Showing posts with label art blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art blog. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Art Teacher Interview: Eric Gibbons, AKA Box Artist

Hey, y'all! As apart of my lil Art Teacher Interview series (of which you can read more interviews here, here and here), I have the pleasure of introducing you to Eric Gibbons, aka Box Artist! I'm so thrilled that Eric has allowed me to interview him as his work as an artist, gallery owner, educator and author are so inspiring. And I know for certain y'all will love what he has to say about his journey. So without further ado, take it away, Eric! 

Just who are you, anyway? And where do you teach? And how long you been doin' it? 

I have been teaching since 1991. First in Wildwood NJ, then Egypt of all places, and now in central New Jersey. I did some teaching in Japan, but that was teaching English conversation while still in college to help pay bills when I was living there on a student exchange. As you can surmise, I love to travel and have been to Korea, Paris, London, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
I have taught all levels from pre-k through the community college level but am currently teaching in a high school, and teach privately at my gallery in the summers. [Eric's gallery called Firehouse Gallery is seen above. More details can be found here.] My 21st art camp will be this summer. I like being my own boss. I hope to retire as early as I can to publish and teach privately through my sunset years.
And you're an artist AND a published author to boot? Okay, tell us your magical ways. Start with your journey as an artist. Go on, we're listening...

So art has always been in my family. As I sit and type I am looking at 2 watercolors by my great grandmother. She painted till she was 102. Her daughter, my grandmother was an accomplished artist as is her sister Anita Gish. Her work is in the National Portrait Gallery. She too is an art teacher. My mother studied art but went on to become a nurse and therapist, but she stays creative. My brother can draw very well and my sister works for a company that produces books for museums and galleries, so she has the art bug too. It was never discouraged so it was a natural transition for me. I can do many things well, and jump from one media to another with ease. Stained glass to oils. Ceramics to watercolors. Origami to pastels. That versatility definitely helps in the classroom for a broad approach.
My own work, closest to my heart are blind drawing like Matisse, and figure painting like Jacque Louis David, or Michelangelo. I am kinda' known for my figures and still lives in boxes, hence my pseudonym on social media.
I am passionate about my approach to art education. I push a multi-disciplinary approach connecting math, history, language, literature, science, and biology to art. Art teachers know, when we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Bansky—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems in creative ways.

So is your art form of choice illustration? If so, has it always been? 

I don't think of myself as an illustrator, but if the need arises I can be. For the newest project, "If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree," I put on my illustrator hat and created about 12 Christmas trees in the styles of Picasso, Mondrian, Rothko, Haring, etc... Some took a few minutes like the Cy Twombly piece, and others took weeks, like Picasso and Tamara de Lempicka paintings. It's fun to emulate and create. I am not much for copying, but I like emulation.
Can you talk a lil bit about getting published? How does one even set out on that journey?

So publishing is a surprise for me. I was a terrible speller growing up. Ridiculed for it actually. I had great ideas but no one could get past the spelling. Thank god for spell check or I'd be jobless. My spelling is still poor, but I rely on help from technology and friends, particularly English Teachers!
My first book was call "Christian Voodoo." It started at a collection of stories for my own amusement about old superstitions that persist today. Burying a St. Joseph statue up-side-down in the yard to sell a house. Putting a rosary on a bush outside your home to stop the rain for a wedding, and many others. Some friends wanted copies of my little collection, and it grew. I sold copies on Ebay long ago, and thought to approach a publisher. Schiffer Publishing took it on and though it never really sold great it does bring in a few bucks every year and still sells.
After doing a couple more through them and others, I decided to try it myself through, owned by Amazon. Once your book is done and saved as a PDF, you upload it, and it is for sale on Amazon. I made books and collections of my lesson plans, tests, and other professional stuff and they sell well. I did some other art related books and they too did ok. We're not talking enough to quit my job, but all these little projects do add up to about a mortgage payment every month.
 If you told the 12 year old me, nearly failing English, that I would have nearly 100 books to my credit... I'd have called you crazy, but I do, though many are not under my own name, some hardly sell at all, but enough do that it's worth it and fun.
The newest book, "If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree," is really taking off though. It's for sale in museum stores, and next year will be even bigger. (It was late for this year's holiday season.) That is exciting, and scary. With Createspace I don't have to keep any books here, it's all automatic, I just get a royalty. This new book though, because it did so well, I went the traditional route by ordering 3000 copies. Putting out a huge chunk of cash. But we have recouped our investment and are now earning money on the book. Next year, If I had to guess, we'll need to order about 10,000 copies, maybe more.
So you teach, you create, you keep up a super fab blog and your write books. Talk a little bit about what your ideal average day of teaching/creating might look like. 

The blog, is really a place for me to store my ideas, web links, and resources so I can access them from anywhere, especially school. BUT I realized it would be helpful for many others so I added the blog portion and opened it up to others. As something cool comes up, I add it to the appropriate pages, and I hope it helps other teachers. The video links page is AWESOME if class finishes too early and you need something to keep the kids occupied. I have done that a few time already this year.
So as for my day, I am up by 6am, out to school by 7am, teaching from 7:30 am to about3pm. (I work just 7 miles from my home) I use all my prep time and "free" periods to write lesson plans, grade, etc. My daily goal is to take nothing home, because home is more work. I really use every minute of my day. If I know I will be busy, I come early to work.
At home I have to answer email, take and write orders. Wednesdays I teach private classes. My partner ships and organizes the books. I have to find time to write, communicate with the 30 teachers in the book so we are all on the same page. I'm active on the Facebook art teacher's page with advice and opinions, and I only "plug" a book if it truly answers a question posed, but I have tons of free stuff and advice for my fellow teachers, and am happy to share that. It's really NOT about the money for me.
Sometimes I visit the college to talk with wanna-be art teachers, crush their dreams with reality, and those that continue on are either fools like me, or awesome like you!  ;-) I joke of course, but I do enlighten them that teaching art is not for everyone, it's very hard, and schools often do not appreciate what you do. I urge them to advocate for art education, because no one else will. I sincerely believe art is THE most important subject taught in school, and I have evidence to back that up!
For fun, I carve out time to go to 3D movies, visit a museum or gallery, go to a monthly potluck and share my famous cream puffs, or watch Antiques Roadshow.
Many folks give up their personal art when they begin teaching. What have you gained from continuing to pursue your art? Where do you think you'd be without this outlet?

I have come to understand that art is a necessity in my life. When I am not creative I get very depressed. It is my medicine. I am not joking on this point. I get in a very dark place when I am not allowing myself a creative outlet. Some people do it just for fun or to pass the time. That's fine, but I have come to realize I NEED art in my life as much as I need air, water, and cream puffs from time to time.
Creating art and writing books helps me escape my isolation. I could easily become a hermit or hobbit if I let myself. But books and art are ways that I connect with others and share what I have learned. It's my way of giving back to the world, and maintaining my sanity.  
To see my own art, please visit my books are

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DIY: A Pack-a Attack-a Alpaca (AKA, Tales from an Alpaca Addict)

It could easily be stated that there are many a thing wrong with me. I suffer from anti-cleaning disease. I have a super bad and unshakable case of I-despise-cooking-itis. Not to mention the car-that-looks-like-an-army-of-hobo-clowns-live-in-it disorder which I deal with on a daily basis.

However, despite all my countless flaws, I never thought I'd add Alpaca Addict to the list...and yet...
Each and every time I look longingly at the photos from my alpaca trip, I'm all...
For that reason, I went on a wee bit of an alpaca-crafting bender over Thanksgiving break. With the help of my moms-in-law who, by her artsy nature, is always (willingly) dragged into my crafting adventures, we sculpted and papier mached these bad boys.
I know, right? Like, so super cutes it burns your retinas. And we used a buncha scrap supplies that woulda otherwise ended up in the recycling bin. Or in the back of my car with the hobo clowns which is more likely the case.
So just how did these lil guys come to life? Lemme start by showing you what our kitchen table looked like after the tofu-kery and pumpkin pie were cleared away...
So just what did we use? Well, lemme start by saying that is not mashed potatoes in the middle of the table. To craft our Alpaca Ornaments, we used:
*  Clothes pins for the legs. The ones with the metal wire hinge thingie work the best.
*  Wallpaper paste. Not be confused with mashed potatoes. Like, ew.
*  Aluminum foil scraps. I saved all the foil scraps from the kids' projects this year thinking that we'd come up with something to create. 
*  Newspaper torn into strips. What with Black Friday ads, we had plenty of newspaper to use. 
To create the body, we simply stood two clothes pins on end and crumpled a piece of foil over them for the body. Another piece was then wadded up and added for the neck and head. From there, we commenced wrapping the alpacas with newspaper. The ears were created by folding a wad of newspaper up to create a triangle shape and then attached. Because of their small size, these guys really took no time at all. And they were pretty easy once we figured out how to sculpt the body. I'm thinking my third and fourth grade kids could totally handle the scandal. 
After drying overnight, we give the little dudes a base coat of white to hide the newspaper print. From there, I just started slapping colors on the little guys whilst merrily scrolling through my alpaca pics for inspiration.
Then came the hair stylin's. When I was paper mache-ing, I didn't have a clue how to go about creating the hair. However, on a trip to the craft store, I found these super awesome pom-pom-making contraptions that worked out perfectly.  
In my bottomless stash of stuff (which reminds me, I can also had crazy-crafty-hoarder to my list of illnesses), I also happened to have yarn the exact color of my lil alpaca friends. So I promptly set to creating pom-pom alpaca afros. 
Also in my stash were some ethnic ribbons for the "blankets" to drape over the backs. These were hot glued into place.
Sparkly ribbony stuff was added for the hanger and viola! All ready for the yet-to-be-dragged-outta-the-closet Christmas tree!
 At some point during all this alpaca-madness, I got the crazy notion to paint some stationary. Because, you know, why not?
 I'm thinking that if I can fight off the urge to keep them myself, I just might gift these sets for Christmas. 
 I went about making them factory style on the dining room table (you know, because the kitchen table was full of papier mache and alpacas. As it should be). I started by just dry brushing some stripes...
 And some more stripes before stenciling. I found this super groovy ethnicy stencil at Michael's and bought it even before I had a plan. And I'm so glad I did because I loves it so.
After the background dried a bit, I sketched in some alpaca silhouettes in paint. Half the time they ended up looking like giraffes, llamas, deer or some creature from the Black Lagoon but I was determined to just keep painting and make 'em work. 
Once dry, I thickly painted stripes, dots and patterns on the back of the alpaca to mimic a blanket. I also added a lil line around the alpacas so they wouldn't appear so flat. 
And there you have it! A Pack-a Attack-Alpacas! I so loved creating both the cards and the ornaments. 

So, I gotta know, did you craft over Thanksgiving break? I'd love to know what you created. If you'd be so kind, share what you made in the comments and, if you have a blog where you featured your creation, please be sure to add a link below. Thanks, y'all!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Selling on Etsy: An Art Teacher's How To (bonus: giveaway!)

Moon Shadow Rings, here.

I believe that just about every artist, art teacher, crafter and maker-of-many-a-thing has toyed with the idea of selling on Etsy. I mean, it's every creator's dream to share their work, have people take note and, best of all, make some spare coin (you know, for buying even more craft suppliezzz). But, if you've been down Etsy Avenue, you know it's not so simple as listing your stuff and raking in the dough. It's serious (and sometimes no-sales-for-weeks/soul-crushing) work. Which is why you find so many abandoned shops on the site (including my very own belt shop, ahem). All that aside, it can be done. Today I'd like to introduce you to one art teacher who is also a super successful Etsy seller. Meet Mary Beth Heishman!
Just who are you and where do you teach art?  

My name is Mary Beth Heishman and I teach elementary school art in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tell us a little bit about how you got started creating jewelry. Have you always done it or is this a kinda new thing for you?

I was always in awe of my Grandmother's collection of gems and this really fueled my passion. I have been creating jewelry since I was a child.  I used to make friendship bracelets in grade school and in high school I made hemp jewelry.  I was always selling and trading my creations with friends.  Later in college I even worked at a local bead shop.  I would balance painting with jewelry making.  Right now jewelry making is all I do after I teach during the day.  
Personalized Plane Necklace, here.

What lead you to open an etsy shop? 

At an art inservice, haha, I was talking to a pal about starting an online website. She mentioned etsy and the rest is history.  I was afraid to go solo as how would I generate my own traffic to my site, so etsy was perfect. 
Life Cuff Bracelet, here. 
How long have you been an etsy shop opener? 

I have had my etsy shop since 2007.  In its infancy it was a hodgepodge mess.  I sold art, prints, hand painted vintage records, purses and jewelry.  It wasn't until 2010 when I had started fine tuning my shop and just making jewelry.  That is when I started selling more and had great buyer feedback which fueled my desire to want to make more.
 My personal fave, The Amazonite Bronze Block Necklace influenced by mid-century cinder blocks, here

Your shop is very well stocked full of beautiful pieces. And you've had a ton of successful sales! Tell us your secret: How do you find the time to teach, create AND sell on etsy (which entails photographing the piece, writing a description, shipping and costumer-service dilemmas)? 

Haha, I sometimes question myself on this. I do not know the secret, maybe it is having a loving and supportive husband.  My husband and I work together this year (I teach art, he teaches 5th grade math). We take turns making healthy meals (BIG meals) so we have plenty of left overs for lunch and an additional dinner. Food is very important to us, I may not have time to workout but we eat very well (healthy overall).
Personalized Banjo Bracelet, here

We have loving and supportive friends too that have always encouraged and supported my art and jewelry!
Hexagon Statement Necklace, here

As for product photos, I have a little mini light set up and white plastic backdrop that I shoot pics on.    My favorite is to take model photos with friend's in the nearby desert canyon.  I usually do this all after school.  Although I am behind on 8 new pieces that I need to photograph and post.

As far as customer service, I check my emails when I wake up in the morning and after I get off of work, so far I keep up that way.  My customers are always so sweet and lovely (I feel they too have a love for the handmade and crafted), dilemmas are few.
Whale Tie Bar, here

Are you actually a robot? 

 I wish, I need to upgrade my operating system, I am getting old.  haha, jk.
Can you tell us what a (totally ideal) teaching/creating/selling on etsy day looks like?  

I have taught for 14 years and it wasn't until 2011 that my shop has picked up consistent sales. I am always working during the work week, I wake up, walk our awesome dog, go to school, teach all day, come home and work on making jewelry until 7:30/8 pm every week night. I usually work a full day over the weekend on custom orders. During the holidays I start evening jewelry work until 9/10pm.  I am very thankful for the winter holiday as this is still order time but a few days before December 25th it slows down and I can unplug and relax. I love it though. I love teaching my little artists and then making my own works in the evening. So far I feel balanced.  
If you could give advice to someone who was considering opening an etsy shop, what would that be? (I know, where to start, right?!)

Really it was all trial and error for me. I had a hodgepodge shop and when I had feedback on jewelry that was the direction I went and stayed. I do not know if that is the way to do it but it worked for me. Ask yourself, what is your goal? Have a consistent product that you can replicate if the demand is there. Have fun with your etsy and try to stand out from the rest, be one of a kind.

Thank you so much, Mary Beth, for the fun and informative interview! It's always inspiring to hear from working artists, dontcha you think?

Especially generous ones. Check out this giveaway, y'all!
Mary Beth is GIVING AWAY this ring! Here's all you have to do to enter to win (it's worth $40, kids! How awesomely nice is Mary Beth?!):

1. Leave a comment below telling us your favorite piece in Mary Beth's shop IadornU

2. Follow Mary Beth on Instagram @iadornu. This way you can keep up with all of her creations AND more giveaways!

AND THAT'S IT! Winner will be announced one week from today!


In honor of Thanksgiving and all that I'm grateful for (that'd be you guys, thanks always for popping in and reading/commenting), I've decided to draw TWO names for the Crayola Giveaway! Congrats to...
Morgan Garcia!

Cowpoke Paintbrush!

If you lovely ladies would email me your home address ( I'll have these goodies shipped your way soon!

Thanks for participating, y'all!

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