Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Whaling Walls

Every Friday when I was in middle school, I would walk the couple of blocks from school to my piano teacher's house. I was never the first lesson of the afternoon - in nice weather I'd sit outside and do my homework, but most of the time I'd come in and sit on her couch. She had a coffee table book full of art by Robert Wyland, otherwise known as "that guy who paints life-size whales". Years later, taking the train from New York to DC, I'd keep an eye out for the "Whaling Wall" in Wilmington. Maybe it's a Thomas Kinkade thing, where it's considered hokey to like commercial art, but I've got to respect anyone who's found something they enjoy doing, cornered the market on it, and turned it into a profitable endeavor. Besides, Wyland's murals are pretty darn cool.

So when an administrator at my school told me she'd signed us up to do our own mural for a contest set up by the Wyland Foundation, I was excited. My middle school class is the perfect age for it, so we looked at Wyland murals online and did lots of sketches of different sea creatures. Finally, each kid picked an animal he or she wanted to be responsible for, and did a detailed sketch. I took the drawings home, and came up with a composition that would fit all of them.

As a teacher, I struggle with control of the big picture stuff - this definitely came to the surface on the yearbook. I erred on the side of controlling dictator that time, as I've seen books where the advisor was absent and the senior section had each student's "nickmane" (amongst many, many other mistakes). But most of the time in art, the process is more important than the final product, and the kids just want to get good and messy. I feel like this is one of those grey areas. So my sketch is just that - a sketch - and we're making changes as we go. I doubt we'll finish by the contest deadline (Thursday), but it'll be something nice to hang up in the gym.