International School Artist In Residence — at Carol Morgan School

Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces

Artist In Residence Programs for International Schools

Please take a look at the video Carol Morgan School put together regarding my Artist in Residence program there, originally posted at ow.ly/MS0Wv.

In April of 2015 I was at Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, DR for two weeks, doing StoryFaces  performances and workshops on visual storytelling with grades K – 12. The length of the residency allowed me to offer a wide range of options for the content of the programs, and, guided by input from the faculty, I designed separate programs for the Elementary, Middle and High School students – scroll down for descriptions of each program.

—-   Elementary School  —–

 Assembly Programs and “My Amazing StoryFace” Workshop

I asked to begin the Elementary residency with StoryFaces assembly programs for all the students. Seeing a live performance in a large audience generates excitement in the school for the full residency, and I tailor my story selection to set up what I will be doing with each grade in subsequent workshops.

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With the Elementary grades my focus was on exploring why we tell stories, how stories fill our lives, and how we can share our own story. In the performances I told mostly Fables and Animal Tales, and in the follow-up workshops with the youngest kids (K-1st) I showed them how to use their hands and faces (without any facepainting) to turn themselves into some of the animals from the tales. For grades 2-5 we did the “My Amazing StoryFace” workshop, which gets students to create a visual story about themselves through words and pictures, based on one of my original stories (see The Amazing Face Video) — including the instruction that each student was to take their visual story home to “show and tell” it to a family member, since one of the tenets of my arts-in-education programs is that stories need to be shared to keep them alive.

—-   Middle School   —-

Assembly Programs and Teacher Workshop

The Middle School grades each had a separate full length assembly program. These StoryFaces performances included a couple of the same stories the younger grades might have heard along with additional, different stories for each grade, featuring Hero Tales for the Middle School audiences. During a school visit I will tell many different tales in performances, as I like to get the students talking to each other, and to their siblings, about what stories they each saw, and sharing one they’ve heard. My performances have a “kinetic art” effect that extends beyond the assembly, as the volunteers I have painted in a show walk through the school throughout the day and other students see them and wonder what story they are. With the Middle School faculty (and also the Elementary faculty) I had the opportunity to do a fun workshop about my visual approach to performing stories, including some physical theatre performance techniques we all did together and the background for how I developed telling tales with facepainting.

—-   High School   —-

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design and Facepainting Workshops

SpiritHealingMask_CA-classCreatedExample_1504-cFor the 9th and 12th grades I did a very different program, doing two workshops with each class. The first workshop was a special presentation on the cultural use and significance of masks (based on the material in my book and my “Before Cave Walls…” program), which led into the students designing a “Spirit Healing Mask” — this is a design task I’ve developed to get students to work on communicating information visually, through signs and symbols, based on a traditional approach to mask design, and in reference to the role of masks in some cultures to represent ancestors and other powerful spirits that protect the people. In the second workshop, the students painted their mask designs onto each other’s faces.

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design Workshop: To start, I ask each student to identify some social concern they would like to help solve — it can be anything, from the obvious ones such as “ending war” to smaller scale concerns, such as “helping stray dogs”. Next they determine what “powers” a “healing spirit” would need to achieve this task, and I present this via the idiom of modern superheroes —i.e., would your Healing Spirit need to be able to fly in order to end war all around the world?  The students then choose a color or graphic symbol to represent each of the powers or “attributes” their character has, and they design the mask using those symbols — this step moves the design beyond an illustrative approach towards symbolism and abstraction, as the mask will communicate information purely through colors and graphics, giving students an experiential understanding of the thinking process that underlies visual arts, including modern art, and also allows any student to make a successful design regardless of their drawing skills.

BlackBoardInstructions_designingSpiritMask_1504-cThe completed designs can be the basis for making a physical mask, which some schools have the students do with their art teachers after my visit. The process can also include a writing assignment —  the 9th grade students wrote essays to accompany their designs, in which they were to describe the social concern, find media links to examples of this problem, and develop a storyline for how their Healing Spirit will solve the problem.

Facepainting Workshop: Masks are meant to be worn, it completes the transformation the mask is created to achieve. In the 2nd workshop, I demonstrated how to use makeup to paint a face, and then the students worked in pairs as each student painted their Spirit Healing Mask design onto their partner’s face, and then was painted by their partner in return.

SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_a_1504-cEveryone had a lot of fun in these sessions, and it was exciting to see full classes transformed in these strange and powerful designs. In a facepainting workshop the interaction between the students is as important as the results — the goal is not to create great faces, it is to explore this collaborative process and their own creativity, and to experience the transformation of self-identity that comes with wearing the mask. I encourage the students to wear the painted face through the school day, so their peers can see it, and to know the “story” of the Healing Spirit they have become. SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_b2_1504-cThe whole process was documented in photographs, including posed images of the finished faces which the school planned to display after my visit. A great advantage of using symbol-based designs is that there is no concrete expectation for what each face should look like, since these are invented symbolic beings, so success doesn’t depend on a student’s painting skills.

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—-   My Goal for Residencies   —-

Plus: Bringing Some Magic into a School

StoryFaces offers a uniquely flexible platform for arts-in-education programs, incorporating Language Arts, Social Studies, and Visual Arts in an entertaining format that captures students’ attention and therefor allows me to generate real educational content, at any grade level. I want to inspire students in my performances, to get them thinking about a wider range of possibilities to communicate who they are, to see the connection between their lives today and the full human experience expressed in our stories and our art. To help them find a way to share their own story.

An important part of my role in a school is also to share my personal story, to let students see what it means to be a professional artist — how it can be a valid career path to follow your own dream and make your own way — and to talk with students about the kind of work I do before the performance they see — what a working artist’s process is like. I talk often about my love of books and how much my career has depended on the reading I do, how it has led me on this adventurous exploration of world cultures.

I also like to bring a little magic into a school in a very old-fashioned way. Part of the role of masks and transformational makeup in traditional cultures was to show the people that forms can change, that to understand the true nature of something you must look beyond form — that we may all be more than we appear to be. I think this is a valuable, positive insight to share with kids, and that they experience this in some small way when they see a classmate visually transformed into a tiger or an ancient hero, and as they see students with painted faces incongruously walking through the school hallways.

See the new video: What Is A StoryFace?

Learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com

Animal Surprises at the Bronx Zoo — Facepainting Gallery

We had a team of 6 artists at the Bronx Zoo for a company’s family outing this past weekend, which gave me a chance to do some more specifically animal and nature themed facepainting then I get to do on most of my gigs these days. Although at our zoo facepainting concessions we post a list of about 40 animals for people to choose from (just a list — no photos), at our special events there we prefer to be more adventurous by surprising people with the animal we turn them in to. We ask each participant if they want to be “nice” or “spooky” and then surprise them with the transformation. Here and some of the faces I painted myself over the 4 hour event. (You can click on the photos to see the names I give the face designs.)

Art On Your Face — Gallery

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Holidays and Christmas in New York — Transformations Gallery

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Holiday season in New York brings its own special transformation to the city, and we enjoy being part of it. Through the years a steady stream of holiday parties, corporate events and public events for clients such as Macys have allowed us to develop some fun motifs for our holiday surprise faces. Learn about all we do at: agostinoarts.com

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Here are some favorites from the past few years. updated 11/15/16

Returning to these same themes and imagery every year gives me a chance to apply lessons learned since the past season and continue the development of new holiday faces, combining face ideas from other themes into holiday designs, and developing new designs for specific events.

 

Combining a snowman with penguins or polar bears makes a very cute face, along with the idea of penguins making their own "Snowpenguin"

Adding in the type of scenic animal designs we do at the Bronx Zoo by combining a snowman with penguins or polar bears to make some fun faces, along with the idea of penguins making their own “Snowpenguin”

Some of the scary stuff: Christmas Zombies

We can also throw in a few Christmas Zombies and Santa Aliens to get a wider range of kids involved.

For a number of years we've had the pleasure of painting some of the people for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as for their in store special events.

For a number of years we’ve had the pleasure of painting some of the volunteers and specialty performers for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as well as for their in store special events.

 

Learn about all we do at: agostinoarts.com

 

Henri Matisse The Cut-Outs — Transformations Gallery

Matisse - The Circus, 1947

Matisse – The Circus, 1947

Matisse — Jazz

It is easy to be inspired by Matisse. Seeing Henri Matisse the Cut-Outs exhibit at MOMA, the exuberance of color, the freedom of forms — you want to be able to paint like that. The later rooms with the wall-sized works, and especially the photographs of how his studio was so full of this art as he created it — you want to live in rooms like that. I walked out of the exhibit wanting to play with color, to hold it in my hand and create pure forms with it as he did. Even if you don’t like Matisse, you have to be inspired by the absolute passion he had for creating art, so undeniable that it that led him to invent a new way to make art when he could no longer paint. MatisseCat_6g-fhd4--040727_agostinoartsChapter 10 of my book is titled “Matisse’s Cat”, in reference to the inspiration I draw from these struggles of great artists to find a way to satisfy that passion, and Matisse particularly because he spoke of the struggle, and left us evidence of his explorations and battles with line and form and color. I was writing about my own struggles to develop new cat face designs, particularly one based on a statue at the Bronx Zoo of a puma coming down a cliff, and in this iteration I had simplified the puma shape so much that it reminded me of a Matisse cut-out, and that encouraged me to loosen my hold on the realistic image and pursue it’s essence instead. This is the encouragement I take from Matisse: aim for the essential.

Matisse — Blue Dancer

We paint faces mostly with pure color. You might do blending in the sponge work, but then the imagery on top is usually solid colors with minimal shading — so the Cut-Outs relate directly. In adapting the Cut-Out figures to a face you have the additional playfulness of trying to fit his forms to the shapes of the face, which becomes an exercise in the fundamental skill of placing a flat image over the curves of the face. And I do mean “exercise” — I learn more about painting faces when I try to imitate the Cut-Outs.

Matisse - The Rumanian Blouse 1940

The Rumanian Blouse 1940

Matisse_RoumanianBlouse_artface_140920_agostinoartsMatisse’s painted portraits also adapt well, as he worked often with flat areas of pure color and precise linework. Strong colors and clean linework make for effective faces.

 

 

Face Gallery (Body Paintings below) ——————————————

at FABAIC 2011

at FABAIC 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Portrait of the Artist's Wife, 1912

Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1912

Red Fish 1911

Red Fish 1911

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Inspired bodypainting by Raphealle Fieldhouse

Matisse Inspired bodypainting by Raphealle Fieldhouse