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Embracing Awkward

On Halloween in Advanced Studio on Zoom, all the way from Minneapolis and in costume, Teaching Artist Jacob Rath had us exploring new territory with a session titled Embracing the Awkward: Portraits of Planet Earth’s Life forms on Microsoft Paint in which used Microsoft paint to create portraits of any living creatures we have met on Planet Earth.

Jacob sums up the session: “I began class by discussing artwork made on Microsoft Paint. We started with Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half. We read part of one of her blog posts where she talks about her experience dressing up as a dinosaur on Halloween when she was four years old. We looked at some of her other posts, as well as artwork by David Lynch, myself, and a holiday card posted on the FBI's official twitter page (in that order below).

I gave a quick demo on how to use the basic tools in MS Paint. Despite the fact that half of the class had never used this program before, everyone made impressive work. Many students made artwork about their cats, or other animals that they've encountered in their lives. Kevin made a drawing of his friend who graduated this year. I was impressed that everyone's unique drawing styles were present in these works, even though we were using a mouse to click and drag instead of usual drawing/painting materials.”

Rachel Rath, Embracing the Awkward: Lil Mama Yowling at the Wall

Marilyn August, Embracing the Awkward: Tortoise

Ed Rath, Embracing the Awkward: Cow

Meridith McNeal. Embracing the Awkward: Dabber Was a Fighter

Jacob Rath, Embracing the Awkward: Big Stick

Kevin Anderson, Embracing the Awkward, Friend at Graduation

Kevin also made a second piece to see if he could use Microsoft Paint to create an optical illusion -- It worked! If you stare at the image below greyish orbs will appear in the cross-roads of the white stripes.

Kevin Anderson, Optical Illusion

Karla adds: “Such a great lesson and lots of fun! This was a brave endeavor on Jacob's part since so many of us hadn't worked with digital drawing programs! I applaud him and Meridith for all the techno tricks employed to keep the lesson moving while answering questions!

Karla Prickett, Embracing the Awkward: Coco and ONO

My image is of Coco the indoor cat and ONO the outdoor cat in their morning conversation...Coco inside scratching the glass on the storm door to no avail while ONO just watches from the outside unamused! Coco continually meows wanting the door to open.

Everyone dove right into this "new tool" lesson! Meridith seemed to use it fluidly with an amazing result! I think we all stuck with the challenge and surprised ourselves! Ed...that really IS a great cow!”


This week in Advanced Studio in person at BWAC we turned Still Life’s into Still Legacies as Teaching Artist Fatima Traore encouraged us to freeze a moment in time of the precious items that reflect who we are. We looked at the traditional masters like Paul Cézanne and Georges Braque for inspiration and contemporary artist Nicole Dryer with intentions to put a modern twist on the content (in that order below).

Fatima adds: “Throughout the class there was great dialogue that ended with an in depth critique of the works that were related in several ways although taken on with a variety of approaches.”

Candy used ink to draw her neighbors headband abandoned on a book left on the coffee table.

Candy Heiland, Still Legacy

Christine retells a recent dilemma of her missing keys by placing her observational drawing of her keys on the road remembered from her bike ride to visit her cousins. She was very alert to the potential in the project, taking inspiration from the working artists around her. (photo of completed piece to follow)

Christine Willis, Still Legacy in process and gesturing during critique

Fatima arranged and photographed a collection of everyday products and items then used watercolor paint to create a dark background and include shadows in such a way that she calls to mind the legacy of traditional still life painters.

Fatima Traore, Still Legacy

We all watched with fascination as Ed pulled sentimental and eclectic items including toys, tools and mementoes from a small box to assemble his Allegory of my Life tableau. He then drew from life resulting in a beautifully rendered pencil drawing.

Ed Rath, Still Legacy, Allegory of My Life

I began my piece over breakfast coffee and oatmeal with raspberries and bananas. I sketched from observation and started a first layer of color. I continued working in class from memory and a print out of a photo. Yet I still needed another couple of hours to complete this piece. Painting raspberries is more complicated than I thought!

Meridith McNeal, Still Legacy


On another recommendation from Dr. Norma Fernanez, Superintendent of Schools for Jersey City, Dennis met with the assistant principal and administrative staff of the Joseph H. Brensinger School, PS 17, to discuss our pending partnership.

Dennis reports that he was given the royal treatment by all and had a tour of the building and met with the 2 art teachers on staff (each with big and beautiful art rooms!).

The school is in a neighborhood filled with architecture in either the Victorian or Edwardian style - although the school building is modern (appears to have been built in the 1960's?) with an excellent poster for all visitors to see in the lobby.

Photos of Jersey City and PS 17 by Dennis Buonagura


Other Art News

Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Ardelia Lovelace who participated in Live From Brooklyn Series at The Brooklyn Museum. For Freedoms News is an artist-led reimagining of television news. A news program as well as a live art installation, performance, and conversation from the For Freedoms ecosystem for creative civic participation in advance of the 2022 midterm elections. We will post a link to enjoy the episode soon!

Photos send by Ardelia, who is pictured on the far right in photo on left


Kudos to ART YARD Teaching Artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell on her exhibition TRAP November 5 - 20, 2022 at Arcade Project, 56 Bogart Street #122, Brooklyn, NY 11206

Support Aisha by attending the Opening Reception: Saturday, November 5, 6-9 pm

From the curatorial essay: “Bell explores the "ratchet" as a space where the "wretched of the earth" can find their voice and power. The figures are not portraits but archetypal; they "make themselves" as the artist models the clay. The limits of two-dimensional space, a literal and metaphorical Flatland, signify how racial, gender, and class stereotypes can flatten identity into a form more suitable for consumption. The trap is "a metaphor for the state of the African in America – trapped, but watched as entertainment (music, sports, dance, the 24-hour news stream)." ~ M Charlene Stevens, Director of Arcade Project

Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Peppermeant, 2022, Clay, glaze, acrylic paint, copper leaf on wood, 11x14 inches


In connection with her recently published book Women Holding Things, Maira Kalman has several pieces on view at Mary Ryan Gallery, 515 West 26th Street, NYC through November 12, 2022. As ever, Kalman’s paintings are beautiful, intelligent and quirky. I particularly loved her choice to pencil the titles directly to the wall under the work.

Maira Kalman, Virginia Wolff Barely Holding it Together, 2021, Gouache, 20 x 24 inches


I was deeply moved by Other Stories, Jared Owens on view through November 9th at Malin Gallery, 515 West 29th Street, NYC. Drawing on significant events and phenomena that have been formational during and after his incarceration, the artist constructs works that make visceral the oscillating experiences of confinement, human dignity, beauty, and erasure.

Jared Owens, Other Stories installation view



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