Guest Blog - Meet my friend Art

Meet my friend Art, by Stacy Monowitz, artist and member of the Santa Cruz County Alliance for Arts Education

How it began

Art is my invisible friend. When I am happy, when I am sad, when I want to explore new ideas, I go to Art.

Art and I became friends in elementary school. I have a vivid memory of visiting the library as a second grader and meeting Art in a book about Grandma Moses. She was an old woman (lived to be 101) who painted pictures I could understand, capturing scenes from her childhood. Reading about Grandma Moses and her life long relationship with Art affirmed my aspirations of becoming an artist.

Grandma Moses is one of the master artists we study at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary, where my children attend. The school offers a parent run volunteer program, Art Masterpiece, bringing art lessons into the K-5th grade classrooms on a monthly basis. Combining the resource of volunteers with an interpretive curriculum creates a sequential, state standards based art program that reinforces Common Core skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

We have access to a supply room full of wonderful materials. The first time I saw this supply room I was struck by the potential of combining my two passions; making art and encouraging others to make art! Our lesson plans are supported by teaching guide binders, providing an artist biography, glossary, applicable state standards, step-by-step art projects, digital visual aides, and assessment rubrics.

One of my favorite lessons is based on the artwork of Georgia O’Keeffe. The State Standards covered in this lesson include: identifying the elements of art in objects in nature; emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture; demonstrating beginning skill in the use of art media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, and tempera; and, depicting the illusion of depth (space) in a work of art, using overlapping shapes, relative size, and placement within the picture.

We begin the lesson with an introduction of O’Keeffe, her life, and accomplishments, and then look at examples of her paintings. The students choose a still life object to take to their desk (a shell, flower, bone), and then take a moment to look at their objects from all angles. As O’Keeffe said, “If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.” With a Stabilo watercolor pastel, we lightly sketch in the object to fill – and even go past – the edges (drawing large can be a challenge). Next we fill the page with color, focusing on the elements of art, and making sure to include light and shadow. Watercolor brushes, and a paper towel are passed out with small cups of water. A moment of magic happens when the rich pigment of the pastels becomes liquid color as water is brushed across the paper. Final touches of white tempera paint bring out highlights.

At the end of lessons like these, I feel successful when a student says to me, “I am an artist”. Being a parent volunteer allows me to participate in my children’s education and personally benefit from a live filled with Art.