Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

InSights Art Competition

September 09, 2021 American Printing House Episode 37
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
InSights Art Competition
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Change Makers, we're getting ready for the InSights Art competition. We'll learn more about the competition, the importance of art and how art is taught to children and adults with visual impairments, as well as hear from an InSights Art artist.

Participants (In order of appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Rob Guillen, APH Special Programs Coordinator
  • Meg Outland, APH Special Programs Assistant
  • Erin Schalk, The Braille Institute Art Instructor
  • Josephine "Joey" Hernandez, InSights Art participant and Independent Artist

Additional Links

Jack Fox:

Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to change makers. I'm APH is public relations manager, Sara Brown. And today we're talking about the upcoming InSights Art competition. We'll talk about the competition and the importance of art and hear from an artist up first, we have APH's Special Programs Coordinator, Rob Guillen, and Special Programs Assistant Meg Outland. Hello, Rob and Meg, and welcome to Change Makers,

Rob Guillen:

Sarah . Thank you for inviting us. I'm happy to be here.

Meg Outland:

Hello .

Sara Brown:

Okay. So tell us about InSights Art, what is it, how long has it been around? Tell us what we need to know all about this cool program.

Rob Guillen:

The InSights Art program is now entering its 30th year. It is a international art contest for artists who are blind or visually impaired. Uh , it provides an opportunity for all artists of all ages around the world to be able to have their artwork juried by professional , uh, art , uh, individuals, people in the field of art. Um, it also provides them the opportunity to be able to exhibit their work , uh, if they win a prize or are accepted to the exhibit. Um, it is a really remarkable program. It's been around again for a long time, but a lot of the artists who , uh, have maybe thought about being an artist and weren't quite sure who of edit , uh, entered the contest, all of a sudden realize , wait, I might actually have a career in art. Uh, and it's one of the fields of , uh, uh, professions that people who are blind don't necessarily think about immediately. And we all know that art is a fundamental means of expression for individuals , um , of all ages, no matter who you are and , uh, artists who were blind, shouldn't be excluded from , uh, the choice of creating art for a living.

Sara Brown:

Now, with this InSights Art, is there an age range in this competition, or can anybody participate?

Rob Guillen:

Uh, anybody who is at least legally blind can participate, but you can be any age. In fact, we get artwork from , uh, toddlers all the way up to , uh, individuals who are well into their nineties. Um, these are individuals who are both professional artists and amateur artists. Um, they can be from anywhere in the world. And , uh, we find that , uh , all it takes is just a little bit of encouragement, but artists are really totally enthusiastic to be able to participate in this , uh, regardless of their age. They're really very , um, jazzed about the opportunity to be able to have other people , um, consider their art and experience it because that's not something that everybody gets

Sara Brown:

How are the winners chosen and what do they receive? You said something about it being juried. So tell us about how they're chosen and what the prizes are.

Rob Guillen:

So the contest has , uh, used , um, a professional jury of art professionals. So these are individuals who work in the field of art, so they could be artists themselves. They may run a gallery, they may be the head or , uh , an employee at an arts organization. They could be an art educator , uh , for anybody, either an adult or a child, but basically they would be individuals who are professionals who are really interested in art. And my experience with working with juries , uh, jurors, excuse me, is that they are often con uh , completely unaware of some of the challenges that accompany a visual impairment, but they learn so much and are often blown away by some of the amazing artwork that is created , uh, even more so if they realize that , uh, an artist is almost fully blind and has created something on the level of , uh, some of the artwork that they make at , in their own galleries or in their museums , um, they are often extremely surprised. They find it very difficult to judge the artwork. Uh, it's so varied. There's so many different levels and different skill levels , um, that they , uh, have a hard time really choosing. I think it's much more difficult to be a juror than people realize , uh, the winners will get , uh , different scales of awards. So for our adult artists, we have three categories , uh, that would be "two dimensional art sculpture and craft" and for first place winners, they would receive $500. Second place would get $400. Um, third place would get $300 and "honorable mention" would get $100. For student artists, at this point we have a $100 for first place, $75 for second, $50 for third , $ 25 for "honorable mention." There is another category of art that we judge. This is a non jury to award that's offered exclusively by APH, it's called "visioneer award." Um, and it really tries to highlight the artwork , uh, that may , uh, help to , uh, talk about the field in general, or may be , uh , traditionally , uh, uh, under selected piece of art. Uh, and by that, I mean, it could be that a student has some severe , uh, challenges , uh, may not have a lot of fine motor skills. Their artwork may not be considered quote, classically beautiful. Um, and yet , uh, it exemplifies a great deal of artistic spirit as well as effort. And , uh, we tend to look at all the artwork to see, is there anything that really stands out that talks about these things? Uh, and we will award a one or two prizes or more for the adult categories as well as the student categories. So this year for 2021 , uh, we have selected , uh , two visionary awards, one adult and one student , uh, and we're really always happy to provide that because it slightly broadens the , uh, the reach for the program itself. We, I believe that art , uh , encompasses so many things. And , uh , one thing I really want to be sure is that , uh , a lot of different types of voices are , uh, exemplified and magnified so that people can see the different types of things that come out of the insights art program.

Sara Brown:

I'm going to assume years past during the insights, our competition, people, the artists and their pieces came to the annual meeting. Now that we have COVID around, how has COVID impacted the competition and how do you receive entries for this year's competition? Or how did you receive entries for this year's competition?

Rob Guillen:

COVID really did change so much of how we administrate the program last year , uh, during the first year when we did not have an in-person exhibit or , uh , an in-person awards ceremony in well, 29 years, we had to rethink how we were going to do everything for the in-person exhibit. We realized that that was a very important part of the mission for insights art to provide a very public means by which , um , people, the public can actually view the artwork. So we actually created an online version of the exhibit, and this means that anybody from around the world would actually be able to see all of the artwork that has one, they would be able to read or listen to a detailed description of the artwork. They would also be able to read the bios of the , uh, the jurors , um, and be able to experience the wide variety of materials , uh, that have come into the contest. We decided to go ahead and make the artwork , um, available virtually for the judging and what this meant was at least for 2021 in its entirety, all of the artwork from both adults and students could be turned in by a photograph and email to us, and we would , uh, arrange all the photos. And then we allow the jurors to simply go onto a website to be able to view and rank all of the artwork from each of the categories. This did two things. Number one, it actually made it a little bit cheaper and , and , uh , less complicated for artists to be able to enter the contest. And that's important to me because previously we would have had , um , all the student artists in any case, literally turn in ship into APH, all of the artwork , um, that got expensive. Uh, we also have to ship it back , um , and it was just , uh, a very , uh, difficult process of a second thing that it allowed is it allowed for , uh, jurors who originally only came from the Louisville Metro area to actually be selected from anywhere in the United States. So we are , uh, going to change the , uh, the , uh, submissions for the artwork in future years to include , uh, a lot more virtual opportunities to be able to turn in your art that way we can actually , um, select jurors from a lot of different places and , uh, have the archers , uh, have a wide representation. That's very, very important to us to make sure that we have a lot of jurors from different backgrounds, different mediums , uh , to be able to look at all the artwork. So COVID has really changed that. And , uh, that was one of the better changes that went along with all of the co COVID chaos as I like to call it , um, while we still would love. And we'll continue to have an in-person exhibit in the future. Uh, we will try very hard to make sure that all of our friends from, let's say, for example, this year from Columbia , from India, from Canada, that all of those individuals have an opportunity to view all of the artwork that was in the exhibit, as well as have a place that artists themselves can point to, to show that the won a prize or that they were accepted to the exhibit. Those are also very important , uh, parts of the mission of the InSights Art program.

Sara Brown:

Now, when it comes to submitting art and you all are looking at this and up close and personal, is there any art that you've seen that stands out for you?

Rob Guillen:

I think , uh, some of the artwork that has come in over the years , uh , really surprises me and every year is always a little bit different. Um, some of the artwork that really amazes me are , uh, the work that come out of , uh, programs that work with children with multiple disabilities. Um, oftentimes , um, you know, students who are in programs are often thought of as less capable for a lot of different reasons. They may not have a lot of fine motor skills. They certainly do not have good vision. Uh, they may not. Um, uh, they may not necessarily understand , uh , sort of what I will call classical art forms. Um , however, some of the artwork that comes out of programs like that are truly amazing. I mean, really just mind-blowingly beautiful or provocative. Um, and it really has a lot to do with the teachers who guide the artists themselves and the artists themselves, because they certainly are not void of imagination. So those are some of the things that really have stood out.

Meg Outland:

And Rob had mentioned earlier as well, since a lot of it has been virtual, especially this past year, year and a half. Um, we had all of the artists send in their artwork virtually first, before we actually received it in person . So even being able to experience it virtually and then opening up the package to see it in person for the first time is absolutely incredible. Just because you get an idea of what it's going to look like just by looking at it on your computer, but then when you actually get to hold it and see it in person, it's just so much more depth to it that you didn't realize before. That's probably been my favorite part. There's one piece that we've received this year called dandelion. And the background is it's really pretty greenish, not quite lime green, but a light green, and there's a woman and her hair is like a dandelion and B detail in her eyes and face. It's absolutely incredible. It's , uh , it's just so stunning. And I was a 17 year old who did that to , I believe 17. Well, I can't wait to see that one. Now, what has overseen InSight's Art taught you about art or those creating the art?

Rob Guillen:

Well, for me, I think that one of the major things is to , um, be mindful of my own expectations of what people can accomplish. Um, having worked with , uh, this program for 10 years , uh, the last couple of years , uh, as the administrator of the program, I've certainly seen a lot of really , uh , exquisite art come through , um, work that is, and has been , uh , displayed and sold in galleries , uh, by artists who just happened to have a visual impairment. And one of the things that , um , I love is when I talked to an artist , um, and when they're able to tell me exactly how they created a piece and it occurs to me that all artists are alike, they have this inner passion to be able to express themselves. They want to be able to tell the world , um, some truth about their experience. They may do it through beauty. They may do it through provoking. They may do it through abstracts, but it , it regardless, they're really, really very interested in being able to express themselves. Um, and all artists really have that universal truth behind them. Uh , one of the things I love is being able to look at a work of art and to be able to think, wow, how did they do that? And , uh, in the last couple of years, there was one piece , uh, that came out of New York and , uh, it was this beautiful landscape. Um, basically it was a cityscape at night. Uh, the artist had , uh, created this beautiful cityscape of , uh , a set of buildings that were reflected on the water. It was very abstract, lots of grays blues, a little bit of pink and orange. And , um , I did not know how they did that. Um, the student was almost , uh, nearly fully blind. And , uh, when I talked to the teacher about how they did it, she described exactly what they did, which was to basically take a credit card, attach it to a , uh , yardstick , um, and basically scrape the art , uh, scrape the paint, excuse me, right on the , uh , uh, the canvas. And it was, again, a very simple answer to , um, what actually happened , uh, or the result of the artwork itself. It was an amazing , uh, solution , uh, that I really hadn't thought of. And it's really wonderful to be able to talk to teachers and to artists to talk about how they actually created their artwork. And I love doing that.

Meg Outland:

I think , um , InSights Art also reminds me that art is a form of expression that creates an inclusive experience for all creators. Like just being able to see all walks of life genders, anybody like entering into this competition is absolutely amazing. It just, it's so mixed my heart warm.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And right now it's too late to enter this year's competition, but can you tell us when you can start submitting for next year?

Rob Guillen:

The InSights Art program , uh, will , uh , start at , uh, annual meeting for APH? So APH's Annual Meeting is typically in early October of the year, and that is when we open up the following year's , um , program , uh, that will allow for several months for artists to be able to turn in their artwork. So this year , uh, that will be October, October 7th , uh , is when , uh, the 2022 season will start. Uh, the , uh , due date will be probably late March or early April. We haven't fully defined that yet, but , um , it'll allow for several months to do that. Um, as we have done this year, all artists are welcome to either ship their artwork to us, or they can send us a photograph or two of the artwork so that we can go ahead and include that into the , uh, virtual judging. We ask that , um, artists take , uh, as higher resolution of a photograph as they can manage. Um, they're very welcome to ask for help to take photographs for that artwork. Um , they can , uh, email the artwork as an attachment along with the entry form, which will be available also on October 7th, but they can also , uh , put it on a flash drive , uh, and mail that to us. And , uh , we will go ahead and enter them all into the contest. So , uh, that's uh , how it'll, that's the process for, for including artwork for next year's contest.

Sara Brown:

And one last question, before we go, is there anything else you would like to add about InSights Art about creating art, the artists, anything?

Rob Guillen:

One of the things I think I would like to do is encourage , um, all artists to participate in the program. Um, even if you don't think, well, there's no way that I would be able to compete with a professional artist. Everyone is welcome to enter the contest. Um, if you're , uh, at least legally blind, if not fully blind and all of those artists of any age really have a depth of imagination that often , um, people don't often realize how , uh , creative they can be. They don't realize that they have that deep well of creativity in them to be able to , to make a work of art that is , um, provocative and exquisite. Uh, and in some cases really, really beautiful. Um, I know that some of the artwork at least one Insights Art were created by individuals who would be at least professionally classified as amateurs, but their artwork is hardly that it is amazing. And , um, I love being able to exhibit the artwork for new artists , um, because , uh , it really does give them the push to be able to consider art as a profession. And as we all know , uh , artwork is one of those things that is critical for a healthy society to be able to , um, look at , um, our world from different eyes to be able to , um, imagine the way a world could be or the way it had been. These are all really, really important things for a society. And those voices should come from everybody, including those individuals who happen to be blind or visually impaired. So , um , I definitely wanna encourage everybody to be able to , uh, enter the contest or encourage their friends and family to do that as well.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Well, thank you so much, Rob and Meg for joining me today on Change Makers.

Rob Guillen and Meg Outland:

You're very welcome, pleased to be here.

Sara Brown:

Thank you. All right. Up next, we're talking to an art teacher. We have the Braille Institute's art instructor Erin Schalk. Hello, Erin . And welcome to Change Makers.

Erin Schalk:

Hello, Sara. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for bringing me on.

Sara Brown:

Great, great, great. Now , uh , first, can you tell, tell us just a little bit about yourself and what you do in your position?

Erin Schalk:

Absolutely. So I've been a professional educator since 2010, over a decade now, and I started out teaching actually in Okinawa, Japan. I was teaching art, writing and English as a foreign language. Um , since 2018, I have been teaching at the Braille Institute of America in Anaheim, California. And in addition to my teaching practice, I'm also a professional artist and writer. Okay. So you were in Okinawa, Japan. Can you, what was that like? It was a really amazing experience. I think for a first time teacher, it was more of a baptism by fire sort of experience. I mean, not in a good way though. Um, I, you know, I was teaching internationally. Um , I was learning Japanese at the same time, the Japanese language, I was also working on earning a degree in east Asian studies and I had on-site classrooms, but I also had , um , my car, a blue Nissan Cube. That was my portable classroom. So what I would have to do with this is load all of my supplies constantly inside that cube. Sometimes on top of, in the case of certain artworks and I would go rumbling up and down the island to my different teaching locations. I'm bringing all these materials with me, and it was a really great experience because I had the chance to teach all ages, everything from pre-K through adult levels, even to professional educators, I would teach continuing education courses. And I had the wonderful experience to , of teaching students from very diverse backgrounds, students from Okinawa and mainland Japan. There is a distinction between the two as well as children and spouses of American active duty service members, and a lot of students throughout Asia, different countries throughout Asia, such as the Philippines, China, Korea, even Malaysia as well.

Sara Brown:

What an awesome experience. Wow, that is so cool. So bringing it back home, can you tell me as an art instructor, what is it like to teach art to adults with visual impairments or children? How do you get them to understand art and the actual process of creating it?

Erin Schalk:

It's a lot of different things. Uh , something that I've found that can really be beneficial, and this is not necessarily what's taught when you're taught to be an educator, is to be highly sensitive to the unique situation of each student. Usually that's a luxury in the classroom because teachers are having to balance the needs of so many students simultaneously. But for me, teaching adults, it's so different. Uh , teaching an adult who has been blind since birth compared an adult who has lost their vision in say like middle age or partway through life and all of this requires diverse teaching strategies. So an example of this would be, see if a student has been blind since birth. The way that I would teach that student color would be through color symbolism. Also a balance between the abstract and the concrete, for example, skies and oceans are often blue and blue can represent tranquility. So a lot of my adult students come to art with an understanding of art that they've learned in school. And most of the time, this is art. That's highly representational. Maybe it's aesthetically beautiful as well. So students come in with these ideas in mind and they often feel like they can't represent art in that same way. So what I really strive to do in my classroom is to make that space a place of first permission. Um, and by that, I mean, mistakes, failures, detours, experimentation, any of that kind of thing, all of it is very welcome because these are necessary parts of the creative process and one's individual growth. So an example of this in action , a lot of people who have studied art before have maybe heard the term blind contour drawing. And this is traditionally taught in say like an art foundations program where sighted students are required to look only at the objects that they're drawing and not at their paper at all. And there's ideally going to be this mind body sort of connection from looking at the object and then transferring those marks, those shapes onto the paper. Now, what I do with my students in my classroom is we have an adapted version of blind contour drawing with key differences. What I typically do is I will bring out objects that have aromas even tastes in some cases, but in the case of an aroma, say a variety of flowers and these flowers will be different , uh , species. So different sense , textures shapes of pedals , leaves, things like that. And I encourage the students to take some time, really take some time to interact with these objects, to feel the contours of a pedal, to smell the flower, to get a sense of what the stem feels like. And once students have had the time to really engage with what they are going to draw, they begin to create a drawing, a tactile drawing using res lines. And I find this process is especially important for students who feel most comfortable creating realistic artworks, but we take that a few more steps. The next step with this process is to help expand students' definition and understanding of art. So it becomes more accessible, no matter what anyone's situation happens to be. So we learned that art isn't just about a person's individual perception or what a person would see visually it's just what's encountered or seen with the retina, but art can really be an expression of an inner emotional state. And so what the students do is once they get comfortable creating tactile lines of their drawings of their objects, then we move on to making lines and marks in a more gestural way, a more emotive kind of way. And you can think of the abstract expressionists where each mark and stroke revealed some sort of aspect of the painter, subconscious of the thoughts, internal states, emotions and feelings. And for my students, what I've really found is there's this incredible freedom and placing a mark down , allowing it to be what it will be and just letting it go from there. That art isn't always about seeing it can be more about being or expressing in a particular moment.

Sara Brown:

You just touched on some of the techniques that you use when teaching art. Do you have any others that you want to share?

Erin Schalk:

Yes, there are so many, but I'll hit a few highlights here. A core approach that I do take when teaching art is emphasizing art techniques and materials that are multisensory . We often think about this as tactile, but we can do more senses. We can actually engage with more senses moving beyond the visual, into touch, sound, smell, even one sense of balance. And I'll explain what I mean by that. Um , there's a book called artist experience by John Dewey. It's something that a lot of art students, art educators end up reading and at the crux of this book is the idea that art is experiential. It's an experience it's meant to be encountered with interacted with. It brings it to a level of accessibility to everyone. The idea of art. Now I adapt some of these philosophies though, for students with visual impairments, actually setting up situations where art can overlap effectively with orientation and mobility skills. And an example of this is a soggy man. Some of you may have heard of Sargy Mann. He was a very famous painter in England. He passed away in 2015, but he actually lost his sight completely by about age 35 or so or around midlife give or take. And he, despite this pioneered these techniques to still paint human figures, he would map the human figures proportions out onto a large cardboard tube, as well as his canvas using basically sticky tackling little bits of tack or putty and create these coordinates, these map coordinates of where say, look, the eyes would go in relationship to the chin and relationship to the bottom of the rib cage, et cetera, et cetera. So we use those same techniques , um , that soggy man did in our classes . Well, we map out say the proportions of the human face of a portrait of the eyes and relationship to the nose and the mouth. And it really helps students learn to navigate their way around a canvas, just like they would learn how to navigate around, say a busy intersection or around a building that they frequent quite often. So another technique that I also teach my students actually harks back a few years ago , uh , when I was in graduate school and I did this series of tactile paintings and this was years before I came to the braille Institute, but it proved to be a great training. I didn't know it at the time, of course, for what I would be teaching down the road. And when I say tactile paintings, I mean really tactile. I don't mean just impasto impasto as in thick applications of oil paint, I mean, paintings that are so built up with sculptural materials, like wire paper paint on top, that it blurs the lines between what a painting can be and what a sculpture can be. So we continue to use these types of techniques in my classroom as well, too, especially with acrylic paints. And for anyone who's familiar with acrylic paints, they're highly versatile, medium acrylic, essentially being plastic. Um , but what you can do with acrylic paint is you can do actually a one-to-one ratio take a one-to-one ratio. So one part paint to one part material and mix it together. And what we use, we honestly use just about anything you can imagine, but some of our favorite materials are , uh , to mix them with our paint , our soil, tiny glass beads, pumice ground, marble dust, even coffee grounds. That's a big favorite because it has both the texture of the coffee grounds and the paint, but also the aroma too. So it really helps students be able to keep track of what paint is, what based on the textures, we can also add in aromas like essential oils to , um, in the case of the coffee grounds, especially since we're based in Southern California, many students have made these really beautiful, I mean, just stunning seascape paintings with other paint mixed with coffee grounds because it simulates the color and the texture of say sand, a Sandy beach and the aroma too , of course, has that added benefit of waking us all up in the morning , uh, as we are trying to get going for the day, if we have an early morning class and another technique that is really helpful. And I think my students are better at this than I am honestly, but I'm still working on it is to incorporate a lot of metaphors and comparisons to familiar objects. And an example of this actually happened a few months back. We've been remote at the braille Institute for a while due to the pandemic. So I've been teaching students online and sending my students art kits through the mail. And I was trying to help my students figure out where their water color paper was and you know, the many layers of the art kit. And I was describing it . I defaulted essentially to, oh , watercolor kind of feels like, like cardstock gets , you know, it's a little thick, it's a little heavy and a student piped up. She had a much better comparison than I did. And she said, yes, it feels a lot like a Dunkin donuts box is you brought us right back to the here and now we all had a good laugh and everybody ended up finding their watercolor paper.

Sara Brown:

That's too cute. The Dunkin donuts box, we all know what that feels like. Yeah, exactly. Okay. So what are some of those most popular mediums? Is it painting? Is it clay? Is it, what are some of the most popular mediums that you've noticed for you?

Erin Schalk:

Oh, there's a wide variety. I think in terms of my students, mostly mediums that are especially tactile are really popular. That being said, I have a , I think a few surprises or surprising ones that students really like that I'll share as well too. Um, obviously we work a lot with clay. Clay is great because it's such a flexible material. When we were onsite , we could use traditional clay like terracotta earthenware that would be fired in a kiln. Now that we're at home due to the pandemic, we can use air-dry in polymer clays . They're not quite the same as say a kiln fired clay, but we can simulate similar quality , similar texture, similar forms. And for students, the beauty of that clay is that it can be a functional object. You can turn it into something like a bowl or a decorative vase that a student can use, you know , on an everyday basis. But it can also be sculptural to something that my students really like to do. I say, they'll make a sculpture out of paper, newspaper first pack the clay around the top. And in the case of a clay that you can put in a kill fire that the paper burns away, and then you're left with that ceramic sculpture. Something else that we've discovered something at the braille Institute that we're really passionate about is helping our students become more comfortable with accessible technology. So I took this on as a challenge, as an art instructor, especially an art instructor who is more versed in say the plastic arts or, you know, something more analog, like paint sculpture, that kind of thing. And I put together a class that involves digital photo and also mixed media collage. So what we do with this is that it helps students with using their smart phones and they learn the basics of digital photography as well as how to manipulate those photos, using apps on their smartphones . There are a couple of accessible , uh , smartphone, photo manipulation apps out on the market that have been really user-friendly for our students. And so the students will create these images. And then we typically print them out onto say like a piece of unstretched canvas. And we start putting that down on a panel canvas panel of some kind, and then we begin create this collage layer by layer. So maybe we add in some tactile papers, tissue papers. We can also add in acrylic paint, stencils over the top. And what ultimately happens is every aspect of the collage has a different texture. So students actually had a student tell me this once I can tell them my composition. I can tell everything that's on here because of the different textures. I can feel my way along the entire piece, but something that , uh , the pandemic has taught us kind of pushed us into a little bit beyond our comfort zone and our levels of experience. But it was a good experience for us is to work with sound art. Since we didn't always have a lot of access to materials , uh , say in the art kit sometimes. Um, and then a lot of students don't necessarily have a lot of art materials at home. We created these basically sound compositions, and I would do recordings through my computer. Do these audio tracks, sound recordings of the entire class. And we actually started out with making our own instruments from recycled materials. We've been using a lot of recycled materials these days and materials instruments that can make sounds. And then we combined these instrument sounds with spoken word poetry layer, all these different audio tracks on top of each other. And you get this sound landscape of sorts . It was really exciting for us because these sound pieces were eventually featured through the orange county museum of arts SoundCloud. So I think the great thing about 21st century art these days, a lot of people will criticize it, but what is happening in the past 20 years give or take is we're seeing so much more interdisciplinary artwork. We're seeing combinations of, you know, digital technology technology that we're really wanting to help our students get more comfortable with, with the analog and things like poetry and music and all interwoven together into visual arts . And for my students who have often been taught that they're not doing it right, quote unquote, right? When it comes to art, having this freedom, having this technical freedom, this freedom to express a variety of ideas, I'm taking these different elements and putting them together into one unified whole. This creates really fertile ground. I've seen at least in my students and in their work.

Sara Brown:

Wow. Erin , that is amazing how just hearing how technology has really helped elevate the creation of art and art for everybody. Thank you so much again for joining me today on Change Makers.

Erin Schalk:

Oh, you're most welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

Sara Brown:

Now we have a real insights artist here to talk more about their creation process. We have Josephine "Joey" Hernandez. Hello, Joey, and welcome to Change Makers.

Josephine "Joey" Hernandez:

Hi, I'm so happy to be here today.

Sara Brown:

And just briefly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Josephine "Joey" Hernandez:

Okay, cool. My name is Joey. I'm an independent artist from Garden Grove, California. I work with acrylic and pencil portraits. I also kind of dabble in graphic design. Um, I'm a current student in the orientation mobility program at San Francisco state university and a recent graduate from Cal state Fullerton go Titans, fan of copy , fan of bad puns, and they have skateboarding. Wonderful, wonderful. And like I said, you are an insights artist. So can you tell me, how did you get started in, in the art world? The drawing, the painting? Well, I've always been interested in art. I think that interest really grew when I was in middle school, I really got into pencil portraits. Then I had an awesome teacher, but I actually didn't start painting until I was in high school. And I didn't start painting until after my vision loss. I kind of tend to do things backwards, but the reason why I started painting initially is because I was trying to show how I see things to other people , uh, with my visual impairment, I have a juvenile form of macular dystrophy. So in addition to everything being really blurry, I also constantly see neon lights that aren't actually there. Yes. Even my eyes are extra. I got glitter going on. Um, but it was really frustrating , uh , trying to explain this to people , um, when all of it was new to me. So one day I decided, you know what, I'm just going to try to make an example of this myself. I started doing research into different types of mediums. I realized that with acrylic paint, I can get neon vibrant neon colors, and I can have them opaque. Um , so I could use that to kind of try to simulate what I see and, you know, after I tried it out and tried out painting, taught myself, I realized, man, this is really fun. And I just took it and ran with it. That is amazing. Now with your visual impairment, did you have to overcome any obstacles to create your art? Yes. So I mentioned before I used to be totally excited and I was into art before, you know , my visual impairment. So I had to come up with a lot of adaptive techniques in order to create my work. I can go on and on about that all day. But for example, I don't have, my small sketchbooks are not the same size as what they used to be. My small sketchbooks nowadays are 14 by 17 . Um, I realized that if I were to lean over to look at my artwork , um , for extended period of time, that would end up hurting my back. It just wasn't sustainable. So boom, adjustable easel. Now I to bring everything right up next to my face , um, with thinking of bringing things close to my face to , I took a lot of trial and error to figure that out. Um, sometimes with the way that the easel we propped up , um, the top corners of my work will be too far away for me to see. So I eventually figured out like, Hey, sitting on the ground, that's what works for me. That's how I'm able to get the most range out of my evil . Um, and those are just for like my actual seating setup , um, or actually working with the materials themselves. I discovered a lot of tactile techniques that helped me with identifying , uh, what supplies I'm using. So even though I have enough vision where I can tell , um , colors, and I , especially if they're up close to my face , um, when you're in the zone and you're painting, sometimes you don't want to stop in between every single color to bring it right up to your nose, or you don't want to have to pull out a magnifier every single time. Um , so I started paying attention to things like the weight and texture of my paint tubes or their overall shape. If you know that you're using a certain paint to quite a lot, you realize like, oh, Hey, now it's got a funky dent and it's a lot less lighter than the other one. And using these context clues and realizing that I set it down in this area before, it's easier to figure out, you know, that that's my, that's the white paint that I need right at this moment. And I can just kind of keep going without having to stop. Uh , similarly for pencils. Are there any pencil artists out there in the crowd, you might be aware that , uh , some folks will use different hardness and Sophos levels of pencils in order to get like different levels of shadow. Um, if you have pencils that are all the exact same shape it to be really hard to tell which one is which , um, luckily I like mechanical pencils. I prefer those anyways. So I could just get mechanical pencils that are all different funky shapes. And on top of that, I can like label it with a big old giant, you know, put a painter's tape, sticking out with Britain on the side to be a HB . So that way, when I am grabbing my pencil, I don't have to stop and figure out like, what am I picking up? Um, I could just keep going. And on those rare instances where I'm really tired and I'm like, I don't remember what exact, you know , one, this is, I can stop and look at that label. Um , afterwards. Absolutely . Just a couple of techniques. I have a couple more tricks up my sleeves, but , um, for me, I think it's all about coming up with creative solutions , um, and fighting, just trying out different things, seeing what works.

Sara Brown:

Okay. Can you tell me what insights arts pieces or piece you've submitted and what you love about the program?

Josephine "Joey" Hernandez:

Gosh, I have submitted pieces for years. I'll have one that sticks out to me was one that I submit . I think it was one of my first adult ones that I submitted. Um, and it's a pencil portrait of my niece grabbing my cane while walking with me down the side of a busy street. Um , back when I was, you know, newer to being visually impaired, my niece was really little and she liked to help me. And by help, I mean, she would grab the end of the cane and then just walk it around and smack things. It wasn't really helpful, but it was adorable. So I let her do it. So I have that piece of that. I entered and I believe I won that year. Um , so that, that would always makes me happy. Um, but I love the InSights competition overall. Um, there's so many amazing things I could say about it. One that sticks out to me is I love the image descriptions that are available for all of the pieces. So if you are an artist with a visual impairment and you want to enjoy other people's work, or if you're just somebody else who's casually viewing the artwork , um , they have descriptions of all of the pieces. So you understand what is being shown. I think that this , um , is something that all art programs, regardless of whether or not they're targeting visually impaired people should strive for they're fantastic and beautiful descriptions. The other thing that I love is seeing all of the youngsters have a program. I love that they're being encouraged to create artwork, to show there are these side , um, and being taught early on that art can be for everybody.

Sara Brown:

Wow . One more question. Before I let you go, is there anything you would like to say to encourage, you know , any students listening or any adults that are thinking about getting into painting or drawing, but just don't know how to begin or if, you know, feel that their visual impairment is holding them back?

Josephine "Joey" Hernandez:

I 'd say just try it out. U m, sometimes you might realize that like your exact process for completing something might be entirely different from somebody else's, u h, your process for drawing or painting might be totally separate from mine and that's okay that doesn't make it any better. It doesn't make it any worse. It makes it yours. U m, and I would say if the first techniques that you tried don't seem to work, if you're having a hard time with something, if you are really interested, just keep going, modify and adapt, u h, you know, you might end up finding that you might end up finding a way to do something that's really fun for you. I love that. Keep going, modify and adapt.

:

That is so true. Okay, Joey, thank you so much for joining me today on Change Makers.

Josephine "Joey" Hernandez:

I'm still happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Sara Brown:

And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Changemakers. We'll put any links in websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a change maker this week.