Friday, April 25, 2008

Final Portrait of a Dancer

[ Portrait of Skipp by John Paul Thornton]

Skipp stood before the south light of the window and struck a dance pose. I blocked in the planes of the drawing while we talked about his love for living. Within a few hours a stray beam of sun that had been slowly advancing along the wall finally struck his torso and shoulder. A few thick strokes of alizarin crimson and ochre paint had to express the effect. Minutes later, the beam had passed.

My friend Skipp died this week, in hospice with his mother at his side. I saw today at a friend's home, for the first time in nearly four years, this portrait of him that we collaborated on back in 2004. At the time, his health was in check. He was the most gentle person. A dancer, singer, traveler and positive spirit. Good bye Skipp.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Arte y los Ninos de Taxco

[John Paul Thornton with art students in Taxco Mexico]

The greatest high I have ever experienced is teaching art to children. Better still is standing back and allowing the children to flex their own power, and watching them go.

As part of a cultural exchange with Mexico, I traveled with a group of artists and educators
during Semana Santa, Holy Week, to the city of Taxco. Led by Stuart Vaughan from the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center, a facility of the Los Angeles Department of cultural Affairs, we were hosted by the "Friends of Taxco", part of the Sister Cities International Program. Taxco itself is gorgeous and magically intact as an historic silver mining town and Baroque Spanish colonial city. Architecture, music and civic religious pageantry aside, the highlights of the trip included opportunities to teach art and create art workshops for the city's children.

We brought art supplies for hundreds of participants, and had the exciting impromptu opportunity to set up a drop-in art workshop on the main zocolo in front of the Santa Prisca Church on Easter morning.

The atmosphere was festive and lively. After days of solemn processions of black hooded penitents, clowns and bands now took to the streets. Every family in town came to the zocolo and stumbled upon our open art workshop. Tables filled immediately.

Hundreds of children participated. It was so inspiring to meet everyone, and hear the gratitude of the families.

[ Los Angeles Artist and educator Laura Peisner and a new friend in Taxco]

The following day, our group of artists from Los Angeles visited the Jardin de Ninos Tonatiuh, a school perched high on the steep mountainside in Taxco. We were all able to teach art classes to the students. I worked with watercolor painting and wax resist. the children were a joy. The Principal and staff at the school joined us.

Here I am, demonstrating how to load the brush...
We created images reflecting the environment and the landscape around Taxco. The students are not used to art on a regular basis, so this was a new treat for them.

We also presented the first stage of a mail art exchange program between students of Taxco and Canoga Park, Los Angeles, designed to begin relationships between 160 participating students and teachers.

All of the artists and educators representing Canoga Park are so amazing. Their ability to work with any age level and any child is astounding. The children were amazing too. So positive, engaging and filled with joy! By the end of the day, students were taking home arm fulls of art.
As a gift, we made donations including suitcases filled with painting supplies to the school.
We were all invited to return and create projects with further meaning and scope.