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San Rafael, California 94901
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Real Old-Timey Photography at Marinwood

On Wednesday, 8/7/13, I brought my camera-less photography workshop to the Marinwood summer camp program. We made cyanotypes, also known as sun prints, using specially coated photo paper. First, we made prints by laying found objects directly on the photo paper. The prints are exposed directly to the sun, and then developed in a bath of plain water. As the prints develop, the negative space around where the objects were placed gradually turns a lovely cyan blue. Next, we cut shapes out of heavy paper, and made prints with these shapes. Our young artists then combined the techniques they had learned to make a unique final print. Some of the artists drew on or cut out their prints to make even more unique artworks!

Monsters Spotted at Marinwood!

We had a great time at my 8/1 Furry, Scaly Monsters workshop at Marinwood summer camps. Our young artists started with a texture drawing exercise, in which they practiced their feathers, fur, and scales. Next, they turned their texture blob sketches into monsters by adding facial features, limbs, and monstrous horns, claws, fangs, etc. The final step was to transfer one of these monsters (or create an entirely new one!) to scratchboard to make a fun, textural subtractive drawing. Some artists chose to add real googly eyes as a final touch!

6th grade Earth Science collaboration: A Pop-Up Book Exploring Plate Tectonics

Sixth grade scientists at Hall Middle School explored paper engineering and pop-up techniques to create a pop-up book illustrating the movement and concept of plate tectonics.

Two years ago, Mentor Artist Katy Bernheim collaborated with science teacher Ted Stoeckley to design a way to teach students about plate tectonics using paper engineering and pop-up techniques.  They decided to focus on the layers of the earth, subduction, strike/slip faults, and the movement of Pangaea, with an optional sea floor spreading.  After much trial and error, Katy was able to develop a model that the students would work from.

Because of time constraints and the challenges of accurately illustrating the movement of the earth’s plates, they designed the project as a model for the students to work towards, with step-by-step instructions.

Students began with paper exploration, playing with different first- and second-generation pop-up techniques.  They learned folding and creasing, and clarified how to use a ruler as a measuring devise as well as a straight edge.  They made stair steps, and frogs, and thrones, and repeating patterns out of brightly colored card stock.  The kids experimented, adding cuts and folds, and even adding their pop-ups together to make more elaborate patterns and structures.

The pages in the books began as legal-sized file folders cut in half.  Students started with the subduction of the South American Plate by the Nasca Plate.  First, they cut a long rectangular first-generation pop-up, and added a second-generation pop-up on one end.  This would be the foundation for the plates to ride on.  Next they cut strips to extend the pop-up foundation.  Finally, they cut out photocopies of the South American Plate and the Nasca Plate.  Students placed and glued the Nasca Plate first, then folded in (or un-popped) the page to position the South American Plate.  Because of the difference in height and length of the two strips, when the book is opened, it looks as if the smaller Nasca Plate is moving under the South American Plate (to create the Andes Mountains!).  There were lots of oohs and ahhhs as the students opened and closed their pages.  It was challenging for many kids, due to the precise nature of the instruction, with measuring and cutting along the lines, but when they got it, they were ecstatic.

Next, the class tackled the break up and movement of one large continent, Pangaea, into several of the continents we know today.  The students had a photocopy of South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica and the Indian Subcontinent that included illustrations of the fossil record that had helped prove the theory of plate tectonics.  They cut out each continent, and arranged them to form the original super continent, like putting together a puzzle.  Next they cut out and folded a first-generation strip in a new page of the book.  They glued South America to the popped-up rectangle, folded it in, and positioned Africa right next to the “un-popped” South America.  When students opened their books, South American moved left, away from Africa.  Next they prepped three supporting strips for the remaining continents.  Placing these continents in their completed-puzzle format next to Africa, they folded, positioned and glued the strips so that each continent could be pulled with a pull tab away from Africa, in the direction the continents ultimately landed.

On the facing page, students used California to illustrate a strike/slip fault.  They cut out the state, and cut off the section of California that is part of the Pacific Plate, along the San Andreas Fault.  They cut out bendable legs for each “plate,” attached pull tabs, and made sure the legs were glued in such a way as to move the sections in the correct direction: the Pacific Plate slice moving northwest, i.e. to the upper left of the page, and the North American Plate section moving southeast, or to the lower right.

Finally, students created a flip tab to show the layers of the earth.  They cut out a circle filled with concentric circles illustrating the earth’s layers.  They folded this in half, and glued one half to a third page in the book.  Next they cut out a round drawing of the earth, added a “fold” tab, folded that all in half, and glued it half of it to the layers, and half to the book page, making a page-within-the-page.

For students who finished early, Katy offered a model of sea floor spreading for them to experiment with for an extra page in their books.

The students added text to explain the theory of Plate Tectonics to their pop-up illustrations (from Science class and as homework).  They glued the pages back-to-back, and created a cover.  The kids put a huge amount of work into their books.  In the end they had a product they were proud of, and they had learned and internalized the concepts of Plate Tectonics more deeply than had they only read about it.  In practicing the paper engineering techniques, they now have skills to take to other art, science, or writing projects in the future.

Summer Fun at Marinwood

This summer Suzanne Joyal and myself have been guest visual arts specialists at the Marinwood Summer Day Camps program. My first two workshops were Funny Comics (7/11) and Sculpt Like Michaelangelo: Working With Clay (7/25).

In Funny Comics, we used professional techniques to unlock our creativity. First, our young artists responded to a selection of rapid-fire writing prompts, followed by a selection of rapid-fire drawing prompts. Next, we put together the writing with the drawings to make unusual and humorous connections. Finally, the artists either re-drew their new comic, making changes to improve the humor, or were inspired to make a new comic all-together.

For our clay workshop, I introduced and instructed in the techniques of the pinch pot, the coil, and the slab. We then constructed lidded jars out of air-dry clay. Some of the artists chose to embed beads, sequins, and glitter in their jars! Being summer, many of the artists shaped their jars like ice cream cones and sundaes, or other creative forms, like an Egyptian canopic jar! the artists used our remaining session time to sculpt whatever they like using the techniques they had practiced.

-Gabrielle Gamboa


Youth in Arts Performance Company Debut Tonight

YIA Performance Company Summer 2013

Youth in Arts new theater ensemble will present original drama and video work that they have created this summer, working with Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs and YIA staff artists. Tonight’s performance at Youth in Arts is full to capacity, but we will be sharing photos and video of their work online soon.

The Performance Company has grown out of YIA’s “Arts Unite Us” project, which brings together student artists of all abilities to create and perform original work together. “Arts Unite Us” was held at Tamalpais, Redwood and Terra Linda high schools this year and the Performance Company includes students from Terra Linda and Tam, as well as students from San Rafael and Lowell High Schools, Julia Morgan School for Girls and the Cypress School.

The student artists have put in two weeks of intensive work writing, revising, rehearsing and producing two original short plays, as well as a video blending visual artwork, puppetry and animation and an original song written by company members.

“This very diverse ensemble came together as strangers two weeks ago,” notes Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs. “They have become friends and collaborators and they are ready to produce their own work now, here at Youth in Arts and out in the community with the skills they have learned here.”

Some thoughts from the artists:

“I’ve learned how to interact with different people. I will take this back with me into my directing class.” –Alec, Conservatory Theatre Ensemble, Tam High

“This experience is awesome–out of the ballpark. I never thought I would do drama and dance, and now I love it.” — Jessica, San Rafael High

“I gotta be there because an actor never gives up! I learned you should work together and be friends.” –Jake Severin, Tam High [On coming to rehearsal despite falling and getting stitches that day]

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Congratulations to all these talented artists on their premiere tonight!