Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Faculty Art Show at Idyllwild Arts

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Jewelry case showcasing the work of Metals Week artists

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 25 artists from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program showcased a variety of works at the Opening Reception at the Parks Exhibition Center on Monday night, June 27.

The featured artwork came from instructors who are teaching workshops during Metals Week, Hot Clay, and Native American Arts Week, as well as select faculty artists and staff members. The items included jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures, and Indian artifacts and toys. The show ends this week.

“Everyone helped out to make this show a success,” said Christy Scott, who works at the gallery this summer. “David Wells (guest curator) came and helped us out, and so did his assistant, Ian Erickson-Kery. Kristin Coffin helped us arrange all of the jewelry. It was a group effort.”

Christy said that about 120 people showed up on Opening Night and several items were sold. Among them two female figurative sculptures by Debra Fritts, a studio artists from Georgia. Her husband, Frank Chelton, a painter/poet/teacher, was there taking pictures of her artwork, while she was teaching her figure class.

Debra Fritts' husband, Frank Chelton, showcases her work

“By the Wings of the Raven,” a multiple fired stoneware of a nude woman inside a vessel. Debra’s price tag was $3,600 dollars, and it sold. “White Wing,” a larger nude female torso, sold for $3,200 dollars.

Although the facial images on Debra’s pieces looked similar, Frank said that it’s not anyone in particular.

“She’s just perfected the image over the years,” he said.

“Her work is incredible,” added Jessica Schiffman, an Idyllwild illustrator and painter, who teachers a summer class. She attended Opening Night and said that Debra’s work stood out.

Other items that sold were jewelry from Metals Week instructors, including Kristin Coffin, from Los Angeles. Last year, we featured a story on her jewelry making (see Idyllwild Me post entitled, “Metals Week at IA” on June 27, 2010). She had started to sell her jewelry on Etsy, a specialty web site for handcrafted gifts.

Since then, Kristin’s jewelry has become more specialized, making mostly wedding bands, said Jackie Ryan, her roommate in LA who is also a painting assistant in the Summer Program.

(from L) Christy Scott helps Alison Yates with a ring

Alison Yates, from Idyllwild Arts Academy, was there looking at Kristin’s rings a couple of days after the show.

“I just love her work, and her prices are reasonable,” Alison said.

She purchased a gold band of Kristin’s for $65 dollars.

Another popular jeweler is Emma McMenamin, from the Summer Program. Her stone and glass beaded jewelry already has a signature style. One of her necklace-and-earrings ensembles was called, “Rain Forest.” Its green and gold beads and jewels was a fitting tribute to that marvel of nature in South America.

Ian read from Emma’s tag:

Ian showcases Emma's "Rain Forest" necklace with non-identical earrings

“It has jasper, Czech glass beads, Czech and Japanese seed beads, and gold-filled earrings,” he said. “It costs $525 dollars.”

At closer inspection, we noticed that the “Rain Forest” earrings were not identical. In fact, the styles were very different.

“That’s edgy,” exclaimed Ian.

Did Emma do that on purpose, or did she simply run out of beads?

“I thought since the necklace was asymmetrical, then the earrings needed to follow suit,” Emma said.

Although there are hundreds of beads in the necklace, Emma said that it only took her about 20 hours to make.

“I started it while watching ‘The Sound of Music,’ and it just took shape quickly,” Emma said. “It was actually one of my first tries at freeform bead weaving – a form that does not have a set pattern, but rather it takes on a life of its own.”

When a woman tried it on, it was surprisingly lightweight, even with the multitude of beads woven into it.

Neil looks at some of the wooden Native American toys in the show

Emma said that she thinks her jewelry will remain in the case until the end of the summer.

Christy and Ian said that the Monday, July 4th show will focus on “Hot Clay” images.

The summer exhibition season at the Parks Exhibition Center runs from June 27 to August 20. Opening Receptions will be held on Mondays July 4, July 11, and July 18; and on Tuesdays July 26 and August 9.

For more information, call the gallery at the Parks Exhibition Center at (951) 659-2171, extension 2251, or visit and click on “Summer.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Unusual Sculptures at Senior Art Show

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Lian talks to another about her 8-foot magician with multiple bunnies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The last senior class visual art show at Idyllwild Arts showcased some unusual, life-sized  sculptures, along with some standout photos and paintings. Samantha, Ben, Chloe, Veronica and Lian each outdid one another with imagination and artistic skill.

For one of her sculptures, Chloe asked fellow visual artist Sofia to stand on a pedestal and pose for about an hour.

“Originally, Chloe had asked a dancer to pose, but they all were in rehearsal during the visual art show,” Sofia explained. “Someone told her that I had danced before and she asked me.”

Sofia wore a natural colored dance outfit, and Chloe painted over the material, and even her skin with acrylic paint.

“It took me days to get it all off!” Sofia exclaimed.

She said that Chloe left it up to her asto what poses she wanted to perform during the art show.

“She told me just to go slow,” Sofia said.

Sofia became one of Chloe's life sculptures

Another large sculpture was created by Lian. It was part of a series that showcased animals.

In her piece, Lian created an 8-foot magician with bunnies coming out of his pockets, pants and everywhere.

The piece showed Lian’s “dark side,” another student said.

“I think it’s great!” exclaimed Mallory, on the art staff. “It’s expressive and a little edgy.”

Mallory said that Lian coupled the magician along with other circus-type pieces, including a wolf with one eye, and a circus acrobat and clown.

“Lian even added the music, which sounds like circus music,” Mallory said.

She added that all of the seniors had submitted their presentations early on, which were approved by the art staff.

Mallory went on to talk about Veronica’s paintings, which focused on sushi.

“Don’t touch it, it’s still wet!” Mallory exclaimed as I edged closer to a painting that featured a woman’s nude torso with what looked like rose pedals.

“No, they’re sushi,” Mallory said.

She explained that Veronica liked sushi a lot, but was also nervous about its potential to make her sick.

The other two paintings showed a woman’s torso similar to the other one, and rows of different kinds of sushi on a plate.

A sculpture-and-video combination by Veronica personified the “sickness” part of sushi. Mallory didn’t say whether Veronica had gotten sick from sushi before.

On the back wall were a series of student photos by Ben. He hand selected several of his classmates from Idyllwild Arts to act as models. Underneath each close up portrait was a statement about their lives.

Ben showcased photos that revealed his classmates secrets

“I belonged to a religious cult for the first 12 years of my life,” admitted Bram, a theater major.

Later, he explained how the photos came about.

“Ben asked me to model for him, and bring along several ‘secrets’ on pieces of paper,” Bram explained. “The one about me belonging to a cult was considered the best.”

As a theater major, Bram is used to “exposing” various sides of himself.  But he was surprised how few people asked him about the cult.

“I think they being too polite and don’t want to pry,” he said.

Bram is open to talking about the experience. He said that belonging to a cult seemed normal, until he turned 12 and rebelled. He tries to take the best out of the experience, including shunning materialism.

Since the leader of the cult died recently, Bram feels a sense of closure. But he’d like to use the experience in his theater art sometime.

“Perhaps I’ll do a monologue and explain how things really were,” he said.

The other photos by Ben talked about personal things as well, such as inability to trust other people.

Ben enlarged the images, and then emphasized some of the features with a collage. Bram’s eyes were emphasized, while Rebecca, an outspoken writer’s mouth was the focal point.

The largest one along another wall featured Deliah, a pretty blonde girl with black mud on her face.

“Her face and hair were so white, that I had to do something different,” Ben explained.

He projected Deliah’s portrait to enlarge it to about four feet wide.

Lian (at L with camera) in pink wig with friends at the art opening

Right now, there’s another visual art show at the Parks Exhibition Center on campus. It’s a group show featuring a variety of work. It will continue until June.

For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

All photos courtesy Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Published on: May 21, 2011 @ 16:31

‘Cryptozoology,’ a Myriad of Mythical Creatures

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Chloe's "Cryptozoology" painting of what looks like a dying alien in a yellow pool

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Throughout history, people have been fascinated by mythical beasts,  including the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, unicorns, fairies, dragons, griffins, and the like. Hollywood has joined on the bandwagon recently, with “Iron Man,” “Avatar” and “Tron.” And all of the creatures from the bar scene of “Star Wars” would fit into this definition.

Chloe's sculpture looked like broken angel's wings with a crab leg extension

Idyllwild has its own mythical creature, called the Idyllbeast, who is hairy and looks like Bigfoot, but not as scary. Maybe more like Chewbacca. Only that the Idyllbeast hosts his own web site, and his own storefront, The Idyllbeast Research Center, on North Circle Drive in Idyllwild.

With all of these mythical beasts in mind, the Idyllwild Arts Visual Arts Department presented its student theme show, “Cryptozoology,” with a Jan. 14 opening at the Parks Exhibition Center on campus. The show ends today, Jan. 28.

“Cryptozoology” is a made up word that refers to animals which are legendary or otherwise nonexistent by mainstream biology.  For their pieces, the students needed to rely on their imagination because these beasts couldn’t be drawn from observation.

Alake's traditional unicorn was sitting down like a human

The 35 pieces in the “Cryptozoology” student art show, includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and mixed media pieces. Their young, fertile imaginations didn’t disappoint the viewers. Some stuck to the traditional lions, tigers and bears hybrids, while others made up their own combinations. One artist even debunked the Santa Claus myth.

Some standout pieces include a sculpture by Chloe, a senior from Korea. The four foot sculpture, laid upon a white pedestal, looks like broken angels wings. The feathers are longer than any birds with a purple and blue glaze.

“Very nice,” said Rob Rutherford, head of the Art Department at Idyllwild Arts. He was inspecting the pieces for the first time before a Master Class on Comics.

At closer inspection, Chloe’s wings also showcased an extension, that looked like a crab leg. What does that mean? Was there a metamorphesis going on from aviary to crustration or visa versa?

Li-An's watercolor boldly debunked the Santa Claus myth

Across the way, was another Cryptozoology piece by Chloe. The bright painting featured what looked like a dying alien in a pool of yellow. What happened? There are no title cards as indications, but one can only guess that the image reflects the artist’s feelings at the time. As a senior, Chloe may be feeling separate, or alien, from her classmates as she faces final exams, college applications and finalizing her portfolio. It could be any number of things, but the benefit is that these art students have an outlet in visual art.

Another standout piece is a ceramic unicorn by Alake, another senior. Instead of showing the unicorn upright and proud, as shown throughout history, Alake has hit sitting down, much like a human would. The general look to the unicorn is not distant  or scary at all, but one you might see on a merry-go-round.

Delaney's painting depicted the moment of discovery

Hidden in the corner of the Parks gallery was a murky watercolor that might’ve been passed over at first glance. But this one, by Li-An, a senior, was worth contemplating over. It depicted an extremely thin, bald man sitting at a vanity, looking into the mirror.

In the mirror’s reflection, you don’t see a bald man, but a full-sized, furry reindeer with antlers (no, it wasn’t Rudolph). And draped around his waist is a red Santa’s suit–with an attached mask!

So, Li-An is debunking the myth of Santa! Not only is Santa not fat and jolly or even real, but he’s not even human!

Another student delved into the murky waters of mythical creatures by documenting the moment before the beast transformation. In Delaney’s painting of a surprised young man looking into the mirror. Instead of happiness at his first chest hair, this teen was appalled to see a growth inside his chest cavity. The growth looked like the concentric rings of a tree stump. The colors she chose were not garish, but more patriotic, red, white, blue and and gray. And there were many layers of them, which begged to be touched.

Dean's large painting showcased an eagle/plane and a man/tree

Other students in the “Cryptozoology” show showcased hybrids that were made up of animals and machine parts.

Ho Jin, a 9th grader from Korea, featured a triptych of three pen-and-ink drawings that he drew freehand (without any preliminary sketches). The first was a dragon/griffin, which used images of an urban landscape, including a city bus and cars at its feet.

The second drawing featured the Statue of Liberty in the space between the large cat’s eyes, and its ears were comprised of rockets and fighter planes.

In the last one, Ho-Jin inserted himself into the picture. He is taking a picture of a bird on a limb, while the top of his head is split to show a large egg.

The painting that caused the most controversy was one done by Dean, which depicted a nude man with a tree limb for an arm. Resting on his limb is an oversized eagle/plane hybrid. In the deep background is a carefree kid surfing a fine wave.

“He’s an awesome artist,” exclaimed Ignacio, who lives near Dean. “He pays close attention to detail.”

A wolf-lion hybrid by Anna, a sophomore

Ignacio said that Dean debated whether or not to put in the genitals, but did so at the end.

“He thought it was important,” Ignacio said.

As far as most people know, it’s OK for students to paint nude paintings. After all, they offer nude models as part of their regular drawing classes. When asked about Dean’s nude painting, Rob Rutherford didn’t answer, but said he was rushed for time. Biology teacher Will Waddell said that nudity in student artwork goes in cycles.

“The art students will do a lot of nude paintings, and then the school will crack down for awhile, and then they slowly crop up again,” Will said.

Helen, a mother and artist, said that she wasn’t opposed to nude paintings in a student show.

Nudes are the best way to study human anatomy, she said.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Darwin’s Interior ‘Magic Tree’

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Darwin, an Idyllwild sculptor, is not one to shy away from large art projects. His giant cowboy hat, which sets on top of Wooley’s, is testament to that.

Darwin points to a large tree that he built for an Idyllwild toy shop

“C’mon, you’ve got to see my tree,” said Darwin to friends standing outside Higher Grounds.

He lead them around the corner to a toy store. They looked up and gasped, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

Inside, Darwin had created a life-sized tree with a large trunk and several limbs that stretched across the high ceiling.

“My kids call it, ‘The Magic Tree,'” said Julie Fourroux, one of the owners.

The idea of having an interior tree sprung from a need to do something with an odd corner, Julie said. The toy shop stands in the former location of the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce and the Idyllwild Realty office.

“A wall had been knocked down to create more space,” Julie explained. “But there was this odd corner where the former entryway used to be. We just had to do something about it.”

Her husband Chris suggested that they put in a natural tree trunk called a “wrap,” similar to the posts holding up the porch outside. Then Julie suggested an entire tree, and Darwin, who had been standing there, said that he’d like to build them one.

Looking up, the manzanita limbs and branches are spectacular

For nearly a month, Darwin set up his workshop inside the toy store. He worked half days from a large table, while his manzanita branch collection stayed outside.

“I found the manzanita limbs up in the high country,” Darwin said.

He sanded them down and added clear varnish, showing their natural dark red color. The rest of the tree was constructed from everyday materials, including chicken wire, paper mache, large carpet tubes, paint, and varnish.

Darwin knew, after creating a giant hat for Wooley’s, that sound construction was key. (See ‘Hats Off to an Idyllwild Artist,” an Idyllwild Me  blog post dated March 2, 2010) Because large sculptures like these are only as good as they can last.

Darwin’s Wooley’s hat had to withstand Idyllwild’s extreme weather conditions, such as snow, rain and wind. At least, The Magic Tree was inside the toy shop, and only needed to be securely mounted. However, it stood over 15 feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds.

Darwin, the artist, next to The Magic Tree

When Darwin was forming the chicken wire, and before adding the paper mache, Chris mounted some electrical equipment inside. The equipment would be the energy source for the twinkling lights on the branches above.

“The tree is heavily mounted to the wall,” said Julie reassuringly. “It’s not coming down.”

However, to deter teens and children from trying to climb it, they put up a sign.

“So far, everyone’s been respectful,” Julie said.

Teens like it best, Chris added. “They stop at the door, look up and  don’t go any further.

However, the younger ones, look at it briefly and run to the toys, added RJ, the toy store clerk.

To get the texture of the bark on The Magic Tree, Darwin used crumbled up newspaper. Then he added many layers of brown acrylic paint.

“It looked like a chocolate tree,” Darwin said. “I was afraid the kids might peel off the bark and eat it.”

So he toned down the color to a lighter brown, and added lots of glitter, adding to the “magical” feel.

In addition to the twinkling white lights, there are some ornaments, such as birds, hanging from the branches, and little stuffed animals inside the knotholes.

Close up of the manzanita tree branches

“The plan is to add some paper snowflakes, and make it seasonal,” Julie said.

Her mother gave her the idea. She has an inside tree in her home that she decorates with ornaments according to every season, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

“We plan to add decorations to the tree, and when there’s no holiday, we’ll just add leaves,” Julie said.

Chris said that they’re pleased with the results and Darwin’s professionalism.

“He does great work,” Chris said. “Have you seen his mountain view sign on the top of the coffee house?”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Digital Art in Idyllwild

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

This digital art piece of Francoise's spans 5 feet wide

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Digital art is original art,” said Francoise Frigola, an Idyllwild photographer.

She told us about a disagreement that she had with a previous gallery owner, who claimed that digital art was not original art.

“She kept insisting that it was just color copies,” Francoise said in frustration.

Digital art takes the same amount of time and effort that it would take to create a painting, she said. It’s just using a different medium.

Francoise is exploring the limits of digital art, and knows computers inside and out. In fact, she owns a computer business in Idyllwild in which she troubleshoots, fixes, and updates PCs. She even instructs others how to use PhotoShop and other software.

Even though digital art has been around for decades, there is still much confusion about it, Francoise said.


Digital art covers a range of artwork that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe it, such as computer art and multimedia art.

Francoise’s next exhibit, “ODA,” (short for Original Digital Art), will feature several of her recent and past digital art series, will open this Thursday, Jan. 6, at Earth n’ Fire in Idyllwild.

Several of her digital art series will be represented, including ‘Les Chats,” “Hymn to a Forest,” and “Squared Drops,” abstracts made from photographs of water droplets.

Francoise explained how she shot a series of water droplets on a glass plate, and then layered them to get the optimal effect.

“I take many overlapping photographs, and then seam them together, which is not as simple as it looks,” Francoise explained. “I only move the camera one-eighth of an inch at a time. ”

Francoise layered many photos of water droplets to create this digital image

She added that when the light changes, the seaming process of Photoshop gets lost and it doesn’t recognize adjacent images.

“I have to manually place them one-by-one,” she said.

After she prints out her digital images on canvas, she then applies impasto, which is similar to clear paint, which gives it an extra dimension and makes each piece unique.

Some of the pieces in the “ODA” show are smaller, such as “Le Chats,” or the cats, measuring 6 x 8 inches, while others are rather huge, up to five feet wide.

Luckily, Earth N’ Fire has very tall ceilings, and can hold such large images, Francoise said.

Over the years, Francoise’s work in photography, sculptures and digital art reflect her fascination of form, shape and color. Mostly self-taught, Francoise has explored many innovative techniques in darkroom processes, acrylic manipulation, and digital art. She has exhibited internationally.

Many of the photographs on her web site show her keen attention to detail from pine cone patterns to the whiskers on her cats.

Since the first time that Francoise arrived in Idyllwild, it was her dream to photograph the curved branches of the Coulter pine tree, which generally grows in the higher elevations.

Once while hiking, she came upon a dead Coulter pine tree, recently cut down due to the drought.

“It was my dream coming true,” she said. “I was able to get really close to shoot all of the details.”

From her "Hymn to a Forest" series

Everyone is invited to Francoise’s “ODA” opening this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Earth N’ Fire, located upstairs in the Fort.

To see more of Francoise’s work, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Amanda After Artisans Gallery

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Artisans Gallery featured the work of more than 80 local and regional artists

By Marcia E. Gawecki

This month marked the closing of Artisans Gallery. It was the largest in Idyllwild, showcasing the work of more than 80 local and regional artists. Some of their work in painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, photography and fabric art can still be seen at

“It was a good run,” said Amanda Taylor, the gallery’s owner. “But the economy forced me to quit.”

Amanda sat among the clutter that comes after all the paintings and sculptures have been taken from the walls, tables and stands. Her neighbors in Oakwood Village, Bob Cox of The Vintage Shoppe and Frank Bruynbroek of Oh My Dog Gallery, were there to keep up her spirits and take “extras” for their own shops. George, from the Acorn Gallery, walked away with three pedestals and a display rack.

“I’m going to miss her a lot,” said Bob. “She did a great job here, but we’ll stay in touch.”

Amanda is an accomplished artist who makes jewelry and jeweled scuptures

The Artisans Gallery closing came on the heels of a death in the family, and months of supplementing the gallery rent with her own income.

“I always enjoyed the customers,” Amanda said wistfully of her client base. “I told myself that I would close down if that ever happened. But the economy happened, and I’m forced to close. It’s time to go.”

She’s not wasting time dwelling on the past.

An accomplished jewelry designer, Amanda plans to spend next spring in Nantucket, near Cape Cod. She received an artist residency at the Nantucket Island School of Design and Art, after submitting a portfolio of her work. The Nantucket work study lasts five months, but Amanda will likely stay only three.

There, she plans to do a large installation, a “crazy quilt” made up of beads and stones.

“A crazy quilt is generally made up of material scraps, mostly the odd shapes left over from making a uniform quilt,” Amanda explained. “There is no uniformity to a crazy quilt, except the outside shape.”

Amanda plans to make a crazy quilt of stones from the Cape Cod area, and glass seed beads. However, it’s not going to be an easy feat logistically. The beads and the thread have to be as strong as the stones that they’re covering and bonded to, or it won’t work.

Last summer, Amanda had another art residency in North Carolina. There, she spent two months creating a beaded sack around an 11-pound rock.

“Three days later, it broke,” Amanda admitted. “So then I constructed the beads tighter around the waist. For these kinds of installation, the construction is your limit.”

For her Nantucket crazy quilt, Amanda will only partially cover the stones with beads.

“I love to show the rocks because they’re natural objects,” she said.

Amanda's beaded condom over a Jeffrey Pine Cone. Photo courtesy Artisans Gallery.

On her personal web site,, Amanda has a “Mountain Series” of sculptures from Idyllwild in which she covers acorns, Manzanita wood pieces and pine cones with beads. The “Pine Cone Condom” shows a glistening and intricate beaded covering for a Jeffrey Pine Cone.

Although Artisans Gallery lasted four years, Amanda hasn’t given up the idea of having another art gallery in the future.

For more samples of Amanda’s jewelry and sculptures, visit

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

The Making of a Legend’s Banner

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Shown under construction, the Herb Jeffries banner will be auctioned off at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A couple of years ago, there was an event in Idyllwild honoring a Film Noir star, Colleen Gray. Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe and Cafe Cinema, hosted the event. About 200 people showed up that night to watch “Nightmare Alley,” and hear Colleen speak of her experience with making the film. It was a great time, and at 11 p.m., Herb Jeffries and Savannah were the last to leave. Herb was 95 at the time.

In Idyllwild, Herb Jeffries is like everyone’s favorite uncle. He’s talented, handsome, positive and interested in everything. And he tells great stories about all of the people he’s met and worked with over the years. You just never get tired of being around Herb.

And he always thanks God for everything he’s ever received. He doesn’t sound preachy or anything. Just a man telling it like it is.

Louis Armstrong is part of the "Jazz in the Pines" banner series

Last year, I created a 7-foot banner of Herb Jeffries. It was part of my first “Jazz in the Pines” banner series shown outside of Cafe Aroma. The other banners included Marshall Hawkins (another local musician critical to the Jazz Fest); Miles Davis (whom Marshall played with!); Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.

I was so nervous about making the banner and wondering if Herb would see it and like it, that I made myself sick. I stayed up all night painting it over and over again with my funky colored acrylic paint. By morning, I was shaking and tired, but still not satisfied with the outcome. But I had to turn it in.

A legend was going to see this banner. A legend who played with Duke Ellington and starred in cowboy westerns. He’s visited the president and has a star on the Walk of Fame. What would he think of my humble rendition of him?

“Did Herb like the banner?” I asked Frank Ferro, the owner/manager of Cafe Aroma, almost every day.

“He hasn’t seen it yet,” Frank said.

A couple of weeks after the Jazz Fest, Cafe Aroma hosted a birthday party for Herb Jeffries, and my banner served as the backdrop. A good time was had by all, and Herb saw the banner, Frank said. But that’s all Frank said.

It took a long time to decide if Herb's specs should be pink or purple

My guess was that Herb didn’t like it and Frank was too polite to tell me. So I pressed my friends and my boyfriend for their opinions.

“I like the one of Marshall Hawkins the best, even though he looks angry,” Jeffrey Taylor admitted. “But the one of Herb Jeffries I don’t like as much.”

Daggers in my heart, but constructive criticism, just the same.

When my neighbor’s friends came to stay for a few days this summer, they asked me to fly Herb’s banner outside my house. Les and Barbara Doaks knew Herb and Savannah Jeffries. They said they had seen a picture of Herb in “Cowboys & Indians” magazine recently. Herb had just attended some big rodeo event.

Once hanging outside my house, I realized the colors were all wrong. Hot pink and orange were not right for a legend. The trouble with painting door-sized banners is that it takes a lot longer to change colors. And when you change one color, it affects all of the others.  In fact, you can work yourself up into a feverish frenzy–to the point that you don’t know if it’s even Herb Jeffries anymore.

Jackson Pollock once said, “It’s easy getting into a painting, but sometimes you have to fight your way out.”

So this year, I was lucky enough to host another series of “Jazz in the Pines” banners at Cafe Aroma. I spent a lot of time repairing the 2009 banners, especially the one of Herb. The only new banner this year was of another local jazz musician, Barnaby Finch. Barnaby’s ended up being a “bear” to complete because it was larger, almost barn-door sized.

So when Cafe Aroma sent a Live Mail notice recently announcing the 97th birthday celebration for Herb Jeffries, I was thrilled! I trusted they would use my banner as the backdrop for another celebration. Sadly, Herb may not be there to celebrate his big day. Yet, Cafe Aroma plans to set up a live link to where Herb is recovering from his surgery.

And there’s going to be a fundraiser that night too. Local artists and musicians have been asked to contribute something. My 7-foot banner of Herb that has been smiling down on Cafe Aroma diners for two years now would be a natural. Donating the banner (worth $800) to a legend’s recovery fund would do my heart good.

“Herb used to do a lot of free concerts for people in Idyllwild,” Jeff told me. “He’s a very generous man.”

My only hope is that my Herb Jeffries Banner fetches more than $200. You just never know with live auctions. But Herb has always preached a strong faith in God and mankind. So whatever it fetches, it will be enough.

I just wish I knew if Herb liked it.

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Gadzooks! It’s Comics Class!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The Comics class depicts a story about a battle between the goblins and the humans

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Gadzooks, Batman, the Joker just fell into a vat of hot lava!”

Ever since DC Comics came out with “Superman” in 1932, America has had an ongoing love affair with comics. When Marvel Comics expanded the lot with Spider Man, the Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man, and jumped to the big screen, even wider audiences are loving comics.

“It used to be that comics were not considered ‘high art,'” said Jessica Shiffman, a local book illustrator, who has taught a comics class at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program for the past seven years.

Yet, on a back table in the outdoor studio in the Children’s Center on campus, there are piles of coffee table art books solely devoted to comics and graphic novels. Jessica keeps them back there to refer to when she’s talking to her class. She also encourages her students to read them to learn more about the craft.

Comics are high art and the subject of many illustrated books

The Comics class is small, only five students, but optimal for one-on-one teacher interactions. The students, mostly from southern California, are aged 11 to 13 years old. But don’t let their young age stop you.

“Each of them has created their own comics at some point,” Jessica said. “They’re all incredibly smart and gifted artists.”

When Jessica asked them to write a story that they all could illustrate, they couldn’t agree on the ending.

“So now we have two endings,” Jessica said.

Their story goes like this: Goblins and humans are fighting, and there’s only one person who can talk to both sides, Megan, a little girl. She convinces the goblins that they need to make peace with the humans. So they devise a plan to set the forest on fire, and then put it out, and save the day. That way, the humans will be grateful, and everyone will be happy.

11-to-13-year olds use clay, construction paper, cardboard and feathers to illustrate

“They had to solve a problem,” explained Jessica. “And forest fires are topical, and reflective on what’s going on in the real world.”

Yet, for three of the students, there is a different ending. Saskatchuwan, one of the evil goblins doesn’t want to make peace with the humans, and says, “Let the forest burn!” Other goblins don’t agree, but they’re too weak to stand up to him.

Sophie, whose mother is a movie producer defended her decision for that alternative ending.

“Happy endings are so predictable and dumb!” she said.

Her friend, Tritzah, age 11, agreed. But when asked how they could tell a story in which the humans die, the two girls, frowning said, “Who said that we were human?”

“You didn’t grow up watching ‘Dr. Who,’ did you?” Sophie asked. “When you see them, come back and talk to me!

Jessica Shiffman holds up a portrait of herself that one of her student's drew

On Wednesday, August 12, the class was finishing up their shadow boxes that would tell the goblin-human-fire story with two endings. Sophie was rolling out small pieces of clay to make bricks for a house in her shadow box.

She planned to use them again later to make a clay animation video, she said.

The brightly colored clay is called, “model magic,” and it’s made by Crayola. It soft, and pliable like clay, but less brittle and easier to work with. Next to the clay images of goblins and humans are dialog boxes of what’s being said or what’s going on in the scene.

Construction paper, glue, feathers, and clay. Simple materials to tell a story.

One student builds a house made out of construction paper and tape

The next day, Jessica and the students were going to share their progress with the rest of the school at “Share Pad.”

“We only have a few minutes to show what we’re doing,” Jessica said. “They won’t be able to see everything, but just get a jist of it.”

She said that the parents would be able to see the shadow boxes up close later.

No rest for the wicked, or the imaginable. On Friday, the Comics class was going to hollow out gourds that they’ll later use to make puppets. Jessica and her artist husband, Bill, went to Fallbrook last weekend and picked out 12 gourds.

“We have to soak them and scrape off the skin,” Jessica said.

Next week, the class will learn how to make gourd puppets.

“We didn’t start out making gourd puppets in Comic class,” Jessica explained. “I was actually thinking of turning it into another summer class. But the kids liked it so much that we kept it as part of the curriculum.”

The Comics class runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for two weeks. The students get a lunch break, and snack breaks, but they often work right through them, Jessica said.

Max, one of the students, wrote his name in comic-style letters

To warm up each day, the students do traditional drawing exercises. Yesterday, they did gesture drawings, or 60-second pose drawings of each other. Gesture drawings get students to look at bodily poses.

The previous day, the exercise was portraits. They each drew each other, and Matthew drew a portrait of Jessica.

“See? This is what I look like,” Jessica said, as she held up a portrait of herself.

Max, age 13, from Palm Springs, had completed his shadow box was doodling on paper in a far corner. He had written his name in block letters using black and silver markers. On the wall next to him is faded graffiti. Max doesn’t consider that art.

“All they’re doing is writing their names,” Max said. “It’s not art, but vandalism.”

Yet, his name in block letters resembles the tagger’s style. Where it all came from, you’ll have to look up in the history of comic books.

Connor illustrates one of his comics for class

Connor, who was rolling out some clay, had to rewrite the word, “dos,” meaning, “two” in Spanish for the second ending to their story. It looked too much like the word, “dog,” Jessica warned.

Jessica couldn’t stop talking about how imaginative all of her  students were, even the quiet ones like Matthew.

“In one of his stories, the earth ends, to stop global warming,” Jessica explained. “It eats up all the people, but spits out the wildlife.”

In another one, in honor of Friday, August 13th, Matthew created a comic about a flying burrito that caused a large hole in a woman’s stomach. When one surgeon refused to treat her, she climbed to the top of a flagpole and got stuck (because of the hole in her stomach).

All of this from 11 to 13-year-olds.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

All student’s artwork and stories are copyrighted to the students who created them. All rights reserved.

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Spending the Summer at Idyllwild Arts

Monday, July 19th, 2010

(from L) Kim Christensen and Annie Gutierrez have taken three art classes so far

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At Idyllwild Arts, some people are taking one, two, and three art classes, and practically spending their entire summer here. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. Annie Gutierrez, a retiree from El Centro, and Kim Christensen, a teacher from Highland, have already taken three classes so far, and may sign up for more.

“It’s been a great summer,” said Kim, who has already taken two jewelry-focused classes, “Tool Making & Alterations,” and “Navajo Inlay Jewelry,” and is currently enrolled in another, “Soldering Boot Camp.”

Back in Highland, Kim belongs to a group that makes rocks into jewelry.Yet, they were limited in their tools. When Kim brought back a few tools that she created at Idyllwild Arts, her friends were impressed.

“The best tool that we learned to make helps with stamps,” Kim said. She wasn’t talking about the kind of stamps that you put on an envelope or help you make Christmas wrapping paper. “These stamps help you put an image into metal.”

Kim's Navajo bracelet shows stones on one side, and animal stamps on another

She showed off her bracelet that she made in her “Navajo Inlay” class. It was silver, and about 1/2 inch thick, with square turquoise and blue stones on one side, and two ancient animal shapes on the other.

Richard Tsosie, a Navajo jeweler and sculptor from Flagstaff, who taught the class, would show them how to do something, but they’d have to finish the piece on their own, Kim said.

She’s also enjoying “Soldering Boot Camp,” in which they use tools with a flame to connect pieces of jewelry together. According to the brochure, the purpose of the course is not to complete one piece, but to become proficient in soldering.

Annie Guiterrez has been coming to Idyllwild Arts Summer Program for many years. She is a quiet woman in her 70s, who was wearing a T-shirt that read: “My Next Husband is Going to be Normal.”

So far, she as taken “Folding Clay Slabs,” and “Mosiacs 101 & Portraits,” and is currently enrolled in “Creative Nonfiction.” But after a class she took last year, she experienced censorship.

She took the class from Cynthia Constantino called, “Figurative Sculpture,” in which they worked from a live model to create ceramic sculptures. Afterwards, Annie entered her sculpture in the Imperial County Fair and won first prize.

But then they told her, “No, you can’t leave it here.”

“It was a 2 1/2 foot clay sculpture of a nude woman,” explained Annie. “But so is the Venus de Milo. What was the big deal?”

After much discussion between the judges, they told her that she could keep the blue ribbon and the $30 prize money, but she’d have to take her sculpture home right away.

“It was pure censorship,” Annie said. “But El Centro is pretty conservative.”

Many adults in Southern California are spending their summer at Idyllwild Arts

“Folding Clay Slabs,” was one of the first classes that Annie took this summer, and the most enjoyable so far. It was a six-day class taught by Mary Kay Botkins, from East Dundee, IL, who exhibits her folded clay pieces nationally.

“Do you sew?” Annie asked. “Well, I do, and somehow Mary Kay had incorporated sewing techniques, such as pleats and darts, into clay.”

She taught Annie and the rest of the class to roll their clay super thin, about 1/8 of an inch thick, by compressing it.

“That was probably the hardest thing to learn how to do, but when the clay is compressed, it’s pretty strong,” Annie said.

Then, she’d watch Mary Kay create a container, by making a couple of pleats, or adding a waistband, or even a belt loop.

“When she was working, you’d swear that she was working with leather instead of clay,” Annie said.

The students in the class were also expected to be prolific, Annie said, because Mary Kay wanted them to take home a “set” that they could use as a reference. Within six days, Annie created a cup, a vase, a tray and a container.

“It’s something I’ve never seen before,” she said.

For a copy of the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program catalog, stop by the Boman Center on campus, call (951) 659-2171, ext. 2365, or visit the main website, www.idyllwildarts. org, and click on “Summer.”

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Sculpture Appears Overnight in Idyllwild

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

A new public art sculpture appeared in Idyllwild on Wednesday night

In the cover of darkness, the four of them unloaded it from the truck. The sculpture was over six feet tall, weighed 250 pounds, and was awkward to maneuver to the ground.

“It was supposed to be four young guys doing the dirty work,” said Steve Moulton, owner of Bubba’s Books. “But it was just me, Dore (Capitani), and another 40ish friend of his. A young passerby stopped and put down his beer to help us.”

All of this was for the love of public art.

At 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, July 14, Idyllwild received another public art piece by Dore Capitani, a metal sculptor from Dore’s Mountain Metals, in Mountain Center.

This sculpture was the second of a series of public art sculptures promised to the people of Idyllwild by the Chamber of Commerce. The first one, depicting a young girl reading a book, is placed at the site of the former tree monument. It was also created by Capitani.

The first public art piece promotes children's literacy and is placed at the site of the former tree monument

“I purchased that one for Idyllwild,” admitted Moulton. “And it’s not just a young girl, it’s Mary, Doug Austin’s wife, who passed away.”

On Mary’s sculpture, it states that it’s dedicated to children’s literacy. There’s also text written in other languages, but the book that Mary is reading is a classic, “Great Expectations.”

Moulton and Capitani met because they’re both Chamber members.

“I went to ask Dore to renew his Chamber membership,” said Moulton. “And the next thing I know, I’m unloading a 250-pound sculpture from a truck at night.”

The new sculpture sits in front of Mountain Footwear in the Fort on North Circle Drive. Richard, who owns it, agreed to host the sculpture on his property.

“Richard was supposed to be here too, but he forgot,” Moulton quipped.

Moulton is concerned that the half sphere will invite kids to hang on it

The new sculpture depicts one of Capitani’s “signature” spheres suspended in the middle of a large, rusted metal shape that slants a little to the left. The sphere is powder-coated vibrant red (a new technique).

But the sphere is not complete, and that’s what concerns Moulton. He thinks that the half sphere will be an “invitation” for kids to hang on it, and perhaps break it. Capitani, who’d like to sell the piece he calls, “P1” is also concerned about vandalism.

More than likely, it will be used as another “photo op” for visitors to Idyllwild.

At the sculpture site, there isn’t any description of “P1” or information about the artist, although it’s signed “Dore” at the bottom, if you look for it.

Capitani leaves it up to each viewer interpret his art as he or she sees fit. Whatever it represents, it’s an attractive and welcome site to Idyllwild, “One of America’s 100 Best Art Towns.”

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