Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sketchbooks on a Budget

When I first started teaching, I had a pretty tight budget.  My students were supposed to keep a sketchbook, but buying them for everyone ate up a lot of the money I had.  So I asked the students to supply their own, and I bought a case of sketchbooks with my own money that I sold to the students.  This kind of worked, but I wasn't very happy with the solution.

Then one day a truck pulled up to our school loading dock full of office furniture and supplies that a government agency was donating to our school.  There was a lot of copy paper, and the school took the regular sized paper, and asked me if I would like the legal and oversized  (17 1/2" x 11") paper. Why of course I did.

The  legal size paper made a good size book when folded in half. And the larger size made a really generous book. I have always been fond of bookmaking, and it makes a nice way to start the year or the semester. Plus I am a big believer in keeping a sketchbook myself and using it on a daily basis.  I use my own sketchbook to inspire the students and create sketchbook prompts from my own examples.

Once you establish the sketchbook habit with your students, it makes for great substitute lesson plans.  I'll often leave an assortment of materials for them to use such as watercolors, stencils,  and rubber stamps  as well as some prompts which I like to mix up among drawing, doodling and writing.

These are the instructions on how to make the smaller sketchbooks:
Simple Book with a Three Hole Binding

These are for the multi-section book.
Accordion Binding Book with Five Holes

I only do wrapped covers with my eighth grade students.  If you want to paint paper to wrap around your covers, view this slide show:

 Paste Paper

Also here is a video on how to sew a three hole binding:


Here are my Golden Rules for bookmaking with students:

1. Let the paper dictate the size of the book. What I mean is, don't end up cutting hundreds of sheets of paper to make books a particular size or shape. You'll cut a lot less mat board for covers.

2. Establish a relationship with a frame shop so that you have a steady supply of mat board.

3. Use good thread. I recommend 3 ply waxed linen thread from Royal Wood, Ltd.

Have Fun!

Not a student sketchbook, but a giant lead book by Anselm Kiefer at Mass MOCA






Sunday, October 29, 2017

Utopia in Miniature



The Large House for Humanity proposed for Washington, DC


a model of a monument to women
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is currently exhibiting The Utopian Projects,  a display of models of sculptures by Ilya and Emilia Kabokov.  Some of them have been built, some exist only as concepts and models.  This exhibit has not been getting much attention, because it sits in the inner ring of the museum outside of the Ai Wei Wei exhibit of Lego portraits.  The less said about that exhibit, the better.  I love scale models and found the Kabakov's show quite charming.

Themes of angels, toilets and ladders repeat throughout the exhibit, but you don't have to like any of those things to appreciate the humor and wistfulness of the art.


How can One Change Oneself? from 1998 instructs one to wear this set of angel wings for two hours of forced solitude and silence every day. Repeating this for two or three weeks will bring one closer to the person they wish to become.
Monument to Icarus
How to Meet an Angel directs the participant to climb an extremely high ladder projecting out into the stratosphere, placing themselves in mortal danger. They will ask for assistance, and an angel will come to their rescue. 
A piece of fallen sky


Monday, September 4, 2017

World War I Artists


Off Duty, Harvey Thomas Dunn, Oil and watercolor on paper, 1918
I have long had a minor obsession with World War I.  And being the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the war, there are a lot of exhibits about it.  I went to see Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I had thought it would be the work of ordinary soldiers who sketched and drew in the trenches. But it was the work of a group of men who were professional artists and illustrators who were commissioned by the army to document what they saw of the war.

On the Wire by Harvey Thomas Dunn, oil on canvas, 1918
American Artillery and Machine Guns, George Mathews Harding, charcoal and crayon on paper, 1918
Two Six-Ton Tanks Climbing a Hill, Harry Everette Townsend, watercolor on pastel on paper, 1918

The Morning Washup, Neufmaison, Wallace Morgan, Charcoal on paper, 1918

The one exception is a contemporary man, Jeff Gusky, a doctor and an artist, who while in France was shown a series of caverns underneath the properties of some farmers.  They have been carefully guarding and preserving these subterranean tunnels that are full of abandoned canteens and furniture which were left behind when the war ended. Even more interesting are the carvings in the limestone walls of the tunnels. In this case, ordinary men carved anti-German caricatures, slogans, sexy woman and hometown totems. His mission was to figure out how to photograph these areas which rest in total darkness.  Mine was to photograph the photos without my reflection.  I was not that successful.

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Slow Dyeing in Kansas City

That is not slowly dying in Kansas City; that would be something altogether different.

During my week at the Educators Art Lab at Kansas City Art Institute my focus was fiber and the theme was Slow Cloth. Taught by the awesome Kim Eichler-Messmer, this particular class emphasized  natural dye techniques and the Japanese art of Shibori.
Shibori is Japanese for resist dyeing, so what we consider tie dying is Shibori, but the Japanese have a way of making everything more elegant and beautiful. Shibori is not splotchy colored blobs; it is more carefully considered than that. What follow are examples of different Shibori techniques.
Arashi
This is what I always thought of when I heard the word Shibori, but it is only one type. Fabric is folded and attached to a pole with tape. Thread or twine is wrapped somewhat widely around the fabric and pole then fabric is scrunched down, forcing some fabric to pooch out over the string. Once all fabric is wrapped and scrunched, it is moistened and then dipped in dye. (Look: here are my notes, not very readable, but the pictures help.)

It really goes pretty fast once you know what you are doing.

Oronui
Fabric is folded and stitched in a running stitch that is knotted at one end. Designs can be deliberate or random, sections of fabric can pinched and sewn. When stitching is finished, you grab the end tail of your thread and pull it tight, which bunches up the fabric, then it is made wet and dipped in the dye.
I tried to make a bird shape with this technique with some success, but not much.



Mokume which means wood grain is a variation this. In this instance threads are sewn in paired rows so that they can be pulled together for a wavy line effect.



Machine stitching

I am not sure what the Japanese term is for this.  Fabric is accordion folded and then stitched on a sewing machine. The trick is that the bobbin thread is cheap and flimsy so that after the stitched fabric is dyed, the sewn packet is ripped open. I played around with ideas of reflection when I "drew" them. I really enjoyed playing around with this process and if I possessed a sewing machine, would do lots more.


Itajime 
If you don't like sewing, this is the Shibori technique for you. Fabric is folded accordion style, either in squares or triangles, then matching wooden blocks are placed on either side of the fabric bundle and clamped into place. The fabric is then dipped in the dye, although it can be partially dipped in one dye, then rinsed and then dipped in a different dye bath. You could also clamp and dye in one color, then let it dry and then refold and clamp another set of shapes in place and dip in a different dye bath to build up pattern. 


This one was folded, clamped and dipped in ferrous sulfate then dried and refolded and re-clamped with a different shape and then dipped in Indigo. 



It was a great experience, and the only side effect is that your hands turn blue.






Saturday, July 30, 2016

Art in Kansas City

During a week long teacher workshop at Kansas City Art Institute, I had the opportunity to visit two art museums.
One was the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This is a very small museum, made even smaller by the fact that two new exhibits were being installed. The building is gorgeous and shows the art well. An exhibit called Deconstructing Robert Mangold placed his work alongside his artistic peers and influences in a satisfying way. There was also a nice little collage exhibit.  The cafe is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in town, but it was not open when I was there, so I cannot confirm that, (nor have I eaten at many spots in town.)
Robert Mangold Print
A little deconstruction



The other museum is the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. The locals are really proud of this museum, and I wasn't sure if I could be impressed but it turned out that I was. The museum comes across as a mini Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's got a little bit of everything.

 I was told the collections of Asian Art and Native American Art were exceptional. Since I live in Washington, I thought: we have entire museums devoted to these areas how great can their rooms be?
But I was impressed with the Asian Art rooms, they give the Sackler and the Freer a little friendly competition. In fact my favorite part of the museum was the collection of pet cricket accessories. 
Tiny cricket feeding bowls in front of cage and cage cleaning brush, cricket fighting ring is to the left.
Horse in the Temple Room



And the Native American section engaged me more than the confusingly displayed National Museum of the American Indian.

Other favorites were the Nick Cave (a local and a graduate of Kansas City Art Institute) work, and a show of snapshot photography. 
Funny double exposure snapshot
Nick Cave Property
detail Nick Cave
Yinka Shonibare with Anselm Kiefer in background
Love this George Ault




Go Kansas City!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Miniatures and Dollhouses

The National Building Museum is exhibiting Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse. I was so excited about this exhibit because I have always loved miniatures. But I found the exhibit a little less thrilling than I had expected. One problem being the confusing way the audio worked, but I figured that out eventually.

I did learn some new things though: dollhouse miniatures began as a fad in the 17th century similar to cabinets of curiosities that were meant recreate actual homes in a small scale. They were also used as a tool for young women to learn how to manage a household. They were the only kinds of properties most women could own. Gradually over time, they evolved into playhouses for children. Last year I enjoyed reading The Miniaturist by Essie Burton which tells a mysterious story of a woman and her cabinet that recreates her home in miniature.
The exhibit features many old Dollhouses, but what disappointed  me was the strange scale of the oldest houses, for instance a giant copper pot on a small table. Also the dolls all looked awkward and wrong in their spaces (when do they not?)
Downstairs in the manor house
My favorites were the ones from the early 20th century, which had managed to get the scale under control but were old enough to be charming.


My favorite part of the exhibit were the contemporary rooms made by mostly local artists.
This clever one by Bridgett Sue Lambert depicting a camera trained on a mini dollhouse and giant printer printing out stills of the dollhouse and framed prints stacked against the walls. It also had a basement. I would not mind going back and studying this one some more.
I also loved this one called the Exile of Prospero by L. Delaney.

The contemporary pieces really made the show for me.