Posts Tagged ‘sitka fine arts camp’

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In 2018 I got to teach at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Elementary School session. The camp groups students by age and rotates four sections of each age group through four different classes, in music, theater, visual art, and dance.

This year I had the 5th grade group, kids going into 6th grade, who came in for I think around 50 minutes each. Each group had around a dozen kids, and we had to set up, work, and clean up in that time before the next group came in. The camp was one week, so five mornings total.

The cleaning up is an important part of the process – young people actually like knowing what’s going on and they actually like cleaning up, especially sponging off the tables.

The first day I gave them watercolors, and had them try various techniques, with nice watercolor paints (they are Cotman travel sets, and over the years we have replaced the paint as it was used up with Daniel Smith watercolors) on 80# drawing paper. First we looked at some slides of the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Vasili Kandinsky, and told a little about those artists and periods.

Tuesday, we did observational drawing, of a wooden stool, doing fast draw, blind contour, then a longer drawing, then, if they had time, a smaller object of their choice. In this one I showed them basic drawing tricks, using angles, proportions, overlap, scale, and the trick of using the back ground, and the angles of the box the stool was on, to give their drawing depth.

Wednesday we drew the counselor, with the same drawing instruction, with the addition of learning to show the model respect.

Thursday we drew a still life of at least two objects, on the table near them. We didn’t do any warmups, but instead sketched on newsprint, then drew with pencil and outlined with pen or drew with a pen, then watercolor, on 80# drawing paper, using the various watercolor techniques from Monday.

On Friday, I set up lights and pushed the tables together, with the lights at one end, and kids sitting on the long sides of the tables. They did a quick draw then shaded (modeled) drawing of white styrofoam balls. Then, had them gather all their art, and put their favorite piece on top, and we did a little art walk, where each said something they liked about (someone else’s) picture.

One more thing was to have each kid at the end of each session put his or her work in a stack. I didn’t have any drying racks, so we arranged the stacks of pictures all around the edges of the room on the floor.

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I had the chance this year to teach two classes at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Middle School session: Printmaking, and Natural History Drawing and Watercolor. This is an outstanding camp in every way, with some of the best instructors in the country – practicing artists who have also figured out how to bring young people on that ride. The students are also remarkable, in how they support each other. It was fun to get students to the next level in their art work, but just as neat to see them making connections with each other.

These are some pictures, from the final show, from the Natural History Drawing and Watercolor class. I had 18 middle school students – which is a big group, but they were a good group, and all worked hard.

The first day we did drawing exercises, to get into drawing what you see. Some very effective exercises including blind contour drawing (not looking at your paper) and very fast, timed sketches.

Some drawings from the first day

Some drawings from the first day

Then, next day, shading:



IMG_6334smallwith the idea of using light and shadow to do what they wanted it to. All this was from observation, I set up clamp lights for the shading exercises. First we did strips of various kinds of shading.

The idea I had was to show how to make art starting from observation – but with the idea of making a picture.

Our last exercise session was to copy a watercolor landscape, The Blue Boat, by Winslow Homer, in watercolor. I helped them with color mixing, and pointed out the techniques used to create the illusion of space and depth. In this first photo (these are all taken at the final show, looking down at a table), you can see the picture we were copying.




So this was an experiment but it worked really well. You can talk all day but it’s much better to just do it. I had them try mixing three different greens.

Next was drawing the landscape from observation, and another instructor had mentioned starting with the horizon. Drawing in the horizon is magic. Check these out:




As they were drawing, I also helped them see how how close things are to the horizon tells you how far away they are, and some linear perspective for the students drawing buildings or pavement –

We went outside two more times, once drawing in pen, trying to convey some sense of writing pieces we’d been given by the Writing and the Visual Arts class. The last time, we painted our own landscape in watercolor. That was where I was really impressed with the students. I think most of us would be a bit intimidated by the task but they went for it.

watercolor painting the landscape

watercolor painting the landscape




Also by this point, the last day of a 2-week camp, they were exhausted.

In one class we drew and painted objects we brought in from outside, as well as still life things in the room, in various sizes, and one day we drew some live 5-week-old chickens I brought from home. The chickens seemed to enjoy it as much as the students. Chickens are curious creatures and seem to like outings.



Did I mention Dr. Who was popular at camp.

At the end, we made tiny books, with hard covers covered with paper they’d decorated, and pockets to hold the tiny pieces of art they’d made.




And – poetry. We loaned tiny paintings to the Writing and The Visual Arts class, who wrote poems, on tiny papers that fit in our books. Here are some of the pairings – well, actually, all of them:

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Anyway, good work, guys! The one thing is I wish I’d taken the time to look at our work. It went so fast, and everyone was gone, I was in serious, serious withdrawal the next day. It’s intense, and I really enjoyed all the kids – bright and just plain interesting to talk to. So the next day, when I saw some of the students downtown, I was asking them how they liked camp, though – being a shy person – one girl I ran into but was too shy to talk to. I’m still kicking myself. Because she did really well, I really enjoyed her,  and I never got to tell her so. Well ok Amelia you rock. There now!

I’d love to teach again, maybe just landscape, or people – in a landscape – and I have an idea for drawing a graphic novel. I did that with elementary school kids last fall, I think it would be really cool.

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In June I taught at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp mini camp elementary school session. Sixty children rotated through in groups of 15. The kids I had were going into third through 6th grades. This is what we did on day one – we had under an hour, and some ace parent helpers – we had no running water, so used five-gallon buckets.

The first day I showed them some slides of Kandkinsky. We worked on color complements – the colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When you put them next to each other, each makes the other look more intense. We didn’t have time for all the kids, but we had different children tell what they liked about the picture in the slide, or find where complementary colors were next to each other. I demonstrated color mixing, mainly to show how you rinse and blot the brush between dipping into colors.

The kids were instructed to mix at least one new color, and encouraged, as they went along, to try color complements.

We used big paper, and each kid got a palette with primary colors and white, two brushes (large and small), and water and folded paper towels for blotting. They got a second paper plate for mixing.

A trick for cutting a lot of (institutional) paper towels off a roll: use a utility knife to cut the roll on opposite sides.

This went really well. It also helps to have the kids get their brushes, apron, and paper as they come in the door.

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