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Archive for February, 2011

You know, I can’t believe I haven’t posted Pocket Vinyl’s newest music video on here yet! I guess I must’ve just gotten distracted with other things. Anyways, it’s our first music video that actually doesn’t include any of my artwork (ok, that’s actually not true, at the beginning of the video it does show a page from issue three of The Black Meat, a running comic book I’ve been working on with the Porter Brothers that you should probably check out if you haven’t already).

Eric came up with the idea for this video, and to be honest, I was a little doubtful of it’s success, but actually it turned into one of our most fun video creations yet.

ALSO! Our good friend Andrew Davis remixed this Pocket Vinyl song using video game sounds! That’s right, he is that cool. And he’s a comic artist, so check out his stuff.

And I don’t think I’ve posted this yet, but you should also check out the beautifully edited video Ashley Hackett recorded for us at DIY apartment show we did over Christmas break, featuring the (as of yet) unreleased song Colours. I really like this video, one, because I never get to see what our shows look like to everyone else, and two, because it’s a little taste for those who can’t make it to a show.

Hope you enjoy the videos; take care loves.

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I did say that this post as well was going to showcase Jimmy Sandy Memorial School student work, though this time I’ll only post one completed work. A compilation piece by about some 60-odd elementary students. Although this was a super fun project, it took tons of extra work on my side and barely a few minutes on each students’ side. Here’s the piece, a large (I dunno, 3 1/2 feet by 4 1/2 feet maybe) drawing of JSMS’s current vice principal, Mr. Fred Mills:

Now let me explain a little of the how and why. My goal for this was to teach graphing. I only first heard of graphing in art when I was a senior in high school, and the concept fascinated me. Suddenly, I could draw any photo in the world with fairly exact accuracy!! It was an exciting moment for me. Of course, drawing from life is more pure and perfect, but graphing is such a great trick to pull out on a discouraged student.

For those who don’t know, graphing involves measuring and drawing a graph over a photo, then imitating the exact number of squares traced across your photo onto a larger sheet of paper as larger squares. See, after the Charcoal project and allowing the students to “just go” according to what they saw on their photo, I wanted to teach them graphing and have them do another self-portrait and to be able to see the difference in accuracy.

But, I wanted the concept to really stick, so I started out with some basic projects, like the one of Fred. To do this, I took and printed off a photo of Fred, then chopped it up into 60 small black and white rectangles. I then gave each student a small piece of the photo, a larger piece of construction paper (cut to the exact same shape, just larger) and, to add an extra twist, a piece of chalk. Each student was then told to copy what they saw in their photo piece onto the bigger construction paper. The extra concept of using the chalk confused some students, as I asked them to draw only the white parts of their photo, leaving anything black as the shade of their construction paper. I did this just to keep things interesting I guess. Once every elementary student completed their rectangle (this took about a week to get through), I put all the pieces together and hung the finished piece in the halls, revealing our vice principal.

I actually first introduced the entire concept of this graphing method by having each student do this same exact thing, but with their own homeroom teacher. That way they could complete the image by the end of class and also got to help out in piecing the entire thing together. All of those, including the picture of JSMS’s current principal, Mr. Curtis Tootoosis, done by all the students I teach in high school, can be seen on JSMS’s Facebook. Or, currently, all along the halls of JSMS.

The last step was to make up a simple photocopyable sheet, with a small drawing of a bird, graphed, and a larger empty graphed space. I remember seeing those things in colouring books as a kid, but I never made the connection.

During the class after the introduction to graphing class, I walked the students through measuring off and creating graphs over their photos and over a large sheet of paper, then set them to work at drawing their portraits. One of the best moments was when Oliver.Cool (I talked about him in the Charcoal post) suddenly understood what he was doing. I’ve never seen such a small person become so excited about learning something.

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Charcoal

I want to take these next two posts to show off some of the work some of my students at Jimmy Sandy Memorial school have been doing. It’s been a little rough jumping into being the art teacher, having to make everything up as I go along (though more often I think I prefer that to having to follow a set curriculum), and not even having an art room. That is the most frustrating thing. I need to drag everything I need for a class around on a little wheely cart, including buckets of water when our project includes paint. And what about when I have more then one class in a row, I can’t run back to my office to drop stuff off and pick up more stuff? And it’s just awful when I need to pile wet paintings all over my tiny cart without letting them touch and get all ruining in transport. I must spend more time preparing and cleaning up after classes then the actual classes themselves.

But sometimes, I feel like it’s all worth it, when I get in a good armload of some really spectacular pieces and I think, “Hey, does this mean I actually taught these kids something? Awesome!

One of our last projects was like that. I took photos of each student, then had them draw themselves and use charcoal and chalk for shading. We’d gone over the rules for drawing faces in our sketchbooks before Christmas, and luckily most of the kids remembered what to do. I just want to show off a few of my favorites, so here goes:

This first one is from Susie M. in third grade. When she showed this to me, I was completely amazed. She asked for no help at all, and did everything on her own. This is also the youngest grade I teach.

The next image is also from third grade, from a boy who insists I write his name “Oliver.Cool” and who loves to show me his muscles. He also insisted I not help him at all with his drawing:

Next I have Sydney, in grade 3E. JSMS added the extra grade 3 class to help students learn English, since classes are taught in Naskapi up until the end of grade 2. Sydney is very tall and mature for her class, a real helper and a sweetie.

For grade 4 I have a drawing done by Kelly M., Susie’s older sister. Kelly holds a special spot in my heart, and maybe that’s why I chose her drawing to feature here. It wasn’t particularly the best or the one that looked most like the photo, but it has a certain charm I really love.

I have two to show off for grade 5. Which is surprising from such a small and often belligerent class! But those kids have talent, even if it is sometimes a struggle to make them actually do their work. The first one is from Annabelle, and she has captured herself amazingly:

The other grade 5 piece is from Pien (“Pien” is a common last name for Naskapis, though I think the origin is the French “Pierre”). I just love this one so much because of how he captured this innocence in his character. Anyone who knows Pien can instantly recognize this as a drawing of him.

For grade 6 I have this drawing from George. George is one of those boys that loves art and drawing and doing a good job. I wish I had more Georges.

In Quebec elementary goes from Pre-K to grade 6, and then high school is grade 7 to grade 11, which are called Secondary I through V. So for Secondary I, grade 7, I have this drawing from Tristan. I love that he threw the background in there as well:

Secondary II features Tristan’s sister, Alexandra. They’re a family of artists:

Secondary III is a super talented group, but this drawing stands way out and just spectacular. Shew captured herself amazingly (and she’s the older sister to Annabelle from grade 5).

There is a Secondary IV and IVa, because that class is so big. I get the girls from Secondary IV, IVa, and V as one class, and the boys as another. For the girls I have two drawings from girls that decided to switch photos. So, Esther drew Danielle, and Danielle drew Esther. They both came out very polished.

And finally, lastly, one from the Secondary IV, IVa, and V boys. I really love this one. It’s far from perfect, but it holds so much charm. This is Job Willie. (“Job” pronounced like the thing you go to every day to make money.)

Hope you enjoyed my little tour through a project and through each of my classes! To see all the finished drawings check out JSMS’s Facebook: Elementary and Secondary

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Cold Day!

We never get snow days up here. “It snows, deal with it.” is the mentality of pretty much everyone. (An aspect about this place that reminds me of living in Sapporo.) And you have to have that mentality, when snow is really the least of your worries. (Through it makes me feel super tough, I do sometimes get jealous when all my teacher friends down south post excited statuses on Facebook about their cozy snuggly snow days.)

Well, this morning I finally got the “Snow Day” call. Except it’s now snowing. It’s just cold. All these past two weeks we’ve had a “late start” at school almost every morning because of the cold. Today was the first time this year I was told there’s actually no school because of the cold. At least for the morning. We might have to go in in the afternoon, but they’ll call to let us know.

They say it’s about -50 right now. But honestly, once you get to past -40 it doesn’t really matter, it’s just frickin cold. On Sunday Eric and I took a “nice leisurely stroll” across town, and it took a good half hour for my hands to stop aching from the cold after we got back. We hadn’t realized it was -57 out there.

This morning when I looked at our thermometer here in the kitchen it read “HH.H degrees Fahrenheit”. Thermometer’s aren’t suppose to break because it’s so cold, are they?

There’s this strange ice-crystal fog hanging low over everything in our little valley this morning. As the sun’s coming up it’s bending the light in some really spectacular ways. I’m glad I can cozy up at home this morning instead of watching these views from a cold school bus window.

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2.14.11

It’s funny how whenever Valentine’s Day comes up, people often feel the need to defend themselves. Either we defend ourselves saying Valentine’s Day is stupid, full of consumerism, why should we set aside just one day to show affection, etc. etc. Or we defend ourselves saying we like the lovey-dovey-ness and don’t care what people say and pink is actually one of our favorite colours. It’s cool one way or the other. Or it’s only cool if you’re quirky and DIY about it. Or it’s cool if you celebrate Singles’ Awareness Day. Or it’s cool if you have a steady boy/girlfriend.

To be honest, I never really thought about it until this year. When I lived at home (when I was a youngin’) we would decorate a cardboard box and everyone would make paper Valentines and stick them in the box and at breakfast on Valentine’s Day morning we’d all exchange our cards. Sometimes my parents would give us some special candy too, and they’d give each other things. Sometimes my dad would give my mom a special necklace.

When I was in elementary school there was a big worn wooden box in the entrance way before my 5th grade classroom. It was painted pink and it had a slot and you could put Valentines in it all week long leading up to the day, and then they’d get delivered all over school.

Now I teach at that same school, and I was sad to see that the box is gone, and very few people remember that tradition. So I got a cardboard box with a slot in the top, and every art class I taught leading up to today I supplied my students with construction paper, glitter, glue, scissors, crayons… It was actually sort of difficult to get some of the kids to make cards. Or they’d make one and be all like “I’m done! Now what?” And I’d yell “Make another!”

This morning I’ll be the one delivering them class to class. I like Valentine’s Day. I like the memories I have of it. They’re the kind of memories that don’t demand a big expectation. No fancy dinner or dozen red roses. But I think because of that I’ve also been guarded from disappointment surrounding this day, and I’m grateful for that.

Well, here are a few Valentine pictures of you. During my Valentine-making classes I cut out a few myself, and I’ll be handing these out along with the others this morning to a handful of my students. Not to play favorites (I just didn’t have the time to make 160 Valentines for each of my students), but to have an excuse to write a couple personal notes to kids who might just need it.

I also got up early this morning so I could have some cranberry muffins made for Eric when he comes over later today.

I’ve never made cranberry muffins before. I hope they turned out ok.
Here’s the recipe in case anyone is interested:

1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries (I still had some in the freezer from picking them up here)
1 + 1/4 cups of sugar
3 cups of flour (I always use part wheat, part white)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine/butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Toss cranberries with 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside.
Mix all other ingredients, stirring in nuts and cranberries last with a wooden spoon (so they don’t get mushed in the mixer).
Spoon into greased muffin tins and sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning half way through.
Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before moving to cooling rack (the cranberries will stick, so be careful).
Makes about 18 good-sized muffins.

I love you. Today and everyday. God loves you too.

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-54

It’s been really cold here. Too cold to take the students cross country skiing on Saturdays. Today is was -54. They finally decided to close school at lunch. I actually had to hitchhike in it today, to try to get home from the dentist. I was only out in it for 1/2 hour before someone picked me up, but that was well enough. When it’s that cold, you can understand that anything in the mid to early -20’s is downright balmy. Ok, not exactly. But it’s at least bearable, so “skiing weather” I like to call it.
Sunday was like this, so I decided to take the morning to go find an old trail I use to love going on when I was little. I had to go across town first, near the old house I use to live in, then past that and out onto the lake.

I use to take my Sammy-Dog with me all the time. He loved coming with me when I’d go skiing. but he’s blind and deaf and not healthy, a trip like this would really exhaust him. So I left him home. But as I skied down onto the lake I was joined by two dogs. One I nicknamed Boss, and he’d obviously escaped some horrid oppression:

The other a bunch of the Newfie teachers have named Bucko, and they feed him regularly. He’s also the (perhaps not-so-proud) father of 5 puppies as of last night.

The two of them were as pleased as punch to follow me on my adventure. Though it was pretty obvious about mid-way through the trip, they might’ve been regretting their choice.

My first hint that the old ski trail hadn’t been use in ages should’ve been the fact that no ski-doo trails went straight across the lake, like they use to. Instead there were some that went at a right angle to how I wanted to go, but mostly the first part of the trip was across some pretty bumpy surfaces.

I couldn’t quite remember where the trail entered the woods, so once I got to the opposite side of the lake I had to follow the shore a bit until I found it.

This trail use to be kept up by a husband and wife couple. I think the husband always made sure it was clear, packed down, well marked, and undisturbed by ski-dooers. The wife was the one who loved to ski. They’d even place stick markers all across the frozen lake to follow. I had the knock the ice off the little hand painted skier.

Venturing into the wooded trail. My bug sunglasses were to help keep me from snow blindness on the lake. I took them off once I was in the woods.

I use to take this trail a lot when I was probably between the ages of 8 and 10. It had seemed a lot longer, and the trees had seems a lot taller, and the hills had seemed a lot steeper, back then.

I do remember taking this trail once when I was probably 14 or 15. And it seemed almost as though no one has taken it since. I wonder how many people left in Schefferville still even know about it. Here it splits. I have always taken the right, down-sloping rout before. This time I decided to take the left, upward slope.

No ski-doo had been over the trail, so I had to break the whole thing myself. It was really exhausting work. But the landscape was beautiful.

Old creepy trees drenched in creepy black moss.

At first they bounded ahead of me, but like I said, the dogs got pretty exhausted in the deep deep snow pretty fast.

Even though it was mid-morning, the sun still doesn’t get too high here yet, and it made everything look like it was late afternoon.

Because I was unfamiliar with the upper path, I got turned around a few times. This was the last marker I saw, and the path seemed to completely disappear after this. I had to fight my way through fallen trees before I found where it met up with the lower path.

More pretty:

And finally, here’s where the paths come together. This is the last photo I took, though it was another hour back to town from here. Three hours altogether, and two very good sized heel blisters. But a good trip in nostalgia.

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