Summer Art Reflection

This summer I took two, 10 week-long graduate classes at Towson: a watercolor class and an independent studio. I’m really proud what I learned and experimented with, and the work that came out of it. The teacher of the water color class gave extremely good feedback, even though it was a completely online class. It showed me that the student can only improve as much as the teacher’s feedback is specific, timely, accurate, kind, and helpful.

Above is all the work I did for the class. You may notice that the class was extremely well scaffolded. 1) We started off with learning the basic skills of mixing ultramarine blue and sepia to make a neutral black, and then worked on painting smooth gradients in wet-on-wet and dry-on-wet techniques. 2) When we mastered that, we then added one color – yellow – to learn how to produce shadows in lemons. 3) We then added more fruit, again using the color wheel to practice dulling complements of new colors. 4) Next, we explored texture my developing saturation and details in the midtowns. 5) Finally we explored pushing the sense of space and atmospheric perspective with deeper still life set-ups and landscapes. It was such a blast! I honestly didn’t know anything about watercolor before the class, but feel really confident at it now.

The other cool thing about this class was that he made us create a Pinterest board of watercolor artists according to the sequence of our projects! I didn’t paint the below images, but found them useful for referencing when I was trying to convey a certain mood or technique:

The other class I took was the independent studio where I explored whatever themes I wanted to as an artist with the goal of allowing the making of art to reignite my creative spirit for the upcoming school year, and also see how I can combine my art making practice with my teaching practice. Here’s some of the art I made:

Heiser, Monica. Submerging, 2022. Acrylic on canvas. 36″ x 24″

It’s curious to me how water both reflects and distorts light. In watching swimmers, and because the subjects’ faces are masked, we are naturally more curious about both the experiences: Are they enjoying being under the water? What is it like under there? Who are they? How do I feel as I witness another swimming under water? To me these questions and imagery connect with the simulaneous joy and unknowability of the non-dual and non-self nature of direct experience that I also explore in my practice of Buddhist meditation. The color variations, texture, and broad, painterly strokes seek to convey the dreaminess of water that intrigues and entices the viewer to get lost in their color and shape. The intention is for the water to pull the viewer into the work and also convey a similar wavy, dreamlike, pleasant experience of submerging below the surface. I am also exploring non-duality, immateriality, immersion, and direct experience in my artworks and am inspired by how these themes have throughout art history frequently called to artists to explore in their imediate experience in various mediums. The work is about looking into the void and exploring the actual and symbolic surface texture of experience on both personal and literal universal levels. I want to engage the viewer so they are encouraged and supported to examine and imagine their own experience with self-awareness. I utilize a collage of frames and perspectives that forces the viewer to reconsider their local relative and ultimate location and identity in space and time.

Map of the Creative Process. I like this map because it combines an intuitive and humanistic approach to critical thinking and skill-based steps.

The independent studio class taught me a lot about about the artistic process. Every time we make art it is different. We may have a flow or process we usuaully gravitate towards, but in the end, every work of art is different, every theme we explore has nuances that we didn’t see previously, and everytime we make a new artwork we are a different person. I really enjoyed reconnecting with the process of discovering the art through the process of this class – ideation, field trips, peer discussion, drafts, revisions, and encouragement. It helped me see how this process is so important in making art, and that I will want to emphasize it in my classes this year. Similarly, when tasked with making a series, the creative process really flourishes. From the outset, we were instructed to create 3-4 works of art, which means that the creative process has to involve more than one idea, more than one media, etc. This year I will definitely scaffold this skill but ultimately assignment my Pre-AP Visual art and Middle School artists to create a series while reflecting on their work and process throughout their assignments.

Also this summer was the Arts Everyday week of professional development. They do it every year and I enjoy this time because it allows me to make artwork and exemplars that I can potentially use in my classroom later in the year.

One workshop by Unique Robinson, a Professor at MICA, artist, and educator, combined reflective writing, collage, and mindfulness to guide us to create “Vows and Vision Boards.” My art was inspired by my vow to treat myself and my students more gently, to encourage myself to be open to life, art, and my own heart. Check out the final version below. If you’re interested in teaching this in your classroom, you can download a copy of her Power Point slides here:

Another online video course entitled “Creating Text-based Paintings” at the same week-long event was led by Ada Pinkston, my former Towson University advisor! She is an artist, activist, and professor (check out her instagram here). She gave us time to see, think, and wonder about a variety of artists that use text and then had us research writings by Black women suffragists. We also learned about typography and stenciling to create our own works of art! Here are some of the resources that she employed that you can download:

<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of <strong>Text-Based Artist Exemplars PDFText-Based Artist Exemplars PDFDownload
<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of <strong>Links to Info about Text-Based Artists PDFLinks to Info about Text-Based Artists PDFDownload
<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of <strong>Black Suffragist Useful Links PDFBlack Suffragist Useful Links PDFDownload

And here is my work in response below! When I was reading Anna Julia Cooper’s, The Ethics of the Negro Question Speech that she gave on September 5, 1902, I was struck by her strong visual language. In her opening paragraph, and throughout the speech, she centers the “vision” of the United States, and “the elevation [of the Brotherhood of its people] at which it receives its ‘vision’ into the firmament of eternal truth.” From my practice of meditation and racial justice, it seems that delusion, racism, bigotry, etc are things that need to be unlearned. So the process of undoing is very important and results in an unimpaired vision of truth. I also wanted to include her name in the work. I had not known about her before and feel that in the spirit of Adam Pendelton’s work of re-writing history by parsing and reconfiguring it into the present, that by adding her name, it brings recognition of her work back into the present. I ordered a pack of reusable plastic stencils for $8 on Amazon and that worked really well to get a variety of sizes.

Heiser, Monica. The Unimpaired Vision of Anna Julia Cooper, 2022. Marker. 11″ x 14″

Thanks for reading! Hope to make more artwork throughout the year, so check back soon!

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