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Arts and the left-brain: high school edition

>I think I’ve mentioned to y’all that I never had any substantial arts education before college beyond flunking out of piano lessons in pre-school and the plastic, generic recorder in fourth grade at St. Henry’s School. Seriously, there was none until my college music appreciation class which I got absolutely nothing out of since I’m still musically illiterate. I did okay academically and in fact began my collegiate studies with the intention of majoring in engineering. Thankfully, I changed my major to Mass Communications and while focused on journalism, did put in a hefty number of hours in visual communications. 

I got to thinking about the value of arts education when I recently found studies that show that four years of art and or music in high school equate to higher performance on SAT’s as this chart shows.

In addition, students who take four years of some form of arts are far less likely to drop out of school. Seems to me Tennessee and federal lawmakers need to take heed of this when factoring in funding for the arts.

Need more than just a couple of charts?

The findings are consistant according to this 1999 article by AP writer Carl Hartman.  But a 1998 in-depth Harvard statistical study roundly disputes this broader claim and identified strong correlations in only three areas: 
     Listening to Music and Spatial-Temporal Reasoning
     Learning to Play Music and Spatial Reasoning
     Classroom Drama and Verbal Skills

The Harvard study makes one assertion that I think all educators and parents and policy makers should completely stand by, though: 

Let’s stop requiring more of the arts than of other subjects. The arts are the only school subjects that 
have been challenged to demonstrate transfer as a justification for their usefulness. If we required 
physical education to demonstrate transfer to science, the results might be no better, and 
probably would be worse. So, it is notable that the arts can demonstrate any transfer at all.”
I’m not telling you what to do but I plan to write my legislators – state and federal – and make sure they keep funding for arts education off the budget chopping block.  Personally and ideally, I see investing more heavily in the arts (globally) equating to lower costs for defense.  Hmmm.  Another good future blog study methinks! 

Tune in in the next few days for “Arts and the left-brain: corporate success edition.”

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Tom Jones’ Workshop: Fantabulous!

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Based on a Tom Jones painting and workshop

Never having been to a workshop before, I didn’t know what to expect.  I thought it would be a great learning experience but had no idea just how great it would be!

Tom Jones is a fabulous nature landscape artist who represents and is representative of some of the finest producers of art supplies in the art world – Arches paper, Rembrandt paints, and Jerrys Artarama.  So when I heard he was coming to our local Jerry’s to put on this workshop, of course, I signed up and put down the names of my fellow C.A.N.* girls.  The only one who was unable to join us was Barbara, but since we’ve got miles to go to catch up to her caliber of painting, we figured it was only right.

Tom was a great and inspiring teacher.  He had a gentle, matter of fact style that didn’t pull punches but showed me (on more than one occasion) how to fix some major goofs in my work.  The painting he chose to have us do was challenging and really pushed us out of our comfort zones, but I watched with relief and joy as Lynne, Lucilla and Margot moved from frustration to anxiety to pleasure at learning the new process.  Safe to say we all got a lot out of it.  My painting (I brought it home and doctored it up slightly after all the gaffs), is above.

We also got to meet Tom’s lovely wife Bonnie, a strong watercolor artist herself, and she showed us some batik paintings she has done recently that are beyond exquisite.  We are hoping to encourage either Jerry’s or our Centennial Arts Center to enlist her to teach a batik class in the future.  And of course, we want Tom back.  Again and again.

I learned so much in the class I came home, spent and exhausted but dying to try more.  But I’m willing to share a few of my strongest impressions here:  Arches 300# paper kicks a$$ when it comes to durability, workability, presentation quality, etc.  You know when you are working on it that it is just.well.golden!  And at $10 and change, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be for a full sheet since you can split it into smaller sheets.  Lush.

Several lessons I got from the workshop:

  1. Tom taught us to lighten the palette.  By that I mean don’t use a huge number of different colors, but few and mix between them to maintain unity in the painting.  
  2. When laying in a stand of trees, you want to do just that — lay in the color in a freeform block and don’t worry about trunks and branches until you’ve got the basic shape.  Then go in and lay in a few here and there.  
  3. Let the watercolors do the job, don’t you do it by brushing.  Just shape it, smooth it, etc. within 15 seconds if you can.  
  4. The detail work, which means the difference between a good and great painting, is accomplished in the last 15 minutes of any painting, no matter if you work on it for 30 minutes, five days, two years, whatever.  It is absolutely that last 15 minutes that makes the painting.  
  5. Use tissue instead of paper towels to blot and blend and smooth areas out, and if you need to go back to white paper, a stiff toothbrush and tissue and water are your best friends.  
  6. If you, like me, go way overboard with the paint and need to take off even more, a spray bottle with a strong stream is your even better friend.  Spray and let the water and paint run off the paper and start over. 

There were loads more things to learn and I filled a couple of pages of notes, but you’ll just have to take a class yourself! 

I loved the rockwork!  It is much like painting large flower petals.  Lay color at one edge, use a clean (water only) brush and sweep that color across the remainder of the area to be covered, ensuring one edge has strong definition.  Tom noted that I had too many rocks and it made the painting look too busy.  He suggested I merge a couple here and there into larger boulders and I may well do that later, but honestly, I’m kinda proud of the rockwork, I kept them as they were this time to show my hubby and show off on my blog.

On the waterfall, I am ashamed to say I cheated.  It was a mess to begin with but he used a new product offered at Jerry’s called “Aqua Cover” that did a great job on leveling off the water, creating a better spill area below and such.  But with 20 students and limited time, he could only do so much, and I wanted to wow my husband when he got home later last night so, after resting when I got home, I got out my (dare I say it) acrylic white paint to complete the fix. I rationalize that now I can effectively call it a mixed media work and honestly, it looks pretty good, I think. The Aqua Cover is a great, amazing product though and would have done the job but I didn’t purchase it and figured the acrylic application was next best thing.  So sue me for cheating! 

Final note on the painting: Tom’s painting did not include, but I did, a tree stump sticking through the edge of the waterfall and another area where water spills over a giant rock.  I am kinda proud of that improvisation and the overall work, even if the rocks are too busy.  I will be making a few minor changes to this work sometime when I get a chance, and thankfully, because of the great paper, I can.  But I wanted to get the near-finished painting up here with the workshop review while it was all fresh in my mind. 

Tom, if you ever grace my blog with a visit to read this, know that I got a tremendous out of you workshop and really appreciate your painting style, teaching style and the generous, genuine and decent person you appear to be.  Keep up the great work and hopefully, we Nashvillians’ll catch another of your workshops before too long.   Bonnie, we’ll be working on yours too, OK?

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A link to recent Watercolor studies, and Hazel King’s Birthday today

>Since painting with the Collaborative Artists Network, I’ve done some enjoyable watercolor studies.  They are visible in this album posted at my facebook site “Moesse the Eclectic Artist.”  If you’ve not “liked” Moesse but have a facebook page, I’d appreciate it if you would do so.  You know, share the love.

Heading into Nashville to the Centennial Park Art Center today to celebrate Hazel King’s 92nd Birthday.  Can you believe it?  What a gem.

Update – 4:02 PM:   Have returned from a really enjoyable pot luck birthday party for Hazel and will post more later, but have to correct the record.  She’s 91 this year.  Still drives, lives alone, and inspires so many still through her art education.  A real treasure.

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A grand day with fellow painters yesterday

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Barbara with a painting from more than 20 years ago!

The Collaborative Artists Network (C.A.N.) is getting geared up!  We painted at Barbara Rembert’s studio in her home yesterday inspired by some glorious instrumental music, great, great food, and the artistic and creative energy that flowed like a bubbling stream.  Barbara has a tremendous learning library of books to borrow, and we were treated to a private show of her collection of works.  She has some brilliant work over the years, and happily, we got the up close and personal tour, including explanations behind some of the loveliest of paintings.  Her methods are so varied, and yet all convey so beautifully what message or meaning she is trying to illustrate.  Pure wonderment!

Another surprise treat was a painting Margot pulled out that she had done back more than three decades ago!  And to our joy and amazement, it was done using the same strokes, colors, and style she uses today.

We didn’t talk much about our organization today, preferring just to paint, but the idea behind it is to organize as a non-profit, obtain grands or other funding to provide a safe, comfortable place to paint, the resources to do so, the opportunity to teach others less fortunate, and to sell our works to self-fund our endeavor moving forward. It will surely be a long road, but with we five, I think we C.A.N., no pun intended.  We recognize women typically give up so much to raise children, care for family, or meet other challenges that typically come from lacking that second X Gene, particularly economic ones.  And each of us has faced tremendous emotional, physical, or monetary challenges, or a combination of all three, to get to this point in our lives, and we feel it is time to put our experience to good use, identify a forum, and ultimately, give back.  Down the road, I hope to write more about our organization’s progress.

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The perfect Sunday morning, the perfect Watercolor Inspiration Book

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For Practicing:  dual pallets AND a set of cheap old pan paints too!

The day started hot and humid as it has this summer (a verdant August is unheard of here in Middle Tennessee, but it’s true this year …) so I grabbed the happy tails duo and we headed to the park for a pre-sweltering distance walk.  Once home, I thankfully grabbed my coffee, and laid out my stuff to paint with Pandora playing random tunes in the background to inspire me.  I didn’t need it however, because I found the perfect inspiration in The Tao of Watercolor:  A revolutionary approach to the practice of painting by Jeanne Carbonetti.

One of the several library books I checked out yesterday, this one beckoned me. The thing I’ve learned over the past year is that you have to give up control in watercolor more than any other medium.  You have to relinquish planning and organization, for the most part, in order to achieve the most breathtaking works.  Carbonetti’s book illustrates this beautifully as she explains washes that go far beyond the flat, graduated, etc. and gives you room to breathe, play, and explore.    I would elaborate but want to get back to my work now the paint layer’s dry.  You’ll have to check it out yourself.  One final note, though, I noticed she has several other books entwining eastern philosophy and painting.

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A book about Citiscapes

As a child, my mother wisely taught me that books were a joy and I’d relish trips to the local library as one would a visit to a candy store. I’d come home, happily meet naptime as an opportunity climb into bed to transform into a “princess,” locks resting on plumped up pillows and books spread around like treasures.

The library holds much the same joy for me, and, yes, I still enjoy an excuse for a nap for that very reason. Today, I reluctantly returned a real gem of an old book entitled Painting Citiscapes by Ralph Fabri. It was published in 1973 and after enjoying the borrowed book, I decided it was worth breaking into my scant resources to buy it from a used bookseller on Amazon. It not only goes into real detail about painting citiscapes (and building details, etc) but includes project demonstrations of citiscapes in oil, watercolor, acrylic and pastel. .

Off topic somewhat, I only glanced through all the other art books I checked out because I became engrossed in the great biography Chasing the Flame about the great late presumptive UN Secretary General Sergio Vieira de Mello – whose life was tragically cut short by an early attack in Iraq – by Samantha Power).

I’m signing off now, eager to head to the library to see what new treasures await.  And eager for nap time.