657: Teachers make all other professions possible

http _i.huffpost.com_gen_4108102_images_n-FRUSTRATED-TEACHER-628x314

I teach. I don’t talk about it much. When I was a new teacher, there was craftsmanship. It was an art. Computers took all of that away.

The policies under which I now work are absolutely NOT helping to produce productive, mature, responsible human beings. I am not proud to be part of the current process. I do not believe being able to retake a test is helping students prepare to take tests. I do not believe it is helping to require a teacher to put 50 points of academic credit in the grade book for NOTHING – no student effort expended whatsoever, other than breathing (not an academic activity last time I checked), not even including non-attendance as a factor – NO – I am told to award academic credit for NOTHING. How is that helping make a responsible human, employee, citizen?

Yes, I am doing all that I can do (and still keep a job) to properly, carefully, and competently educate and guide my students, working diligently, helping them become better young humans. Still.

There is only so much I can do in an hour a day to offset what they have (and have not) learned at home, and from the media, and their peers. Teaching responsibility is often a fairly painful process, and that isn’t allowed in schools anymore. People make mistakes, often painful ones, that cost them time, or money, missed opportunities, points, and other things they want. It is not getting those things when a mistake is made, and learning from the pain of losing out on something you wanted, that helps teach responsibility – and it isn’t allowed anymore. The rule used to be “no pain, no gain.” Now the rule is “no pain, no pain.”

Now, all that occurs when a student makes a mistake is that a parent calls and complains. Then I am told that an exception will be made. Nobody is learning to be responsible in school anymore, AS IF they are miraculously just going to achieve that state when they walk across that stage at graduation. Yeah, right.

When I am old and feeble, and cannot care for myself any longer, just shoot me. It would be kinder. I do not want to depend on the youngsters we are producing in American schools today when  I am unable to care for myself. I have seen what they think is a good job. Worse, I have seen what they think is “good enough.” Nope. Just shoot me.


632: The URGE


Art is creative endeavor by humans.

That means that your own brand of creative counts.

Whether you craft in food, flowers, hair, homes, stone, metal, clay, fiber, plastic, paint, paper, words, or whatever other medium you choose to express that inner muse you and only you contain – it counts as art, even if others don’t view it that way. For that matter, even if you don’t view it that way, it is art.


That means, you fabulous, wonderful, driven-to-create human: YOU are an artist.

421: Uncertain

An artist is supposed to be the authority on a work of art they create, insofar as to what it means, or reflects, or is supposed to represent. Artists are not necessarily the best authorities on their own work when it comes to value, or even if the piece is a good one. However, they are supposed to be the one who knows the meaning behind the piece – the inspiration.

Well. Sort of.

Sometimes, when one of us (read, ME) gets through with a piece, we are as flabbergasted with what we see as anyone else looking at it. Is that a reflection of being “in the moment” when the thing was under construction, or is it a reflection of absolute schizophrenia? Not too sure I want to inspect that too closely, either.

This piece is one of those.

Pan 010

I am not sure if it is guilt, or sorrow. Regret, sorrow even, surely, but guilt?  Where did that come from? What is going on here, and is it something I want to reflect upon, or do I just go with what I see….and let the analysis fall where it may?


276: Google translate

language art

language art

I have a student in my Art class who wants to attend a fine arts college. She is working on her portfolio of work in order to present an impressive portfolio when she makes her application next year.  Colleges look for three things: depth, breadth and meaning.

Breadth means that you can competently work well with various media, techniques and subjects, not just that you can paint.

Depth means that you are developing some focus, or an interest in one area that you are exploring in a series of works, whether that be media, technique or subject.

Meaning in artworks is that quality of halting the viewer to consider the work more carefully – a work that is more than just pretty, or pleasing to the eye. since my student is female, she already has a built-in “meaning” she can explore: feminism. AND, since she has lived for the last number of years in Morocco, an Islamic country, she also has the added cachet of being female in a predominately male-controlled society – feminism meaning bezeft (Arabic for too much, or too many). Hey, if it is handed to you on a platter, use it.

So, she and I were brainstorming last week about what works she might could do in this vein. In the middle of the night, I woke up with a brainstorm….OK, a brainfart…..

Take the word “woman.” Look up this word using Google Translate’s languages, and incorporate the word woman in the artwork in the various languages of the world that Google provides – in Arabic script (a, b, c, d,) as well as languages that use other alphabets, like Russian (cyrillic) and others like Chinese, Urdu and so on.  The work she created is very good – and it is making me itch to make one of my own!

267: Art from Trash



My art students have an interesting project that we are working on in class – we are making three-dimensional sculpture from materials that would normally be considered as trash. This serves several purposes and learning goals – first, that art can be created out of anything that is available, even trash. Second, this assignment proves that there is value in even trash, when it is used for a higher purpose. Third, it makes students look at ordinary trash in new ways – and THAT is a fundamental principle of art. Last, they are to do a little research on the Web and see what other artists have done using trash to help spark creative ideas of their own. There are some truly inspiring examples of works created with recycled materials, and I want students to look at what others have done in order to broaden their own creative horizons, as well as to become familiar with the work of other contemporary artists.

Last, after their work is created, I want them to write about why they made it the way that they did – what meanings can they find in their work, or what messages were they expressing when they did it this way, instead of that way? Why did they choose these colors, instead of those colors? What mood is expressed? What feelings  do they think of when they view their completed work? Does it portray what they intended, or did it generate a life of its own and take them off in another direction entirely from what they originally intended? Why did you add these pieces? What do they mean? Where is the emphasis?

Dragon from cans

Dragon from cans

I always create a work of my own while the students are working on theirs. Sometimes seeing how I solve problems with my own sculpture inspires them to be creative with theirs. Sometimes they are afraid to work in larger sizes, so mine is usually fairly large to encourage them to think bigger than they might have. And, I bring in creative trash materials for them for see and think about perhaps using in their own sculpture: scrap screen wire, bicycle parts, metal pieces, styrofoam, broken jewelry, interesting rocks, and whatever else I can scrounge (it IS trash, after all). For many students, this is an entirely new thing. Most art programs do very little with three-dimensional works in the first place, and then only small things.  But, with free trash and building materials, we can do some  impressive-looking things!

Check out this site: http://www.noupe.com/inspiration/40-terrific-works-of-art-made-from-common-trash.html where the images here come from – cool  beans!

254: Art, or NOT art?

Google "modern art" image

Google “modern art” image

There is an issue that artists have been struggling with ever since the Impressionists got to start interpreting what they saw according to their own inner vision. The invention and perfection of the camera for the first time allowed artists to do other things beside record realistic images. Now, the camera can do that far better than most artists, so artists are freed to interpret what they see in their own special ways. It does not have to look like something anymore. Therein, however, lies the rub. The debate then (and now) is whether modern artists are really creating art, or just taking shortcuts to avoid developing the technique and skill of the old masters. You have to admit, most of what I have seen lately that passes for modern art is stretching the definition of fine art pretty far.

Is this stuff still art, even when it looks like an explosion in a paint factory (Jackson Pollock), or like some angry toddler had a temper tantrum in the studio? Well – yes and no. See, Jackson Pollock and other modern artists actually do know how to create what many of us would term “real art.” They have studied for years and paid their dues to skill and technique, and when they break rules or splash paint around, they have those years of theory and knowledge behind what they do.  That’s why what they produce “works,” and what the angry toddler throws around usually does not “work.” That is not to say that the toddler cannot create some very good stuff, because there is such a force in the world known as serendipity. That term means something good that happens randomly, almost by accident: like the toddler. Most of what the toddler does is crap, because they don’t have the years of study, skill and knowledge behind what they do.

By the same token, however, as an art teacher, I LIKE the idea that anyone can create art out of the box, so to speak, because it is hugely encouraging to my students when someone does something worth keeping as a beginner (even if it IS by accident). Sometimes the planets align, and someone new to creating art gets a “good one.” Most of what beginners do, however, is practice to improve their skills and technique. That is what the study part is for!

I tell my students I NEVER want to hear them say they cannot create art because (fill in any stupid wanna-be reason here). LOOK online at what real-life modern artists are creating, and tell me again that you cannot create something that good. It is very liberating to realize that you CAN create art as a beginner.

Now, go DO IT.