NRHS Students Create Outsider Art … Literally!

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY — More than 200 art students, including some from the PAVE program, took their pottery and sculpture, easels and palettes outside on campus grounds last week to be inspired by and work in nature. Students practiced the outdoor traditions of Japanese Raku and En Plein Air painting, under the guidance of teachers Joanna Schomber, Grace Fraioli, Alexi Brock, Scott Seaboldt and Moira McCaul.

“We’ve been doing this event annually for over 15 years,” said Brock, who helped lead the painting portion. “Each time, we work in a different media and on a new assignment.”

The PAVE Visual Arts 1, 2 and 3, Drawing & Painting 2 and 3, and the AP Art 2D classes painted “en plein air,” a term coined by the Impressionists that means “in the open air.” And, just like the Impressionists, students worked with a palette of warm and cool primary colors (reds, yellows and blues) mixing them with just some white to create their secondary, tertiary and complementary colors.

“The students created two paintings of natural settings around campus, one in the morning from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. and a second in the afternoon, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.,” said Brock. “Both sessions focused on the same scene, with the intent of exploring how the light and shadows changed with the time of day, and how that effected the colors.” 

New Rochelle High School alumnus Julian Rapp (2003) was this year’s guest artist. He painted alongside the students, shared his own en plein air painting experiences and images of his painting sessions in New York City, New Rochelle, Vietnam and Indonesia. Rapp, whose pieces reside in many private collections here and abroad, shared his enthusiasm for the young artists’ work on his Instagram page. 

Teachers Joanna Schomber and Grace Fraioli led their sculpture and ceramics students respectively through the process of building two outdoor kilns used to complete Raku projects, a Japanese form of firing clay and glazes that dates back to ancient times. Raku is associated with tea ceremonies, so Fraioli had her ceramics students create Japanese style tea cups in line with this tradition.

“The sculpture students did an organic clay form project,” said Schomber. “They had to create something out of clay, drawing their inspiration from an object in nature.”

The firing process is two-fold: Each piece is shaped by hand and pre-fired in the art department’s indoor kilns. Pieces are then painted with a special Raku glaze, and fired a second time in the outdoor kilns. They are then finished off in a fire pit, which the students also constructed.

“The full firing process takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour per kiln load,” said Schomber. “When the pieces come out of the kiln, they’re placed into the fire pits for half an hour.”

The students spent the entire day outside plying their crafts. Sculptors and ceramic artists loaded and unloaded the kilns in a constant rotation to ensure everyone’s work was completed. Clusters of painters dotted the lawn, working together with Rapp to capture their Impressionistic takes on the NRHS campus. It was another successful and inspiring day of creativity for the great artists of New Rochelle and their instructors.