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In creating my “What is Art” piece, I thought about the key components of creating - seeing and doing. I included other ingredients - practicing, learning, evolving, imagining. When we create art we are bringing to life something that didn’t exist before (actualizing). It is an amazing feeling!
When I was in high school I compared myself to another student and decided she was more “talented” than me. Many years later I dedicated myself to creating almost every day. As I practiced drawing and painting I got better and better. When I reflected back on high school, as well as thinking about the amount of time my own son spent drawing, I realized that we aren’t stuck in one level of ability, our “talent” isn’t a fixed point. As artists we grow and evolve with time and effort. This idea was very liberating to me, as I previously thought a certain level of talent was necessary to pursue art. The term talent discounts the hard work artists do. It implies that it comes easy and effortlessly.
In How Successful Artists Study, Samuel Adoquei captured this sentiment, “The art student has no idea of all the wonderful things he could achieve had he realized earlier that to learn more is to know more and that knowing more will help him do more things easily and that the more things the artist does the greater the chance that some of the things will hit the bull’s eye.”
My goal or mission as an artist is to continue to follow the art making process. To keep my eyes open to inspiration, to sit down and do the work, to follow through and create the things I imagine - whatever they may be!
Top Ten Moments in My Art Education
1. Elementary Art Tissue Paper Project - I clearly remember my art teacher wheeling her cart into the classroom and explaining a holiday tissue paper project. I was bursting with excitement about my idea for the project. I’ve never forgotten that thrilling feeling.
2. In high school I took every art class I could. I remember feeling intimidated by another girl’s technical skill. The teacher told me to add more shading to my portrait but I didn’t really know what she meant or how to do that. I think about this with my own students - it is important to “show,” not just “tell.”
3. In college I abandoned my art dreams. Senior year I drew Mutant Ninja Turtles for the children at the daycare center where I worked and took my first college art class. My love for art came rushing back.
4. Working in NYC after college, I took classes at the School of Visual Arts and Pratt, and eventually became a graphic designer. I loved the creativity of the classes and working as a designer, but I was still insecure about my fine art abilities.
5. In my first adult art class I drew a colored pencil brown bear. When I showed it to my husband I was like an eight year old exclaiming, “Look, I made this!” It was the beginning of the adult phase of art making, the beginning of so much joy.
6. I remember in a watercolor adult education class, I was so proud of one of my first watercolor attempts. The teacher said, “You are drawing, you need to paint.” I didn’t really understand it at first but eventually learned to let watercolor “do it’s thing,” to allow it to bleed and blend, and to not try to control it so much. Watercolor became my favorite medium. It’s magical.
7. As I began to paint more and more I would stare at the ocean and wonder, “How do you capture the movement and ever changing ocean in paint?” I committed to figuring it out and began painting it over and over, learning from others and myself as I went. I made so much progress by doing this! Each painting was better than the last.
8. As a parent I learned so much from my children who loved to draw when they were young and had such style and ability that inspired me.
9. When I began designing projects for my students, I tapped into not only my own childlike wonder but memories of what fascinated my own children. The mixed media 3D projects are a thrilling aspect of my own creativity. I’m bringing to life ideas I would have never thought possible as a child.
10. This past summer I took a drawing class as a prerequisite for the Masters in Art Education program. Every assignment was something I wasn’t “comfortable” with. The class opened up a whole new world to me of angles, perspective, charcoal drawing and more. The class also reminded me what it feels like to be a beginner and struggle. It was an important lesson that I’ll use as an educator. The teacher introduced us to a variety of mediums and techniques to spark our interest. A great example of an introductory class.
My Favorite Medium
I love watercolor. It is by far my favorite medium. I first learned watercolor in an adult continuing Ed class. I was so proud of one of my first watercolor attempts, but the teacher said, “You are drawing, you need to paint.” I didn’t understand it at first, but eventually learned to let watercolor “do it’s thing,” to allow it to bleed and blend, and to not try to control it so much, to not treat it like paint by numbers.
After that class, I put watercolor aside for a while, I took an acrylic painting class and tried other mediums. Eventually I pulled out my watercolors again and immediately had a feeling of coming home. It’s been a constant in my life ever since.
At first, I painted a wide range of things. Eventually I settled on learning how to capture the ocean. I painted it over and over, learning from others but mostly from repeatedly painting the same subject. Over time I developed a process. Most of the colors I mixed were from three colors - ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and cadmium red. A new stage was when I started adding the foam of the ocean using white gouache. It was a game changer. When I went in the ocean after this intense seascape painting period, I felt like I was swimming in a painting. It was surreal.
I love teaching watercolor to students of all ages. There are so many different ways to paint, all of which you can incorporate into one painting - dry brush on dry paper, wet on dry, wet on wet. I love that when you lay down the first layers, it isn’t quite permanent. You are working it into what you want it to be. You start off wet and loose with a bigger brush and work drier and with a smaller brush as you add layers, going from basic shapes to small details. I think of it like bringing a camera into focus. It is a magical medium!