Tag: JMU

New Work: Renewed


11″ x 14″

I actually created this piece for an art show, but I ran out of time and didn’t want to rush the process so I’m not participating in that particular show this year. It’s been a while since I painted any kind of plant life, so this was a nice change.

Renewed (detail 1) Renewed (detail 2)

Unfortunately I can’t identify this plant. I took the photo about a year ago in the JMU arboretum and I’m not sure how to figure out what the name of the plant is. If you happen to know or have an idea of the name, please send me a comment! :] Have a great weekend!


From the Vault: Rubber Band Installation

I’m in the process of working on things that I can’t share just yet, but I wanted to continue posting on here in the meantime. I was looking through some old artwork of mine and I thought I would share some of the pieces. Enjoy! :]


This is an art installation made up of over 1000 rubber bands and some wire. I was so sick of the smell by the end, but I really liked the final project. This was my first project for a 3D design class I took back in my second semester of college (2010).DSC01678



Superhero Posters

Captain America

Many of you may not know this, but I was an RA (resident advisor) for two years at JMU. In a nutshell, this means I was in charge of a group of freshmen in a residence hall and had to deal with roommate conflicts, policy violations, and a bunch of other things that come with freshman year. Another part of my job was creating and hosting programs for my residents. I was required to do (per semester) two community programs (to encourage bonding), one multicultural program, and one academic program. My last academic program took place during a theme week in our residence hall. Our theme was superheroes.


We always had to advertise our programs in some way, and for this particular program, I was feeling pretty ambitious. We had seven “halls” in our residence hall, so I decided to make seven posters, each with a different member of the Avengers. Just so you know, my program was about teamwork in an academic setting. See the connection?

The Hulk (program ad)Spiderman

For each poster, I took a 14″ x 17″ piece of bristol paper (my favorite paper) and lightly drew the portrait in pencil. I then painted the portraits with watercolor and outlined everything (plus added some shading and texture) with a sharpie and a fine point ink pen.

Iron Man (process)

So what became of these portraits? After all, they were among approximately 200 freshmen for several days. Well Iron Man was the only one who went missing. I also made the mistake of hanging Wolverine up above a water fountain and he ended up with water on his face (although I think it looks cooler this way). I sold Thor to my boss and gave Spiderman to my niece as a gift. The rest are still in my possession :] Thanks for reading!

Wolverine (before/after)Hawkeye


A Whole New World Part II

Photograph by Ana Morales // North Carolina Museum of Art

My first real look into art education was in my secondary art education class. This is where I found out why being any kind of teacher is so challenging. Teachers have to deal with limited budgets, long hours, unrealistic school expectations, less-than-ideal environments, and students with a broad range of personalities, interests, and maybe even languages. Depending on the school’s demographics, some teachers will have to pay for things out of their own pocket, be faced with students who are more concerned with satisfying their hunger than getting a good grade, and really struggle to meet testing standards and avoid probation. This is all while earning a pretty mediocre salary considering the need for teachers and what they mean for society.

Art education is particularly challenging largely because many people don’t view visual art as a necessary part of the school curriculum. This inevitably leads to some students taking the class for an “easy A” and then being disappointed when they find out that they actually have to work hard to earn that A. This also means that art programs are often the first to go when money gets tight. One art teacher that I worked with received a teacher of the year award at her school recently, and when asked if she felt respected as an art teacher by her co-workers she said, “I feel like they respect me as a person, but as an art teacher? No.” Hearing something like that can be really discouraging.

To avoid turning this post into a book, I’m going to list some of the specific challenges that high school art teachers face:

  • Motivation: How do you convince/show a student that they can apply skills they learn in art to other aspects of their lives? How do you convince them to take art class seriously when even some teachers view it as a privilege and not a necessity?
  • Interest: How can you provide for a more advanced student who is interested in a career in art? I was the only student taking AP Art my senior year of high school, so I was grouped with a 2D Art class. How can the teacher challenge and support an advanced student when he or she has a whole class of less-advanced students who also need attention and help?
  • Censorship: Where is the line drawn when it comes to free expression? How can you encourage creativity and self-expression while discouraging controversial ideas?
  • Assessment: What kind of grading rubric do you use in a beginning class where skill levels are very diverse?
  • SOLs: How can you get to the more advanced standards when you have to spend time teaching students things they should have learned in elementary school?

I will elaborate on some of these in my next post when I talk about my student teaching experience, but for now let’s move onto elementary education.

In my elementary art education class, I learned a lot about being a successful teacher in general. This includes things like establishing rules on the first day of school and enforcing them throughout the year, learning students’ names as quickly as possible and pronouncing them correctly, keeping the classroom organized, dressing professionally, giving positive reinforcement, etc. It’s important to remember that not everyone has the qualities of a great teacher. Being passionate about a particular subject does not in itself make a great teacher.

Logistically, I think elementary art education is more challenging than secondary art education. I say this because in elementary school, every single student takes art, which means every student in the school is your student for the whole year (or half year depending on your schedule). That’s a lot of names to remember. Classes are also pretty short. When you take into account how much time is spent getting children settled in their seats, distributing supplies, cleaning up, and perhaps addressing behavior issues, all of a sudden there’s very little time to get any work done. Classes are basically back-to-back so you can’t rely on cleaning up after the class leaves. This is especially frustrating when you want to do ceramics or printmaking with the students because the prep and cleanup time is generally longer. I think this is part of the reason why many art teachers resort to “easy” 2D projects using materials such as paper, tempera paint, pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.

One thing that was heavily emphasized throughout my time in the education program was the use of themes in lesson planning. Basing lesson plans on a theme is important for several reasons. First of all, it helps connect all the aspects of a particular lesson. Having a theme also encourages students to make connections between art and other aspects of their lives. If the theme is community, for example, the student would be able to relate their artwork to the community that they live in or a community that’s different from their own. Although coming up with themes and writing good lessons based on them was challenging, it was much more challenging to actually teach these lessons. I say this primarily because of time limitations. It’s really hard to get through a theme, technical skills, and a project in a reasonable amount of time. I often struggled with this because I felt like I only had room for either focusing on the art skills or focusing on the theme and meaning behind the work. Both are important, but it’s sometimes easier to justify focusing on the skills. This is an art class right? Students are supposed to learn art skills. But how will students feel a connection to their own work and understand how art relates to the world if teachers are always just focusing on teaching them how to use watercolors or attach two pieces of clay? As with many things, you have to find a happy medium.

While I took both secondary art education and elementary art education, I had to complete a corresponding practicum (about 30 hours each). This means that I had to observe and assist in a high school art classroom and then in an elementary school art classroom. I also completed some hours at a retirement home. Being in an actual art classroom with this new knowledge and perspective as a future teacher and not a student was really eye-opening. It made me excited, but mostly nervous about one day teaching on my own. More on that in the next post though! :p

A Whole New World Part I
A Whole New World Part III
A Whole New World Part IV


A Whole New World Part I


To the teachers I had in the past who were awesome: Bravo. To the teachers who weren’t so awesome: I sympathize a little more with you now. Being an educator is easily one of the most challenging jobs out there and teachers do not get nearly enough credit for what they do every day. For the last two years of my undergrad career, I was a part of the JMU Art Education program. Training to be an art teacher opened my eyes to the vastness and complexity that is education. There is so much to learn and a lot that needs changing.

Before I dive into this, let me create a list outlining the content of this topic, which will be divided into three posts:

  1. My decision to get a teaching license / my initial impression
  2. Secondary education / elementary education
  3. Student teaching / my overall experience / the present + future

So let’s begin. In the Fall of 2010, I was a sophomore at JMU. I was taking an art foundations class and there was a guest speaker that came in one day. The guest speaker was Kathy Schwartz, the woman in charge of the art education program. Basically, she briefly explained the program, the process of applying to it, and the benefits of having a teaching license. I had thought about teaching art before (private lessons, for instance), but I never really considered teaching in a school system. I spent the next few days really debating whether or not I should apply to the program. Would I actually ever want to be an art teacher? Is it worth it to do all that work just in case I decide to teach? Honestly, one thought that kept going through my mind at the time was that if I ever ended up teaching, that would mean I had failed at becoming a successful artist. I tried to push that thought out of my brain and tell myself that this (preparing for the unknown) was the smart thing to do. I sought out the opinions of a number of people and I ultimately decided to apply.

It was a pretty stressful application process. This is true mostly because I applied right at the end of the fall semester, and I was getting paperwork and signatures literally right before going home for break. I needed to start taking the required classes the following semester, so it was important that I get all the paperwork done before leaving. Afterwards, there were lots of issues getting me signed up for one of the required classes, but in the end everything worked out.

I will go into more detail about the courses I took in the next post for this series, but let me just tell you that they were really challenging. The work-load was pretty hefty and there were lots of long, stressful nights. I spent pretty much the whole first year still envisioning teaching as my backup plan only. This was bad for me in the sense that it made all the work I had to do seem harder and less rewarding. I often found myself thinking, I’m voluntarily driving my self crazy over something I’m not even passionate about. Not cool. It was a difficult journey, but I didn’t want to quit because I was already halfway done.

As with most things, my persistence and hard-work paid off and I gradually had a change of heart. You may already know this if you’ve read some of my posts from the past few months. It was a real relief to not feel so completely unsure of what I was doing anymore. In my next post, I will go into more detail about the program requirements and my experiences in secondary and elementary art education. As always, thanks for reading :]

A Whole New World Part II
A Whole New World Part III
A Whole New World Part IV


Conjoined Twins Project


This time last year, I was taking my first sculpture class at JMU. Sculpture is super intimidating for me, but I really surprised myself with the work I did in that class. I mentioned this in a previous post about my sculpture class, but the theme of our final project was conjoined twins. We were free to make basically any kind of sculpture that related to this topic. My professor encouraged us to do a lot of research and explore all possibilities. We scheduled one-on-one meetings with him to discuss our findings and ideas.

I did a bit of research on conjoined twins in general and learned that there are many different types of conjoined twins. One type that particularly caught my interest was parasitic twins. Parasitic twins occur when twins begin developing, but don’t fully separate, and one of the twins becomes dominant at the expense of the other twin. The parasitic twin is therefore severely undeveloped and often does not resemble another human at all, rather, extra body parts. The word “parasite” has such a negative connotation and that’s what I wanted to base my project on. I didn’t want to make something that parasitic twins would actually wear or use, I wanted to create a statement piece. My idea was to alter a jacket to fit grown parasitic twins if they were to make it into adulthood. I wanted to add a cage to the front to reflect the negative connotation of the term “parasitic” and to communicate a feeling of shame and embarrassment.

DSC_0431 DSC_0413

I have very limited experience in altering fabric, so this project was definitely a challenge. I got most of my supplies from Goodwill over Thanksgiving break: a wool coat, two belts, a patterned skirt, and a red button-up shirt (which I ended up not using because of time limitations). The first thing I had to do once I had my supplies was to create the cage. I created the cage by cutting a few rods of steel, bending them, and then welding them together.I added an extra horizontal rod at the top of the cage to hold a “curtain” that I cut from the patterned skirt. The pattern on the skirt was a cluster of black leaves on a white background. I chose this pattern as a reference to Adam and Eve covering themselves with leaves out of shame after they were cast out of the Garden of Eden. In the case of this project, the leaves are used to hide the parasitic twin out of shame.

DSC_0421Twin Jacket Collage

With the cage completed, I was able to figure out how to attach it to the coat. Because of my lack of practice doing this kind of work, my method was pretty crude. I did a lot of “guesstimating” and hoped that it would end up close to how I envisioned. I cut out most of the front of the wool coat and then sewed one side to the cage using thick red embroidery thread. I used the color red not only for unity because the coat itself has red in it, but I also used it to emphasize the sense of invasion. I attached two belt buckles to the other side of the coat, which then fastened to the ends of the belts that I sewed onto one bar of the cage. I’m happy to report that it turned out really nicely–in fact, it exceeded my expectations. The only problem was that the end product was a bit too large when I modeled it, which took away from the effect. Other than that, I was really happy with it and so was my professor.

DSC_0410 DSC_0415

Have you ever created wearable sculpture art? Let me know about your experience in the comments! Thanks for reading :]


Show at Larkin Arts

larkinarts-20-1024x682Photo by Larkin Arts

Larkin Arts is a space in downtown Harrisonburg, VA that offers supplies, classes, studios, and gallery space for small art shows. It is owned and run by three super talented individuals: Lynda Bostrom, Valerie Smith, and Scott Whitten. They opened this wonderful place in September of 2012 and seem to be doing an awesome job of getting involved in the community and giving artists the means to create and showcase their work.

As an art student at James Madison University, which is also located in Harrisonburg, I heard about this new place that was opening. I figured they would be taking applications for art shows in their space and I was right. I immediately applied for a spot and patiently waited. In early March, I received an email from Lynda saying that I had been one of the two artists selected for a show in August. I was so excited!


I had already decided that I wanted the show to be about my diabetes again. I received a lot of great feedback at my first art show, which was also about diabetes, and I wanted to expand this body of work and share it with more people.

I set up the show the day before the opening and my mom came with me to help out. Set-up went super smoothly, thanks to Lynda who is totally a gallery expert. For this show, I was paired with local artist Michael Houghs, who displayed an awesome series of metal sculptures. We agreed that the combination of his sculptures and my colorful paintings worked really well!

michaelhoughPhoto by Katie Schmid of Larkin Arts

The 3-hour opening reception took place on Friday August 2nd and it totally exceeded my expectations. My parents and younger brother were able to come to Harrisonburg with me for the event, which was great. Several people came through to check out the art and I was able to talk to many of them about my work. I heard all kinds of stories and was blown away by how people responded to my own story and my work. I was even able to talk to some young kids about the paintings, which forced me to think about how I can effectively get my message across to a child.




Here are some of the comments people left in my comment book:

“What an amazing and powerful presentation. So eye-opening into the world of being diabetic. My heart goes out to every (especially young) person who struggles with the day to day challenges.”

“You have touched my heart—thank you.”

“This is an amazing show. I love when an artist truly puts something of themselves into the art and you have given yourself completely to your art, I love it. You’re amazing, keep it going.” 

“I feel that nobody truly understands what it is like living with this disease! I feel that I have a spiritual sister of some sort as I gaze upon your work. It is awe-inspiring! Please, keep doing what you’re doing—giving others like us hope and kinship of sorts! Thank you for your work. It was and is truly a blessing!”

“I live with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia pain. I’m working to express visually how that feels—thanks for this!”

“Meaningful work. The world needs this.”

“Really cool! Love your brushstrokes, color, and subject matter.”

“Saw your work today. Awesome. No one realizes what diabetes does to a person—my husband has it—my mom had it. Your paintings are awesome. Get the word out—people can identify with these feelings.”

“I commend you for sharing this part of your life through your beautiful artwork! It’s a unique perspective that blesses us all!”

“I love walking into the exhibit and then making my way over to your intro and realizing your pictures tell a story. Absolutely stunning and heartbreaking.”

DSC02949Quick Fix
DSC02951Pins and Needles

I am so so thankful for the opportunity that Larkin Arts gave me to share my work with more people. I met some really great people and came out of the experience with ideas on how to take this message further. A huge thank you to everyone who was able to come to the opening and to all the kind people who helped me out :]

larkin4Photo by Katie Schmid of Larkin Arts

I Graduated!


It feels like I just graduated from high school yesterday, but here I am, a college grad. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing really, and I don’t think it will truly hit me that I’m not going back until August when I’m not packing up the car with all my things to move back to campus. It’s bittersweet for sure. A big part of me feels very ready for this next step (whether I can clearly tell you what that next step is exactly…well that’s another story). I graduated cum laude and I’m super proud of my accomplishments. I’m excited to see what opportunities may present themselves to me. I’m excited for something different and new.


Don’t get me wrong, though, I am pretty nervous about the future. I’m still in the job-searching period of my post-grad life and waiting anxiously for an offer. Right now, I am looking for a position as an art teacher hopefully not too far away so that I can live at home for a little while.

I do miss JMU and the people I became friends with there. I miss the beautiful campus and the feeling of independence I had. It’s kind of sad knowing I’ll never go back there as a student. I’m also not looking forward to paying off my loans… There are definitely some perks to being done, though. I get to be around for more family stuff and spend more time with my boyfriend and friends who live here.  I also don’t have to move all my stuff again (for a while at least). I can hopefully manage my diabetes better now that I’m a little more in control of my schedule and what I eat, etc.

I have lots of plans for the summer to keep me busy while I nervously await a job offer! I have another art show in August in Downtown Harrisonburg, so I’ll be working on stuff for that. I’ll put up more information on that show very soon. I’m also in the process of opening an Etsy store! I’ll mostly be using it to sell my hand-painted clothing, but I’ll probably put some small drawings and paintings there too. I will also post something about that once the store is up and running.

I’ve been contacting local artists, galleries, and boutiques in search of more opportunities to get my work out to the public. I’m kind of unsure as to how I should approach this kind of thing, so I’m seeking advice from those who know more than I do :P

I’m not too sure where I’ll be in a few months, which is kind of intimidating, but I’ll be sure to share my journey with you guys on here :] Stay tuned!

grad15Me and my super supportive parents :]


My First Art Show!

Back in September, I had my first art show. It was up for 2 weeks in the ArtWorks Gallery at JMU. I spent much of the last 2 years preparing for it and was very satisfied with the end result. I was also very nervous for everyone to see it as it was such a personal topic. The response was very good though! Several people came to the opening on September 13th and I received feedback from professors, classmates, coworkers, and family.


This show was definitely a learning experience. There were a quite few bumps along the way… In this gallery, shows are put up the day before the opening, so I spent much of my Sunday doing that. I had help from mostly my boyfriend, but also the directors and some interns, which I was very grateful for. There was a lot of measuring and nailing for my 27 pieces. It took close to 5 hours to get everything done. Another setback was that when I was putting up all of my framed images, I didn’t take them down when my boyfriend started hammering the nail in for the next piece and eventually one frame fell off the wall and cracked of course. Luckily, I was able to find the same frame at Michael’s and replace it in time. Oh, and I also forgot to bring one of my pieces all together so I had to go back and get that from my room.



Even though I’m the most satisfied with my paintings, the wall of framed pieces was probably my favorite part of the show. It wasn’t just me trying to say something, it was a lot of people saying things. Earlier in 2012 I asked people affected by diabetes to answer three questions:

DSC00420 DSC00421

The responses were heartbreaking and inspiring. Click to read them (sorry for the glare…)


I am so grateful that these people were willing to share such intimate feelings with strangers. It was very important to me to show others that even though diabetics may “look” healthy and happy, we are constantly dealing with some kind of internal struggle, trying to compensate for the complete lack of an essential organ. I am so thankful for everyone who helped make my show so much better with their responses. Here are the rest of the pieces from my show with a short description of each:


This piece, titled Ketoacidosis, is the first in a set of four paintings that tell a certain story. When I was in the 9th grade, I went to the hospital for the first time since my diagnosis when I was three years old. I had ketoacidosis. I actually never knew what that was until I started doing research for these paintings. Ketoacidosis occurs when there is a lack of insulin in the body. Without insulin, the body can’t process glucose from food. The liver produces more glucose to feed the body, but since it can’t be processed, the glucose just accumulates in the bloodstream. The body needs energy and can’t get it so it breaks down fat instead. Fat metabolism leads to the buildup of ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones are toxic acids. This accumulation can be fatal. The ketones and glucose are then transferred into the urine. The kidneys use water to get rid of the excess ketones and glucose. This is the part of the process that is illustrated in black and white on the painting. The loss of water leads to dehydration, which worsens the condition and starts the cycle over again. I was in the hospital overnight because I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. The bracelet in the painting is the actual bracelet that I wore when I was in the hospital.


This piece is titled Normal Life and it represents my life between the time I went to the hospital and when I finally realized what was happening to me 6 years later. The title is also indicative of the fact that diabetes is an invisible disease and most people would never know that I had it unless I told them.


This is the piece I was most protective of and worried about showing to people. It is called Attack and it represents my reaction to the research I did on Ketoacidosis. As I said earlier, I didn’t really know what happened to me when I went to the hospital and I never tried to find out until I decided to make paintings about the experience. I had no idea how serious it was and when I found out it could be fatal and thought about how many times I’ve had high blood sugar and ketones, I felt so defeated and hopeless. I had panic attacks a few nights in a row where I was crying so much I could hardly breathe and I felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. It was one of my lower moments in the art-making process, but doing the actual painting part was very therapeutic and helped me release the anxiety I was feeling about the whole thing.

Thank You

This is the last painting in the set. It is titled Thank You and it is a message to my loved ones who have been with me through my ups and downs with diabetes. They are a huge part of the reason why I am where I am today.

Insulin is Not a Cure

This next painting is one of my favorites. It’s called Insulin is Not a Cure and it’s somewhat of an abstraction of an insulin injection cross section. The layers represent the muscle, fat, and skin. Injections are a huge part of a Type 1 diabetic’s life. Without insulin injections, I wouldn’t be here. It’s honestly that simple. Insulin is what keeps me alive, and yet it’s such an invasive thing. The needle is a foreign object in my body and it has no remorse for hurting me multiple times a day. I painted the insulin coming out of the needle to resemble a jewel because to me and other diabetics it’s a precious substance.

I Can See It Happening

This last painting is titled I Can See It Happening. It illustrates multiple things, especially my fear of becoming blind and my overall frustration with diabetes. I’m a very emotional person, so this painting is quite representative of me. As an artist, my fear of losing my sight is very strong.

These next few pictures are drawings that went on the wall along with the questions and answers.

All Day Every Day

This drawing is titled All Day Every Day and it represents the repetitiveness of a life with diabetes.

Beautiful Beta 1 Beautiful Beta 2

These are two drawings of beta cells, which are responsible for storing and releasing insulin. I think the shape of the beta cell is so beautiful, so the drawings are thoughtfully titled Beautiful Beta 1 and Beautiful Beta 2. 

Ketones and Test Strips

These two small pieces are about ketones and test strips.

P(r)ick Me

This piece is titled P(r)ick Me. I’ve had marks on my fingers for as long as I can remember.

Day 3 Day 4

These are two graphs that my dad made when I was diagnosed. I was still in my honeymoon period, which means that my pancreas  was still producing some insulin. I got the flu almost as soon as I was diagnosed with diabetes, and my parents were carefully monitoring my blood sugar levels. My dad has always been a very logical person, and I love that I still have these graphs after all this time.

Ana, Age 6

This is a picture of yours truly when I was about six years old. I don’t remember this photo being taken, but the photographer, my sister Sysy, reminds me that she took the photo when I took a break from rollerblading to check my blood sugar. The nice thing is that I don’t have many bad memories of having diabetes as a child. I think this photo very much captures that.


I am so thankful for this opportunity. It was scary for me to share this part of myself, but it changed my life in a good way. I feel like my life has more purpose now. I want to continue to explore diabetes as the subject of my art and I want to share it with as many people as I can. Be on the look out for more artwork inspired by diabetes because this is just the beginning! A HUGE thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.




The opening for my show has been moved from Monday September 3rd to Monday September 10th. The show will still be up starting on the 3rd, but the purpose of the “opening” is that it’s the only guaranteed time that all of the artists will be there. There will also be food :] The opening will take place from 5-7pm in the ArtWorks Gallery at JMU.

Side note: Coming Soon! Diabetes Art Day! I’m currently working on a piece to submit, and it will be posted on September 1st along with a link to the official website :]

Correction: Diabetes Art Day is September 24th this year! My mistake :P