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A degree of the spontaneous is important in making

Updated: May 25, 2021

For the last segment of Teaching Artist Flávia Berindoague’s lesson called “Abstracting My Neighborhood” for ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6 in Jersey City (remotely, of course, for now!), students added characters and objects to finalize their works.

Dennis reports: “Flávia showed the works by artist Jean Dubuffet as examples of abstracted backgrounds with multiple shapes and colors together with collaged figures - students responded very well to this presentation.

Jean Dubuffet, Le Dechiffreur, painted collage, 1977

Drawing characters and objects related to their chosen locations (for example: teachers and students in schools; dogs being walked in parks; ovens in a bakery; tennis rackets and balls on tennis courts; even beds and pillows at a mattress store), students created abstract collages. Using white paper folded and cut into quarters, students drew and added color to their characters and objects and cut them out into shapes (not in detail) and carefully glued them to the backgrounds.

Student gluing elements on Abstract Community Collage
Savannah with a cut out element prior to collage
Adriel cut components before gluing
Michelle, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage

3rd grader Naisha’s piece is of her school, PS 6, with teachers, desks and students, and during compliments, she declared “Drawing is my hobby so that was my most fun part of this lesson”.

Naisha, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Pramiti, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Nizar, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Netra, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage

Students were asked to keep their works in a safe and clean place for an anticipated upcoming exhibit.

Malih, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage

Flávia allowed for musical intervals during quiet work time and students requested to hear Dance Monkey. Of course, Dennis had no idea what Dance Monkey was but he has since learned that it is the “most Shazamed” song of all time with over 37 million searches. Now, if Dennis only knew what a Shazamed song means, it might make some sense. No matter, the students enjoyed it and music seemed to help them to create in a more productive way.”

Lithika, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Jolianna, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Jaylise, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage

Flávia adds her perspective: “Students followed the instructions very well and used their imagination to complete their collages. The final works were creative and there was a variety of patterns, shapes, figures and objects. We had a fun moment in the classroom when a student asked to play a music called “Dance Monkey” and all of them and (us) shook our bodies and heads in front of the cameras, except Dennis who made a monkey face (hahhha). During critique students were sharpe on complimenting works on shapes, colors, patterns and figures. It was an excellent group of young artists to work with, and the teachers were very supportive!”

Janiya, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage
Enzo, PS 6 Abstract Community Collage

During Mrs. DiGesu’s class, we had a surprise cameo appearance by retired PS 6 art teacher, Linda Bauer - a welcome addition to our lesson! We hope she’ll join us again soon.


On Wednesday at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 282 we learned about one of the principal genres of western art -- Still Life. The subject matter of a still life is anything that does not move.

Teaching Artist Claude Viaud Peralta shared an excellent PowerPoint presentation introducing students to several 20th century master artists known for their still life paintings including Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Paul Cezanne, and Henri Matisse.

Giorgio Morandi, “Natura Morta,” 1938
Pablo Picasso, "Green Still Life Avignon", summer 1914
Joan Miro, "Still Life -- Glove and Newspaper Paris", February-March 1921
Paul Cezanne, "Still Life with Basket of Apples", 1890-94
Henri Matisse, "Les Coucous Tapis Bleu et Rose",1954

As we carefully studied these masterworks we noticed art concepts we have studied in earlier ART YARD sessions such as overlapping, mixed-media and patterning. Additional vocabulary included composition (the arrangements of objects on the page), and observational prowess - the phrase I used to complement Aysia’s skill and success with her still life!

Lucy used overlapping and paid attention to colors and shadows to show her panda, orange, and banana.

Lucy shares her work during critique

I was very impressed to see Lucy paid such close attention to the texture of the orange peel and even included the supermarket sticker, which compelled me to compare her work to the still life paintings of Janet Fish!

Lucy, PS 282 Still Life
Janet Fish, Peaches, 1974

Miles gathered some eclectic objects including a lemon, a plant, a metal watering can and a few batman themed toys for his still life, which he put together in an very interesting arrangement.

Miles still life arrangement
Miles at work with still life in foreground
Miles at work on still life drawing
Miles, PS 282 Still Life

Claude, Vera and I were glad to see such a range of approaches, materials and artistic styles in the artwork created today in class. Juliet painted richly colored fruit on a purple plate on a wood table.

Juliet, PS 282 Still Life

Aysia worked in pencil drawing a wonderfully detailed still life of her pencil case and pencils. And Logan, who celebrated her birthday the day of our session, included birthday balloons behind her Matisse-like table with household objects.

Aysia, PS 282 Still Life
Logan, Birthday Girl!

Take a look at the video recap with some tips on creating your own still life. In fact, if you are a PS 282 student, you are encouraged to draw or paint a still life and email it in for inclusion in our end of year exhibition!


Monday evening in ART YARD Advanced Studio we had the pleasure of working on abstract collage with Teaching Artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell.

With her studio well set up to teach on Zoom, Aisha painted as she described the steps of her lesson. We created 3-4 abstract paintings trying to keep loose and open to surprises as we worked. Followed by a quartet of patterns such as fur, smoke, fire or made rubbings. We then cut, ripped or crumpled the work into new forms to create the source material for our abstract collage.

Eden, three source material abstract digital paintings

As we worked Aisha shared videos of artists Jack Whitten, Mark Bradford, Eric Carle.

Jack Whitten with a work in progress
Mark Bradford with a completed piece
Eric Carle with detail of a piece visible behind him

As many of us do not usually work abstractly it was a big surprise to see everyone’s work during critique! Aisha asked us to name our pieces and suggested we might try a title which includes an adjective, noun and verb.

Sarah writes: “I got inspired by Artist Jack Whitten's work by using mosaic with his Art which I decided to give the same feeling of mosaic to my piece. These days, I feel like my heart is heavy with everything happening in life, which I decided to show how broken my heart feels. Aysha’s sessions always have me see Art in a new way. She opens my eyes to think about new ways to be creative.

Sarah Gumgumji, Broken Heart
Ed Rath, Path of Consciousness
Wayne Gross, Pennies from Heaven

Karla describes her experience with this session: “A very time-challenging lesson but a really fun one! Great presentation of artist examples and a way to exercise interpretation of mark making and form. Composing with elements of line, color and texture! Seeking a composition with a sense of balance and aesthetic. It could be about something or not!!!”

Karla Prickett, Movement
Meridith McNeal, Sparkle Hypnotic Revolutionary
Marilyn August, Color Abstraction
Halli Beaudoin, Abstract Landscape

Pat, who complimented Aisha on opening up the dialogue about risk taking as we worked, explains: “I added a bit more to the sky. I asked my sister for a title and she said Zealous Moon Rising. So that's the title. The piece emerged from the shapes I was cutting. Are those clouds or trains? Blades of grass or spires? I enjoyed learning about the artists whose work and interviews Aisha shared with us--how to think about paint and painting in new ways, and how to put layers of personal and political meaning into one's work.

Pat Larash, Zealous Moon Rising
Jacob Rath, Madison
Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Warm Round Rainbow Rain

We all loved Ardelia’s breaking out of the rectangular format!

Ardelia Lovelace, Untitled Abstract Collage

Zeke was the only one who ventured into sculpture.

Zeke Brokow, Abstract Collage Sculpture in progress

Aisha describes her experience leading the session: “I really enjoy working with these artist. It's really interesting to see they ways in which they interpret the instructions. For me this was a very loose lesson. Usually when teaching abstraction I give a many more rules. Instead I listed options so they felt a degree of freedom. The work produced was so varied, interesting and beautiful. I loved to see their layered approaches to abstraction. I think of time as a material in the process of making. I believe time constraints allow for a level of intuition that can be second guessed away if given the opportunity. A degree of the spontaneous is important in making. We often get trapped in the systems that work for us. The work produced was beautiful and is also a source for many new ideas.”


In other art news:

Congratulations to ART YARD Teaching Artist and Board Member Claudia Alvarez on her solo exhibition at Garden of the Zodiac Gallery, in Omaha Nebraska.

From the exhibition announcement: “This exhibition centers around a bounty of botanical motifs drawn from personal and cultural references. Many paintings feature specimens grown in central California by Alvarez’s mother; other species are native to her Mexican roots. Although flowers have been a recurring theme in her work, time spent in the pandemic year sharpened Alvarez’s focus on her immediate surroundings. A metaphor for her experience of isolation, the famous medieval Unicorn in Captivity tapestry housed at the Cloisters in New York became the inspiration for re-imagination. Tinged by memories of youthful play in her family’s yard and boxing in a “ring” defined by an encircled water hose, Alvarez tempers the joyful nostalgia with the harsher realities of lost relatives and the daily BLM protests outside her studio window.”


Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Halli Beaudoin on her first public exhibition.

Halli writes: “Last weekend marked the opening of “We’re Still Here…” a public outdoor portraiture exhibition featuring works created by and depicting local Brooklyn residents. After over a year of struggles during COVID, this exhibition celebrates the resilience, strength, and diversity of the Brooklyn arts community.

This project is a collaboration with The Old Stone House & Washington Park and is part of the Arts Gowanus Gallery Dispersed initiative partially funded by the Brooklyn Arts Council. The exhibit features over 150 images of artwork- and I’m proud to say one of those is mine!

Halli's piece installed in We Are Still Here, photo by Meridith McNeal

When I found my painting and name on display it was overwhelming. This marks the first time my work has been recognized in this way. I love how anyone in the community can see the show for free, and how other Brooklyn artists chose to depict themselves after a year of Covid. My piece is entitled “A Queen Grows In Brooklyn”. During the pandemic, with time passing and the future seemingly uncontrollable, I turned to inspiration from Queen Elizabeth I, wanting to envision myself as strong and powerful, despite feeling helpless. The painting reflects my insecurities such as questioning if this is the right time to bring a child into the world. I depicted my faith as a bauble around my neck- present as a guide and symbol, but also just a powerless object compared to the darkness in the world. My gown is covered in eyes and ears- homage to being connected to her community through social media.

Halli Beaudoin, A Queen Grows In Brooklyn

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend the exhibit will be on display on the fence surrounding J.J. Byrne Playground from May 15th 2021 - June 25th, 2021. Can't make the show but want to support my work? Please check out my website!”


Here's to that degree of the spontaneous!

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