Speaking of TED Talks, this TEDx Talk by artist Austin Kleon, who is most famous for his newspaper blackout art, and book, Steal Like an Artist, makes some very useful points to new IB Art Students about building on the work that has come before you. Although he doesn't mention it until well into the video below, his concept starts with Picasso's quote about good artists borrowing and great artists stealing. In his personal journey about his own 'life of theft', he creates interesting - but more importantly, critical and necessary boundaries for students to consider as they create their own work, and how to properly filter the world around them though their own creative lens. In this way - they can integrate, analyze and synthesize ideas, rather than simply plagiarize them.
Last summer in my yearly grab for english language books on our whirlwind summer through the states, I grabbed a copy of How to Tattoo a Banana . It looked like a great opportunity to share with my students a fresh way of looking at the world to inspire them as they build their portfolio of artwork that is meaningful to them. What really struck me about this book was the combination of a childlike approach to non traditional art materials. On the one hand, I could see having fun with the projects in the book with my young daughters. On the other, I could see this becoming an eye opening experience for my high school students to challenge themselves to apply their higher technical ability with meaningful materials gathered from their worlds.
When I started watching his TED Talk, I hadn't realized that Phil Hansen was the author of the book I'd purchased, but when he started tattooing a banana, it was a dead giveaway. What is really great about this talk, though, is that in addition that sense of wonder and use of materials, he talks about the value of limitations.
I love how he combines these ideas- and I love thinking about limitations. The example I give my students every year is why limitations made the original Star Wars films some of the best films ever made, and why a lack of limitations made the prequels some of the worst. When Lucas had to cut corners at every turn, he had to come up with some pretty creative solutions. When he had a nearly limitless budget and no constraints, there was nearly no need for real critical thinking.
Hanson describes his kind of thinking as 'in the box' although its quite apparent that sentiment comes with a bit of irony - what he's really describing is an approach to art that seeks out new challenges with joy.
In addition to being a great resource for any Graphic Design teacher, this video on the history of typography sheds some fascinating light on the rich history behind type. At first, I was a bit confused as to why this video, which takes a sort of In Plain English approach, wouldn't just save themselves the trouble of cutting out all of these little letters and instead do a digital version. On further consideration, however, this really is a typographer's video. This attention to detail and care is a process that is so.... typographic; its literally the perfect project for someone who pays extra attention to dotting their 'i's and crossing their 't's.
...and it makes a nice little virtual extra mother's day gift for my type-obsessed wife. Happy mother's day!
My friend Marc says that this has been making the rounds, but its the first that I've seen it. This video is a condensed version of a commencement address by the late David Foster Wallace that was delivered to Kenyon College in 2005. Unlike most commencement addresses however, it challenges students to live consciously in the moment and speaks of this temporal awareness as the meaning of real education.
With graduation coming up, this would be a great video to share with students.
A sadder milestone, one of my film heroes, Ray Harryhausen has passed away this week. There are few filmmakers who have single handedly transformed the world of cinema in such direct creative and technical ways as Harryhausen. Much of what we see in fantasy films today has been shaped in some way in equal parts by his imagination and animation.
Here is a scene from one of the most underrated and fantastic B movies of all time, The Vally of Gwangi:
Cowboys versus dinosaurs. It really never gets better than that. I'm not even kidding.
Rest in peace, Ray.
I meant to post about this a while ago, thought I had, and then couldn't find it on the blog. So this happened last semester:
Jason Maddock, a colleague of ours here at the Shanghai American School, organized an amazing two day professional opportunity for us in Jingdezhen, the ceramics capitol of the world. You'd be forgiven for not having heard of this small city before (small, I say, by China standards, it has a population of over a million people), but here you'd find the birthplace of porcelain, and the location from which most of the worlds' porcelain comes. This is the city, that draws the connection between 'China' the country with 'China', your grandmother's fine dinner plates.
Over the course of two days, we learned about the process of slip casting, using decals on ceramics, and most interestingly, painting with blue cobalt on white porcelain. These were the ancient techniques that create the very familiar white and blue pottery that China is famous for. In addition, we had the opportunity to visit, and even enter a 'dragon kiln' a hugemongus beast of a kiln that stretched way up the side of a small mountain, is only fired once or twice a year and can fire thousands of pieces of pottery at once.
Jason's video of our trip can be seen here, and here's the Flickr set of our trip:
I'm not much of a ceramicist myself, but being in Jingdezhen sure made me want to study.
A few years ago I heard this great quote by Chuck Close in an interview on Fresh Air.
Inspiration is for amateurs. I Just get to work.
I still use that quite often in my classroom. This video, in which Close sends a message to his 14 year old self with this exact message is, if you'll excuse the irony, inspirational:
For the last few years I've been using a theater exercise - "ambiguous dialogues" to teach an important film concept, basically the difference between script choices and director's choices. An 'ambiguous dialogue' is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a short script in which two or three actors discuss something without any specificity, leaving it up to the actors to convey contextual clues through their body language, movements, and voice.
For my film class, I've used this exercise to show how directors can exert their influence through their creative vision, and that many of these choices aren't (or don't need to be) tied to the script. In groups, students are given the same script, but different genres and a class period to put together a film. They edit it the following period, and finish by presenting it to each other in the last class.
The Imagination Series takes this idea a step further, and creates an amazing opportunity to discuss the difference between what's in the script and what's on the screen. With a short one page script written by Academy Award winning scriptwriter Geoffry Fletcher (Precious), filmmakers are challenged to come up with a unique film in any genre, using any technique, time period, or location.
To see how impressive and creative the responses are, start with Room 8 below, and then check out the other winners on the Imagination Series website.
Room 8 from Bombay Sapphire on Vimeo.
I'd love to challenge my students to participate in the next contest, which is open for submission until August, but because its created and sponsored by Bombay Sapphire, they have a restriction on submissions from under-21s.
Oh well, still a great lesson for any film class.
It was a little more than a year ago when I first stumbled onto Amiria's amazing website for A Level art. I'm sure I've blogged about it before, but can't for the life of me find the post (I guess that's what happens when you start nearing the 4 digit marker). Her website, now titled Student Art Guide is an absolutely invaluable resource for high school teachers and high level students alike. In fact, I'm looking forward to having my IB class refer back to her site next year for inspiration, ideas, and resources on both their artwork and their workbooks.
To get a sense of what you'll find there, check out this three part series of articles on how to make artwork more exciting. Each article looks at the process from a different angle and together offers excellent advice:
Part 1: Inventive Use of Media
Part 2: Painting On Grounds
Part 3: Inventive Mixed Media Techniques
Finally, here's a great article on how to make quality A Level sketchbooks, but is perfect for IWB preparation as well.
Together, those four articles are a goldmine for any IB Art teacher and their students.
Every year in IB Film we do a unit on The Hero's Journey based on the ideas that Joseph Campbell proposed in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and popularized for storytelling strategies by Christopher Volger in The Writer's Journey. I find it really helps the students both analyze the structure of the film and discover how the plot ties into the theme. Usually we read a chapter from The Power of Myth, a transcript of Campbell's conversation with Bill Moyers about Mythology.
Always looking for new material to supplement the lesson, I found this great comprehensive explanation of the whole journey in a few minutes from TED Education.
I often play TED Talks while my students work. So, we'll be working on our projects as we listen and look up every once in a while for a visual. Unfortunately, this one, which is fantastic, won't work for more than half of my students - its in Korean. However, I offered the foundations class to stop what they were doing and watch this today.
Young-Ha's talk is a great follow up to Ken Robinson's famous talk on creativity. Rather than focus on educational paradigms, Young-Ha speaks directly to kids and creativity in a very personal and immediate manner. Stop and watch with your students, it is worth the class time.
As a postscript, the students who do speak Korean confirmed for me that it is not just the language barrier, Young-Ha Kim does indeed talk very fast.
This year's Shanghai Student Film Festival was an amazing success. The absolute best thing about this event is that every year we are shocked to see how much the students improve by absorbing what was done the year before and working to outdo previous films. At this point, some films that we couldn't even fit in the festival would have been contenders for 'best picture' at our first festivals.
And then there are the workshops and challenges. For the last three years we've kicked off the festival with the day long '8 hour Film Challenge'. This year, the films were absolutely amazing, and it was a moment of clarity for us film teachers about what we could expect from our students if they were capable of creating such great work in such a short amount of time, what they could do with a few weeks on a project.
One of the highlights of the film starts with a blogpost that I wrote here eight years ago. Someone had introduced me to one of the best short films I'd ever seen, the academy award nominated 7:35 in the Morning and I've been using it to illustrate the economy of storytelling using limited time and budget. Cut to last year, I'd been following 7:35's director Nacho Vigalondo on twitter, and decided to invite him to the festival to be one of our hosts. His enthusiastic reply "OF COURSE" came so quickly that I worried he thought we were the other Shanghai Film Festival. My fears were put to rest after he confirmed his interest and we began negotiating his arrival.
In preparation, our classes watched his feature film Los Cronocrímenes (english title: Time Crimes). Long story short, the students became quick fans (like me) and we had an amazing day learning from him at the festival. I'll never forget this moment- one of my students had the idea to recreate one of the classic moments of Timecrimes, when the 'antagonist' lets the protagonist know that he know he's being watched by miming a pair of binoculars in front of his face:
Even though we didn't take a lot of awards home this year, it was still one of our best fests yet. The speakers were amazing, the workshops were amazing, and we even began to adapt our schedule to include some teacher training in film. Finally, our festival was featured on a local english language program. I love the little set up they give us:
I just got home hanging our IB Art show, a bittersweet experience once more. I'm so proud of what they've done and so sad to see them go. I've loved our discussions this year, its been so exciting to argue about modernism vs. postmodernism and see where our discussions go about just what this 'art' stuff is anyway. Along those lines, before I let them go, I think we'll take a look at this little piece causing controversy over in Berlin.
Don't forget that if you are participating in the Student Creative MyThology project, we need your images now! If you need instructions for upload you can either email me directly (my email is on the top right hand corner of this page) or join the discussion at our page on Art Ed 2.0. Please include some student written descriptions or explanations of their myths. The Rotoball Project will be due at the end of May this year. You still have time!
My friend Sheyda just posted a link to this really remarkable video that I'll share with my class during our animation unit... and again during our PSA unit, and then maybe again during our 'hey lets watch cool stuff' unit. Anyway, this is one remarkable anti-bullying video is based on a poem by Shane Koyczan and should be seen in every school by every student.
I suppose its ever film teacher's dream to see one of their students on stage at the academy awards, although I never expected that one would be there so soon after graduation.
Hearin Ko, our two time Shanghai Student Film Festival winner, and SAS Alum was one of six students selected to present an oscar at this year's ceremony in a nationwide contest of film students. You can read about the process for her selection here. Below is her submission for the contest.
If you're tuned into the awards, look out for her!
The Adobe Education Exchange, which has been an incredible inspiration to me over the last few years, has just been fully redesigned. The new site is easier to navigate and publish, making finding and sharing lessons even more efficient. ...and it looks slick to boot.
The new exchange also features discussion forums and badges to earn as you participate in different ways.
Badges? Badges! We don't need no Stinkin.... wait these are actually kinda cool...
There is no end to useful and creative ideas on this site- heck, reading the contributions from Mike, Judy and Nicole will keep you busy for days alone.
My connection to and bias for all things Adobe aside, this little promo of theirs for creativity in education makes me just want to get up and teach. Luckily, I can do just that after my lunch break.
While in Singapore over winter break, Kim and I went to see the Singapore Art Museum. Most of the images in this slide show are from their main exhibition, Thai Transience. The whole time we were there I was thinking of how great an example of 'cultural connections' the work of these contemporary artists in Thailand would be to my IB students. Each piece, in its very different way, spoke directly to Thai history, politics, and culture. Each also drew heavily on traditional art forms. It was an amazing opportunity to see such a collection of contemporary Thai work; too often its easy to look at the arts and crafts that you see at every market in Thailand as the beginning and end of Thai art. This powerful exhibition will now be what I think of when I think of art in Thailand. The last few images in the slideshow below are from the rest of the museum, featuring artists from all over Asia. While I have less images from that set, there are some great pieces in there as well. Speaking of things both Transient and Thai... I recently watched the acclaimed Thai film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives. As with all good transient things, this film is less to be understood than to be experienced. Like the exhibition above, this film draws greatly on Thai culture, politics, and mythology. I read somewhere that it was sort of like a "Thai David Lynch Film", which doesn't really do it justice. That being said, I can't come up with the words to do it justice - so here's the trailer. If you're ok with films that answer none of the questions that they ask, I can't think of a better one.
|Monkey in Bloom|
If I had known what an artist's paradise that Bali would be, I would have certainly tried to make it there sooner. We stayed in the town of Ubud, which is filled with shops selling a ridiculously wide variety of the most beautiful art, craft, and everything in between.
While the local crafts were truly amazing in themselves, some of the unique contemporary artists are doing some absolutely mind blowing stuff. I was awestruck by the work of Ketut Karyana, who has created some amazingly beautiful animal abstractions for his Evolution series, using watercolors and ink.
This piece is called Evolution: Iguana, it was the one that first caught my attention, and I'm so looking forward to sharing these pieces as we move into our experimental water color projects with the foundations classes this Spring.
His gallery is on view here, but the online images just does not do the work justice.