Once upon a time…

Free Spirits acrylic on tar paper, c. 9" x 11", 4/30in30, Q14
Free Spirits
acrylic on tar paper, c. 9″ x 11″, 4/30in30, Q14

You may be wondering how all this got started in the first place. Well, I must credit my hard-working Huntingdon College students. Two years ago we worked on a group project in our painting class, and I had hoped some would decide to show up one weekend and just paint their hearts out on the huge piece below.

Students Josh Clayton and Autumn Jones made great contributions to the base design in 2014.

We cut symmetrical stencils and spray painted overlapping patterns as an underpainting. At the end of the semester, no one had added any painting on the 18′ design. We rolled it up and put it in a closet at school. Last year I discovered it, and decided to put that underpainting to use, since most of the students involved in its creation had moved on to other classes.

Base Start
The end that became a beginning…

I wanted to both use and ignore the original design, so I cut off one end and then cut it into 15 pieces.

Here is the starting pile of rectangles.

Rather than create one big design, I wanted to see how the overall image might change by looking at the quadrants separately, and then allowing them to join as I went along. Each quadrant should hold its own as an individual composition while simultaneously becoming integral to a larger whole .


An Annotated Art Lesson

MountOlive COLOR2
What’s “Wrong” with this Color?

Some of us, as children, were denied coloring books. Now coloring, especially for adults, is a big trend. Here is a fun art lesson that also might (vicariously) make up for our own lost youth while also imparting valuable art skills and knowledge.

In the case of this lesson with 5th graders from Mount Olive Elementary school in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, we thought “coloring” would be just the thing to help these students learn a few basics of color theory.


They were to learn about a very few things: warm colors, cool colors and complementary colors. Of course, along the way, we had to mention primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors and color mixing, but those were just the results of setting up some “teachable moments,” and not the main objectives.

We introduced Pop Art through Andy Warhol’s 10 Marilyns silkscreen print that he created in 1967.

10 Marilyns

While Warhol did his own combinations, not adhering to our parameters (after all, how was he to know?), his piece is a wonderful example of how color can energize any image.

Students had four choices: a Tiger (school mascot), a Moorish tile design (multicultural), President Barack Obama (contemporary Pop icon), or a blank set of squares (that all-important anti-coloring voice) where they could create their own designs.

We used watercolor pencils, to which we applied small amounts of water toward the end of the lesson. That allowed some lovely variety of intensity of color a well as differing line quality.

For a school that has never had any focused art program, it was impressive how much the teachers and students already did know, and it was fun to see them immediately embrace the concepts and materials.

I should add that all this was possible due to an Arts in Education grant from the Alabama State Department of Education. At a time when we shake our heads at over-testing and lack of funding for the arts, here was an opening in the clouds where the sun definitely shined in.

How do we measure this sunshine? By one student asking one simple question: “Are you coming back tomorrow?” And by one teacher (a realist) asking another simple question: “Are you coming back next year?”

MountOlive Collage

What’s my Line?

It’s all about the children. Teaching is such a huge part of my life and identity, and I hardly ever share my love for it.

Yesterday was so fun while offering professional development to teachers at Mount Olive Intermediate School with the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education. We are connecting visual arts and dance, and the awesome teachers of these 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders are already making it happen.


Here is the fabulous Mary Foshee encouraging the teachers to “write and draw” with their elbows!

Prior to our arrival at the school, we sent a worksheet to the students, who looked at the Picasso works, Dove of Peace and Face-Dove. The students were asked to look at the lines and, in their own ways, interpret the drawings.


Here are several of the adorable results. Their efforts are so honest, so fresh, and so unassuming! No wonder Picasso wished to make art like a child.

What was especially rewarding about our discussion with the teachers about how the students enjoyed drawing, is that they discovered creativity in the children they had not seen before. What a fabulous way to get to know and appreciate one another. Aren’t those the true makings of peace?

Looking Back

This is a visual review of some of the images from my 2D Design Class at Huntingdon College during Fall 2014. Because it is an entry-level, visual art basics course, I structured it by linking two elements and principles. We covered 14 elements and principles: Line, Shape, Color, Value, Form, Texture, Balance, Space, Contrast, Emphasis, Pattern, Movement, Harmony and Unity. I love teaching because there is so much learning!

1.Line & Shape Line and Shape

2.Color & Value  Color and Value

3.Form & Texture  Form and Texture

4.Balance & Space  Balance and Space

5.Contrast & Emphasis Contrast and Emphasis

6.Pattern & Movement  Pattern and Movement

7.Harmony & Unity  Harmony and Unity

Art Bridges 2013

There’s nothing more hopeful than brand new art supplies. On July 18th and 19th, teachers in the Pike County and Troy City Schools were treated to unlimited use of fresh paint, courtesy of Sargent Art, during Art Bridges 2013. At the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy, Alabama, the concepts of earth science became hands-on explorations through paper marbling, creative writing, and clay tile-making. Guest artists, Larry Percy and Adam Vines (both 2013 Artist Fellowship recipients from the Alabama State Council on the Arts) helped teachers connect visual art with their special skills of ceramics and poetry. Every teacher left with their own paper marbling supplies to implement in the classroom. AB13Collage

We got SmART!

SmART CollageTalk about partnering! The Alabama Alliance for Arts Education, the Huntsville Art League, the SmART Project, and then the rest of us presenters and teachers all got together in Huntsville on July 8th for a whirlwind professional development workshop. Diana Green from the Alabama State Council on the Arts wowed the Huntsville area visual art teachers with fantastic tools for assessment and advocacy, while I got to focus again on concepts of Fibonacci and the Golden Mean, exploring how to apply these ideas to math, science and language arts. This time we even got to write some Fibonacci poetry! Megan White, a very clever and talented teacher, wrote this poem and inscribed it on her gleaming painting…with all supplies donated by SargentArt!

Making connections.
There are spirals surrounding us.
Search. Dig. A look deeper at Mother Nature’s beauty,
Through the inspection of nature’s patterns, bewilder yourself with knowledge and insight.

The pattern of syllables follows the Fibonacci sequence:

I love seeing the growth of connections, knowledge and insight!

(…And see those rainbows?  We’ll discuss the ideas of “getting over” the rainbow a little later in August…)

Phi on Us!

AIEA Collage

Our workshop with the Alabama Institute for Education in the Arts was a success! Every time I present these ideas, someone comes out with a new twist. Thanks to all the AIEA Visual Arts staff: Durinda, Margaret, Sally, James and Donald – and all the wonderfully talented and positive teachers in our group – I believe there will be some new approaches to teaching some of the same ol’ subjects. Of course there’s always art for art’s sake, too!

What is Phi? (rhymes with “fly”) Besides being the 21st letter in the Greek Alphabet, it expresses the ratio 1:1.618… which is found in so many places of the natural world. I can’t say more, or I’ll never stop!