While I definitely consider myself to be a contemporary artist, I would be lost without the work and traditions passed on by those who came before me. It is such an honor to be playing a part in this evolution.
This past week, I was asked, by my friend, Nicole Miner, to do a short class on Natural History Painting to a group of her summer campers at City Park Movement and Art in New Orleans. I have done a few mini-lectures with her groups before, and I often feel like I get more out of the experience than the students. As I often do, I took a fishing trip to get some inspiration. I caught one of the most intriguing fish from our local waters, a stingray. Being the only thing that I caught all day, I decided the stingray would be our specimen, so I saved it in my fish bag. When I got home, I discovered two babies in my bag along with the mother (stingray babies are born fully formed and ready to fend for themselves). I felt terrible, because I would have put her back in the water had I known she was giving birth, but the past is the past, and I realized the educational benefit this would be for the class.
I have never considered myself to be much of a teacher (I'm more of a perpetual student), but the Stingray is such an interesting and specialized animal, I decided to make my first actual lesson plan for this class. Indra Ozols, the art teacher at City Park Movement and Art, and I, broke the lesson up into three parts. First, I thoroughly covered the Stingray's anatomy, habitat, and living habits. Second, We did studies of the stingray from life using just colored pencils and paper. The third part was a Natural History art lesson which included a dissection, some comparative anatomy points, and illustrated drawings of the dissected fish.