29 January 2018

My Experience With Art.

“If I can wish for anything for my art, that is what I want—to live in some child forever—and if I can demand anything of other artists, it is that they attempt 
as much.” - Dorothy Allison


Recently I saw two sculptures by Nathalie Miebach at the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee. They were amusement park scenes made from an assortment of mixed media and found objects: rope, dowel rods, paper, bamboo, beads, sequins, tiny woven structures, tape, etc. One of the sculptures said WONDER WHEEL on the side of what looked to be a ferris wheel. The ferris wheel had little woven paper baskets going around the inner part of the wheel, and green flags and white and black circles decorating the outer part of the wheel. Underneath the wheel was a bit more complicated. There were more woven paper baskets but in the shape of tiny boats, and they didn’t seem to be going in one particular direction. Different styles of nautical flags were sticking out from all angles of the base of this sculpture, which appeared to be a deconstructed basket. Around the edges of the basketweave were tiny, red and white, life rings and beads in various shades of blue. Below the basketweave was what appeared to be a raft made out of bamboo “floating” on an ocean of blue rope.

The second sculpture was a larger version of the first sculpture, but with what appeared to be a waterpark going through the ferris wheel shape, and tiny boat structures racing down the waterways made of blue rope. The base was made of dowel rods built into a structure that looked like tiny scaffolding. The “rope ocean” was sitting atop this scaffolding and draping over the sides. The viewer could make out a sign saying WONDERWHEEL that was written around the circular part of the ferris wheel. Letters spelling out JANES TIDES in red next to a yellow arrow was on the side of the sculpture at the upper part of the scaffolding. There were dowels and colorful beads, paper baskets with umbrella tops, and blue life rings jutting out from all sides of the scaffolding.

These two sculptures contained everything that I personally love to see in artwork: craft, interesting materials, imagination, discovery, color, celebration, questions, and fear. My interpretation of these two sculptures deals with the complexity between two very real feelings: excitement and terror. I see these sculptures and instantly I am taken back to a nightmare I had when I was 10 or 11. I was at Six Flags Amusement Park in Dallas, Texas. And I was on top of a roller coaster when the park began to flood. I remember being at the top of one of the roller coaster peaks in the little roller coaster car, and there was water closing in all around me. Orcas were jumping up and out of the water, and the sun was shining very bright. I was the only person in the park, on the ride, in this terrible flood. This nightmare happened over and over and over again, eventually creating in me a fear of large bodies of water that turned very real when I almost drowned off the coast of Malaysia in 2015.

These sculptures also make me incredibly happy and excited. I love parties and colorful celebrations, circus-style aesthetics and amusement parks--my most favorite being pop-up style carnivals that happen at random in mall parking lots or open fields. And I love to visit deserted amusement parks or old parks that are monuments to things from another time: dinosaur parks or Haw Par Villa in Singapore (a park dedicated to the gruesome depictions of Chinese folklore’s 10 Courts of Hell). I love bright colors and party flags in all shapes and sizes. These two sculptures make me think of the tingly feeling you get in your tummy when doing something new or exciting, and they take me back to any number of times when I have felt that tingly sensation. I also love how imaginative they are. These sculptures make me think of animation projects by Pixar films, and this brings me an overwhelming sense of happiness and joy.

However, in real life, these two sculptures do not have anything to do with what I experienced with the work and mentioned above. From the artist’s website, she writes: “My work focuses on the intersection of art and science and the visual articulation of scientific observations. Using the methodologies and processes of both disciplines, I translate scientific data related to astronomy, ecology, and meteorology into woven sculptures. My method of translation is principally that of weaving - in particular basket weaving - as it provides me with a simple yet highly effective grid through which to interpret data in three-dimensional space. By staying true to the numbers, these woven pieces tread an uneasy divide between functioning both as sculptures in space as well as instruments that could be used in the actual environments from which the data originates.”


My first memory of being involved with art or art making, or art having anything to do with my life, was when I was in 1st grade. I attended Jenks Elementary on the South side of Tulsa, Oklahoma. My mother received word from my teacher that I was very good with shapes. I could mold different sized spheres or cubes in Play-doh and place them in ascending or descending order based on their size. During this same year, I was photographed for the newspaper with a collage I made out of various colors of construction paper. I have no memory of making this collage, but there is photographic evidence that it happened. I do not remember making the spheres or cubes, either, but I do remember my mother saying that she was very proud of me for completing these tasks. My mother was a teacher for most of her adult life, so I have no doubt that she influenced my learning capabilities at a very young age.

The following year we moved to Dallas, Texas where I eventually finished my primary and secondary education. I was not enrolled in any visual art classes again until the 10th grade. During primary and most of secondary school, I spent hours writing and performing plays to vinyl records from my parent’s collection. Everytime I think about this time in my life, I am very surprised that my parents did not enroll me in theatre. They did, however, enroll me in dance. I was in 3 - 4 dance classes a week from the time I was 3 until I was 25. Additionally, I played the piano for 8 years and the violin for 6. But theatre was never a consideration.

When I was 13, I remember walking into the kitchen where my mother was reading the newspaper. She looked up from the paper and said to me, “Andy Warhol died.” She said this to me in the same manner that you might say, “It’s raining outside.” Just sort of matter-of-factly. At the time, I hadn’t a vague notion of who Andy Warhol was, but I remember her clarifying her statement later on by saying, “He was a famous artist.” I was intrigued by this statement, but it was not until my early undergraduate days--some 10 years later--that I would become incredibly obsessed with Andy Warhol and all of his Factory darlings.

Throughout my teenaged years, I drew architectural plans. I did this for fun. The way some of the other kids my age hung out at the mall, read books, or went to movies, I sat around all day long drawing designs of buildings and houses. Most of the time these designs would be imaginative and made up. And more often than not, they would be houses or buildings shaped into the name of a friend, an idol, or a crush. Space and designing spaces has remained very important to me.

It was not until I went back to school to finish my undergraduate degree in 2007 that I realized the true potential of art. Under the guidance of my ceramics professor Margaret Meehan, art became a language to me, a tool for change, a profound statement. It was suddenly political, and provoked questions and emotion. It was almost as if something else began driving me to make things--something out of my body, but of my body. And it was at this fruitful and prolific time that I found myself at the opening of Trenton Doyle Hancock’s collaborative ballet Cult of Color: Call To Color. Mr. Hancock collaborated with Ballet Austin’s chief choreographer and a musician to create a wonderful production themed in “life and death, the struggle between good and evil, love, authority, spirituality and moral relativism”. It was a spectacle of amazement that I have not stopped thinking about since.

This concept of collaboration opened up a whole new world to me! What theatre had been doing forever was suddenly available to me. It always had been, I just never realized. I could call the shots on what I wanted to make, whether I was skilled in that area or not. I just had to have two things: an idea and follow-through. Suddenly a weight had been lifted! Collaboration was a tool to make ideas bigger and louder, and I could engage people and my love for working with others. I immediately tested this theory by producing a short performance piece in a racquetball court where dancers in cake costumes that I hand sewed performed to a maniacal laugh track. Success! My relationship with art had changed forever. Everything came full circle two years ago in Qatar when I saw Trenton Doyle Hancock speak at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Doha location. I was honored to be able to thank him in person for what I felt was a life changing event.

My undergraduate coursework is also where image making and documentation came into my life. Before any other medium, I found and fell in love with photography. I started my obsession in the mid-nineties capturing images with a film camera, a Canon AE1. I developed all of my own film, spending hours in darkrooms. I liked that you could see the grain that built up each image. And I loved the smell of developer, and that time seemed to stand still while I was in the lab. I spent hours taking pictures of everything, manually changing F-stops and shutter speeds, to suit my needs. I changed light, color, sharpness, contrast. It was a fabulous exercise in learning to see and understanding the world around me. I could hide behind my camera and record everything.

Fast forward to now, and I have my iPhone 7 Plus on the ready at every possible second: digital participation all the time. My phone camera is easy to access, always has "film", and can take 30 or more pictures in half a second. It's not film. And it's not as clear as a DSLR. But it does all of the things I need it to do. My phone was my documentation tool for the cultural research I did while I was living and teaching art overseas for 4 years. Everywhere I went the images became a source of visual storytelling to help me remember where I traveled, what I did, who I met, and helped relay information to my family and friends in the United States. If I'm not taking pictures, I feel like I'm losing memories, which makes my stomach and heart very heavy. I am constantly worried that I will forget an experience.


When I make installations or performance pieces, when I am teaching or working with community, I am always chronicling everything from start to finish. Image making is my passion. It is the proof I can point to so that I can say: I was there, that really happened, this is what I made. My camera is an extension of my relationship with the world and the recording device for documented experiences I hope to leave behind.

22 January 2018

Tutorials: #madewithcakecrush!

In November, I began making short tutorial videos featuring simple projects and techniques as an easy and fun way to encourage people all over to make more things with their hands. My current students could engage their creativity on rainy day weekends, my nephews and their friends could make things while my sister was studying, and my students overseas could stay in touch with me as an art education practitioner

I went about making these tutorials in two different ways, and I'm curious what you think! One way was for me to set up my workspace and talk and make and record at the same time, and edit everything later. The second way I went about making these tutorials was to make everything on camera in silence and create a voice-over track describing the process later on, during the editing process. 

Creatively I loved the voice-over versions much better than the other. It was fun to sort of write a script while watching the making take place. I also noticed that these voice-over videos were more tightly produced and shorter in length--all good things when competing with 2018 attention spans!

In this short post, I have included three tutorials for you all to try out: Panda Pendants, Fingerweaving, and Felt Funzies. My friend Emma helped out with the Panda Pendants in Wisconsin. And my sweet nephew and his friend sent me pictures of their experiences with the Fingerweaving tutorial. 

Now it's your turn! What do you think? 

I will be releasing new videos twice monthly, so keep an eye out on my YouTube channel. Remember to let me know what you think about these tutorials in the comments section below. And if you make anything using these videos, please hashtag them on Facebook or Instagram or wherever: #madewithcakecrush. Enjoy! Go. Make. Fun. πŸŽ‰

15 January 2018

Art Educators with heART, featuring Jason M. Stewart!

Follow the beard! When I enrolled in my MFA graduate program, I did not realize that I would meet some of the most amazing people in the world. Of course everyone talks about graduate school cohorts as being people that you can lean on and commiserate with. But no one ever talks about becoming lifelong friends with these people, laughing into the weeeeeeeeeee hours of the night with these people, or learning about art practice and ethics and professionalism from these people. 

Our MFA graduate program rotated in new students and graduated a class each year. And the program was four summers and three years long. Jason was in the cohort just a year ahead of mine. It would be hard to imagine a group of people that I have had more fun with in all of my life then that cohort of humans . . . See below! Aren't they a sweet group of seven??!! I just want to squeeze them all! (You might remember in my last post that I visited Ashley, next to Jason in the v-neck, in Wisconsin just a few weeks ago for some baby love and amazing eats!)

But back to Jason. Jason is like the baby brother I never had! We laugh at the same exact things, enjoy food--cooking and flavors--immensely, and could potentially stay in the studio working for days on end (not once letting up for air or sleep). He helped me build my rockets in my third year (see below and here), and I could always count on him for honest and forthright critiques: via phone or email, and even in person. Just before my graduating year, we even Skyped and talked about my work going into my last summer. So many memories!

Of course it would be remiss of me if I did not mention his other half, Jessi. She is a nurse and probably THE MOST hilarious person I have every met. Jessi can also crochet the heck out of a skein of yarn. You can see Jason and Jessi costuming me in my second year of our MFA program here, towards the end of the clip. Last spring, Jessi and Jason came to visit me in Florida and stayed with me. It was so great to see them! And for my spring break this year, I will be driving up to see them in New Jersey, as well as several other friends and artists from our graduate program. Friends for life! 

Jason is an incredible artist, as you can see here. And he is a wonderful art educator, teaching strong technique and thoughtful approaches to creative exploration. So without further ado I give you Jason M. Stewart, in his own words.

What is your name and where do you teach (school and city)?

Jason M. Stewart, Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, NJ (Bernards Township)

What do you teach?

High School Art – Art Studio (1st year of the 4 year art track), Art Explorer (general education art class, design concepts – no representational drawing), Design and Creation (S.T.E.A.M. program sculpture and technology course), and Technical Theatre & Scenic Design

How long have you been teaching?

8 years, just started my 9th

Have you taught the same subjects throughout the entire time that you have been teaching?

No. I was originally hired to teach half time Elementary Art (grades 3, 4, and 5) and High School (Art Explorer and Ceramics). After one year I was moved to the High School full time. I have taught or will teach all of the following classes:

Art Explorer
Art Studio
Intro to Ceramics
Technical Theatre & Scenic Design
Design and Creation
Design and Creativity (a half year version of Design and Creation open to students not in the STEAM program)

Possibly teaching next year (Advanced Art Studio and/or Honors Art Major – 2nd and 3rd year Art classes)

Where are you from?

Metuchen, NJ

Where did you do your teacher training?

Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ
B.A. Art Education
B.F.A. Studio Art – Concentration: Printmaking and Painting
Minor: Art History

Maryland Institute College of Art
M.F.A. – Studio Art (multidisciplinary)

Student teaching experiences: Mickleton, NJ; Deptford, NJ; Glassboro, NJ; Gloucester Township, NJ; Bridgeton, NJ

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I originally entered college thinking I would be a Graphic Design major because that seemed to be a logical art career where I could make money in the future. After about a month of one computer graphics class, I realized that I greatly missed using actual materials to make art and I hated sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods of time. I then switched my concentration from Graphic Design to Studio Art. After a few more weeks I began to realize that my Drawing 1 professor, Dr. Herbert Appelson (or Doc as he insisted everyone call him) was having a profound impact on me. He was the toughest, most demanding teacher I ever had. His assignments were time consuming, intricate, involved, and he required us to do 5 or 6 fully rendered 18” x 24” drawings each week. Each class started with a full group critique of the previous assignments and he was brutally honest in these critiques. During my first critique of college, Doc noticed that someone in the class had done the project wrong. He politely asked whose it was. The girl next to me raised her hand. He walked up to her, tore her drawing in half and said, “It’s only a piece of paper, do it again.” The student dropped his class the next day but I knew this teacher was someone special. Doc grew into my very first mentor; I took every class he taught – Drawing 3, Printmaking, etc. To this day, I still hear the nagging voice of a small, old, jewish man critiquing every mark or decision I make in an art piece. Doc was the first teacher who told me when my work was bad. My entire life I had been praised for my artistic ability. In high school my teachers rarely gave me constructive criticism and I often felt that my skills exceeded their ability or knowledge. Doc taught me how to get better and instilled in me the grit, tenacity, and work ethic needed to succeed. He pushed us to work in the studios at night with our peers because “being an artist is extremely lonely, it’s only you - alone in your studio for the rest of your life. Take advantage of this community while you have it.” Doc inspired me to be a teacher – I want to impact students like he impacted me.

However, after changing my major to Art Education I realized that the program only allowed for the introduction level of a variety of courses. I was not allotted enough time to truly master any of the fields of study. How can I teach students printmaking, painting, and ceramics if I’ve only taken the intro level of printmaking, painting, and ceramics? I also found that the caliber of artist work was a bit lacking in the art education program. I missed the criticality that I felt was needed with my own art practice. Because of this I double majored and eventually received a BFA in Studio Art, BA in Art Education, and a minor in Art History.

Is anyone else in your family a teacher?

No. My father is a blue-collar pipe fitter and my mother works in a cubicle (or as the rest of the world calls it – business).

What is/are your favorite subject/subjects to teach?

I enjoy teaching so many different subjects. In fact, my classes have changed each year I’ve taught. My flexibility as a teacher and my vast vocabulary and experience in different mediums has allowed me to teach many interesting subjects. I really enjoy the formative importance of Art Studio – developing students’ observational drawing skills and helping them to build the skills in order to better express themselves. I also really enjoy the new class I’m teaching this year – Design and Creation. This course is part of the STEAM program in our school and has a heavy emphasize on non-traditional art materials, sculpture, installation, and technology. We plan to make sound art, inflatable sculptures, portfolio websites, computer code manipulations, and many more.

How many students do you work with during a week's time?

Depending on that year’s enrollment I work with somewhere between 100 and 120 students each week.

What kind of artwork do you make?

My practice is a multidisciplinary practice that focuses mostly on painting, sculpture, and installation but is not limited to those three disciplines. I am interested in exploring the idea of “place” through multiple voices that I inhabit as an artist.

Do the students know you make things?

Yes. I often talk about my own studio practices, routines, etc. I think it is important for students to know that their teacher is serious about the subject they teach to the point where they practice it outside of school.

Have you shown them your artwork before?

I rarely show my work to my students for a few reasons:

1. My work, being abstract or conceptual does not align with the developmental interests of High Schoolers. The typical high school student wants to better their ability to render reality accurately or through their own expressive filter. Very few are ready to get into the topics of conceptual art, at least not when I have them in class – which is usually freshman year.

2. I sometimes feel that showing a student my work might make them want to emulate my style of work in order to pander to my own interests 0r to achieve a better grade. I believe the role of the teacher is to facilitate the student’s own expression, style, and ability; not make a carbon copy of myself.

With that being said, I will often model techniques, styles, and procedures through projects I make side-by-side with the students. However, these demonstrations or projects are intended to provide visual instruction for the student and are not representative of my personal art practice.

This year, our art department was approached by a local gallery to have a Ridge High School Faculty Art exhibit. This was the first time our department has actively shown our personal work in the community.


Do you think making your own artwork enhances, changes, or helps your teaching?

I think maintaining a personal practice is essential for successful art education. Students are very perceptive and can sense when you don’t really know what you’re talking about. But more importantly, staying on top of your own work is essential for thinking like an artist. Students want to master whatever technique they’re being taught and they are naturally creative and inquisitive. If a teacher starts just “going through the motions” and they forget what sparked their own interest in art, they lose that connection they share with the students – that of creation, creativity, and inquisitive searching. I always keep in mind that I teach elective courses, meaning students ELECTED to take my course over music, theater, or dance. They chose to be here! Why did they make that choice? Because they either wanted to be here or this was the best of the three options. Either way, the same thing that piqued their interest is the same thing that makes an artist curious about a concept, technique, material, etc. It’s that desire to understand something beyond yourself and then create something visually to express that understanding or some other idea. Sometimes words or actions cannot capture an idea as well as the visual art process and it is the job of the teacher to help students achieve that expression, representation, or interaction of materials.

Does working with young people help to enhance the artwork you make?

As stated before, students’ energy and inquisitive nature acts as an inspiration for me to get into the studio and explore my creative interests. However, I would not say that the specific work or projects I do with students act as an inspiration.

What is your favorite thing about what you do?

My favorite thing is making a student realize that they can achieve what they didn’t think they could. I teach in a very high performing district, where students only see AP classes as the real “College prep”. Therefore the students who are legitimately average, and in many cases smarter than I was at their age, feel like they don’t have a place to succeed. But Art can level that playing field. While we have students in the arts that excel in AP classes, they work right next to students who do not take AP classes and my goal is to make sure each of them finds their own form of success and when that happens, I have succeeded.

What abilities shift in you as a result of working with young people? Please explain.

It’s hard to say that my abilities shift because I’ve been working with young people my entire life. In high school, I worked as a camp counselor and I started teaching right out of undergraduate school. Therefore, working with young people is my way of life. However, I think working with young people helps me to realize developmental and cognitive differences in people I meet outside of work. They help me to find more patience when dealing with difficult situations or people when out in public.

Do you host any large events that feature your students' artwork so that the larger community can see what the students are doing? What about school specific events?

I am specifically involved with our end of the year art show, which is a massive endeavor that occupies two of our high school’s gyms and displays more 1,500 pieces of art from more than 1,000 students.

While I don’t specifically do other exhibitions with my students, our advanced level teachers have students participate in at least four additional exhibitions, some of which offer scholarships and awards.

I am also the advisor of the Drama Club’s Scenic Design and Stage Crew – This group of students create scenery for 1 play and 1 musical every year in addition to assisting with other projects throughout the year. We have won, and been nominated for, many state recognized awards – ranking us consistently as one of the best scenic design crews in the state. We have a website, www.ridgestagecrew.com.

How does collaboration fit into your teaching methods? What about personal choice? And imagination?

I think collaboration is at times very important and at times limiting. As someone who was a varsity athlete in high school, as well as someone who is involved in the collaborative nature of live theatre, I think it is important to experience and embrace collaboration. Collaboration helps you to think differently about an idea, get feedback, and learn the importance of accepting others’ input and ideas. It allows for bigger, more ambitious projects to take place due to the more forceful power of the group. It also helps struggling or low performing students to see effective modeling of techniques and ideas as demonstrated by a peer. Therefore, we do this often in some of my classes. However, it is also important for a teacher to focus on the personal and individual growth of each student. This means, making sure that top performing students aren’t being limited by a group dynamic – either by working at a lower level to match their peers or doing all, or most of, the work within the group. A great teacher once told me, “Teach to the top and the rest will rise.” Meaning it is important to focus lessons so that the top performing students will grow and improve. This can inspire those needing improvement to rise and push themselves further than they thought they could go. It is then the job of the educator to check in with each individual student so they can focus on their specific needs.

Personal choice is an important aspect of art making. I never want my teaching to produce “cookie cutter” projects. While students will inevitably work on projects with the same techniques, materials, and objectives, it would be terrible if each student’s work looked just like their peers’, or worse, looked just like my work.

Imagination is the most difficult thing to teach. Techniques are easy to model and improve, patience can be acquired or strengthened, but imagination is one of those things that grows through discourse with other individuals and is inherent to the artist and his or her aesthetic. Now, many of the classes I teach are foundation courses so the main objective of the class is to give the students the skills and tools in order to better expressive their voice and imagination later on within our art program. So, in many cases I teach “guidelines” to improve their work. I never call them “rules” because I want students to know that while I suggest certain things to improve their work and their skills, they will have the choice to resist these rules and even de-skill in any future art path they take.

Do you bring in people from the community to work with your students? Why or why not?

As much as I would love to bring more people from the community in to work with my students, I very rarely do so. The only reason for this is that I am so involved with many other aspects of school life that organizing visitors from community members becomes one more thing to coordinate, more paperwork to do, approvals to wait on, etc. Now, with that being said, colleagues of mine that teach the higher level Honors and AP art courses bring in guest critics, college reps, etc.

What are your top five favorite art supplies to use with students, and why?

Because I have taught so many different types of courses this list could get quite long but I’ll try to keep it brief:
Clay – is a very forgiving material and can be an extremely rewarding and tactile experience for all students, especially ones with cognitive or physical disabilities. It’s a faster medium than some other sculptural options and has the added benefit of becoming something functional if desired.

Paper – is just so versatile! It can be cut, glued, folded, colored on, drawn on, painted on, etc.

#2 pencils and extra soft pencil (6B or softer) – when learning to draw realistically learning the master the control over a common Ticonderoga #2 pencil allows the student to become more aware of their own body in relation to the product. Relying too heavily on the full range of H and B pencils can make the student less aware of the hand pressure needed for control of the medium. Soft pencils are needed because they are the only things that will let the student get the darkest darks.

Cardboard – it is important for students to realize that not all art needs to be made out of precious and archival materials. Not everything needs to last forever, sometimes it can be temporary. Also, not every art materials needs to be purchased at the art store. It can be found in the trash and be done on the cheap!

Water based Paint (acrylic) – paint is a particular passion of mine. The idea of controlling liquid color and finding formal relationships between colors that help to direct the viewer’s eye is something that I love to teach my students. It is also something that can be intuitive and primal or refined and elegant. Unlike ink or even graphite, if you mess up you wait for it to dry and then paint over it.

What do you think is the best part of teaching?

Getting students excited about something and teaching them awareness. I typically say that I want my students to walk away with an appreciation for something that is important to them and that they be aware of the intricacies and beauty in the world or people around them. I will often talk about music in my classes, especially because I play music in my classes daily. But, I encourage the students not to just accept the music that is forced on them by the radio – go out and find the music you want to listen to. Be active in your life and don’t just settle for what is given to you. I’d like to think that the arts education I provide encourages them to this, even if they don’t continue with art.

When leading extra-curricular activities such as Stage Crew I want to instill in students the need to be ambitious, strategic, professional, and driven. We have the ability to do the bare minimum for our designs or we can have big ideas and work hard to get them done. We might have a limited budget, but we can be resourceful with our materials and think of ways to use non-traditional materials for designs. We might be limited on time (2.5 months for the fall play, 3 months for the winter musical) but if we stay focused and work as a team we can accomplish huge things. Since this is an extra-curricular club, students CHOOSE to do this. They chose stage crew over football, basketball, speech and debate, etc, therefore, why should they chose to give this thing anything less than their very best!

Do you have a favorite lesson plan that you could share with us?

Elementary – Cave Painting with Berries, “Blood”, and Sticks.

Students use the same tools and materials as ancient humans to create versions of cave paintings in groups on brown craft paper. The papers from each group combine with other classes to form a physical cave in a hallway display.

High School – this one is a tie between two

What Would Stew Do? A Guide to Composition in Art – Students are taught and shown examples of how to compose their artwork within the two-dimensional frame. We review the effects of centering objects, tangent lines, cropping, the rule of thirds, and various other ideas that are traditionally seen as “effective” or “ineffective” when creating a composition. Students are then shown artwork from masters of art history and asked to ignore the aesthetics or quality of the paintings and just give the artworks a score from 1 to 10 based solely on the composition.

Surrealist Collages/Painting – students use magazine cut outs to construct a surreal scene that is believable as a real space but with something dream like occurring. Then, they scan them into a computer, posterize the image, print out, grid the print out, and replicated that grid into a painting.

If I asked you when you were five what you wanted to be when you grew up, what might you have said?

Artist, astronaut, police officer, firefighter, detective (yes, this was in addition to police officer), rock star, and actor. These are my actual answers when I was 5 and the rock star and actor dreams are not yet abandoned.

And finally, what is your favorite song right now?

Chance The Rapper - Favorite Song ft. Childish Gambino (not really school appropriate though) . . . 

Any song by Hop Along . . . 

Any song by Courtney Barnett . . . 

* * * * *
Inspiring, yes? Do you remember your art teacher in elementary, middle, or high school? A college professor, perhaps? If so, what made that person memorable to you? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Check out more interviews here:
Camilla Spadafino
Adrienne Hodge
Nicholas Wozniak
Sarah Johnson

Up next! Recipes tests, upcoming gallery shows, and new house tour!

08 January 2018

Holiday Traditions and Galaxy Cookies!

Hardcore traditions for the holidays are few and far between in my family. But there are a couple of things that we take very seriously. Decorating trees, for example, is a major undertaking. Everything is fair game for going onto a tree--I have handmade ornaments, old paintbrushes, eye glasses, and international trinkets on mine. My sister Kerry has several trees in her house, which the boys--particularly Liam--love to help out with. We also go Christmas light looking, driving around for hours to find houses with the most amazing displays. We don't put an excessive amount of lights or adornment on our own houses, but we do like to take in other people's installations and expressions with light. The obsession with blow up things--trees, Buddy the Elf, Santa, Octopuses, etc.--that has taken over Christmas in the last 10 or so years has me particularly intrigued, although I will never probably buy one.

This year, we added some things to our short list of traditions . . . I stepped out of my non-church-going habit and attended a candlelight service with my sis and mom in Spring Hill on Christmas Eve. At this service, they had a very nice photo and video booth set up for families. It was AWESOME! So, we had our pictures made and we played around with the video booth. It was great fun!

We also made lots and lots of cookies! Cookies are a steadfast tradition . . . We use my Grandmother Bailey's recipe and my dad prepares everything. This year my lovely nephews played a major part in the decorating, which consisted of sprinkles and more sprinkles. I have typed out both the cookie and icing recipe below. Feel free to share your creations! (I hear Valentine's Day is fast approaching . . . )


Double batch makes 100 cookies

2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Cream shortening and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla, then sifted ingredients and milk. Refrigerate over night in plastic wrap or a covered bowl. Roll and cut. Bake on a lightly sprayed baking sheet for 10 - 12 minutes in an oven set to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.


One batch ices 60 - 70 cookies. Be prepared to work quickly to avoid stiffening prior to being done with icing all of the cookies.

1 unbeaten egg-white
7/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Place over boiling water and beat with a beater for 7 minutes. Add flavoring or colorant and stir until thoroughly mixed. Decorate cookies! (Go nuts!)

On Christmas Day I flew to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What was surprisingly a quick and quiet trip, was made even more magical when I flew over Chicago and it looked like an overzealous Christmas-light-decorated-winter-wonderland. (I don't think I have ever flown in or out of Chicago and not been delayed in someway . . . But this time it was in-and-out!) The trip was made even more glorious when I let myself into Emma and Chris's house, in the dark, and saw their gorgeous tree in all of it's tinseled and glowing wonderfulness . . . With two presents thoughtfully placed under the tree with my name on them. πŸ’–

Emma and I like to make things. Mostly art, but sometimes we cook things! The sprinkles she had at her house were the most colorful jimmies in all the land. And there was such a large portion of them . . . How could we not make a rainbow sprinkle cake with an attempt at rainbow sprinkle stars on top of it??!!! 🌈 The cake was flat and relatively terrible. But man!! I could build a house and live for days in those sprinkles!!! (More on these sprinkles forthcoming . . . )

Emma and I have been friends for 15 years. At least I'm told 15. It's either 15 or 16 years. We are both artists. We both love decorating things. And we both love laughing (although that's probably more me than her). We listen to rap pretty regularly, dance uncomfortably a lot, and have a huge love for Prince, whom we saw in concert together in Nashville, TN (circa 2004? 2003?). Since coming back to the States, I have done my very best to visit her once a year. In 2016, it was in the fall. Most recently, the wintertime (to quench my need to see snow). Next year? The tail end of summer, me thinks. For Emmer's birthday.

To ring in the new year, we decided to make Galaxy Cookies from Betty Crocker's Cookbook published in 1970. We got a little carried away and brought in lighting and my picture taking got a little out of control. I'm still not sure if I'm 100% behind how these cookies turned out in the taste department . . . They were a bit solid for cylindrical cookies. And flour-y. But we had so much fun making and decorating them! We even included inedible things in the decorating process. So. Much. Fun.


As varied as the stars. So easy, so delicious are these cookies that look like bonbons. And there's a surprise center in each.

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
food color, if desired
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
dates, nuts, semisweet chocolate pieces and candied or maraschino cherries
icing (I would suggest using the icing recipe above, so that it stiffens nicely)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, vanilla and few drops food color. Work in flour and salt until dough holds together. (If dough is dry, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons light cream.)

Mold dough by tablespoonfuls around date, nut, cherry or a few chocolate pieces. Place cookies about 1 inch apart on uncreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until set by not brown.

Decorate. (And by decorate, I mean: go crazy.) 

Do you see how many pictures I took of these cookies? We were playing like these cookies were in a real, live photo shoot . . . Close-ups, extra lighting, colors, sprinkles, setting. It was chaotic, but perfect! Best night ever!

My last night of cookies (ahem: for at least 6 months, anyhow) came when Emma and I were hanging out with Ashley, one of my friends from my MFA program. She was in Milwaukee with her family visiting her husband's mother and sister. She bought us the most gorgeous and yummy spread of all different types of Greek and Italian food, complete with baby-time and cookies to boot! There was even Sticky Toffee Pudding! (New fave . . . ) 

You can't pass up on baby-time! This is Finny Bob! Born on Thanksgiving! Ashley and her cute family live and work in Alaska. I'm already planning a trip up to visit them in May or sometime over the summer . . . They live on a smallish island with lots of interesting festivals! Can't wait!

Up next: Art teacher interviews and tutorial videos! Hooray!! XO