Saturday, August 1, 2015

Show and Tell, and The End of a Wonderful Experience

Saturday morning, I quickly whipped together the blue that my one print was missing(because the blue had dried faster than the green with the evaporating water), and printed it.  Besides the string of the balloon, my work was almost finished!  I couldn't believe it!

Our final discussion revolved around properly signing and numbering prints.  I finally understood what I was seeing in galleries.  I had always wondered what the different letters and numbers had meant on prints.  I signed and numbered my prints in pencil and my sunflowers seemed complete.   Eileen had borrowed some colored pencils from the drawing class and I was lucky enough to get to borrow them to finish the curly string coming off my balloons.  Although we all agreed that Prismacolors would make a huge difference in quality, I was eager to finish my pieces.  Eileen began hanging up the Chipboard pieces as Judy and I finished our final touches.  

Here are the wonderful works made by my classmates in Eileen Foti's Printmaking class.

During our final lunch together, we spoke about where to get printmaking supplies.  I love how so many of the tools used are recycled.  The chipboard pieces could be taken from cereal boxes, the weights could be procured from a local trophy shop, and plexi glasses could even be gathered from a local frame shop's scraps.  Not only could each print be benefited from the use of recycled materials, but the community could also be involved.  Eileen also shared with us how to make your own transfer paper using iron oxide, that could be used over and over again throughout the year. 

Soon, we headed back to the studio to prepare for our presentations of our week at aTi.  The afternoon was reserved for each artist at aTi to share about their work and experience.  Participants had taken workshops in printmaking, oil painting, drawing nature, kinetic sculpture, digital photography, and poetry and we were fortunate enough to hear their testimonials regarding their work and time at aTi.  I took pictures like a madwoman, and even wrote down a note regarding Kit Sailer's(the Oil Painting instructor) idea of determining the trite, traditional, and innovative examples of a topic.  I was so impressed to see what both general education teachers as well as my fellow art teachers had accomplished and created.  

Here are some of the amazing works my fellow aTi participants created over the course of our week of art! 

Here are a couple very neat videos of my first kinetic sculpture concert.

Eileen Foti demonstrating her brayer rolling technique
My presentation of the work I completed during my week at Ati

Here is the collection of work I completed this week!  I look forward to giving one of the Noah images to my sister in law as a gift!

 I am very grateful for the experience aTi has offered me to be a part of such a wonderful community of educators and artists this week.  I have learned so much both inside my workshop and out, met wonderful educators and friends, and I cannot express how much this experience will impact each one of my classes next year.  I feel excited about the next year beginning with new inspiration for lessons and techniques to share with my students. 

Thank you to aTi for making this experience possible, and thank you to each teacher involved, as I have learned from all of you.

Friday, July 31, 2015


I came in to class Friday with an immediate purpose.  I had to paint my final balloon top, paint shadows onto the balloon, paint Noah's portrait three times, AND make a background all before 1 pm Saturday.  Not only that, but I was holding out hope to begin another project entirely(Eileen told me I was not allowed to start something new until I had resolved my three prints- if I was even going to get to make three.. smart lady.  I was determined).  When you begin your week at aTi, you think you're going to have time for everything, but it went by in a blink of an eye and now I needed to play catch-up.  

Painting Noah!
I finished my final balloon quicker than each of the two before, and started mixing the colors for Noah's skin tone.  Having not painted with anything but watercolor in a very long time, let alone a portrait, I was a little nervous.  I finished my first Noah painting right before lunch, and took about 6 pictures of it before I printed it because I was afraid it wouldn't look the same printed off the glass.  Much to my surprise and delight, it printed clearly and actually looked like him! 
Notice how this image is a reverse image of the final product below

I paused for lunch and was thrilled to not eat soup for the first time this week.  I was finally feeling like a healthier human again.  Lunch discussion centered around personal websites and sharing student experiences with the community.

I finished my second portrait of Noah around two o'clock, when my phone died.  Since I wanted to be able to see the shadows of my reference photo so the balloon would look more realistic, I ran to get my charger.. and then what?  I didn't want to try painting my final Noah without a good reference and I didn't want to leave the week at aTi with only two completed images after I had already made 3 balloons.  I quickly painted over the sharpie line drawing on the back of my plexi glass with the hair color I had made for Noah.  I could at least make a graphic image of him.  I loved the result.  It was beautiful, and I liked it way more than I thought I would.  I think I may have even liked it more than my portrait.

By the time I had finished my line painting, my phone was ready to go and I began working with the transparent base to create a shadow color.  I began with a grey blue color and adjusted it so when it was mixed with the beveled knife, it looked almost turquoise, but when I did a "draw down"(thin pull of the ink on a scrap sheet of paper so you could determine the actual color when printed), it looked like a perfect shadow tone.  I painted the shadows in stages on each of the three pieces, starting by inking the entire balloon and then pulling away ink reductively each time before starting the 2nd layer, where I could create further shadow and definition. 

I finished the shadows and went to dinner with Judy, another workshop participant.  I loved talking with her about her collaborative monster project, and wrote down a ton of notes once again.  She had chosen to complete both her Chipboard and Monotype pieces based upon the same subject matter of a memory of her mom.  They were beautiful and I was amazed by her sense of style.  I kept telling her how much her work reminded me of Eric Carl illustrations.  Each piece was so playful.

It was just after dinner when I received the most exciting news.  I had sent out a message on a whim to a coworker asking if she had a press I didn't know about, and it turns out that she has a small table top press!  I cannot wait to see how it works!  After dinner, Judy came back to the studio with me to finish her final Monotypes.  Next came probably the most fun part of my balloon image, the painting with water.  I mixed a blue and a teal green color to create the waves of my background and a more saturated ultramarine blue mix for the sky.  I loved the feeling of painting with the water, and the look was so perfect for the background of my image.  Every brush stroke seemed so expressive, and every line came through.  I was so lucky Eileen came back to check on us in the studio at this moment because it hadn't occurred to me that adding the water would change the drying time and, therefore, the printing quality of the ink!  I printed my first background and loved it, but knew I would need to work quickly for all of the colors to come through on my other prints.  
This is the line painting I referenced in the last post; and the first attempt of the water painting technique.
I finally finished my backgrounds(for the most part) before leaving the studio Friday night.  I could not believe the experience was almost over.  I was already talking with Judy about what classes we may want to take at aTi next year.  We left the studio very late and my mother, asking where I was, told me "If you started a master's program, Anthony(my husband) may never see you again!".  I absolutely love being in the studio, making art, thinking of ideas, and learning.  I remember in college finding it hard to pull myself away from my artwork in any studio when I got "in a groove" and this is still true today.  I am so happy that my husband, friends, and family understand and embrace this side of me, and I am thankful that they have encouraged my time and experience here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bounty and Balloons

Thursday morning, I was lucky enough to have another opportunity to look at the Swat Valley crafts.  There was a necklace that had caught my eye, and I grabbed it up as soon as I entered the room.  I plan to wear it to my friend's wedding next week!

After I acquired my new lovely item, I had a moment to pick the brain of another workshop participant that I had the pleasure of meeting.  Gail had been teaching printmaking for years, and Eileen had even come to do a residency in her high school.  I was curious as to what types of themes she had used to make the Chipboard Relief process accessible to her high school students.  She had amazing ideas, which started my wheels turning on what types of projects I could begin next year. 

 Soon, Eileen pulled us together again to give a printing demonstration using the etching press, which creates soft to hard contact using the felt pads on one side and the hard press on the other.  Here we learned about how overlaying, both over Chine Colle' and over various layers of ink, can create depth and visual interest.  Who would have thought that making little swirls with q-tips would have created such an awesome look?  Eileen also showed us how the blending medium changed the consistency of the ink so you could paint with it on your plexi glass.  You could even use water!  
Using the ink as a type of water color created a bubbly transparent look, but you could also see your brush strokes when the ink was printed onto the absorbent paper. 
 Finally, Eileen demonstrated the reductive method, where ink is rolled over a large area and then pulled away with a "Bounty"(paper towel).  Over the course of the week, Bounty paper towels were probably our most important tools besides the brayer itself.  They're used for texture, the reductive method, wiping away unwanted ink to define a shape, and as the quicker picker-upper during clean up(if that's not a positive endorsement, what is?).
After our demonstration, I prepared my ink.  I started by painting the red stripes of my patriotic balloon onto the plexi glass, and while it was fun painting with such a different texture than what I was used to, there was no way to avoid creating the look of brush strokes, so I came to embrace it.  I used my trusty bounty paper towel, and a medical grade q-tip(which we used for different purposes than household q-tips based on the tightness of the cotton) to help me wipe away clean lines from each stripe.  I finally printed my first attempt at the red balloon stripes right before lunch and LOVED the look.  There were fine little brush stroke lines in every inch of the red ink, and the look around the edges was crisp and clean.  I was so excited!

During lunch, I wrote down note after note again on my trusty iphone notepad.  Each meal or discussion with this group of educators was another learning experience.  I realized in hearing my colleagues discuss their past and present plans for the school year that I had not yet done enough collaboratively.  I discussed ideas throughout this period for collaborating with English classes and elementary art classes to complete a common goal.  I believe it could be a very rewarding experience for my students to experience working with an English class by illustrating their poetry.  The process of interpreting another peer's idea and expressing it through the arts may also assist students in considering what the "audience" would interpret from their own work.  Collaborating with another age group could also help incorporate the idea of outreach and community into my classroom, and perhaps instill an idea of how art can be, and is, brought into everyday life instead of just in the art room.  My colleagues also shared with me the process of research from the students' perspective.  Research of a given topic is imperative in order to assist students in truly making connections to what they are learning and identify what parts of what they are researching are the most important. 

The process of printing off of the plexi glass is a nerve wracking experience, especially for a perfectionist.  In our workshop, it seemed like we were all perfectionists, as we were all stressing so much each time we would use the press!  One of the hardest parts of this process is the laying down of your paper so the registration marks match those on your template.  There is actually a special way to hold your paper when you go to do this so that you can be as accurate as possible.  If you miss your mark, your work will not line up properly.  For instance, the star area of my balloon could wind up being nowhere near the stripes, or Noah's painted face could wind up an inch away from his Chine Colle' silhouette.  This is not a medium for the faint of heart, and I'm not sure if monotypes would be healthy or terrifying for someone who is obsessive compulsive.

Gail's Printed Rabbits
The other side to this is that each time we printed, and properly aligned our registration marks so our paper was perfectly in place, it was instantly gratifying to lift away our printed paper.  Each time, we cheered for our classmates' accomplishments and complimented the work because each print was just that beautiful.
My classmate, Gail, had experienced firsthand how much attention has to go into each print, as she actually printed one of her images backwards!  She was printing a rabbit onto her work and suddenly now there appeared to be two rabbits jumping in opposite directions.  Immediately, I saw a shark's mouth shape in the overlap of her work and I actually loved the accidental image.  While Gail did not turn the rabbit overlap into a shark, she did embrace the "happy accident", and added the same turned rabbit to another print to make it part of her series.  It was truly the mark of a creative and adaptable artist.

I finished all of my red stripes before class had officially ended, but I stayed late to begin the blue top of my balloon.  Painting around each of the stars was time consuming, but almost meditative.  Each time I flicked my brush the wrong way, I cleaned up my mistake with a medical grade q-tip(I need to get some of these if I'm going to teach monotypes).  It was hard to tell if I had painted the blue on evenly looking from both the front and the back of the plexi, but I loved the look of the final result printed on the paper, even if it wasn't perfect.  I finished two of my balloon tops before I was exhausted.  It had been a fun, informative, and productive day, and I left the last balloon to finish Friday morning.

Above is the Chine Colle' piece on the left side(look for a faint cream color) of the paper with my printed balloon!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chine Colle', Drawing Nature, and the Swat Valley "Thoosh"

Wednesday morning, I was so excited to finish my sunflowers!  We began the class with a demonstration of monotype printing.  Who knew that printmaking could be such a variable process?  You could paint with the roller or the brush, draw ink away with q-tips or paper towels, layer the same color or vary it slightly, and then there's Chine Colle'.  With Chine Colle', you can use a glue film to attach decorative papers on top of the final print paper to create a different effect.  The possibilities are astounding. 
After the demonstration, I worked to turn my little potato shaped pieces of chipboard into the brown centers of my flowers.  I loved the contrast between the chocolate brown and the yellow spots peeking through.. Thank you Eileen!  The process of using the different papers changes the appearance of the colors so much.  I really loved the banana leaf paper and how the bark pieces would impact the print.

I painted my final potato piece right as everyone left for lunch.  We needed to complete our chipboard before lunch because directly after lunch we were to begin working on creating our templates for our Chine Colle' and Monotype prints.  The goal was for the Chine Colle' to work as a true part of the work instead of a separate addition.

Since I was late leaving lunch, I was able to experience the Drawing Nature workshop group as they were newly inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy.  The class decided to make an impromptu installation of pine cones on each post of the fence leading to the lunch room.  Nothing can stop an artist inspired!

At lunch, I had the opportunity to talk to a veteran teacher who will also be teaching AP Studio next year.  She shared wonderful ideas about how to start the school year using found objects, and about staying true to being an artist as well as a teacher.  I have always been the type of artist that loved to explore different art mediums.  I love to learn and I love to share what I learned.  

 It is so true that the best teachers are those that are the most passionate about what they are teaching, and those are the type of people I'm getting to know at aTi.  I am looking forward to my first year of teaching AP Studio and I am excited to have met some AP teachers to bounce ideas off of and learn from!

Again, I had trouble getting started after lunch.  I struggled with determining how to utilize the Chine Colle'(the addition of the decorative paper) as an integral part of my work.  Eileen was kind enough to pull out her examples of both Chine Colle' and Monotype for us to see again.  Now that I understood how much work and time could go into making one layer of ink to go through the press, the idea that a single piece could travel through the press 20 times was mind boggling.  It truly helped me to appreciate how each layer effected the next while I was looking at the examples, and I loved the idea that the examples we were viewing looked so expressive and free, but were purposefully composed and designed to appear this way.  

I finally decided to use an image of my husband's nephew Noah looking at a balloon.  The expression of his face as he scoped out that balloon with the wave backdrop was beautiful and I couldn't stop thinking about it.  By the end of the day, I had my template drawn on the piece of plexi glass, and I was beginning to cut out the Chine Colle' pieces of Noah's silhouette.  I decided to complete all of my prints on the same type of white paper because this seemed to be the best way to contrast Noah's figure.  I used a beautiful cream-colored Japanese paper as the Colle' piece for his body, with the intention of painting his likeness on the plexi to print it just on that piece of paper.

After class, I had the pleasure of learning about, and helping, wonderful cause.  Between the years 2008 and 2010, the Taliban brutally destroyed hundreds of girls schools in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. This tragic event, which caused an even bigger gender gap in education than was already present, was followed by a major refugee crisis, and a devastating flood.  In order to bridge the gap of gender equality in education, the Swat Relief Initiative(SRI) was formed and has made education for girls a high priority.  SRI has also developed programs for women's health, teacher training, economic growth, and building of a sustainable environment.  The women and children of this region are learning how to sew and use traditional methods to create crafts by taking apart saris and other materials to make incredible, one of a kind, pieces.   

At the sale were jewelry pieces, embroidery, assorted handmade bags and wallets, shawls, and so much more, and the sales of these pieces will help to establish literacy programs for girls.  Some of the pieces were still dusty from the desert sand.  The beauty of these pieces was astounding, and I am so excited about the piece I purchased.  I chose a beautiful "thoosh"(a scarf named for the method of stitching) made from lamb's wool.  It is unbelievably soft!!  I love pieces that come with a story, and the origin of these pieces will always come to mind when I wear them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rolling and Printing

Tuesday I felt like a disgusting beast.  By this time, I had begun carting a box of tissues with me wherever I went in my trusty aTi bag, hoping to be covert about my gross-ness and not skeeve out any of my classmates.  I tried my best not to interrupt the demonstrations and moments when Eileen would show us examples, and she made every effort to make sure I did not miss information.  I began the day by quickly coating my chipboard pieces in the Acrylic Medium.  I am so thankful to my colleagues for helping me to coat my pieces quickly so we could start the demonstration sooner.    

Eileen demonstrated to us the proper way to first mix our ink and then roll it onto the brayer.  I was amazed by Eileen's easy muscle memory as she keenly lifted the ink onto her brayer in smooth revolutions.  With such a masterful knowledge of the medium, she knew the precise length of one full revolution of the brayer without even looking.  I wanted to be able to do that!  Eileen showed us how to accurately measure the length of a revolution with a sharpie marker, which is a wonderful tip to be able to show my students as well next year.  By this time, I realized how large my pieces of chip board actually were.  While other pieces could be inked simply by going back and forth across the surface, I needed the "fan roll" technique.
I had not yet realized, or appreciated, how so much of printmaking happens upside down, with the artist looking at the back side of the paper.  The road map from the previous day is laid flat on the bottom, with registration marks written on the top and bottom of the design(and the back of your printing paper) to help align the new paper you will print on.  A weight is then put on one end of the paper to be printed on so one end can be lifted freely without fear of the top paper shifting. Pieces of chip board are then laid ink side up, one at a time, in the appropriate area of the "road map" or template and the delicate printmaking paper is lowered down on top of the board.  In a truly ingenious use of an otherwise common place object, rounded cabinet pull knobs are used to gently press the ink from the chipboard into the paper from behind.  The top paper, my print, is then lifted to see the result of the printing, and a new sheet is put in its place.  The process was both time consuming and instantly gratifying with each shape I added.  I am in love with the wood-grain texture that comes from the chipboard pieces and the delicate Japanese fibers.

Lunch was a much needed break of chicken orzo soup and tea with lemon, but again, I was always learning.  During our meal, I was able to hear about all of the amazing things my colleagues have experienced, from teaching in different types of schools, to teaching abroad, to masters programs, and international art exhibitions, residencies, and more.  Over the past couple of days, I have come to realize what a "newbie" I am, as I am surrounded by so many accomplished artists and teachers.  Beginning my journey with aTi, I am one of the youngest teachers here, and I can't help but think of how rewarding this experience would be to my fellow "newbies", with this type of opportunity to learn from dedicated artist/teachers who are so passionate about their work.  I am already beginning to decide which aTi workshop I would like to experience next year.

After lunch, it's back to the workshop where I begin printing my chipboard pieces again.  Eileen suggests to me that a way to incorporate the orange into my flowers to give them more dimension would be to roll a yellow-orange tone on just the edges of each flower using a tiny brayer.  The look that is achieved is beautiful and I am so excited to make my flowers seem more alive.

This was the night that the workshop participants went to the Noyes Museum to experience an opening exhibition.  I am disappointed to miss it, as I've been to numerous openings at the Noyes and they always have a wonderful display and a beautiful space, but I know I'll feel better if I get more of my work finished.  I stayed late in my workshop to finish each of my flowers(besides the center) so I wouldn't be so far behind Wednesday morning.  I am so grateful for the extended studio time, as my medicine has finally begun to kick in!