Monday, July 17, 2017

If Picasso Went on Vacation (a.k.a. Exciting News)

Once upon a time, while reading a blog post from Cassie Stephens (rock star of the art teacher world), I learned about her participation in an art teacher collaboration- one where they joined forces to make a children's book.  The project lead is an art teacher in New Jersey named Eric Gibbons (, and the project was the "If Picasso" series.  Eric had an online call out for art teachers (both current and retired) around the nation to submit work for a chance to be part of this series of books.  Upon further research, I learned that there was another call out for teachers for the last book in the series, called "If Picasso Went on Vacation." This book's mission was to paint unique locations around the globe in the style of a deceased artist.  I submitted a few pieces of my original work to show my range to Mr. Gibbons, and was ACCEPTED!
This was August of 2015, and books take time...

After the initial acceptance, teachers either chose a deceased artist to emulate and chose a location, or our project lead chose for us.  I was one where my artist and location were chosen for me.  My assigned artist was Albert Namatjira, an aboriginal artist from Australia, and the assigned location was Fjaorargljufur Canyon in Iceland (and I had not heard of either, plus the latter is REALLY hard to pronounce).  The canyon may look familiar to music video fans; it's been in both a Justin Beiber ("I'll  Show You"..and I only know that because I was told) and a Dierks Bentley ("Black") video within the last year or two.

In November of 2015, I submitted my initial sketch of the canyon after LOTS of internet searching and scouring, trying to find the best possible angle that matched Namatjira's viewpoint.  Mr. Gibbons gave the go ahead, and painting began.

As a Visual Arts Education major in college, I had to take a lot of studio classes along with education classes, but one that I didn't sign up for was watercolor.  Go figure: Namatjira's work was entirely WATERCOLOR.  I was honest and told the project lead that I had more experience with other media types, but he had faith in me, so watercolor it would be.  I made a call to my high school art teacher, Mr. David Sparks, who happened to specialize in watercolor;  he gave me some very good advice on paper and paint brands.  Once my brand-new goodies were in hand, it was time to do a lot of practicing while watching YouTube videos, and I eventually got the technique down to a place where I was comfortable.  Did I mention this was November?  The due date was 1-1-2016...nothing like procrastination to motivate, but I got it finished.  

My original watercolor painting, 16x16".  Photo by Candace Anderson

Due to unforeseen circumstances involving the other artists, the deadline was moved several times and ended up being sometime in July of 2016.  After the editing and publishing process, all was said and done in February of 2017.  That is a LONG time to wait and an even longer time to stay quiet!  I showed the book to some coworkers before school ended, but didn't want to tell the world until my mom had a chance to see it in person (then life got in the way, hence this summer posting).  There were some proud mama tears involved.

My painting in the book! Page 29.

The book is now part of the school libraries where I work, and I am working on getting copies to the local town libraries for all to enjoy.  It's currently available on Amazon, and I still have a few copies available in my stash.

Art teachers are artists, too-no matter what level they teach!


  1. Amber, you are amazing!!! What a cool opportunity; Benton is so lucky to have you. Congrats!

  2. Great job Amber!!! So proud of you!