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

Studio Notes 11/5/2018

writing-828911_1920From my writing desk….

My second piece of prose “Bull’s Eye” was published recently by “Montana Mouthful” a literary magazine out of Missoula Montana.  This was in their latest“Haunted” issue on page 15.  They also were the publisher of my first prose piece “Looking for Abraham” back in their August Secrets issue on page 29.  Both were blind submissions so I guess got lucky!  In both cases, having a submission deadline got me focused and finished– even though my inner critic was whispering “not good enough.”  I’m so glad I followed Natalie Goldberg’s advice “Let others be the judge of your work”.

Continue reading “Studio Notes 11/5/2018”

Studio Notes- August 2018

IMG_0602IMG_1066 (1)I’m still working away trying to hone monotype techniques on my gelatin plate.  A monoptype is a one -of-a-kind print.  I cheifly use stencils and then sometimes stamps to make my images.  Then I go back in with colored pencil to highlight.  The following two prints were inspired by my visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in May.  I closed down the place gawking at all the beautiful seal life.

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My nightly delight is Lizzy, our little feral cat who pokes her head up at the door begging for food with her pathetic meow.  I can finally pet her and pick up her bony little body.  Most likely she has feline leukemia.  We feed her all she wants but she never gains any weight.  I had to paint a picture of her.IMG_1023

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“Lizzy”  watercolor, India Ink and colored pencil

The Artful River

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann HesseSiddhartha

Over the July 4th weekend we took our annual trip camping up the McKenzie River here in Oregon.  The river has its beginnings at Clear Lake, from springs that immerge from lava tubes at the North end of the lake. It then runs down a steep grade in a series of gorgeous waterfalls & pools before running free. The water is sparkling clear.  Being by the McKenzie River is healing, but being on it and part of its energy in our kayaks is akin to a spiritual experience.

I find peace in rivers, especially the McKenzie. They provide inspiration for my art & poetry.

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The River Called to Me

With a voice born out of eternity

Fluent in all languages

Come

Rest

By my sparkling water

A silver ribbon in a dark forest

 

“McKenzie Rapid”- Gelatin print & stamps over pen & ink. The feeling of being in the midst of a rapid in a kayak is so exhilarating. I tried to capture the energy here.

 

 

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Salmon Run Raku

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We Matter

img_0324.jpgHow did it happen that the U.S. government has forgotten the well being of its own people?  I watched the “March for Our Lives” rally broadcast this morning from Washington D.C. heartsick hearing the Stoneman Douglas student speakers express their pain from the mass shooting at their school.  Equally heartbreaking was hearing their frustration from the lack of response from leaders who have done virtually NOTHING after the myriad of massacres that have occurred in schools and public spaces across the US in recent time. I substitute teach part-time in high schools.  It’s sad that every time I walk in the door I feel I am not in a safe place anymore.  Students feel that every day.

There was a pivotal point in one student’s speech where he said we should “arm teachers.”  I sucked in my breath saying to myself “oh not this.”  The student went on to say, however, that teachers should be well armed with pencils, paper, books and good enough salaries to teach.  The crowd roared. As an educator, I know how underfunded our education system is in this country.  We fund wars across the globe, give tax breaks to the rich, but neglect the safety, education, healthcare, & mental health care of our own people.  WE MATTER.

If anyone can make a change in this country, these kids can.  They have started a movement and I am right there with them.  For now, all I could do was write a blog post & make a picture (but that’s what artist’s do).

 

I’d Rather Be Printmaking

I love making monotypes  These are one of a kind prints, not produced in an edition format.  Currently, I work on a gelatin plate that I made myself from Knox gelatin and glycerin.  It has the feel of a flat gummy bear.  The ink is rolled on and then I press the paper down on the plate.  Stencils and textures applied to the plate make interesting patterns and shapes.  At times I have a concept in mind- other times I work from my intuition alone.  When I see a composition forming, I apply finishing touches with stamps, stencils, and colored pencils.  Sometimes  I apply collage elements.

Every piece I make is an adventure.  There are no mistakes.  If I don’t like how a piece is turning out, It can cut up and be turned into greeting cards, bookmarks, or go in the collage box for use in another piece.

My particular process can be pretty involved.  I have tried to document most of the steps.

Salmon River

 

 

I’d Rather Be…

The “Art” of Non-Judgement

mandalas-1485096In meditation the goal is to focus on the breath, observing thoughts with non judgement.  It is an exercise to become aware of one’s inner dialogue without criticism.  According to Yoga International….

” Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself, for letting go of your biases and seeing what is, openly and clearly. It is a way of training the mind so that you are not distracted and caught up in its endless churning. Meditation teaches you to systematically explore your inner dimensions.”

I decided to take the concept of meditation and apply it to my art making, meaning any creative task I undertake.  As a visual artist especially, I’ve noticed that I have a habit of letting a stream of negative judgement runs through my mind as I make art.  My inner critic tells me “this is not good enough” or “if I only I did this – or that” or some such chatter.  This is a perfect recipe for artistic block – and I have been there.

When toddlers begin to walk and fall down, they don’t give up.  They try and fail over and over again.   Parents cheer and don’t discourage.  It’s part of the process of learning. Too bad we give that child-like wonder as adults

As of the New Year I am making art with an attitude of play and experimentation rather than judgement of whether my work is good or bad.  If a piece doesn’t work, so be it.  I have learned from it.   I am mindful to my inner dialogue as I create.  When negative thinking enters my mind I say “You are not welcome here.  Let me play!”

This week I began an online class, Making Monotypes with a Gellatin Plate taught by Linda Germaine. it’s been the perfect opportunity to apply “The art of non-judgement.”

It’s so liberating.  I’m having fun.  I can hardly wait to get back to the studio…..

Experimenting….first try printing with a gelli-plate!