THOUGHTS on ART from 2021

Some people hate art. That’s the most surprising thing I learned this year when I stepped into high schools as a teaching artist. NYC is an art capital, but hundreds of our public schools don’t have art programs. And many students “hate art.” How is that? When I was in school, art was fun, an easy “A.”

To be fair, I hated gym class, and how can you hate gym—all you do is run around, play games? But it’s not much fun when you lack physical coordination. And I hated math because I did not understand it. There is no joy to be had when you do not have skills to employ and enjoy.

“Art is boring,” said a student.

I prod him. “Is it boring? Or is it just that you can’t draw the ideas in your head the way you envision them, so it frustrates you?”

“Yeah, that.”

Most people equate art with an ability to draw. While drawing is often a big component, it is not all of art. Art is also about color, design, IDEAS, expression, therapy, exploration of materials and thoughts. So that is where I went in my workshops: let’s de-emphasize the drawing, but tell me about your idea, play with colors and composition, experiment with mediums.

City Canvas Project

For example, you can do a lot with rectangles. This basic shape involves minimal drawing skills but allows for visual complexity when you throw in color, patterns, and composition. I designed a workshop for William Cullen Bryant High Schoolers, in which they created cityscapes by cutting and collaging rectangles. I’ve included a few of the resulting images here.

I stayed with this principle of composing with simple rectangles as I designed a 4’x55′ artwork around the theme of “home,” commissioned by ArtBridge and NYCHA. The piece will be printed on vinyl and hang across the street from the high school at Woodside Houses. It is part of the citywide program, City Canvas, which strives to bring art into communities.

Mural for South Bronx Community Charter High School

At South Bronx Community Charter High School, Thrive Collective assigned artist Fermin Mendoza and me to work with seniors to conceptualize and paint a mural for their beautiful brand new building. The mural was an opportunity for seniors to leave their mark on this new school, an opportunity to say something. In our first week, we asked students:
Who are you as individuals?
Who are you as a community?
How might you visually represent yourself?

Working with folks who do not regularly practice art—foisting on them a new way of thinking, i.e. a visually creative mindset—initially feels like brewing soup from an iceberg. 

Because where does one start in art? People dread drawing. Drawing is daunting if the last time you made a picture (that didn’t involve your phone) was when you were six. But everyone does have ideas—ideas of who they are, observations about the world, thoughts they want to share. Students made sketches with notes. Some used phones or laptops to find images to trace. We harvested ideas.

Who are you? Students answered: scholar, leader, gamer, creative, intelligent, inventor, fun, open, talkative, quiet, comfy, kind, explorer, artistic, polished, steadfast, outgoing, beautifulWho are you as a community? Students answered: cooperative, different, diverse, hardworking, brave, ambitious, intuitive, resourceful, flexible.

A few weeks later I presented students with the first draft of the mural design. That is the moment we saw connection. I explained: Here is the Grand Concourse flowing from the boombox; here is the crumbling building; do you recognize your ideas? Here is the girl with the giant afro—you drew her again and again—black stars representing freedom. And the garden of flowers, representing the diversity in your school—you planted this idea. You demanded a phoenix, and I agreed because you said your school is resilient.

First draft of SBCCHS mural design

Below are photos of a giant blank wall being transformed into a vibrant painting for SBC. To transfer the image, we projected the design onto the 45′ x 14.5′ wall, then traced it in gray paint, section by section. By November, the new building had still not been cleared for student occupancy, meaning seniors could not paint yet. While waiting for clearance, Fermin and I colored in the highest areas of the wall that required ladders and scaffolding. Students and faculty joined in December. Artists Jodi Dareal, Lourdes Rojo, and Emily Gooden helped bring it home, finessing the final details.

Why is art important?

Because expression is a fundamental part in our human nature. Because we are visual beings. We are communicators. We love to see ourselves mirrored in words and pictures. It is how we learn about ourselves. So how could art not be a part of our education? How could art ever not be a part of us? #BringArtBack

Nassau County Museum of Art Book Fest

A few pics from Sunday’s Children’s Book Fest at Nassau County Museum of Art. The festival was only one day, but PICTURE THIS! The Art of Children’s Books is on til Jan 12, 2020 https://nassaumuseum.org/exhibition/

A Portrait to Celebrate Family

One of my clients in California recently welcomed a second baby into his family. To commemorate the moment, he commissioned me to create a family portrait. I documented the month-long process of creating the 10″x15″ paper collage by taking snapshots along the way.

Sip ‘n’ Snip! Collage Workshop

Sip ‘n’ Snip: Collage Workshop (age 21+)
October 25, Fri 7-8:30pm
Nassau Museum of Art,
One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor, NY

Enjoy a glass of wine or a pint from local Garvies Point Brewery while I share the illustration process for my debut picture book, The Turtle Ship (written by Helena Ku Rhee). See how the artwork of this Freeman Honor book evolved from rough sketches to “striking, precise paper-collage” (Publishers Weekly). I’ll demonstrate my picture-making technique, and then we’ll all pick up papers and scissors to create our own images. Tickets are available through the following link (first drink is complimentary): https://28249.blackbaudhosting.com/28249/Sip–Sketch-with-an-Artist

Pigeons Come Home to Roost in the Bronx

Those city pigeons that were loitering about St. Agnes NYPL at the tail end of summer have migrated north to the Bronx, where they will live from now on. Pizza Rat too. I’m pleased to announce that a more compact version of my art show “Penchant for Paper” is on display at the Bronx Library Center. I spent a whole morning hammering a ruckus in the library and being understandably shushed by a two-year-old in order to hang 12 framed pieces (two previously unseen), which will be there from now through November 30.

PENCHANT FOR PAPER
October 2 – November 30, 2019
Bronx Library Center
310 E Kingsbridge Rd.

Art Show at NYPL

I am pleased to announce my summer show:

PENCHANT FOR PAPER

An Exhibition of Original Collage Illustrations

August 1-31, 2019
NYPL St. Agnes Library
444 Amsterdam Avenue
(between 81/82 Sts.)

Opening reception: August 2, Friday 4-5:50pm, Third Floor

As a picture book artist, I plough through hundreds of titles to keep abreast of work done in my field. What a joy to have access to the New York Public Library’s vast network of books, which you can tap from any branch library (or even online for e-books and audio). This NYPL of ours is an amazing resource. I learned Excel in a computer class and other programs through Lynda.com for free. I learned where to find support for small businesses like my freelance illustration, a bit of Spanish through Mango Languagesfree through NYPL. NYPL even gives us free access to other cultural institutions, as well as author talks, music and dance performances, and art exhibits like this one.

Among the original paper collage works I am exhibiting are images from my debut children’s book The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku Rhee, designs for Greeting Card Universe, and favorite images from my personal portfolio. I am also creating site-specific work for the occasion. Some pigeons will be coming to roost in the St. Agnes library stairwell for this August.

Illustrations are meant for mass reproduction in print or on screen, but this show allows illustrations to be seen in their singular original form. It allows the viewer to appreciate the textures of the images’ materials, their imperfections, and their craft.

If you would like to buy or have questions about the artwork, please send me a message through my contact page.

Here Comes the New Year

We’re ready for 2019.
Introducing the latest additions to the Konga Line on Greeting Card Universe.

 

2019 New Year Card

 

Lunar New Year card for Year of the Pig.

 

Chinese New Year card