Educating Students in the 21st Century
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Expression Paintings

After learning about Kandinsky's emotional and improvisational paintings, my middle school students create their own works of abstraction. This is their first project of the year and they learn a lot about the art elements in order to make a successful composition.

This project has evolved over the years which keeps it fresh and fun. The first year teaching this lesson, the composition was all about the textures, colors, and shapes contained in squares. Then classes experimented with cutting their paintings into interlocking shapes and this year made backgrounds more active with white/metallic colored pencils. The students learn a lot from manipulating their painting. Experimentation is extremely important to develop creative thinking and this sets the tone for the whole year.

Please click on the image gallery below to see how the Expression Paintings have changed over the years.
Topic(s): acrylic painting mixed media 2011 middle school lessons
By Heather on November 15, 2011 at 1:20pm EST Add Comment

Pure Joy

I love working spontaneously. I didn't have an exact plan when creating this piece and I'm pleased with the outcome. It's made out of a scrap of cardboard, acrylic paint, and colored pencils. The abstract shapes reminded me of something my puppy would investigate and zoom around so I wanted to include her. I like to combine representation with abstraction. Her happy swirling trail reminds me of all the fun we have running around the many trees in our yard. Pure joy!
Topic(s): acrylic painting mixed media 2011 colored pencil cardboard puppy
By Heather on November 14, 2011 at 1:47pm EST Add Comment

Grandpa Donn's Roses
I started this oil painting in the summer after getting an idea to transform a painting I had stored away for a long time. It was an unfinished painting by my fiance's grandfather that I wanted to preserve. It was off the stretchers and slowly falling apart. He loved roses and I'm grateful to have beautiful flowers from one of his rose bushes every year. The background is of his painting that I weaved together and stretched over 3 boards. It formed a trellis-like texture for me to paint the roses and pollinating bees on. The frame loudly repeats the nature inspired theme with real tree bark assembled like a puzzle. Again, I was experimenting with texture and color.

I really enjoyed working on this piece, especially while remembering summer as I was finishing it up in December. :P

Grandpa Donn's Roses is on display (as well as my students' and colleague's artwork) at the Rochester-Finger Lakes Regional Exhibition at RIT's Bevier Gallery from January 30 - February 25, 2009. Reception is Friday January 30 from 5-7pm.
Topic(s): oil painting 2008 exhibit
By Heather on January 28, 2009 at 9:20am EST Add/View Comments (3)

I did this small oil painting (about 16x12 I think :P) of Alicia, my fiance's cousin's cute little girl, over my 2008 winter break. I experimented with the canvas by painting on an antique looking floral fabric that I thought suited her sweetness. I loved playing with color and tried not to over think anything. My goal is to start doing more experimental studies like this.

For fun, I used this for a family Santa Swap and remarkably her parents went first and picked this gift. No stealing needed!
Topic(s): oil painting 2008 portrait
By Heather on January 25, 2009 at 4:08pm EST Add/View Comments (2)

Drake and Rascal
This was a wedding gift to some good friends. It is of their rambunctious dogs that they love very much. I had a lot of fun painting their unique features, especially Drakes droopy eyes and flops of skin (foreground). I made the time of year in the painting early fall, just like their wedding. My only complaint is that I wish I would have pushed the fall colors a little more, especially after the beautiful drive through Pennsylvania on the way there. I think I was in denial of fall.

But what a perfect fall day for a wedding, no denying that!

Oil on 48x24 canvas
October 2008
Topic(s): oil painting 2008
By Heather on November 5, 2008 at 11:38am EST Add/View Comments (3)

New Meaning from Local Yums
What's for breakfast?

What's for lunch?

What's for dinner?

I love good food! Who doesn't? Pale and I just went to the Rochester Public Market and bought some beautiful local produce. We bought organic green beans from a little boy so cute that it just made the whole trip more meaningful. It felt strange at first, throwing cash and coins in every direction, but now we have blueberry, raspberry, and HUGE blackberry gems in my fridge and golden apricots, tiny tart yellow plums, and juicy tomatoes on the counter. We are definitely going back!

I just finished Harvest for Hope by Jane Goodall and I can't seem to get her "eat local" and "do you best to take care of this earth" messages out of my head. We also recycled computers and other junk at the Seneca Park Zoo rally in Rochester this weekend. It's part of my nature to reuse or maybe it's because I'm frugal, but I see art in trash sometimes. These pans were destined for the garbage but remade into soul-searching art.

That's why I'm posting these pieces. I looked at them yesterday and smiled. They mean something totally different to me now than when I made them in 2004, which had somewhat of a negative subject. The titles were supposed to act as a nag because sometimes ones ego can suck all the fun out of food, something my family still struggles with while juggling hectic lives. But food can be fun if you can let go of your expectations and really savor simple flavors.

I look at these differently now and they proudly hang in my kitchen, reminding to have fun! I giggle at the surrealism because it's less serious now. I know now if I mess up and make something dreadful... it's ok, no need to go coo coo! Furthermore, I don't always have the time to paint but I can get my creative fix by cooking.
Topic(s): oil painting recycled food 2004
By Heather on August 10, 2008 at 4:59pm EDT Add Comment

Bug Collection
I think we've all, as children, caught fireflies or a caterpillar out of fascination. We place some grass clippings, leaves, and branches in our pickle jar believing we created an ideal environment for our creature. I even caught tadpoles and watched them change into frogs. Unfortunately, our experiments do not always work out but it's a learning experience no less. This mixed media "Bug Collection" (2003) preceded "Entrapment" and repeats the idea of catching/keeping something fascinating while having the heart to let it go, knowing that the atmosphere you made may not have been suitable. This theme can also translate to our own human experiences as well, to ensure growth.

The materials used to make this piece include: acrylic and oil paint, paper, crackle medium, dirt, and organic matter. Each bug is contained in two ways, the old canning jar and the paper circle, except the escaped firefly.

For some reason, I have always been captivated by jars. I know it seems silly, but I find them beautiful...old and new jars, colored and clear, from sauce to jellies and the history of canning to preserve our gardens. The jars are a good way to create symbolism in my work and it causes me to constantly wash and store different jars, especially if they have interesting shapes. It pains me to think about them sitting in a landfill, so even if I don't keep them, I make sure to recycle them. Hopefully, I'll explore this avenue again someday and use some of them I've collected!
Topic(s): mixed media painting 2003
By Heather on March 8, 2008 at 6:07pm EST Add Comment

The Choice Between
The Choice Between is a diptych that parallels human choices and the consequences of them. In 2003, I created a somewhat abstract juxtaposition of sickness and health in oil paint. It's about having a choice and the fact that options are presented to us daily. I used microscopic images of tarred lungs and blood cells as inspiration. I find this painting to be a reality because it's not always easy to make the right decision when society provides so many unhealthy and deceptive choices. This duality can extend itself to so many facets of life.
Topic(s): oil painting painting 2003 diptych
By Heather on February 5, 2008 at 11:36am EST Add/View Comments (4)

I went to Allegany State Park for a family camping trip last October, 2007. The landscape and the rocks are so beautiful there that I decided to do a small study (9x12) in oil on canvas board. Climbing those rocks gives me the feeling of being a kid again on some wonderful adventure.

I also did this painting with a special someone in mind who works so hard organizing these great retreats!
Topic(s): landscape painting oil painting 2007
By Heather on January 29, 2008 at 10:15am EST Add/View Comments (3)

Wedding Gift
This oil painting was a wedding gift to wonderful friends during the Summer of 2004. It was actually the first self-guided painting I did after college. I love that it's a diptych (relationship of two-get it :P) showing the life of leopards - night/day - on one canvas. They love animals, so I felt very comfortable with the subject. I actually learned a lot about the pattern of leopard spots! I also have great memories of working outside on this, not in Africa silly, using photos for references and of course my imagination to put them together in an interesting composition. I decided on the time of day for each and the little details, such as the moon and the moth.

I don't really have a title for this. I mean I could come up with something but everything sounds dorky, so maybe the owners can decide on one. I do know that this painting makes me feel warm on this cold January day, thinking of the sub-Sahara and wonderful friends now family!
Topic(s): painting oil painting 2004
By Heather on January 23, 2008 at 8:22am EST Add/View Comments (6)
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