HYANNIS – Artist Carole Ann Danner knows from patterns. She paints bold semi-abstracted works, using repeated colors and shapes. But Tuesday, when faced with the vivid stripes, plaids and prints drawn on pretend suitcases by students in Kathleen Duran’s second grade class at Hyannis West Elementary School, she was bowled over.
“They came out gorgeous. These are the best they’ve ever done,” she said of the art project.
** This story was first posted May 2013 **
After designing the paper “suitcases,” made from manilla envelopes, the children were to write a story about packing their bags for a favorite location and filling the “case” with drawings of items they would need for the trip.
Danner, of Hyannis, has been a substitute teacher in Barnstable public schools for ten years. Working usually three days a week, she said it is the perfect job for her, as it allows her a lot of flexibility to concentrate on her artwork. But it also gives her the opportunity to work with children whose creative energy can act like a shot of inspiration.
Danner’s duties as a “sub” do not always involve art, so it seems like a special treat when she gets to share her passion on the subject with the children.
The project to make the suitcases was conceived by Duran, herself an art buff, who has visited Danner in the studio she used to have on Pearl Street in Hyannis.
She said she relished the opportunity to use Danner’s talents as an artist to teach the students a different kind of lesson. “Carole Ann’s gentle spirit and talent introduces my students to art in a way that promotes self-expression, she wrote the next day in an e-mail message.
Danner’s mantra is “there are no mistakes in art. You just keep going.” She encourages the children to plunge in with markers; forget about the pencils and erasers.
To start the students off in their suitcase-decorating task, Danner told the children to look looked around the classroom to find patterns. “There’s one on a backpack! There’s one on a dress!” The children were out of their seats and searching the room for patters and more patterns.
Then they went right to work, using large brightly-colored markers.
“Once they let loose, it’s pretty amazing,” Danner said.
Any mistakes were quickly turned into patterns at Danner’s urging.
Colors, shapes, triangles, squares, waves, the suitcases took shape quickly, as Danner prodded them to focus on repetition.
She suggested using just three or four colors, a reduced, simplified palette, so the pattern would stay recognizable.
After the session, Danner reflected on what makes children such talented artists.
“These kids are so talented. You get them young and they’re raw. They are art geniuses. They are geniuses in creativity before we teach them to conform,” she said. “These kids have no fear,” she said.
In her own recent work, Danner said, she has been traveling around the Cape, making sketches and returning to her studio to paint.
“I love a black line. First you draw a thick black line and then you go in and out with the color,” she said.
Using line, form, shape, color and, yes, pattern, she works from the sketches and in a blend of realism and abstraction, a painting emerges.
It sounds so simple, it could be child’s play.
— Laura M. Reckford