29 November 2016

Art For Kids Hub! YAY!! YAY!! YAY!!

On occasion, I use a video series on YouTube to guide my students with drawing in their sketchbooks. The channel I use is called Art For Kids Hub and contains hundreds of videos of a dad and one of his three kids drawing various things in a step-by-step manner. My students absolutely love doing drawings with Mr. Rob, who hails from Utah.

The channel lets you search subjects by holiday, seasons of the year, drawing level (age), or cartoon character name. Generally speaking, I use videos like these on days just before a big holiday or during testing, when a large group of students may be gone from class.

I believe that art class is not for only heightening creative skills. There is so much more that goes into teaching creative skills to students! In my art classroom, I aim to enhance a young person’s listening skills, observing skills, and hand/eye coordination. Doing these video step-by-steps help students to become aware of what shapes are needed to create specific things: how does an owl get drawn to really look like an owl? They have to listen and watch to see how a drawing is realized. It’s not a quick process. So, these videos also help to establish patience in my students.

And, Mr. Rob is awesome!! He’s really great at explaining shapes and lines, and how to create texture with shading and layering. He always draws with a Sharpie marker. So, occasionally I give my students an added challenge, and take away their erasers. Can they listen and follow instructions and turn their *perceived* oops into a wow

My students love him! Absolutely LOVE him!

13 November 2016

2015/2016 . . . A Year in Review or, The Year That Got Away. Changes.

I began writing this blogpost last weekend, in a much more different emotional state than I am currently in (you will see dated statements below) . . . I have not lost hope, but I am definitely feeling disheartened and not unlike someone has punched me in the gut. The only thing that I have read in the past week that has made sense to me came from an email I received from Figment, a forum for the creation and display of participatory and interactive art by emerging artists across disciplines.

"Art enables us to imagine alternate possibilities for ourselves and our society, and to create and test them. When we invite everyone to come together to co-create, we start the process of imagining a future that serves everyone, that meets everyone's needs. Creativity is a universal asset, with many benefits. We need to empower everyone to create in order to build mutual understanding and imagine a better future . . . Let's fight to bring that joy, that spirit of inclusion and understanding, to everyone."

I shared this quote on FB and IG, and will refrain from saying much else about the outcome of November 8th. 

It is two days away from the most bizarre presidential election, the best offshoot being the amazing Saturday Night Live skits that accompanied each of the debates. They are brilliant, really. I am planning a fun game to play on Tuesday night as the numbers roll in, but I really have nothing else to say about the election. God bless America, peoples. The future looks female.

For the past several months I have been trying to get up the courage to start blogging again. It’s been hard to keep up with things lately. Too much has been going on over the past two years, and not all of it has been positive. But now seems as good a time as any to begin writing again . . . And so I will.

On July 31st, at 2am, I arrived in Lakeland,Florida to begin a new teaching job. For those who don’t know (as I did not before I moved here), Lakeland is sort of centrally located between both coasts and quite a bit further down into the dangling part of the state of Florida than I had realized. It is a small town, nestled equidistance from Orlando and Tampa. Like a typical US citizen, I am now dependent on a car and have to drive everywhere. This annoys me greatly, but I have borrowed a car from a magical person. So at least the cost is minimal.

The school where I teach is located roughly 25 minutes away from where I live, on the outskirts of another small town called Winter Haven. It sits on a cow field surrounded by protected wildlife. We have an alligator on campus and lots and lots of birds. Two Sandhill cranes spend their time milling about in our parking lots and around the football field. I generally arrive on campus when it’s still dark out, sometimes sitting on the edge of one of the surrounding cow fields to watch the sun rise. I am about 45 minutes away from some fabulous beaches. I’m not a huge sitting-on-the-beach person, but I do like walking the beaches and I absolutely love looking out into the ocean. I spend a lot of time in Tarpon Springs, which is about an hour and a half away.

I accepted the position here in Florida, after accepting and turning down a position in Armenia with the Peace Corps and a middle school art teaching position in Beijing. The jury is still out . . . I took quite a pay cut to come back to the United States. And I miss traveling a whole heck of a lot. But my students are awesome, here. And the classes I get to teach are incredible! We’ve started on a big school-wide mural, which I’m really excited about. All I can say about everything is: stay tuned!


Qatar  Living in Doha was a huge learning experience. The heat did not bother me. It was just like living in Texas. It turns out that I do not do well in environments where religion and government are mixed. This may not come as a surprise to most, but it was a surprise to me. I also do not want to live somewhere where I need an exit permit to leave, anytime I need to leave. I believe you should never feel trapped in a country, whether you are visiting there or living there. I also really like trees and plants, and being surrounded by things other than sand. It is good to have opinions. And it is good to know what you like and what you don’t like, what you will put up with and what you will not put up with. I learned all of those things in Doha. I will not go into details here. But the long and short of my time in Doha is this: I moved to Qatar from Singapore, I made a lot of great friends, I had an amazing apartment, I got sick on-and-off for 5 months, my beautiful dog Charlotte died, I illustrated a clown book with fabric, I adopted a bizarre, dual-language cat named Rigby, my heart got broken, I learned 3 words in Arabic, and then I moved back to the United States.



Switzerland  My first trip out of Doha was to Switzerland to visit my friend Dhivya. It was autumn at the time and absolutely gorgeous. I went to Zurich, Lucerne, and Basel. Basel is where Dhivya teaches. She lives in a lovely little flat with two nice balconies and some great bars right around the corner. Visiting Dhivya was just what I needed . . . And hilarious. She was working late on the day I arrived, so when I got up to her apartment with the key she left me, she had covered my bed with balloons and chocolate and train tickets. It was so fun! We went to a carnival and rode lots of crazy rides—some of them more than once. We went to a restaurant devoted to blind and partially sighted people called Blindekuh. Our waiters and waitresses were blind and the meal was absolutely incredible. We ate our food and drank our drinks completely in the dark, elbowing it up with strangers and laughing hysterically. It’s really amazing how intensely my four other senses were working when my eyes could no longer see. Switzerland was such a beautiful country to visit. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since this trip, and was invited to go skiing with Dhivya for the holidays. But, alas! I am now somewhat trapped in the good ol’ isolated US of A.


Sri Lanka  For Christmas and New Years of 2015, I went to Sri Lanka. I stayed just Southwest of Colombo for two weeks, traveling out only for a few days. I saw wild elephants up close, drove through the hills of gorgeous tea plantations, stopped at family-operated temples, hung out at the beach, played with sea turtles, drove a Tuk Tuk, and tasted the incredible flavors of local foods prepared for me by my host family. The seawater was the most powerful I had ever seen of any ocean. And the people were some of the nicest I have ever met. My host family took me to Christmas mass with them, where we all stood outside the church because it was too hot for all of us to stand inside the church. So the priest gave the mass to an empty church with about 300 people standing outside. Afterwards, we went down the street for cake and sparklers. It was enchanting. Sri Lanka remains to be one of my most memorable and cherished places I have ever been. I will be making plans to go back very soon.


India  My heart was broken in India. But not before I got to experience the most incredible country I have ever been to for a third time. Hyderabad was vastly different than Delhi. It had offices for Google and Facebook right downtown. And there isn’t this sort of “old-world” feel to Hyderabad, like there is in Delhi. There was a section of town called Tollywood, where the movie industry is just as big as that in Bollywood. The food was to die for: dosa with mounds of butter heaped on top, flavorful biryani, and I found a little bakery that made the most amazing biscuits (cookies). I hiked around an old fort that seemed to be on top of the world, and I visited numerous temples. My favorite part of my trip came while visiting an art center. We ate kulfi before sitting down to watch a traditional Indian dance performance. The first dance was a man dancing alone, and the second dance was a group of several girls of varying ages. The dance moves themselves are amazing to watch, especially when keeping up with the live drumming. But I most enjoyed the costuming and eye movements: such expression! I will definitely visit India again, and soon. But next time, I hope to be at an ashram studying meditation and devotion.


Nepal  In May, I took my last official break of the school year to Nepal. I spent 5 days at Sadhana Yoga Meditation Retreat in Pokhara. This was probably the most organized and brilliant trip I have ever taken. Each day started at 5:30am and ended at 9pm, with 3 yoga classes per day, 3 meditations, chanting, reflexology, clean eating, tea breaks, steam or mud baths, and neti kriya. There was only about an hour or two of free time per day, which is really great for me (the busier I am, the better). During my breaks, I would do small drawings, go on walks, or take a boat trip to the middle of the lake, downtown, where there was a temple. The most interesting and new type of meditation that we practiced was candle meditation, where everyone sat in a circle and stared at the flickering of a candle in the dark. We did this for one hour before going to bed. At the end of my time there, my body felt amazing and my skin looked so young and dewy and fresh. I can’t imagine what I will feel like after 21 days this summer! The goal is to be there for the whole month of July. I’m excited! “Think only good thoughts of others; speak only good words of others. Do only good deeds to others; give of your substance to help others.”


Oman  The last trip I took out of Doha, Qatar was to Muskat, Oman with a group of good friends. Normally I travel alone, but I had such a good time with these people over the past year, that I thought, what better way to leave Qatar? So we took a fun weekend away. We flew to Oman and rented a car. We stayed at a hotel, hung out by the pool, drove around to see the landscape (drastically different than Qatar), went to markets, and had some amazing Turkish food. It was a quick trip, but super fun!! Oman seemed less rigid than Qatar, which was a nice break.


In August, I graduated from the Maryland Institute Collegeof Art with an MFA in Studio Art. This was a four summer/three year multidisciplinary program. I started it during the first summer after I moved to Singapore. So I would fly back and forth every summer and MLK weekend to make work and present work. During the fall and spring semesters, I would read various assigned things and write papers analyzing these readings. There was lots and lots of jet lag experienced during this graduate program, and about $15,000 spent on plane tickets. But the friends I met during this program have been absolutely priceless! Such wonderful people that I still text almost weekly! Now that I’ve graduated, I’m having a bit of a hard time sitting still. I’ve been in school consistently since January of 2007. So, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do with myself. Looking at PhD programs as we speak! Wish me luck!!


In the coming weeks, I will begin to reveal more and more about my new teaching post in Lakeland. I hope to interview some of my students and co-teachers, and give readers a more complete insight into where I live. I’m trying to look at Florida like it’s a new country . . . In some ways it is. And in some ways, it’s just the US being the US. Anyhow. Have a great weekend, and keep in touch!

See also *this article* on my recent artwork and moving to Lakeland written by my good friend, Caitlin . . . More creative fun coming soon! In the meanwhile: stay active, make friends, discuss things, build community, and love our great earth!! XOXO


-- Rest in peace, my lovely Charlotte-girl. --