Of Tide Pools, Art, & Math Scores

IMG_0602I am captivated by tide pools.  They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish.  Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.

Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.

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Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use.  Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution.  Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.

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final piece

 

This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution.  I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence.  Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful.  Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.

So what does all of this have to do with math scores?  After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation.  I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations.  A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely.  Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone).  Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more color-4503279_1920testing.

So back to art.  There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process.  In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music.  In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes.  All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions.  In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.

My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun.  Children need creative outlets!  And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!”  Maybe have students visit tide pools too.  Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?

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courtesy Pixabay

The Art of Germination

Growth drawing

It’s the growing season and my garden is being planted in stages.  I marvel at the magic of seeds- how something so small can germinate to become a huge sunflower or a plant that offers juicy red tomatoes.IMG_2158

With the exceptions of weeds, seeds cannot manage successfully on their own in a garden.  The soil must be tilled and enriched.  Then once the seeds have been planted they must be nurtured with proper watering and attention lest they be eaten by some pest or choked by weeds.  It’s work to bring seeds to their full potential of flower or food.

Ideas are so much like seeds.  The soil of the mind must be fallow and fertile.  To have a fallow mind, one must be open and ready to receive the seeds of ideas.  Fertile means paying attention and being open.  Ideas often come when the mind is relaxed like when you’re taking a shower, on a walk or doing something innocuous like washing the dishes.  Having a head is full of earbuds and social media is not conducive to collecting seeds the muse has to offer.

IMG_2164When they come, catch them by writing or sketching them in a notebook less they blow away into someone else’s “garden”.  Then give them the attention they need to germinate.

Like seeds, not all ideas will manifest.  Some are not viable. Then others are past their shelf life.  Don’t be afraid to throw them out and get new ones.

I’ve had ideas like these artichoke plants that surprised me and grew into something much more than I expected.  I started these plants last year from tiny seeds and now they are 6-foot record-setting monsters!IMG_2146

You don’t have to plant a garden.  Just get a pot with healthy soil, some seeds, water them, and enjoy the magic of germination.

 

In Every Seed a Promise

A germ of possibility

Tucked into a tiny package

Waiting to unfurl its cotyledons

Up in the sunlight

From the depths of fertile ground

 

The sprout will grow vigorously

With the right conditions

Beneath the suns rays and the spring rains

With the breath of nature whispering

“grow, grow”

 

Tend it with care

Lest it be choked by weeds or eaten by pests

Then feast from your labors

and natures’ mystery

The wonder of a tiny bit of matter

That waited to reveal its purpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Ashes

IMG_1992When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by.  Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure.  Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask.  This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.

This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy.  The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop.  These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing.  To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.

Out of the ashes we can find beauty.  We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.

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So Why Put a Bird on it?

4efEveryone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?

David Attenborough

One of the most famous sketches in the hit show “Portlandia” is the “Put a Bird on It” sketch” where Frank and Carrie, the actors mock the epidemic use of birds on crafty, artsy items that abound on Etsy, other internet commerce sites and of course, Portland hipster stores. (I live an hour from Portland).  Not too soon after, T-shirts, cups, and posters started appearing with the meme, “Put a bird on it.”

Beyond being a birder at an early age and loving the uniqueness of birds.  I have several feeders about my house and so love watching the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and juncos as they feed.  They are my neighbors.  They fascinate me as they have with humanity for centuries.

Continue reading “So Why Put a Bird on it?”

In Praise of Autumn

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 
― Albert Camus

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The Fall Equinox has passed and I am absolutely thrilled to be deep in the autumn colors.  This is the season where I am released from the obligations of tending to biomass.  Living on acreage in W. Oregon we have our share.  We have a big garden, an orchard, lawn and flower beds.  It’s a place where plants like to grow.

The rains have begun, the garden is torn out, the flower beds are mulched for the winter, and the firewood is in and stacked.  This frees up more time to concentrate on my artwork, writing, and music.  I sing in a women’s choir and we are getting ready for our 40401429_1888497791198499_407333225178857472_oholiday show.  Additionally, I play the bodhran, an Irish drum and am learning to play the tenor guitar.  Travels are finished for the year.  It’s good to be home.

Continue reading “In Praise of Autumn”