage above and glued it on the translucent board.  This could easily be hung on a window.  Thinking about lesson development and the Elements of Art and Principles of Design when I made these pieces, I set myself some parameters.  I made sure that each piece included at least one positive and one negative shape, and at least one geometric and one amorphous shape.  I tried to create a successful composition using asymmetrical balance.  I used repetition, movement/rhythm, contrast/variety, unity/harmony, and so on.  I experimented with backing it using a piece of white tagboard,
 Or a piece of blue.
 Here's a better view of its translucency.
 I decided to play with some Sharpie paint markers  on the piece.  I drew line designs on the BACK side with a white blue, and red paint marker, and on the FRONT with a black marker.  Here is the finished piece, placed over a piece of black.
 I used some more pieces that I'd cut, including some translucent strips, to make this quickie collage on blue, below, and then I used the Sharpie paint markers on the front.
When I held it up to a window and let the light glow through, the blue looked really great.  It occurred to me that it would be fun to make 'fish tanks' to hang in a window, or perhaps portholes.

I made this final piece below using even more of my cutouts.  For this piece, I decorated the front using a black Sharpie paint marker.  Perhaps I went a little too pattern crazy? 
  A few things fun facts about the plastic poster board -
  • It is WONDERFUL to cut.  Your scissors will glide right through it.  Your students will love cutting it!  It will serve as a wonderful alterntive to construction paper for many collage purposes.
  • And of course, unlike paper, it is not going to rip.
  • Plus, the colors are not going to  fade, (at least that's what I think).
  • The colors are limited, but they are rich and bright.  Very appealing!
  • For flat work, Elmer's Glue-All or glue sticks hold quite well.  I was actually surprised; it glues together much more effectively than, for example, colored sheet foam.  (Since it is not porous, you will always be able to pull pieces off glued with Elmer's or glue sticks.)
  • Sharpie paint markers work fabulously on it.  Regular black Sharpies also work well on all colors of the board (except the black, of course), and, on the translucent board, you can use any color Sharpie, including metallics.
  • I discovered that the Playcolor tempera stick samples, including metallics, that were given to me by a vendor at last spring's NAEA convention, also work effectively on the plastic poster board.  
 My next post will be a completely different art project idea that I developed  specifically for the 'clear' translucent Plastic Poster Board.   But in the meantime, one last image.  The pink fish is a positive/negative cutout image, with both pieces glued onto one piece of blue.  The two fishes were colored the same way, using the paint markers yet again.
So many other other collage ideas...  Funky colorful cities, haunted house collages with windows, Picasso-style cubist silly portraits, and so much more.  Can you tell I like this stuff???  What are your ideas?  Funky flowers?  Crazy cars? Cutting shapes to string as charms on necklaces or earrings?  What else? 

Once I have completed writing up the step-by-step lessons, complete with Common Core standards, and they are posted on the Pacon site, I will let you all know the link to find them!  In the meantime, feel free to ask questions and if you get a chance to use this stuff, GO FOR IT!!  You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

How Art Can Develop Your Brain

Can a walk through your favorite art museum increase your own creativity and ability to innovate?  Author and art historian Jonathan Fineberg thinks so! 
I turned on the radio in the car today to listen to my favorite public radio station (NCPR; North Country Public Radio broadcast from Canton NY).  The show Here and Now was on, and the story was so timely and meaningful that after I got home, I sat in my car in the hot driveway so that I could finish hearing the rest of the interview and scribble down some notes.
I want you to be able to hear this interview too, so without further ado, here's the link to the story: "How Art Can Develop Your Brain".  The interview was with art historian Jonathan Fineberg, talking about his his new book, Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain.  During the interview, he referenced works by Dubuffet, Calder, Motherwell, Miro, and Christo.  
Please note: the photos in this post are NOT from the book.  Rather, they are photos I have taken at visits to various art museums, and have all been previously featured in this blog.)
Fineberg's thesis is that viewing modern art makes our brains more creative.  He says when we look at modern art, we are increasing our ability to think creatively and to innovate. This is certainly an excellent bit of ammunition to have when fighting to protect our art programs!
Here's a quote from describing the book:
"Based on Fineberg’s Presidential Lectures at the University of Nebraska, his book examines the relationship between artistic production, neuroscience, and the way we make meaning in form. Drawing on the art of Robert Motherwell, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Christo, Jean Dubuffet, and others, Fineberg helps us understand the visual unconscious, the limits of language, and the political impact of art. Throughout, he works from the conviction that looking is a form of thinking that has a profound impact on the structure of the mind."
I generally prefer reading fiction, but this is one non-fiction book I definitely not only WANT to read, but is also a book that I definitely NEED to read.  But it's a new book, just out in hardcover, with an amazon price of $31.60.  Oh dear...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sculpture on the beach

 Every August, we head to Maine, for a dose of the ocean.  
That's my husband, below, at Drake's Island Beach at Wells Preserve.
 I always post some photos of the sculpture we build out of beach sand on Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport.  In the past, I've shared Crazy Hary the Octopus, a big cat,a dragonfly, Melvin the Snail, a dragon, and  there have been more that weren't photographed.  My husband and adult son dig a huge pile of moist sand for me, I shape the sculpture, and my son lends a hand, particularly in the smoothing of the sand around the sculpture.  This is important in creating clean shadows so that you can really see the sculpture in the bright sunlight.
This year, my son's girlfriend joined us as well.  But they both had been ultra-busy with jobs and more, and were totally exhausted.  My son just didn't have the muscle power to do the work of previous years, and I could see he needed to rest more than anything.  Above, we all are sitting on the porch of a favorite Kennebunkport B&B, the Maine Stay.

Anyhow, back to the sculpture:  My husband and I dug a pile of sand, but it was not as big as previous years.  I've been watching spiders this summer, so I thought I'd build a big spider.  I shaped the spider, but with the hot sun and limited assistance, and smaller-than-intended size, it was mediocre.  Plus, the tide was coming in rather than going out, so the sand didn't have the moisture I would have liked, making it harder to shape.  I decided to put seaweed on the legs to make them look hairy, but  then the body looked awful.  The girlfriend collected a bunch of seaweed and suggested I use it to cover the whole body, so that's what I did.  It was a hot day, and I ran out of steam when it came time to clean up and smooth the sand around the sculpture (and I decided swimming in the ocean was a better choice), so the spider just doesn't have the planned impact.  For the first time ever, we weren't swarmed with kids asking to help.  People didn't stop to look at it or snap a photo.  I'm almost embarrassed to share the photos with you!
Meanwhile, the next day, while taking a walk at the beautiful and pristine Drake's Island Beach at the Wells Preserve, my husband and I encountered a sculpture on the beach.  It made me think of Robinson Crusoe, and I love that someone put so much time and thoughtfulness into building this incredible structure.  It was above the tide line, so it will probably be there for a while!  Here are several views of the sculpture. 

Another sunny day, another beach...  I love sun-bleached wood, and I came a rather large piece of 'driftwood'  in the tidal marshland area at Parson's Beach (below).  My husband has learned to ignore me when I ask him if we can bring home something like this...
or this beauty below, also at Parson's Beach. 
Below, incoming tide, at all three beaches

Friday, August 7, 2015

The sound track of my life

Since this is my blog, I guess I can write about whatever I want.  And today it's not about art, it's about music, sort of.  The idea for this post came while on a walk on the nearby bike trail and the adjacent neighborhood.  So, since I don't like to write a post without images, the photos in this post were all taken on that walk.  (By the way, can anyone tell me what the heck this plant is, in the 2 photos below?)
It all started when the sun suddenly came out brightly, and I found myself humming the Beatles song "Here Comes the Sun".  And then James Taylor's "Sunny Skies Sleeps in the Morning".  And Jonathan Edward's "Sunshine (Go Away Today)".  And it got me thinking about how I always associate weather with songs, and I found myself writing this post in my head as I walked.  (How many rain songs can you name?  There are many!)

Plus my personal memories are often associated with a particular song.  I will hear a song on the radio, and suddenly I am transported to an event in my life that took place 50 years ago,when that song happened to be playing!  Instant association.  Happens all the time!  I an put myself back in my childhood best friend's bedroom, listening to the Kingston Trio sing about lemon trees and talking about cute boys, or in another friend's basement playroom, jumping from couch to couch as we belted out the lyrics to "That's Amore!" along the song on the radio.  Makes me smile.  
 Meanwhile, still walking, I saw the purple flowers and red berries in the photo below, and found myself singing "Wooden Ships" (recorded by both Crosby Stills & Nash and Jefferson Airplane) - the lyrics refer to eating purple berries for 6 or 7 weeks, and I guess somehow my brain made the purple and berry connection.
I do this song-association thing constantly.  When I'm in the car with my husband, and we drive past the nearby Schroon River, I'm instantly belting out "Moon River" (but subbing Schroon for Moon, of course).  Or "We'll be Coming Round the Mountain" when we are, obviously, driving around a mountain.  And so on.  My husband has learned to cope...  Just smiles and keeps driving. 
This is all pretty ironic.  Because while I love music, and seem to constantly have a song or rhythm going on in my head, I'm not actually very musical.  I tried my hand at musical instruments, but learning to read music was like learning to read French.  I couldn't ever make it an automatic thing.  But there was always music in my home, and I recall singing while we washed the dishes.

My son is very musical.  He is now an adult, in the professional world, but continues to play in a band (The Functionals) with longtime friends and and band-mates from both high school and college.  Here they are below at a recent gig.  They are raucous, and loud.  My son is the skinny bass player on the left.  I could attach an audio clip, but I don't want to blow out your eardrums.  Use the link above to hear some hard-driving rock and roll.
Now back to the irony.  I sadly do not have a good singing voice.  I first was told my voice wasn't good when I wasn't put in the elementary school chorus.  My mother made an apron for the music teacher, and suddenly I was in the chorus after all.  Bribery!  But there's something mighty suspicious about this whole thing.  First of all, have you ever heard of ANYONE being excluded from elementary chorus??  Really?  My voice is not THAT bad!  Plus, my mother would constantly be knitting, crocheting, and needlepointing, but I do not EVER recall seeing her sew.  Not ever. But yet, she reminded me about the apron many times over the years, when she felt the need to cut me down a notch or two.  I wonder what the true story really was.  I'll never know...

Anyhow, nowadays the Beatles play prominently in my personal soundtrack.  When I'm kayaking across the lake, and a strong wind pops up and I need to turn up the power, I sing Beatles songs at the top of my lungs while I paddle.  Is there anyone who doesn't know the lyrics to every Beatles song?    Or when I look in the water while I'm paddling, and see clouds reflected, I find myself singing Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" (the line about "clouds in my coffee").  Every time.  Seriously.  Which is weird because the lake does not look like coffee, and I never drink coffee anyhow.
But there's one part of my personal soundtrack that makes me sad, that perhaps I was an inadequate mother.  Many of the songs I sing (around the house, and in the car with hubby) are old traditional songs, like "Oh My Darling, Clementine", or "Red River Valley".  Or songs my mother taught me, like an old Pepsi Cola ad ("Pepsi Cola hits the spot; 12 full ounces, that's a lot.  Twice as much for a nickel, too; Pepsi Cola is the drink for you!")

Or "See-Saw, Marjorie Daw" (what does that mean, anyhow?).  And I realize that my son  knows none of them.  Or the singsong rhymes of my childhood, or word association songs my mom taught me.  They will all be gone with me.  It definitely saddens me.
How did I let this happen?  I sang to my son when he was little, but somewhere along the way I must have stopped (or been told to stop, perhaps?).  Anyhow, I'm quite sure my son wouldn't know "On Top of Old Smoky" or even the Beatles' beautiful and tender "I Will",  though I sung it to him constantly as an infant (usually followed by "When I'm 64", with the lyrics"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?").
Do you have a personal soundtrack that lives inside you? Do you, like me, tap out rhythms with your toes inside your shoes when you are waiting at the doctor's office perhaps?  Do you hum music to yourself when you are alone?  Sing along with the radio in the car?  Or is your soundtrack pumped in constantly through headphones?  I wonder if this connection to music and rhythm, and making musical associations to anything and everything has something to do with creativity and being artistic.