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October 31, 2006 > Newark expressions

Newark expressions

Building and corridor walls at Newark Memorial High School (NMHS) are alive with color and content, greeting and inspiring students as they pass from class to class. Many students visit the campus art gallery during breaks to see the latest pop art creations of fellow classmates but all are exposed to a collage of ideas and artistic styles almost everywhere they look.

These visual representations are the result of fellow students who have learned to express themselves in a variety of media through the talented tutelage of an art department that inspires students to exercise their innate ability to observe and express thoughts and feelings. Many who enter the program are amazed by their own transformation. Budding artists spring from this well of inspiration, but many students with no aspirations to artistic careers find their powers of observation and relating to an artist’s discipline transformational.

The risk of exposing inner thoughts and ideas is not always an easy task, especially for young adults, but with the help of teachers such as Linda Chittle, experiences are allowed to mature in an acceptable fashion that allows freedom of expression and the joy of advancement and achievement. Art is a close relative to life itself and for many, training in this area allows communication on many levels that otherwise may remain hidden and immature. Growth and depth of art projects as students progress through artistic endeavors reflects a concomitant maturation of thought and processing of ideas.

Chittle says, “I love pop culture, contemporary art and I found it to be a phenomenal vehicle for teaching color theory.” She notes that when freshman look at the results of some of her more advanced students, they are overwhelmed and believe it beyond their capabilities. However, they soon learn that through learning a set of basic figures, they can rapidly expand to accomplishments far beyond their earlier limits, bounded only by imagination. Junior Ivan Madera who now hopes to follow in Ms. Chittle’s footsteps and become an art teacher, thought he was only capable of stick figures when he entered art classes as a freshman. Now, he is completing a wall mural of life-like figures and images. Senior Tyler Pinomaki, who aspires to become a firefighter and classmate Hannah Rodriguez, an aspiring interpreter, have also been touched by the art magic of Ms. Chittle and are working on murals as well.

Chittle notes that while many are surprised by how well they progress even the small group of students with a “God-given” gift for art do things they didn’t expect too. “They usually look at me with an expression of ‘Chittle’s crazy,’ but they prove themselves wrong.” As students move through basic lessons of shape and color, they begin to branch into different types of art. For example, Jasmine, another of Chittle’s students will be basing her mural on artwork she saw while visiting the Vatican. An assignment to research personal ethnic origin allows students to explore the art of their heritage and explore that part of them.

Students who begin with basic art classes go through rigorous training in drawing, shading, proportion, line, shape, form, value, color and texture before creating a painting in the spring semester. Chittle notes that past students in her classes have moved on to studies at many renowned institutions such as San Francisco Art Academy and Chicago Institute of Art. In some cases, these students never thought they would move in the direction of art, but fell in love with it and corollary fields such as architecture, animation, graphic design. She adds that no matter where they end up, they bring with them a solid foundation in art and life. “Drawing is nothing more than learning how to see.” Rather than assuming that art is a talent that only a few possess, Chittle says that it is a discipline open to all. “Any skill is learnable if you open your heart, spirit, discover your passion and stay true to yourself.” She adds, “Anything is possible.”

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