Room To Be Creative

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov 9, 2007 - Philip Dick is one lucky guy. Not only does he get paid to do what he loves, teaching art to high school students, his classes are no longer limited by a lack of square footage.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sophomore art student Crystal Harrell and her wire dragon.

This fall, Dick and approximately 100 art students moved from their old quarters into a newly remodeled space, complete with an office, a room for three kilns, and a large, organized storage room with dozens and dozens of cubby holes to keep his supplies neat and in order. Dick figures he has “two to three times the space” he had last year.

�I�m thrilled,� Dick said when asked about his new digs. �I have a good friend at the University of Texas at Tyler who recently told me that I�ve got a situation like no one else in East Texas.�

Dick already knew how lucky he was, even if he was stressed at the end of the school year last spring.

�Last year, at the end of the semester, everything was torn up,� Dick explained. �It affected morale. We were teaching, packing, and getting ready for both summer shut down and a major move.�

During the summer, construction crews remodeled the old band hall into both a new art suite and new home for the drama department.

Dick needs every speck of space he can get.

During a recent visit to the campus, a host of aluminum wire art pieces were taking up a lot of floor space in the new classroom.

�I get my students to work with aluminum wire early in the year because it�s an easy medium to work with,� Dick said. �I give them some basic guidelines and turn them loose.�

The aluminum objects must be at least 10 inches tall, but no larger than 24 inches tall. Dick prefers that the objects be either an animal or a person because “the piece must show movement.” The students may use pliers, but are restricted from relying on tape or glue to hold their work together. There are no limits to the amount of wire the students can use.

Sophomore Crystal Harrell, 16, decided to make a dragon as her project.

�I�ve always liked dragons and mythical creatures,� Harrell said. �I wanted to challenge myself.�

Although Harrell said she thought she could do better, she received an A-plus for her efforts, and “it did go into the case.”

�The case� is the� glass display case outside Dick�s classroom, and it�s reserved for only the best of the best drawings, sculptures and other projects.

Harrell thinks art is “very interesting. I like taking time to create something like this.”

Harrell’s next project is a werewolf made of paper mâché.

Freshman Josh Bain, 14, also put his best foot forward with the aluminum wire project. His figure balances on one foot, while the other is in mid-air, delivering what looks to be a powerful karate kick. In order for the piece to stand alone, it had to contain both movement and balance. He, too, received an A-plus on his piece.

�I like Kung Fu movies,� Bain said when asked why he chose a martial arts figure.

Both Bain and Harrell like their teacher.

�He�s a good teacher,� Harrell said. �He�s funny at times, but he knows when to be serious.�

Bain agrees, saying, “He’s pretty cool. He’s really funny sometimes.”

Both students say they have learned a lot from Dick.

Harrell said the students’ first assignment was to closely at their  hands while drawing them on a piece of paper. 

�It was hard,� Harrell said. �We couldn�t look at the paper at all. We had to just look at our hands and draw what we saw. Mine was not very good.�

Bain said Dick has taught him the importance of negative space. He particularly liked the class’s recent “disappearing square” project. Dick cuts one-inch squares from pictures of art deco architecture and tells the students to incorporate the square into an original piece of art.

�The objective is to make the original square fade into the piece,� Dick said as he proudly showed off the students� art work.

Bain plans on pursuing a career as a video game artist. Harrell says that while she likes art and she’s proud of the high grade she received on her dragon, she doesn’t plan to be an artist.

�Art is a hobby for me,� Harrell said.�

Bain also plans on taking full advantage of everything Dick has to teach. While most students take only one or two years of Dick’s classes, Bain has expressed a desire to take art every year.

�He�ll be the first student to take art all four years in high school,� Dick said. �It�s exciting to have a student this committed to his craft.��

And thanks to the remodeling project, Bain has plenty of room to be spread out and be creative until he graduates in 2011.

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