Design Workshop with Central American Teachers

 

Today, (a couple of days this and next week) I'm working at Palo Alto College in San Antonio with 20 Central American and Caribbean teachers -- part of an international education program that I have been part of for the past 10 years. These teachers (and those who have been here over the years) come to San Antonio for the equivalent of an education degree from rural "underserved" communities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic for 6 month or 1 year terms of study. They return to share their knowledge in their schools, communities and nations. This program, funded by USAID and administered by an international expert staff at Georgetown University (and our own Alamo Colleges International Programs) is one reason I don't mind paying taxes. 

These teachers who work under conditions that most U.S. teachers would find impossible (50-60 kids in a SMALL classroom, few if any books and supplies, often limited electricity and no running water, in communities with high incidence of absentee fathers, illiteracy and poor nutrition. They work long hours for not much pay -- many of them work second jobs to make enough to support their families.

Today I am facilitating a design workshop to help them find their strongest illustration style for personal stories that will become the first books in their classroom and school libraries of handmade books. These are simple products, made with inexpensive and recycled materials, and the teachers return home to teach their students and parents how to make the books based on their own experiences. I LOVE these books and have a great collection of art from throughout the past years -- I'll share some favorites over the next few days.

 


 

Paying Attention

The just-past post covered a lot of territory. As I take on this new expanded adventure of art out into the world, it's a good idea to think about my story, and what I bring to the table. (Perhaps you should do so, too! Post a link in the comments to your blog about your creative path and we'll see where this takes us...)

Where does my story as an artist begin? With paying attention.

Paying attention, this skill, like any other, needs focus, practice and to be honored within the environment (culture) of its practice. Fortunately from my childhood, I had mentors, parents and teachers who gave me that skill and fostered it's development.

First, a family who loved nature and beauty: Birdwatching was the usual activity on any trip; a geology pick was always in the back seat; composition books for note-taking are STILL a Christmas stocking standard. We looked at plants and creeks on Sunday afternoon drives as we searched for farmland (soon thereafter purchased with the GI Bill). My chemist father shared his love of observation and my intellegent stay-at-home mom nurtured beauty in the everyday life; both of them honored the skill of paying attention and modeled it to us four.

The concepts in The Missing Alphabet speak to my second set of lessons in paying attention. When 12, I was enrolled in a Children's Theatre at Baylor University, part of the department of drama headed by legendary regional director Paul Baker (he also headed the Dallas Theatre and worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on the design of that forward-thinking structure on Turtle Creek). His wife Kitty, and the young woman who became my mentor for decades, Jearnine Wagner, had started a children's program based on the same principles and ideas that were at the heart of the college drama program. These were: that each of us is creative and has a unique story to tell in our art and that all art/perception and creative thinking can be discerned through a vocabulary of form: line, color, shape, movement, light, rhythm, space, sound and texture. These perceptual/sensory tools could be harnessed by the artist (no matter his or her genre or field) as tools for telling that unique story. These, called by Baker "the elements of form," have moved into our missing alphabet book as "the sensory alphabet," a change of language that helps us explain to parents and educators that these are not just "art" words.

I've been able to take these perceptual and creative tools into my life in so many ways, I use them daily as "screens" for my thinking and inventing and imagination. They are the tools that I teach to the participants in many of my workshops, retreats and courses. I find them invaluable in defining and critiquing, in helping other artists find their own strong suits, their own voices and their best ways of working, simply by asking them to pay attention to these perceptual elements in their lives and work. The Missing Alphabet, while its a book targeted at parents, is still a useful resource for emerging artists who would like some specific information about the sensory alphabet, as well as lots of activity ideas that have no expriration date according to age!

Art school introduced me to another set of tools for paying attention, principally, that of drawing. I am not a natural "drawer." In fact, as a young woman (and even in art school) I pretty much decided I could never be a "real' artist because my drawings in junior high and high school never measured up to the cpaturing of reality that I expected as artist should be able to achieve. And though my college drawing classes at Trinity University were dully attended, I still never really fell in love with drawing until much later -- like a couple of years ago.

Paired with the sensory alphabet, some simple ways to approach the blank page have helped  me to get over my fear of drawing and to actually treasure the time I can carve out to pay attention through drawing.* I have a new group of "drawing" mentors, in real life, my friend and artist Sarah Jones, in the digital and print world, the work and writing of John Berger

 

That's why I am looking forward to the next Fearless Sketching workshop here at El Cielo. It's scheduled for April 12-14, costs $180. There is still room for a couple more participants, so if you are interested, send me a note through the comments or on the contact form on the sidebar to the right. 

 

Three More Workshops, and That's It for 2013

Artist's Journey, iPad for Artists and Fearless Sketching

Wouldn't one of these upcoming El Cielo Workshop/Retreats make a wonderful gift? If no one you know has asked what you really want, perhaps your inner artist needs a restoration, recreation and renewal gift just from you! 

If you have meant to make it out here to the Hill Country studio before, now's the time to make the commitment --I've decided to take a sabbatical from the El Cielo workshops from May 2013 through April 2014 in order to spend more time in the studio, and to consider other ways to teach and share my approaches to creativity. I will be teaching online, teaching private workshops, and I also anticipate teaching at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in 2013, but for this year I won't be an instructor at the Southwest School of Art or holding any other workshops here at El Cielo after these next three.

Early spring (and that often starts here in mid-February!) is a wonderful time out here on the ridge, so check your calendar and shoot me an email if you are interested.
Limited spaces, as usual, are available, as each of these special events is designed for a maximum of seven participants. The fee is $180, but I am offereing a discount for all who send a deposit before the year is out.
Out of town participants are welcome to book an extra day or two of private work and consultation for an additional fee. As usual, first come, first choice on accommodations -- there are three private bedrooms ($30 for both nights) and a couple of comfy couches (free) as well as the sleeping porch (also free) and a cot-sized bed and private bath in the studio. The meals are great, the company inspiring and the views spectacular... and the hot tub is ready to go!
 

Artist's Journey/Artist's Journal

How do you make your time and space as an artist work for you? Where are you on your creative path? What do you want more of and what do you need less of? This retreat offers a beginning-of-the-year chance to look at and share your creative accomplishments, make plans for the future and put in place some new tools for reflection, renewal and re-creation of your artist self. The workshop is a combination of journaling with fun mixed media materials, using your own photos for art inspiration, and planning ahead for 2013. All supplies except for a sketchbook or journal are included and you'll take home a large calendar filled with artist dates and your own plans for the year.

Ipad for Artists

If you've recently acquired an iPad, this workshop will help you take it into your world of creativity and art.I've explored dozens of sketching tools, art journaling, collage and photo apps and this workshop will take you through some hands-on work -- then into the studio to print, make thermofaxes and use what you've done on the tablet for fabric printing to use in your art quilts, mixed media or other work. If you don't have a tablet yet (and are trying to decide what or if to buy), you may still want to attend, I'll have a try-out table that one or two participants can share (yes, we are a two iPad family!). This El Cielo workshop retreat will take place March 1-3 (optional Friday night potluck) ending about 3 pm on Sunday. The workshop fee, including most supplies, is $180.

Fearless Sketching

April 12-14 at El Cielo Studio we'll be attacking that sneaky little fear that so many of us carry into our work from early days in school -- when someone else drew the best faces or people or horses. Whether you consider yourself a talented textile artist, colorist or quilter, you may have a secret lurker within who disparages your drawing skills. I know I do! A couple of years ago, I made a conscious effort to address my fears and to start a fearless sketching practice. I'm still not a master draughtsman, or even "skilled" at drawing, but I am no longer afraid to draw, no longer hypercritical of my abilities and that makes me open to improving my skills. 

You can get there, too. And this workshop can be your first step-- we test piloted this workhshop in September and all the participants really improved both skills and attitudes about drawing! My friend Sarah Jones will be co-teaching this workshop. She is amazing and fun and so will be the retreat!

You can find the entire newsletter here at this link.

 

Pattern Play

Tile Deck patterns are amazing and beautiful!

Certainly this is one obvious strong suit for most textile artists: PATTERN. Pattern, to me, is the visual rhythm that moves me around a textile, or through the story within a piece of art. I posted a short blog on our new and wow, so cool, MISSING ALPHABET site -- and thought I would expand and make a more textile related post here, as well. 

I've been exploring pattern TOOLs in the world of apps, in anticipation of my next iPad workshops (one in Alaska in January and one here at El Cielo March 1-3). I admit to a combination of looking at referals when I see them (that's where Tile Deck came from -- an online magazine article by Jane Davila in the last issue of IN STITCH) and also just in random app store surfing using interesting search terms. It's become my latest recreation, such so that I think I may have to make a firm budget line item for app store purchases!

Here are the apps I have downloaded recently. Some of them are really easy right off the bat, others take a little bit of learning curve. If you want the blow-by-blow (and fiber art specific applications for the art that these apps help you make) sign up for the March workshop soon. It's filling up fast!

TileDeck -- the best of the lot and an amazing tool for making repeating patterns, then changing them around with mirroring and flipping functions. This one is definitely worth paying for.

Playing around with Stencils

Kaleidoverse -- one of many digital kaleidoscope tools out there, and one that I like most

Doodle Dandy -- particularly easy for little kids to use, but with plenty of sophisticated controls

überdoodle -- an app version of the spirograph, with gears, pen sizes, and other variables to play with. The free version offered enough for me to start with, but there's a paid one with more variable options included.

Amacolor -- another kaleidoscope that makes black line patterns to color in -- the black line patterns will be great for thermofaxes.

Amacolor kaleidoscope design

Stencils -- Make multiples with predrawn stencil shapes for interesting art applications, alter and overlap them, use the letters and numbers for textured designs using the different brushes.

Shaping Symbols into Art Quilts

Would you like to transform some surface design fun into a small art quilt? In just one day, at my Wednesday Quilt Festival workshop (#330 in the catalog), you'll take a journey from shape to quilt composition -- with original fabrics, fused and ready to stitch. The date is October 31, 2013, starting at 9, lunch 12-2, finishing at 5.

I'm offering a full day and full of fun with these ideas: Master design skills with free-form patterns, cut-paper shapes, and original stamps as you explore personal imagery and iconic symbols. Learn to simplify photos for original quilts, printing and more using a computer or iPad, and also just by hand-and-eye. One of your designs will be made into a thermofax screen and mailed to you later. You'll layout a small quilt, with critique and assistance, with lots of custom fabrics on hand from my stash to use for your project.

The advance workshop registration for Festival is over, but there is lots of room in this one if you want to register onsite. Just go to the George Brown Convention Center in Houston. The workshop fee is $65 for the full day event! Plus the supply fee of $25 for printer inks, copier paper and card stock, erasers, craft foam, mounting block, textile inks, thermofax mailed to student after Festival. 

More info about Festival this year:

International Quilt Festival Houston 2012

November 1-4, 2012
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas

Hours:
Wed., Oct 31 (Preview Night): 7-10 p.m. 
Thurs., Nov. 1-Sat., Nov. 3: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 4: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Ticket prices:
$12 daily adult
$9 seniors & students
Children 10 and under free.
$12 Preview Night (includes one free additional day)
$42 Full Show Pass (includes Preview Night)

The pre-enrollment deadline was Friday, September 28th. Onsite enrollment will be available to sign up for classes, lectures & events. The onsite enrollment hours are as follows:

Sunday, October 28 3:00pm - 6:00pm
Monday, October 29 7:30am – 6:30pm
Tuesday, October 30 7:30am – 5:30pm
Wednesday, October 31 7:30am – 8:30pm
Thursday, November 1 7:30am - 5:30pm
Friday, November 2 7:30am – 6:30pm
Saturday, November 3 7:30am – 3:30pm
Sunday, November 4 8:30am – 10:00am

 

Shape, Shapely and Shaped

Today at my Southwest School of Art class on Finding Your Artist Path, we will be looking at and thinking about and working with SHAPE and CONTRAST. Here are a few of the notes, some things to think about as you go about your creative work today!

SHAPE
A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric or organic form. A positive shape in a painting automatically creates a negative shape.

CONTRAST

Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements eg. opposite colours on the colour wheel - red / green, blue / orange etc. Contrast in tone or value - light / dark. Contrast in direction - horizontal / vertical.
The major contrast in a painting should be located at the center of interest. Too much contrast scattered throughout a painting can destroy unity and make a work difficult to look at. Unless a feeling of chaos and confusion are what you are seeking, it is a good idea to carefully consider where to place your areas of maximum contrast.

These design elements and principles work together (as they all do!) But I think that working with shape gives the artist the perfect laboratory for investigating contrast in a very concrete direct way.

What kinds of shapes do you doodle on napkins, notecards and the item formerly known as a phone pad? What shapes show up at the tip of your pen or pencil.

Do you like clear, well defined shapes that are simple and concrete, easy-to-describe? Or amorphous, vague, or organic shapes?

Do you work with shape in a “flat” 2-D world? Graphically, all one plane? Or as three- dimensional shapes, whether you paint or sculpt them?

Where is the strongest shape contrast in your work? Do you have big shapes, little shapes and medium shapes (remember the “rule of three”)?

Do you layer shapes in your work? Are the layers close together or far apart? Can you see through them or around them? DO you show space through layering? Or light? Or size? Or all of the above?

What shapes your art practice? The time available, what’s left over after everything else, what you think you SHOULD do? What if you gave it another shape?

Try cutting NOTAN shapes as a studio shape practice for a week to develop your shape muscle. What happens?

LINKS to NOTAN:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notan

From Jane Dunnewold 

From my blog.

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Some “SHAPE” artists and their work (please add other suggestions to the comments section!):

M.C. Escher --especially his mathematical tesselation art

Lee Shiney’s CIRCLES 

Robert Motherwell 

Henry Moore -- Sculptor 

Ilsa Iviks Textile artist 

Paul Klee  

On Developing a Visual "Voice"

Here's what we'll be tackling during my next course at the Southwest School of Art. I think the class is full (whoppee!) or nearly so. However, I think this is such an important facet of our work as artists. Discovering our own certain and individual voices as artists is what can take us past our own limited view of our work and in new and exciting directions.

Here's one of the handouts I'll be doling our during the first session -- you're welcome to try out the ideas on your own!

 

It seems to me that there are several parts to this process, and several important approaches to this self discovery process.

Pure Form: I believe – and my belief is supported by more than 30 years of work with children in creative learning environments – that each of us is born with an innate preference/leaning toward a particular way of perceiving and giving form that is directly connected to what I (and my colleagues in this work) call the sensory alphabet. This vocabulary of non-verbal qualities – line, color, shape, space, light, texture, movement, sound and rhythm  -- is a way of thinking about and organizing one’s individual strengths of perception and invention. Looking at one’s preferences and natural tendencies through this lens serves as both a way to self discovery and as a bridge to understand other creative work. This vocabulary is not just an artistic one – it can hold as true to creative work in business as in design, in science as in art.  (This, by the way is what our new book, THE MISSING ALPHABET is all about.)

 Think about which  of these constructs is easiest for you to notice, to manipulate, to play with –is it pattern (rhythm) or texture or color? What did you love as a young child?  Which of these elements are most important to you in your home, your environment? What artists do you resonate to? Design exercises and experiences for yourself that feed your mind’s natural interests, or find teachers that share your sensibilities (look at their work and see what they say about it) who can provide classes that feed your perceptual strengths 

An understanding of your own creative style in terms of this vocabulary can be the starting place for finding your voice – and even help you find the best and strongest medium for work.  For example, if color is my strong suite, I might take time to do dye and discharge samples, study Albers and other colorist’s work, take photos exploring color themes, investigate watercolor and glazing, look at color as understood by chemists and physicists, etc. If movement is a strong suite, I might see how to incorporate moving elements in my textile work, take up techniques that use my body in strenuous and challenging fashion, look at how movement blurs an image and how to capture that sense with dyeing or printing, I might even want to dye fabrics and construct garments for dance performances or architectural installations with moving components.

Most of us have three or four of these strong suites that interact in interesting ways and can pose intriguing puzzles for our work. Tracking down your strongest perceptual elements is usually just a matter of paying attention to preference, to what you notice in a space, to the materials that call your name. Journaling about childhood preferences and doing detective work in your closet, your home, your memory bank can help you name your sensory strengths.

 Content and themes: Another part of personal voice has to do with content and subject matter –Many artists who are just starting out jump around from one topic to another, one genre to another and this is an important part of learning. Sooner or later though the time comes to get beyond the surface of a topic or interest, whether it is rural landscapes or flowers or political activism or portraiture. Committing to solving the same problem different ways has a real benefit In the process of finding one’s voice. How do you pick?  Start with something that holds some passion for you – something with enough personal interest that you might have a chance of making it interesting to someone else.

Sometimes the content of one’s work is directly related to “formal” interests (for example, an artist interested in rhythm, might find a study of African mudcloth patterns particularly inspiring and influential, or maybe exploring the visual idea of windows would appeal to an artist who likes spatial concepts.) For others, a theme or content is something important because of experience, story and memory – journaling can help you identify these kinds of themes.

Themes and content lead one to develop personal imagery, ways of handling materials and tools, narrative content sometimes.

 

Materials and media – Part of one’s voice has to do with the materials and media that are central to the form. Both experimentation and fluency play a role. Experimentation means taking the time and having the will to push a media or material beyond what you have seen others do with it. Fluency means playing with possibilities and with the borders between media, combining it with other materials and using new tools with the medium. Fluency also requires “just sticking to it” long enough to get beyond the first easy idea, and this I think is the dirty little secret behind developing facility and technical skills. A lot of artists want their first of something to be fabulous, but most of us who have stuck with it long enough know that expertise does clarify the voice. Experience with the technical handling of the media, the tools, the physical material of one’s art and craft means that the message becomes clear, the hand of the artist is consciously visible rather than intrusively visible. You’ve simply got to keep at it and the “it” has to be something you like enough to carry you over the drudge, slog and boring parts.

 

Creative process – Finally, the entire process that you as an artist use to come up with and bring to life original work is part of your voice. No two people have identical creative processes. Some of us need lots of incubation and collection time. We want to look at other people’s work and make sketches. Other people need to amass piles of materials to dive into with no idea of the outcome; other artists are meticulous planners, with sketches and maquettes. Some need people around, music, noise and lots of feedback; other artists require long periods of solitude and silence. The more you know about and respect your own creative process, the clearer your voice will ring.

Knowing and respecting your creative process is again a matter of paying attention, of doing personal detective work through journaling, of metacognitive investigation—ie. thinking about thinking.

 

Houston Quilt Festival is Around the Corner

And I am one of the lightposts. Well, one of the cazillion instructors who somehow can't resist the prospect of toting too many bags and boxes around the acreage of the George Brown Convention Center, walking our feet off in the exhibits, gaping at the amazing array and approach to quiltmaking that shines in the world, and, usually. spending more money in the vendor's stalls than we make in the classroom. BUT, I wouldn't miss it for the world. And you shouldn't either. This is the Kentucky Derby equivalent of the Quilting World, and the winners are eye-inspiring and the sheer volume of things to see, do and experience make it definitely worth the trip.

If you are attending, and are looking for a class to take, please join me for fun and fabulous adventure. My work will also be on display in the RITUALS exhibition presented by Dinner@8. 

Wednesday, 9-5, Shaping Symbols into Art Quilts

Master design skills with free form patterns, cut-paper shapes and original stamps as you explore personal imagery and iconic symbols. Simplify photos for original quilts, printing and more. Thermofax screen mailed later.

Thursday, 2-4, Mixed Media Miscellany, Inkjet transfers with Wet Media Film demonstration

Friday Sampler, 10-noon, Stamp out Your Message, demonstration

Saturday Sampler, 10-noon,  Your Own Alphabet on Fabric, demonstration

Sunday, 9-noon  Inspiration is in the Cards

What inspires you? Create a one-of-a-kind card deck to spark creativity, take you out of your creative rut, and move you into art-making and imagination. Collage and design your way to a new studio ritual with a variety of mixed media techniques.

For more information and to register on line, see the Festival website and catalog. My events are #330, 460, 545, 735 and 806.

 

Want to See My Newsletter?

I am learning to use Constant Contact, finally. I am tired of never getting my mailing lists straight (as I am sure some of my mailing list victims are) and I think this will really help. I have found the process mildly, but not overly frustrating, about on par with learning any other web-based tool.

However, having written the darn thing on the site, I now have to figure out how to make a link here to the blog, and put it on as a downloadable pdf. I think this LINK may do the trick, but it's not exactly the format I am looking for (and whoever Charlotte is, thanks for letting me use your copy) However. Slowly, slowly is my advice for using any new computer aided process!

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