Happy fall y’all! For this month’s blog, I’ve decided to write about the classes that I’ve taken this semester at the Art League. They’ve all been fun and educational in their own way and I’ve enjoyed them immensely.
My first class on Tuesday nights was a ceramics/pottery class with house potter Amy. The first thing that I figured out pretty quickly is that making pottery is not easy to do. Amy made it look easy as she gently guided the clay with her hands until it became a vase. It was incredible to watch. I bought a 25-pound bag of clay, and decided to get dirty.
The first thing we learned how to do was to prepare the clay for the wheel by “wedging” it. There’s a specific hand rolling technique used to get all the air of the clay so it doesn’t explode in the kiln. No pressure. After the clay is ready it’s time to throw! I’ve learned the hard way that taking the time to center your clay is the key. Otherwise, your piece will become thicker on one side than the other or completely fly off the wheel (like mine did). There’s something really intoxicating about working with the clay on the wheel. The spinning is quite mesmerizing and the fluidity in which you can push and pull the clay into shape is extremely satisfying…and as I mentioned earlier, not easy to do. I started out with 25 pounds of clay yet managed to get only two pieces in the kiln which I haven’t seen yet (fingers crossed). In the meanwhile, I bought another 25 pounds and I’m ready to keep going!
The next class I took was metalsmithing with Dana, which I quickly learned is more rings and jewelry that it is making your own swords and battle axes. I walked into class ready for anything. What I found was a room full of women, many of which already seemed to know what they were doing. My first task, I remember was to simply take a thin piece of copper wire, and bend and wrap it around a tool until it created a swirl. Then, we moved into the back room to learn how to use the torches. Heating up a piece of metal until it’s a searing, hot, glowing red is just so cool LOL. When the hot metal is dipped in water it makes the strangest sound and somehow is instantly touchable. Mind blown. The last step is to soak the metal in “the pickle” a white bucket filled with a blue solution that I was warned not to get on me (is some kind of acid bath) This metalsmithing is dangerous stuff! In the end my metal swirls were shiny and looked great and in two seconds Dana turned them into a pair of earrings for my wife. Each week she taught us a new skill. Whenever somebody was doing something new Dana y would call everybody over so that we could all see it. The coolest thing was during our last class when we were given small metal plates and told to sand them really well without touching it with our fingers. After taping the back, we were instructed to draw on it with a magic marker sharpie before dropping it in acid. The reaction was incredible! Somehow whatever was written with the Sharpie was now raised off of the metal like the presidents on coins. I can’t wait to go back and see her again to finish up some of the pieces I made.
The third class I took this semester was an oil painting class with Shain Bard who is a master at painting, trees and wildlife and one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Her work is absolutely incredible. Painting realism is very far outside of my comfort zone and this class’s assignment is to paint a tree! I’m determined to try it all, so after settling on the right tree, I got to work. We started with a grid on my enormous 3’ x 4’ canvas. Then I attempted to sketch my tree and it was a disaster. “Just draw what you see” Shain told me. I’m amazed at how much harder that is for me than just creating something out of my brain. “I’m trying” I’d tell her. “It looks great” would be her response, Shain was patient with me and kind and it wasn’t until after I finally got some paint on the canvas that she confided in me that she had been worried LOL. Over the weeks I learned to mix colors and work with oil. Everyone in the class agreed to continue with Shain for an additional couple of weeks. The piece I’m doing still has quite a bit of white space, so my guess is that I’ll probably be working on it for much longer than that.
Last month the ALLI held their annual members art showcase and as a resident artist I was invited to contribute to the exhibit. It was such a thrill and honor to have one of my pieces hanging among all the incredible artwork that was there and I’m so excited to see what the future months brings.
Until next time, be well and take care of each other.
My name is Chris O’Donnell and I am writing to you today as one of this 2022/2023 Art League of Long Island’s Artists in Residence. I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me to have been selected for this honor. Each time I walk the halls of ALLI I am awed, humbled, and inspired. Wherever I look, I see paintings, ceramics and jewelry that looks as if they belong in a museum! Each art piece seems to be better than the next. I wonder about the artists that created them. “How did they do that?” I think to myself. In these first few visits to the Art League, I’ve been amazed by the teacher’s talent, sophistication and dedication to their craft. There are times that I have to pinch myself.
My artwork is unusual. I’m the first to admit that. I also know that there isn’t another artist in the world that is doing exactly what I am. Because I use an unusual medium in every piece I do – a simple logo of myself, whose beginnings can be traced back to fraternity bar-night flyers in the early 90’s. From there the logo (and myself) made its way to California where it was used in a guerilla-style sticker campaign. Hundreds of stickers of “The Head” were distributed through the local skate and surf shops, soon to be found on mailboxes and stop signs from San Diego to San Francisco. I had no plan for it. I have used the logo many times over the years for various business ideas, but I’ll be honest, when it began there was never any thought or attempt to monopolize on the head. I was just putting it out there.
It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I picked it up for art.
Without getting into too much detail, I had been helping an old college friend repair his home that he had destroyed in an OCD episode. While we worked, I learned that he had been depressed because he believed had never achieved a level of success that he could say was proud of. My poor friend believed that life had simply passed him by. After spending the day trying to convince him that it was never too late to start over, I heard myself. The idea came to me like lightning. I am going to change my course because I can. I am going to create art. My own kind of art. I’m not going to worry about what other people think about it or have to say about it. I’m just going to do my own thing. And I want to learn!
And thus, The SunnyDayze Art Project was created.
The idea was simple – create and post a new piece of creative work every single day for 1,000 days. Make sure each piece has the logo in it. Experiment with as many mediums as possible. Since beginning I have worked with acrylic, spray and watercolor paint, computers, wood, paper, food, and much more.
This opportunity at the Art League will allow me to expand into new mediums. This semester I am enrolled in ceramics, metalsmithing, and oil painting. Although I have only taken a few classes so far, I can see that I’m going to learn a great deal. The teachers are smart, kind and dedicated to their craft and it has been an incredible experience already. More details on those classes in my next post.
Until then, thank you for reading, be well and take care of each other.