Posts Tagged 'creative process'

Layers and colors and prints, oh my!

Whether they’re used as Weezer’s album cover or turned into emoji, Japanese woodblock prints have long been admired for their striking imagery and rich detail. At the Center for Creative Connections, we’re excited to welcome three Japanese woodblock prints from the DMA’s permanent collection by Hiroshi Yoshida.

The soft colors and fine details on these prints make them appear delicate or fragile, but the process behind each of these artworks requires some intensive labor. To illustrate a bit of the behind-the-scenes work that took place for these prints, we collaborated with Austin-based printmaker Daryl Howard to recreate a traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking station similar to the one Yoshida would have used to create the works on view in C3. Based on a diagram from Japanese Print-Making: A handbook of traditional and modern techniques by Rei Yuki and Toshi Yoshida (Hiroshi Yoshida’s son), the display case in C3 shows a few of the most essential printmaking tools used for this art form.

There are two essential steps to make color woodblock prints:

Carving the woodblocks. Each color on a final print image corresponds to a separate woodblock. For instance, creating a final image with black, red, and yellow colors would require a printmaker to carve three separate blocks-one for each color. Printmakers used a (knife), to cut fine lines into each wooden block, and various aisuki (flat scrapers) to carve out unnecessary pieces of wood. Chisels known as sōainomi and marunomi were used with wooden mallets to clear out large spaces on the wooden surface.

Printing onto the paper.  After carving each woodblock, printmakers applied colored pigments directly onto the surface of the blocks using horsehair brushes called surikomi-bake. Softer mizubake (water brushes) were used to moisten sheets of paper before printing. To transfer pigments from the wooden block surface onto the paper, printmakers placed the paper on top of the woodblock and rubbed it with a baren made of coiled fibers and bamboo sheath. The artist would repeat this printing process, laying the same sheet of paper on top of each different woodblock to create a final image made of multiple color layers.

C3_blockdetail In the Interactive Gallery, we’ve developed a printmaking station where visitors can experiment with Step 2 of the printmaking process by making their own layered color prints using paper, carved linoleum blocks, and crayon rocks. Like the traditional Japanese woodblock prints, each of the carved blocks at the C3 table activity corresponds to one color that can be layered with others to create a final image. Yoshida often used 20-30 different color block layers in his prints, but our activity only requires four layers. The crayon rocks act as both a baren and an inking brush because they simultaneously apply color and transfer the impression of the carved block onto the paper. Take a look at the slideshow below to see a step by step run-through of the C3 printmaking activity.


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My favorite aspect of the printmaking process is the way working with separate layers allows for countless color combinations. Yoshida used this facet of the medium to create vastly different moods and atmospheres in his prints—these kinds of prints focused on color variants are called betsuzuri. In his 1926 Inland Sea series, part of the permanent collection in the MFA Boston, Yoshida utilized the same set of woodblocks to create six entirely distinct images showing various times of day:

A small sampling of the prints visitors made in C3 this week demonstrates a similar effect using color variants to produce unique images from the same set of carved blocks:

If you’re like me and you can’t get enough of this medium, check out these DIY printmaking tutorials using styrofoam and soda (yes, the drink!). For a deeper dive into the intricacies of traditional Japanese printmaking, mark your calendars for the upcoming Late Night Art Bytes on May 20, and the C3 Visiting Artist Workshop with Daryl Howard, printmaker extraordinaire, on May 21. Happy printing!

Paulina Lopez
McDermott Graduate Intern for Visitor Engagement


Playful Learning with SPARK!

Why teach the creative process? Last week, my amazing colleague Amy Copeland and I drove the Go van Gogh van (say that three times fast!) to the historic South Side on Lamar building to take part in the 2016 Creativity Confab hosted by SPARK!. We arrived excited to hear some of the city’s most creative minds participate in a panel discussion on the importance of creativity in a child’s education, and were greeted with an inviting maze of slides, “slinky” tubes, catwalks, and creative play stations, including a giant Lite-Brite and a recording studio. Needless to say, not even our inappropriate choice of shoes could keep us from joining in on the fun and exploring!

Inspired by the City Museum in St. Louis, SPARK! was founded in 2010 to teach the creative process and empower children through playful learning. Student visitors are invited to first fully immerse themselves in the space and loosen up by playing. Fred Peña of Booziotis and Company Architects, the space’s designer, says that his favorite part of the project is watching a cautious student finally work up the nerve to tackle the floor to ceiling slide, and then repeat the adventure again and again. After playing, the students move on to an art activity geared to teach the creative process and encourage collaborative problem solving.

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While the facility has only been open since June 2015, preliminary research reflects that students are more likely to describe themselves as creative and more likely to believe they’re capable of coming up with a valuable new idea after a visit to SPARK!. Significantly, about 57 percent of the children served by SPARK! come from low-income communities, reflecting the organization’s commitment to offering creative learning programs to underserved groups.

The panel’s consensus? Access to creative learning programs help children develop self-reliance, confidence, and resilience. They’re more like to perform better academically and in their future careers. As with sports, the arts teach children teamwork and help them develop confidence in their own abilities. Moreover, children learn not to fear failure and discover that problems often have more than one solution.

As a museum educator, my visit to SPARK! served as an inspiring reminder of how playful learning can help students make meaningful connections to the arts and tap into their own creativity. I look forward to my next visit, sans the wedge sandals.


Lindsay O’Connor
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

I Thank My Lucky Stars

As a child, I never attended sleepaway camp. My idea of summer camp was largely shaped by a few books I had read and (to be honest) the movie Dirty Dancing. So when a dear friend told me she had registered for an art camp exclusively for women, I was immediately intrigued. Once I looked at the Lucky Star Art Camp website, it didn’t take long for me to follow suit. The camp promised five days of creative workshops, nightly guest speakers, and a gaggle of like-minded women, all during the best weather of the year in the most beautiful area of Texas (in my opinion).

Camp Waldemar

Camp Waldemar

Lucky Star offered a wide array of workshops you might expect at an art camp: painting, creative writing, photography, and jewelry-making. It also offered sessions on cheese-making, canning and preserving, and yoga. My personal background is in art history rather than studio art, but I do love to make things and would practice yoga every day if I could. This led me to sign up for activities that I would do more often if I had the time: a sewing class, a jewelry class, an art and yoga class, and a creativity free-for-all workshop.

In the days (and hours) leading up to camp, I will admit I had a few doubts. It’s funny, even as an adult I’m pretty sure I experienced some of the same fears and concerns I would have felt as a child: Will our cabins and beds be clean and comfortable? Will I be eating “camp” food, like hot dogs, all week long? And, perhaps most scary, will I like my classes and make friends with the other campers, roughly seventy-five in all?

Pretty much all of my concerns were dispelled within the first few hours of arrival. I can emphatically and ecstatically say that Lucky Star far exceeded ALL of my expectations. First question: Will our cabins and beds be clean and comfortable? Here are a few views of the gorgeous Camp Waldemar, which hosted Lucky Star.

Cabin exterior

Cabin exterior

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

The Guadalupe River runs through Camp Waldemar.

The Guadalupe River runs through Camp Waldemar

Beautiful cypress trees along the river

Beautiful cypress trees along the river

Second question: Will I like the food? As it turned out, every single meal was delicious, healthy, and made with fresh ingredients. Among the highlights were bright and crunchy salads every day for lunch, a sweet treat at every meal, and the warm hospitality of Chef Laura and her staff.

Third–and biggest–question: Will I like my classes and make friends with the other campers? The answer? YES! I loved all of my instructors–four talented, creative, funny, and generous women. I learned something new in each class and walked away feeling happy, renewed, and inspired. Each class offered just enough structure and instruction blended with freedom to take our projects in the direction of our choice. I also enjoyed chatting with and getting to know my fellow campers, who were all wonderfully different, creative, and talented in their own ways. During mealtimes, we would sit and chat excitedly about the class we had just taken. We could also view and display projects from different classes, which inspired a lot of “Ooh, I want to take that class next year!”

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Each evening after dinner, a different speaker shared with us her personal and professional passions and creative ideas. Bernadette Noll, author of Slow Family Living and co-creator of the Slow Family Movement, shared wise words related to the time that we give to our family and to ourselves to be creative. We were privileged to get a sneak preview of Lisa Seeger’s TED talk (fast forward to the three hour, fourteen minute mark) about Blue Heron Farm, the goat dairy she runs with her husband, and their strong beliefs about the food we eat and how it is grown and raised. And Shawn Strattman shared her inspiring story of achieving her creative dream, and gave us practical, tangible advice for pursuing our own creative dreams.

But that’s not all! After dinner, after our evening speakers, and after the stars came out, we gathered around the campfire for the lovely musical stylings of Austin-based guitarist and songwriter Mandy Rowden. Mandy charmed us all with her wit and musical talent, and was generously kind and supportive during our sing-alongs.

Campfire music with Mandy

Campfire music with Mandy

At the end of camp, I felt blissfully happy, relaxed, and refreshed. Working at the DMA,  I am surrounded by art and creative people. People sometimes assume that I am also an artist, or at least a creative person. While working in a museum environment can definitely be inspiring, it can also be intimidating. I learned many things during my time at Lucky Star, but I walked away with two simple, yet important lessons that I can apply both in my professional and personal life:

  • Make time for yourself to be creative. It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time, working on a big project with lots of materials. It can be as simple as doodling on a postcard-sized piece of cardboard, writing a message on the other side, and sending it to a friend. Or, you can keep a journal of daily musings, drawings, mixed-media collages – whatever you want. You can even set a timer for five minutes if you want to keep your creative time short and focused.
  • Give yourself a break. I hit a creative wall during a class, and my instructor suggested I take a walk. I strolled by the river, relaxed on a hammock, and explored the campgrounds. Much to my delight, I discovered a cabin called “Happy Haven.” When I returned to class, I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I channeled my Happy Haven feeling into my artwork.

I’ve surrounded myself with little reminders of my classes and my new friends, such as the collage I hung in my office and the wrap bracelets I made during and after camp that I now wear daily. A few weeks ago, Mandy happened to come through town and I was thrilled to introduce her to friends during a fun potluck dinner and house concert. My friends and colleagues are probably tired of hearing my many art camp stories, but I cannot emphasize enough the incredible and, yes, life-changing experience I had during those five days in Texas Hill Country at Lucky Star Art Camp.

Melissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager

Friday Photos: Exploring Creativity

Today is the last day of Summer Seminar, our annual partnership course for teachers with The University of Texas at Dallas.  The topic this year was The Creative Process, and we have spent the week exploring both the theory and the practice of creativity.  Here are a few photos of our experiences this week.

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs


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