Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Their Home, Too!

From time to time, I like to focus the students’ artistic expressions on certain topics. A little while ago I came up with a really neat idea and I’m going to share it with you now…

“Their Home, Too!”

The Beginning….

This is the blueprint for the art project. It is an illustration depicting the Earth and the Sun. You can see that this image is drawn on a grid. There are 63 rectangular boxes in this grid.

The idea is that the students will create drawings to fill in the grid. It is my job to create each grid box for the students. These boxes will have one or sometimes two wiggley lines in them and the students have to use a specific colour in each of the shapes created by the wiggley lines to fill in their drawing.

By doing this, the students are learning about ‘monochromatic’ colour schemes. As you continue reading, I’m sure that you’ll see that the students are learning about quite a number of wonderful other things too!!!!

I wanted this project to focus on a specific theme. Each artwork created will be an image of an animal, bird, reptile or insect. This art project is designed to inspire the students and people who will see it, to realize that the Earth is not the property of just humans. Animals live here, too. The Earth is “Their Home, Too!”

I started the project off by creating the first three drawings – to make it easier for the students to understand what we are trying to accomplish.

Only a few days had passed until one of my students had completed her first artwork for this project. Olivia told me how she had studied a photo of a monkey in order to get all the proper details for her drawing.

A few days later, another student’s artwork was ready for me to add to this colourful mosaic. Angela has embraced this project with a fierce ambition. By the end of this blog you will have seen three of her art creations!!!!

Every time an artwork is handed into me, I shrink it down to add it to the original blueprint. This makes it easier to visualize what the finished project will look like.

Now that I had the first five artworks completed, I was ready to begin putting them in place on the roof of The Peacebus. All the students were full of wonderful comments when they saw these artworks on the roof of the bus. This also inspired them want to see their artwork in this mosaic and over the next week or so, many more drawings were created.

I love Yousir’s love for textures… and I told her so. When she had handed in this artwork she asked if she could do another. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

Slava is a student in grade 2. He is a very creative young man and a very intelligent one, too! A future leader of the world! I’m very honoured to know him.

Patrick loves turtles! He told me all sorts of things about how turtles hatch in eggs, buried in the sand and how they have to travel to the oceans in order to survive.

This is Angela’s second artwork for this project! She is a most creative young lady. Just look at all the different styles of shading and texture creating that she used in this portrait of a mom and baby penguin!!!

Michaela always brings her smile and lovely voice to the bus, each morning! She wanted to create a drawing for this project but she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. I challenged her to be different than everybody else. “Instead of drawing an animal or bird, I want you to think of a very small creature that most people would think is unimportant,” I suggested. “What small creature, moves underground to help plants grow?” Our conversation led to the creation of this drawing about Peaceflowers and Worms!!!

As you can see, our mosaic image is starting to take shape.

The orange ring around the sun is beginning to come together. The first hint of one of the Earth’s land masses can be seen bordering the ocean.

Day by day, artworks are handed in to me. Day by day, another student asks if they can create a drawing for this project. “Yes!” is always the answer.

Most of the grid boxes I hand out are very simple – with just one wiggley line dividing the box into two different colours.

There are a few very challenging boxes that will have to be filled in… like this one. You can see that this box is divided into 5 separate colours. I’m asking the more experienced students to handle the complicated ones. I was getting the itch to create another drawing so I drew this image of a butterfly.

I’m not sure why, but this simple drawing of a giraffe really speaks to me. I love the colour combinations and ‘flowiness’ of this space. Ana has created several previous drawing for The Peacebus and they have all been very inspirational.

Kailey’s chameleon is a pure delight! I love the detailing in the tail and the textures used on the chameleon’s back are perfect!!

Connor really wanted to draw a lion… but he was having a hard time. I think he was trying too hard… and I told him so! I helped him out by drawing this simple happy lion and he was able to fill in most of the image. I showed him how easy it was to draw grass by using small wiggley lines and I showed him how much fun a sky can be with soft flowing lines. It’s always very important to encourage children by working with them.

Since I have been sharing these artworks on Facebook, I have received many positive comments. This gave me an idea! I started asking my Facebook friends to help out with this project. Many said, “Yes!”

This absolutely inspiring image of spiders was created by another London artist, Shane Wilcox! Not only is Shane a great artistic talent, he is also a concerned environmentalist. Shane and I, and many other people, recently attended a City Council meeting to discuss options for a unique and precious ecosystem found here in London, Ontario – The Meadowlily Woods. Errr – that’s an upcoming blog story, so that’s all I’m going to say for now.

Dyhana and I have been Facebook friends for a couple of years now. We like to share inspiring photos and art. Dyhana has involved herself in several of my Facebook ‘art attacks’ and she was very delighted to participate in this event! She lives is the USA and managed to incorporate her state flag into her design.

By the looks of this, I’d say that this project is about ¼ the way done! It’s really starting to blow my mind – all the colours, all the animals, all the textures, all the feelings and all the love!!!!! It moves me.

Oh yeah! I’ve forgotten to tell you one very important thing… What are we going to do with the completed artwork????

One thing that I always like to tell my students is how art allows us to discover talents within us that maybe we didn’t know existed. Art allows us to discover our gifts for expression. I tell them that life is all about gift giving, sharing our talents, sharing our thoughts and sharing our expressions with others.

When I first introduced this project to the students I asked them if they thought it would be a good thing to share this artwork with the community. They said, “Yes… but who?” I asked them if it would be a good thing to donate the completed art to the London Sick Kids Hospital. They all agreed that this would be a great thing!!!!

As you can imagine, there will be a few more blog stories about this project. I hope that you are excited to continue to witness the evolution of “Their Home, Too!”

Mr. Jim

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earthday 2011

When writing about Earthday 2010, I remember telling how this one day event had evolved into a week long event filled with many different ‘green’ activities throughout the city of London, Ontario. I think that this is a great thing. What is even greater than this is the fact that this year Earthday activities filled ten days on the calendar!!! In another year or so we may see the month of April named Earthmonth!!! We sure have come a long way, but we also still have a long long way to go.

This year’s event was especially great for me cuz this year saw the very first public opening of The Peacebus…

… showcasing the artworks that have been created by my students over the last few years!

The winter weather always plays havoc with the window decorations of The Peacebus; with all of the ‘freeze-thaw’ actions on the windowpanes. So, about a week ago, I asked the students if they would help make the bus look ‘Earthdayish’ by creating some new window decorations.

I was very happy when many said that would!

The very next day, one student handed in three brand new decorations.

And then the next day, another student handed in some more.

If you look really closely at this photo you can catch a glimpse of some of the artwork that is decorating the ceiling of the bus.

This is what it looks like inside the bus, near the back. The large peace symbol has seen many artworks added to it, since February, and I would guess that by the middle of May the whole image will be completely filled in!

This Peacebus art show was able to secure a spot at this Earthday event because of the guy wearing the funny hat. I’ve known Bill Paul for many years and when I asked him if I could bring The Peacebus to this event he didn’t hesitate to say ‘Yes!’

The bus had to stay in the small parking lot to ensure that it didn’t sink into the soft ground. Imagine how embarrassed I would be if I had to call my boss on a Sunday afternoon to ask for a tow cuz the bus got stuck in the mud! Oh – this reminds me… Thank you, Murphy Bus Lines for letting me use this bus to help celebrate Earthday!

The event organizers provided me with a tent for my other art displays, but because the weather was so unpredictable I decided to set up my displays inside the bus where the winds would not blow everything around.

Of course, I had my Stik man peace stik-ers available for people to help themselves to.

I brought along just a few of my art prints to sell at a low low price, but in the Jim fashion I ended up giving them away! HA! No wonder I’m always so poor!

And, I also had a few invitations available for a different community event…

… the Critical Mass Bike Rally! Consider yourself invited and I hope to see you there, next month!!!

Well, here’s an ambitious family!! The event hadn’t even started yet and already these folks were hard at work. This particular area had been planted last year and unfortunately the tree that was planted in this spot had been broken during the winter. This family has been attending Earthday events for many years and I learned that the tree they were replacing was the tree that they planted last year. I thought that it was great that returning tree planters were visiting the trees that they had planted in previous years!

A few minutes later it started to rain and snow! As it was time for the opening ceremonies, organizers decided to huddle everyone into the large tents to keep dry.

Not only is Bill Paul the head of Laff Guards (providing entertainment for community events as well as children’s birthday parties), the host of a community radio talk show, the host of a community discussion forum, he is also London’s famous Town Crier – complete with shiny bell!!!

There were several speakers present, giving inspirational speeches to us tree planters. This fellow is the head of Earthday Canada and he has been involved in many environmental action groups for almost two decades!

As the introductions were finishing the skies cleared up for a few minutes and then it was time to plant some trees.

Just before the opening ceremony, I noticed several people in the forested area surrounding the park, picking up dead branches and twigs. I wondered what they were doing until I walked past this large artwork in progress. Can you see ‘Earth Day 2011’ written using forest debris?

This is the another area that was planted last year. As you can see, the mowed grass area that is remaining is less than half of what it used to be. This means it takes less time to cut the parks grass and less gasoline is used to fuel the lawnmowers. This year we were planting on the east side of this location.

Because it would be almost impossible to safely mow the grass in the area that was filled with last year’s trees, the park maintenance workers let the grasses grow. You can see that the grasses grew long, turned brown in the fall and are now covering the ground. This makes for a more diverse habitat for the many insects and rodents who live in the area. I’ll bet they are happy now that their homes have grown in size!

Most of my day was spent near The Peacebus, but I did make time to plant these two small twigs (ha!) that will grow into bushes. The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority is all about rehabilitating areas such as this park, into a natural habitat. To do this they plant only species that are native to this part of Southern Ontario. Today, several different native species were being planted – hardwood trees, pines and low-lying shrub bushes.

At one point I had realized that I had been away from my bus for a while and that it was time to make sure that everything was still in order. As I was approaching the bus I could hear loud motorized noises coming from inside. I peaked around the corner to see…

… this little guy having the time of his life in the drivers seat. He had his hands on the steering wheel and was making ‘vroom vroom’ noises and giggling the whole time. He saw me getting my camera out of my pocket and then he gave me this full faced smile!!! I just love this picture! I think I’ll make it my Facebook profile picture for the next few weeks!!!

A couple of the students who ride The Peacebus regularly had come to plant trees with Mr. Jim. Olivia – in the middle - is one of my great artists and she had a blast showing off her artwork to her sister and father.

Kade is another one of my regular passengers and just the other day he gave me his very first artwork for decorating the bus. His parents and I had a great chat about Kade’s artistic ability. Most children in Kindergarten will draw a picture of a tree or a flower on a piece of paper, leaving the rest of the paper blank – thinking that they are done.

Kade has learned at a very early age to create an entire scene, filling the entire area with colour. In his drawing we can see flowers, bushes and trees. There are birds flying in the sky – which is filled in solid blue – and a huge peace sun shines in the middle!

As well as face painting, juggling, birdhouse building and other activities…

… participants were educationally entertained by this guy! His life’s work is learning about and educating others about birds of prey.

We learned that the common Barn Owl (not the owl in this photo – this is a different species) isn’t so common anymore. In fact, we may see the extinction of this animal in the next decade because it’s habitat has been almost wiped out. Barn Owls feed on rodents and small animals that live in grassland habitats. The last 120 years of farming in Southern Ontario – and the rest of North America – has seen natural grassland habitats disappearing at a rapid rate. Presently there is only 4% of this habitat remaining in existence.

It’s hard to stomach the fact that our communities rarely think of these things as we continue to build more subdivisions and large shopping malls. The extinction of the Barn Owl is just another example of the high cost of Wal-Mart’s low prices!

Well – this Earthday was sure putting on a show for all of us!!! We were witnessing drizzling rain, sunshine, snow and then hail before the sun came out again for a minute to be blotted out with another passing snow shower! But we ‘the die hards’ persevered to learn more…

… about this great Canadian water bird, the Bald Headed Eagle!!!! Thank goodness for digital cameras – it took me many attempts before I was able to capture this amazing shot of this splendid creature!!!

The Bald Headed Eagle, in contrast to the Barn Owl, is an environmental success story. Since these birds feed on fish, frogs, turtles and other waterfowl it is important that they live near clean and healthy rivers, lakes and oceans. Since 1997, they have been taken off of the ‘endangered’ list and we have witnessed their reemergence into many habitats throughout Southern Ontario!!!

I just want to look at these photos over and over again!!!!

After learning about and seeing so many wonderful birds of prey it was time for me to see how the Earthday artwork was coming along. I was very surprised to see that it had been finished – many hands make little work! A statement that needs to be thought about when it comes to any Earthsaving ambitions.

I thought that this was very very cool indeed!!! If you can think of something (other than human garbage) that can be found in a forest, I’ll bet that it has been used in this artwork.

A little while later it was time to go home. Along the way I traveled through another snowstorm, then some cold hard rain.

When I arrived back at home the sun was making a guest star appearance in my backyard. You can see the one cloud system – to the top left – moving on, then this very small gap of blue sky and Yikes! it looks like another storm system is moving in.

About three minutes later, the sky was again, completely dark and then the rain started coming down.

And, again, about five minutes later the sky was cracking open to let in the light. It seemed that the weather was imitating humanities constant struggle between light and shadow.

During this time I had a little wander around my flower gardens. This is one of the flowerbeds that I filled with leaves last fall. Instead of clearing the leaves away this spring, I’ve decided to leave them so that they will help keep the ground moist for the flowers while preventing weeds from growing… I hate weeding! But wait! What’s this?

My very first bloom of 2011!!!! Hurray! Now, many of my blog readers know that when it comes to photography I always say, again and again… “Get close to the subject matter and then get a little closer.”

Well, this is about as close as I could get, without the flower petal touching my camera lens. I thought that this was the most perfect way to end a very interesting and wonderful Earthday!!!!

Thank you for sharing this experience with me and thanks to everyone who came to plant trees at Watson Park and any park around the world. Thanks to the organizers of all the Earthday events that happened around the world and thanks to Murphy Bus Lines for allowing me to share the spirited artworks on The Peacebus. Artworks that inspire me daily!