Visual Arts at Northwood: “It Starts with a Line”

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

In addition to the many programs offered at Northwood, it also offers a humble but proud visual arts program. In charge of the classes is Ms. Van Slyke, a painter and teacher who has hosted eight workshops, and 18 juried exhibitions and won 9 awards for her work with pastels. She began her tenure at Northwood in 2009 and has been part of the community ever since.

In the Drawing and Painting class, students study Pablo Picasso and his artworks in Cubism. There, they learn about Cubism, watch a documentary on Picasso, and understand the world around the artists at the time and how it influenced their art. They are creating a still-life Cubist drawing and will soon begin a Cubist painting.

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

In Adirondack Art Exploration, students learn about folk art and Adirondack artists. One of these artists is Edna West Teall, a deceased folk artist who lived in the Adirondacks. They learned of her style of art and put their learning into practice. Other notable artists students learned about: Georgia O’Keeffe, Harold Weston, Rockwell Kent, and Winslow Homer. In addition, students also explored their art in person. They have gone to the Museum of Plattsburgh to see the art of Rockwell Kent in person and visit a local artist in Saranac Lake to appreciate her art gallery and discuss with her. Not to mention, students will sometimes be able to go outdoors to paint in the Adirondacks.

Intertwined with the classes, the rising artists also learn different art techniques: drawing perspectives, buildings, landscapes, and portraits. It all started with a line. Then, line thickness is added to the equation. After that comes value contrast (shading). Eventually, it comes to the larger context: composition, where to place things on the canvas, and color. Ultimately, students will learn more and more art techniques as they hone their skills and learn about the different genres of visual art.

Artist: Tam Nguyen ’23

Building students’ art portfolios is one of the program’s most significant points of pride. “Every year, we have students go to major art schools, which is huge for a small school like us: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Pratt Institute, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Otis [College of Art and Design], and all sorts of visual art schools. That’s a good background to have for a small school like ours,” expressed Mrs. Van Slyke. Even without an AP Art department, Northwood has been able to support emerging students in building their art portfolios. With that being said, those in pursuit of fine arts will often have supplemental aid elsewhere.

“I think [the art program] enriches the population to a great extent,” Van Slyke said. “I’d have students come in that haven’t had art in years, especially some of our students who are more geared toward athletics. They come in here and are a little afraid that they haven’t taken drawing or painting since they were kids and love it. Now all of a sudden, they find that they’ve got other people in this room that’s like them, and they allow themselves to be okay with failing, learning slowly and then skill building.

Artist: Giordan Gulati ’24

I’m thinking of my drawing class right now because there’s a group of boys there and they’re so focused and into drawing that it relaxes them. There’s so much stress in other parts of our lives because everyone is so busy that drawing and art allow them to be single-minded, focus on what’s in front, and let everything else go. This year, I’ve seen so many students who have never taken art latch on to it and enjoy coming to class and enjoy art. I think that’s how it enriches kids. They may never draw again or take another art class but now they know that they can draw, paint, know that they can find a place of peace—a place where it clears their mind—and that they can do it.”


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