Ceramics Week 2

Ambitious ceramic projects are underway this unit.  Also, some disasters are occurring as the height becomes more ambitious.  Remember as Mr. Peeler said, “Timing is everything.”  Proper moisture is key.


Contemporary artist Peter Volkos’ pot and ancient Roman depiction of Zeus above.

Homework:  Due Monday, 11/19   YOUR MYTHOLOGY

Draw a full page color sketch of the facial features of a mythological character from your cultural background.  Be prepared to explain the character’s history.  This may be the character that you wish to portray in a mask, or you could change to another character.




Ceramics: Week 1

This week we began clay sculpting (or hand building).  The results look promising.  Lots of variety in student projects from vessels to lanterns.

Below is a photo of Arts/Industry artist Olen Hsu working in his studio space at Kohler Co. Pottery, 2006.  Kohler (yes the toilet manufacturer) has a residency program for artists to use their facility to make sculpture in Kohler Wisconsin.  Well worth a visit to see ceramics being manufactured on an industrial scale.ai.hsu_.2006.0087_0


Homework due Monday, 11/12

FOREIGN INFLUENCE: Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s collection page.  Type   “Ceramics (Culture of your Choice)” into the search box.  Using an example of ceramics from a culture other than what you began with (typically American), re-draw your ceramics project showing the influence of the art you selected.  Post your inspiration piece with your name and its culture on the Padlet for your class below.  Do not use the same post the same piece as someone else.

1st Hour Foreign Influence Padlet

3rd Hour Foreign Influence Padlet

6th Hour Foreign Influence Padlet

Data Analyses


The above illustration is from Jenn Christiansen’s blog on Visualizing Science.  For those of you who love both science and art, this is an eye-opening post adapted from her presentation at the  conference of theGuild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI).

You’ve collected your data.  Ideally you have at least 32 examples.  Also, according to Mr. Russell, any outlier to be significant in a data pool of n=30 would need to be 3 or more.  Next, you will be sifting through it, looking for interesting relationships.  Sometimes you need to “clean” the data to make it more consistent, but beware…outliers are interesting.  Also you might want to create a Google sheet to analyze your data.  Its not too difficult and it will allow you to create standard charts rather effortlessly.  Here are two videos for working with Google Sheets:

General info: (chart making around 22:00)





These videos will be helpful in getting you started.

A very useful feature is the formula for counting.  =countif(cell range:end of cell range, criteria)  e.g. =countif((B2:B50,E5)

So many variables…how are they correlated?  Where to start with analyses?  For a start, try looking at tools developed by databasic.io which will take a look at your Excel or Google Sheets file and make some preliminary analyses all at once for you.


You can copy and paste these charts for future use.  But they are rather generic and dry.  Next week we will begin to talk about metaphors, analogies, allegories to express your findings.  Also, color and font choices are key to make your research stand out.

After you have discovered interesting things about your data, the next step is deciding on your metaphor to express your data.  The Adioma chart with its examples is a great place to start thinking.  Almost like trying on clothes, sketching how your data might fit into the analogies and allegories listed will help you decide on your approach.

When starting to design your infographic, a basic place to start is with the templates on PowerPoint.  There are lots of templates and while I don’t want you to just plop your data into their template, the PowerPoint templates are helpful for picking the color schemes and font choices (including font hierarchy) .  Using PowerPoint allows you to create a collage from all of their many drop and drag choices.  In return for the ease of use, you give up some individuality, so it is important to keep your message in mind.


Homework due Monday, Nov. 5

Watch the two vintage videos (each about 20 min.) in the link below by ceramicist Richard Peeler.  (He was an instructor at DePauw University and a ceramic genius.)  I hope you enjoy the soundtrack.  Its very “artistic”.  There will be an OPEN NOTES  quiz on Monday about the video techniques shown.

Handbuilding Techniques

Coil Technique


Critiques to Data Visualizations


This week we started off by visiting NCSA to see their Data Visualizations in preparation for our next unit.  The photo is from the visualization of the Universe.

This week watercolor collections and trees were completed and critiqued.  I have already heard a lot of “oohs and ahs”  from people looking at the display.  Overall, the work is strong.  The lessons learned from Ink Wash paid off with the Watercolors, however, the added element of color was a bonus for some and a underutilized resource for others.

Now onto Graphic Design, specifically Data Visualization!  The top picture is a word cloud visualization of this blog site.  Word clouds are fun and easy.  Check it out!

Homework due Monday, 10/22:

  1.  Word clouds analyze texts to visually show which words are used the most frequently.  Use the word cloud visualization tool to create three visualizations of the Uni web site, (or parts of the Uni website) by playing with the variables such as font size, color, shape etc.   Either print them out (in color) or email me the 3 screen shots of your work.
  2. Look at the Adioma blog post How to Think Visually.    This blog post is dynamite if you like visualizations.  It lists types and then gives excellent examples.  Specifically look at the examples under analogies and allegories at the bottom of the post.  Your assignment is to sketch “the brain/head of a typical Uni student” using one of the 24 analogies or  allegories listed.  I love the #72, the machine allegory personally.  Below is one of the machine example that I think could be easily adapted, but feel free to choose another allegory if it speaks to you for your theme, then adapt it to show the typical Uni student.  Color, labels and details necessary to make this come alive.







-on John Singer Sargent…
To live with Sargent’s watercolours is to live with sunshine captured and held. (Evan Charteris)

(Note how he makes white…does he use white?)

This week students focused on their watercolor projects which we will critique next week.  All projects should show depth and consider all the other concepts we’ve talked about this quarter.  Ponder this,

“With watercolour, you can’t cover up the marks. There’s the story of the construction of the picture, and then the picture might tell another story as well.” (David Hockney)

And next….

The sea of information available to us today is overwhelming, and it can be a struggle to separate the signal from the noise. Infographics and data visualization can help cut through the clutter. In preparation for our next project, we will be visiting NCSA on Monday, Oct. 15.  Below is an example of a visualization postulating that every website on the internet is connected by 19 clicks or less. Estimates say that there are about 14 billion websites and about a trillion web pages from Opte Project.



Love data visualizations? Learn more about NCSA’s Data Visualizations from this NCSA video.


Homework due Tuesday Oct. 15

  1.  Write a brief response (100 to 200 words) to Lydia Chen’s talk or movie, Art in Smog.   It will be screened at Spurlock Museum at 7pm on Thursday 10/11 and is 75 min. long.  Particularly address how she uses metaphor, what artist stories you most enjoyed learning about and/ or what examples of transformation she uses.  Alternatively, you could imagine a data visualization that might capture the era of the movie.  What elements would it need to incorporate?
  2. Data visualizations provide new insights.  Find two data visualizations about the same topic (either college, careers or high school).   Create a chart or table (no paragraphs!) comparing and contrasting the visualizations.  Send your homework via email (levans@illinois.edu) including links to your selected data visualizations.
  3. According to Edward Tufte, (famed Yale professor), one of the greatest data visualizations ever made documents Napoleon’s Retreat.  Study this visualization carefully.  Draw a similar visualization of your own modeled on this one but based upon a trip you have taken.  In two dimensions represent elements such as distance, temperature, direction of travel, location relative to specific dates, topography,  and other distinctive features of your trip.  Warning:  Creating the map won’t take long, but thinking about how to do it might.


Collections and Trees

This week we shared our collections (or trees) and began the watercolor project.  The  final painting should show depth via one of the techniques we’ve discussed in class.


Falcons II


The painting of butterflies,  above, is by the artist Maria Tomasula.  Note this is a collection painting — just a very different approach.   The picture on the right is by Peggy MacNamara, who is the watercolor artist in residence at the Field Museum.  Her work incorporates traditional 2 point perspective with collection specimens.  What about trees?  Specializing in cubism, Yuroz’ piece, Meditation Series: Dancing Trees, Composition 01, is crafted with a harmonic palette of rich colors and textures, it is part of his Symbiosis Collection and depicts a powerful scene of trees seemingly, as the title suggests, dancing.


Homework due Tuesday, 10/9

Please choose one of the following:

  1.  Imagine that the artist who works with collections,  Mark Dion, is coming to Uni to do a project and you are his assistant.   As he did at the Smart Museum (look at minute 24:37 onward), he wants to create a collection that reveals Uni’s culture or history. Please come up with some thoughtful ideas of things he could collect here that would give new insight into Uni culture.  (Please no insects or gross out items.)  You are to do a mock-up of a poster advertising his work. It must visually show how you propose to physically display his Uni collection in an interesting way.

2.  Create an entry for the Itsy-bitsy show at the Link Gallery outside Krannert Art Museum.  Prizes awarded.    All art must be of your own original design.  Any media is acceptable.  6x 6 inches is the maximum size.  This is a great opportunity for those looking to build their art resume.

3.  Take advantage of the beautiful weather and do an OBSERVATIONAL landscape sketch in COLOR.

Ink Wash to Watercolor

600px-Musei_Wormiani_Historia.jpg“Musei Wormiani Historia”, the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities. Collecting is a common habit of artists.  Featuring one of your collections is an option for the next assignment.

We are moving on to experimenting with watercolors.  Watercolor will build upon many of the  ink wash skills we’ve developed, but add a few more options into the mix.  Students have two choices of subject matter:  a collection or “a tree like me”.


We looked at the work of Mark Dion, above, an artist who works with the concept of collections.    According to Museum Madre,  “Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational”) scientific methods and “subjective” (“irrational”) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the sixteenth century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.”  If you want to learn more about this artist, this video link has an hour long video.  Although the visuals are poor, the audio is great.  If you are a collector, this will be very interesting.

Other recent artist collections include Damian Hirst’s exhibition entitled “Wreck of the Unbelievable” where he displayed objects supposedly lost at sea that had been collected by an immensely wealthy freed slave.  The objects and the story surrounding them are completely fabricated by the artist.

Another contemporary artist/collector is Sarah Sze, makes elaborate installations based upon objects she collects, many of which would be considered trash.


“Tree Like Me” option allows you to use the language of trees to tell at least 6 key events in your life.  A sample from a workshop I attended is shown below.  Note the mixture of realistic and surrealistic elements.

IMG_2453 (1).jpg

With either choice, the art should show a sense of space by using overlapping and/or relative scale.  Also, background should be developed, although can be secondary to the subject matter.

Homework due Monday, 10/2:  Research options

1.  Sketch 3 or more objects for your “collection” from observation.  Use different views, sizes and types on the same page.  For instance you could do a collection of coffee cups, musical instruments, toys etc.  (The collection you watercolor could be the same or completely different, but you should collect visual references.)  Your collection should reveal your particular collecting interests.

2.  If you plan to do the “trees like me” option for the watercolor assignment, sketch 3 trees from observation.  Look for all the variety and “language” you can find of trees.  (e.g. decay, new growth, broken branches, holes etc.)