Art Inspiration · Stories

Back in Action

Phew! Second day back from Winter Break 2.0, and I am EXHAUSTED (meanwhile I am writing this post instead of going to sleep…?!) It’s more from all the catching up on work, staying late at school, and beginning the week with a marathon day of back-to-back staff meeting/professional development. My new student teacher also started her first day yesterday, which was supposed to be the Monday before. Everyone is getting back into the swing of things. Despite the to-do lists and the “I’ll save that for tomorrow”s, I plan to put time into this blog, and see it as something to look forward to.

Backtrack to Sunday…

I had the privilege in joining fellow art educators for a painting day with Paul Moscatt. We were invited to work in his studio, located at the Cork Factory building, in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore City. Our subject was a costumed model, and our medium was acrylic paint (Paul used oil paint).

My initial reaction to the experience was excitement, followed by brief thoughts of self-consciousness. After all, I hadn’t drawn, let alone painted, a figure in a very long time. Paul began with a quick demonstration of mapping out very basic shapes in a gestural way, using thinned-down paint. He quickly moved into toning the canvas with color so it was no longer white. We each began our own paintings while Paul continued working on his. Every so often, the model would take breaks from sitting.

During our lunch break, we got an opportunity to look around the two-room studio. There were canvases from floor to ceiling! There were also mannequins, props, and assorted items around that one might use for a still-life or for the setting of a painting. An inspiring artist space, indeed!

At one point during the painting session, I began working on the model’s face. Faces are tricky. If they aren’t reproduced just right, they may have no resemblance to the person they are modeled after. Even the slightest brush mark could make a difference. Paul pointed out that I had painted the facial features slightly close together. I tried to work around the problem, but ultimately ended up painting over the whole face. Fortunately, I was not too invested in the details. I’ve never considered myself a painter, and my tendency is to have a love/hate relationship with any paintings I create… They start strong, then I get frustrated over a certain part, then I revisit it, then it begins to get better, but sometimes I want to just leave it alone for a while. Alas, there are many unfinished paintings hanging out in my basement right now.

I took photos throughout my process to document the transition. I decided to work with a darker color in the end to reevaluate the facial features and see where they would go. In a way, the boldness of the lines and the color almost changed the entire dynamic of the figure itself.

We pushed all of our paintings together to do a quick critique at the end of our session. It was interesting to see how different everyone’s painting styles and approaches were.

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The next painting session will take place in a few weeks, and my place is marked! 🙂

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The painting experience from Sunday reminded me of the interchangeable role between teachers and students. On Sunday, I was a student. Although it was a generally independent work day for each of us, I still learned how to effectively beginning a figure painting. Just the experience in itself helped to build my painting skills.

On any typical weekday, I am the teacher. Working with children can be very different than working with adults, however. It’s clear that many of my students were having trouble transitioning from Winter Break 2.0 back into school mode. I tend to wonder, What did they do all week? Was it anything constructive or educational?

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