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Out and About!

ART YARD Art Matters After School at Brooklyn New School is off to a great start! Teaching Artists Fatima Traore and Sarah Gumgumji met the new and talented bunch of students who were eager to create. First there was a brief discussion on art and the processes our new friends enjoy the most. We all agreed that drawing and sketching almost always were involved in each process. This brought the conversation to what it means to draw from life.

Fatima setting up supplies for outdoor after school session

ART YARD Art Matters at BNS students at work

Students drawing from observation

Students participated in some timed exercises, drawing from life and each other. The first set of drawings were based on their surroundings, and the second drawing they were partnered and focused on drawing facial features and/or clothes and accessories. This led to an interesting collection of drawings including a mushroom, baseball field, a fence, charm bracelet, a sneaker, and an image of a hand while drawing. With an outdoor classroom, the inspiration was limitless.

BNS student drawing

BNS student drawing

BNS student drawing

After viewing everyone's drawings, there was an introductory critique that hosted a wonderful round of compliments. Many of those comments mentioned the focus and attention to details each young artist drew with during the session. Fatima, Sarah and the students at BNS all look forward to next week's lesson and the projects that lie ahead.

Teaching Artists Sarah Gumgumji and Fatima Traore on the train platform after class


Kicking off the semester of ART YARD Advanced Studio virtual sessions, I lead a session titled Healing Garden Guided Meditation Drawing. After showing paintings by ART YARD Teaching Artist Claudia Alvarez.

Claudia Alvarez, Girl in the Garden, 2017, watercolor on paper

The outline for our guided meditation:

· Imagine yourself standing in a room

· In the corner is something that has troubled you

· Take a deep breath and as you exhale that thing starts becomes insubstantial.

· Feel a breeze, turn to the breeze and see an open door

· Walk out the door

· You are on a sort of deck, notice the materials.

· Step off the deck onto a path which leads into the garden

· Come to a gate

· In your pocket you have the key

· Using the key, open the gate and step into the most beautiful garden

· Look around, take a deep breath. Identify the flora and fauna.

· Notice the sun rays streaming down (or moon beams if it is night)

· A being is with you and suggests you gather the flowers you find most alluring

· Find a bench with a raised table and put your flowers and plants on display

· Catalog in your mind each one

· Ask yourself or your being why each one is important

Vera and Ed both addressed that thing in the corner.

Vera Tineo, Garden Visualization

Ed Rath, Garden Visualization

Maraya explains: “My drawing was inspired by a deep personal experience. Imagery and color are subdued to create a dreamlike quality. The lavender color palette is reminiscent of the paintings of the 19th Century European painter, Vilhelm Hammershoi.”

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior, Sunlight on the Floor, 1906

Maraya Lopez, Garden Visualization

Robin Grant, Garden Visualization

During critique Ed compared Robin Grant's piece with Maraya Lopez's piece. “In the lesson, Meridith led us on an imaginary path, leading to a wall with a portal into a beautiful, flower filled garden.

Both Robin and Maraya tapped distant memories to incorporate emotion from personal experience into the guided visualization.

Robin recounted an incident from years ago when she was walking in Manhattan and stumbled upon a beautiful private garden (Gramercy Park?) Enchanted by the lovely flowers, her young daughter wanted to go into the garden but they were stopped by an impenetrable wrought iron fence and locked gate. After several futile attempts to find a way in, Robin, with her wailing daughter in tow, walked several blocks east until they found a public park they could enter.

Robin's drawing shows the garden in all it's splendor, with herself and her daughter in the distance gazing through the gate at the forbidden floral feast.

Maraya's exquisite drawing included images of a barbecue sandwich, a cricket, and cacti, in a background tinted with delicate colors. She explained that when her brother was sick in the hospital he always wanted her to bring him a barbecue sandwich. The garden conjured up by Meridith's lesson triggered thoughts of cacti from her home state of Texas. Her brother loved cacti, so she included them in her drawing. Maraya misses her brother terribly, and finds comfort incorporating details about him in her work.

Both of these works illustrate the power of art in processing our emotions.”

Pat and Zeke both envisioned stone walls with an arched wooden portal.

Pat Larash, Garden Visualization, in progress

Zeke Brokaw, Garden Visualization

Delphine, Wayne and I all used watercolors to portray close up views of our flowers.

Delphine Levenson, Garden Visualization

Wayne Gross, Garden Visualization

Meridith McNeal, Garden Visualization

And Marilyn portraying her own alluring garden beyond opened French Doors, created an scene we all felt drawn into!

Marilyn August, Garden Visualization

We are waiting on images from Sarah, Zahir and Sigrid, so check back to see their work soon!


On Tuesday Teaching Artist Rachael Wren taught ART YARD Advanced Studio in-person at FiveMyles.

Rachael explains: "Thinking about the past year and a half. The first week of covid, Meridith put out a drawing prompt on the Art Yard website to draw your hand. I was thinking that would be a good place to start, coming full circle."

With our theme to Heal and Restore in mind, Rachael challenged the Advanced Studio crew to draw hands, hands posed in ways that express the way we felt before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and after the pandemic eased up. To help loosen up, Rachael showed several examples of different ways to use line. These included contour line, broken line, gesture, using one continuous line (no pen/pencil lifts) and an exaggerated, expressionistic type of line. Other types of mark making were also encouraged.

Vera used line and dark shading to create three dimensional form and gravitas in her renditions of hands. She added paper to add a forearm to one hand, thereby endowing it with more power.

Sarah spoke about how she missed going out during the pandemic and of the joys of returning to the gym. With her clear vision and beautiful line work she handily finished the project.

Robin stated she just cannot draw hands, but produced several beautifully observed drawings using a combination of the techniques mentioned above, demonstrating once again her ingenuity and perseverance.

Elizabeth methodically drew from observation with clear form and attention to detail.

Ed drew hands pulling a suitcase, petting his cat, Monte, and grabbing a mug of coffee to show some of the different activities the pandemic phases generated.

At critique, all agreed it's time to put the pandemic behind us. We also concurred that Elizabeth's hand sprouting leafy branches for the future would make the perfect cover image for this weeks recap!


I had arrived earlier in the afternoon to begin installing our exhibition The Way We See It. Teaching Artist’s Reg Lewis and Ed Rath rounded out the installation team. Our large-scale watercolor window paintings on Fabriano paper are pinned directly to the wall. The arrangement of the works in the gallery spurs on a lovely dialogue between pieces – sometimes a thread of color, others composition or content. While the paintings on display are very unique to each artist, there is a cohesion and definite power in the group as a whole.

The distinctive grey walls and shiny floor at FiveMyles does an amazing job at allowing colors to pop and draw the views eye to the artwork on view.

The Way We See It installed at FiveMyles

Please join us for the ARTISTS RECEPTION this Sunday, September 19th from 4-6pm at FiveMyles, 558 St. John’s Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn!!


Speaking of exhibitions, I hope you will join me at Figureworks, 168 N 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Sunday, September 25, for an artist’s reception of Figureworks 20/20.

Figureworks 20/20 installation view

From the gallery's press release: “A cornerstone of the Williamsburg Brooklyn gallery scene, Figureworks opened its doors on April 16, 2000. In these 20 years the gallery has presented the work of hundreds of uniquely talented figure-based artists. To celebrate this anniversary, 20 artists who have continually exhibited with the gallery were selected for Figureworks 20/20, an exhibition that will run from September 18 – October 30, 2021. Including past and present work, these artists exemplify the diverse potential in realizing Figureworks continued mission to represent fine art of the human form…Meridith McNeal first introduced herself to the gallery in 2000 with tours for art educators and students. One of Figureworks most prolific artists and advocates for the arts, Meridith has had five solo exhibitions here while continuing to foster young artists in her Brooklyn-based non-profit program, ART YARD BKLYN.”


Congratulations to ART YARD Board Member Edwin Montoya on the article in the business section of The Hour!

Appétit Bistro Sono

Our Les Amis de ART YARD benefit will take place in Edwin’s newly opened restaurant Appétit Bistro Sono Saturday, November 13, 12:30-2:30pm.


It has been wonderful to be out and about making, thinking, installing and looking at ART!

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