Friday Two Cents: Leaving Hell Once In A While


City life. What does that entail?  For me in Toronto it is the constant noise, light, motion and interacting with both nice and rude people living in a large metropolitan city.  There are many benefits to living in the city but in recent years I have come to grow tried of the endless droning of the sounds, sights and troubles of the city.  It has almost become a white noise in the background. Unfortunately it is also the place where I must earn a living and it has turned into a necessary evil of modern life.  

Yet occasionally there are those times when I can leave the city behind and enjoy the tranquility and present people in rural Ontario.  Many of my visits are places like Midland, Stratford, Niagara Region, Waterloo and Guelph Ontario.  These places are islands of tranquility in a sea of chaos.  More and more I find myself seeking refuge from the chaos that is Toronto.  

Perhaps it has something to do with me being a supply teacher.  Everyday I go into a school and there I am constantly interacting with people. Not simply the students but parents and staff. I enjoy interacting with them and I find that it gives me strength and helps me bring purpose to my life. However there are times when I see the ugly side of the world.  Students harming each other, parents being rude to other parents and staff members and even teachers struggling to teach students who do not care about anyone but themselves.  At times I can feel the stress rising in the staff.  I have even seen signs of staff members suffering from PSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).  When I see all this I can feel my own stress level rising and I need some way to help me deal with it all.  For me it is diving into my art projects.  I draw, paint, sculpt or write and I can feel the stress melting away. Yet sometimes I need to put a little distance from the reality of things, to truly immerse myself into my art.  

That is when I hear the call of the open road.  I sometimes leave for a small community for the day, at other times a few more.  But during that time I always take my art supplies with me.  I always bring my drawing or sketchbook, yet on those longer journeys I bring my painting supplies.  In resent weeks I have been fortunate to travel to Midland and St. Jacobs Ontario.  Both times I was able to relax and indulge in some art but also to leave the troubles and chaos of the big city behind and simply create.   

Living in the big city might be a necessary evil but even Lucifer was able to leave hell once in a while.  

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Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Being Prepared


Being a supply teacher and an artist, I sometimes have the opportunity to combine my passions.  Creating my comic strip entitled The Craziest Things is one of them.  The genesis of this comic strip came from the situations I have observed from the students.  I thought it would be great to create a comic strip based on those situations and thus The Craziest Things was born.  

This is my tenth year creating my comic strip and in that time I use many different themes to inspire me in creating it. Some include the differences in the generations or the use of technology in the classroom compared to their parents. Other times I use situations that inspire me from the real world and I then simply create a scene.  Yet the majority of my inspiration comes from real life situations that I experience with the students.  

This month centres on the return to school after the summer break. Yes that amazing time when you have to go back to the salt mines, I mean classroom and begin a fresh new year of learning and discovery.  

However with the start of the school year comes the realization that you need to resupply and get ready for any contingency.  As a supply teacher I have seen many different things that even to this day surprise me. Therefore I thought of a funny way to express a rising trend in the school system.  Instead of telling you about it I’ll let you read the comic for yourself.  

I hope you enjoy September’s The Craziest Things: Being Prepared.

Friday Two Cents: Inspiration From A Master


On my Ottawa trip I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful exhibit at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.   There they have amazing interactive activities that explain science and technology to children and adults alike.  Yet as wonderful as the museum was there was a special exhibition that was my ultimate goal.  I am referring to the special exhibit Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to explore the genius that is Leonardo da Vinci, a personal inspiration of mine.  The exhibition-featured reproductions of his notebooks, ideas, inventions and of course his wondrous drawings and paintings.  For obvious reasons you cannot collect all of his works in one location.  Many are over 500 years old and many would deteriorateand be lost to humanity if not protected. 

Even though everything within the exhibit is a reproduction that did not diminish the wonder I felt.  To look upon his works and I can only be amazing and humbled.  His inventions were astounding for the time period he created them. His drawings and notes on human anatomy were nothing but wondrous.  Some so actuate that I remember using some of his drawings in my anatomy class in university. However for me, I was mostly drawn to his paintings and drawings.  

His drawing of the Vitruvian Man and the subsequent explanation of it were fascinating. His fresco of the Last Supper was spectacular and his paintings were full of wonder and meaning.  There, I had the opportunity of seeing his two versions of Virgin on the Rocksside by side.  The dark version and experts agree is an earlier version of the painting is located in the Louvre, Paris.   The other is a latter version in the National Gallery, London.  They are quite similar but for the obvious colouring and shading, yet there are other subtle differences and meanings in both. Instead of me telling you I will let you see the painting below for yourselves.  

The section on explaining and understanding the mysteries of the Mona Lisa was spectacular on its own.  They had the opportunity to photograph the Mona Lisa in great detail as well as its many different layers and in ultraviolet and infrared.  They take you through the process and show you the painting in such detail it is like you are looking at the real thing.  Their examination was so detailed that is showed different paintings of women underneath the one we see today.  They also adjusted for 500 years of fading and wear on the colours and reveal how the painting looked when Da Vinci originally painted it.  

This exhibition is a testament to a man who exceled in many different fields. A man who’s interests include invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography.  A “Jack-of-all-trades”.  In a world where people are increasingly looking to be a specialist in one field Leonardo da Vinci shows that we can excel in whatever we put our minds to. I have been called a “Jack-of-all-trades” with knowledge in technology, mathematics, the sciences as well as the arts. I am handy with tools and have constructed many things just as Da Vinci once did.  

To say I admire and am inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci would be stating the obvious.  He is someone I inspire to be. A “Jack-of-all trades”, a true Renaissance man

Friday Two Cents: The Language Of Art


This past week I had completed my Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts Part 2.  During this entire course I had the opportunity to learn new and exciting things to bring into the classroom for the students.  Some included techniques in areas that people would consider traditional art forms like painting, drawing, sculpting.  Other practices would be considered in new areas of art such as photography, Photoshop, digital art and word art. 

The one area I liked and was intrigued about was the language we would use to help the students express them selves in art.  In other words, it’s the language used in the art class.  Many classrooms have word walls for the students to help them understand, write and spell the words mostly used for literacy. Yet for other subjects, like math, there are other word walls that help the students understand the words or concepts within the subject.  To use math as an example …

Sum– the total amount resulting from the addition of two or more numbers.  

This helps the students use the language most used in the subject.  During this course I found some words that works with the Art curriculum.  I made a chart that can help students and other educators.  For just as Hippocrates once said …

‘The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.’ Hippocrates

Art Word Chart Page 1

Hopefully these words can help others understand and create wonderful and meaningful pieces of art.  

Friday Two Cents: Art Is Everywhere


‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.’ Pablo Picasso

For the past week I have been fortunate to be taking an Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts.  I have already taken Part 1 and now I am continuing my art education with Part 2.  

In the course we are learning new techniques and art mediums to bring the world of art to the students.  I’m not talking about crafts like making Mother’s day gifts, but well thought out art that the students did.  Yes we are learning the traditional art techniques but we need to help the students think more on why they create the art.  I have had many discussions with people that we should be looking at the process of art with the students and not the final product.  This course centres on that governing principle. 

We had wonderful experiences with art this week and we have one more week to go but we were also fortunate to go on a field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg.  They have wonderful art pieces that are all created my Canadian artists.  They also have a large collection of First Nations art on display as well.  We were able to have a wonderful tour that helped us explore works from the Group of Seven, First Nations art and other pieces including works from a Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis.  

After had a workshop were we would be able to create our own Art pieces in the same style of Maud Lewis.  We had about 30 minutes but I think my creation was pretty close.   Her work is considered by many as folk-art and to some it may seem simplistic.  Yet exposing her pieces to the students could encourage them to think; if she can paint these works them maybe I could too.  In the end isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  Encourage conversation and inspire others.  

I have always thought so.  

Comic Strips: School’s Out For Summer


In Canada the end of the school year is at the end of June.  Both students and teachers look forward to a two-month summer break to relax and recharge for the upcoming year.  Interestingly I read a study that shows that teachers energy level for the school year is around 100% but as the school year moves on those energy levels slowly go down steadily until June.  The study continues to state that the teacher’s energy levels return to optimal in September.  It takes two months for people to recover from the previous school year.  No wonder people look forward to the break.  

This month’s comic plays on the idea that not only do students look forward to the break but so do teachers.  Instead of telling you about the comic I’ll simply let you enjoy it on your own. 

I hope you enjoy June’s The Craziest Things: School’s Out For Summer.

Art Inspiration: The Scottish Crew


For the past few months I have been posting my adventures in Scotland. The biggest reason I had such a wonderful time was due to the amazing people I went with.  They help make the Scotland Adventure a time to remember. They encouraged me to test my limits and seek out new adventures and experiences.  They in short inspired me.  Therefore it is not surprising that I was inspired to draw and creature some art based around what I have affectionately called The Scottish Crew.  

I therefore took on the task to create Steampunk caricatures of the Scottish Crew.  I have already created two caricatures out of the group of four on previous occasions. One being myself, The Captain and the other as a Steampunk Scott’s woman. Below are all four in a final picture entitled “The Scottish Crew”.  Each caricature is similar and inspired by the same symbols I created for the Scotland Adventure logo.  

The person to the far left has been called Viking and he quite looks the part. Therefore I drew him as a Viking with the helmet I drew for the logo.  The next person I drew as a Steampunk Scott’s woman.  She rather fits the part and she loved the caricature. The third person is tall and of French background, so I drew her as a Femme Fatale. The dress and two pistols seemed to fit her personality.  And the final person is my caricature as a Steampunk Captain. I then placed everyone in front of a famous landmark in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle.   

There you have it; The Scottish Crew. I hope you enjoy this inspiring piece as much as I enjoyed drawing it for the people who inspired me to create it.   

Ailish Sinclair

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