The importance of creative collaboration and maintaining a visual journal

Visual Journal - Ceilon Aspensen - Montana Artist - Montana Art

I made a new friend this year; someone who turned out to be instrumental in re-calibrating my artistic compass. She and her husband (both teachers) were on sabbatical and chose to spend it in Bozeman. They live in Maine, a place I have only visited once, but with which I absolutely fell in love (because it’s a lot like Montana, actually).

My new friend is a science teacher, and she shared with me the project she chose to work on while on sabbatical: visual journaling for young scientists. Her goal is to get Maine’s children out of doors to enjoy the beautiful nature by which they are surrounded, and she thought visual journaling was the way to do that.

Of course this got me very excited , so I shared with her that I am an art teacher (on a sort of self-imposed permanent “sabbatical” from the public school system), and she was very interested in my thoughts on her journaling project. So we collaborated with all the enthusiasm of two very geeky teachers over the course of two hair appointments. (That’s how I met her: she literally walked in to my beauty salon, hoping she could get her hair done the way her hairdresser back in Maine did it–mission accomplished.)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a divine appointment. Both of us benefited by the association. She got my expertise as an art teacher on her journaling project, and I got to experience one of the few things I miss about public school teaching: the wonderful energy of collaborating with other teachers who love what they do!

By the end of our second visit, I knew that I had to find a way to teach art again (but not in the public schools). Before the day was out I put money down on an additional space adjacent to my existing studio that I can set up as a classroom.

But that’s not all I got out of that brief association. I realized how important it is for me to resume the process of daily drawing exercise. Not only have I not been working in my studio lately, but I haven’t been drawing either. As an AP Studio Art teacher back in Baltimore, daily drawing practice was an essential part of my students’ grade (even the ones who were not in AP Studio Art). It’s so important to “practice what you preach” as a K-12 teacher (because teenagers are particularly immune to hypocrites and hypocritical behavior), so I maintained a daily visual journal, too. But not lately.

In addition to just needing to do it, visual journaling is a requirement for MAP Certification. One of the things I did last year to get me moving in the right artistic direction was to join Dg House‘s MAP cohort here in Bozeman. It’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.  But I’m behind on that program, because I’ve been working on so many other things at once.  But the visual journal is not only essential  to completing that program, it is also essential to my growth and health as an artist.

So, it’s back to school for Ms. Aspensen. I got out the rubric I used for my AP Studio Art students in Baltimore, and I am grading myself weekly on my progress. You might think I can’t be objective in grading myself, but that’s the beauty of a well-written rubric: I created it such that my students could not help but see whether they were achieving the objectives. I’ll be holding myself to that same standard.

(Download the rubric here for your own use if you would like to take on the same challenge. NOTICEThis document is protected by copyright, and is available for use according to the “fair use” provisions of international copyright laws. This means you may download a single copy for your own personal use, but you may NOT make copies and circulate them. Please simply share the link to this document.)

This has been a very productive week in the “getting un-stuck” process. It is absolutely true that once we make the decision to change or to accomplish something (or both), the Universe rushes out to greet us with the resources we need to get that accomplished. Life is good, and I am so grateful for all the good that came into my life this week. :-)

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