Sunday, January 30, 2011

Love is Eternal

Dear Mom,

You were taken from us six years ago today. It's hard to believe I haven't heard your voice in so long. Harder to believe that I'll never be able to hear it again.

Creative expression has always been a part of my life, but it became even more of an outlet after your death. I embraced art as a catharsis for grief. As a kid, I remember you throwing yourself wholeheartedly into daily challenges by putting a creative spin on things. You went all out. You faced fear with humor. I remember how once, while going through chemo, you'd mentioned to the doctor that you'd broken out in hives. He examined you, only to find you'd covered yourself in happy face stickers.

No fear, I recall, while working the palette knife across the canvas. Bright colors combine, change. New ones emerge. Make a statement. While spray painting through a stencil, I chuckle at the memory of when a woman had taken offense at your license plate holder, which read, "Dull women have immaculate houses." She'd waited by our car for you to get out my elementary school, where you taught. "I have an immaculate house, and I'm not dull," she said. You'd waited a moment, then got in her face and told her to "Get a [expletive] life."

It wasn't easy to have you for a teacher in 5th grade. After all, you didn't even let me call you "mom" in the classroom. But I remember your enthusiasm for teaching (and learning), your ability to connect with the students, to create a dynamic learning environment, to try and make the subject matter come alive. You'd even gone so far as to dress up like Plato for a discussion on philosophy and democracy!

Thanks to you, it feels good to stand in front of 50-something first graders -- including my own daughter -- to teach a lesson in art history.  In fact, the more I do it, the more I enjoy it.

Thanks to you, I'm not afraid to take risks with my art, to speak loudly through it. I have learned so much about myself while trying to gather the pieces of healing these past six years. By remembering your strength, I've found mine. By channeling your enthusiasm, new doors have opened for me.

I still miss you terribly every day. But you're still my mother and teacher, and for that, I'm grateful.

Rest in the peace of a Montauk sunset that you'd always loved. Perhaps one day we will watch it together again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Art Carnage Happens January 29th

Art Carnage Happens January 29th

I'll be selling my Area 718 art, headbands, and merchandise at the next Art Carnage event at The Soundry (see the link above and details below.) With about 20 art vendors and a bunch of performers, it will be a unique night of art, music, dancing, improv comedy, variety acts, and general chaos. If you're a pretentious art snob, you may want to sit this one out, pour yourself a sherry, and bemoan the deemphasis of submission slides in the gallery world. If, however, you're like the rest of us, grab a coffee in the Soundry Cafe and get ready for an interesting evening. The first 25 "Carnagees" will receive FREE Baddie Bags filled with goodies from the vendors.

Art Carnage
8 p.m. - 12 a.m.
The Soundry
316 Dominion Rd. NE
Vienna, VA 22180

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Creative Revolution in the Classroom

Ever paint with chopsticks? How about a toothbrush? Did you know that you can marbleize paper with shaving cream? Or turn a pedicure toe separator into a stamp or a mask (reverse stencil)?

Last week, three classes of middle schoolers at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, VA, joined my Creative Revolution. I had the pleasure of demonstrating graffiti fusion techniques to 7th and 8th graders, showing them how to achieve textured, graffiti-inspired effects using acrylic and fabric paints and "tools" of common household items. Deb Fitzgerald, their art teacher, had set up a variety of printmaking stations for them: monotype color field, bubble print, stencils, stamping, fabric sprays, and marbleized paper. Students were also asked to come up with a list of words that either described them, or examples of good citizenship or patriotism. These words could be incorporated into their prints.

Viva La Creative Revolution!

Deb Fitzgerald of Lake Braddock Secondary School

It was great fun watching the students' expressions as they traveled among the printmaking stations and saw how their prints transformed by adding layers. Their enthusiasm was infectious! Many thanks to all the art students, the school administration, and especially Deb Fitzgerald for putting all of this together. I look forward to returning another day next semester!

Take a look at the students' works in progress:

While the students were at the printmaking stations, I continued layering my demo projects. At the end of class, I showed them the results:

Graffiti fusion on brown paper bag

Graffiti fusion using acrylics and alcohol inks on transparencies. I had a few student volunteers carve into the paint with various tools.

Graffiti fusion demos on brown paper bags

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This Week in the Studio: Salt, Spray, and Sweat

Hello, friends!

While we've been shivering through our coldest winter in recent memory here (at least it seems that way every afternoon while outside waiting for the school bus to arrive), things are heating up in the studio.

Deb Fitzgerald, an art teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School, recently asked me to visit the school to meet with her students. She occasionally invites local artists to her classes as a way for the students to discuss career ideas and explore different types of art. So, on Friday I'll be demonstrating printmaking and graffiti fusion techniques to her 7th and 8th grade classes. I'll be teaching them how to achieve textured, layered effects with some common household items. Hopefully the kids will find it interesting, and hopefully I'll be caffeinated enough to get through teaching the 1st class at 7:30!

Here's a look at the creative alchemy taking place in the studio this week, to prepare for the classes:

Basic painted backgrounds on transparency, sketch paper, and discarded cardboard packaging (l-r)

Spraying fabric paint through a stencil of die-cut scrapbook paper

Applying heavy-bodied acrylic on rubber shelf liner to a background

Graffiti with Sharpie poster paint markers over the rose stencil. In hindsight, I probably overworked this one. Will most likely cut it up for ATCs or backgrounds for handmade business cards.

Fabric spray paint over heavy-bodied acrylic

I really liked the distressed look of this background. I'd applied a very thick layer of gesso to manila folder. When dry, it felt like leather. It took a variety of textures pretty well, too.

Backgrounds made from watercolor paint treated with kosher salt (left and right), and fabric paint stencil on vellum (middle)

Music in the studio this week:

-- Original Cast Recording of American Idiot on Broadway
-- My Chemical Romance: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
-- Christina Perri: Jar of Hearts
-- Blue Man Group: The Complex