Fall can be an overwhelming time - the year we thought had just started (isn't it still 2015??) is in fact coming to an end. New relationships are forged and old ones may be rediscovered. The season is stretching and shifting, the light is becoming more golden and tinging everything with a nostalgic glow. A good time for contemplation and re-centering, especially by reflecting on all the good work happening in the classroom. Enjoy a visual tour of the year so far!
Any teacher will tell you that the end of the year is a beastly time. Schedules are switched up, there are tons of special events and happenings: You are exhausted, the students are exhausted, half the time you don't know what day it is, everyone is stumbling towards the finish line. This may sound a bit dramatic, but really what contributes the most to the general feeling of overwhelm at the end of the year is the realization that you have worked with a group of students for an entire year and now have to let them go - you all suffered through the initial getting-to-know-you phase, but somehow about 3 months in (or maybe 6 or 8 months!) the class finally gels and everyone gets into a nice rhythm. Especially in the art classroom, there comes a time where everyone has a handle on the basic skills and materials and can pursue more and more challenging and conceptually complex work. This moment passes unmarked but I always think of it wistfully in June when I realize that I will lose this particular set of wisdom, this particular mix of personalities, to have them replaced by newbies in the Fall. It's that old swing of the pendulum - I am so lucky when some of these students stay on to take advanced classes with me or in the department so I can loop with them over the years. The project shown below is one of my proudest achievements with my current Advanced Art class. I often say that I just give some parameters and get out of the way of the creative process- I feel that especially with this group of portraits. The assignment was to do a traditional portrait based on a photo (or image in the mirror) of oneself or a friend/family member; students then received photocopies of that portrait to alter and incorporate symbolic imagery (see: Frida Kahlo, Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall). I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I have!
Springtime means painting in my advanced art class and we revisited our color wheels and color mixing! I've found that a color wheel and some practice with color mixing can really help students to create more thoughtful, specific colors in their work. Everyone tried taking at least 9 steps to mix from one primary color to another, adding the darker color to the lighter one and creating tertiary and secondary colors in the process. The second exercise was to create some great earth tones (complementary neutrals) by doing a 9-step mix between complementary colors. Below are some examples of student color wheels and color-mixing exercises as taught to me by the amazing Lena Wolff
This Spring, I attempted the nearly impossible - filing all the paperwork, getting all the students prepped, and putting together a high school arts curriculum for a weekend at Clem Miller Environmental Education Center. Despite the forecast of rain all weekend, we packed our gear into the truck of one of my amazing chaperones (amazing chaperones were what really made this trip a success!) and rode out of the city and into the great green blur of Point Reyes National Seashore. This is a trip that has its roots in my childhood, specifically my 5th grade year when I had the extreme fortune to be placed in Dave Neubacher's class at El Verano Elementary in Sonoma, CA. Mr.Neubacher was an incredible educator in many ways, but not the least of those ways was he took two trips to Clem Miller with his students each year. Out in the woods we learned how to love nature, despite its bites and stings (I famously took a tumble into some stinging nettles on a night hike!). Trying to follow in Mr.Neubacher's footsteps as an educator with my own practice 20 years later, I realize what a monumental thing it was that he did for us - it is no small feat to plan a trip like this. Dave Neubacher passed away one week after our trip, having quietly battled cancer for the last year. It breaks my heart in so many ways that he is gone; he is without a doubt one of the most important figures in my life. Our education comes in so many guises - friends, family, circumstance - but these teachers who give their heart and soul to the work, who build their communities and help them thrive even in the harshest conditions, we need to honor them not just with words, but with deeds. We need to continue the work that they began with us; for me, that meant taking a gaggle of teenagers into the woods to look at trees and birds, raindrops, stones, and truly slow down for the merest of moments to contemplate our place in the world. Thank you Mr.Neubacher - for capture-the-flag and botany lessons, candle-making and your sense of humor. For the great gift of making your students feel like they could change the world.