back to school

Posted by on Sep 8, 2009 in Maine College of Art | 3 comments

The summer that wasn’t has become the fall that will be brilliant. Whether you are going back to school or not, don’t we all harbor a student inside us? A fondness or aversion to school, and also learning, lurks in the scent of ripe apples in the crisp air.

I was a student in mid-August for a watercolor workshop taught by Tory Tyler Millar at the Fifth Maine. Tory has taught at Portland High for 18 years, but finds new ways to introduce methods and materials by taking regular courses herself at places like Haystack. I find that being a student makes being a teacher more fresh, too.

Watercolor is something I avoid, having had a dismal watercolor class in art school. The teacher was rigid, and I hated what I painted. I decided it wasn’t for me.

Tory broke down the various techniques into a sample board, handing out a large sheet of student grade watercolor paper which we taped off into six areas.

It didn’t seem as daunting as I remembered it. Just let the water flow. Have patience, let it do what it does. It was a really hot day at the edge of the sea. The salt we sprinkled on for texture did not react the way Tory felt it should. The paper buckled in the humidity. We had to let some areas dry and move on to the next square. This is the result of a graded wash left to dry, then gone over with dry brush for the raking colors in the ocean waves, plus the islands.

Like a seascape memory, more evocative than the one I did outside later, looking at the ocean.

The Fifth Maine has an amazing view from a rocky ledge blooming with flowers. It almost didn’t matter what I painted. Just lovely to be there.

This was a watercolor done around a masked area, the moon, taped off to create a stencil shape. After the purple sky dried, I went back in with the figure and trees.

It brought to mind many things. Red Riding Hood, naturally. But also a sudden awakening that I would be back in school soon. Teaching a junior/senior major studio course again at MECA. The last time I taught that course, a couple of years ago, was a lot of fun. The class was a talented group with lots of personality and sense of humor.

Can you tell from this photo of Liz and Dani sporting their new silkscreen designs?

Dani was an inspiration, in her motivation to get her work out there, trying her hand at a web comic, blogging, launching an etsy shop (stir crazy sushi), plus her plucky range of skills.

Here is a red cloak she made based on a classmate’s illustration.

I’m happy to report that I have another great group this semester. Half the reason I am teaching is simply to share a classroom with students. If they can learn as much from me as I will from them, it will be divine.

Last week they brought in the sketchbooks they were given by Alex Rheault, illustration department chair, at the beginning of the summer. Here Joe unfurls his panoply of wide-eyed creatures that cascade across the folds.

Lori went whole hog, covering the book ends with fake fur, and illustrating the alphabet with happy species on one side, and coffee-stained (on purpose) biomes on the other.

I am SO jazzed by the level of talent, I need to go scan more of their work for the school site. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, my own student started seventh grade. I did this sketch of her while she was telling the story of the first day.

Highlight of math class: forming pairs and finding the answer to how many licks does it take to finish a dum-dum? What a great ice-breaker! Teaching is changing, for sure. Curiosity and experiential learning combine to make the classroom more relevant to students.

Note to self: keep it fresh.

3 Comments

  1. It’s going to be a fun year! I love that photo of Dani and Liz, how funny!

  2. yeah, I think it will be fun. Just need to get the group fired up, ready for some play, some drawing, some experimenting. Glad you are part of it.

  3. Awww… thank you Jamie!!

    Brendan and I stopped by MECA the other day so I could sort out some paper work, and we snooped around the studios. Not everyones settled in yet, but from what we saw there is a whole lot of awesome going on. It should be really great year for you guys!

    <3

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