Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Planning workshop 3: stencils

The stencil of Baba Yaga!
Alyosha works on the tram

travel and fantasy symbols

By the third workshop I was admittedly stressed: I had stayed up almost all night doing sketches for all the different window imagery and wasn't necessarily satisfied with all of them...and still had to work out a lot of the details. I was struggling with keeping the imagery simple enough to paint in a short time, but without getting too generic, and combining a childlike aesthetic with a professional standard--and, trying to include all the students' great ideas in each window, in some cases trying to incorporate multiple scenes in one place!

Since we couldn't start working on the wood until it would be delivered later that day, I used this third session to get some ideas for stencils, which we would use to decorate the carved window frames. The window frames and shutters of traditional Russian peasant homes, and almost all domestic items, are usually ornately patterned. I had the idea that the students could make similar patterns, but base them on more contemporary imagery and on the images inside each window: e.g., make stencils of household objects to decorate the windows showing scenes inside a home. I showed students some examples and also demonstrated the craft of converting a line drawing to a stencil/symbol.

Once I saw the creative and skillful stencil designs that came from these students, my stress was quickly gone and I got really excited about the project! I realized that a lot of the details I was trying to cram together in one window could take the form of stencils around the window frames instead. It was a happy accident that we didn't supply the students with black permanent markers to create their final designs, because I'd forgotten to purchase them in advance. Instead, they used different colored markers we found in the classroom, and this made me realize that it would be fun to have stencils and patterns of different colors, including some that incorporate more than one color in the same stencil.

Mainly I got excited because I saw the level of talent these students have, and I always feel better about a public art project once I realize that my students and collaborators will be the ones who bring in the best and most creative components, as opposed to me.

I also have to congratulate Nastya for her great Baba Yaga and Russian samovar stencils!

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