As part of our focus on exploring our relationship with nature in this class (Art and the Natural World), I asked my students if they would be interested in immersing themselves in the salt water to float with the outgoing tide from Hoyt’s Point to the waterfront during an upcoming class. I set up a written (secret) ballot so they could veto the idea (and no one would feel forced to do it) but all were eager to experience a “float” in silence.
I was really impressed by my students’ interest in maintaining silence, not only during the float, but even during the walk from the art room to Hoyt’s Point. With life jackets securely fastened, we found our way over a few rocks and lots of seaweed and slipped into the water on one of the hottest days of the week. I asked them to stay together but to allow each of us to have our own experience. I was amazed by their passion to get the most out of every minute, paying attention to the sensation of the water, the temperature, the birds overhead (a Kingfisher chattered as it swooped from branch to branch and cormorants flew low over the water nearby), the smells, the sounds, the taste of the salt water. At one point, I asked them if they were too cold and several whispered back that they were a little cold, but it felt good and they wanted to continue floating in silence rather than cut the experience short by swimming toward the waterfront. So we slipped back into silence for another 15 minutes until the tide brought us to the swim dock ladder.
Below is a brief description of the assignment which will end up being an accordion book made of watercolor paper.
“Float Book”: After floating with the tide, we will return to the waterfront to begin working with watercolors. Practice mixing accurate colors, laying down smooth washes, work with layering. Use the two reflection pieces (one of your experience floating in the tide last week, and one of a childhood memory with water) to design an accordion book that contains the juxtaposition of these two experiences with water. Plan and paint 3 different washes in an accordion book that will serve as the first layer. Work with the images/text from your childhood memory so you can pair it with the 3 washes in your book. Your goal is to layer not only literally (watercolor layers and/or text) but also figuratively with your expression of 2 different experiences with nature (water).
-Sue West, Art in the Natural World teacher
Learn more about Chewonki Semester School classes on our website,chewonki.org/semester.