Wednesday, February 22, 2017

artist Susan Point inspired spinning tops

As a docent at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I am currently learning about an exciting new exhibit with artist Susan Point that I will begin touring school groups through next week! The exhibit is stunning and has been very inspiring.

Susan Point

The exhibit is called Susan Point: Spindle Whorl and I knew absolutely nothing about spindle whorls prior to this introduction. I was floored to learn during a power point by Susan Point's son that one of Point's designs was based off a whorl over 9,000 years old! I thought I heard that wrong to be honest and actually had to ask him again once the presentation was over to make sure I wasn't mistaken.  Like Susan Point, I too am now fascinated with spindle whorls and felt an immediate connection with her passion with the natural world.

So much so that I immediately began to explore ways to introduce all of this new information into the studio classes. While I am sure this will not be the last project inspired by Susan Point's artwork, it was the first. I showed the elementary students some of the beautiful contemporary Coast Salish designs Susan Point has created inspired by the whorls. They are amazing examples of how to design in the round, use positive and negative space and repetition in design. For this project, I had the students focus on repetition and designing in the round.

I talked to them about Point's interest in the environment and how she feels that all of us are interconnected. I asked them to think about something in the natural world they felt a connection too, be it an animal or a cause they felt was important to them.

Each child then created a line drawing and figured out how to repeat it in the round using an ink pen. They then added watercolor to the work they had drawn on a heavy watercolor paper. 

A couple of students got a little stuck on coming up with a subject matter to draw and so I suggested maybe just coming up with an interesting line design instead.

I have seen spinning tops created online by simply placing a penny through a slit cut in the middle of the paper and they work perfectly. (I tried it) However I wanted the students to have something that lasted more long term and so we used wooden beads to create their tops.

salmon, 7 year old

One bead went underneath, then the paper was placed on top and another bead with a skewer was placed on top of that to complete the top. I adhered it all together for long term place with a bit of hot glue placed in the bead holes.

horses, 6 year old

skulls and fire, 7 year old

As you can see, I give the students complete freedom in the end on what they want to draw. I strongly believe any artist should feel a connection to their art and what would be the point of spending any time creating something you are not enjoying? Hence skulls and fire.

leopards, 8 year old

foxes, 8 year old

9 year old

7 year old

Then the fun began as the kids had a great time playing with their tops until the parents arrived. 

But the best part was having me take slo-mo videos for them to watch. Everyone wanted one!

This was a very successful afternoon in my books based on the joy this project brought from beginning to end. In fact it became apparent very quickly to me that this was something all the classes would enjoy, preschool to teens.  The preteen class is already begging to do something similar next week. 

Me? I am already looking forward to creating a project focused more on the Coast Salish design elements to inspire original creations by the students. If you live in the Vancouver area, I highly recommend stopping by the Vancouver Art Gallery and seeing this exhibit. Susan Point is a prolific artist working in a wide variety of mediums with a personal story just as inspiring as her work.

I think each and every child in the elementary class would agree after last week's class.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

reduction block prints

The teen class explored a printmaking project where they created reduction prints.

cactus, 12 year old

Using soft blocks, each student came up with a design and then worked out how to block the colors for carving.

feather, 14 year old

Starting with carving out all the areas they wanted left white, they began to print.

winter cabin, 12 year old

Then after creating at least five prints, they subsequently cut out each section of the block they wanted to remain the color they just finished printing until they ended up with just the parts they wanted printed black.

spirit bear, 14 year old

I had each student create at least five prints in order to allow a the learning curve and still ending up with at least one final print they were happy with since they were printing on the same five pieces of paper after each and every carving. In order to make them a little more confident, I always told them to start with the print they liked the least and work up to their favorite in order to give them the time to make sure they "got it right" without so much worry about ruining their best piece.

However I also told them to expect that their favorite piece would change throughout the printing process, which happened to each of them, and so to re-eavulate after each set of prints the order they would do the next printing step.

I can happily say that all the students ended up with more than one print they were pleased with in the end.

Truthfully I think the "mistakes" are as lovely as the ones where the piece turned out as expected.

Take this prints where the student accidentally placed the printing plate upside down.

I love the abstract quality of this print and in my mind is still a huge success even though it was not what was expected.

I also love this one where the student forgot to add the orange.

Here is a series of prints that although were not the original expectation, still make very interesting and beautiful final prints.

Winter House, 12 year old

And here is his final piece that he was most happy with at the end. Stunning.

In British Columbia, there are spirit bears. They are albino black bears that hold a special place in the heart of the citizens of our province. This student used the bear as the subject for her prints but needed to brainstorm a bit to figure out how to identify the bear as a spirit bear and not just a polar bear. I love her solution of adding a halo over the head of the bear to state that this is in fact a very special bear here in B.C.

And again, maybe it is me, but I love the off register prints. I love the movement this suggests as the bear is hunting salmon as they jump upstream.

The students' concepts were quite exciting. I loved that this student artist decided to create a series of prints of a poster advertising tourism to aliens to visit earth. 

Alien Tourism Print, 14 year old

Right down to the alien text even! And cities on earth have seen better days as they are now submerged in water.

The purple on the side was again one of those happy accidents that worked out well, but the artist was happiest with this version without it.

Here you can see where she experimented with leaving the text black, but after the first print decided to carve out the text and leave it silver for all the subsequent prints.

I sent the printing plates home with the students because even after they were all carved out, they still worked as beautiful stamps in just black and white.

feather, 14 year old

The movement this artist created in a subject as simple as a feather is lovely. Her prints all came out different and each was  amazing. I think it will be hard for her to pick a favorite.

There was a lot of debate as to whether or not she should even add the black at the end.

And again, even the print off registered looks great in the end.

lotus flower, 11 year old

The was so impressed with how this student simplified her design of the lotus flower. I think the repetition of the bricks is a wonderful element too.

She ended up with a very pretty series. And finally, this cactus series. The vibrant color choices were perfect for her design.

It was a fun and festive group of final prints. I am so pleased that the teens enjoyed this project and were excited at the end of each and every step with the results. They learned so much and were very proud at the end of the project.