A place to see what is happening in Fine Arts at Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted and Creative

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A New President

The whole school gathered in our community room last week to witness the inauguration of President Barak Obama. Together we stood up, sat down, applauded, cried and cheered. Later that day, in the art studio, I showed some artwork created by artists from around the world; portraits of Barak Obama. I was gratified to point out that with the exception of bronze, students in our art studio have available to them all the media used by the artists in the slides I presented, even, surprisingly, dryer lint. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/16/obama.art.irpt/index.html)
After viewing the slides, “E” (age 10) was inspired to draw president Obama’s portrait. This is her first attempt, drawn from memory.

An observant classmate (“G”) noticed the New York Times Magazine I brought in and displayed, titled Obama’s People. I watched as she quietly brought the magazine, which she opened to a portrait of Obama, and placed it in view of her classmate. “E” then had a reference to work from and proceeded to make two more versions of the portrait, now working with more information.

I often point out to students that artists sometimes work from imagination, sometimes from memory, sometimes from observation, and sometimes from exploration and experimentation. Providing insight and the right tools is not just the role of the teacher however, as was demonstrated in our studio when one student (“G”, mentioned above) supported another with care and respect.

Developing Craft - Handmade Paper Artist

“J” started his experimentation with papermaking last year. Once he learned the basic steps of crafting paper from recycled and found materials, he began exploring the idea of using small batches of different colored pulp to combine in patterns within a single sheet of paper. This idea led him to devising various methods to keep the colors separate. He made dividers out of cardboard and stencils out of paper and tagboard.
Last week, during our extended “Wednesday Workshop” time, “J” tested out an intricate and ambitious stencil cut from the same kind of Styrofoam we often use to make relief prints (one could use a meat tray as well). He prepared his pulps, agonized over which color should be background and which should be used for the image of the bird he cut into his stencil. A third pulp was prepared for a design element surrounding the bird. The result was not as crisp and clear as he imagined, but while assessing the experience, “J” commented that he likes the end result because it is less overt, more abstract, and this he finds more interesting to look at.


9 ½ year-old “R” has spent a good deal of time constructing with cardboard tubes. He often constructs architectural pieces; buildings of all types. He also makes aircraft and space craft. This week’s animal form was a departure for him, and I observed his process with interest. After constructing the body and legs, neck and tail of this creature, he needed an armature for the head, and asked if I had a ball of some sort. Since I didn’t have anything that met his specifications, I suggested he could fashion his own ball out of crumpled newspaper.
During a recent whole-group demonstration at the start of class, “R” had seen many possibilities for finding or crafting armatures for papier mache sculptures, and readily adapted one of these techniques to fashion just the right size and shape for his animal’s head.

This watercolor and marker painting was created by 6-year old "K". It was hard for me to watch it walk out the door with "K," because it's magic had already cast a spell on me.

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