Thursday, November 19, 2020

Virtual Visits During the Pandemic with Muralist, MJ Lindo - Lawyer, Sculptor, Robin Whiteman & Activist & Puppeteer, Andrea Lomanto

Last semester was such a success that I have continued to create opportunities for my students to meet artists in their studios via Zoom.

In September, my studio art class visited with NYC activist and puppeteer, Andrea Lomanto. I have known Andrea since 1985, when we both met in Paris. Later in life, our lives crossed paths again in the Czech Republic while studying puppetry in the early 2000's. Andrea was part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and has brought her puppetry to a South African Township to promote girl's rights.

Here is a link to a recent piece that Andrea created with her partner.

In October, my students and I traveled to upstate NY to visit with sculptor and ceramicist, Robin Whiteman. What attracted me to Robin's work is how reminiscent it is of the relics one finds in ancient cultures. 

Screenshot from Robin's Instagram.

Screenshot from our Zoom visit.

Screenshot of Robin from our studio visit.

Robin had many words of wisdom to share with aspiring artists. So much wisdom and great advice that I've put a link to her audio. (We lost connection for about 5 minutes during the hour but you can just skim through it for more gems.)

Image taken from Robin's website.

In November, my advanced portfolio class met with local muralist, MJ Lindo Lawyer.

Screen shot from MJ's Instagram video of a mural in progress

MJ (Maria José), was born in Miami, lived in Oklahoma, Toronto,Canada and Nicaragua, (where her parents are from), before moving to Santa Rosa. Art has been a constant in her life through all the moves. She was studying architecture at the local community college in Santa Rosa, CA when she had an epiphany while browsing through an art magazine that she could become a muralist. 

Her advice to students is to seize the moment and don't let "no" stop you. Seek out job opportunities rather than wait for them. MJ showed us an example of a beer label that she had designed and told us that she had approached the company about creating a label. The other big piece of advice she shared was that as a muralist, once your work is out in the public it becomes the property of the public. For example, one of her murals was defaced by someone who threw paint on it. This happens often with public artwork and you just have to let it go and not take it personally. That was a hard lesson to learn but important.

Screenshot from our Zoom session.

MJ's sketchbook and a small oil painting.

Her paintings are currently on display in NY at the Stone Sparrow Gallery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Q&A and studio visit with artist, Michael Johnstone of Verasphere

For the opening of school I had all of my students watch the documentary, "Mrs. Vera's Daybook". It's a love story and a story about how two artists cope with the AIDS epidemic. My Foundation Arts class had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with Michael Johnstone, one of the co-creators of Verasphere. It was a unique opportunity to get to talk to someone who lived through the AIDS crisis, was involved with workshops in creating the AIDS Memorial Quilt and developed as an artist with his partner, David, an amazing body of work: photos, costumes and a community. Making the most of every day through play, creativity and color the two artists navigate challenging times like we are facing today with the pandemic, California fires, political climate and times of social unrest.

Mrs. Vera's Daybook offers us a way to see the world one day at a time, with color and a playful spirit.

Images of Mrs. Vera by Michael Johnstone

Monday, August 24, 2020

Using Artwork to Make a Difference In People's Lives

Every year my students graduate and go out into the world. My greatest hope for them is that they take their skills and knowledge and use them for their own well being, to bring joy to friends and family and bring attention to a variety of causes. 

Clara Spars is no exception. She has used her artwork to deal with adversity and to bring awareness to causes that she believes in. This is a piece she did in high school.

Here she is giving a TEDX talk. The self-portrait above was drawn to help deal with a traumatic experience during high school. And here she is raising money to help others through her website. 

Sam Lasseter is another alum who makes art that brings whimsy and joy.

Sam's 2nd toaster, created after college!
Sam's 2nd toaster created after he honed his skills in college.

Sam's 1st toaster created during his senior year in high school.

                    Sophie M created this mural for the local animal shelter in Santa Rosa.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Visiting Artists Around the World in the Time of Coronavirus

Being under quarantine presents a creative challenge to teachers. How do we keep a class engaging  while we are all staring at video screens? In April, I took my students on several virtual studio visits with artists from around the world.

Michaela Bartonova
For our first trip we went to Prague, Czech Republic for a visit with Michaela Bartonova of Tineola Theater. I first met Michaela when I took students on a puppet making trip back in 2006 where she led a 10 day workshop. Since then Michaela has entered the digital realm and created puppet performances that incorporate live drawings on an Ipad incorporating, shadow puppets, live music and marionettes. Click here if you are interested in viewing the hour long studio visit.

Our second trip was a visit with Japanese artist, Maiko Kikuchi, who lives in NYC. Maiko uses mixed media in her work. She is also a puppeteer and has shown her work at the HERE Theater and La Mama in NYC. She discussed what it means to be an artist in residence and shared some of her stop motion techniques with us. Click here if you are interested in viewing the hour long studio visit Part 1.  Part 2  Part 3

Maiko Kikuchi

Our third meeting was with Danish illustrator, Henrik Drescher, who lives between Brooklyn, NY and China. Henrik shared his work space with us, shared some trade secrets of his drawing technique with a wiggly pen and gave us a drawing demo. Click here if you are interested in viewing the hour long studio visit.

Henrik Drescher

Our forth meeting was with Russian illustrator, Victoria Semykina, who lives in Bologna, Italy and Moscow. She also shared her studio with us and discussed her mixed media approach to her illustration style as well as her fascination with boatsClick here if you are interested in viewing the hour long studio visit.

Victoria Semykina

Our final virtual visit was with Nicholas Kahn of Kahn and Selesnick. I stumbled across this duo in a NYC gallery back in the 1990's and have recently started following their work on Instagram. Click here to see the hour long studio visit.

Nicholas Kahn in front of a work in progress.

Detail of objects in his studio used in photoshoots.

All of these artists are multi-talented individuals working with a variety of techniques and media.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Photo Diary Exchange with Oblikovna in Slovenia

This fall my photography class has been doing an art exchange with the Oblikovna High School in Slovenia. Working with photography instructor, Uros Acman, both classes started by posting a few images from the diary project on Instagram.

Diary Project (Instagram)

Both schools did the same project, documenting and sharing a bit about themselves and their day to day lives. Over a period of a month they were tasked with creating a series of shots from the topics listed below considering lighting, composition and story telling. 
  1. Parents/Siblings/Family
  2. Pets
  3. Bedroom
  4. House/Apartment
  5. Favorite Food or What I love to eat.
  6. Favorite Book
  7. Place I go to be alone.
  8. How I feel when I listen to this music.
  9. What I do in my free time.
  10. Something that represents my country.
  11. Something that represents the town, county or state I live in.
  12. What I love most about my life.
Here is a website that Uros created with the students' work.

The students at Oblikovna were kind enough to stay after school (5pm-6pm) to talk with our 8am class. They are advanced photography students at an art school comprised of students who are 18-19 years old while our class is a beginner class made up of 16-17 year old students from Sonoma Academy. They asked each other questions about food, music, college, the photo project and learned a few words in Slovenian! We hope to continue our exchange with the Oblikovna school.


Here is a quote from Maike which sums up the project.

"The Slovenia project was my favorite assignment we completed in photography class. I loved that it made me go about my life as a tourist. It let me slow down and take in all that I see in my life. It was very fun to take photos for people in another country, all the way across the world. I got to take photos of things I wouldn't usually think about, which made me appreciate all the parts of my life that I photographed. It was cool to know that the photos I took would be for the student in Slovenia, as a way for them to see into my life, especially since they would not typically have any connection to me if it weren't for this project. It was also fun to see all the photos that were taken by the students from Slovenia. I think that their photos were very different from ours, especially in terms of mood. Most of theirs were taken at night, while ours were almost all taken during the day, This gave many of their pieces a darker mood than ours. They used a lot of flash, too, and had more still life photos. Even though our style was so different from theirs, I still liked looking at their photos on the website and Instagram. My favorite pieces included the umbrella and skateboard pieces, because I think they demonstrate the differences between our California photos versus their Slovenian ones.

Throughout this project, I learned how to use my camera much better. The key to getting good at photography is lots of practice. This assignment helped me exercise my photography skills, which helped me learn to gage what settings to set the camera to faster. In my opinion, this project was very fun and very educational. Through learning how to use a camera better, seeing the Oblikovna students' photos and skills, and skyping with them, I think this project was a great experience and a good example of the opportunities Sonoma Academy offers their students, especially in terms of getting to know people with different cultural backgrounds. Because of this, my favorite part of the project was probably skyping. It was exciting to talk to them in person and learn about the differences and similarities between their lives and ours, whether it was about photography or not. I liked talking to them and asking answering questions the most. I thought the project was very fun to do/make, and I learned much about photography as well as foreign cultures."

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Poetry Project -Berlin

Photo © 2019 Rottkay
In January, Sonoma Academy's Arts & Activism Intersession group visited the Poetry Project in Berlin. Maxmarie Wilmoth, a Sonoma Academy alum, helped organize the event. Several of the students from Hillary and Drew's Fall course got to meet their pen pals from Afghanistan and Germany. All students participated in writing a poem and some were brave enough to recite it. Several friends were made! The students from Afghanistan and China taught us about the long standing tradition in their countries of studying and writing poetry. Because of this tradition they were the most comfortable with writing and reciting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Art Project with the John Lennon High School in Berlin

For this group project students were asked to work in groups with the German students from the John Lennon High School to create a work of art that expressed their views on a subject they felt strongly about. These group collages were then scanned and made into stickers which were posted throughout Berlin.

These are a few of the finished group collages that were made into stickers.