Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What Art has to teach Elementary students

I have been working as a Teaching Artist in different situations for about five years now. It started small, with an invitation to present at a high school tech theater conference that my sister in law was organizing, then some classes working with special needs and at risk kids at Paradise Ranch, my local equine assisted therapy facility. During this time I was also offering art and equestrian classes at my horse farm and working with our local foster program to reach out to kids in need.

When I moved to Rapid City three years ago I had the extraordinary opportunity to get involved with the Teaching Artist Program created as part of the Sculpture Project in Downtown Rapid City.  This program pairs Teaching Artists like me with Public Elementary School teachers to develop 6 week art programs that align art lessons with classroom learning.  As a Teaching Artist I have had the chance to work with classrooms from kindergarten to 3rd grade and to learn from my students and their teachers.

I have designed each lesson plan to have a theme and a sort of story arc, ending in a final project that will be available for the classroom to use through the rest of the year. Someday I hope to have the chance to work with other teaching artists and see what they are doing and why.  The classroom teachers are amazing and supportive, but someone more critical could certainly help me develop my teaching.

research for a presentation on how foster parents can use art to smooth the way for foster kids led me to the research showing that participation in art programs is consistently shown to increase resilience combined with the discovery that there is a creative transition that happens somewhere around third grade as the brain matures
Art can help kids whose learning styles dont conform to standard classroom lessons to stay involved in learning at the same time as integrating art in classroom learning promotes deeper understanding and retention

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

from 2016 to 2017

"Desert Shade" Oil on canvas Week 18

2016 was a great year for art. The year began with the simple goal of completing one artwork each week. As the year began I was training dogs at a local kennel, and dogs are a favorite subject for me, so by focusing on dogs as my subject I had access to a large variety of models. By setting weekly deadlines I committed to regular practice, which is really the best way to increase skill levels.  By settling on a single subject- the dog- I bypassed the need to constantly come up with new ideas. This allowed for exploration of techniques, mediums, and focus on developing technical skill.

The Project gave me exactly what had I hoped for.  Oil paint has always been my favorite medium, but takes time to do it justice. To complete the project without getting bored or running out of time I had to explore other mediums.  Watercolor proved to be fun, and a great way to capture images with lots of life and movement.
"Beach Corgi" watercolor on paper. Week  31
I also worked in colored pencil, mosaic, paper mache, and micron pens.  One week I even painted on the window of the kennel.  These experiments added variety to the project and gave me a reason to try new things.
"Zen Doodle ACD" Week 10

"Flying Jack" colored pencil on paper Week 17
"ALL the dogs" pen on paper Week 44

The final Painting for the year is one of the combination landscape and animal paintings that I attempt once or twice a year.  These paintings are always a lot of fun, but are never quite what I want them to be.  After a year of focusing so closely on the great variety of dogs that inspire me, putting a realistic dog into this leaping wave was easier and more successful! While the concept still has room to improve, I am pretty happy with this painting.

"Leaping Wave" Oil on canvas 
So now it is 2017.  I have big plans for this year! I want to continue the focus and discipline of the 2016 Dog Project while adding more collaboration and community involvement.

 This year is the 2017 Movement Project
I will collaborate with dancers, athletes, and photographers to explore the beauty of learned movement patterns and the cultures they come from. I have been playing with this idea for a few years now by painting small images of dancers and martial artists.  This year I look forward to taking it to the next level by working with performers and photographers to develop a range of source material that will add depth and originality to the idea.

As the project gets underway I am searching out performers who do ballet, traditional dance, martial arts, and other movement disciplines that incorporate both beauty and tradition. I am excited to be collaborating with several talented photographers and artists. I am currently looking for galleries and exhibition spaces that are interested in mounting a 2018 show including the finished artwork from this project as well as the source photographs and other art inspired by the project.  This is going to be another great year for skills development and plain fun art!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

thoughts on horse training

Why do things work so well some times and so poorly other times?  The same exercise with the same equipment can have very different outcomes.  I have been thinking about this since I read an article here from the Horse Collaborative blog.  It is called "Dressage and Natural Horsemanship: What's the Difference"  and well worth reading. I love and hate both of these methods in equal measure. Why do they work? And why are the exact same methods in the wrong hands so destructive?

Dressage works.  It is the foundation for all horse disciplines from jumping to western pleasure simply because it is the name given to proven traditional methods.  Dressage is what happened when the most effective traditions were formalized for consistent teaching and judging.  At its best Dressage is a harmonious blending of two beings into one, dynamic and joyous.  But there are also times when dressage is horrifying as you see reins pulled in tight, trainers yelling, young riders verbally abused, or the eyes of a horse rolling as he seeks a moment of release. Higher levels of the sport are too often about pushing the horses and riders to unhealthy extremes rather than developing them to their highest potential.

Natural Horsemanship is much more recent, a product of modern society's desire to become more humane combined with technology for distance learning.  It was developed by several brilliant trainers, men wanted to counteract cruel methods by teaching people better ways. The second and third generation of Natural Horsemanship trainers are successfully using video to reach people all over the world.

Natural Horsemanship is as much about allowing everyone access to the best ideas in training as it is about the training itself, and this is a beautiful and worthy idea. It can accomplish incredible things. But the simple equipment can be used in harsh and painful ways.  Subtle differences in use can make the same methods coercive, teaching learned helplessness rather than engaging the mind of the horse. The most common problem is followers of this method that lack understanding. People learning to train their own horse without a mentor often train spoiled horses, creating dangerous habits that are nearly impossible to break.

Each method is proven, each teaches proven ways of reaching a horse's mind and body, and each can be used in an abusive manner while still conforming to the rules set out in the teaching. I have learned an incredible amount from both Dressage and Natural Horsemanship. No matter what method is used to work with a horse one thing makes the difference between success and failure. Training must be a two way conversation. The horse must know that you are hearing and responding to them, not just making demands. This does not mean you are letting the horse run over you.  It means that when a horse tries to run over you, you are responding, then listening for what he tells you in return. work with a horse must have the goal of two way communication no matter what training method you are using. Develop mutual understanding. Look at the training methods as tools, not goals.  "Dressage" or "Natural Horsemanship" is not the end result. The end result is a horse that is willing to be your partner.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

dog training: Can't Catch ME!

Catch me if you can!  Your dog is zooming around out of control while you helplessly call his name.  He comes right up to you, but seems to duck away right at the last moment.  It takes you 15 minutes to actually catch him, and the whole time people are watching. If you have ever been in this embarrassing scenario you are not alone.  It happens to a lot of dogs, even some that are considered very well trained!

This is the most common problem with our dogs in training this month.  It can be funny, but there are times where running wildly can put the dog in danger.  Not only this, but not being caught will often develop into larger behavior issues like aggression toward strangers and even family members.  You want to fix this immediately!

How can you solve this problem? 
Very simple: we will set it up so he enjoys being caught. When your dog comes to you and lets you hold their collar good things will happen. Here is how we will start:

The first step in teaching your dog to enjoy being caught is to each him to enjoy hearing his name.  As with all training, you want to start in a quiet, comfortable area. for best results, do this at home during a time of day when you and your dog are both relaxed. Say his name, and when he looks at you give him a tasty treat. (we will have a post on what makes a good treat or reward soon, so stay tuned!) Practice this step at least 12 times each day until your dog is very good at looking for his treat when he hears his name.  You are teaching him that his name means good things are on the way so he should always be listening for it.

While you are teaching the dog to respond positively whenever you say his name, you should also be listening to yourself. How do you feel when you say his name?  Do you ever say his name when you are upset with your dog? Because all mammals are hardwired to match the emotional state of those around them have brain cells dedicated to recognizing and copying the emotions of those around them, your dog will often match the way you feel. Humans actually have brain cells that detect emotions and copy them.  So does your dog. This means that for him to feel good when you say his name,  you need to feel good when you say it. If you are upset with your dog use words like "Hey" or "Stop That" to get his attention and then give him something else to do.  And don't worry, if you are just having a bad day your dog will understand.

When your dog is very good at the first step, it is time to move on to the second step. Now when you say your dogs name, ask him to come a few steps toward you to get the treat  Start simply, with just enough distance that he has to move his feet. When he is good at this, add a few more steps, then a few more.  Congratulations, your dog now knows how to come when he is called!  In dog sports this is called a "recall" and it is a very important skill.

Now that you have this basic recall, you can start the third step. Call your dog's name, have him walk to you, then gently take his collar in your hand.  While you are holding his collar, give him his treat, immediately let go of the collar, and tell him he did good.  If he chooses to stay close to you after you let him go, pet him or give him a belly rub as an additional reward.  Now your dog knows how to be caught.  You still have work to do.  You will gradually add more distractions and more distance, but your basic exercise looks like this:

Here is what it looks like:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arts in Rapid: Art Night Downtown and a Launch Party

the stage at Main Street Square
There is a great tradition in arts communities around the nation of gathering on the first Friday of each month to put on a special event for folks to visit and see the what local artists are doing.  Rapid City is putting its own twist on this tradition with Art Night Downtown the second Friday of the month.  This is the second summer for the local event and all summer I have been busy painting at Lasting Memories photo studio.
 For the last event of the season I decided to walk around and see what was happening. Main Street Square, as usual, was hopping, with musician Jami Linn braving the first cold snap of the winter to keep folks entertained.  The square was setting up for the astronaut themed launch party for artsrapidcity...more on that later.

My first stop was the Suzie Cappa Art Center, where the resident artists stay late and a different local musician plays each time.
at Suzie Cappa 
 I love this gallery, and not just because they are displaying my art.  The space is beautiful, the atmosphere welcoming, and the mission- to help adults with special needs make their own way in the world- very worthy.  This is one of three information hubs where you can pick up a map showing all of the 29 businesses that stay open late on artnight so you know where to go

While Canvas 2 Paint is not on the artnight maps, it was open and packed as usual with people having a great time.  This business is doing an amazing job of making art accessible to everyone.
the fabulous owner and teacher at Canvas 2 Paint makes everything fun-plus,Wine!

The Dahl Fine Arts Center was very quiet, but their galleries are always filled with superior art and tonight is no exception

These quilts by Linda Beach turn a craft into an art.

The folks from the Dahl made a trail of dog paw prints leading through the alley behind the library to another major attraction, the warm and welcoming "art on the porch" at Wyss, associates.  This group of proffessionals puts on a very nice gathering with different artists and musicians each month.

Mary Wickler Peterson with her hand woven vest

With the cold of the last few days it was particularly nice to walk on to the warmly lit porch with its music and welcome.  A printmaker and two weavers were among the artists displaying their work this time.

A quick trip through Art Alley to see who was working on this week's murals...

and on to the main event of the night: launch party

All summer local artists have been getting together to find out how we can be a part of the new Rapid City arts and culture website.  This thing has everything arts related and it is built by and for the folks that live here. Please go visit and give them your to see what you can find there. banners all over downtown
follow this link to see my artsrapidcity profile,  just one of dozens of visual artists that are represented on the website

Our extrordinary committee: Jessica, Sarah, and Anna
The launch party was a lot of fun, with the aforementioned Jami Linn playing, Caricatures by Alyssa, who spends her summers drawing visitors at Storybook Island, computers set up to you could look at the website, ice cream by Silver Lining Creamery, and sidewalk chalk drawing for everyone.  The folks who came up with the idea got funding from a Bush grant- a hugely competitive grant that has more than 600 applicants for each grant available. This is a pretty amazing feat for our little town, and something we can use to take us to a whole new level if we use it right.

Art Night Downtown is over for the year, but next May it should be back better than ever and I want to see YOU there and having fun. Keep an eye on to see what is planned for next summer!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A search for artist Dennis Linn finds a really great gallery in Rapid City

My painting of the view from M Hill
Last month I participated in the Urban Plein Air Competition held by The Dahl Fine Arts Center in downtown Rapid City
Starting with blank canvases you have eight hours to finish painting views of the city. The artwork in the competition was nice, and the artists were even nicer. Dennis Linn's intricate painting of Prairie Edge won uncontested. Even better he was genuinely fun to talk to. 
Winning artist Dennis Linn

I wanted to see more of his work, so a week later I went to the only gallery in Rapid City that represents him, the Alex Johnson Mercantile

This is a friendly looking shop right underneath the hotel of the same name, and I had never visited it.

What a great surprise I found!  

From inexpensive souvenirs to truly accomplished works of art, the Mercantile has a bit of everything. It is mostly the work of individual artisans or small collectives. This is exactly the kind of shop I am looking for when shopping locally!

But the shop does not truly light up until you start talking to co-owner Jennifer Johnson. She told me "I wanted the store to have a heartbeat" and she has certainly succeeded. This bright woman is clearly the soul of the shop and the reason it has such a welcoming feel.

Jennifer has a story about every piece in the shop and was happy to take the time to tell them.  She is so excited about the artists she works with that her energy is contagious.  
evocative paintings by Dennis Linn and Jeff Gulbransen

Items large and small

Leonard Yellow Horse's carved Cottonwood roots have warmth and humor that make them a favorite

this men's bracelet by Michael Running Shield shows incredible skill
These are just a few of the unique treasures in the shop.  Jennifer speaks beautifully of our city and the Black Hills and says "it's all right here" "it's coming through my front door" of the art and crafts the Mercantile carries. She wants everything in the store to be "touchable" and she is proud to "honor these friends in our stores" by displaying the pieces and telling their stories. 

 Next time I visit I want to take the time to make my own wire bracelet using the collection of beads she keeps near the counter. And I want to visit in the winter because the warm heart of this place will travel with me when I have to go back into the cold.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On a mission to find artist David Uhl at Sturgis Rally

Today I am going to find artist David Uhl at the Sturgis Bike Rally. From his Facebook feed I know he is set up in the Gold Dust casino in Deadwood. To get to this town I have to drive about ten miles past the epicenter of The Rally so it is going to be an adventure all the way!
one group of bikers setting out for Sturgis
If you have not been in the Black Hills during the Sturgis rally it is hard to picture the effect it has on the entire area.  This time of year in the Black Hills Harleys often outnumber the four wheeled vehicles on our roads. Hundreds of thousands of people come to the Rally. The buzz and roar of Harley engines is everywhere and the streets are filled with sunburned people in leathers that have been riding, camping, and partying for a week or more.  

This is the perfect backdrop for the art of David Uhl. I started following him on facebook earlier this year after a friend posted one of his paintings to my timeline.  His paintings feature Harleys in scenes from american history, and he manages to imbue them with personality and passion that are hard to find anywhere in the art world. I want to meet him and see his work in person!
by David Uhl.  How can you not love this?
 Wednesday morning, right in the middle of Rally week, I set out in my trusty Prius.
My trip from Rapid City to Deadwood took me right past Sturgis and through ten miles of winding canyon to Deadwood.  This is  the old west town turned modern gambling hub that is featured in the HBO series called Deadwood.  This part of the journey, especially with thousands of motorcyles sharing the road, was quite an adventure.  My attention was more on getting there than on the exciting scene so i did not take photos for you, but next year this should be the subject of its own photo blog, the drive was that impressive. I kept driving right through the great festival that is downtown Deadwood and parked at the Mickelson trail head.  The Mickelson trail is the Black Hills own Rails to Trails project, a hundred miles of graded bike path running all through the hills on the old railroad bed.  The trail head in Deadwood is located where a bridge crosses the creek. It is an oasis of calm after the chaos of downtown Deadwood.

Bridge and creek at the trail head

The walk through town is surrounded by old stone and brick buildings. I decided to stop in at this one:

The Adams Museum is three stories of Deadwood history and americana in a historic building. The town was founded when US citizens flouted the treaty with the Lakota people to search for gold in the 1870s.  It quickly began to capitalize on its'reputation as a wild west town to bring in tourism. Things slowed down in the middle of the 20th century. In the 1990s the South Dakota constitution was changed to allow gambling and Deadwood once again began to bring in tourists with its' wild west reputation.  The Adams Museum tells the story of Deadwood with well designed displays and lots of historical objects.  The volunteers are friendly, but the real reason to visit is that it gives you information about things you will actually see as you walk through the town.

Around the next corner I found ,this great version of a coffee shop:

The Pump House is my favorite kind of business: locally owned and run with excellent food and customer service.  The building is an old gas station decorated with period signs and memorabilia so there is lots to look at. To top it off, the deli shares the space with a glass blower who was working at the furnace as I ate my excellent chicken salad sandwich.  They offer introductory glass blowing classes here.  This made me think of my step brother Aaron who started to learn this craft before he passed away earlier this year.  It would have been great to bring him here.

Just up the hill from the Adams Museum and the Pump House is the Mount Moriah Cemetary.  You can take a walking tour that includes the graves where Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane are buried.  The personalities here are first class, but they are overpowered by the view of the hills and town.

As I walked back to town from visiting Mount Moriah, a doe walked across the street in front of me.  She was unphased by the constant noise of motorcycles traveling to the cemetary.
deer crossing
selfie with oak
The walk down the hill was a great time for contemplation.  I looked at the tree filled skyline and thought about the pictures of the founding of Deadwood, when the slopes were bare. The town was actually named because the trees here were dead.  I wonder why?  Was there a fire in the area in the years before the prospectors first invaded the area?  Or was there some tree disease like the pine beetles we are fighting now?  It is hopeful and inspiring to see how the trees grew from those bare slopes to make a majestic forest

1890s photo displayed at the Michelson trail head
the same skyline today

My final destination, the Gold Dust Casino, was just a half block past the Pump House.  The street was packed with bikes and riders, the Deadwood tour buses were in full swing, and there in the window working on his latest painting, was David. To get the feel of it, check out this video he posted on his facebook feed this week: video of Sturgis exhibit  

He donated a half dozen of his works to different charities that are doing fundraising at Sturgis this year:
If at all possible try to make the Biker Bells auction/reception at the Chip today, meet Jessi Combs as she's there to help raise funds. I have a feeling you may get a smoking deal on this massive 36x48 giclee we have donated. retails for $4850.00 — with Carlos Alberto Guglielmelli Viglioni and 4 others.

Photo: If at all  possible try  to make the Biker Bells auction/reception  at the Chip today, meet Jessi Combs as she's there to help raise funds. I have a feeling you may get a smoking deal on this massive 36x48  giclee we have donated. retails for $4850.00
I was able to pick up this fun book that shows his work and tells a lot of stories:
and yes, I was able to say Hi to David in person.

Have your own adventure by looking at David Uhl's website at this link: