Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 11.29.13

You Did WHAT In November?

"Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve..."                                --Wilfred Peterson

I had two goals for November – to finish a sculpture for submission to an exhibit and developing a slew of ideas for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog.

1. Woodlands Detritus/Life Cycle is the sculpture I began in October with a completion date of November 25th when the application was due to the DOSHI Gallery of the Susquehanna Art Museum for the jury process that will determine the works for their next exhibit:  LOST WORLD/FOUND WORLD to be housed in the State Museum of Pennsylvania January-June 2014 (during the new building project for the Susquehanna Museum).  The piece was not accepted.  But the journey was wonderful, and it will get into another/future exhibit.

The Journey:  My young student/friend Caleb, collected bones he found in the woods near his home and brought them to me to use in my artwork.  I thought I would create a pile of bones.  But they inspired symmetric order instead, and brought to mind the radial symmetry of flower-forms.


Working/Twining with Caleb’s Bones


The bones came to me cleaned of flesh but a little dirty from their time in the woods.  I did some research on line and discovered a plethora of information about cleaning and preserving animal bones.  I found Jakes Bones written by an 11-year old boy, the easiest site to understand.  I piled the bones into a plastic shoe box, covered them with 2 percent Hydrogen Peroxide liquid from the drug store, put the lid on the shoe box and let them sit for two days.  Then I rinsed the bones to clean off the dirt.  They came out a nice white “color.”


I worked the base and top components separately.  I dyed paper core in a tea bath and twined it with rust-color waxed linen, inserting the bones as I built the form.  The radial symmetry of the neutral bones and core made me recall synchronized swimming - H-m-m! flash backs in history.  I repurposed a pottery pedestal as an armature for the sculpture.  I decided to make the coiling/twining waxed linen “flower” part as a separate piece that I could carry with me and work while sitting in bed, traveling (last week my sister Peggy and I went to Baltimore and DC to visit a friend), and whiling away bits of time during my daily chores.   Then I coiled and twined a bezel to attach the “flower” to the pedestal.  Although it was difficult to use the bobbin winder to curl up waxed linen bundles/seeds during the finishing off process because of the protruding bones and weight of the finished piece, it was accomplished.




Artist Statement: Woodlands Detritus/Life Cycle
Seed, growth, life, death, regeneration…
Hope, fruition, loss…
Seed, growth, life, death, regeneration…
My young friend Caleb, collected bones he found in the woods near his home and brought them to me to use in my artwork.  I thought I would create a pile of bones.  But they inspired symmetric order instead, and brought to mind the radial symmetry of flower-forms.

From the bones and the earth, new seeds are fertilized and grow into mature plant life that in turn create new seeds…………a cycle of life.

The current exhibit Construction/Destruction will be coming down on December first.  I have two pieces in that exhibit, one of which can be viewed in this installation view:

They are:

Twisted Sister with Pod
Twisted Sister Sketch (Front View)
Twisted Sister Sketch (Back View)


Artist Statement:  This feminist series explores the ravages of time on the human body.  Although in my dreams and self-concept I continue to be firm and “young” of mind, my body betrays that self-image.  There is a melding space between the two that forms the self-concepts that emerge, and it is within that space that I interact with my environment and the people around me.  How unfair that as the intellect grows and matures, the body expands and un-firms.

"It is ART that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, and I know of no substitute for the FORCE and BEAUTY of its process..."
                                                                --Henry James

2.  Blogging:  I truly enjoyed the writing.  I still have so much I would like to write about; but I decided that for November, this is just enough.

My sister Peggy just sent me a link to “3 Top Reasons to Blog in Education”.  She said I talked so much about writing for the NAEA Blog during November that I must have really liked doing it.  Yes!  Yes!  It was fun and energizing and thought-organizing.  Thank you for the opportunity.

"Your life is yours and yours alone.
Rise up and live it."
         --Terry Goodkind

-Jackie Thomas

Monday 11.25.13

Managing Our Lives with Tickler Files

"Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself."         
                                       --Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1928)

A tickler file is a collection of date-labeled file folders organized in a way that allows time-sensitive documents to be filed according to the future date on which each document needs action. Documents within the folders of a tickler file can be to-do lists, pending bills, unpaid invoices, travel tickets, hotel reservations, meeting information/agenda, paperwork for appointments, birthday reminders, coupons, claim tickets, call-back notes, follow-up reminders, maintenance reminders, or any other papers that require future action. Each day, the folder having the current date is retrieved from the tickler file so that any documents within it may be acted on. Essentially, a tickler file provides a way to send a reminder to oneself in the future—"tickling" one's memory.  Tickler files are often used in newsrooms by editors, journalists, and reporters, as well as by many other groups, including sales representatives and professional offices in medicine, law, non-profit, government, and accounting.  A tickler file system also has other applications such as museum guides, specialized fact books, time management software, or any organized arrangement of information to which a person may want quick access. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Examples of Month and Day Tickler Files


My Basket of Tickler Files

As an art teacher and as an administrator, I use tickler files to keep all of my meeting agendas, unit/lesson plans, notices of exhibit openings, invitations with driving directions, PAEA Conference information, requirements for submission to student/adult art exhibits, notes for parent-teacher meetings,  birthday cards ready to mail, and other time-sensitive paperwork.  Before I set up my tickler files, I kept everything in my day-by-day book calendar (Boy, was it thick, and a disaster when I dropped it and reminders/paperwork came cascading out of each day-slot!).  I originally set up my tickler in two metal slotted standing files that I had on a counter behind my desk.  I had so much paperwork, I used two standing files – one to hold the month folders and one to hold the daily folders.  As one folder was emptied, I would rotate it to the back so that the next day/month file would then be in front.  Every morning I would open the file for the day and organize my paperwork.  I set up the files using 31 plain manila folders numbered 1-31 to hold all of my paperwork for the current month (Because they were used heavily, they had to be replaced at least once a year) and 12 of my favorite colorful Mary Engelbreight folders labeled January-December (so I could smile at the end of each new month as I set up my daily ticklers for the upcoming month).  Ticklers were a revelation for me “back in the old days.”  Today, it is possible to convert & save much of the paperwork in an electronic format that can be retrieved in connection with your electronic calendar.  I actually have a small electronic tickler, though my old habits require that I still used the physical filing system.  When I retired, I set up all of my files at home in a perfect Longaberger basket that has handles so I can lug it to my work table or stick it out of the way during the day.  I still check my ticker folder each morning as I organize my day.

-Jackie Thomas

Monday 11.18.13

Learning by Design Project in Pennsylvania

"The only thing one can give an artist is leisure in which to work. To give an artist leisure is actually to take part in his creation."
                                                          --Ezra Pound, poet (1885-1972)

I really thought that I was finished with strategic planning and curriculum projects when I retired.  But dynamic PAEA Elementary Division Director Sandy Corson is leading an initiative to develop a model 21st century art curriculum that will include a comprehensive curriculum unit, resource materials, and teacher observation/evaluation materials.  Yes, we have done this before; but it was in the 1980’s, and we are due for another big cycle of change that will require support for art educators and the organizations in which they work.  I couldn’t resist the project – Learning by Design (LBD).

Right now as we await the adoption of new standards (both national and state), we are in a mode of “playing.”  We are developing interest and identifying strengths of those moving in new directions.  We are currently developing ideas related to design and to using recycled materials.

Objective A: Link Project Innovate to the development of exemplary PAEA Learning by Design curricula (elementary, middle, high schools), to include the new “design” component of comprehensive art education, and develop a complete curriculum series for this PAEA sponsored program.  Project Innovate will serve as a research venue and focus for the development of comprehensive Learning by Design curricula.

The first invitation to play has gone out:

LBD joined forces with Amy Migliore’s Project Innovate to present a fresh focus for playing with design and recycled materials.  During the 2013 PAEA Conference there was a strand of Project Innovate activities:

Download Project_Innovate_Brochure

The conference lunchtime fashion showcase featured student designs from a Project Innovate event hosted by Kutztown University in May.


To see slide shows of Project Innovate Fashions and learn more about Project Innovate, go to:

The Learning by Design conference strand included Project Innovate workshops.  I thought it was an impressive lineup:

1. Pinterest: Onlne Tools for Organization & Net-Working
2. Engaging Boys and Urban Students in the Learning by Design Fashion Challenge
3. Project Innovate Fashion Show
4. PAEA Designs Together – Project Innovate & Learning by Design
5. Live Design Challenge – Teams compete to create full garment from a tote of unknown materials
6. First Steps:  Introducing PAEA Learning By Design for Elementary Classrooms
7. Design Thinking in the Art Classroom
8. Assessment & Grading:  PAEA Learning by Design Initiative

This was the first time a strand of workshops was offered to support a specific project, and it was exhilarating!

I am amazed by the online presentation of information about Learning by Design (LBD) – the actuality and the possibilities.  In the 80’s we had to make photocopy handouts and snail mail to distribute beyond face-to-face distribution.  Now we can reach out via electronic devices.  

The LBD website is accessed via:

To learn more about Learning by Design, read:

It is possible to sign up to participate in LBD Blog:

To facilitate easy sharing of art educators’ play activities with the LBD project, the team designed a dynamic lesson plan starter form was created and made available.  For the lesson plan starter, go to:     

LBD resource materials are accessible on Pinterest:

Taking on the LBD challenge, Sandy Corson invited me to be a helper with her fifth grade art classes as they designed and made Super Hero Capes (autobiographical designs created out of recycled t-shirts with painted super hero logo and appropriate trims).  

Art is a superpower logo
Don’t know which came first, Amy Migliore’s logo or Sandy Corson’s Super Hero Capes!

I created my own cape using the same materials so that I could also experience the project.  It was too much fun to miss!  I printed “I Have More Rights Inside the Pueblo” and “I Have More Rights Outside the Pueblo” on the acetate tags sewn along the neckline.  My logo represents “Inside” and “Outside.”    I have a series of works on this theme, and a previous cape made from recycled materials in the series.

I Have More Rights Cape front

I Have More Rights Cape back

NOTE:  The series is based on a comment by sculptor Diane Reyna of the Taos Pueblo.  She said, “I have more rights outside the Pueblo.”  It was only later when reading the notes in my journal that I started to wonder what she meant.  I related the comment to my own life and how, depending on circumstances, I have more rights inside or outside my own home.  In my own artwork I often explore various issues and my emotions attached to those rights – or lack of rights.

The future holds much Learning by Design work.  We can’t even begin to address additional objectives until new content standards and new teacher evaluation standards are adopted in Pennsylvania.  So, for now, WE PLAY!

-Jackie Thomas

Wednesday 11.13.13

Friendship Bracelet - Philosophical Precepts for Friendship Weaving: A Community Event


I believe that enjoyment and satisfaction are manifestations of giving.  Many of my projects involve giving back to the community in which I live and enjoy both my work and leisure time.  One of the strands in my work involves symbolism of Friendship and Community.  I have been blessed with these attachments of fellowship and am grateful for those opportunities.

The Friendship Bracelet was my first friendship weaving.  It was created as an installation project in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Art Awards during November 2008.  I developed a proposal and created two prototypes (that I call sketches).

Download Planning Notes

Download Proposal

Sketch 1


Sketch 2

The site of the installations was the Pajama Factory in Williamsport.  A middle school friend helped me build the loom out of two rattles (boards with nails) C-clamped to tables & to the structural posts in the factory space (no nails were used in attaching the loom to the posts).  Warping the loom involved threading each warp cord around a rattle nail, through a slot or space in the rigid heddle, stretching the cord all the way to the second rattle to be wrapped around another nail, over and over again.

Making Rattles
Making Rattles


C Clamp Construction
C Clamp Construction

Factory Space
Factory Space

Warping the Loom
Warping the Loom

The entire project began in October and was completed during November and December.  October was devoted to setting up and warping the loom.  Daily weaving commenced November 1 and ended December 1.  The loom was set up horizontally and wide enough to require two people to work together – in order to reach out in friendship (Otherwise, I had to run around the span of the loom to weave each shot). Friends made appointments and met me there to weave a strand into the beginning of the piece.  Some brought ribbons and/or trinkets to weave.  Even my husband wove a strand that included his initials in alphabet beads (he was so proud).  Each weaver signed a book, indicating name, home town and the date; therefore I have a record of almost a hundred weavers who reached out to weave in friendship.

Passing the Shuttle
Passing the Shuttle


Beating with the Rigid Heddle
Beating with the Rigid Heddle

Carpenters were building artist studio spaces in another section of the same level of the Pajama Factory building.  I would check in with them when I arrived and left, asking them to look in on me occasionally to make sure I was okay.  It was a little lonely working in that big space all alone except for a bird and a squirrel.  I shared the space with them the whole month.  They did no mischief with my materials.  Each day the squirrel left a nut under the warp on a card table that was meant to take pressure off of the warp and keep it from stretching.  I would move the nut to a safe area of the room and then open a window trying to help the bird escape (The squirrel obviously came in and out through an opening somewhere).

Carpenters Building Art Studios

The Pajama Factory hosted an open house on November 15 that included access to the installation pieces that were constructed by other artists during the week before and removed promptly after that day.  During the open house, more than 60 people wove strands into the Friendship Bracelet – families, children and adults of all ages.  A high school senior volunteered to help me work with the weavers, and we worked without a break from 12 to 4 pm.  When it was time to shut down, the line of waiting weavers stretched throughout the installation area and out to the stairwell.  We turned on the lights and worked beyond closing until everyone had a chance to weave.   The process involved three steps: 1) sign the weaver’s book, 2) an opportunity to select a special yarn/cord, and 3) a turn in the guest chair to weave a strand using a shuttle passed through the shed created by the rigid heddle and to beat the strand into place – Whump!  Whump!  Whump! (sound effects required).

Other Installations Being Built
Other Installations Being Built


Volunteer Helping Weavers


Long Lines
Long Lines…Whump! Whump! Whump!

I published a list of additional dates and times on which people could show up to weave, along with dates available for appointments to weave.  The last appointment on December first was a child who helped me begin the process of secure stitching (blanket stitch) the two ends, inserting the toggle pieces (ring and rod) that would serve for hanging the weaving.  This process took a couple of patient days.  My crew came to help me dismantle the loom, pack a truck and my car with display flats, tables and chairs and other weaving paraphernalia.  I said farewell to the squirrel and the bird and felt an anticlimactic depression set in – closure is tough…

Whip Stitch to Secure Weaving

The completed 110-inch weaving traveled among various school libraries and community locations to be exhibited where participants in the weaving might be able to see the finished Friendship Bracelet – another year of scheduling, displaying, moving and hanging.  Depending on the space, the display varied.  It hung outstretched and folded from ceiling tiles and in window frames.

Display 1

Display 2

Display 3


Display 4


In 2012 the Friendship Bracelet was permanently installed in The Tower of the Susquehanna Health System Williamsport Hospital next to the bank of elevators.  The label says:

“Friends and interested individuals joined in the celebration of friendship and community by weaving a strand into a giant friendship bracelet and signing the friendship book.  The bracelet was created through the efforts of individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs.  The threads of many lives are entwined into a common fabric.  Friendship Bracelet was designed to be displayed within the community as a symbol to the realities and the possibilities of friendships.”

Installation View Friendship Bracelet
Installation View of the Friendship Bracelet


-Jackie Thomas

Friday 11. 8.13

Chaos Theory

Learn how to see.
Realize that everything connects to everything else.
--Leonardo DaVinci  

Patterns:  I think in patterns.  I find patterns in most things that I encounter and observe, and I often see connections in things not usually perceived as related.

Fourth grade friendship weaving
                             Fourth Grade Friendship Weaving

Chaos Theory
As a kid, I loved the logical patterns of mathematics.  Of course I enjoyed Geometry.  But I really enjoyed algebra and the predictable groupings of numbers based on formulas.  In 1963, Kutztown U’s Freshman Art Education students were assigned a binomial math class.  I never knew the why of it, and it was only required that one year.  All numbers and number work were broken down into patterns of ones and zeros.  Although I was in pattern nirvana, many of my art education friends were not. I helped them with their math homework, but I didn’t really reveal the magic of binomial patterns to them.  

Interestingly, as I experienced other coursework, I kept seeing relationships and patterns between and among different discrete areas of study – history and math, plot development and science, etc.  But the coursework kept emphasizing the discrete discipline, and I felt sharing the connections was unwelcome.  I think that such experiences, resulted in philosophical expressions like New Historicism* and other eclectic multi-philosophical perspectives that often manifest themselves into the phrase, “Anything goes,” or “There is no wrong answer.”  Regardless, it behooves art educators to lead students through processes that emphasize taking a philosophical perspective/stand and then drawing “proof” from/within the work and solidly relating the proof back to/into the work.

As an Assistant Superintendent during the early 2000s, I enjoyed observing and evaluating teachers.  Part of my observation repertoire, developed during my art department supervision days was to participate in the students’ projects so that I also experienced the lesson from their perspective. Ken taught high school math, truly enjoyed giving me the same assignment as his students, and I loved competing with the students.  During one class, Ken introduced a new concept, Chaos Theory, and assigned a problem.  I was proud to get the right answer.  During the post-observation conference, I shared with Ken that I couldn’t remember ever having learned about Chaos Theory in my math classes.  He told me I was too old – Chaos Theory was too new for me to have ever learned about it.  I put that day right up there with the day it was announced that two different objects COULD occupy the same space - the antithesis of the scientific law that I had learned in high school.  Things and patterns change and the relationships between and among them change too.

In the prologue of Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick says, “Chaos breaks across the lines that separate …disciplines…The first chaos theorists…shared certain sensibilities...They had an eye for pattern that appeared on different scales at the same time.  They had a taste for randomness and complexity, for jagged edges and sudden leaps…They believe that they are looking for the whole.” (Penguin Books, 1987 & 2008, p.5)  Sounds wonderfully like artistic thinking and artistic exploration of themes that evolve into various strands of work.  I highly recommend this particular book.  The visual images and connections to artists’ works are very energizing and written in accessible language.  Similar content is covered in Andy Garza’s engaging NOVA video.

Artists and scientists have been exploring the visual dynamics of Chaos Theory.   Both are selling fractal images as “art” similar to these activity books and coloring books are also presenting fractals as design images similar to these. And there is free software available for creating your own fractals.

Fractals offer an engaging opportunity for integrating math, science and art curricula (perhaps a direction for various STEM to STEAM projects).  There are many resources available on line for all levels of involvement, including Wolfram MathWorld.  At the very least, fractals offer opportunities for the genre of formula projects and beyond that, opportunities to create something unique that will add to the research.

In Chaos, variations within repetition patterns are organized and reorganized by “strange attractors” that create new order out of randomness.   One model for how strange attractors work is the pinball machine (I can foresee more formula projects…).

I have a notion that the art equivalent of strange attractors are somehow those dynamic commonalities within a wide variety of works that make an individual artist’s works recognizable and attributable to that artist even if a piece hasn’t been seen before.  I also have a notion that when I am working with many people to create a “community” project (a formula project with a limited set of rules), I am trusting that the strange attractors will unify the disparate submissions of others to the project - like this “Card Friendship Weaving.”

Download Friendship Card Weaving poster 2013 

I am anticipating a new formula project in the genre of chaos theory in which I will collect individual drawings by students of a ‘triangle on 4”x4” paper.’ The triangles will be plotted onto a piece of acetate – a separate acetate for each classroom collection of triangles.  The acetate sheets will be stacked to reveal a resulting pattern - forming order out of chaos like these examples.  

I wonder if an artist’s work, if similarly stacked as described above in the triangle initiative, would reveal an organized pattern?  This occurred to me while viewing Christopher Olszeski ‘s October exhibit of “No Place for the Weak” drawings and paintings and a video of his talk.  I was struck by the layers of his mixed media works and the repetition of the red jeep image within a stated quest for his Chippewa cultural identity.  There appears to be comfort in using particular format-arrangements of information and imagery (I am aware of the same thing in my own work).  So, what are the odds that recording the jeep images or the arrangement of some/all compositional elements would reveal a fractal with strange attractors?  It would be interesting to try.  Although, it would probably be easier to manipulate and stack images by DaVinci or Van Gogh or others whose images are readily available and resizable in electronic format (if I had the skills to stack the images).

*For more detailed information about New Historicism, click here

-Jackie Thomas

Monday 11. 4.13

The Database Portfolio

"First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality.  The beginning, as you will observe, is in our imagination..." --Napoleon Hill

Portfolio 1:  Art Inventory
Volunteering in the schools for art brought me to an unusual task – to document the permanent art collection that belongs to the school district and coordinate with our insurance appraiser so that he was informed about the complete art collection (rather than the occasional piece previously identified in the insurance paperwork).

I decided to set up a database in which to collect the information. 
My CPA sister told me one day about how she hyperlinked documents to cells in a database (Yes, we do talk about things like that).   It was an Aha! moment for me because I was trying to figure out how I could put photos of works into a particular database cell and be able to see them.   

Download Sample_of_district_art_collection_database

•  Inventory ID:  I decided to create accession numbers to identify the art works by medium.  So, the first print was Print 1, and the next Print 2, etc – and likewise for each of the other identified media.

•  Artist, Title, Dimensions:  This information was garnered from file documents and also from the artworks themselves.

•  Medium:  I used a more detailed description in this space, for example:  Woodcut Print or Oil Painting on Canvas.

•  Location, Photo & Description: It was a challenge finding some of the pieces identified in the files; therefore it was important to identify in what building the work was housed and the specific space like a hallway, guidance office, kindergarten classroom, etc.  Sometimes I had a name for the artwork, but had no idea what it looked like.  Thus photographs and descriptions became important additions to the database.  I used the hyperlink function to connect photos of artworks to the photo cell (my sister’s technique) so that by clicking on the image in the cell, the photograph comes up as a large image). I discovered that a folder of the photos has to be kept with the database or there is nothing to come up.  

•  Donated by/Purchased by: This information was pulled from files – lists of works donated and also letters about donations.  I scanned these documents and hyperlinked them to the appropriate cells.

•  Recommendation:  Some of the work was in need of cleaning or reframing.  I thought that if the costs of caring for and maintaining the collection were beyond the capabilities of the current budget, the school district might consider selling certain pieces and place the funds into a special account to cover those expenses.

•  Appraisal Values:  I included information from the appraiser in the report to the Superintendent.

Portfolio 2: Annual Art Production Inventory
Now that I create a body of artwork each year, I use a database to document and keep track of my artwork (much like an electronic version of a cumulative portfolio).   From this master inventory, I can pull (cut & paste) targeted inventories for exhibits and galleries.   Plus, when I am submitting pieces for a juried exhibit, I have all of the information available in the database to cut and paste into the application for the pieces I am submitting.  To make my life easier, I try to fill out all of the information for a specific piece when I place it into the database.  It’s more efficient to think about, make decisions and do it all at once.

Download Art_Inventories_2013

•  Inventory #:  Most businesses (including museums and galleries) require inventory numbers for submission of works for exhibit and/or sale.  Inventory numbers generally include the artist’s initials and a number.  I discovered that it was easiest to organize my work by year.  So I start a new database and a new set of inventory numbers on January first each year.  I also discovered that I produce more than 100 works each year, so I require a number with three “places.”  My first inventory number for this year was JGT 13001 (my initials followed by the year “13” and three number places “001”).

•  Completed: Submission to various exhibits is often limited to work completed within a certain time-period (i.e. within the past three years).  I am also learning that I have more productive times of the year than others by looking at the completion dates and the time between dates

•  Title/Description:  Exhibits require titles for pieces. 

•  Price:  Pricing is interesting.  Sometimes I will type in three different numbers into this space 20/25/34, representing $20 I need from the sale, $25 required for a store that takes 20% of the sale, and $34 for the store that takes 40% of the sale.  Then when I develop an inventory for a store that takes 20%, I already know what price needs to be placed on the inventory and the sales tag.  Otherwise, I have to figure it out prices as I create the inventory sheet.

•  Photo:  I import photos directly into the cell (just as photos can be imported into a word document).  A professor at Lycoming College phoned me last summer and said he wanted to set up a database inventory for his wife who is a potter, and he wanted to know how to make the photos fit into the little cell in the database.  That was a hoot explaining to a tech-savvy person how to resize from the menu or to simply click on the photo and physically reduce the size.

•  Dimensions:  Applications for exhibits often require this information, and there are often size limitations for exhibits.

•  Media:  The ubiquitous question for both sales and exhibits.  I often include the technique with this information

•  More Description:  Sometimes I just need to make more notes about a piece.

•  Owner:  I like to keep track of who owns a piece or that it was donated for a charity function or given as a gift.

Celebration_Texas                                         Celebration Texas

-Jackie Thomas

Friday 11. 1.13

Making Connections and Thinking Through Art

Making Connections and Thinking Through Art – a double entendre: making art as a means to work through a targeted idea or problem, and using art as a part of note taking to record thoughts and ideas.  I have surrounded these ideas in the past, but have been actively focused on these ideas since I began my retirement (2007).

Formula projects
(I define these as organizing complexity for no-fail art.)

My first studio assignment in college (1963) was to:  Choose a bird, research the bird and its environment, and create an environment to live in based on that bird.*  I still remember it because it causes me to revisit my initial question as a student:  “What does this have to do with art?” This was an important moment in my education because:
1.    It made me question the nature of art
2.    It initiated my struggle and exploration of what art education should look like.
3.    It influenced how I approach students and how I structure my teaching and learning environment.
4.    It inserted me into a particular philosophical wrestling match between commercialism and art for art’s sake.

#1.  A recent Hypoallergic article (September 20, 2013)  “Is All the Stuff at Art Fairs the Same-ish?”  by Hrag Vartanian touches on the nature of art. 

While I wrestle via thoughts and words; Vartanian evidently wrestles via images.  If you are searching for unobtrusive forays into philosophical discussion with students, Vartanian offers an alternative vehicle and an art-making approach for classroom “discussion,” as well as a list of his own questions.

#2.  I struggle with the new medium of technology – particularly as a medium of expression.  I have played in my computer with a self-imposed formula of layering images using office programs available to me, but haven’t the specialized software or knowhow to layer them into a single electronic image that can be printed.  Instead, I create each layer in a separate document and then agonize with the registration as I print them out, one over the top of another, over and over until it finally works.  Sometimes it can be reproduced and sometimes not:

I admire the art teachers who have embraced and use technology in their art classrooms and provide opportunities for students to use technology for their personal expressions.  I can foresee formula projects to explore the elements and principles of design based on this wonderful video piece by Ion Lucin (visible on a number of websites, but this site includes the artist’s goals and some individual images).

#3.  I was fortunate to be on the ground floor of defining the practical application of discipline based art education (DBAE), also known as comprehensive art education.  The King’s Gap retreats sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education brought me as a young junior high art teacher together with Brent Wilson, Mary Erickson, and others to share our research.  I was invited to the retreat dealing with teaching art history, and shared my early classroom forays into looking at DaVinci’s Mona Lisa – followed by many workshops for PAEA and NAEA.

Although it predates my use of computers, I managed to scan a worksheet from the packet to share:

I believed and still believe the four content areas of DBAE should constitute the structure of every unit planned and taught to students. All four content areas are addressed in the process of formal art criticism therefore every unit/lesson that utilizes a formal art criticism also serves DBAE. The five steps in formal art criticism and their corresponding DBAE components are: (1) Describing--Art Criticism; (2) Analyzing--Art Criticism and Aesthetics; (3) Interpreting--Art Criticism and Aesthetics; (4) Funding--Art Criticism and Art History; and (5) Disclosing--Art Criticism and Art Production.

#4.  Now as a “retired” art educator and full-time artist, those same issues of commercialism and art for art’s sake continue to be issues.  Yesterday, I met with two intermediate art teachers who will be involved in a county-wide collaborative art experience with Charles Fazzino that will include a student-group working with Fazzino to create a mural for the Little League Museum.  Each Art teacher is also being asked to conceive a project, develop a budget and create an additional project for each  elementary  school with all of the fifth grade students.  As we looked at Fazzino’s work to explore ideas for the project, I was surprised that our conversation actually touched on commercial aspects in some of Pablo Picasso’s work and various purposes that art fulfills (as in Picasso’s lithographs and pottery).

Those philosophical issues keep intruding into conversations with children, artists, art educators, and with consumers of art.  I am not Picasso, but each year in creating a new body of work for the gallery in which I am a partner, I have pushed myself to create “quick” pieces (often miniatures) so that there will be items available in all price ranges so that sales might at least equal the expenses of the gallery partnership – a vacillation between commercialism and art for art’s sake.  Examples of my traditional (formula) baskets – the quick and the more complex:

Just-a-Skosh-seriesJust a Skosh
series of miniatures
(2” diameter)

Acoma Pueblo 3
(6” diameter)

Triangulate #5
(5.5” diameter)

*note: My flamingo led me to design a totally pink living space, and it convinced me, I never want to live in a totally pink environment!

-Jackie Thomas