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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson

Reflections 667


I decided to take all my exploration works and spread them out on my dining room table. What a joy it was to revisit the works, to see the myriad of marks, the vibrant colors, and the fun projects I created. I used a variety of papers, so the textures as I placed them one on top of the other, were delightful to feel. As I explored each medium, each medium became my “favorite” medium, but as I revisited my works, I think I am unable to decide which I like best. I see potential for wonderful creations in a classroom someday, I see mediums that can be combined to create more familiarity for students, I realize things are missing that I still want to try (collage with fabric, multilayer printmaking, a bigger piece of art).


I revisit my tempera fall painting. I created leaves upon leaves, some are painted leaves “stamped” on the paper and others are outlines of the leaves with black tempera paint. The words that come to mind, are crisp autumn day, vibrancy, playfulness, and emotion. The reds and oranges and hints of yellow and pink, with the stark contrast of black, remind me of playing in the leaves. I see hints of mark-making with sticks, bringing nature indoors, a truly playful exploration. I look at the way tempera is translated on ripped construction paper of different colors, it’s fun, it’s textured, it draws me in. I look at my color exploration sheets and I remember the frustration I felt with how quickly the tempera was drying and the colors were not mixing well. I remember the frustration of reactivating colors when I did not want to and creating muddy effects.


Watercolors seem like they were my most favorite exploration, I have many more pages of exploration than any other medium I tried. I recall sitting in my sewing room with my watercolor palette, brushes and water in front of me and there was just a peaceful feeling. I see that feeling translated into works, the color palette I created, so neat and yet so colorful. The blending of colors on nice paper, looking at how the colors look blended after dry, they are cheerful and abundant. They look like flowers. I painted flowers on an almost transparent specialty paper, I recall feeling worried that the paper would fall apart, but it held together and I was even able to add pen marks to outline what I painted. As I hold it now, it feels delicate yet strong and I absolutely adore it. I created a portrait of a random person, it seems playful with colors that don’t belong on a face but yet still work.


I gathered ideas for lessons from my various explorations. I decided that color palettes/mixing colors/tints/tones are not just a way for students to start painting projects, but rather, a scaffolding method to see how the paint handles on paper and allow students the opportunity to grow familiar with the medium before starting a project. They also serve as a nice guide for students to refer to when they want to color match.


Acrylic was my most comfortable medium. My pieces are mixed media, they combined different painting mediums and even collage. They are abstract, with a variety of shapes, colors, textures and marks. Some pieces look unfinished and will eventually go into a pile to revisit after this course is over. I upcycled papers, napkins, and old patterns onto the surfaces of my acrylic explorations. Again, playfulness is a recurring theme in my explorations. When my paint strokes seemed to rigid, I covered them with tissue paper, text, or more paint.


Gouache was a true exploration for me, I never used the medium before. The kit I had came with so many different colors that I felt overwhelmed. I realized the benefit of using limited colors for exploration, which is what I did. The paints dried matte, almost chalky looking. I created circles to test blending, tints, tones, and different techniques. The circles were a nice change from little squares and rectangles. Adding gouache to wet paper, created a watercolor paint look. But I recall being frustrated with gouache reactivating after it was dry. I wanted to try another design on scraps of colored construction paper. The colors ended up chalky and muted looking. There are layers of color. Gouache felt more like an expensive version of tempera paints to me, but leave me wanting to explore even more.


Moving away from wet mediums was something I was looking forward to. I like the ability to reprint an image several times, in a variety of different ways. I like the way you can change the color of the image to create a new emotion. Cutting linoleum was a peaceful process, one that required full attention to detail and problem solving, and the worries of the day melted away. The print that came from the linocut was crisp and beautiful and left me excited to try more designs. Collage was something I have been very interested in since the beginning of the school year but as I sat down to create a collage in class, I found myself stuck. It was as if I had such high expectations and wanted to try so many things, I could not just focus on one thing to start.


I looked over my notes and created a bullet list of the methods I wanted to try and suddenly the tast felt less daunting. As I cut a magazine image with my X-acto knife, I wondered about the implications of such tools in a classroom. A sign out sheet for X-acto knives would be a must. I thought about how maybe this process was only acceptable for older students and wondered how I could engage younger students in creations of collage without have a precise cutting tool. I tried cutting with scissors, ripping and then creating a collage scene and I realize that all ages could find at least 1 or 2 different methods to safely create collage.


The overwhelming theme in all of my explorations was playfulness. I think it is essential for students to have fun learning new mediums. If something becomes too stagnant or too ordinary, introduce a new medium that can enhance their skills and inspire them to continue creating and exploring. Through this exploration, not only did I play, take pictures, and create blog posts, but I also researched ideas for my future classroom. I saved the ideas on my social media account to refer to when I have more time to play some more. Of all the art rooms I have been in, the most inspiring ones are the ones full of artworks, colors, and a nice variety of supplies. I will hold on to my explorations, maybe create a book, to put into my future classroom one day so students see that I was once a learner just like them.


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