Philosophy of Education

The school at which I work has been in session for almost four weeks now. Fall 2016 marks the beginning of my second year teaching High School Art. This be not very long compared to other veteran teachers, but is a huge milestone on my part.

I spent last year continually questioning my motives (as one typically does during his/her first year of teaching– or interacting with teenagers for that matter), reevaluating predetermined ideals I had made the summer before my first year began. In other words, I was beginning to disagree with myself (as one typically does when the alarm goes off at 6am on a Monday to make it to school on time) and second-guess every established incentive I thought I was in accordance with. I was too flexible, adopting every new measure I found into my internal teaching constitution. The question "why do I teach?" became "why do I teach?" became "why teach?" 

My thoughts were all over the place. My first year teaching was beyond difficult (Fact: the definition of teaching can be found somewhere in the dictionary between the words awkward and laborious.). I needed a solidified code to follow, so I wrote just that.

Disclaimer: I am no Wordsworth. I can hardly keep a diary for three days. The closest connection I have to Hemingway is that I saw his house once.

Note that this is my own personal philosophy regarding art education (not to be confused with my reason for art-making, which has nothing to do with teaching) . Asking other art teachers for their philosophies will certainly yield different, and probably more formal, results.

 

PHILOSOPHY of ART EDUCATION

Jaclyn Fortier

 

I teach because I have been taught,

been taught to see the colors in everything,

the shapes of all things,

and the connections between them.

I teach a language that all people can speak

when words and borders fail.

Regardless of skill or talent or genius

we create because we have first been created.

That is the purpose of art.

 

To teach is an honor, and honor is to teach. To get to school on time is aliens.

7' tall "OZ" head featured in school production

As an artist, it is very rare for me to question the absurdity of an idea, no matter how odd it may be. However I could not help but question almost every minute spent creating the monstrosity you see here at the end of this post. Indeed, amidst the 90° Floridian afternoons spent in my garage, the Walmart cashier eyeing me suspiciously as I purchased 15 cans of "key lime" spray paint, and the neighbors casually driving by my house to catch a glimpse of Frankenstein's monster, this project has certainly been the most memorable. I'll probably end up on one of those "Only in Florida" posts alongside alligators who use the drive-thru at McDonald's and streakers who terrorize Canadian tourists at the mall.

At 7ft tall, this head of the Great and Powerful Oz (or Shrek's earless and angry twin brother, Phrek) is by far the strangest and largest work I have ever done. Unfortunately, my weeks worth of work had only three days of fame until it was shuffled off stage to leave room for next year's performance.

My OZ head complete with a fearful Dorothy and pyrotechnics. 

After many hours of research, I stumbled across the website Instructables, where artists, engineers, students, and hobbyists can search for and create how-to guides for almost anything. The fact that I found an Oz head confirms my usage of the word "anything."

The Instructable about the Oz head was written by a professional (I'm assuming) prop designer. In his design, he utilized what I believe to be flexible conduit pipe, pvc pipe, and quite a bit of duct tape. With this design, I knew I had found my inspiration.

The original inspiration for OZ, made by Instructables user Mostlymade

In the initial sketches, the head was about 6ft tall/6ft wide. By the time I laid out all the parts, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to increase the size to 7ft tall/6.5ft wide. Dear future me: you're a jerk.

Preliminary sketches

Thankfully, my father is one incredible handyman and didn't even blink when I pitched my ideas to him. I couldn't have done any of this without his expert knowledge of carpentry, pipes, and all things plumbing.

I purchased upwards to 50 individual pipe fittings (mostly tees, couplings, and elbows), 25ft rolls of coiled pipe, 10ft lengths of straight pipe, pipe cement, clamps, wood studs, and plastic conduit. I then spent my weekends driving around Florida's manufacturing areas, visiting multiple foam distributors in the search for the perfect sheet of foam. Crazy Saturday nights, am I right.

I eventually located a maritime foam distributor in Pompano Beach that sold me three 1"x60" foam sheets. I purchased three sheets thinking I would have some left over, but ended up running out and had to supplement with a smaller 1/2" roll of foam from Jo-ann Fabrics (which was way more expensive than it needed to be).

My father and I then constructed the basic framework. Unlike the Instructables version, I designed my frame to mimic the shape of the Oz head from the 1939 film, with a larger cranium and more pronounced mandible. From there we added a skull by looping pipe to create a 3-dimensional skeleton.

OZ scene from the 1939 film.

The jaw was created separately using a loop of pipe in the shape of a "D" with conduit sticking down perpendicularly, giving it a chin-like form (think of the shape of a tomato wedge). This was then attached to the frame under under the nose area with pipe clamps to allow it to move freely.

After the head frame was completed, I spent two days hot glueing and wrapping the foam sheets over the pipe. It was a process of stretching the foam, clamping, hot glueing, adjusting, hot glueing, cutting, burning myself with the hot glue, etc. Turns out that foam is a finicky material. While I was busy working on one area of the face, another part of the foam would stick out in an awkward way and I'd have to clamp and stretch the foam again. But when those two areas were clamped, another area would decide to fold/billow out. It was like a giant game of whack-a-mole.

The nose was constructed with crumpled up newsprint paper which I then duct-taped to Jeff Foxworthy's liking.  I created two nostrils and a large triangular septum shape, taping them together and physically squashing them in order to get the paper to cooperate. The nose shape was then wrapped in foam and zip-tied to the face. Such a refined process, I know. The eyebrows were constructed in the same manner.

Ignore the mess.

The eyes themselves are actually hollow styrofoam spheres that were shoved into the foam and hot glued. Note: styrofoam dissolves with alcohol– in my case, it was the spray paint. You can imagine my panic as the top part of the right eye started to melt away á la Major Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

Once everything was glued into place, I then spray-painted the head in various shades of green, highlighting the temples and cheekbones (My garage now has a thin layer of green dust everywhere. I think the floor used to be grey at one point). The eyes were painted with acrylic paint in order to avoid another catastrophe.

Opening the garage door at night with this thing staring at you was pretty interesting.

Transporting the head is a story for another time. Here are the results:

Recent photo posted on EDC website

What started as me simply cleaning out my purse turned into an attempt to connect with the world's insatiable craze for utilitarian aesthetic via Everyday Carry. It is mostly ironic, since my "gear" is rudimentary compared to other men's photos on the website. Here is my photo featured on Instagram:

From a very young age I desired to be like MacGyver. The closest I ever got to that was being a Brownie scout.