Painting a Familiar Space - at Home
Painting a Familiar Space - at Home

A bird perched on a bridge, a fishtail splashing out of the water, even a childhood memory captured the attention of students in David Sigel's 2-D Honors IV & V class as they worked on an assignment when class resumed virtually in the new year.

"The assignment was to find a familiar and meaningful place to capture and incorporate a symbolic/subtle realistic element," explained Mr. Sigel, Hon. "Make it a symbolic part that helps illustrate why this place is meaningful to you."

After selecting their "meaningful place," students created small oil paintings. "The observational painting should look as if it was in the space by matching the lighting, palette, and scale."

"I painted the road where I run every day," shared senior Mary Cipperman. "My painting included a surrealistic element (shaped clouds) that reflected my youth finding shapes in the sky, so the road in front of my childhood home seemed like a perfect fit."

"I wanted to combine my childhood with my current life. I painted a pond in my neighborhood on my running route to represent my current life," explained senior Molly Limaye. "I added a whale's tail coming up out of the pond because when I was a child, my family and I visited Hawaii and watched the humpback whales off the beach. I felt that this captured my West Coast childhood and my East Coast adolescence."

"I selected my grandmother's house because the assignment was supposed to be a meaningful landscape that wasn't our homes," said Josephine Buccini '21. "I basically grew up there, so it's very important to me."

Upper School classes began virtually in September, transitioned to in-person a few weeks later, then shifted back to virtual around the Thanksgiving break. "The art teachers have been fielding questions from curious colleagues on how we teach studio art virtually," added Mr. Sigel. "We smile, pause and use our go-to line, 'not easily.' It's not ideal but the engagement, respect, and dedication of our students make it that much easier to strive for excellence and to put the time in to make it all work."

"It was definitely challenging to not have Mr. Sigel dancing around the room and constantly looking over my shoulder," reflected Molly. "However, at the same time, working on the project in my own house without Mr. Sigel's constant guidance helped me realize how much progress I have made throughout the past four years of art classes. As Mr. Sigel would say, I developed confidence in my mark."

For 2-D Honors students, completing the painting was not the ultimate goal of the assignment. "The artwork is not to be turned in, capturing an image is the final step," said Mr. Sigel. "Return to the original spot with your completed work and hold up the panel to fit into the space that you painted also capturing your hand and some of the larger surrounding area."

"Usually in the studio, we constantly talk, critique, and view everyone's work, but it was definitely different to only see each other's progress through a single picture or a Zoom box," said Mary. "I find those communications really helpful for developing my own pieces and for creating innovative responses to a single assignment."

"There is much we will keep as part of our practices, no matter what the world throws at us," said Mr. Sigel. "It also has been very rewarding and affirming to see how the arts empower and establish the space for our students to practice their skills as creative problem solvers and to be reflective and invested in their ownership of this educational opportunity."

"We were able to do creative, inventive assignments that were designed specifically for being at home. I think that adaptability really speaks to the strength of the arts at Episcopal," said Mary.

"It was different because we weren't able to look at everyone else's art all the time or draw inspiration from each other," observed Josephine. "But art is definitely a subject that works well online, as we all had our supplies and could just watch demonstrations. It was nice to work on my projects whenever I could in my home though. While I didn't hate online learning, in-person school is so much better. It's much easier to get instruction and help with challenging projects in person, but I think we all did a good job of making it work online."

"We always chat and play music during class and that was hard to do over Zoom. I'm glad to be back in the studio!" said Molly.