Mosaic Madness

The July First Fridays Ypsi event at FLY, where I work, was quite fun! Our project this month was a pop-cap mosaic mural that we will display at the Creativity Lab (40 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, 48197), and take with us to some special events. A good time was had by all our visiting artists, young, younger, and grown-up.


We had some families come in, and as the evening waned, a stream of couples and singles who stopped to chat. It is great to get to know people in our community. They let us know what’s going on, and we can share with them so we all become involved with one another. Go Ypsi!

Just about all the materials were from generous donors. Since bottle-caps are usually not recyclable, people saved them up and gave them to us. The canvases they’re on were also a generous gift from someone.

We are most impressed with the detail orientation and hard work by our supporters, particularly the young people who did the bulk of the work. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and be sure not to miss the August 1st First Friday, which will include the Washington Street Ypsi Art Fair.

Mad Science: Calder; Mobiles and Paper

What do you think of kinetic art?  Does it sound complicated and hard?  It’s not, it is just a fancy way of saying “Art that moves.”  2014-06-07 17.44.38

This last week at Mad Science Saturday we explored motion and balance looking at the kinetic art of Alexander Calder.
To make this project, our young renaissance artists danced to some music and drew pictures of each other.They were not allowed to look at their pictures while they drew.

We cut and scored their paper sketches along curves. The resulting forms do unexpected things. They curve around themselves and stick out at weird angles. They really look like dancers in motion!

dancer mobile

Once we had our forms, we began the mobile portion of the exercise. Dancing again, this time in slow motion, I showed them how the center of their body always remained in a vertical line from their neck down. They applied this sensation to their mobiles, and the mobiles turned out balanced.

A few weeks ago, FLY teachers were honored to be invited to a seminar with Matt Shlian, a local artist and one of a very few Paper Engineers in the country. He told us about various aspects of his work, including the curved score method of paper-folding.

We were excited that we’d have an opportunity to share this technique with the kids so soon. This project was already scheduled, but hearing how grown-up scientists and engineers apply techniques that our young artists can learn is really inspiring.

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Recycled Art Education

Vertical angle of Rain Rug

As you can see, there is progress on the Rain Rug. In the last two weeks, my luck has held out and the various thrift stores have had a variety of sheets in good colors to add to my paintbox. Greens, purple, pink. Maybe we can have a sheet tearing party one of these days in the backyard!

Another, very important event, that will raise money for Art Education outreach in Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and Westland, is a “Studio Workshop” series on creative re-use at FLY Art Center in downtown Ypsi (see the map below!) on July 6 and July 13 at 2:00 pm.  There are other classes and open studio opportunities as well.  It’s a fun thing to do on a summer Saturday, so come on down!

Latest up cycled t-shirt back Tetrahedron floppy rag bag prototype.

The first workshop will feature instructions about how to re-mix a tee-shirt from baggy dad-shirt into fashionable fitted cuteness. It will give students (adults are welcome too!) an opportunity to learn the basics of crochet, and then to work up to the second workshop which will show how to make a small rag-rug project, most likely a coaster or a placemat, but advanced students might try a bag or basket.

I’ve been volunteering with FLY for a little while now, (only 2 events, but who’s counting!) and really enjoy their mission. They go into schools mostly armed with every-day objects and help kids harness their creativity by letting them loose with a theme or problem to solve at the “art buffet” with their cafeteria trays to select their supplies. The students are free to follow the direction or make something new, and always with the support of FLY staff and volunteers.


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058:365 Learning to See

058:365 Learning to See

Today was so busy that although I could have made time for another drawing, this one makes me happy so I’ll share it with you.  Also, when I went to the art store today, these recycled toned papers from Strathmore were on sale, and I’d been drooling over them, so it seems perfect to share!

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An example drawing from today’s private lesson. We read the book and the kids had to teach me to draw the main character. They looked at shapes, body parts, and colors, and I asked them to describe it to me while they drew it. Although my drawing is simplified, but close to the original, theirs were much more expressive and less exact. So beautiful and charming. As students progress with Drawing and ESL, I ask them different kinds of questions to increase their visual ability and speaking aptitude.

This book, Clink, by Kelly DiPucchio and Matthew Myers, is about an old robot who feels like he isn’t as good as the bright shiny new robots who can do anything. It uses onomatopoeia to communicate the noises that he makes, and the drawings are great. Clear expressive forms that are easy to understand and identify with for students of a variety of ages. The reading level is a little too high for students who are only beginning to learn English, but the onomatopoeic sounds and bright pictures help them follow the story using other means. The story line is simple enough to break into smaller words as you explain, and the pictures give the right amount of subtext to allow children who don’t know every word to be drawn into the story.

Although I used to discount my example drawings, looking back over some of the ones I did while teaching in Madrid, there are a few gems that I’m proud to call my own. This one is a nice schematic, but some of those are really expressive.

Children’s Drawing

One year, at the end of the year, all the kindergarten classes that I taught put together a book of their drawings, which they gave to me at the beginning of the following year. They did this because I saved their drawings from their English class which I had sorted into three (because there were three quarters in the year) books of English Drawings.

In the process of sorting the drawings, it became clear that many kindergartners forget to put their names on drawings. But it also became clear, that most of the time, I could tell who drew what, even though my sample of students was 162 students.

How is that possible?

Each student had things that he or she liked. Each one had a specific way of putting together images. Some of them were “more advanced” than others: they knew how to draw things behind each other, or how to draw the clothes on a person better than another; conversely some had very little idea how to show space, but were excellent at expression.

It was interesting to see how these drawings related to the students’ social and academic ability. Being their English Teacher my knowledge of their developmental progress was limited. I endeavored to speak only in English, and although I didn’t always succeed, the language barrier meant that the children didn’t confide in me as much as they did in their classroom teachers. Nor did they have the capability in English to express very much.

But because of their drawings, and how quickly or slowly they learned vocabulary, or solved the tangram puzzles that we used as support materials, there was already a lot of incidental information about my students’ developmental progress available to me.

When I collated their drawings into books, I wished that I had more time to look at each student’s drawings. That I could talk to them about their drawings instead of just asking them to name the plane or the cat in their drawings in English. This inability to connect on a deeper level to my students’ progress was sometimes quite stifling, and one of the reasons that my final year in Spain, I wanted to work with older children.

Now, I’m at a crossroads. In order to teach in the U.S. I need to get a certification which means more school. Since I have to do more school anyway, I’m thinking about studying Art Therapy.

The observation of those hundreds of drawings laid out on tables and chairs in the teacher’s lounge as I put them into the little booklets was one of my most moving experiences as a teacher. It was a concrete showing of what the young learners were coming to understand, and even more, it was like looking in their heads like the mother in Peter Pan who shuffles through her children’s thoughts while they are dreaming.

Looking at their drawings, I can’t remember anymore who did what but I can still see things about who these children were and where they were in the course of their growth. I’d love to see some of their drawings, now that they are in second grade. I’m sure they are quite different and quite the same.

Looking at the drawings of the girls I lived with, I can see a big difference from when we began our lessons and three years and a bit later when I left Madrid. They gave me some of the newest drawings to keep, and have mailed me more. This transformation is very dramatic and beautiful, and I wish I had the tools to better understand it. It is like some key to a room that I can tell is there, but inside of which lies I know not what!