Friday, December 31, 2010

Bulletin Board

What is a bulletin board? A collection of flotsam and jetsam. A visual cacophony. An assemblage of miscellaneous things that are tacked to cork panels. Pictures that trigger tactile memories. Details that inspire creativity. Random impressions layered one over the other.

These bulletin boards have been secured to the low narrow wall of my studio above the old pegged frame that use for my easel for 20 years. I look at them every single day and only now have realized that I have never given them their due. They include pictures that I enjoy, sentimental bits and pieces, photos from past, and other things that just plain inspire me.

The best part is that there is always room for more.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Goudy Murals

As a teaching artist in public schools in Chicago I initiate any number of art oriented programs. At Goudy School I was hired to paint a mural over an entry way on the 2nd floor. But within moments of my introduction to my team of 7th and 8th students I was certain we could create an additional mural on the third floor as well.

As a group we decided that the theme of the first mural would be the Cougar, the school mascot. The students prepared simple pencil sketches of cougars that I cut out and collaged to create the ‘working drawing’ on which the mural would be based. We then prepared four plywood panels onto which we transferred the images from the working drawing and shortly after that began to paint. We completed the mural in about 5 sessions.

The mural is called ‘Cougar Pride’, an imaginative, colorful and vibrant collection of cougars that reflect the interesting and widely (and wildly) diverse community of students that attend Goudy.

The second mural is called ‘The Goudy Garden’. It was also created from a collage of sketches. In this case the subject was flora and fauna and a reference to the actual garden in the yard outside of Goudy School.

The result is a dense jungle cacophony of color, shapes and design. The image represents yet another way to see Goudy School, as a thriving community that nurtures and enables its students to blossom and flourish.

But neither of these two murals would have been successful without adhering to the Six C’s .

Cooperation. As a diverse group of kids we needed to be able to work together, to cooperate, as a team.

Collaboration. The students needed not only to collaborate and to work as a group but also as individuals that treat one another with consideration.

Communication. It was essential that the students shared ideas with each other and listened respectfully.

Commitment. The murals would not have been successful if the students were not motivated or if they were not reliable.

Creativity. Without being able to use their imaginations, to problem solve and discover new ideas, the murals that we now see would be only a dream.

Cougars. First and foremost, we are Cougars, and represent the very best in ourselves, our school, and our community.

Goudy School is a very special school. 29 languages are spoken within its walls. Within my program alone there were students whose families came from Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam, and China. The murals are beautiful pieces of art. But they also reaffirm in a most positive way just how rich and lucky the community is to enjoy such a range of boundless energy and creative diversity within its midst.

Monday, November 29, 2010

In 1970 my family moved to Djakarta, Indonesia. I was in the midst of finishing up my senior year in high school and beginning to enjoy my new found freedom. I took piano lessons, learned to play a bit of tennis, and traveled. On and off over the years my mother had said that I had an affinity towards making art because she had seen how proficiently I copied the drawings and cartoons in MAD Magazine.

Down the street from us in front of someone’s gate was a large wooden sculpture that reminded me of an egg. She encouraged me to go down the street and introduce myself to the artist who created it which I did. Mr Hadi, the creator of the piece turned out to be a warm, gentle, humble, but very accomplished artist. I would visit him once a week or so and he would give me material and I would attempt emulate what he was working on… or not. Having had no art training or education at all, aside from my little cartoons, I experimented with subjects and images, some humorous, others imaginary, and others more literal.

The Trumpeter was my first painting. When I kept failing to paint a recognizable trumpet I opted for a bottle of alcohol. Why? It’s hard to say. It probably seemed easier to paint.

‘Big Man On Campus’ is of the same vain: a ridiculous looking figure straight out of MAD Magazine.

Cousins was based on three scratching instruments that Mr. Hadi had in his studio. He had painted a much more sophisticated version of this using a combination of painting and batik.

The View was based on what I could see from on top of our water tower in the back of our house: Densely packed homes amidst a lot of trees. In the distance were the mountains and in the foreground, a mosque. In reality it was a church but I thought in honor of living in a Muslim country, I would make the church into a mosque.

The Mask is a copy of a mask worn in any number of folk dancers.

Tukan Man was my attempt to emulate Mr. Hadi’s work, painting oil over wax. There were many small merchants who carried their ‘wares’ on their shoulders who passed by everyday on the street in front of our home . This was the fruit merchant, the Tukan Man. Or at least that is what we called him. shoulder.

Riwan. Chicken fighting was popular although fortunately I never saw it. Riwan was the name of the man who worked in our home. I used him as the model for the picture.

Mozart is my first attempt at drawing a portrait. I think I was looking at a small bust of Mozart sitting on our piano when I drew it. He still looks like something out of MAD Magazine.

Pen and Ink God. This is small sketch I made using water color and pen and ink. I was looking once again at a small statuette.

This collection of work is what I used to apply to the art school at the University of Michigan. Apparently they must have seen something in it, and fortunately they did because almost 40 years later I am still doing it and going strong.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Over the years that I have painted on canvas, there have been a few (very few) instances where I have had to abort the painting. I remember in one case the paint medium I was problematic and prevented some of the paint from drying properly leaving it perpetually tacky. I ended up cutting it into what became the figures I used in my 'Walk-About' series. Other parts of the canvases I simply rolled up and put away. I recently found some remnants tucked away and it occurred to me that just as I had been able to reinvent my rejected gyclee prints by cutting them apart and weaving them back to together again, I could do the same thing with my discarded remnants of painted canvas. I call them Towers.