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Magical Things & A Blue Tongued Skink

Amidst lots of required testing and rescheduling at MS 226 in South Ozone Park, 6th graders finalized their pieces by adding watercolor environments as backgrounds.

During critique, students offered their thoughts on why and when they considered their works as complete and took the advice of Teaching Artist Jane Huntington about where to add details and highlights and when to recognize that a piece is done.

During the after-school program (which has grown into a lively group of 13), students worked closely with Jane on a lesson about the transformation of animals - well, sort of. One group completed the 'exquisite corpse' creatures while others listened to Jane's written deceptions of uncommon animals and drew from words and imagination. Jane showed beautiful prints of the tapestries hanging in the Cloisters (a division of the Met Museum) depicting unusual looking lions. She explained that these tapestries were made long before the existence of photography, air travel and, of course, the Internet so artists only had written explanations of what certain animals looked like (having never seen them). The results varied - all fitting the descriptions but not looking like lions as we know them.

Discussions and vocabulary words included: cloistered convents and monasteries, unicorns, drawing from written descriptions, composition, mixed media.


Wednesday students and teachers from MS 226 traveled to Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook Brooklyn to view my exhibition Spotlight on The Flatfiles: A Portrait of My Mother.

We engaged in a lively discussion about my wall of Magical Things From My Mother’s House asking about specific objects and in the process they all started to get to know the sort of person my mother was – a Fall River, Massachusetts born, well-read, art-loving, piano player, with a well-stocked kitchen (for a start).

With firsthand experience using watercolor, the young artists were particularly impressed with the scale of some of my large Inside/Outside Windowphilia pieces, some of which are close to seven feet tall! They asked astute questions about my technique as well as the ideas behind my work.

Students selected favorite pieces from the exhibition to draw. These works will be completed in the next couple of weeks.


The cycle of life continues .... literally (and artistically). At PS 770 The New American Academy in Crown Heights, students transferred their images depicting the cycles of various forms of life (now including the life cycle of a star!) onto larger sized paper and added color using marker and crayon.

Using templates prepared by Teaching Artist Fatima Traore, students traced different sized circles onto their rectangular-shaped paper and added background environment beyond the circle. This project will ultimately become mixed-media works with the planned addition of watercolor backgrounds.

Intern Leslie Ramirez is a great asset to our programming. She worked closely with several 5th graders who needed a bit of extra encouragement to move forward with their pieces - and to great success!

Several classrooms at PS 770 have class pets - mostly reptilian. One 2nd grade classroom has a friendly Bearded Dragon named, quite appropriately, Spikey, who became the subject of several of the students' works. Spikey got to see his portraits close up as students happily brought their works over to his abode to show him. He also was the basis of one student's decision to create a life cycle of a reptilian humanoid. In yet another classroom, a blue-tongued skink playfully said HELLO to Fatima by wagging his tongue at her when she passed.

At critique, students clearly showed their newly acquired skills of observation of details and the recognition of their classmates' intentions and hard work. Additionally, ART YARD BKLYN is grateful to the excellent participation by PS 770's classroom teachers.

Also at PS 770 this week our other section of third – fifth grade friends worked with me and Teaching Artist Rachel Rath on their contour line drawings filled with depictions of short-long-pointed-bent-zigzagging and spiraling pencils.

Working with colored pencil and crayon, most students were able to add color to their work. And our super-sonically focused fifth graders were able to complete their drawings.

During critique we were all duly impressed with the range of style and approach within the group. Fifth grade teacher Ms. Bannon complimented her students on level of concentration evidenced by the silence in the room as we worked and in the great artworks created in this session!


In other news: Intern Kyra Novick is in Tabago on a very exciting winter-term intensive course through the biology department of the College of Staten Island.

Kyra writes: “This photo is in Castara, where we had a talk about one man's sustainability efforts to provide trash cans to the town that was riddled with trash. The town is so much cleaner and since the efforts have been implemented, in January Styrofoam was banded. The days are really long here and Wi-Fi is very limited. There are birds everywhere and its gorgeous!”


I hope if the predicted snow actually comes our way, that you will have a chance to build a snow-sculpture! If you do, please send us a picture!!

Rik and Lola at the window on a snow day


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Dennis Buonagura
Dennis Buonagura

Such happy and focused students!



Thanks so much for taking the time to read our ART YARD recap!

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