The Liberation Square/Pushing for Peace project is a series of abstract paintings created by Marilyn Cooper and her art students. The four week course progresses from drawing to painting, both individually and collectively. The group paintings will be shown and sold to support the Pushing for Peace program.
Meditation phase: Each class begins with a fifteen minute, guided meditation. Students lie on the floor and are guided into a state of complete relaxation, from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes. Deep breathing and imagery, i.e. floating inside of big soap bubbles and on clouds, help them to let go of all tension, and to breath and relax. After this session, students take turns describing their visions. They are much calmer after taking a journey into inner space, and sharing the experience with their classmates.
Drawing phase: Surrounding one large piece of paper on the floor, the young artists take turns making different marks with one charcoal that gets passed around. They each have their own kneaded eraser (they love to pull and squeeze them while they wait for their turns). From black to white and all the shades of grey in-between, they learn how many different marks you can make with a burnt stick (charcoal). Students are encouraged to experiment, copy what they like from each other, and work till they feel the piece is competed. Like grown-up art college, the work is put up on the wall for a group critique. Looking at what they like about the drawing helps students see how they can learn from each other and how the sum can be greater than its parts.
Painting phase: Students are seated at a long table with a scroll of rice paper, black paint, water, rags and bamboo brushes. They learn to be more delicate with the special paper and how to control the watery paint. As with the charcoal on paper, black, white and shades of grey marks define the space and composition. In my role as guide, I make a minimum of marks to encourage the piece to be a flowing narrative rather than a continuous row of disparate, individual paintings.
Oil painting phase: To the delight and joy of the young artists, they are met with a full palette of colors, bristle and sable brushes, a canvas, and the ever-present rags and water for cleaning their brushes between applications of color. After two weeks of working together with only black, grey and white, students are ecstatic to see the rich colors of the oil paint, and their own canvasses to use it on. Before the young artists plunge into the densely saturated pigments, they are shown how to coat their canvas with a special water-based linseed oil ground with a dash of earth toned pigment staining it. We call this mud. (kids love mud). It creates a surface that is tacky and receptive to the intense color once we begin painting. As guide, I help them to mix color on the palette, and to clean brushes. They have already learned to look at the work and stop when its finished. They run the risk of over-painting, caught up in the sheer joy of applying color, and return their canvasses to an even thicker primordial mud. We learn from each other and marvel at the finished works together. By the forth and last week, the canvasses are dry enough to take home.
Group painting phase: After meditation, students are met with individual palettes, rags, brushes, etc… and one large canvas to mud up. The prep phase allows time for the excitement to build as we smear the surface with brownish slime. Using all the techniques and insights gained from the past three classes of meditating, drawing and painting, students have been producing works of incredible beauty. I cannot replicate this painting experience without the freshness and naivete of the different children, and the energy generated by the whole group. We need each other to produce, and the discovery of our interdependency to create something of lasting value is another benefit of this course. The new invention of water-based oil paint allows painters to safely use a heretofore toxic medium. No turps are needed. We still use barrier cream or a pair of old socks for hands. Sometimes the hands are used to move the paint, so this has a dual function. Wiping off is as essential as painting on.
Here are some examples of my figurative works: