Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Transformational Arts Practice

My life-long journey as someone from a challenging background who has used art as a force for healing, making meaning, and helping others by creating multicultural picture books, murals, service-based art projects,  and teaching art and problem solving skills, have all led me to start the next part of my life where I "claim face" as Maya Gonzalez encourages, and my authentic identity as an artist/educator/transformationist as Kelly Rae Roberts encourages. I feel like I spent the last six years wandering in the emotional desert of academia where so much is the opposite of being authentic, with myriad hoops to jump through that get progressively higher and higher and institutionalized systems of regulation (me grading students, me being graded by those higher up on the totem pole). All these things that are so far away from what I really want to do - which is make and teach art in playful and empowering ways. A big part of this distance from my authentic self was being part of the "tenure" system, which I am now grateful to be out of. I know for many people it's not an issue, but for me it was.

So now, I am very excited to announce (drum roll please) that I am about to embark on a new period in my life teaching (in-person and on-line e-courses) in sequential art and problem solving skills through a transformational arts practice based on a pedagogy of pleasure. I have been developing this pedagogy of pleasure for many years and wrote about it in Studies in Art Education. If anyone enjoys academic writing visit for some of my articles. Transformational Arts Practice teaches course members how to "tap" into left and right brain ways of thinking and doing to overcome blocks in specific areas with specific projects while also teaching traditional and contemporary art and crafts skills (something that many newer artists might really appreciate). I feel that my academic background has trained me in research practices that will be very helpful in providing background information and good pedagogy, while my artist's soul, sensitivity, and joy in making and teaching art will help me teach these things in a loving way. I am VERY excited about  actually launching SOON, but am finding it hard to decide on which blog button to use as this will decide how my new site will look. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated as it's very hard to see and critique your own work. If you can - do let me know what you think.

I am an artist, educator, loving, transformationist

I've been taking this extraordinary e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts and reading Maya Gonzalez's Claiming Face curriculum which provides an alternative pedagogy for teachers to engage students in learning through creativity and claiming their authentic selves (Kelly also does this in a very different way). So, here goes....

The animals are from my personal symbolic non-hierarchical totemic taxonomy (whew! Taxonomy is a cool word for a system of classifying). My animals are not in any particular order, but they do mean specific things. Beginning at the bottom - the snake is a symbol of transformation because it sheds it's kin, the turtle tells me to slow down and that I carry "home" wherever I go, crocodiles and alligators are ancient survivors and can live both on land and in the water - they also remind me that I need to have a thicker skin at times, elephants with their trunks up signify good luck - they live in herds (community) are very soulful, and also have thick skins. Birds represent flight, the imagination, fragility and the world of ideas, and a mouse with an elephant represent the Indian God Ganesh - "the lord of obstacles" because together they can go absolutely anywhere."  Finally, butterflies are the ultimate symbol of transformation emerging from their cocoons as caterpillars before shedding their caterpillar selves to be a glorious butterfly.

I am more in love with the concept of this painting, which is part homage to Mati Rose, part homage to Native American totem poles and partly based on the creation myth of turtles on top of turtles, than the image itself. The actual painting doesn't include the collaged word elements but I feel my background makes it too busy. I will simplify later.  But here I am, impatient to post, and here it is - imperfect but present. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Art Addiction and Studio Lies

I've been thinking about addiction and the many forms it comes in. For me it's art supplies, children's picture books, art books, other books (spirituality, history, novels, yiddishkeit) collecting art, making art, and a tendency to work too hard. Today I tried to sell some of my squillions of beloved social theory, art education, and qualitative research books today at our 2 local book buying places, but they weren't too interested. May make a posting here in future and see if anyone wants any cheap. Am really trying to pare down and do more with less but just watched this terrific video from Claudine Hellmuth on making art with beeswax (a simplified form of encaustic)  (it's free but you have to sign up and register) and now of course I want to buy all those supplies. My studio in Sacramento is the smallest that I've had in decades which means I need to get rid of stuff rather than getting more. Sigh.

The other thing I was thinking about was a conversation with my friend Caron Dunn who is another needle-felter and an exceptional teaching artist for all sorts of art forms. She too has a small studio in which she creates a lot of work and like mine it has a fair to excessive amount of chaos and mess. Anyway, we started complaining about our messy studios and comparing it to all those gorgeous artists studio you see online, when Caron exclaimed "Those pictures are lies! No one's studio is that tidy. They wouldn't be able to get any work done!" This instantly made me feel much better although tomorrow I am hoping to clean up my studio a little, even if it only is for a few precious days before I get down and dirty with my supplies.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Guido 1991-2010

The results came back and they were very bad. The night before we were almost giddy, feeling somehow that we might have cheated death the way Grandma Beetle does in Yuyi Morales's Just a Minute book. When I told my 84 year old extraordinary mom-in-law about this she said in her Zen Buddhist way "no-one cheats death." Yesterday we put Guido down and buried him near the redwood grove in her yard. It was unbearably painful. He was between 96 to 100 years old in human years and as Guy often pointed out, he had a better life than many humans do. I have wonderful pictures of him from kittenhood on but can't find that darn album. Here are some pictures of him that I could access.

 Guido and Guy

Guido and Possum

 Guido and art. Our old cat gallery on left, and Guido's delight in jumping onto my art table, especially into wet paint, with which he would then gleefully run tracking throughout the apartment.

Guido in art. Guido snuck into this painting detail from a commission I did of someone's Pacific Height's view (it was a much larger painting). On right, Guido (and Possum) in Just Like Me

 Some of the many faces of Guido starting with the "I know I am a little cat but I want to dominate you" look. He also had an incredible range of vocalizations from tiny little squeaky sounds to loud disapproving yowls. He was a brilliant communicator with both his voice and actions.

Guido's last day. I hope he's either in kitty heaven climbing trees and chasing birds and butterflies, or that he gets to come back as the human he always wanted to be in a really good life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Guido's reprieve

OK, I'm pathetic. After days of weeping we took Guido to be put down and he suddenly rallied wolfing down the food the vet put on the table for his final meal, acting all frisky. So, the vet presented us with the possibility of a few more years of Guidoness and we jumped on it. We spent $320 on tests, a hinie wipe, a nail clipping so that he can get more traction, and tomorrow we find out the results. Whatever happens we are happy to get at least another day with "the greatest kitty in the universe" (Guy's nickname for Guido).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Saying goodbye to Guido

Have made an appointment to put my nearly 20 year old cat Guido to sleep tomorrow. He's failing fast, falling over, just gone blind in one eye, not eating, skeletal, and yet his beautiful presence still shines through making it hard to let go. I named him Guido because the house I lived in at the time had once been an Italian boarding house and Guido means guide, which he has been in many ways in my life. I've known him since he was a little over a week old when I was visiting my neighbors Miya Masaoka and Jesse Drew in the Mission District. Guido climbed up my body and sat on my shoulder purring. I picked him up and he fell asleep in the palm of my hand. He became my cat. When I fell in love with Guy, Guido was not thrilled and expressed this clearly by jumping on the bed and sitting with his back towards us. After he got to know Guy, he fell in love with him too and up until a few days ago still rode around on Guy's shoulders pretending he was a parrot.  Guido along with his best friend Possum have appeared in many of my kid's books like Just Like Me where they are featured and then as random eccentric cats in other books and paintings. My heart hurts and am finding it hard to imagine life without him. Poor Possum and Guy will be devastated too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Teaching children's book writing illustrating and publishing

Today was the first class in my second series of teaching in Sacramento and what a treat. My courses usually attract amazing students and we go on this journey together that is pretty mind blowing. I love the total unknowingness of - here's our starting point, here's what we are going to do, and all we know is that we are going to be in a very different place than where we started and have a fabulous time along the way. I often provide the bus analogy of - I'm the driver and we're all in this together going off on a big adventure. I have a deal with my students where if they get published, they take me out for a fancy dinner and give me a signed copy of their books. Today I upped the ante that if they sell millions of books they take me on a fabulous vacation. Not sure if this is ethical but it sounded good to all of us.

I love teaching this course and have taught it in San Francisco at UC Berkeley Extension, SF City College Extension, and Northern Illinois University. I taught a kid lit course at Washington State University but  the 2 university courses involved grading, accountability, standards, and all that stuff that makes it less of a free exploration/adventure. I've also taught 3 hr intensives at schools for teacher-in-services, which is also a blast. Now that 17 of my students have been published I feel like a proud mama. My area of research as a PhD student and professor was the intersection of race, place, and culture in children's picture books. I imagine that I am one of the few people who has illustrated, written, art directed, designed, researched, edited, published, presented on, and taught about children's picture books. I also have this amazing library (yes, kid lit is one of my major passions/obsessions).

After teaching my last course and assigning a text book, I realized that I was frustrated that some books had some info and others had other info but none of them combined all the info that I wanted to share with my students so, I wrote my own book. Because of copyright, I only included my own art from my kid's books and personal art, wrote accessible text to cover everything I believe is important, created my own exercises for writers and illustrators and wrote synopsis and  recommendations for kids books supporting the text. Am delighted to announce that it's now on my etsy site as a downloadable pdf (or e-book) for $12. I hope this is reasonable for 20 plus years of experience and a lot of hard work, heart, and soul, but there are a few typos, which when time allows I will correct. Still, I think I like the idea of imperfection, like Turkish carpets where they pull a small thread because the only thing that should be perfect is God.

Friday, June 18, 2010

oops screwed up my treasury link

Here's the correct link
and I forgot to mention Caroline who kindly put together the treasury.

Making the etsy treasury and painting bliss

One of my paintings "Happy Alligator" was featured in an etsy treasury today. Am so thrilled. Yay. Here's the link. It's kinda humbling to see how thrilled I was having someone I don't know recommend my painting. Somehow, am connecting this little external validation to Kelly Rae Roberts e-course which has been quite extra-ordinary and all the internal work I've been doing about clarifying who I want to be in the world of work, i.e someone whose happy and gives service or happiness to others.
I've also been painting up a storm the past 2 days and can't wait to finish and post some of the new paintings. I can tease you with the titles tho - "Sisterhood is powerful" is about my twin sister Leonie and I for her birthday pressie, "Here comes the sun" reflects how I feel coming out of this hibernation/gestation period of darkness, "Creation Myths or a Taxonomy of Things I Love" which is an homage to my friend Mati Rose whose work I also love and an homage to the turtles on top of turtles creation myth, and "Gestation, inspiration, contemplation, transformation" which is about all the things in the title. Sometimes naming paintings is a total struggle and sometimes the who and what they are is just totally evident. Today I am loving being an artist. Tomorrow I will be a children's picture book teacher and imagine that I will love that just as much.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Shame of It and Where I've Been All These Months

OK I know the worst thing a blogger can do is be inconsistent and not blog regularly, but here I am returned from the dead (kind of). I managed to get a freak inner ear viral infection with extreme acute vertigo, so was flat on my back spinning out into the universe for a month then staggering around getting better bit by bit for around the same time. It really was the 7th circle of hell but that time of  incapacitation was also a gestational period so that even tho I couldn't write or read or make art, something was going on that is now beginning to bear fruit. I was in a place of deepest despair and now I've moved out of the winter of my discontent into a place of hope and blossoming.

I am developing a new transformative pedagogy that I'm very excited about, making art, reading terrific books, taking courses and workshops, participating in an amazing art therapy group with Majica Phillips of Midtown Art Therapy and a fabulous e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts focused on growing a creative business, writing and creating art for two books (one for adults and the other for kids) and feeling full of possibility and promise.

I have posted a special on my etsy site reducing prints from $28.00 to $15, written and self-published a book teaching others how to write, illustrate, and publish children's picture books (also on my etsy shop as a downloadable pdf book) that while not perfect, I'm extremely proud of. Meanwhile am getting ready to teach two new courses at University Art in Sacramento and teach future teachers how to integrate art across the curriculum at Brandman University. One of the things I'm looking at is how to be less extreme with my time. This image, for educational purposes only, is about my relationship to time - either I'm late, I'm late doing way too many things, or I'm just this delighted sloth hanging around doing nothing. Hmmm. Oscar Wilde's line "moderation in all things, including moderation" used to be my motto, but now I'm just seeking simple moderation and balance.