Wednesday, April 9, 2014

6 Things Kids Can Teach Us About Art and Team Work

You know if you have been following me through Facebook or here in the blogosphere that I readily volunteer at my daughter's elementary school. They don't currently have a dedicated arts teacher. I will periodically give classes or have annually been their local PTA Reflections chairperson. That's a national program which encourages and promotes all the arts.

To celebrate all the students who had participated in the Reflections program in the slightest this year, I wanted to throw a little party, and include painting. Even for the kids that submitted music or literature or just suggested a new theme for the next year.

I had to word the invitation so that it wouldn't be intimidating to the non-painters. The goal was max participation. I had 12 kids participate. There would be a cross cut of technical skill from none to proficient with ages running between 5 and 11.

Here's what happened. 

After a brief introduction to Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings, I explained that they would be creating their version of "Starry Night" together as one group painting. I heard some mild protests. 

Then I showed them their canvas, a very large 24" x 36". Fear sprung around the room. 

Instead of giving them brushes, I gave them craft sticks to use. I heard kids saying it wouldn't look good.

Then the magic began... They started making bold, large sweeping marks on the canvas. They still thought it was just random marks until a whole tube of blue was used up. Large swaths of color were laid down rapidly because there were so many hands working together. Kids who previously didn't want to paint asked to do certain parts, like houses or stars or the color orange. 

6 Things Kids Can Teach Us About Art and Team Work


1) Believing is Not Required at the Outset

They didn't really believe that making marks with craft sticks was going to turn out okay, much less great. Once they saw a form emerge from the shock of blue paint they relaxed, trusted and put their energy into action. The more they saw results, the more effort they used. Belief was no longer even part of the equation. It's only a hurdle in the beginning. The group will do the rest.


2) Large Can Become Small

When I first showed the students the 24" x 36" canvas and told them they'd be painting on it, the fear was palpable. They were used to drawing on standard 8" x 11-1/2" pieces of paper. What a jump! It's like a billboard! Once they made their first marks, and plunged into their work it didn't matter anymore. It wasn't just that there were numerous hands to help, it was they had their own task to do. Scale became irrelevant.

Introducing the blank canvas and project scope to the young students

3) Use Friendly Tools

They had brand new paint brushes available but I showed them what would mostly likely happen though if they used those. New or timid painters often hold a brush like a pencil, using tight, small marks. A large canvas requires large gestures especially since we were creating a painting inspired by Van Gogh, who used expressive, loose brush marks. So, I simplified the tools and gave them craft sticks. Who is afraid of a Popsicle stick? They simulate a large brush like mark when used a certain way. They are also not intimidating to the non-painters. Why intimidate when you can free up a group?



Craft sticks mimic loose brush strokes, without requiring finesse or adding intimidation

4) Push Through the Ugly

In every painting, there is an "ugly" phase or a part where it just doesn't look good. That is, it doesn't look like it could become good. The trick, or key, is getting past that to the truly great phase. Most people give up at this ugly phase thinking that they aren't good, or don't have talent or (insert another negative thought). These kids had their doubts, but because there were so many working together they quickly got past the ugly working phase before their self doubts caused them to stop.

Students working through the "ugly" (doubting phase) - not yet integrated as a group

5) Collaboration is Powerful

Before, these kids had always drawn on individual pieces of paper, and been guarded over their images. They'd never worked on a group art project. They were minor outcries over whether someone was going to over paint or "mess up" their section. Blending edges (and territories) was explained. Kids with no previous experience enjoyed the thrill of expertly demonstrating a skill to another child. By the middle, they were loosened up and truly enjoying the give and take and constant change of doing the work. They stopped looking for others' infractions and instead gave in to the pleasure of painting. They had become a team. A team with nothing in common except one painting.


Deep satisfaction after completing the project, the team is integrated

6) Experience Trumps Fear

Now they have the warm, powerful feeling of successful working experience with others of different ages and skill sets. Technically, the beautiful part of the exercise is once the students realize they finished a large painting! It's in their muscle memory. They will no longer be intimidated by anything that large even if they set out to paint solo! The fear of the unknown for the (formerly) non-painters is banished. They know they too, can paint. Craft sticks will translate to brushes. Experience trumps fear, easily. 


These young painters are learning how to add highlights, in turn they taught others


This amazing masterpiece "Starry Night" inspired by Van Gogh and created by the Reflections students of Galileo School for Gifted Learning, will be auctioned at Winter Springs High School April 17th from 6-7pm in the Auditorium. Proceeds will benefit the Seminole County Reflections Program. There will be an Seminole County Reflections Awards Ceremony following the auction.

"Starry Night" after V. Van Gogh, by Galileo School for Gifted Learning Reflections students, 24x36", acrylic

A special thanks to Jeff of the Dairy Queen of Sanford who generously donated Bizzard Juniors to our student painters during this project.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

I made it into the 3rd Annual Juried #WPSE Exhibition!

I'm sooooo excited! I can't wait!

"Heron at DeLeon Springs", Oil, 20 x 24", ©VP Miller

Next week I'll be cruising up to Greensboro, GA (southeast of Atlanta) to the opening of the 2014 3rd Annual Juried Women Painters of the Southeast Exhibition. My painting "Heron at DeLeon Springs" was selected, and I couldn't be happier especially when I saw the incredible work that it will be displayed alongside. I can't wait to meet these artists and talk about their work.

You can see the entire 2014 WPSE Member Show online here

If you would like the excuse the get out of town and join me, the Magnolia Art Gallery is hosting the event with a Preview Party and People's Choice Voting on Friday, March 28th from 6-8pm.

I am signed up to see the supremely talented painter Mary Garrish demonstrate her painting on Saturday (you are also invited, but you must register... no worries, just contact Magnolia Art Gallery above... oh but it will be so worth it). Her landscapes are so beautifully rendered, but it's her skies and clouds that I get lost in.

On Sunday morning I'm trying my first oil plein air outside, ever. That is, I will be hauling my paint supplies with me to Georgia, and schlepping them to some as yet unknown outside location with ladies I haven't met and will be painting in a manner completely foreign to me, in front of them! No problem! I really can't see anything going wrong!

Actually, I firmly believe in acting despite of fears, because it causes growth, having fun laughing at yourself and learning anyway! If it makes my chest pound, it's probably something I should do. What a better way to start painting outside, then with a seasoned group of plein air artists who might be able to offer tips?

If I'm truly brave, then I will remember to take and post a few pictures.










Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#twitterartexhibit you're invited tomorrow night #Otown


@ the CityArtsFactory in Orlando with parking validated at $4 flat, if you park in the Plaza Parking garage (bring your receipt in to the welcome desk). My entered piece "Red Balloon" and backstory is here.

This time, I hope not to be too spazzy and forget to take photos or video! There's going to be live performances by the Center for Contemporary Dance. If I do, I think the whole thing is going to be streamed live. Wouldn't it be great if we could have video from some of the international artists that contributed too? :)




Thursday, February 20, 2014

#twitterartexhibit entry "Red Balloon" and how it got here, er, there

"Red Balloon", Mixed Media on Paper, 12 x 16cm, ©VP Miller


"Red Balloon" is my entry for the #twitterartexhibit. #twitterartexhibit is an international postcard art exhibition benefiting the Center for Contemporary Dance, Special Needs Classes in Orlando.

My entry work is 6" x 4" postcard sized and mixed media including shaving cream. Can you see the image of The Ministry of Silly Walks in the middle? Just there? Whaaaa?

Let me explain.

Last week (and the week before starting on Friday), I was again at my daughter's elementary school guest teaching. Anyway the wonderful teacher who invited me, wanted me to piggyback onto a creative learning segment called "Sweet Science" and teach the kids a little bit about Pop Art.

Can I say how much I love these guest teaching jobs? There's so much intensity packed into such little time, and the students really enjoy it!

Day 1 was a quick YouTube video overview of Andy Warhol, because you have to start there! Sadly they'd never heard of Andy Warhol prior to my workshop. Then again, they are between the ages of 7 and 10! As our Day 1 project we created Warhol inspired mono prints using Styrofoam plates and acrylic paint. The look of joy, and gasps as they pulled the paper off the inked plates was precious!

Scratching a design into Styrofoam for mono print



On day 2 of my workshop, we did the heavy prep work for day three. We had huge fun making marbleized paper by using shaving cream and floating food color, and frosting on top! Think rainbow colors with bubble gum and cotton candy smells! They oohed and aahed when scraping the shaving cream away and revealing their beautiful paper. We talked about what would happen if the shaving cream wasn't there and what it was used for with the inks.

Making marbleized paper with shaving cream and dyes


Day three 3 work was inspired by Robert Rauschenberg and his work with newsprint images. I wanted to show the students how to make easy copy paper transfers using pop images of their choice using their new marbleized paper. They brought in pop culture images relevant to them. They brought copier pictures of kittens, dragons, food and hearts. For my demo, I chose an image of The Ministry of Silly Walks. Using gesso mainly, we easily applied the images to the paper and I showed them how to complete the transfer once the gesso air dried.

Since we had time left, we painted with simple rockets. I recommend this for any age (that's you adults), and all skill levels. You get stunning results and things explode and take off like fireworks into the air 20ft. minus the fear of dismemberment. Yay! The film canisters were courtesy of the kind and excellent folks at Harmon Photo in Orlando. We talked about color theory a little after the thrill of having tempera paint explode out of canister. Because color mixing is thrilling....

Getting the film canister rockets ready with paint 


That was the back story for my piece "Red Balloon". It is the demo used during the student workshop on days 2 and 3. There is a lot of energy and love in it, with hours of sweat equity. It fits perfectly into the theme of benefiting children at the CDC, so I knew I wanted to add onto it. I was thinking more of John Cleese and creativity and humor. Please see his excellent video on how to stimulate creativity here.



Afterwards, I used pens to draw a red balloon. Have you seen the movie "The Red Balloon"? I imagined this little red balloon tethered to bad feelings and lifting up, up and away.

There you have it. How it got here, er, there.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Participating in ArtistsRegistry.com Members Exhibit

I am thrilled to be selected to participate in the Artists Registry Members Exhibit on display from November 21st through December 13th in the Kiene / Quigley Community gallery at City Arts Factory. My oil painting "Sweet Magnolia" will be displayed alongside over 80 other art pieces.


Please join me at the Artists' reception on Nov. 21st from 6-9 pm. There is no fee for entry.

The address is 29 S. Orange Ave, Orlando, Florida. City Arts Factory is located at the intersection of Orange and Pine Street. There is a parking garage across Pine Street in the Plaza building. There is limited on street parking available. 



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Motivation: for when you are too.. whatever.. to make art

I like sports analogies to describe our struggle against consistently creating art. Some of the greatest struggles can be found pushing yourself out in the sports arena, either against yourself or against a competitor. Maybe that's why we love watching competition so much.

Have I been creating since my last post? Yeah.

But I won't ever let that get me too comfortable. One slip, and I'm back out of the game and on the sidelines questioning what has happened. Where's my mojo?
Do I still have the eye of the tiger? Questioning yourself destroys self confidence leading to more inactivity, spiraling downward to ever increasing bouts of substandard art. See the beginning of the death spiral?

As in sports, practice is everything!

This video can't not get you going! Watch it until the finale.




Thursday, September 12, 2013

Quiet Drama Unfolding and Death

What Real Life Drama Unfolds While We are Unaware of It?

Yesterday I logged on in the early morning hours, trying to get a head start to my work before my family awoke. It was Patriot Day, commemorating the 12th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard the United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Checking my email, I couldn't believe the huge alert signifying that I had malware on my website and it had to be fixed within 72 hours or I'd lose my safe security status. You can bet my heart was pounding, what was going on? 

Checking further, the virus wasn't on my site exactly but on a linked badge I'd proudly place there - to that of Veteran Owned Business.  It was on my blog page, too. They were under attack by some cyber cowards on the anniversary of 9/11! How many businesses that had linked to them now had linked malware to deal with? Google Chrome wouldn't let me see the page to remove it, it successfully blocked the offending garbage. I had to go to Firefox to remove the badges. 

I checked this morning and while Veteran Owned Business site is now up and running their server West Host is experiencing massive issues and has been working 'round the clock for hours with "all hands on deck" (from their Twitter feed). Unfortunately, not all of West Host's clients are understanding... How will this affect their business and their client's business? 

As unfortunate as all of this cyber bullying has been it is nothing compared to the news that I woke up to this morning. 

Stunningly, on September 9th Winter Park artist Berto Ortego was found dead at the Grand Teton National Park, apparently by his own hand. What sort of quiet desperation was he living with to have carried this act out? I want to cry for the loss of such a warm, generous, talented spirit! 

I met him several years ago during the very first time I ventured out as an adult to try "art" again. I went to a live model session at the Maitland Art Center; the idea being that you could draw or paint from life without any instruction provided. Berto was there, walking around talking with people. He saw one of my sketches and said, smiling, "Oh, you like to draw faces!" I remember being so surprised. I had felt like an out of shape new mommy in sweat pants, not like an artist, and here was a real working professional being friendly and acknowledging something that he saw in my work. I gave a quick back story and he encouraged me to keep coming (I didn't). I wish I could have told him how much I appreciated his warmth and how much it touched me, but I didn't see him again. 

As beautiful as his work is, I prefer to remember him happy and working at his art. May he rest in peace.

Berto Ortego, Winter Park Paint Out, ©Polasek Museum