Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Personalized Mosaic Christmas Gift!

This is a custom mosaic that I made several months back as a gift for my cousin's family. I could not post it until after Christmas or it would have spoiled the surprise. This mosaic uses a large (about 16") square floor tile for it base. The name and design are sketched out on the surface and filled in with carefully nipped ceramic tile shards. The finished product can be used as a table top, in-ground stepping stone (since it is fully weatherproof) or as a decorative piece on its own.

Estimated time for completion: About 10 hours.

Selling price for anyone interested in ordering one of their own: $150.00.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rotational Motif #5

Rotational Motif #5, copyright Margaurita Spear 2011

This is the fifth piece in the quilled paper series that I am currently working on. This piece continues with the symmetrical elements found in it predecessors, however the color palette was chosen because purple is a favorite color of a friend of mine for whom I made this particular design as a Christmas gift. Quilled paper designs are very significant for her and I wanted to give her something as special and thoughtful as she is.

This design is on the smaller side, measuring about 4.5 inches squared. It is mounted to ivory embossed paper bringing its final dimension to 7 inches squared. Since the piece was a gift it was also matted. The mat (not shown) adds about another 2 inches.

Each quilled design takes hours and hours of careful intricate work, often employing tweezers to place the individual elements. This piece took well over twenty hours to complete because I used very small elements and very tight rolls of paper.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rotational Motif #4

Rotational Motif #4, copyright Margaurita Spear 2011

This is the fourth piece in the quilled paper series that I am currently working on. The series focuses on symmetry, rotational design, repetition of shapes, floral inspirations and the basic geometric element of a circle within a square. This particular piece takes additional inspiration from a more organic color palette and hints at the possibility of a butterfly, which became evident in its initial stages.

With my quilled designs I do not start out with a well-developed step-by-step plan. Rather I allow the work to influence me as it progresses. I do typically visualize the color palette and maybe the central starting point, but I leave the rest to present itself to me as I work.

This particular example is the largest and most involved design I have done. It is 8 1/2 inches squared prior to mounting onto the textured background paper which adds about another 2 inches to each side.

Each quilled design takes hours and hours of careful intricate work, often employing tweezers to place the individual elements. This piece took well over fifty hours to complete.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sometimes While Subbing...

Although I am an art teacher, as a substitute I am more frequently called upon to cover for other subject areas, otherwise I would hardly work at all. When I substitute at middle and high school levels there are usually large blocks (about an hour or so) of time where the regular teacher would have had a prep period for grading or planning. Since these tasks don't apply to me, I usually find something else to do during these down times when I have no students in the room. Usually I will bring a magazine or book to read, but sometimes I forget to do that and I must get creative.

I was going through a stack of papers the other day and came across a few things that were a result of this down-time creativity.

Typically I will use whatever material is at hand, such as:

An abstract design made from tracing a found washer and using any color pen or highlighter I could find in the room I was working in.

A rodent copied onto line paper using ball-point ink. If I recall, I think I was filling in for a science teacher and there was a photograph of a rat in the textbook.
A psychedelic 60s inspired mushroom from a stray piece of model magic left over in the art room, then colored with markers and ball-point ink from another classroom where I was covering a silent reading block.

And a ball-point ink robot while subbing for a middle school robotics class where each class watched the exact same "Robots of the Future" DVD.

Grade 3 - Tinted Snowmen Paintings

Also while substituting in an art room I had the opportunity to re-introduce a painting lesson that the regular art teacher felt wasn't quite working. He asked me to "see what I could do with it." He didn't need to ask me twice because I love when this happens and I can try my hand at teaching the same project with my own twist to it. I looked at the students work in progress and saw that many of them were having trouble developing the form (roundness) of their snowmen paintings while also dealing with the new concept of painting with tints (white with a little color added). The snowmen were coming out flat looking and either really orange or really blue -- the tinting wasn't the least bit subtle.
As an inspiration point the students had already listened to the book "Snowmen at Night" by Caralyn Buehner. In this book the snowmen are illustrated with beautifully rendered orange and blue tints to give them a round appearance. This was the look we were going for and what I needed to help the students achieve to an extent.

So, rather than just keep going with the snowmen paintings as they were, I reminded the students that the great thing about paint (tempera in this case) was that once it was dry you could always paint over it to rework something that wasn't quite where you wanted it to be -- such as their snowmen. They all agreed that they needed some more help with the concept of tinting and were happy to paint back over their existing work.

My demonstration snowman

The demonstration I gave focused on the use of wet-in-wet painting techniques, which was the opposite of what they had been using. They had been mixing their tints separately and then applying the paint. I showed them how to start with an all white snowman shape and add just little bits of color at a time using the direction of the brush stroke while blending the tint to create the roundness of the form. They were impressed enough at the result to give their own paintings another try. While there is still room for improvement the comparative results from how they first looked are astounding. Several students were able to get their tints to seem less stark and even to achieve some roundness to the form. Below are a few examples:

Now, since the students reworked their previous attempts, for the most part they did not get beyond making just the snowmen. But I thought it would be nice to leave a completed example for the regular art teacher along with some notes on my ideas for the assignment. I envisioned the snowmen interacting in some way with details added with colored pencil. And the ground would be painted white. While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled iridescent glitter onto it to give it a little sparkle like new fallen snow. I also included in the note that if he tried this assignment with another class, I would do several practice sphere paintings using white and the tinting colors before attempting the snowmen. The students would benefit from the practice and feel a greater sense of accomplishment with the final project if they could "play" with the idea first.

This is the sample I left for the regular art teacher.

Grade 1 - Kandinsky Circles

While subbing in an art room I had the chance to work with a first grade class that was finishing up a lesson on Kandinsky. They had already completed the painted circles (kind of like bull's eye targets at this stage) and were moving on to the addition of oil pastel between the painted circles and filling the squares. Since I encouraged them to take their time using the oil pastel, several did not finish this step. Below is one that did:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oaxacan Animal Drawings - Kindergarten & Grade 1

I filled in as an art sub for a day at a school that only has kindergarten and first grade students. The art room is located in the basement, so the space and the age of the students does put a few limitations on what can be done. However, despite these things the assignment left was one that introduced the students to Oaxacan animal carvings. This Mexican art is really great for younger students because it focuses on two things that are so fun to teach to this age level -- animals and colorful patterns. First the students got to practice saying Oaxacan (wa-ha-can). Then they viewed images of the carvings, named off tons of unusual animals (this part could have gone on all day), and finally brainstormed types of patterns. The patterns were toughest because while the students understand color patterns (red/blue/red/blue), they had a difficult time embracing shape and design patterns.

With all the preliminary lesson discussion done, the fun could begin. The students began their animal drawings with the prompt to make the animal huge to fill the page before adding a baby animal or background. The drawings are absolutely adorable and very colorful. The students drew their animals themselves using basic shapes as starters, so sometimes it is hard to figure out what animal they were making, but that is part of the charm.

Here are a few results...

First, a few turtles -- which were a popular animal choice:

Next, a unicorn and a baby lion -- there were a few unicorns and even a Pegasus:

Truly, I am not sure what this one is:

And this is an iguana/lizard -- my sample that I did was an iguana, so this inspired a handful of iguana drawings throughout the classes:

Lions made the list of "unusual animals" and were a good trade-off for those students who would have preferred to draw a pet cat -- these two are ferocious:

These bulls were made by two students in different classes and grade levels -- I love how intimidating the top one looks compared to how docile the bottom one appears to be:

And finally, these two birds really take flight with their bright stripes -- other popular bird choices were parrots, penguins, and even Angry Birds: