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Teaching at Girls Inc.

New Year

Happy new year everybody! I know, it’s already been a month since the year started. I just been so busy working on projects, I’m only now finding time to gather my thoughts. I would love to show you what I’ve been working on but I want to make sure I respect the privacy of my clients.

Teaching at Girls Inc.

What I can share with you is something I’ve been waiting months to do. I have moved my Women Behaving Badly paintings to Girls Inc. of Denver, where they will hang until March 3rd. When I started this series I wanted to inspire young girls with the deeds of the women who have helped to shape our society. I wish I’d had these women as role models when I was young. Now the students of Girls Inc. can see these paintings every day and read about the lives of these amazing women.

Classes

In addition to showing my work in their halls, I’m also teaching three classes a week at Girls Inc. These classes are combination of history lesson and art lesson. I begin by walking through the halls with the girls, looking at the paintings and telling each woman story as I know it. Then we had back to the classroom to review and I find out which woman inspires each girl and why. I ask if there’s anyone else they find inspirational and take note of their responses.

The younger girls are given handouts of women they can research for their own paintings. The older girls get to do independent study of woman of their choosing . I asked him to tell me a story. By day 3, we take a break from academics to do art class. The first day is all about collage where I teach about technique as well as ways to think about color, shape and subject matter. The next day we do some acrylic painting with the same ideas in mind. These will be the key elements of their final project.

The last two classes are where we put it all together. Each girl is given an 18″ x 24″ wooden board to work on and is given the task of telling the story of the woman she is selected through image, word and color. I want them to work on wood so that they see it as a final piece, not just another throwaway school project. I wanted to feel special.

The Final Product

Over the course of eight weeks, I will have worked with second grade through fifth grade. The third-grade class is already finished and the fifth-graders are halfway through. At the end, we will hold an exhibition showing off the girls work to family and friends.

I am loving this opportunity to work with young girls and to hear from them what traits they admire most in the women they’re learning about. I love their openness, their enthusiasm and their spirit of exploration. I can’t wait to see what the next five weeks will bring.

Third grade collages
Third grade collages
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Awesome Podcasts – Part 1

Good morning Afro Triangle Friends. I’m getting a bit of a late start, but it’s the weekend, so I’m allowed. The opening for the Feminine Energy Art Exhibition went well last night. Not too many people came, but what we lacked in quantity, we made up for in quality. I had some great conversations with my fellow artists, our hosts and our guests. Even sold one of each of my Women Behaving Badly posters.

I was talking to this gentleman about my work and started explaining the posters to him. He got so excited about the different women’s stories, he called his wife over. She bought them all right there on the spot. Because she works with a  lot of men, she is going to plaster her walls with the posters to show them how awesome women are.

Enough business talk!

I want to tell you guys about the podcasts I listen to. I know, it’s super nerdy, but this is where I have drawn inspiration for my latest works. It began with Radiolab. In this podcast, our hosts Jad and Ryan explore all kinds of stories, from science and sociology. They use some amazing sound engineering to punctuate the most interesting points. My favorite was when they were talking about the colors different animals can see. They overlaid the voices of a choir to represent each color range. Dogs had only about four voices, while the Mantis Shrimp had a full chorus.

Then I heard Invisibilia. This one is about two women who explore the invisible things that rule all our lives: our thoughts and emotions. They touch on fear, gender, consciousness, and turn each of these on its end. There is an interview with a blind man who is able to get around by using echolocation. They talk to a person whose gender is so fluid, within seconds, they can switch from male to female. You have to hear that one for yourself to even to begin to understand it.

Lately, because of Women Behaving Badly, I’ve been focusing on Stuff You Missed in History Class and History Chicks. What they lack in the production values of the other two podcasts, they more than make up for in information. I have learned about Harriet Tubman and the badass that she was, Josephine Baker, Marie Curie and many more. Stuff You Missed… covers all of history, but History Chicks is only about the women.

If you are a big nerd like I am, I’m sure you have many more podcasts that you can recommend. I’m only naming four here, because this post is getting long, but I will come back with more. I hope you guys have a great day!

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Women Behaving Badly – STEM Panel

Good morning Afro Triangle friends! Today, I want to talk to you about Wednesday’s panel discussion. We will he talking to some local women about STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There has been a shortage of women in this field for decades. Some companies, like LEGO are trying to change that by encouraging girls to play with engineering toys. A number of organizations are on this task as well.

STEM Learning by Design

For more than 13 years, Dr. Yeni Violeta Garcia has worked to encourage underrepresented groups to participate in STEM fields. A leader in STEM in Colorado and the nation, she teaches educators how to create fun, engaging learning opportunities. The numerous programs Dr. Garcia has created disrupt outdated ways of thinking. She believes that all students should have access to high quality, culturally relevant and culturally responsive learning experiences.

Working in the field

What do you get when you cross an artist with an engineer? Shannon Bonk. She works in product development and automation for Geotech. As technology becomes more connected and our lives move automated, what is happening to our humanity? Bonk’s objective is to enhance our human experiences by creating empathy-driven technology. I can’t wait to find at what that means.

By day, Brittany Bennett is a Transportation Engineer for Felsburg Holt and Ullevig. Despite designing roads for a living, she is not responsible for how bad the roads are in CO. When not modeling in CAD, Brittany volunteers as the Executive Director of Engineers for a Sustainable World, a national engineering nonprofit with 50 student chapters across the United States. In her free time Brittany has been known to drink entire pots of coffee at a time.

Up and Coming

I am pleased to announce that in addition to working engineers, we have a student on the STEM panel as well.  Briannah Hill is a 19 year old queer woman studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU Boulder. This is the next generation!

I hope you will join us.

Wednesday, September 14th
Coffee at The Point

If you are on Facebook, checkout the event here. If not, go to the events page on this site by clicking here.

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Why Watercolor?

Watercolors and I have had this strange relationship over the years, where I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with them for a while. I had always associated them with pale landscape paintings that never really interested me. I didn’t know how to work with them at first, and all my pieces were either weak or muddy looking. I wasn’t an expert at oil or acrylic at that time, but I still tried to make watercolors fit into the container of what I thought “real paintings” looked like and how “real paint” worked. I tried to go opaque with them, looking in puzzlement at my set, wondering where my white paint was, not quite realizing their power as a transparent medium. I got frustrated and gave up on them.

Then back in 2003, I got my first digital imaging software, Paint Shop Pro. Through playing with this program, I learned about opacity, hue and saturation and how these things affected the way colors worked together on the screen. I became particularly interested in the opacity setting, experimenting with building up these washes of color, only to realize that this was how I should have been using my watercolor paints all along. I pulled out my tubes of paints again and began picking out the lightest tones in my reference, then choosing progressively darker and darker tones until I had the final effect I wanted.

After that, the real turning point was when I discovered the book “How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself” by Nita Engle. Although she specializes in landscapes, which aren’t really my thing, I really appreciated her approach in using spray bottles of water to move pigment around her heavy papers to create these beautiful effects.

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I loved the juxtaposition of bold colors and soft blending in her works and aspired to achieve something similar. I left that behind shortly thereafter, however, as I realized that I have relatively no interest in painting landscapes and that the human face and form are my muses. I stumbled upon the “New Artist’s Handbook” by Ray Smith, which explains the ins and outs of different drawing and painting media, from oils to watercolors to charcoal. It talks about how each medium is made and how it can be applied in final piece. I learned about wet-on-wet techniques, lifting color out of areas, building up tones and all of the techniques I use to make the paintings I do today.

I have worked in acrylics and dabbled in oils (though I couldn’t stand the smells of the solvents or the paints themselves) but something keeps bringing me back to my watercolors. I love their simplicity, the way they can be reactivated when dry, the minimal cleanup and the way that layering makes them all the more vibrant. Something tells me I’ll be sticking with them for a while.