Hiking Art – Part 2 – Using the Wind

14114866_1464197210263831_6637948970428154399_oOur final hiking day in NY included a jaunt into the Ausable River across from Copperas Pond, and then a rather lovely hike to Cobble Lookout. I found a nice seat – lightly shaded, good view – and broke out the paints and paper. Much like other days, the wind was gloriously present.

I’d done art with my Kindergarteners were we supplied the breath to move the paint around the page. Inspired by that, I decided to see if I could let the rushing wind move my paint.

Much like the leaf painting, it was more difficult than I imagined. The wind was gusting at times, but seemed unable to combat the inertia in the domes of watercolor that sat on my page. I was surprised!

I tried more water in the paint, but the small domes still seemed impervious to the wind. Very interesting!

I thought it was a combination of inertia, and the small surface area of the paint. Even though the wind seemed very powerful on my skin, it didn’t push strongly on the drops of water and paint.

So, I stopped trying to control how the wind impacted the paint and paper. I did my best to give the wind full rein. I placed the watery paint onto the page, and lifted the page into the wind. Thankfully, my grasp was firm, because the wind whipped the page about like a kite! The wind won the inertia war (if that is what it truly was) and the paint moved about the page – small bits splashing onto my hands and legs.

I quickly ran out of water in my brush reservoir – as clearly I was using the brush in a much different way than anticipated! I filled it with water from my water bottle, but ended up spilling more than I got in the pen. Providentially, the water fell into a perfectly formed indentation on the rock where I sat. A natural water holder! I was able to wash my brush, and get enough water to make the paint wet and moveable.

Using that indentation in the rock really added to my experience.

  • It made me feel more immersed in, and connected to, nature.
  • It opened my eyes and mind to the possibilities that surround me – sometimes within reach – that may go unnoticed.
  • It encouraged me to embrace “what is.” There was some very fine gravel at the bottom of the indentation which transferred to my paper. The first time it happened, I gasped! Then I remembered something I had read, or heard, about Jackson Pollock. Bits of things sometimes ended up as parts of his work. That made me chuckle and helped me breathe as I thought “Oh! No worries! It’s just like Jackson Pollock!”

After letting the wind do quite a bit of work. I sat with the piece and watched it as it dried. I looked out at the view and noticed the grey rock, the green trees and the blue sky. I decided to fill in the unpainted areas with grey, green and blue – in that order – as I saw them sitting there.

When I got home I set about finishing this piece. I wanted to add some sort of detail, and words. I had been thinking of using parts of a John Muir quote that had been in my mind for days.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” (John Muir)

I loved how much the painting reminded me of a map, or the view you might see from the summit of a mountain. I hesitated about adding the words, fearing I might wreck the work I had already done.

But, I decided they had to be added! I love that quote. It blesses me each time I recall it when I am out in nature. It increases my breath and my ease. Plus the wind’s freshness had actually created the painting! How could I not acknowledge it?

14079565_10210465305768474_2870399798998007759_n

” Climb mountains … peace flows … like sunshine …winds blow freshness and storms energy … cares drop off like autumn leaves.” (John Muir, as per me)

 

 

Hiking Art

I bought a travel watercolor set to have with me in my pack on my hikes this week. It’s a nice Sakura Pocket Field Sketch Box. I got it in an awesome little bookstore on the main drag of Lake Placid that has an amazingly nice art section! It was an impulse buy on a rainy day walk into town.

I’m not a trained painter so I looked for creative ways to translate the nature and inspiration I experienced on our hikes, using  watercolors.

We did a short hike out to Moose Pond. It’s a beautiful spot to sit, breathe, pray, eat, and relax. The water inspired me that day. I thought about wetting the entire page with pond water, but wasn’t sure what I would do next. So, I did nothing! I sat, looked, and just experienced the place. I noticed irises growing between the cracks in a rock on the water’s edge. That sparked an idea! If I used one of the leaves to put the pond water on the page, I might be able to mirror the feeling of the water – movement, sunlight, colors, and flow.

13963044_10210412623091440_954338476581758913_o

Baxter Mountain was our next hike. The wind at the top was sensational. It was my inspiration that day. But, how to show it?

The sound and force of the wind is hard to miss. It almost constantly moves the leaves and  actually changes the way tree branches grow. I love the sound and force of the wind, and the shaking of the leaves was a visual cue, so I knew I wanted to capture that … somehow.

It’s remarkable how awe inspiring, and moving (pun intended lol) the wind is to me. I absolutely love it. So, instead of of painting, I found several spots to sit, do yoga, eat, pray, and just let the wind buffet me. I collected a few leaves before we hit the trail off the summit, stuffing them in my pack to use when I got home.

Here’s my first leaf inspired piece.

20160821_150641-1-1

It took form as I worked. I wasn’t happy with it at first. But, I ignored my displeasure with the product, and kept going, enjoying the process. As I did, ideas came to me. I remembered a bubble art project I did with my Kindergarteners, and let that direct me.

I really like the abstract nature of the finished piece. And, I love the accessibilty and transferability of the method! I’m contemplating how to incorporate it into my class this year. It has nice potential as an art-science integration.

Rain has interrupted my hikes but not my art. Today I worked on getting watercolor paint to adhere to the leaves I gathered yesterday. My plan was to make leaf prints.

This is much harder than it seems. Close your eyes and imagine rain hitting the leaves. What does it do? Yup, it beads up! So guess what the watercolor paint does … beads up! Ugh! But, with a bit of stubborn persistence – wearing down the leaf it seemed, and getting the paint to the right consistency – it worked. The paint stuck to the water resistant leaf!

I am super happy with the result. The colors remind me of the leaves, sky and sun. The one in the middle is that one brilliantly colored red leaf we always come upon on our hikes. The black is the large rocks that encourage thousands of nature-filled step ups and downs on our hikes, as well as the small stones that sometime weigh down my pack. Next time I may put the black around the entire edge. We’ll see. It’s a process, and I’m loving it!

20160821_195737-1-1-1

Speaking of process, clearly my process involves mess! It never feels like mess while I’m working. It feels like (and is) immersion, beauty, intentness and art!

20160821_195704

But, yeah, my process is messy, and I’m good with that!

 

 

 

 

Possibility Thinking and Cancer

Did I mention I have cancer? Yes, lol, I thought I might have.

Anyway, I do, and because I do, I get to keep tabs on the status of my blood. Amazing thing, our blood! But, I digress.

My latest results were a cause of significant angst. Many of my results were great, but there was one number that was pretty wonky. Wonky enough to have, and I quote “clinical significance.”

“Clinical significance?”

EEEEE GADS!!!! Can you say eee gads? Yes, I’m sure you can.

Thankfully, regardless of clinical significance, I don’t need to do any medical treatment right now because I am healthy, and, it seems, managing everything quite nicely! YAY!!!!

But, wow, what do you when your doctor says 500 points higher has clinical significance (translation: your cancer is waking up and rumbling a bit) and your number is about two times that amount higher??!!! Well, if you’re me, you stress, but even while you stress, you diligently look for ways to be positive, and to (lol) beat the cancer back into submission.

Initially I was really struggling to be positive. I felt crushed by my doctor’s words, and was having a hard time embracing the goodness of the present moment.

Then I saw it, right there, on the back of my journal …

2016-08-06 17.54.33

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!

I felt the joy of one seeing an old friend. Possibility thinking! Ah yes, that’s the ticket!

I first encountered the idea of possibility thinking while researching for my MA. I read several articles by Anna Craft and her colleagues, and dreamed of ways to increase possibility thinking in myself, and in my students.

Here are some great quotes to give you a sense of possibility thinking.

  • Possibility thinking is thinking that moves “beyond the given, or ‘what is’, to the possible, or to ‘what could be?’  (Craft, A.)  and to,  ‘what can I, or we, do with this?'” (2012)
  • Possibility thinking “refuses to be stumped by circumstances, but uses imagination, with intention, to find a way around a problem.” ((Jeffrey and Craft 2003)
  •  Possibility thinking involves “questioning, play, immersion, making connections, imagination, innovation, risk-taking and self-determination.” (Possibility Thinking)

Fabulous, right? Moving beyond what is to what might be. Refusing to be dumbfounded, bewildered, or overwhelmed. And, I think, embracing the bewilderment, and allowing it push you forward into wondering, questioning, thinking, searching and finding!

So, I’m re-embracing relentless positivity. I’m harnassing the power of possibility thinking.

I’m imagining, and knowing, anything is possible. I’m questioning, thinking reading, talking, praying and doing …. all to move beyond what is, to what could be, right here, right now, and in the future!

A friend and I were talking about possibility thinking the other day. She asked me “What if your research and thinking proves it isn’t possible? What do you do then?” I burst out laughing. “It just means it isn’t possible with what we know now.” She hesitated for just a second, then grabbed her notebook saying, “Oh yeah! (laughter) You’re right. I have to write that down!”

Keep imagining. Keep thinking about what could be. Keep thinking what you/we can do with this. Keep believing in possibility. It’s everywhere.

 

 

Save

Save

Courage, Challenge, Learning and Excellence

“Although my students are only five or six years old, I work hard to establish egalitarian, collaborative relationships with them. I am interested in their thoughts and always respond to their questions of “Can I tell you something?” with “Yes, please tell me something!” I value their stories as a way to get to know them, and I really listen to them as they share. I sit or kneel to speak with them so I am not so far above them, and I often sit on the floor with them when I teach them. This helps us develop a relationship of trust, and ultimately empowers courage, challenge, learning and excellence.” (Managing the Classroom for Creativity)

When I wrote that for the Creative Education Special Issue, I was thinking of the courage, challenge, learning, and excellence that my students develop and live in our classroom.

As I re-read the section now, I still believe my students benefit from our collegiality. But, I am fascinated by the realization of how much our relationship of collegiality and trust impacts me as well. It helps me to be courageous and more open to challenge, and it encourages and enables me to develop deeper learning, and greater excellence!

This became very clear to me the other day. I joined a kindergarten alum and her family (she just finished first grade) for an afternoon at Turtle Back Zoo. Part of our day included participating in the Treetop Adventure.  The course is about 15-20 feet in the air. Not too high unless you are afraid of heights – which I am!

My alum and I hit the course together. We chatted with each other as we waited for our turn on the various elements. We watched others and commented on things they did well, and the things they might do better. We talked about being a little afraid. I told her I was afraid of heights. She assured me it wasn’t that high!

We decided I would take the lead for the first half of the course. I cheered her on as she worked each piece of the course, and offered suggestions the few times she seemed a bit stuck.

The second half of the course, my alum went first. This section was a little higher and a little more challenging. Nothing terrible, but I was beginning to feel fatigued from my fear of heights and my effort to overcome it. I breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth – just like I tell my kindergarteners to do when they need to relax and get their bodies to know all is well. As I paused at one challenge — to take one of those calming, strengthening breaths, and decide how I would step — I heard the most awesome thing …

“You can do it, Miss James!!!”

It was my alum yelling to me, “You can do it, Miss James!!” 

How fantastic is that?!?!?

I’m not sure if she was completely confident in my ability to do it. I am sure she was completely confident in herself, and in our relationship.

Our relationship based on respect, trust, collegiality, and love, let her know it was appropriate for her to encourage me. And, our relationship assured her it would make a difference to me.

And it did! It helped me! Her egalitarian and collaborative relationship with me, empowered and enabled me to embrace “courage, challenge, learning and excellence!”

It wasn’t just that day. It happens in the classroom too.  But there, on the ropes course, it was very clear.

artistic skylar and me

Here we are, on the carousel together. I love the photo for the memory, and the symbolism.

May I always have a beautiful kindergartener, or kindergarten alum, by my side.

 

RESOURCES:

James, M. (2015) Managing the Classroom for Creativity. Creative Education, 6, 1032-1043. doi: 10.4236/ce.2015.610102.

 

 

 

Leading for Creativity with IDEO U

Woo hoo!!! I am officially  an IDEO U student in their Leading for Creativity Course.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, is one of our instructors, along with many other creatives. Oh, and did I mention there are lots of other creative types from around the globe as my fellow students?

I’ve been craving something like this since the day I finished my Creative Thinking MA, with my cohort, and the fabulous Karl Jeffries, at the University of Central Lancashire.

I’m a combination of mild nervousness and tremendous excitement as I begin working with IDEO U and my fellow learners.

Together we shall …

WONDERINVESTIGATE (3)

Yes, that’s my plan — change the world — or at the very least, my little part.

 

 

Cancer, Creativity and Possibility

Never let it be said that creativity is purposeless! If you have ever thought that, or begin to think or say it now, bite your tongue! lol

Creativity has many joyous, important, and profound purposes in our lives and world. Not the least of which is the ability to express ourselves, sort through our thoughts and feelings, and emerge, a bit stronger, with more understanding, and possibly, a nice piece of creative work.

I have cancer. A rare form with a ridiculously long name — Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (WM). It’s a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I used to joke that once I learned how to spell it, I should be granted a cure! lol

199959_1998808209399_310113_n

But, though I can spell it, I still have it. I’m doing great, but from time to time, I am a bit overwhelmed sharing my body with WM. And, sometimes even more overwhelming than sharing my body with it, is sharing my mind and spirit it.

A couple days ago, I had the idea to write a poem – in the hopes that it would help me pull my thoughts and emotions back from the edge, into a place of greater strength, joy, and positivity — really just a place that is more me.

576866_4693994667376_1669665208_n

For truly, I am strong, fierce, powerful, joy-filled, positive, awesome, and full of life! I am a warrior. My life is full of possibility.

 

Impossible?

Is anything undeniably impossible?

My spirit rebels at the suggestion that good things might be impossible.

Possibility surrounds me, and gives my soul joyous pause.

Of course, fear and doubt mingle in, at times rising to the top, obscuring joy and hope.

So much is unsure.

Success is not guaranteed, and solutions are not yet seen, found, created, done, or lived.

I breathe deep breaths, and fortify myself with these thoughts:

Be brave and stubborn. Believe all is possible.

Live as though success is inevitable, and your actions and thoughts encourage its coming.

Expect, and eagerly embrace, the awesomeness and miracles that surround, and are, you!

 

We are Superheroes!!!

 

“We are Superheroes!” rebounds off the walls, as my students laugh and run with capes fluttering behind them. The pause in a moment of stillness, so I can take their photograph.

superhero comicbook

I love this photo — changed, in a photo-editing program, to look more like a page from a graphic novel.

The page might read:

“They stand together, ready to soar into action. Eyes open wide as they survey the land — alert and ready. Their tiny pink sneakers belie their power, courage and ability. Some laugh at them, call them cute, and underestimate them. But, encouraged and empowered by their fearless leader, they stand secure in the knowledge that they are, in fact, superheroes, with the power to change the world. They turn to one another, and begin to make plans.”

Awesome, isn’t it? What’s even more awesome than the graphic novel version? The real thing, in my classroom — young students, dreaming big, writing down ideas, and making plans to change the world. All the while, secure in the truth that they are, and can always be, superheroes.

Rock on, young superheroes. Rock on!

Expected, and Unexpected, Process and Product

“Would you come up with something creative we can do together at our next ELA meeting?” That simple question was the beginning of what would become, for me, a fabulous process and product!

It was a crazy time of year. We were all a bit stressed, with tons to do. “Perfect!” I thought. “Let’s take all that angst and struggle, and use it to make something beautiful!”

Our tools:

  1. sharpie markers (preferably black)
  2. old gift cards or credit cards
  3. acrylic paint
  4. canvas panel
  5. old magazines
  6. white glue
  7. bravery
  8. boldness
  9. openness
  10. joy

Our process:

  1. Think of all the things that are making us crazy, or cranky or stressed. As the end of the year approaches, that list can become very long. I encouraged myself, and my colleagues, to think of things from all areas of our lives.
  2. Write them down, in permanent, bold, black ink, all over the canvas. Be free! Write them one on top of the other. Make lists. Write big. Write small. Print. Write in cursive. Cross them out. Make them bold. Add lots of exclamation points. Curse if you like. LOL!
  3. Remember this is for you, no one else. No one gets to check it before you add the next step. No one sees it unless you choose to share. Be bold. Be brave. Be honest.
  4. When done, put the cap on the pen, and set it aside. Look at the canvas. Good? Anything else you want to write? Anything else you want to add? If so, pick up that pen again, and add it. If not, move on to number 5.
  5. Choose some colors. I like to be free, but mindful, in my color choices. Some colors become mud when blended. Sometimes muddy is good, but other times, not so much, hence the mindful part.
  6. Put  small dabs of the paints on a paper plate or tray.
  7. Using one of those old cards as a palette knife, pick up some of the paint and get it on the canvas. The card allows for a thick or thin paint application. Thick application can add texture or the possibility to completely obscure your words. Thin application allows for more layering of colors, and causes the texture of the canvas and the written word to be more prominent.
  8. Be free with the paint application. Don’t fret about mixing colors. Use only one card for the entire work. If you have too much paint on it, or want another color free from any other, grab a paper towel and wipe off the card. Experiment with thick or thin. (I like a thin application so the handwriting can be seen, but when it is your art, use your own preferences.)
  9. Flip through the magazines to find words or images that are the opposite of the words you wrote on the canvas. Find ones that inspire you. Search for beauty, peace, breath, love, laughter, or whatever else makes you say, “Oh, this is good!”
  10. Tear them out of the magazine! Experiment with different angles, with how much space you leave around the words, and with tearing in different directions. You might be surprised with all the variations you can get.  (If you must, lol, you can cut them out. But, if you can live with the possibility of ripping something wanted, and the less than perfect edges of the tear, then please, tear them. I promise, the results can be beautiful, and meaningful.)
  11. Once your canvas has dried, place these images and words on the canvas. Explore varying layouts. When you find one you like, use the glue to make it permanent. Be aware, if you haven’t cleaned your hands you may end up with some unexpected color. Don’t worry if that happens, there is one more step!
  12. When the glue has dried, add one more layer. Find or make a stencil and use it. Add color with your fingers. Grab a stamp and see what you can do with it.

Here is my final product.

2016-04-04 19.09.34

Or so I thought!

This is my product, and I love it, but it turns out it was not my final product. There was more. There was the unexpected process and product, and it was fantabulous!

As I drove home, my thoughts returned to the meeting, my colleagues, our process, and our product.  So many thoughts, observations and wondering. And then, my thoughts turned to my product.

“I wonder if I can read what I wrote? Maybe if I look really closely?”

There was definitely part of me that wanted to read them again. Hold on to them. Feel them again. Experience their power. Another part of me speculated it might have been better to have completely concealed my words under a think coat of paint. I resisted any urge to pull over and examine my canvas, lol, and reminded myself that the point of the process – outside of pure creativity and joy – was to let things go!

When I got home I pulled my canvas out of my bag, and spent some time with it.

I liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was interesting. It wasn’t flawless, but it was beautiful. And those imperfections and flaws? They added to its interest.

I couldn’t read my words, but I could see my writing, and I loved that! The writing added depth and texture to the work.

Then I had an aha moment … my final product (at least for now).

The piece was just like my life. Multi-layered. Not perfect, but pretty fabulous. And those things that make me anxious, stressed or cranky? Endured, survived, embraced, laughed about, cranked about, talked about, prayed about, and released – even if they remain in some fashion – they make me better, more interesting, more awesome, more me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Encouraging Young Inventors

Recently, in our Kindergarten Maker Space …

Me: “Hey, may I take a picture of what you’re working on?”

Student: “Sure. It’s a bug playground.”

Me: “A bug playground?”

Student: “Yeah, because otherwise they just get stepped on.”

Me: “Wow, they do get stepped on, don’t they? What a great idea. I bet the bugs will like it!”

How awesome is that?

A 6-year-old,  using all sorts of creative thinking (human/bug design thinking, possibility thinking, positive thinking, lateral thinking, divergent thinking, convergent thinking) to problem-find and problem-solve. I love it!

It’s what happens when students are given recycled materials, duct tape, and, most importantly, the opportunity, space and encouragement, to think, risk and build.