Tuesday, March 27, 2012

IF: Swamp

My dad in the swamp. Behind him is the camp house he
built. This was in April 2009 when the river was really high.
Usually we can walk around beneath the house.
I grew up in the swamp. Literally. I was raised on the banks of the Altamaha River in south Georgia, and my bedroom as a teenager overlooked the swamp and sloughs that edge and merge with the river. I truly love the swamp. And so my first thought when I saw this week's theme was that I'd do a tribute to home. But nothing came. I've even written a story about the swamp based on boat trips with my dad that I hope to eventually work into a dummy that I can submit. Still, nothing came.

Then I started thinking about the Everglades and my current home. I live in Fort Lauderdale, and for those who are unfamiliar with the history Florida's development, south Florida was literally built ON TOP of the Everglades. The land was drained and cities and roads erected, which is the direction I finally decided to take with this week's challenge.

I did this quick watercolor sketch this evening, and while I don't love everything about it (it seems dull and lacking in contrast), it was fun to break out the watercolors for myself and not in preparation for class. (Keep reading for an explanation of the drawing.)

Had to take a photo, so there's a bit of a shadow. Too late to scan. Can't wake the SO. :)

Certainly I didn't include anywhere near enough cars to represent the ridiculous amount of traffic on the roads down here (and all of these drivers appear to be staying in their own lanes), but if you've ever been to Ft. Lauderdale you might recognize a few of the buildings in they skyline (plus the Allure of the Seas, and enormous cruise ship that was just launched at Port Everglades last fall...or was it the fall before? I can't remember.)

Beneath the criss-crossing highways (there are plenty of those in reality) are a couple of Everglades residents. Sadly, this is not far from reality either. While the swamp itself is the western border of Broward County and about 20/25 minutes from downtown (so not really beneath the highways), wildlife does find its way into traffic and the city. My boyfriend and I rescued an anhinga a few weeks ago. It was stunned and wobbling across six lanes of traffic. We pulled into a parking lot, and Anthony stopped three lanes of east-bound traffic to corral the bird off the highway to a gas station where we gently secured it in a rug we had in the trunk of the car (you don't want that beak anywhere near you or your face) and took it to a wildlife rescue downtown. The price of progress I suppose. And tourism.

Oh my, sorry to get so serious. I'll stop rambling on for now. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you are all having a terrific week. :) 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IF: Shades (and other spooky things)

Busy week, so I'm pulling out another drawing from the past for this week's Illustration Friday topic, Shades. Actually, I think it's rather fitting. I did this for a friend a while back. He writes horror fiction and we both share a love of the macabre, so this tribute to classic horror was well-received. His favorite genre authors, actors, and characters populate the graveyard while a Nosferatu-esque vamp and other creatures (including three characters from one of the stories he's written) approach him as he writes. 

This was a value study for me, as well, and I had fun playing with the light and shadows. I definitely got a few of them wrong, but I must say that, regardless, I really love the value contrast throughout the piece. It was a lot of fun to do. Mixture of watercolor and ink.

A Nice Surprise for a Wednesday!

While passing by the front desk on my way to Kinderg.arten this morning, the school receptionist handed me an envelope. I'd received mail! Yay! I never get mail unless it's a supply order (and I get pretty excited about those, too!) So who on earth was sending me mail at school?? Turns out a family friend who has a print shop in my hometown printed up a few notecards of my tropical "Easter egg" bird from last week's Illustration Friday challenge, along with envelopes with my school's logo and address, and sent them to me. Love it!! Thanks Bill!! 

Magnolia Printing provides archival prints, notecards, and other print products for artists. Shipping is obviously an option! :)

Magnolia Printing 242 South Hickory Street
Jesup, Georgia 31546
(912) 427-8596
(912) 228-3904 Fax

6th Grade Self-Portraits (Or "Bob Ross is a Genius")

Anyone else find themselves quoting Bob Ross in the classroom? He had a beautiful way of expressing the joys of art, and "happy accident" is probably my favorite Bob-ism. This current 6th grade self-portrait project has certainly yielded a number of very happy accidents. What began as a failed ink and oil pastel batik project turned into a large crop of fabulous sgraffito wonders! (See the original post here.) 

So after two classes (for some students) of scratching away at the india ink that just wouldn't wash, my 6th graders were actually thrilled with the results. I had to keep on them, though, because they just couldn't visualize the end. To them, it seemed that their brightly colored self-portraits were ruined. And then they saw the results, and wow, what great discussions came from problem-solving our way through our original "failed" technique.

Here are a few of the (much-needed) lessons my 6th grade young artists gained from this experience:
  1. Never give up. If something seems difficult, keep at it. You have the ability to complete anything you start.
  2. Don't judge your work until you reach the end. Art evolves through the process of creation.
  3. Keep an open mind. If you find your work moving in a direction that's not quite as you planned, just go with it. See where it takes you.
  4. Learn from your "mistakes." Mistakes are necessary in order to grow as an artist.
  5. Artists are problem-solvers. If something doesn't go as planned, explore other solutions. If you're still not satisfied, see lesson #3. (This is a lesson I voice in every class.)
And here are their results. (Some finished and some close to finished. A few students will go back in with white pastel to brighten their eyes in our next class.) I actually love this more than the original plan. Happy accident indeed! For students who were a bit behind, I gave them the option of applying a coat of black tempera paint and rinsing the drawings (which is what I was originally planning to do with the ink). Some chose to do that, and some chose to go ahead with the sgraffito technique. The tempera batik portraits are at the end. They turned out really well, too!

Sgraffito Self-Portraits (India ink over oil pastel)

This is a future self-portrait of sorts. This student
drew his dad. :)

This student was the first one to try to rinse away
the india ink. Her drawing tore a bit, so she's going
to add a bow or other hair adornment to cover
the hole. So smart!

Tempera Batik Self-Portraits (Tempera wash over oil pastel)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've viewed a lot of IF submissions this week, and I've been surprised (and a bit comforted) by how many folks noted that this week's topic, Yield, was a tough one for them. It was for me, as well. I think this is because the word "yield" has very concrete meanings for me, so it was a bit more difficult to try to break out of the road sign and garden references (though I did see some extremely creative and well-done illustrations along these themes!).

So here's what I was thinking when I drew this bright bird (and I know...it's quite a stretch): Just how bizarre/colorful/odd would a bird have to be to yield Easter eggs? (Assuming, of course, that Peter Cottontail didn't have to color them all prior to delivery.)

Easter is one of my favorite times of year, so I've got colored eggs on the brain. Anyhow, I'm not crazy about the final outcome, primarily because it feels like the bird's colors are overworked. I like to leave more white when I use watercolors. But overall, I suppose he's not so bad for Day 4 of Spring Break AND the dreaded FLU (darn those adorable children). (So we could also say that 2 days of fever and chills followed by 2 days of pressure headache and congestion yields drawings of strange birds.)

Thanks for stopping by! Happy Spring! :)

Street Painting!

The masters are always popular at SPFs,
and this Mona Lisa reproduction was
beautifully executed.
I lived in Raleigh for about 12 years, and for three of those years I worked for Visual Art Exchange (a non-profit) and helped organize and produce the Raleigh Street Painting Festival (now part of SPARKcon), a public art festival during which artists (professionals, amateurs, and school groups) create large chalk pastel paintings on asphalt. In fact, I was at VAE in 2001, RCSP's first year. That festival grew from festivals here in Florida and, to be perfectly honest, putting together the festival was my favorite part of my job. It's an enormous undertaking, with planning for the next year beginning as soon as the current year's festival is over. I really miss that part of working with non-profits...it's so amazing to get involved with community. So when I discovered that I live about an hour south of the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival (their web site boasts they are the largest street painting fest in the WORLD), I was thrilled!

The LWSPF was a couple of weekends ago. I didn't have time to get my students involved this year, but next year I'll definitely be organizing some student teams. If you live anywhere near a street painting festival, I highly recommend spending a Saturday or Sunday purusing the art. I went on Sunday morning around 10am when I knew most of the artwork would be largely completed. There were still a number of artists at work, as well, so if you want to see the work in progress AND get a good taste of the finished product, Sunday morning is the time to go. (Most festivals are two days, beginning Saturday.)

Here are a few of my favorites from the 2012 Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. Visit their website to learn more about this beautiful tradition.

And a few student squares (Elem., MS, and HS):