Book Review How To Use Your Eyes Elkins
Elkins suggestions to look at things made by nature and things made by man speaks to me because his lists are truly objects of shared interest. There was a display section in my former classroom studio that had a grid of 12 to 16 squares titled “Textures in Our Environment”. I collected samples and hot-glued objects on four inch squares of cardboard. Here are some of the objects with the intention of the disp, lay to encourage students to closely observe: green astro turf, cotton balls, sand paper, shag carpet, scrap of car tire, aluminum foil, window screen, sponge, bark, floor tile, pebbles and row of short used yellow pencils. At my new school, a Title 1 school out Ogeechee Road, there is some work to with building relationships with students and myself in adapting how to work with so many like 26-30 students at once. This learning experience is quite different in the early stage from when I could design the room with centers and set up a provocation for a class size of 12 to 15 students that walk through the door to work independently often with their own ideas. Now I pick up leaves from the parking lot during carpool duty, spread them out on the table and do a quick “observe line” demo and then send them to the table. I am patient, hopeful and have a good rapport with K-4th Tackling 5th grade is torture. Anyway, my mind soars and is peaceful in reading Elkins chapters.
The Egyptian Scarabs and The Mandala are two chapters that I jumped to because of their content. Personally and professionally these objects have extracted creativity and reflection for myself and students. Living Jewels by Poul Beckmann is a book that is in the trunk of my car right now. I have had to laminate the book cover because it goes everywhere. The pages are a feast of beetles with all dimensions of head, thorax, abdomen and lengths of antenna along with spiky and furry legs. The symmetry of color and design on their shells is bright and bold. Elkins goes into the history and mystery in the symbolic meaning of the scarabs giving them a hidden message on the bottom in hieroglyphics. My mind as an art teacher goes to what a great extension clay scarabs would be after two-dimensional beetle drawing. Elkins pointing out the repetition of the spirals the pattern give us and other observers designs to consider, personal connection to apply and reflection of the bigger picture in how all things work together in their similarities and differences.
The Mandala chapter struck a chord of interest because of their ability to bring calm into my work and my students’ work. In 2012, I lost my father in law on Presidents Day and friend on Memorial Day. Staying focused at school was challenging. That same year the fourth grade was scheduled after recess which can pose a rough transition from the drama and temperature from the fields. I had come across the mandala exercise to trace a circle in your sketchbook. Let the materials guide your work or use the materials to reflect your emotions. This ritual built in our routine during the first five minutes of art reduced the tension and set the tone for the class each week. As Elkin shares the studies of Carl Jung, I can relate to observing the healing nature and transformation a mandala can bring to one’s life. Below are Mandala’s I did during that time. The Mandala on the left is interesting with the theme of grass that has surfaced again this year.
Elkins book How to Use Your Eyes will continue to be a valuable resource for my personal work and professional work with students. His way of breaking down complex imagery into parts that we can understand, putting the objects into relationship and function to community as in the culverts are two ways that were helpful to me to approach creating visual art. In the process of my work his words continued to push me to ask and tell myself: “Really stop, slow down. What is the direction of that line? When does the value change? How will you apply emphasis?” I gathered that looking closely along with researching the object brings new ideas that could lead to a body of work. Work that is rich with understanding of the object, the purpose or function and meaning in how it brings value to nature and mankind.