Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kid/Artist Interview: Charles Keiger

The Celebration, oil on canvas, 25" X 28", Charles Keiger

You would think that looking at surrealistic art with children would make perfect sense as most of them live in the land of surrealism. “Look, Mrs. Stephens, I drew a self-portrait,” said one kindergartener, handing me a drawing of a purple poodle. “Wow! Look at you! A striking resemblance.”
Conjurer, oil on panel, 16" X 18", Charles Keiger

However, children are also very literal and their world is often black and white, hold the gray. Independently creating a landscape, children will often begin with a blue stipe at the top, green stripe at the bottom and a bright yellow corner sun. Because, well, that’s what a landscape looks like to the under-ten set.
When Nashville Arts Magazine asked if my students would like to interview the surrealist artist Charles Keiger, I jumped at the chance. I spent time pouring over Keiger's work (which is like entering into a delightfully dreamlike fantasy world) and created this prezi to share with my students (please feel free to borrow, change and use in your art room if you wanna). The kids were so engaged examining the work of Keiger that we nearly spent an entire art class chatting about his work. 
The Dreaming Cat, oil on canvas, 22" X 24", Charles Keiger

Showing children the surrealistic and imaginative world of Charles Keiger both piqued their playful mind and annoyed their analytical one. Which was wonderful because it got them asking questions. Here’s our third grade interview with Charles Keiger.
 Roam, oil on canvas, 18" X 20", Charles Keiger

Why is the background and floor the same? It looks like the people are on a stage. Is your painting like a play?

I don't see the paintings as illustrations for a play but they are definitely theatrical. The stage like setting, with the curtains, floors, and backdrops, helps to open up my imagination. Since it is an illusory world being presented, the choices of what I can paint are expanded, in other words, you can get away with anything.
A friend said recently,“your paintings are like poetry and theater on canvas”, I like that.
Tidal Adult, oil on canvas, 25" X 28", Charles Keiger

Your paintings look very 3-D and realistic. But then you mixed everything up and got us confused. Why?

Painting from real life has never been my forte. “Mixing everything up” suits my temperament and skills. If I am enjoying myself while painting and engaged as I create these scenes then hopefully the viewer will also be intrigued.  As an artist you want people to look and this is my way of trying to hold your attention and thus, my own.
Distant Planet, oil on canvas, 29" X 38", Charles Keiger

You have so many ideas. Is it hard to think of these ideas? Where do your ideas come from?

This is the question I am most often asked and the one that can be difficult to explain. The short answer is, everywhere and everything, the long answer can get complicated and mysterious but let's see.... I keep a journal where I sketch out ideas as they come to me, these are quick, small thumbnail drawings. As I go about my day I might hear a phrase or see an object that will spark my imagination and this gives me a starting point to build a picture. Then there are times when the painting I am working on will inspire ideas for the next one. I must admit however, that some paintings I look at when completed and wonder, “Where did that come from?”.
Still Life, oil on canvas, 40" X 35", Charles Keiger

I like to make a lot of things at once. Do you ever make a bunch of paintings all at the same time?

I know many artists that prefer to have multiple paintings in the works, but for me it's best to focus on one till it is complete. Each of my pictures has a specific mood or spirit and if I stay immersed in that world for the duration, it makes for a better painting.
If y'all live local (that'd be the Nashville, Tennessee area) and wanna get your kitten mittens on this kid-lead interview with Charles Keiger, here's a sneak peak at the beautiful Nashville Arts Magazine. Riiiiight?! It's a positively beautiful publication and totally free. 
And here's my article that, unless you have ant-sized eyes, I know you can't read. But have no fear, the entire article can be viewed right here, kids. Until next time, I hope your day is as delightfully dreamy as a Charles Keiger painting! 
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In the Art Room: A Scrap Yarn Relief by Second Grade

A while back, when my second grade was working on the Ojo de Dios, our lil table top trash cans were becoming filled to the brim with yarn scraps. When I asked a student to empty the trash cans and throw away the yarn, the kid paused, looked at me and said, "What?! Throw all of this pretty yarn away? BUT WE NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY IN HERE."

Okay. So I may or may not have created mini-hoardering monsters. They learn from the best, what I can I say?
After the kids planted the seed of creating with our scrap yarn, I began to give it some thought. It was then that I thought a lil foil relief project might be just the thing. This project was quick, easy, environmentally friendly and tied in with our year long study of Mexico.
 Here are the supplies we used:

* Matte board cut into 6" X 6" squares
* Scrap yarn
* Cheapo foil
* Spray adhesive. I like 3M the best.
* Super cheapo black matte spray paint. I buy the $1 a can junk.
* 000 steel wool
* Sharpies
* Tempra paint
* Matte board for the frame 8" X 8"

To start this lesson off, we read The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola. We did start this project before the holidays so it was a great tie-in. Each student was given a 6" X 6" piece of matte board that had been sprayed with a light shower of spray adhesive. At their seat, the students were to create a miniature still life of a poinsettia. Once finished, they brought the board to me where I hit it with another shower of adhesive and placed a piece of foil on top. At their seats, the students used their finger tips to "massage" the foil and reveal their yarn design.

 The following art class, I had spray painted their design and passed it back to them. It looked a lil like this:
 Using the finest of steel wool, the kids took to burnishing off the spray paint and revealing their design. 
This was then given a wipe down with a tissue to remove any spray paint dust. From there, the kids used Sharpies to add some color to their masterpiece.
 Most of them chose to color on the raised areas which was fine with me. Some decided to color the entire piece which was cool...but did not make for a happy Sharpie. 
 I love the tulip look of the flowers in this pot.
In the story, the young girl is helping her mother weave a new blanket. We looked carefully at some examples of Mexican blankets that I brought in and then began the second phase of our project. On our first day, we simply painted a variety of thick and thin lines in different values of color on our 8" X 8" board.
The following art class, the kids learned how to create different patterns in their painting by printing with cardboard. They loved experimenting with different designs. I loved these so much I was kinda sad to see 'em covered by their metal pieces!
This project was so easy and fun and I totes loved the results. I keep thinking of other ideas for this kind of project. Like if the kids learn about Picasso, they can create a yarn-y abstract portrait. Or maybe a cool landscape that is continued onto the frame of the piece. So many ideas! Do you have any that spring to mind?
Our next unit of study is circle loom weaving which you know I love. The kids have already started to paint their plates which have a similar design as these painted frames. This also proved to be great because we gained some experience in color mixing and pattern making before diving into our plate painting for the circle loom weaving project
 Whatcha think, would you give this a go?
I promise your students would love it! AND moral of this story: Not throwing anything away, even bits of scrap yarn, can yield some pretty fantastical results. Until next time, y'all!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

DIY: A Marker-Tastic Art Teacherin' Dress

 I dunno if you've noticed or not but things have gotten quite a bit...stitchy around here. I've moved into week two of Snow Daze (fingers crossed we return tomorrow, y'all) which means I've had extra time for the important things in life:

House cleaning? Negative. 
Dress-Making? Affirmative. 

It's called priorities, y'all. And I've gots 'em.
By the way, can I make a confession that's not really a confession because I betcha have figured it out already: I'm breathing down the neck of 40 and I still like to play dress up. Is that awkward? Should I seek out a support group? I'm guessing it will be the most superbly dressed support group in all the land, riiiiight? Who's hosting the first meeting, y'all and will there be cookies and grape-flavored adult drank? Count me in.
 No, you aren't experiencing deja vu. Yes, you've seen this dress pattern three times. Ahem. Remember when I done tole you last week I was making three dresses outta this pattern? There was this Mondrian number, this colored pencil piece and now whatcha got here. Do I have to tell ya that I totes dig this dress pattern? I mean, it has everything I love in a dress: a form-fittin' bodice, a fat flouncy skirt and, of course, a big ole bow. Puurrr-fectimacation.
So when I shop for fabrics, I usually buy first, think later. My hands move much faster than my brain when it comes to swiping that credit card through the lil reader. My hands are all, "hurry before that sluggish gray mass between her ears finds out we just dropped coin on even more fabric!" I usually walk outta the fabric store like I'm waking up from a dream. "Whuh just happened and who just stuck three yards of marker fabric in my bag?" Meanwhile my hands are all high-fiving each other (which looks quite ridiculous to be standing in the parking lot of a craft store clapping at your confused self, but, such is my life).

I actually scored that sweet marker fabric from here. Sadly, they are all out of the green but do have some lovely orange on super sale. The chevron came from a local shop but I did find a similar one here for you. 
 If this looks a pinch familiar that's cuz I totally used a gray version in my pencil dress. I just love this print so! You can find this orange goodness here
After throwing all of these prints together, I realize I look a lil bit like a can of Mountain Dew meets Orange Crush. Which I see no problem with atall. But I am from the South so you know that stuff is our equivalent to water. If you think I'm fibbin', go google yourself "Mountain Dew Mouth" and tell me I'm lying. Go on. I'll wait.

 Nuther refill of Dew-Crush anyone? No? How bout just a cuppa sugar with a splash of syrup and drizzle of honey. Something to dip your Moonpie in, y'all. 
 I'll have you know that this here is the only dress outta the three where I didn't screw up the pleats. And there were only, like 9 pleats, y'all. Le sigh. 
To finish off my Dew-Crush-tasticness, I decided to wear this palette hat I felted ages ago. It was just a thrifted find that I gave a lil make over to. That craft was super simple. You can go here for all the gory deets. 

In my pics you totes can't see my shoes but here they are! I painted these ages ago and they are starting to show some wear. Mostly cuz I painted them with acrylic and I shoulda gone with some sort of leather paint. You can check these out along with some other wacky painted footwear here
 And there you have it, another freaking dress thanks to my Snow Days/Sew Days. If you aren't a stitcher and have found these posts not your cup of tea, my sincerest apologies. I do hope to be back to art teacherin' sometime this decade. In the meantime, I've got a house to not clean and another dress to complete! Later, y'all!
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

DIY: A Colored Pencil Dress (and Bolero!), Many Dif Ways

I know what you're thinkin', "Holy cow, Stephens, another stitched dress?!" (by the way, teacher buddies, don't you love how the minute you became a teacher, every other adult in the school addresses you by your last name? I mean, the only other time I've been called "Stephens" was when I forgot to feign cramps during P.E., walked onto the volleyball court and promptly got whacked in the head with a volleyball. Tho I vaguely recall a "Look out!" before "Stephens" which obvi did me and my molasses reflexes no good.)

Wait. Whut wuz I saying? 

Oh, yes. Another dress. 

Weelllll, don't hate me because I'm so athletic, hate me cuz I scored an entire week off! That's right, y'all. That snow day I mentioned on Monday morphed into a glorious thing called a Snow Week which is just as glittery, sparkly and absolutely divine as it sounds. Especially since we've got built-in days so we won't have to make up for lost time. And especially-especially since this dress has been an UFO (UnFinished Object) in my sewing room for the last coupla weeks and now I can scratch it off my never-ending list of UFOs (y'all. There are so many UFO's up in my sewing room that they are thinking of filming the next X-Files movie in there).
But enough of this rambling (guess who hasn't left the house in 4 days nor spoken to anyone besides the cat and her hubs?!), let's talk dress, y'all! 
So when I showed you this dress, I tole ya that there were three more from the same pattern in the works. This here's dress #2! I've never worked on three dresses at once before and I gotta say, I kinda liked it. The progress was a lot slower, obvi, but I liked working piecemeal like that. I did manage to screw up the pleats every single time on every single dress but, you know. When you work with limited brain capacity, you come to expect such things.
 
The fab fabrics I used were the pencils by Alexander Henry and these scribbles by Ed Emberly. Super cuteness, right? In fact, Anthropologie used that pencil fabric in navy for a skirt they sold last year. I love the color palette of this light green fabric, it's feels very retro to me.
For this dress, I opted to go sleeveless mostly cuz I didn't have enough of the scribble fabric. Which is cray because I always over buy my fabric. This is also how the dress is supposed to be worn. But as you mightah noticed in the early snaps, to make it work with the bolero, I did something a lil different. 

But wait, DID SOMEBODY JUST SAY BOLERO?!
Das right, y'all! I made a wee jacket to go with my dress! I decided I needed a new outfit for the art teachers conference (NAEA for those of y'all in the know) in New Orleans where it might be a lil chilly without sleeves. AND everyone knows a jacket is all kinds of professional-looking which I'm hoping to fool people into thinking I am when I present a whopping four times. Yikes! In reality, I should prolly be working on my presentations...good thing my Magical Totally Professional Looking Jacket will fool folk! 

"Golly, Janet, what was that presentation even about?!"

"I have no earthy idea, Eunice, but it sure was professional. I mean, did you see that jacket?!"
Not to mention, it's reversible, y'all.

Re.Ver.Sah.Bulll.
 
 And I kinda dig it with a lil faux lapel, don't you? It's like a lil peak-o-pencil, know what I'm saying?
 Here's how it's supposed to be worn without the faux lapel. It's a lil too blue with this ensemble. Not to mention between the jacket and the waistband I do look a lil bull-fighter-esque. Toro! Toro! 

Like I said, reversiBULL. It's all coming together now, riiiiight? 
 So the pattern I used was that vintage number shown above. It's called "Advance". Not to be confused with "Advanced" which I would never use. The silly pattern did call for me to do some hand sewing and I was all "whuuuuut?" and the pattern was all, "yeeeeeesssss." But I had to lay down the law. It's 2015, I ain't hand sewing nuthin when I got a machine that can do it in a blink. So my bolero is all sorts of top-stitched where it isn't supposed to be. But whateves, tis the reason I ain't advanced. 
 By the way, tell me honestly, does this look like I have red toilet paper accidentally tucked into the backside of my dress? Well, does it?! A good friend would be honest with me, ya know.
But wearing it this way, with the straps criss-crossed (will make ya Jump!Jump!) around the waist and tied in the back works best when wearing it with the bolero. Says me. AND I kinda dig this look all on it's own. But that's because I'm all about the big fat belt. 

And there ya have it, folks! I promise I won't share another dress post for at least a couple of days (ahem). Until then, stay warm, buddies! 

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