The Blank Page Revisited

I’ve written several times about the blank page – once about my own experience and then another time about my Kindergartners working to overcome the blank page.

Even so, I still struggle with the blank page. It fascinates and attracts me – enticing me with its beauty and possibility — while simultaneously intimidating and mocking me!

I love making art – letting other’s art inspire me, exploring new mediums, or creating beautiful things for myself and others. I’m pretty talented. But again, wow, sometimes I’m stymied by the blank page. It pokes at me — like a sneaky bully — with angst and doubt, and keeps me from doing what I might.

My mind is always searching for connections between seemingly unconnected things, and the other day that trait helped me have an epiphany that helps me overcome my own blank pages.

The first part of the connection is a note and bracelet gifted me by one of my K students:

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I love that note and bracelet. I am even thinking how I might have a more permanent bracelet made that says “Imagine possibility!”

The second part of the connection was a quote on a friend’s Facebook post:

“Stop worrying about what might go wrong and get excited about what might go right!”

Ding, ding, ding!!! All of a sudden I got it!

I AM good at imagining. I imagine wonderful opportunities and ways of accomplishing them when I’m building with my kids. When I’m imagining art possibilities, I revel in all sorts of fabulous, positive possibilities. I enjoy imagining things I might make, as well as new ways to do things.

But when gazing upon the blankness of the page my imagining begins to change. Instead of the joy-filled optimistic possibility thinking, or the enthusiastic fun of trying new things, I imagine all the things that could go wrong. And, just like my more hopeful, lighthearted imagination, my fretting, angst-ridden imagination is powerful and thinks of many possibilities. Only problem is, these possibilities include the numerous things I do not want to happen!

This epiphany helped me as I worked on the door design I am creating. I did research. I prototyped. I discarded methods and color combinations that didn’t work. I refined the methods and color combinations until I was quite pleased. Finally, I mustered up my courage and took control of my own thinking.

Instead of allowing my imagination to travel down the dark path of doubt, doing it’s beautiful creative process to imagine all that could go wrong – destroying my hours and hours of work – I chose to get excited about what might go right! I imagined the fantabulous things that might occur – in my learning and in my actual product.

Sometimes I’m not able to come up with the actual possibilities because my thoughts of what might go wrong are so strong. In those times, I determine to embrace the excitement and possibility of what MIGHT go right — even if I’m not sure what they might be.

So one day, as sat in my workshop space, my door stared at me, daring me — or begging me, depending on your perspective — to come continue to work. With determined resoluteness, I accepted the challenge! I pulled out the colors, chose my brushes and began working.

It was a bit stressful for a moment, but as I worked, the stress eased and I developed a process that worked well. After just one flower was painted, my imagination was freed! I began to imagine — and believe — all the things that might go right. It was remarkable how interesting — intoxicating even — it was!

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I am now super excited to be in the process, and see where this will end up. I’ve made mistakes. But, I’ve chosen to breathe through them and let my imagination and process make good things happen. My fingers are crossed this will stay with me for future blank pages.

I’m wondering — imagining — how I will use this information with my students. I am certain there is something profound to share with them. My mind is already at work.

Now to await the marvelous, mysterious connections sure to come, and to become excited about all that may go right — for myself and my students.

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Beauty

There were so many beautiful things to see at the museum. Spectacular paintings, sculpture, metal work.

This was the most beautiful.

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No, not the statue, or the paintings, or the stunning gallery — the woman and child huddled together.

They entered the gallery with quiet interest. The woman carried a folded stool which she casually opened out of the way of any traffic. I thought perhaps it was for her. I was wrong.

The girl scanned the gallery with a bit of child-like enthusiasm — notebook and pencil clutched in her hand. They whispered to one another. The woman moved the stool slightly, and the girl took a seat, opened her notebook, and began to sketch.

Their faces gazed up and down — contemplating the artwork of the gallery artists, and creating new work in the notebook.

The woman was always present — sometimes whispering, sometimes watching, sometimes gazing at something in the distance. The girl worked — her face buried in the notebook — for as long as I remained in the gallery.

For me, the beauty in that relationship far outweighed the beauty of any piece of art. I am not sure I can adequately explain why. But, I will try.

The girl was young and completely captivated by the art in the gallery and on her page. I don’t know if she was recording what she saw, or being inspired to make her own creation. It doesn’t matter so much to me. It was her joy, her passion, and her intentness that drew me.

And then the woman. She served as such a beautiful counterpart to the young artist. Everything she did appeared to encourage, empower and support the girl and her creative endeavors.

I hope to always be a beautiful counterpart to others. Might we all be!

 

 

 

Creativity in Unexpected Places

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My students have been cleaning up the building area this week. 

This is what I found when I came back into the room today. Beautiful isn’t it!?!!

With a bit of freedom, growing love for aesthetics, and joy-filled support, even cleaning up can be filled with moments of creativity and beauty.

 

Gustav Klimt and Kindergartners

Gustav Klimt is a favorite artist of mine. I enjoy finding ways to share his work with my students. Take a look at this work of his.

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It is beautiful! Clearly it’s a masterpiece, and yet in many ways it is a work accessible to my kindergarten students. It is a combination of shapes – both in the detail and the figures.

I always have the girls work on a mixed media project when we are inspired by Klimt. I find it helps them express the detail he expresses when they have many mediums with which to work. Plus, it allows them to explore various mediums at the same time.

Typically, I bring in some of my art materials to share with them. They love the chance to use “real art mediums and tools” and treat all my things with the utmost respect. I love that my sharing expresses my respect for them as people and artists, and, hopefully, encourages them to be generous with the things they value.

This year I introduced them to Klimt while we were exploring shapes in math. I showed them full pieces, but spent most of the time drawing their eyes to the details and shapes found throughout his work. The girls enjoyed finding spirals, circles, squares, triangles, diamonds, rectangles and the many combinations of shapes Klimt created.

I decided to have the girls work on a trio of small art-pieces instead of one large piece. I hoped it might help them be more able to fill the paper with shapes. While I love having them work on large canvases, sometimes the size overwhelms them. We worked on 3×5 inch pieces of multi-media paper. When the girls were finished I mounted their work on a black background to create a triptych.

It was fabulous to sit and work with them. We shared pencils, artist markers, sharpie markers, a travel water color set, gel pens, crayons, pastels and security envelopes (fabulous idea I learned from Dar Hosta and Deb Barends).

“Oooh, I like that!” “Can I try that?” “How did you do that?” “Oh I never thought of that!” flowed across the tables as we admired each other’s work, and were inspired to give the new ideas a try. While they sometimes need a reminder, they are learning to see “copying” their ideas as a compliment rather than a transgression. I encourage those who “copy” to truly be inspired, and to make subtle, or large, changes in order to make the work their own.

I was, as always, impressed by their process and product. They have great, big, beautiful hearts and often it seems that beauty just flows out onto the paper. We learn from each other to be free with our work, loving the process and each other.

While I was working on a piece, one of the girls asked if I would like her to help me. “Sure!” I said, although I wasn’t sure what might be created. Her additions to the piece were wonderful, and made the piece much more beautiful than if I had done it alone!

I’m not sure anyone would realize we were inspired by Klimt, but we were, and we too created beautiful works of art. Here are a few from six of my students. Enjoy and be inspired!

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Resources:

Klimt Museum http://www.klimt.com

Writing and drawing … or, Kindergarteners tackling the blank page!

I enjoy the “mixed media” of writing and drawing. They compliment and enhance one another, making my art more satisfying and beautiful.

After working on my blank page art project I knew I wanted to try it with my kindergarteners. I wondered if they would have a similar experience of comfort using the magazine as a scrap paper journal, and their words as the background for their drawing.

It was fascinating to be part of their experience!

I began by sharing my own work – both my process and my product. I shared my reluctance to work on the beautiful, blank pages, as well as how free I felt using the magazine as scrap paper. I told them I loved being able to experiment on the magazine pages. I showed them my magazine drawings and talked about my thoughts – what I liked, what I didn’t like, how I studied the faces I found in the magazine, and how I eventually developed a face that I liked. I commented that I didn’t think it was perfect, but that I really liked it just the same.

I encouraged them to relax as they worked. “Don’t worry making mistakes. It’s all part of the process. Look at what you did. If you see something you don’t like, don’t fret, just do it again until you do like it.

I asked them to be free and soft – in their minds and in their bodies – as they used sharpie markers to make the faces. I reminded them there could be no erasing but assured them they would be fine.

They were very funny in their interpretation of my words. I had to explain to some of them – as the pen almost fell from their overly relaxed fingers – “Oh no, that’s fabulous, but you really do have to hold the pen with a nice grip. What I meant is relax your arm, make your strokes easy and smooth. Like this.”

I started by giving them a drawing technique that would allow them to be successful while at the same time, giving them the freedom to create “their own faces.” I told them they would be able to make as many faces as they liked, but asked them to make their first face by following the steps with me.

The technique was quite straightforward.

  • First a large oval for the head.
  • Then a column for the neck, with two small hills on either side to form the shoulders.
  • One long curved line for the eyebrows and sides of the nose came next. We noticed that the shape of the eyebrows really changed the emotion of our faces. We had a really tough time with the tip of the nose, so many left it out.
  • The eyes were almond-shaped with circles. We experimented with different sized almonds and circles. We placed the pupils in different places. Some of us added glasses. The faces had great character – even without lips or hair!
  • Lips were a bit tricky and some wanted to just make a smile. I told them they had to give the lips a try. After a bit of “ugh” and a sigh, they relented and tried. They drew awesome lips.
  • Some of us added ears – amazed that they actually go from the center of our eyes to the center of our lips. Finally we added hair.

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My students seemed intrigued by my thought process and used my words throughout their work. One student drew something she didn’t like and said “Well, that’s ok, I can just go to the next page.” Another told me “I’m trusting myself, Miss James. I’m being brave, doing it and just believing it will come out alright.” It was absolutely amazing to see my words empower them!

After a good bit of drawing, it was time to fill a page with words that made them happy. I suggested they think of their handwriting as a beautiful part of their art piece. They worked hard choosing words and then filled the page with their handwriting. (It’s a LOT of work for a kindergarten student.) When every line was filled they were ready to make their final face.

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I gave them the option of practicing in their magazine again before working on their art piece. Some did, some didn’t, but either way, they were all engaged, confident, happy, and successful!

Our bulletin board is filled with different faces – each unique and fabulous – just like the artists who made them. Occasionally I shake my head, amazed that the artists are kindergarten students.

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Why were they able to be so successful? I’m not certain, but I have some ideas.

I believe they are fantastic and capable. I value them and their work, and my behavior and language reflect that value.

  • I share my expensive art pencils with them (and they treat them like treasures).
  • I give them the best paper I can, and even if it is simple, inexpensive paper, I make sure it is worthy of their work – clean, cut straight, and unwrinkled.
  • I treat them as fellow artists.
  • I ask them to do art that I do – not just “kids” art.
  • I share my thoughts and work with them.
  • I don’t hide my struggles. I consider their suggestions and offer my own.

And, wow, there is something powerful about the process.

  • The technique is easy to remember but still rich enough to express the wishes of each artist.
  • There is a nice balance of structure and freedom.
  • There is the comfort of the non-blank page of the magazines and word filled pages.

And some how, that all combines to be magical, powerful and emboldening. I dig it!

RESOURCES:

Journal Spilling: Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression by Diana Trout (2009)