Friday, June 4, 2010

Tie One Hand Behind Your Back

'Students during Residency', Drozda

About five years ago as part of my studio outreach into the community I developed the Wren House StudioVisiting Artist Program and Teaching Studios for young artists at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia.

I simply love to visit Virginia Beach schools no matter the grade. The Virginia Beach City Public Schools Arts Programs are richly diverse and content driven. The art rooms on every grade level are inspired. I come in, as a working professional (not as an art teacher), for a week of demonstration and with each grade create a different project. My main concept is that whether you grow up to be a sports jock, a marine biologist, a veterinarian, or an office worker... you can choose, at any time, to live a natural 'Art/Life' can choose to live simply and creatively. 

This past week, and next, the challenge is to engage students while I'm wearing a full arm cast. As a result of that we really have been able to delve a bit more deeply than usual into the live simply part.

I believe in setting a tone so I always provide a nature table. In the center sits the famous image of earth from space with the caption, 'Good planets are hard to find'. Surrounding this iconic image are found treasures from my walks and travels. There is everything from a slider turtle's shell to a whale's vertebrae to stones (with large embedded snail shell fossils) from a trek in Nepal plus many other tactile curiosities:

'Nature Table', Drozda
found objects

I also install large pieces of my work in the school lobby and my 18' long 'River Runner' is laid down so that students 'walk down the stream' as they enter the art room:

'River Runner', Drozda
Acrylic/Marine Urethane/canvas

Being able to walk on a painting may be one of the delights of the day for each student and their teachers.

With a pencil, a piece of paper and a broken arm I invited each class in turn to time me for three minutes as I drew, with my non dominant hand, using a black and white lithograph of a bird or animal as my 'model'.

'Peregrine Falcon', Drozda
3 minute pencil/nondominant hand
photo by Angeles Gonzales

At the end of my three minutes they would ooo and ahhh at how well I did. Then their big surprise followed when I offered to be their time keeper as they challenged themselves in the same way. Every student was excited to give it a go.

 Student work
3 minute pencil nondominant hand
photo by Angeles Gonzales

After the non dominant hand they put the drawing away and did another drawing, using the same 'model' and their regular drawing hand.

3 minute non & regular hand
photo by Angeles Gonzales

And lastly, they put everything away except for a clean sheet of paper and now the challenge was to create a memory drawing.

non&dom&memory drawing
photo by Angela Gonzales

I have had such a great time experiencing the sheer unadulterated delight of discovery through each grade, and each child, that it may have given me a whole new approach to the visiting artist model.

See you Monday as we 'Follow the Moon'

~May you sing your day


  1. I've been wondering how your non-dom week's progressed and it's obviously been fabulous!! Dang you are good - your falcon is somethin' somethin'! and so are all the kids - this is inspirational. I always have loved your walk on art works, too. You are a vision shifter, and I'm into that this week! xo K

  2. how fun for everyone....even us blog readers. i'm fascinated that what i think are the non-dominated drawings are the ones that look best to me as far as free and pure.
    thanks for sharing so much of your experience here, fun to see.

  3. Nice to know there is still art in a public school...lucky children...hug, hug

  4. I enjoyed that! The non-dom drawings have such character .... soul .... or something more.

  5. Most interesting... the 'non dominant' drawings are excellent... the whole project must be great fun.
    I look forward to Monday's blog about 'the moon'

  6. Interesting. My memory drawings of birds are still very much like the ones posted here. Maybe memory takes parts from all species and converts it into one strange bird; whatever, they make me smile.

  7. how lucky these children are to have you as a teacher!

    I love the River Runner. It looks so rich and inviting.

  8. I too have enjoyed being a resident artist in the VBCPS. What a different experience from being the art teacher (and I loved both). The river walk and the memory drawings are such great ideas. I commend you for taking on this challenge with a broken wrist and large cast!

  9. What great ideas you have! Drawing with the non-dominant hand is really a good exercise, and it sounds like you and the kids had a blast. Reminds me of how much i used to enjoy teaching art; there's nothing like the freedom of a kid's drawing!

  10. Sounds like you gave the kids quite the treat with all your fun activities.

  11. What a wonderful act of service to the world. Sounds like such a wonderful and important perspective (and exercises) to offer these young people. I am in awe of it all. And such wonderful quick thinking to turn this accident into a wonderful teachable moment. A very deep bow to you!!

  12. Iona, I'm struck by what a great art foundation the schools are providing so that when you come in, you and the students can soar! Your workshop (and you) crosses the boundaries of science, art and ecology and reflects the kind of integration/wholeness we all seek (whether we know it or not!) Thank you & Namaste.

  13. Oh thank you all so much!!!
    Your comments, one and all, lift my spirits even higher than the week already has.
    I'm plunkin' along here with two non-dom fingers so this time I will simply send out a hug to all....before I come by to visit you.

  14. You are an awesome teacher... I wish I was one of those students.. trying my hand in a quick sketch... and get to walk on the River Runner... Love it!

  15. How positive you are to make lemonade out of a lemon. Drawing with the non dominate hand takes such discipline. I love the floor runner and the idea of being part of the art. Think I'll go paint one! :O)

  16. non-dominant hand doesn't hold any of your students or you back! what a great lesson for us all


Thanks for stopping '-)