“Picasso, The Rooster, and Me” — Unexpected Art: Scribbles with Light

I have had the great honor of being able to study photography under Christine Walsh-Newton, a Certified Professional Photographer who just happens to be located near my neck of the woods.  I have long had great respect for Christine and her work, and I feel pretty darn lucky to be able to call her my friend. (You should check out her website, linked above, and her blog, which is phenomenal.)

CWN offered a series of photography classes this past year that I participated in, and I learned a great deal about photography from her.  I most certainly learned to respect it as its own art form, and that despite the cool effects one can get (from Photoshop and “the website that shall not be named” that everyone uses for free photo effects to my beloved iPhone with Hipstamatic), no amount of cool effects on a poor photograph will make it any better.  You have to know what you’re doing and why when you’re capturing light with a camera.

But I digress.  My mini-dissertation on why everyone should take a photography class before they start thinking they’re amazing just by using processing software is going to have to wait.

Today’s post is about drawing with light.  Yes, I typed “Drawing With Light.”  It is possible.  How, you ask?  Easy peasy if you happen to have a camera with an adjustable shutter speed, a tripod, and an endless supply of sparklers.  Add three friends, a warm summer’s night, and the occasional (perhaps adult) beverage, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a par-tay.

Now before you start thinking this was just some sort of lark on which we embarked, there’s legitimate artistic street cred for such a project.  Pablo Picasso (Yes, the Great PP!) experitmented with light drawings and was featured in a spread in Time magazine for said experiments.  You can view his work here.  Basically, the Great PP used a flashlight and drew his creatures in the air, and the photographer was able to capture the “trail” of light left by the flashlight by delaying the shutter speed. (There could be a gigantic technical explanation inserted here to explain why extending the shutter speed captures light trails, and I’m not qualified to give it.  If you are curious, that’s why there’s Google.)

To create this light drawing, I used a sparkler.  Yup, a lit sparkler and 10 seconds was all I had to create this lovely rooster drawing in the air without being able to really see what I was drawing.  Yes, some might call this result “dumb luck.”  I prefer to think of it as eccentric talent.  My friends and I spent a whole night of me being the “Sparkler Arteest” while they tested their camera settings and manipulated shutter speed to capture my photon doodles.  It was a fantastic time.

Picasso Dogs – Who Let the Dawgz Out?

How do you take the concept of abstract / subjective art and teach elementary students how to create it?  You want them to draw something “recognizable,” but not really, and trying to get them to understand the concept of “Abstract” can be difficult.

Enter the “Picasso Dogs” project.  This project is one of my absolute favorites to do with my “ArtRage-ous Ipad Art!” kids at the TCCA.  I found the original instructions in this book, “Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists,” by Carla Sonheim.  It’s a wonderful reference for drawing projects that are very convertable to digital media.  (This book was one of the best purchases I’ve made as I’ve started my art education career.)

This project takes the concept of abstraction and makes it accessible for elementary to middle school aged students. (Although I do have a high school junior who’s been taking classes with me for 3 years now, and I’ve been able to adapt all the lower level projects to more challenging ones for her, so don’t let that stop you from being inspired!)  It deconstructs the process of making abstract art into step-by-step instructions (ie, “Draw a small eye.  Turn your paper. Draw an eye several times larger. Turn your paper,” etc.) 

The results can vary WIDELY — here’s two examples of the Picasso Dogs lab I created with the classes in the fall semester of 2011.


And here’s what the class came up with: