Category Archives: art education

Circles of Life

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I didn’t know Marlene Roeder could draw when I met her twenty-five years ago while we were both working at Franklin Magnet School, an arts magnet elementary in the Syracuse City school district in Syracuse, New York.

She was the grant writer and big into theatrical productions.  I was a daily substitute teacher.  She has since retired from that job, as well as from her position as an education curator at the Everson Museum of Art – and taken up the art of mandala making.

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Her artwork is available for sale at Eye Studio (712 W. Manlius Street, East Syracuse, New York).  Last night was the opening reception for Circle of Life, a month-long exhibition of these intricate ink and colored pencil originals and prints.

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Marlene shared her passion for creating the drawings.  She begins with a large compass then decides how many points she will create.  Pencil then pen and ink followed by color.  Some of the pieces have been published in a coloring book.  She does “coloring parties” too, in which she offers color theory tips and the therapeutic escape that coloring provides.

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There are several series within this concept.  Groupings of pieces inspired by family, landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes, time and social injustice.  They are all infused with a spiritual belief system and a desire to share visual thinking strategies as a means to understand and further enjoy art, and the art-making process.

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Marlene is an advocate for “the persecuted and oppressed”.  She gives 20% of her art sales to the A21 Campaign, an international organization that fights to end human trafficking.

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For more information, contact the artist at mroeder01@gmail.com. ❤

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Gallery and Gift Shop Hours

Monday – Tuesday   11am – 7pm.       Thursday                12pm – 7pm

​Wednesday             3pm – 7 pm         Friday – Saturday    12pm – 5pm

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Scientific Whimsy

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Donna Atwood of Moravia, New York, is a former Science teacher turned full-time professional watercolor artist.  Intuition is her guide.

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She applies the watercolors (usually one hue per piece as a starting point) onto a variety of papers. Then she plays with abstractions and visual textures, adding found and household objects – plastic bags, rags, torn window screens – and weights to hold everything down until the next morning.  When she removes the objects, she assesses what she has and begins to deliberate.  She asks her husband what he sees, like a fun Rorschach test game and they laugh at the disparity of their visions.

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Ultimately, she makes her own decisions about what she sees, as though the paper truly speaks to her alone.  I delighted in her enthusiasm, positivity and passion as she spoke of this process when I met her at the First Friday event last night at Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, New York, where she is the featured artist this month.

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Once Donna decides on the spirit animal, she goes to work rendering the composition focusing on the eyes.  Tiny details are emphasized, allowing for the animal to disappear into the colorations.  These are paintings that need to be seen in person.  The photographs do not do them justice.  They truly imbibe the artist’s joyful spirit.

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Donna Atwood originals and prints are available for sale at Gallery 54 (54 E. Genesee Street, Skaneateles, New York 13152).  If you would like to meet her too, perhaps ask her further questions about her process, Donna will be doing a demonstration at the gallery today (1:00-3:00 pm).  ❤

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  • Excerpt from the gallery web-site

Even though Atwood was a science education major in college her interest in creating art, which began as a child, continued to flourish. It wasn’t until 2012 that she started practicing watercolor, she says describing her artwork as abstract impression. While she creates her share of surreal landscapes her preference, as the Gallery 54 show will demonstrate is for paintings of animals.

“I decided to create surreal animals and found many different ones lurking in patterns,” she notes. As she describes her work, the backgrounds start out as abstract colors and shapes, but “by manipulating shapes in to eyes, ears and a noses,” she can get the viewer to see” what she sees . . . “the face and body of a creature.”

Atwood is particularly fond of finding animals that are endangered or under represented in artwork generally. Many people, she notes, relate to specific creatures or what she calls “spirit animals.” She likes that viewers of her paintings relate to her whimsical version of “their animal” and that the colors or faces in her paintings make them smile.

“Keeping the background of a painting as untouched as possible allows the animal to grow from it,” she says, adding, “I want to express the presence of the animal, not highlight every hair or whisker.”

Atwood’s work has received awards at the New York State Fair and well as numerous local art exhibits. A resident of Sempronius, NY she has had artwork shown at the Cortland Public Library, the Dryden Community Cafe and the Gilded Lily gallery in Connecticut. Following her show at Gallery 54 she will have an exhibit at the Cortland Guthrie Hospital, from September through November and currently has work displayed at the Tully Artworks Gallery.

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Gallery 54 July Hours
Monday – Wednesday: 10-5
Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 10-8
Sunday: 10-5

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The Gourmet

A trip to Vince’s Gourmet Imports (440 N. Main Street, North Syracuse, New York 13212) inspired my new still life painting project.  The Studio in Art students completed the course with these epic 16″ x 20″ acrylic paintings.

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I have paired them here with their inspiration photograph.  Students selected the picture then began with the contour line drawing.  These were transferred to canvas with the magical help of graphite paper, placed onto gessoed and burnt sienna-stained canvas panels.

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My main educational tip – begin with white in your mixing tray.  Add raw sienna and whatever main color to the mix (blue, yellow, etc).  This will insure that you don’t make too much of a color by starting too dark and adding crap-loads of white, lol.  The other thing to keep in mind is to not homogenize the mixture so that you can utilize dark and light variations of the color while painting with one brush.

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I am an advocate for students developing and maintaining their own styles as artists.  We looked at the work of Alice Neel and Janet Fish.  Some students went with the black outlines à la Neel.  And Fish’s representation of glass was helpful to their decision making.

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They took the paintings home today, but their images are on display in the counseling offices and will remain there throughout the summer months. I made 8″ x 10″ color copies of the paintings, mounted them to black construction paper and placed them in frames.  I love this new gallery space!

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I feel incredibly blessed to have shared this artistic adventure with these very talented fourteen-year-olds.  Studio in Art is an accelerated high school level class that I teach to 8th graders at Chittenango Middle School in Chittenango, New York.

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Art-5 & Fun

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It takes my entire lunch period to prep for the class of twenty-three 5th graders – they are here every “A” day during 8th period.  This was yesterday.  Their clay slab/hand-built fish were ready to go home.  I placed an empty Wegman’s bag, along with their sculptures, grade sheets and the packets for the invention project at their seats.  It is organized mayhem, lol.

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I say that in case you think the room is messy, because it is not really mayhem at all.  They are a wonderful group of eleven-year-olds – smart, talented, happy people-pleasers.  I love spending time with them.  I give them a different assigned seat every class, so that they sit with different people each time.  They have to hunt for their seat.  It’s actually kind of fun.

I love how busy they all are in these pictures.  Everyone is completely on task.  The two students looking at the I-pad are checking the spelling of a word (above).  Only three students did not finish their invention drawings, which I will eventually combine to be sent to the high school print department to be made into a coloring book – hopefully by the end of next class.

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They recently finished a landscape illustration using Grant Wood and Grandma Moses as references, and a wood sculpture using Louise Nevelson and Yayoi Kusama as references, as well as the clay fish and the Leonardo daVinci-esque invention.   

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Next up is a mixed-media lesson referencing Faith Ringgold.  We will add a quilted border to a dreamy drawing.

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Students meet every other day for one semester, which is different than elementary school where students meet once every six day rotation for the entire school year.

Fifth graders started attending Chittenango Middle School (instead of the elementary schools) four years ago. I teach the seventh section of 5th grade (Mrs. Samsel’s class) while my colleague, Joyce Backus, teaches the other six sections (in her own classroom), in addition to teaching all of the Bridgeport Elementary School students.

So fun! ❤

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School Fair 2019

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Tonight’s the night for the annual Chittenango School Fair at Chittenango High School (150 Genesee Street, Chittenango, NY 13037).  It takes place from 5:30 – 8:00 pm.  This is my display – set up in the hallway between the two gyms.

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New Library Landscapes

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After two hours of hiking around Clark’s Reservation in Jamesville, New York, I was inspired, finally, to stop in to see the new library at 5110 Jamesville Road (DeWitt, New York 13078).  It’s called the Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville.

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Stephen Alexander Clark is an Assistant Professor of Painting at SUNY Cortland.  His work here depicts abstracted landscapes.  His interest lies in the topography of farmland, the configuration of stacks of firewood and the seeming randomness of camouflage patterns.

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This artwork will be on display through June 2019.  It is located in a hallway that leads to the main library space on the first floor.

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A piece by Pam Steele, who will exhibit in September, occupies the space as well. And an installation by Margie Hughto greets visitors at the entrance.  Both pieces belong to the library.

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Click here for a complete list of future exhibitors.

The library is open Monday – Thursday 10 am – 9 pm, Friday 10 am – 5 pm. Saturday and Sunday hours will change come summer – they are currently Saturday 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.

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This little trip inspired me to get to work on a new series of encaustic paintings.  Details to follow, hopefully, soon. ❤

Theory Week

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Theory cashmere cardigan, Banana Republic T-shirt and pants, Marc Jacobs booties
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Theory cashmere sweater, Trina Turk skirt, BCBGeneration booties

I am currently obsessed with Theory cashmere sweaters.  I have five and wore them every day this week.  Love, love, LOVE!!! ❤ . I guess I also love that it is still chilly enough to wear them to work, lol  (it is May, after all).

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Theory cashmere sweater, Trina Turk skirt, Marc Jacobs boots

Love how you get one new thing and all of a sudden everything in your closet feels new too.

One more week until the school fair.  It is on Friday, May 10, 2019 from 5:30 – 8:00 pm at Chittenango High School.  On Monday, I will make final edits on what I will be bringing this year.  And after that, we will be on the tail end of the school year!

There is still a lot to do.  My Art-8 students are all making papier-mache sculptures or reductive floral foam sculptures.  Next week, 8th grade Studio in Art students are going to take a time-out from their still-life paintings to do a clay project and my Art-5 students are glazing clay sculptures.  We are very busy/very messy right now.  It is really fun!  I love my life!!!

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Theory cashmere cardigan, BCBGMaxAzria top and pants, Marc Jacobs booties
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Theory cashmere cardigan, BCBGMaxAzria sweater, Trina Turk top and skirt, BCBGMaxAzria sandals