Wax painting

Another successful community push toward recycled art!  THANK YOU to everyone who contributed crayons.  We collected about 25 lbs. of old, beat-up crayons for this project.  TWO of my favorite things – UPcycling, that is, diverting items from the landfill to use in artworks, and collaboration, that is, folks coming together for the sake of art in the community.

Our theme for this visual art series was the Circus.  Inspired by old-time circus posters, we created accordion-style books from mat board scraps, newspaper, black tempera paint, duct tape, and crayons melted into liquid wax form.

Students discovered that the process of starting with a newspaper background, and sketching with a fat paintbrush with black paint led to a loose, painterly underpainting.  Then they gooped on layers of melted wax to create a deeply textured surface, which could be carved into and manipulated in an almost sculptural way.  The wax cooled quickly so we had to work fast.

Details may have been a bit elusive with this medium, but that places the burden of emphasis on your composition and form, or in layman’s terms, it forces you to focus on the big picture instead of getting lost in the small details.  Art presents many profound lessons for life.

Warhol-inspired Self Portraits


Artist Residency 2011 – 2012 in collaboration with Artist Carolyn Grane and the 7th grade class at McClure Middle School, Seattle, WA.

For inspiration, we focused on Artist Andy Warhol and the pop art movement of the 1960’s.  Looking at examples of Warhol’s pop art imagery – Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Mao Tse Tung, Campbell’s soup cans, etc, students were led through a drawing and painting sequence.

Placing a sheet of Plexiglas over their photo, the students traced their picture, exploring varying qualities of thick and thin lines, patterns in hair and clothing, and the selective omission of lines. (wrinkles, smile lines, etc.)

In our painting session, student artists were challenged by exploring the ancient reverse-painting technique.  The process invloves painting in reverse, or mirror image on the back of the glass.  The front will be the glassy side, the linework visible through the glass.  The kids were excited to use bright, unrealistic colors in the vibrant style of Warhol, expressing their colorful middle school personalities.

The 150 finished artworks are permanently installed in the school.

Thank you to McClure PTA for fuding visual art.

“Peace by Piece”

mosaic stepping stone     Mosaic stepping stone installation     Mosaic stepping stone

“Peace by Piece,” a mosaic stepping stone installation by Seattle artists Nicole Appell and Carolyn Grane in collaboration with students and families at McClure Middle School.

(It doesn’t look like 22 mosaics in that picture but it is!)

1st Avenue W, Seattle, WA

Ribbon-cutting ceremony September 13, 2012

Funded in part by Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Youth Arts Awards recipient, 2011 – 2012 and by McClure PTA.

For more on the mosaic process for this project, see my earlier mosaics post.


mosaics“Peace by Piece,” A mosaic stepping stone installation in collaboration with Artist Carolyn Grane and McClure Middle School.  Thank you to Mayor Mike McGinn, the Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Seattle City Council members, and McClure PTSA for funding our community art project.

Through an after school program and drop-in art sessions during lunch, students at McClure Middle School had the opportunity to design and create 20 mosaic stepping stones to be incorporated into the “School to Pool” landscaping project scheduled for summer 2012.  The stepping stones will be installed along a well-used public sidewalk between the school, community center and swimming pool, and a prominent location as the site of the Queen Anne Farmer’s Market in the Spring and Summer.  This public space will be transformed with fresh landscaping, new benches, and a mosaic installation that everyone in the school community had a hand in creating.

The students were so excited to have the chance to create art, and especially when they saw the colorful glass.  We purchased beautiful stained glass and mirror tiles, as well as recycled, tumbled glass from Bedrock Industries.  The students were fascinated with the glass, and with learning to nip tiles in controlled shapes.

students making mosaics

We worked over a template covered with contact paper and laid our glass pieces on top of the contact paper.

working on mosaic    mosaic

Then we taped our tiles into place with tile tape.

mosaic in process

When we were ready to adhere the tiles to the concrete paving stones, we removed the contact paper from the back and placed the tiles into the wet mortar.  Because we were working in a studio that was COLDER than the cold temps outside, we had to let it set up for over a week, slicing up the tile tape to let air in and expidite dry time.

Finally, we were able to peel off the tape without losing too many tiles, do a bit of touch-up, and then my favorite part, GROUTING!!!

There is always a moment of pause before you slop on the grout.  I usually use dark grout, so the transformation is even more dramatic.  You cover it in goopy mud, and make a mud pie, just like I used to do as a little kid.

grouting mosaics

It is so amazing to see the background fill in and unify the design, making the colors pop.  Mosaic also teaches us that the negative spaces, the gaps in between the tiles, are just as important as the positive shapes.

     mosaic    mosaic stepping stone   

Carolyn & I are both so excited about the community art projects we’ve been working on.  It is so inspiring to see the joy on the children’s faces as they create.  It is a priviledge to bring art to children who don’t have it.  They are hungry for it, asking when we will be back to do more art, and when will they see their piece in the finished product.

mosaics     mosaics     mosaics