Sunday, December 8, 2013

Illustration Friday - Pattern

A playful canvas for this week's word.  Sharpie on white canvas sneakers.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Great Book Find - Michael Freeman's "Photographer's" Series

An event earlier this week got me to thinking about my experiences with photography in the classroom; how I have approached it in the past, and how I would like to approach it in the future.  In my previous classrooms I have always had groups of students who were devoted to photography as a media, and also those who saw photography as an easy way out of what they viewed as more difficult art assignments.  After all, it is easy enough to push a shutter button on a camera.   I always explained to those who thought photography was an easy option, that good photography is nothing like easy.  Though I was also willing to admit to them that sometimes even a bad/mediocre photographer could get lucky and produce a compelling image.  I just didn't want them to base their grade in my class on a stroke of luck.  I needed to see evidence of thought, planning, problem solving, composition, content, know, all those things we art teachers work so hard to instill in our students.

With all of this inner reflection floating around in my head, I found myself wandering into the photography section of my local Barnes and Noble Bookstore.  Most of the books I picked up were the expected technique driven tomes that I have perused over and over again when I have photography on my brain.  These books are interesting and useful, and often visually appealing, but they all fall short as an aide in helping to explain the difference between a technically good photograph and an exceptional work of fine art in which photography happens to be the media. That distinction is the hardest thing for most burgeoning photography/art students to grasp.

Just before giving up and wandering off to another section of the bookstore, a title caught my eye. "The Photographer's Vision - Understanding and Appreciating Great Photography" by Michael Freeman.  Aha! This one sounded promising.  As I started leafing through the pages I quickly realized that it was just exactly the kind of resource that I was hoping to find.  Mr. Freeman's book looks at a lot of excellent imagery throughout the history of photography and goes into details about why these images are accepted as significant contributions to the world of art and photography; what the artist was thinking, what was their process, their "vision."  And even better, right next to this book were two more on the shelf by the same author titled " The Photographer's Eye- Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos," and "The Photographer's Mind - Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos."  I can only say that I felt like I was in a state of photography book euphoria. :)  All of these beautiful image filled books, while touching on technique, focused more specifically on the intent and creativity of the artists within the art form; just exactly the concepts I feel are most important to convey in an art classroom.  Technique is very learn-able and can be developed with time and practice, but the development of technique requires lower order thinking skills.  Developing a mental construct for creating content, meaning, composition, and artistry requires a student to  not only use but to stretch their higher order thinking skills.

Needless to say, I purchased all three of these books for my personal library, and I have been blissfully pouring over them since they arrived.  I admittedly wrote down the author, titles, and publisher (Focal Press) and ordered them from Amazon where they cost me nearly half what I would have paid at Barnes and Noble. I highly recommend these books to any art teacher or artist whether you teach/practice photography or not.  The visual concepts contained in them can be applied to any media.

Thank you Michael Freeman for filling an important void in the book market.  I love your books!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Exit Through the Gift Shop - Movie Review

I rarely spend more than about $10 on additions to my DVD collection, but when I happened upon this Banksy film while perusing the movie section of BestBuy, I quickly plunked down the $25 that it cost.  My high school students have always been fascinated by the illusive street artist Banksy, and the risk taking associated with his particular art form.  I like him because he is such an excellent example of the power of art as a means of communicating complex ideas and personal/political/cultural statements. 

This movie is rated R.  It has a documentary format and the "F word" pops up sporadically.  I would have no problem showing this movie to an upper level high school art class after sending home parental permission forms.  The best advice I can give here is to know your principle well and run it by him or her before showing it in any class.  That said, it is a very watchable and fascinating film.  Though Banksy is ultimately responsible for the existence of the film in its final version, the documentary is not about Banksey and his work per-se.  Instead, it is about a French film/video photographer who becomes obsessive about documenting street artists at work and ultimately becomes a participating street/pop artist himself.  Banksy and well known American street artist Shepard Fairey play pivotal roles in the development of the storyline. The film addresses the bizarre conditions at play when street art becomes commercially valuable.  It questions the nature of art, artists, and the art market.  It can lead to some solid reality based questions for your students to consider.  What is it that we value about art?  What is illegal about graffiti? What makes something "good art" or "bad art?"  How important is originality in making art?  Can someone become an artist overnight? How does marketing impact the value of art?

Speaking of marketing, the DVD comes packed with a few fun extras: the star-shaped paper glasses that you see in the photo above, a couple of grafitti art postcards, and a couple of grafitti art stickers are included.

I really enjoyed this film and give it a solid A.

Artist Spotlight - Jay Shinn

Bi-Slanted V
stainless steel, latex paint, shadow
32" x 60" x 8"

Jay Shinn is an artists working and living in both Texas and New York.  Along with the other artists I have recently spotlighted, Shinn contributed to the “Silent Transmissions” exhibit that hung at the Cole Art Center in Nacogdoches Texas from Jan 28th – Mar 31st of 2012.  The works included by Shinn were 3 dimensional installations that were composed of stainless steel sculpture, painted shadows, and the variable actual shadows that were a function of lighting and daylight.  The resulting work is a form of tromp l’oeil that forces the viewer to really closely consider what he/she is seeing.  The painted shadows were so convincing that I viewed several of Shinn’s pieces before I recognized the visual trickery of Shinn’s technique.  To see more of Shinn’s hard-edged geometric art visit his website at .

Monday, May 7, 2012

Artist Spotlight - John Pomara

Digital Dating no. 7, 2007
oil enamel on aluminum
36’’ x 48”

John Pomara is an artist and professor of Painting at the University of Texas Dallas.  He recently exhibited part of his “Digital Dating” series at the Cole Art Center in Nacogdoches, Texas in the group exhibit “Silent Transmissions”.   Like the other contributing artists to this exhibit, Pomara’s work has a distinct connection to technology and the impact that technology has on human perception and experience.  On viewing Pomara’s art I grasped the immediately recognizable connection to computer circuitry and digital imagery.  However, I was even more deeply intrigued by the remnants for the artist’s hand seen in the scraped or “pulled” layered surfaces that are characteristic of Pomara’s technique. 

You can watch a full length interview of the artists discussing his work below in the “Art This Week” video posted to Vimeo by Richard Serrano.

Art This Week Interviews-John Pomara from Richard Serrano on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Artist Spotlight – James Marshall

Large Works:
glazed ceramic,
approx. 28" x 26" x 4”

James Marshall is a ceramic artist and college instructor from Santa Fe, NM.   He recently exhibited a group of large ceramic works at the Cole Art Center in Nacogdoches, Texas that he calls “Liminal Objects”.  In his artist statement Marshall explains:
“If subliminal means that which is below the threshold of ordinary consciousness and perception, then the liminal is the point of emergence, the threshold itself, the turning point between one realm and another. The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. Liminality is a period of transition, during which usual boundaries of thought, self-understanding, and behavior shift, opening the way to something new.” 
Marshall creates bold monolithic ceramic sculptures coated in bright primary and secondary colored glazes.  From a distance the glazes appear to be a solid gloss of color, but on closer inspection divides into subtle shifts of texture and hue creating added interest to the simple but massive forms.  You can see more of Marshall’s work on his website at .

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Artist Spotlight – Vincent Falsetta

14" x 14"
oil on panel
Vincent Falsetta is a professor of Drawing and Painting at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.  He recently exhibited a number of his artworks at the Cole Art Center in Nacogdoches, Texas in a group exhibit titled “Silent Transmissions.”   Falsetta’s large non-objective paintings vibrate with the energy of contrasting color choice and a unique manipulation of the actual physical paint.  Falsetta references nature, technology, and energy as sources of inspiration.  In his artist statement Falsetta notes “There is a feeling of a steady electric flow, somewhat like a visual electro-magnetic field that pulls the eye in every direction simultaneously.  The paintings evoke the natural world while acknowledging the technology that measures or records it.”

My first impressions on viewing Falsetta’s paintings was that they reminded me of beautifully marbled paper; much like the endpapers found in fine old leather bound books.  You can see more of Vincent Falsetta’s work on the REM Gallery website at .