I have finally begun working on my art programmes for this term, after a very long break from teaching over the summer holidays. I stumbled upon the idea of creating ‘anthrophomorpic portraits’, which led me to explore the concept of human-like animals in art and literature in general. The initial idea sprung from funky yet comical portraits by photographer, Yago Partal (right).
My idea is to get students to choose an animal, brainstorm what kind of clothing they will wear and create anthropomorphic portraits using paint or watercolour.
This project links really well into art history. The word ‘anthropomorphic’ simply means attributing human qualities to non human subjects; be it animals, forces of nature, plants or insects.
Humans have a long history of using animals to express personality traits, supernatural abilities, describe the attributes of mythical deities (such as the case in Greek mythology).
Examples of anthropomorphic art and literature popular in today’s culture is overwhelmingly rich. Think teenage mutant ninja turtles, superheroes like Spider-Man and batman, stories like C.S Lewis’ ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’, Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. All of these tales use personification of animals, insects and in the case of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, inanimate objects (remember the talking door and the opinionated flowers?) Examples abound across cultures, too. In aboriginal dreamtime stories and fables from Korea and Japan (not to mention anime-a big obsession with my year 6 group).
I’m excited to see what my talented students come up with on this theme.
My latest goal is to convert our bedraggled old caravan into an art studio. I spent a couple of hours today getting rid of some of the clutter that had been stored in it. Amongst the rubble was some artwork from 5 or so years back..not so long ago, I know, but long enough to bring a bit of nostalgia. I particularly love the Lino print I did, with the words “productivity kills art” scrawled on it with an artliner. This was part of an inner protest against the industrial world’s way of mass producing everything, including “art”. I believed then, and still do, that our creativity is borne more from ‘being’ rather than frantic ‘doing’. Creativity will flourish when we slow down enough to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Looking at my old, and I guess ‘rejected’ artworks helps me appreciate even more my inner yearnings to be the person who can see the amazing, the divine, amongst the ordinary things (I’m not there yet). It makes me realise once again how much I long to create and to ‘be’ an artist. This is a desire that has been in me ever since I can remember. The motives may have been differentiation or perhaps passive rebellion at some point. But whatever…the dream has clung tenaciously all these years, and I must give it credence as I meander along my way. The endless flurry of ‘activity’ is the enemy to my dream.
I read something recently that said that successful people say “no” a lot. I guess that’s because they have certain objectives, and they guard it as precious….they will not agree to anything that does not further their goal or vision. food for thought, I can hear an echo in that famous old Shakespearian adage “this Above all : to thine own self be true”
After a very hectic school year, I find myself caught up in the swirl of Christmas preparations. At the back of my mind I hear a voice telling me this is a good time to really get stuck into my art again. I set aside a painting day today, and while it was somewhat productive (I started a canvas, fiddled around with another one…) there was no oomph or enthusiasm. I felt flat. I’ve been thinking about a quote by Chagall; “when I paint from the heart almost everything works, if from the head almost nothing”
Today I was very much in my head.
I think I need to be true to my style and inklings. I need to be true to my inner muse that takes delight and preference in some ideas more than others. For example, some of my paintings I can look at and remember how much joy they brought me to create. This is the place I need to find again. Perhaps it means to spend time with God, pursuing him more than people. Perhaps some healthy solitude rather than looking for human affirmations.
This is a large painting from a few years back. The reason I post it is that it is one of my favourites; the process of creating it inspired me and nourished my soul.
Tomorrow is another day.
I was inspired by some of the renaissance and pre-raphaellite artists. I love the way the supernatural/spiritual realm often interacts and collides with the earthly and temporal. Angels and bodies can float, size and gravity is obsolete…yet nature still peaks through in sunlight on leaves and folds of material. It’s something worth remembering, too, that the spiritual realm goes beyond fantasy. Like the wind, you can’t see it, but it is there.
I love the work of Aussie artist, Charles Blackman. He has done oodles of paintings based on the Alice in Wonderland story. One of his paintings hangs in the W.A art gallery (‘Blue Alice’). It’s my favourite. Some artists really know how to capture whimsy, without being contrived or clumsy.
Hence, it was a small step to make Blackman and Lewis Carroll’s famous story the catalyst for an art project with my upper primary students. This picture is of their final art piece; a painted table (and chair) setting…a great opportunity to transfer a Blackman masterpiece onto a functional tabletop! This is the unfinished version, but I’m so proud of students from both classes (I have done this project in 2 different schools). Kids worked so well together and we all learnt how complex seemingly ‘simple’ paintings are to reproduce. It’s like getting into the mind of an artist, brushstroke by brushstroke! More pics to come 🙂