Once a year I post about my summer here on the Self-Directed Art blog. This has been a glorious summer! In spite of starting six days late (due to snow last February) it felt like a very long and full season. My summer started with the second annual TAB Institute Summer Teacher Institute which ran for a week in early July at Massachusetts College of Art & Design.
As director, I work with the college to plan a fulfilling week of graduate level professional development on the topic of choice-based teaching and learning. This year 42 teachers came from 20 different states along with faculty from Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois and North Carolina. The week went fast, with in-depth discussions about curriculum, assessment, media and strategies to deepen learning for our PreK-12 students. This year’s participants are a hard-working and lively group of dedicated professionals. It was a fabulously fun week together!
Soon after my husband and I joined friends and set sail for Nova Scotia. We spent several foggy days on this remote and beautiful island, relaxing in “Bear Cottage” in the woods by a lake. We did not see any bears but a very cute porcupine came to visit us on the deck one afternoon. Whales, seals and pods of dolphins escorted us home on the ferry back to Portland.
The rest of the summer was spent in Gloucester looking out on Ipswich Bay, where I had fully intended to get a lot of writing completed. That didn’t happen! Instead I found myself in the garden, tending to the ever-changing show of color. The humming- birds visited often and, though I tried to get some good photographs, my camera is too slow for their fast speed. Did you know that hummingbirds will buzz your head if you get too close to their feeder?
A week-long class at Montserrat College of Art with painter Dean Nimmer on abstract art has inspired me to create new artwork. I had been painting landscapes for a few years but want to become less realistic so Dean’s exercises have helped me to gradually start the transition to abstraction. One starting point I like is to trace shadows onto a canvas and then work off the shapes. This results in organic forms that can fill a composition. I also switched from oil paints to oil sticks, essentially oil paint in stick-form so I can draw with paint! Paint sticks feel less demanding than oil paints to me so I can work more freely, usually on 3-4 pieces at a time, and just play with color and form. As you can see, I have a ways to go as the work seems to naturally represent something recognizable.
My Gloucester neighborhood has been my summer home since childhood. The people, the landscape, the tides, water and sky are all familiar constants. An annual highlight is the Perseids meteor shower and this year, with the new moon, it was spectacular! Our coast is quite rocky with a sandbar that emerges at low tide. I like to walk the beach to see what creatures, textures and colors appear in my camera lens. We face west, toward Cranes Beach and Plum Island. My evening ritual includes photographing the sunset and I am often joined by my neighbors. For us, this is our fireworks, a beautiful light and color show provided daily by nature.
Like many of you I am preparing for a new school year, full of children’s art making and the myriad of surprises that appear each day in our Creativity Studio. When students have autonomy to direct their learning, their teacher gets the joy of watching them to see what will happen next. Being an art teacher is a wonderful job and I am so proud to be a part of this amazing profession!