Monday, November 28, 2011

Mask Making

My CoachArt students decided they wanted to make masks. Guess we should have done this before Halloween, but - oh well.  (Check out the How-To here.)

Here's what we've got so far . . .

This week, we'll add some plaster tape . . .

And next week, we'll paint them, then add feathers or beads or fabric or gosh, who knows - anything goes.

Can you imagine this as a mask . . . ?

Going to be great!

They even made a tiny Humpty Dumpty one for their little brother . . .

Here are their finished masks!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Homeschool Drawing Class for Los Angeles/West San Gabriel Valley

New Drawing Class for homeschoolers!

Friday afternoons, starting in January, I'll be teaching at Excellence in Education in Monrovia, CA.

In this class, everyone's ability to make, look at, and talk about art is emphasized. Through explorations in value, line, composition, perspective, color, and content, students will discover the excitement of drawing. Most class work is from observation (interesting still life set-ups). Each class includes at least one group critique when students learn to look at and talk about each other's drawings. They learn to have confidence in their own ability to draw, as well as seeing "what makes a drawing work."

Each month will have a different focus, concentrating on new drawing materials and content. Continuing students will begin to develop and incorporate individual interests and meaning into their work. New students are welcome to join in at the beginning of any monthly session.

We'll explore drawing with charcoal, oil pastel, pencil, collage, and other alternative art materials.

No previous art or drawing experience is required. Projects can be modified for all levels of art and drawing experience.

Foundations of Drawing
Age: 12 and up
Parents welcome to join in - $10 tuition discount for parents
Class Mettings: Fridays, 1:30 - 2:30 pm
Location: Excellence in Education, 2640 S. Myrtle, Monrovia, CA 91016
Length of Session: Monthly
First Session: January 6, 13, 20, 27
Cost: $45 tuition + $10 materials fee (continuing students $5 discount on materials fee)

Contact me for further info:

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

A few years ago, at a Lynda Barry writing workshop, I met Jason Poole.

I thank Lynda Barry's "Writing the Unthinkable" for many things in my life, including Jason Poole.

He's The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner and the story of how Hawaiian music changed his life is one of my all-time favorite stories. Now he studies Hawaiian culture and music; he sings (oh, how he sings), plays ukulele, and tells stories. He generously shares, never holds back.

Here's a recent blogpost from his site (

Strumming with Kids and Planting Seeds (Part 2)

An afternoon of sharing the ʻukulele and the ipu heke. (NYC 11.17.11)

Last Thursday, I wrote about a new 6-week residency that I have at an elementary school in NYC as part of their after-school program.

I’ve been brought in, one day a week, to share the joys of strumming the ʻukulele. And if you’ve ever met me, you know that I can’t talk about the ʻukulele without sharing stories about Molokai and the other Hawaiian islands–and even a little school-kid-kine keiki hula for fun. In my mind, they’re not exclusive. Each supports the other.

Here’s the funny thing: they bring me to the school to educate as well as to enrich the school experience for these amazing kids.

And I can honestly say that I am being educated–and absolutely enriched–by my time working with them.

No joke.

Today I brought my ipu heke, a double headed gourd that is often used for percussion in hula and Hawaiian music.

We worked out simple traditional paʻi, hula beats and rhythms. A beat such as (U-T-U-T-T) is something they are very familiar with. During the school day, their teachers clap that rhythm as part of a call and response way to get the kids’ attention. I was so excited to say “Hey! You already know this beat!” And they were excited to share some of the other rhythms they know. (They are exposed to world music through workshops like the one I’m sharing, so they’d had some experience with drumming.)

Then we took those very same rhythms we’d been clapping and strummed them on the ʻukuleles.

Um…totally awesome!

Working on chord progressions with them can be - well - a challenge.

I might have up to 18 students at a time, ranging in age from kindergarten to second grade. And I’m getting them after a full day of classes. So attention spans tend to be shorter. And I’m one teacher trying to share hand positions with18 kids all at once. We do a lot of open chord strumming on the ʻukulele!

But I have to tell you…

It’s like magic when they’re all strumming together.

Some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

And I love watching them dance. And I LOVE hearing them sing. (And it’s so much fun to hear them scream with delight when I sound the pū, my conch shell trumpet! I think they’re hoping I’ll blow out some of the windows–Ha!)

It’s an awesome way to spend an afternoon.

Yes, I’m exhausted afterwards. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. It comes from doing something fantastic.

Right on

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Gift From a Student

A few Saturdays ago, one of my students gave me a little gift bag. We were soon to be starting a collage project in class, and she said this was for collage. I took the bag and briefly thanked her.

At the point where she gave me this little gift bag, I hadn't yet brought in my own work to share with them, which often includes tiny frames.

Oh, how I hope I thanked her, beacuse I'm only now, nearly a week after the end of the 10-week session, getting a chance to look carefully through the bag. Here's what's inside, to thrill and amaze me. I don't know how they know me so well. I don't know if I ever thank them as I should.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I just finished another session of Portfolio Development classes at Otis. You'd think, after all these years, that I'd be tired of it. Nope.

It just keeps getting better. My students continue to delight and surprise me. They laugh at my jokes and occasionally even sing along when I spontaneously and uncontrollably burst into song. Around class #5, we had a lovely rendition of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." More about that later.

For 10 weeks they have been listening to me yell, "Draw, I tell you! Draw! Show me something I've never seen before! Draw, draw, draw some more!" Even so, they still had nice things to say to me at the end. More about that later, also.

But for now, what I really want to say is - - -
Look at what one of them did.
Look at This.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Pet Post

Ok. I know this blog is supposed to be about the teaching/mentoring side of my life. But everyone else seems to have a post or two about their animals - so here goes . . .

This is our "Donkey." If I had made a list of everything I wanted in a dog, I could not have gotten as wonderful a dog as Donkey.

I found him at the Pasadena Humane Society, a pretty nice place as far as the dog shelters go.

Donkey and I go on long walks in our urban neighborhood and into the open hills of Northeast Los Angeles where I find some amazing things. . .

. . .like these snail shells and animal bones which I take into my studio and, what else, sparkle 'em up with gold and copper leaf.

But back to the pet story . . .

Tuesday, as the weather turned cold, Donkey started to limp. We don't know exactly how old Donkey is. The estimate is between 5 and 7 years. As he limped around, I thought about arthritis and hip problems setting in. I stood at the stove, making dinner, and imagined our sweet Donkey, old and unable to walk, needing to be taken to the veterinarian to be put down, euthanized.

As I stood at the stove, all I could see was that horrible trip to the vet, imagining every detail. I stood there, crying into my taco meat.

We've only had him since April, and already I can't imagine our home without him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turning the Critical Voice to Good

This weekend I worked in the yard. I pulled and cut at ivy. I gathered bags full of carob leaves. I picked up small handfuls of wrinkled nasturtium seeds and threw them somewhere else, while thinking of orange-, red-, and yellow-crinkled petals for spring. I worked on things for myself, thinking of nothing much in particular. And then I paused, to take in the yard, to try to see it as someone else might.

It's all too easy to hear the most critical voice; to notice only the untrimmed trees, the dirty lawn furniture, the dying vegetable patch.

So I am careful, in those moments, whose eyes I choose to look through.

I like to imagine to be my friend Wendy - turning about, noticing things I hadn't ever considered. Things turn to good when I look through her eyes.

There, I see a neglected succulent with long ugly stems and funky, leggy roots trailing down to make an unkempt spider web to the ground.

"Fabulous," Wendy says with a giggle. "You must tie it up with a big red bow!"

I spent a fair amount of time this weekend, wandering and wondering. And it all felt like good progress.