National Boards

I found out yesterday morning that I passed my National Boards!  I had been waiting to post anything about this process until I knew for sure whether or not I passed.  1 out of 3 teachers passes this process the first time.  The other 2 out of 3 have to retake.  The process consists of creating a portfolio of your teaching style, curriculum, and interactions as a leader.  Once the portfolio is submitted, you must take a very broad test on the role of art in society, art periods, value of artwork, styles, etc. etc. 
One portion of the test is to create an original artwork.  The rules about the artwork are very specific and come packaged with all the materials one needs (minus scissors and glue stick).  When I saw that the requirements were to create a collage, I was ecstatic.  So I made my collage, thought about it, and wrote about it.  On the day of my test, last May, I took my collage with me to my testing center and had to give it away with my answers to their prompts.  Below is a photo of that collage and the written work I prepared before taking the test last May. 
 
Collage for National Boards test, cut & pasted construction paper, 8 1/2 x 11″, 2009. 
The artwork I created is an abstracted aerial view of a river.  I wanted to work with a theme from my region of the country and decided to on rivers as an appropriate subject-matter. 
I began by drawing several sketches in my sketchbook to get a feeling for the colors and shapes I was going to be working with.  I tried a couple different angles and decided on a strong diagonal plane for the curvy river shape.  I cut the river shape as one continuous piece of paper, drawing with my scissors, as Matisse called his collages.  I wanted the river to be the largest shape in the composition.  To make the river stand out from the background fields, I chose a lighter color.  I decided to make the river an organic and almost calligraphy-like shape to contrast with the linear and geometric shapes in the background. 
Next, I added the rectangles throughout the background area.  I wanted these rectangles to be balanced with one another but not perfectly spaced – to emulate fields or buildings planned by people but not always lined up perfectly.  To make a stronger composition and to unite the loose and floating rectangles, I added lines using the medium brown color.  I wanted the color to be a different color than the river shape.  These lines not only help to balance and bring order to the composition, but also create contrast against the organic river shape.  I purposely left a few of the rectangles “floating,” with no connections to lines for some empty or resting spots for the eyes. 
I added the two ovals on the left hand side to bring some of the organic shape into the background.  However, I am not happy with those two shapes.  I find them to be distracting and a poor choice for this particular composition.  The glue stick is quite permanent and when I tried to tear the ovals off the page, it took too much of the background color with them.  I decided they would just have to stay put.  Had I had any more of the dark brown paper, I would have just glued two pieces of dark brown paper over the lighter ovals.  In hindsight, I wish I had placed the ovals without any glue first to evaluate their appropriateness. 
One effect I do like is the raised edge along the outer edge of the river shape.  When the river was glued down, the shape shifted causing some wrinkling and warping of the paper.  I decided to leave this effect as it was, because the shadow created by the raised edge further emphasized the organic shape of the river.  Collage is an interesting medium to work with because of this texture and creation of shadows. 
Collage has its challenges – glue sticks can be a plus or a minus depending on the size of paper being used.  One challenge I encountered was in lining up the small lines with sticky fingers from the glue stick.  Collage’s greatest asset is its ability to morph and change.  Collage has endless possibilities in terms of techniques and papers. 
I opted for smooth, cut edges because I wanted a simplified and abstracted landscape.  Some of my inspirations were from the west coast landscapes by Richard Diebenkorn, who worked with large expanses of color and geometry. 

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