Southside School Artist in Residence Program

posted in: Art 4

Special thanks to Mrs. Shanon Romiti, The San Benito County Arts Council and the E-Cubed Foundation for selecting me as the Southside School artist in residence. The grants and support of these philanthropists are keeping the arts alive in our schools.

It was my first experience working with 8th grade students and I was a little bit nervous on the way to the school. But once I arrived, the warm welcome from Mrs. Romiti and her students
made me feel right at home.

We further bonded as I began to dispense the paint. As I squeezed portions of paint onto their palettes, each extraction made a rather loud noise, akin to a gastric disturbance. It sounded like 26 students operating whoopee cushions. We all had a good laugh and it set a jovial tone for the rest of the session.

My primary goal was to first address, and then release, any fears they might have about creating. These students had never painted a portrait, never used acrylics, and never painted on canvas. We turned the reference photo upside down and they went to town. I’m so excited with their creations!

Week One
Value Studies
Acrylic on Canvas Board

Each time I teach I think I learn more from them then they from me. They had some wonderfully creative ways to approach the subject. And they sure have inspired me in my own work.

I’ll post an update each week…stay tuned!

Week 2
Palette Knife Abstracts
on Clayboard 

This week the students created wonderful abstracts in oil on wood, using only a palette knife. For many it was their first oil painting experience. And for many it was their first experience since they were children, painting what they felt rather than what they saw.

They were armed mostly with the primary colors but towards the middle of the lesson I gave them a few pusher colors for punch.

I found it interesting that they seemed to wear a lot of the paint this week. I wonder if it’s the medium? We’ll see what happens next week when we explore watercolor.

Here is a sampling of their beautiful creations:

And though the oil paint did not provide the same sound entertainment as the acrylic paint of last week, I think they had a good time. I’m going to miss these guys when my residency is completed.

Till next week…

Week 3
on Coldpress Paper 

This week the students created some wonderful interpretations of light on a window. The lesson was all about exploring the medium and finding the color in shadows. 


I was impressed with their bold use of color and with their creative additions to their artwork. This 8th grade class rocks! Can’t wait to see what they create next week. 

Week 4
Words and Images of Encouragement
Artist Trading Cards 

Well we ended the residency with a bang.


I was all set to demonstrate a blind contour drawing on a white board, when the entire class gasped. The students informed me that the surface was a “smart board” and I almost killed it! Mrs. Romiti fired up the the projector, and I had a great time creating with this new technology.

Next, we proceeded to complete the blind contour lesson.
The students had 30 seconds to create the drawing. To sound the alarm I stepped on bubble wrap to emulate their favorite gastric sounds.

Vincent raised his hand and informed me that he had a better alarm.
Since our last class, Vincent had acquired a whoopie cushion and was priming it for use. My first test was quite productive, but on the second go around, I blew a hole in it. Mrs. Romiti arrived with the tape and made the necessary repairs. The cushion didn’t look so good but it was functioning properly again.

If it seems like the initial lesson was over the top, it was. The blind contour exercise and the silliness were designed to put them in a creative space before we started our next lesson.

The second part of the lesson combined words and ink drawing on trading cards. The students wrote words of encouragement on the back of their cards, and handed them back to me. Next I mixed them up and let them draw out of a bowl. One student received her own words back. What a wonderful message!

Finally, they were to take those words and form a picture and/or design that represented that feeling.
They created loving words and wonderful art:

Some students were going to keep the cards, some considered trading, and others still were going to leave them as an anonymous gift.

The four week project went all too fast. I had a great time learning from these students. I was deeply touched at the end of class when they clapped and invited me to their graduation.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

4 Responses

  1. Joanne

    What a great program and experience for the students at Southside School. And how lucky for them to have such a talented teacher!

  2. Shannon Grissom

    Thanks so much Joanne! I feel lucky to be working with these students!

  3. Anonymous

    Shanon Romiti is my niece, and I am always amazed and pleased that she chose to follow that career. I am retiring after 42 years as an educator — the last 12 as principal of Hyattsville Middle School, a school for the Creative and Performing Arts in Maryland. Knowing that a professional artist has been able to share with Shanon's students the opportunities that my students receive regularly is very heartening and encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to work with the 8th graders — and to enjoy and understand their sense of humor.

  4. Shannon Grissom

    You are so welcome! Thank YOU so much for your kind words and for taking the time to write.Working with Mrs. Romiti and her students was such an incredibly beautiful experience. She's a gifted instructor and truly engages her students.How wonderful and fortunate your students are to receive an education that is creatively focused! They will lead such full lives.Going forward,it is my hope that I can open doors to a creative life regardless of the intended vocation. Your kind note is validation that I'm headed in the right direction.