Archive for the 'Education' Category

Early Education and Eye Spy Art

When you observe curious, giggling, fidgeting four year-olds, it’s hard to imagine them as future businessmen and women. But these young minds are absorbing everything around them at a rapid rate and statistics show early education is the key to future academic success. (The young brain forms more than 700 neural connections every second!). However, only 54% of Hispanic and African American students in South Carolina graduate from high school, and more rural “dropout factories” exist here than in any other state in the country. Research shows that the opportunity gap between low and high income students begins before kindergarten and widens over time. This makes early educators a critical first line of defense against educational inequity.

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Eye Spy students at the First African Child Development Center

The Gibbes Museum of Art has partnered with Charleston County First Steps to introduce preschool children to the fundamentals of art in a hands-on way. Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education, and a team of teaching artists and museum educators have joined with First Steps Child Development Centers to offer experiences with colors, shapes, lines, textures, portraits, landscapes and pictures that tell a story.

“Gibbes educators and teaching artists are assisting the child care centers teachers on how to use the visual arts to expand their classroom curriculum. They demonstrate using literature, music and theater as well as hands-on art to encourage deeper learning of shape, line and color. The children are now recognizing these concepts in the world around them. Because the Gibbes educators and teaching artists are working with teachers and children on a continuous basis, they are forming relationships and are eager to learn more,” says Mrs. Sailor.

Lorraine Powers, chair of the Charleston County First Steps board and former Gibbes board member sparked the initial idea to encourage more African-American families to engage with the Gibbes museum through Eye Spy, an in-school program originally designed to help Charleston County School District elementary students look at and talk about art. Gibbes’ museum educators work with classroom visual arts teachers throughout the school year, creating interactive lesson plans. Classroom visits, using objects from the Gibbes’ collection, and major artists highlight the elements of art, introduce broad explanations of style, and teach students to compare and contrast.

Mrs. Powers says, “I think it’s really important to expose all young children between the ages of three and five to a variety of experiences. Young children are like sponges and absorb everything. Who knows, there may be a Jonathan Green, Romare Bearden or David C. Driskell amongst them, but first they have to know/see what is possible.”

eye spy students

Museum Educator Elise Detterbeck teaching students about movement

In 2013 the pilot project was supported by the Continental Society, an international public service organization dedicated to the socioeconomic and cultural welfare of underprivileged children and youth, and Charleston County First Steps, who joined forces to provide funding for this endeavor. Charleston County First Steps helps to prepare young children to reach school healthy and ready to learn.  The Eye Spy First Steps program is now offered in seven child development centers including Carousel, Child & Family, First African, Van Buren, New Israel, NIA, and Foster’s led by Gibbes Museum educators and teaching artists.

“The Eye Spy program works with children who are not often exposed to visual art concepts and cultural art pieces. The program expands their world by introducing them to the artworks from the Gibbes Museum, as well as to art concepts in general. It’s been inspiring for me to see the children gain an appreciation for art and the joy it brings them. The children also discover that there is a wonderful art museum in their own city that they never knew about and now can’t wait to visit when the museum reopens! The Eye Spy program is designed in a really fun, engaging way that makes them really want to be part of the world of art,” says teaching artist Leonora Dechtiar.

We look forward to continuing this program and incorporating field trips to the museum when the Gibbes reopens in spring of 2016. Engaging the students with actual works of art allows for a richer experience for these young students. Paintings that have been discussed in the centers will be seen in their actual, full enormity, and richness of color.
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Did you know we currently have 15 active museum educators and teaching artists teaching and collaborating! These hard working educators have great insight into the value of arts education and we’ve decided to profile them here! Meet our Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Else with Eye Spy students

Else with Eye Spy students

Why is art an important part of learning?  

I view art as a window to the world. We all need to look beyond our little corner of the world to expand our experiences and grow. Art shows us how people live and think today and in the past in the United States and all over the world. It helps us understand ourselves and others. I see this every time I work with children either at the Gibbes or in the schools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traditional painting or a very modernistic sculpture. They look, they think, and they respond.

How long have you been teaching and why did you get involved in teaching?

When I chose French as my major in college, I never really thought about what I’d do with it. I floated into teaching and loved it. A new language is also a window to another world, and I really thrived on leading students into that new world. Teaching children how to talk about art is similar, but easier. It’s more open-ended, more forgiving, and more expansive. With art you can teach almost any subject and students can respond in an increasing variety of ways after learning to look, think, and then respond.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

I have a lot of great memories of students looking at art, but this may be my new favorite:

With my third grade Eye Spy students we were talking about genre scenes, which we call “pictures that tell a story.”  I showed them on the Smart Board a picture of 3 of my grandchildren (ages 20 months, 5, & 8) squished together on a sofa, all reading books in their pajamas. We talked about the elements of art in that photo, the medium used and then we got into the Who? What? When? Where? Why? game to figure out the “story.” They decided very quickly that these were (who?) 3 siblings (what?) reading their favorite books (where?) in their home (when) on a day off from school (why?) due to a snowstorm. Then all of a sudden, they said: “Wait a minute, are those YOUR grandchildren?” What thrilled me was that they could, from the picture, support every assumption they made, without any help from me.

For over 100 years, education has been central to the mission of the Gibbes. Serving more than 15,000 preK-12th grade students each year, the Gibbes interactive programs develop intellectual and aesthetic skills while addressing South Carolina Learning Standards. We are so grateful to have the support of educators like Elise who have been instrumental to the success of these programs.

To learn more about the value of art education, here are a few recent articles:

What to do if your Child’s First Love is Art?

Art Education Poised for a Comeback in Nation’s Largest School Districts

Bringing Back What Works in Education

Art of Healing, Understanding the Five Elements

Q&A with Lisa Dunlevy

AOH_march

 

Please explain the psychology of the five elements.

The Five Elements are stages of transformation: Water (birth), Wood (growth), Fire (ripening), Earth (harvest), and Metal (decay). They are different aspects of nature, as are we, and are known as “Wu Xing.” There are numerous parallels to each element including a corresponding season, climate, emotion, sound, smell, archetype, and even an organ.

For example, the wood element corresponds to springtime and the experience of walking outside, seeing the buds in the trees, and feeling hopeful. Watching the green sprouting from the ground, the trees, and vines is a visual experience and the element wood connects with having a vision, a plan, and a sense of creativity. Maybe you know someone with a lot of creative rising energy, or someone who lacks vision and doesn’t have a plan. This would be examples of how we are either gifted, or deficient in this element. All five elements are found within the individual, but there is one element that stands out and determines how we relate to the world.

How do you determine someone’s element?

When a new client calls me I listen to her/his voice. Then I also take into account what is ailing them, what part of the body is involved, are they frustrated with their condition, are they overwhelmed, have they waited a long time to call, or do they want to get this resolved immediately? When they are come into the office, do they move quickly, or slowly, what do they do for a living? These are all pieces to observe who that person is and to determine their constitutional element. Then we can move onto the virtues of each element, which helps with healing and becoming aligned with our purpose. The virtues of each element are Wisdom, Listening (water), Benevolence (wood), Partnership, and Truth (fire), Thoughtfulness and Support (earth), and Respect (metal). We aspire to have all of these, but one is most important to us. This part can also become taxed or imbalanced, and becoming our best selves and recognizing our natural talents can be very healing.

Can you explain what participants can expect from this workshop?

The class will consist of an introduction into the five element theory. We will also take a short quiz to evaluate which element we align with. Then we will either have a few volunteers share about their element, or gather in groups of each element. We will also have time to address questions, and then we will practice the Dance of The Phoenix Qi Gong practice.

What are the benefits of Qi Gong Practice? What does this type of movement involve?

Qi gong is a beautiful practice of moving our bodies to open the various meridians and bring harmony back to our bodies and mind.  It is best described as a moving meditation that uses our breath and bodily movements to open blocked meridians and support the flow of qi or energy.  It is a practice that helps us become more vital and calm, which is a beautiful combination.

Finally, how do you describe the connection between art and healing?

Learning about the five elements allows for healing as we recognize that we all have a unique gift or genius, that our challenges can also be our strengths and when we are aligned with our ‘dao’ we can find our purpose.

Join us to discover your element in Understanding the Five Elements with Lisa Dunlevy on Tuesday, March 3 from 5:30-7:30pm.

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 East Bay Street

$35 Members, $45 Non-Members

Art To Go Teachers Inspiring Young Minds!

Arts education provides students with a sense of personal worth and fosters an appreciation for creativity and innovation. Education specialists across the county agree that effective arts education promotes self-directed learning, sharpens critical thinking skills, develops self- awareness, improves school attendance, and encourages positive behavior! These are just a few of the reasons we have developed education outreach programs like Art to Go. Working in partnership with Charleston County School District Title I schools, Art to Go combines art making and instruction through experiences with real works of art. Gibbes Teaching Artists work with art teachers in six schools on a specific project or to complement their curriculum. Each year Art to Go collaborates with the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts. Completed projects were on display at the Marathon Expo in January.

Art To Go Project

Art To Go Project from Mitchell Elementary. Teaching Artist Leonora Dechtiar

Each year the Art to Go grows in strength and numbers! We asked each of the four art teachers to share a few words with us about their experience in the classroom.  Sally Collins, a long time Gibbes teaching artist, was not available for an interview, but you can see her student’s work pictured below.

Art To Go

Art To Go Project From Pinehurst Elementary, Teaching Artist Sally Collins

Q. How many years have you been involved in Art to Go and how do you decide on your project each year?

Kristen: This was my third year working with Art to Go. Each year I try to plan a project that is inclusive to all ages, while also using different art forms and mediums. This year we created a large paper mache Angel Oak tree sculpture. This was the first time many of the students had created such a large work, used paper mache, and made a sculpture. The students took pride in the assembly of the tree and helped each other apply the wet sheets of paper around our wire frame to build the tree. Fourth and fifth graders tied and cut out leaves, work that required a lot of patience and detail. Each week the classes would come in to check the tree’s progress to see it go from a wire frame to a wet paper mache base to a fully painted trunk to then being full of branches and leaves.

Art To Go

Art To Go from Angel Oak Elementary, Teaching Artist Kristen Solecki

Leonora:

I have been involved in Art to Go twice, once in 2012 and again this year. I decided on the concept for the projects based on what grades I’d be working with, what materials were available, and what the kids would benefit from. For example, the first year we created a clay mosaic because I had access to a kiln for firing the clay. This year, we also made a mural but instead we used a mix of different materials, such as paper, paint, aluminum foil, and model magic clay. I made sure to use materials the students normally didn’t work with or worked with rarely, so that they could learn something new.

Hannah:

This was my first year with the program!  I researched different ideas, and met with my teachers a few weeks before class to discuss what their thoughts were.  The projects ended up being collaborative ideas between what we thought would be really fun, but also informative.

Q. Tell me about your student’s experiences with art. What do you hope they walk away with or remember about creating art?

Kristen:

From my experience it seems that art class is one of the opportunities  that students look forward to most. It is the opportunity to learn new mediums, work with your hands, and a place where all skill levels are welcome because uniqueness is encouraged.

Leonora:

I think what my students remember the most from their experience is the joy of using materials they have never used and exploring those materials with a sense of excitement and curiosity. I think it’s special for them to have a guest come in to their art room and this excitement carries over to their art making. I think art is primarily about having fun and expressing one’s creativity, and if we achieved that, I think that’s the most important goal. The other thing my students took away from it was an exposure to the Gibbes Museum and their connection to the history and art of Charleston, which is so important for them.

Hannah:

I hope that they hold on to the feeling that comes with creating something that you’re really proud of.

Q: How do you think art enhances education?

Kristen:

Art enhances education in countless ways. Through these projects I can see first-hand how art teaches not only new skills and techniques for making art, but also how to work as a team, problem solve, and be creative.

Leonora:

Art, unlike many other subjects, gives the children an opportunity to use their hands and develop their fine motor skills, which is important to have in any future career. Also, art gives children an opportunity to expand and practice using their creativity and imagination. Without creativity, I don’t think you could be a good scientist. Also, art gives students a chance to relax, have fun, and unwind from a day that may be filled with stress. I noticed that when the kids worked with clay in the art room, they were relaxed when molding the clay. I think art has a therapeutic effect in children and can relieve stress, which allows them to focus more on other subjects.

Hannah:

Art helps people express themselves in a way that’s different than other educational activities. Instead of writing something down, or acting something out, kids are given the opportunity to physically create something that’s completely their own.  That’s an accomplishment in itself, and I think it helps build a sense of confidence and self-worth.

Arttogo_blog2

Bios:

Kristen Solecki is an illustrator and art educator that uses paint and ink to translate stories and moments using strong changeable line work and bold color.  She has created work for publications such as Taproot Magazine, Uppercase Magazine, Skirt Magazine, the television show, Mad Men, as well as for galleries and shops across the U.S. You can see her work at www.kristensolecki.com

Leonora Dechtiar has her BFA in Illustration from Maine College of Art and her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Savannah College of Art and Design. She studied art for a semester in  Spain, where she developed a deep appreciation for art history. She loves illustrating for children, and  has published with Studio 9, Inc., which publishes educational materials and coloring books for children. After getting her certificate in art education, Leonora has worked as an art teacher at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC for two years. She also spent a year and a half in Beijing, China teaching art at an international Montessori school.

Hannah Durant grew up in Alexandria, VA and went to college at Elon University. After she graduated, she moved back to Virginia to get a “real” job and quickly realized that wasn’t her path.  Hannah has spent the last two years in Charleston, SC working with creative businesses in different capacities, and building on her interests.

Sally Collins holds a Commercial Art Degree, Bachelor of Social Science Degree, and Master in Teaching (MIT) Degree. She has previously taught Art, English, and 4th grade at the First Baptist School in Mt. Pleasant,  1st and 3rd grade at Midland Park Elementary in Charleston County as well as Art at Trident Academy in Mt. Pleasant. She has served as a Gibbes Teaching Artist for over 5 years with experience in summer camp, after school classes as well as Art to Go.

Unlocking the Secrets of Jeremiah Theus with Colonial Williamsburg Conservator Shelley Svoboda

The passage of time, layers of grime, discoloration, and improper restoration efforts can all hide the true grandeur of an artist’s original work. When this happens, art museums and private collectors alike turn to professional conservators to return a painting to its original glory. The conservation process not only restores a painting to a displayable condition, but when done properly, it also provides clues to an artist’s individual techniques.

At last week’s Insider Art Series event, Colonial Williamsburg Paintings Conservator, Shelley Svoboda, shared her recent experiences in the conservation of paintings by eighteenth century Charleston artist Jeremiah Theus (1716-1774). Among the earliest artists painting in Colonial America, Theus, a native of Switzerland, arrived in Charleston in 1735 as a fully trained painter. He is best known for his portrait paintings and seems to have enjoyed a good deal of success painting Charlestonians in his vibrant Baroque style. Svoboda’s talk inspired new appreciation for this early American artist and encouraged audience members to look closely at the physical aspects of a painting from the canvas and stretcher frame to the artist’s distinct brushwork, impasto, and layering of paint colors.

Highlighting examples from Colonial Williamsburg and the Gibbes permanent collections, Svoboda discussed challenges conservationists face when working with centuries old paintings and demonstrated the techniques used to uncover the artist’s true hand. For example, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s 2012 acquisition of the painting, Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas by Jeremiah Theus, added to that institution’s existing portraits by the artist creating a small, yet informative set of works representative of the artist’s oeuvre. However, major treatment was required on the new acquisition, involving careful removal of overpaint from the entire background to once again reveal the artist’s long-lost original.

In the conservation lab Svoboda used ultraviolet light to discern areas of heavy overpaint, and infrared photography and a surgical microscope to see the artist’s working technique. Once the overpaint was removed a layer of heavy grime was revealed, and preserved beneath the grime was the original painted surface ready to be revealed.

Conservation of Jeremiah Theus painting

Conservation of Jeremiah Theus painting

Before, Jeremiah Theus conservation

(Before conservation)
Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas (Mrs. John Deas), 1759, attributed to Jeremiah Theus

 

After Conservation

After Conservation efforts

The Gibbes is one of the largest repositories of Theus’s work with twenty-two paintings by the artist in its holdings. During her visit Svoboda had the opportunity to review four of the Gibbes Theus paintings including the companion portraits of Charlestonians William and Mary Mazyck painted by Theus in the 1770s. 

These paintings were moved to Canada by family descendants after the Civil War and were returned to Charleston in the 1980s as a gift to the Gibbes collection. Never before exhibited, Svoboda considers these paintings true treasures as they remarkably retain much of their original paint surfaces. Both are in need of cleaning and stabilization to remove the dirt, grime, and other signs of age that have drained the works of their original vibrancy. With professional conservation these paintings, like that of Elizabeth Allen Deas, could be returned to their original glory.

Shelley reviewing Jeremiah Theus paintings from the Gibbes permanent collection

Shelley reviewing Jeremiah Theus paintings from the Gibbes permanent collection

This spring the Gibbes will launch an Adopt a Painting program in order to raise funds for the conservation of paintings that will be featured in the new installation of the permanent collection. Stay tuned for more exciting conservation news!
Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections

Image credits:

Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas (Mrs. John Deas), 1759, attributed to Jeremiah Theus

Images courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Building the Gibbes Gator

Gibbes Gator Mascot

Gibbes Gator Mascot, designed by Erin Banks

Art education for children is a fundamental component of the Gibbes Museum of Art. Throughout the year we offer a variety of programs to students of all ages in school and at locations throughout the tri county area. When we reopen in the spring of 2016, the first floor of the museum will be dedicated to classroom space for children and adults. A year ago, Rebecca Sailor, curator of education, introduced the idea of creating a museum mascot. Rebecca felt it was important to have a visual symbol of the museum that could engage and interact with children and families inside and outside of the museum. We began brainstorming with Erin Banks, our graphic designer, and came up with the concept for the Gibbes Gator. We launched the Gator in our summer camp brochure and have been using him on all marketing materials related to children’s programming. Our next step was to reach out to Charleston County School of the Arts visual arts teacher Marie Nichols to ask if her students would be interested in bringing our Gator to life. We wanted a life sized gator who could interact with children at events and eventually, in the museum during school tours, classes, and camp sessions. Marie immediately said yes, and recommended sophomore costume design student Julia Dotson. We met with Julia in September and she agreed to take on the project of building our mascot. We spoke to Julia recently and asked her to give us a glimpse into this exciting project.

When did you become interested in creating art? Or, when did you realize you had a talent for art?

Well, I have been creating ever since I could remember. One of the first toys that my mom ever gave me was a plain black marker and one of those ginormous packs of computer paper. And even when I was small, I remember accumulating inspiration from PBS shows that had something to do with creating, even if it was something like Bob the Builder or a tutorial on how to make Aladdin’s magic carpet out of strips of paper. And I guess I realized I was entirely infatuated with creation was when I decided to try out for the School of the Arts and finally took art lessons— besides the ones offered by the South Carolina public school system. But I never realized that I had a talent until someone like the Gibbes Museum came to ask for a commission!

How long have you been a student at SOA?

I have now attended School of the Arts since the sixth grade, which would be over four years.

Costume design is a new major at SOA, can you tell me more about this major and what it entails? Do you see this as something you will continue to pursue at the college level?

Currently, each costume design student is learning the foundations of sewing and garment making, such as learning to sew a zipper or the daunting, yet exhilarating task of pattern making. And as the year goes by, I believe that we will learn more comprehensive things, for instance, making an entire garment from pattern to embellishments (which sounds easy, but is actually a very difficult task).

The field of costume design currently is one the interests that I have in mind for a college major, my choice, however, still weighs between this, fashion design, and the fine arts.

Gibbes Gator

Gibbes Gator designed by Julia

What was your reaction when we presented the Gibbes Gator project to you? Did this project seem overwhelming?

I was initially honored and trilled to make something for the only art museum in all of Charleston. This is a place I went when I was just six years old and gazed at monumental paintings. And at the time I was offered the commission, it did not appear to be overwhelming, but when I actually started to work on the project I realized that I’d underestimated the amount of attention one costume needs. The actual carving of the foam for each body part proved not as the most troublesome, but actually finding the materials turned out to be the most difficult part. I wanted to capture the ‘chummy’ quality of the drawing that I was presented with (designed by Erin Banks, Gibbes graphic designer), and found that faux lime green upholstery alligator leather would not do the job. After about a month of searching for the perfect, child-friendly material, I finally found the perfect pea green corduroy.

This is something that you are working on outside of school, how are you finding the time?

I genuinely enjoy sitting at home with Edith Piaf music or the television show Twin Peaks in the background while I attempt to create an alligator out of foam and green corduroy pants!

Julia at work on the Gibbes Gator

Julia at work on the Gibbes Gator

Tell me about the process of designing the Gibbes Gator.

Like most of my sculptures ‘Gibbes the Gator’ consists of paper mache and malleable fabric, but this is my first experience carving foam, which I found not as pleasurable as sculpting strips of paper together. But as a mentioned before, trying to find green corduroy in Charleston was a very difficult thing!

The smock that makes up approximately half of the note garment is just a thin canvas material that is standard for most artist smocks. That’s why I wanted to keep the entire garment to a certain style, which was The Wind in the Willows. I first saw this production in California, and was inspired by Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (hence the abundant use of corduroy). This led to the look I wanted for the Gator, which is almost like a man magically made into an alligator that can sing and dance. It’s as if the whole world is a musical!

What has been the most rewarding and the most frustrating aspects of this project?

To be honest, the most exasperating part of this project was finding the materials, and then having to redesign over and over again to accommodate for abilities and resources that were available. Yet, the idea that I am making an entire costume that other people will enjoy is a catalyst to keep working to finish this protracted task!

We are so grateful to the School of the Arts and to Julia for agreeing to take on this challenge! If you are interested in donating to this project, please visit Rally.org or contact Rebecca Sailor at 722.2706 x41 or rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Dancing through Life as Art

At the upcoming Art of Healing series, Nia faculty member and teacher trainer Stephaney Abilon will be offering a 2 hour workshop that effects both the brain and the body. Stephaney explains that Nia (pronounced Nee-Uh) is based on 13 principles, the soul of which is the ‘Joy of Movement'; the thing that makes the body feel ALIVE!

Art of Healing Dance

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Nia training faculty member

In the Dancing Through Life as Art workshop, our primary focus will be 3 Parts:

1) Learning that when the body is doing everyday movements, such as walking, and opening doors, etc. we can learn to move our bodies in ways that feel easier, lighter and more free.

2) Discovering the mental benefits that occur when the body is in non-movement to create a living meditation.

3) Begin to perceive everything around us, even ordinary objects as art.

These three components utilize awareness as a key component, without awareness the body simply can’t know anything. This ‘life as art’ perspective creates a body that physically feels better, a brain that has more mental clarity and sense of calm, and provides for everyday inspiration. I like to describe this as living in a body, mind, and spirit that are filled with peach juice as opposed to battery acid! This lifestyle approach can be self-healing on many levels.

Nia dance class

An example of a Nia dance class, from nianow.com

Nia is more than just an exercise containing 13 principles, 52 moves, music and movement forms, it is a lifestyle practice that can change both your body and your life. This workshop will combine philosophy and movement; movement that is simple and available for everyone regardless of fitness level. Nia appeals to professional athletes and dancers as well as arthritics and people with back pain. Nia is available to all.

In this workshop, I will provide participants with tools that allow the body to feel better and more alive, and providing an inspiring way to view the world. Dancing is not separate from life, it exists in our everyday movements. Similarly, art not only exists inside a frame, it exists in everything that surrounds us and can be perceived as such. This will be an opportunity for participants to become inspired as well as embracing their body’s potential to move in such a way that every movement contains beauty, strength, and self-healing.

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Faculty Member of Nia Training and Faculty Member of the Sophia Institute

Art of Healing: Dancing Through Life as Art

Tuesday, October 7, 5:30-7:30pm

$35 Museum Members, $45 Non-Members

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 E. Bay St.

All classes require advanced registration. To register, please visit the website for a registration form or contact Rebecca Sailor at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org or 843.722.2706 x41.


Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

There can be no doubt that our interest in miniature painting was most certainly influenced, and nurtured by studying, admiring, and conversing over the incredible collection of original miniature paintings housed at the Gibbes Museum of Art. South Carolina seems to have been particularly fond of miniature painting, as evidenced by many resident miniature painters, itinerant miniature painters, and patronage of its citizenry over the centuries.

David and Renee at Middleton Place

David & Renee demonstrated Miniature Painting in our Colonial Clothes at Middleton Place. Notice the Miniature of Renee around my neck!

For Renee and me, the interest we share in the fine arts, along with our interest in 18th century history has, for us, its perfect marriage in miniature painting. We decided to seek out an instructor of this discipline, and truly found a gem. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Joan Cornish Willies, a member of the Royal Miniature Society of England, we have been learning the European mode of miniature painting. Ms. Joan has been painting miniatures since around 1937 and has kindly taken us under her wing. She has brought an almost extinct art form back to life for us.

Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

A miniature of Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

We consider it an honor and blessing to have her as an instructor, a considerable resource, and now a dear friend. Ms. Joan has taught us how to mix our own paint from gemstone pigments such as Lapis Lazuli, and Jasper. Much in the spirit of Charleston’s own Charles Fraser, we take great satisfaction in mixing our own pigments when possible to not only get a more unique and valuable miniature made of precious materials, but also to use pigments which have shown they will stand the test of time. At present, I am painting a miniature portrait of Renee that is 2 and a half inches high and utilizes Lapis Lazuli blues, Jasper reds, and Amethyst for some purples, with 24 carat gold lettering that will be housed in a 24 carat gold oval frame meant to be worn.

I initially began painting in oils, but am now using watercolors, which is the medium used in many of the miniatures at the Gibbes. Using a series of nearly a half a million cross hatches, strokes, and dots per painting, the portrait begins to take life. Only small amounts of paint are used. The watercolor is built up slowly, all the while allowing the bright color from the ground or material painted on to show through. A letter from 1800 which describes the painting process in great detail, as well as a treatise written by Nicolas Hilliard during the reign of Elizabeth I, are source materials for using period techniques and getting into the process of these works of art that are also worn as jewelry. Having its roots in Medieval Illumination, Hans Holbein the Younger brought miniature painting to England, and was court painter to King Henry VIII. From the 1530’s to the present, it is fascinating to see how the the miniature has evolved and is still a much valued art.

Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

David’s toolbox

Renee is painting subject miniatures in oils while I am focusing mostly on portraits in watercolor. Our presentation at the Gibbes will show the watercolor technique using period appropriate materials, all from a teak wood box that can be neatly tucked under my arm and carried about from place to place, much like those of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will explain some of the tools, techniques, and pigments, and share with the audience our passion for what we consider one of the most fascinating forms of art not only from our past, but also relevant to the present.

Join David, Renee and Gibbes Curator of Collections, Sara Arnold to learn more about the art of miniatures with Tokens of Affection: Miniature Portraits from the Gibbes Collection.

Saturday, September 27, 10am-12noon

Location: The Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting Street,

$35 Gibbes and Charleston Museum Members, $40 Non-Members

To register, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Renee Gillespie, has a Bachelor Degree in Art from Washington College in Chestertown, MD, and also studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Renee is currently practicing the nearly lost art of miniature painting. Taking instruction from a member of England’s Royal Miniature Society, the oldest miniature society in the world, Renee has been learning the art and discipline in the European Mode. Renee also is gifted in Natural Dyeing, and Batiking. Her Indigo Dyed Cloth has been purchased by the Smithsonian Institution.

David Gillespie, is a full time stone carver, miniature painter, and a 10th generation South Carolinian. He also has authored the recent book, A Brief Treatise on Tomb and Grave Stones of the Eighteenth Century. David is a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Pickens County SC Historical Society and is a grant recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission for his stone work. He has just been selected by the magazine Early American Life as one of America’s Best Craftsmen and selected for the Directory of Traditional Crafts in the August 2014 issue.

More about David and Renee can be found at their website at pumpkintownprimitives.com

 

The Art of the Sea with Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells is an ‘obsessive compulsive’ fisherman. A photo of Kells on her website shows her proudly displaying a Permit that she caught off Cudjoe Key in 2011. “I take a photograph of every fish I catch before I release it,” she says.

Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells at home on the water

Kells is a full-time, highly trained, freelance scientific illustrator with over 30 years of professional experience. She works closely with educational, design, and curatorial staff to produce accurate and aesthetic scientific and interpretive illustrations. She has created over 2,000 illustrations for a wide variety of clients including publishers, designers, master planners, museums, nature centers, and public aquariums and is the coauthor of A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes – from Maine to Texas. “This comprehensive guidebook to all of the fishes found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts should become an integral part of the library of any naturalist, angler, or fish enthusiast,” says Edward O. Murdy, National Science Foundation.

Val Kells Book Cover

A comprehensive guide book to coastal fishes

She is currently working on the Pacific coast version which will include close to 800 species and will be published in the spring of 2016. These comprehensive books are used in classrooms, labs, and on boats by students, scientists, and nature lovers. “I love when people send me photographs of themselves on a boat with a fish in one hand and my book in another,” she says. Kells says her work is ongoing and she will unlikely run out of subjects to illustrate.

Kells’ research is meticulous and each illustration can take up to a full day to complete. She works from her studio in Virginia with the support of an extensive network of associates and colleagues across the country.  She begins with a preliminary pencil drawing to ‘work out the kinks’ paying close attention to the morphology of the species from the number of scales to the placement of fins. When she is satisfied, she transfers the drawing to watercolor paper and begins to paint. “I go into a Zen mode at this point. I turn on some Bruce Springsteen and paint until it’s done.”

Kells began drawing as a very young girl in Rye, New York, and studied art throughout high school. “I also had a deep love of the natural environment from the time I was young. And when my parents sent me to a summer camp in the Florida Keys, I decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she adds. After studying Marine Biology at Boston University, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 1983 and ‘fell upon’ the (then) newly established Science Illustration Program where she was able to combine her two loves: art and science. One of her first clients was the Monterey Bay Aquarium and since then she has worked with over 25 aquariums and museums around the country including the Florida State, Long Beach, and North Carolina aquariums. Kells also worked for our own South Carolina Aquarium when it first opened.

One of the best compliments she received was when a woman mistook her paintings for photographs. Her illustrations are precisely detailed and she says, “The artwork I create cannot be produced by photographic or digital means.” She enjoys working with fishes that are unusual and mimic coral or those that have evolved in fascinating ways. “I also love painting iridescent fishes like Billfishes, Tunas, and Mackerels because they allow the watercolor to do what it does best.” The love of her work and the fishes she carefully constructs on paper is evident in each illustration.

During her upcoming discussion “Art of the Sea” at the South Carolina Aquarium, she will discuss the continuing value of original drawings and paintings in a visual world awash with digital photographs.  Join us for another fabulous Art With a Twist Event to hear Val Kells speak about her creative process on September 24 at 6:30 pm!

For more information about Val Kells visit: www.valkellsillustration.com

Location:  SC Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf

Reception and Book Signing will follow.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

Science + Art + Poetry= Creative Kids

It has been quite some years since I spent a week at summer camp, much less a week inside a school during the middle of the summer.  I have never been expected to combine museum art, music, science, and writing as a student, much less a teacher, but a few weeks ago all that changed.

As a writer, I often respond to art through “Ekphrasis,” a dramatic, literary description of visual work of art.  And I love to teach that exploration of the known and unknown to others.  When Engaging Creative Minds said they were putting a camp together for this summer that was all about putting the arts and science together (read geek here) for kids, I said “Sign Me Up!!”  About the same time, I met Elise Detterbeck and Rebecca Sailor of the Gibbes Museum and learned about the art education program, and when we spoke about the possibility of collaboration at some point, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I have learned to trust this instinct.  It does not denote fear to me. It is the actual feeling of YES, do this, take this path. And that is how the partnership between the Gibbes Museum and my teaching for this summer’s STEAM Camp began.

STEAM

Summer STEAM camp at the School of the Arts

For the week of Gravity, Static Electricity, Magnetism, and Force students, 50-plus 3rd graders and I wrestled images, our bodies, words, and music, and then wrested poems and drawings that invited these concepts of science and the arts to play in our classroom.  I admit that at the beginning, I was daunted by the initial attempt to line up still images from the Gibbes’ collections with these science principles.  Not only because these concepts demand a sense of actual physical movement, but because as a writer and teacher, I wanted my students to understand that these science words, especially gravity and force, mean more than what is seen in a science lab.  This is what the arts bring to the mind, the imagination, the heart.  If I could not give them a glimpse of what else a vortex or a game of tug of war might mean on that “other” level, I would feel I had not done my job.

Each day at camp we began with scientific definitions, of dictionary definitions. We imagined what color gravity is, how static electricity tastes, how magnetism sounds, how force smells, what they all feel like to touch, to be touched by them. Then we looked at the image-texts provided by the Gibbes for us, and let our wonder spill out into our bodies and onto paper.  It is very important to keep 3rd – 5th graders moving!

On day one, we talked about gravity, what holds us and what holds us down and about defying gravity, as we looked at Eden’s Wizard of Oz Series “Inside the Witches House.” Day 2, we stepped up to the Smart Board and mimicked Hagerty’s “Moving with Time” as we became the characters of the painting, then morphed into another version of them, at the imagined touch of static electricity. Day 3 we explored the mystery of Lawrence’s “Accident” up close to the projected image, leaned in and considered what drew us towards both scary and joy-filled events. On Day 4, we spoke of forces, forces for good, forces for evil, making choices and where that force comes from inside of us, with Jansen’s “Lego Bricks” man.

Accident 1946 by Jacob Lawrence

Accident 1946 by Jacob Lawrence

Then we wrote. Each student wrote a 5 line poem, a Cinquain that combined the ideas, concepts, words we had explored that day. We wrote to the art we had seen, the music I played for them that, like the Gibbes’ images gave another contextual avenue to their imaginations. Then we drew. We “pictured” the scientific concepts as objects, just as the Gibbes’ images offered possibilities our brains tied to them.  It was glorious to watch, to hear their minds bend and dance around, (and to watch some of their counselors get as excited as the kids) as they found new ways to conceive ideas, to breathe life into pens and into markers on a blank page.  I wish you could have seen them, the frowns of concentration, the smiles of ah-ha!

On the last day of camp, before they read their poems and showed their drawings to the rest of the camp, and some parents who came to cheer them on, we reviewed concepts of science and writing. We recalled how onomatopoeia is like static electricity, how magnetism pulls and pushes, how each image from the Gibbes made us go, “WOW!”  Then we wrote a poem together, a class poem, that combined all our senses, all our concepts, all our imaginations—the one thing I told them they must bring to class each day. And then, I gave the students markers and pens and the gift of play-dough, (which they could take home courtesy of Engaging Creative Minds) turned on some music, and let them 3-D something, anything they had learned.

I am not an art teacher. What they made was not fine-tuned with artistic skill past what they owned instinctually. But when they molded a piece into the space between two tables, out of curiosity, and discovered what it would do to the clay, giving them a whole new direction to play towards; or when they made a concrete object out of a concept and explained it to the class in simple, eloquent words that intertwined definition #1 with definition #2 or #3, then I could go home, tired, good tired, and smile too.  It was a good week, a hard week sometimes, but each of us grew. Each child and adult who brought their imaginations with them, let them out to play together in the space where the arts meets the sciences, stretched ourselves in ways we might never have imagined, had we not joined our forces, forces for good.

Mary Hutchins Harris, Poet and Guest Blogger

Check the calendar for a full listing of fall classes for adult and children

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