Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Week Thirteen Blog - November 30, 2007

Week Thirteen at the Art Centre.

Before I get into Week Thirteen:

OK It’s past week 13 – I’m late posting but I have been thinking about the week that was week 13 and finally I’ll post a blog. It’s been three whole months of art school and what’s the big picture so far? Do I like it? Does it like me? Besides a routine of reporting what happened each day of the week, what is going on here? I have to say it’s a strange place to be. I’ve been a learner for a long time but probably more as a teacher than as a student. So what’s the difference? And there does seem to be one. It’s perhaps more a psychological state of being – and a power differential with the teacher calling the shots. But if students are willful – they can certainly influence the way things go.

This past semester, I’ve been a professor to graduate students both F2F and online at the same time as I’ve been in a high school setting, an adult student with teachers younger than me surrounded by students most of whom are also younger. Except for being slightly crippled with arthritis and slow-moving as a result, I am doing fairly well at keeping up with things. Without a little pain medication and with more sleep I might be more alert and energetic but I am at least determined and I slog through whatever task is at hand.

I find my favourite class has more to do with the pleasure of being with a teacher I like than with what I am actually doing in the class. If I feel I am doing ok or better yet, or even doing pretty good in the teacher’s eyes, then I feel more encouraged and more at ease about the work. It’s satisfying to be in the teacher’s role when you feel your students are doing well and they think you are a good teacher. So that makes sense. Either way, teacher or learner, the best atmosphere is when everyone feels like it’s going well.

I’m satisfied that the majority of my teachers at the Art Centre like what they do and that they work hard at their jobs. I have been fairly critical about the teachers and I want to be very clear with anyone reading my blog when I write about this. I am not keeping this blog to put down anyone or to shame them. I do say what works for me and what doesn’t. There are some styles of teaching that I find difficult and I am finding strategies for coping with these. I am making an effort to be open and willing to take whatever instruction they hand out. I don’t have to like how they hand it out. I do tend to get bored when it seems like the teacher would rather be doing something other than what they are doing.

So you might say that this experiment I am conducting, that is, going back to school again, is informing me on a number of levels. My first goal is to find out if that dream I had as a little girl, to be an artist, was a silly dream. I have dabbled all my life, drawing, painting (mostly water colours and goache), sculpting, writing poetry, plays and a few stories, taking photographs, doing graphics, mostly on the computer, making videos, designing sets and costumes, directing, acting, producing, and now I finally come to a time to really put the “artist” talent to the test.

I like being really good at whatever I do and maybe that’s why I’ve been postponing being an “artist”. I’m afraid I won’t be really good at it. I look around the class and some of my classmates have some excellent skills. And some of them are just plain passionate about what they do and that is inspirational. So far, I haven’t been blown away with any of the projects I’ve done. The projects have just been so-so. I am feeling a bit clumsy – is that part of being in the first year of being an art student? I’m looking for that assignment or project that is really going to capture my imagination and hurl me full force into a lot of hard work with great results.

When I began this blog it was to let my colleagues at the university know what I was doing (since my school schedule would prevent me from meeting with them) and now it has turned out to be more than that for me. It’s a thoughtful process, reflective, and it is possibly helping me get a bit closer to at least a few of my classmates who say they enjoy reading it.

So enough of this ruminating sidetrack – I’ll get on with reporting the week that was a short one (short day on Thursday due to staff meeting and PD day on Friday so no classes that day).

Monday – Submission day for the print project made with a lino block of a tin angel in a field of stars holding a star and a border piece of stars. There was first of all my AP or Artist Print and I chose the rotational print for that one. Then in order of printing I numbered, titled and signed 14 VE prints (Varied Edition) and I also included 4 Trial Prints (TP). When I gave them to the teacher to mark, I also donated them to the arts and crafts Christmas sale that was to run from Tuesday through Thursday with any proceeds to go to the Cat Rescue organization. Another classmate did the same – this is the same organization our teacher gives all of her earnings from the show to as well. Later I learned that the asking price was $10 for large prints and $5 for the small ones.

Tuesday – Our teacher was back for the painting class and he made two still life arrangements we could choose to paint either one. The ugly boot was in one with a plaster cast of a foot – didn’t have the slightest appeal for me. I chose the one that had a blue and white table cloth on which were two bottles, a green pottery crock and a variety of fruit: a pear, several apples and two bunches of grapes. I did several thumbnails and chose to do a painting that featured one brown bottle, the crock pot, a pear, an apple and two bunches of grapes. Later I learned that I also had to do the table cloth as well as the far background that included a chalkboard, a heater and a wooden chair. By the end of the period I had blocked out the shapes in paint.

Studio Tuesday – I spent the entire studio time working on my carving. It was still damp and carved a bit too easily in some parts. I nearly have it ready for the next stage, sanding.

Wednesday – A trying day today. I thought I would just be doing housework and laundry and monitoring my online course. Not so! I looked at my email and there was a neat test sent to me by one of my classmates at the centre. I decided to send it on to some of my friends (for a change it didn’t threaten something dreadful if I didn’t send it – I delete those). Not long afterwards, my computer kakked out – that is, it went into to one of those rebooting cycles non-stop. I had to unplug it and call the guy who built it for me. He agreed to come to my place early evening to see it could be fixed. This was not a happy thing to happen - where was the good luck promised in that email test? I had not backed up the stuff I was working on (both as a professor and as a student) for about two weeks and I could lose it all. I went over to the other machine in my office but the mouse refused to settle down so I could use it. So I had to get out my laptop computer in order to stay connected and collect email from my students. By the time I got around to laundry it was the middle of the afternoon.

Thursday and Art History class - This week we started with a short video on social structures in the Middle Ages and we were warned that it was “cheesy”. It did live up to this description as it was clearly an amateur student production on a very small budget. It did get across the basics of life in feudal times with lords and vassals. This was followed by a Power Point slide show and in this class the teacher didn’t seem to mind when one or another of us spoke up and gave the pronunciation of a word when it was not said correctly. I found that the only way to really get through this was to take lots of notes. And the same was true of the second video. The note-taking occupied me throughout this video on the late Middle Ages. It was professionally done - one of a public TV series on the subject and was far easier to appreciate.

During lunch I sat with the prints for sale, ate my lunch and took a few pictures. No buyers for the prints during my time there. Across from me were plants and beside me jewelry. One table had a student playing a guitar and singing and the table with samosas seemed to be a popular one. The sale had a variety of art work, crafts, some food (soup, cookies) cards, scarves, and ceramics among the offerings.

In Sculpting class we had a presentation on Existentialist Sculpture that covered three sculptors who were the most notable for this style. After that, L and I retrieved our medals from the foundry. This involved digging the molds out of the sand filled tubs then breaking the molds and cleaning up the debris. There were a few other molds in the tubs and we got those out and cleaned out the tubs to be ready for the next batch. The pieces of broken molds filled three huge garbage bags by the time we were done with the clean up.

I went to the other end of the studio to work on my carving for the rest of the period. It was a bit soft still and too crumbly in parts to work on so I was shown some plaster that I could spread over these sections of the sculpture. It was like delicately and very carefully putting on a thin layer of icing on a cake. Afterwards the carving went on top of the oven to completely dry out so it can be sanded next week. I showed the teacher my ideas for the 15 X 20” board we will use to display information about the medal.

My computer guy phone and said he had good news and bad. The good was that he had been able to save all of my files and the bad – he couldn’t come over with my computer until Friday evening. Big relief that he saved the files!

Friday and a PD day. Instead of going to the Art Centre, I went to OISE to pick up my grade sheets and to print out the term papers that came in attached to email from my online students. The papers averaged 8-10 pages each and I had a total of 15 to print out.

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