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All of the magic that comes from focus

It’s generally frowned upon for students to doodle in class - but not when Teaching Artist Jane Huntington is leading the group. 6th graders at MS 226 in South Ozone Park, Queens discussed ways to reduce stress, remain calm and peaceful, and how to make beautiful designs. Using the fundamentals of the zentangle style of repeated patterns, students became focused and allowed their inner-doodle-selves to come alive.

One group found sample zentangle patterns on their iPads and developed them into images of cats, rabbits, wolves, and large-sized texts - while another group divided their pages into boxes and let their design imaginations go wild, sans iPads.

Using pencil and drawing paper cut to size (students also learned to fold and score paper in order to divide into 2 sheets without using scissors), students added patterns upon patterns and details to patterns, etc. Jane laid out the rules - which were ... NO RULES (well, no rulers ... or erasers!).

During after-school, students continued with the transformation of literal description creatures - most adding color with watercolor paint while others continued in the development stages.

Jane describes the process: "After reading students descriptions from the San Diego Zoo, students will drew rare and unfamiliar animals as they imagine them to be, placed in their habitat. This lesson was inspired by the Unicorn Tapestries and other medieval works at the Cloisters and seeing how lions were drawn and painted. Artists at that time relied on oral and written descriptions to paint from as they had never seen actual lions."

Take a look at some of the medieval beasts Jane showed the students!


I was so grateful to have talented observational artist Pamela Talese volunteer to work with me at Kentler International Drawing Space this week!!!

Pamela recounts her experience working with ART YARD BKLYN: “It was a freezing and frosty morning but the students from MS 226 were fired up to paint.

The sixth-graders worked long tables in spirited collaboration -sharing watercolors and brushes when needed- and occasionally sharing more commentary than the room could hold.

Can we have some quiet please? Meridith’s voice easily overreaching theirs, and focus was brought back to the page.

I so enjoyed meeting the class and seeing how each student interpreted the paintings in Meridith’s show. Some were clear colorists, while others leaned into the line. We had a few experiments using water to disperse paint laid down earlier, tinted drops for texture, and- with mixed results, the use of white. Many of the kids seemed comfortable with the idea of painting from observation, but for some, working with ART YARD BKLYN is their first art class ever.

At the end of the work sessions, the work was brought to the front and Meridith asked everyone in the room to study the range of artworks and offer a compliment- either for a specific picture, artist, or about the experience of working at Kentler that morning. The resulting comments were perceptive, generous, and indicated a growing interest in painting and drawing even loosely from observation.

Look at what is possible when art and music and all of the magic that comes from focus, imagination, and the joyous response to things as we find them.”


4th graders from PS 770 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn were on a field trip a few weeks ago resulting in this week's make-up lesson. 2 classes joined forces and worked with Teaching Artist Rachel Rath on the various techniques of zentangle. Both classes are geographically in the same space although divided into 2 classrooms - creating a somewhat 'tangled' web for Rachel and Dennis, dashing back and forth between classes, while allowing the students to concentrate on the 'zen' and create beautiful pieces.

Using pencil and drawing paper, students divided their sheets into various sections of no particular shape or size, and filled them with lovely repeated patterns. All focused and worked quietly, hence the zen - and success.

During introductions and critique (where all students gathered into one space), students broke down the word 'zentangle' and looked around the room to identify interesting patterns (which included the carpet they were sitting on and many of their classmates sweaters - of which there were many as it was a 5 degree morning!).

Vocabulary words used and learned throughout the lesson: pixilated, perseverance, design.

Also at PS 770 we began work on our public mural running the length of the second floor hallway. Our design team, Ms. Bannon’s fifth graders, started off the day with a conference to determine the flow of their design, discuss our color palette and to plan for the work of the day – transferring their sketches to the wall.

It was all hands on deck as Fatima, Jane, Rachel, Kyra, Dennis and I facilitated this busy but productive all-day lesson. Our design team rotated throughout the day -- five designers at a time worked closely as mentors with the prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students to organize composition and trace shapes onto the painted black background.

Our final group of first graders had the essential job of carefully protecting our designs until we begin painting next week. Surveying our excellent and effective collaborate effort one student gleefully intoned: “THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!!!”

Inspired by the work of Glendalys Medina, the close to 200 foot long piece begins with a few small geometric shapes that multiply, twist turn and eventually fill the picture plane in a riot of color and form. Next week we paint!


I ran into my new pal at Fulla Shirts 269 Van Brunt Street and let him know I had posted a picture of his window display last week. Thrilled for the “shout out”, he plans to share our site with his mother, the teacher who inspired this shirt!

You can order one for yourself, or some of the teachers in your life through this link: TEACHERS ARE CELEBRITIES T-SHIRT

Here’s to another glorious art-filled week!

Warm wishes,

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Dennis Buonagura
Dennis Buonagura
Feb 02, 2019

Mural is looking great .... !

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