Teaching At An Elementary School Art Class: Finally… REAL Super Heroes!

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Art teacher at Mossville Elementary, Brian Du Pont, invited me to lead on an art project for his art class. Because I worked on a bunch of superhero illustrations recently and Brian publishes his own superhero comic Pecos Bill, I came up with the idea to have his students create their own superhero symbols. The guidelines to create their artwork were:

1. Combine two elements in the symbol: One thing that scares you + One thing that you like or enjoy doing.

2. Illustrate your symbol using watercolor & ink.

The project was inspired by Batman, my favorite superhero. When Bruce Wayne became Batman, he chose a symbol. Bruce Wayne is disturbed by bats because he fell down a well full of bats as a child. He uses the bat as his symbol to conquer his fear in the processes. He projects this fear to become Batman and fight crime.

Brian had his students sketch out their symbols and draw the final art on watercolor paper. And the day I came to visit, I showed them a couple techniques they could use with watercolor and ink to paint their symbols.

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It was so awesome seeing in person what the students came up with for their symbols. They worked with their own ideas and caught on to the painting techniques immediately! And I am not surprised, because they are, after all, real superheroes. This was their works in progress:

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Brian even took the project a couple steps further by having his students write a statement and frame their art:

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Since all these super heroes are revealing their fears, it’s only fair that I reveal my own. It’s kind of embarrassing and makes no sense to me: I get social anxiety sometimes. That literally translates to “being afraid of people,” even though I love people. But just like with Batman, it probably has to do with things I’ve had to deal with in my childhood.

I’ve created different versions of my Razorberries logo over the years, but the elements within it have always been the same. Razor and berries.

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The razor came from my childhood incident at a dentist. (It’s story time!) This was when I was 6 or 7 in Ukraine, and one of my back milk teeth on the left side hurt. My parents took my to a dentist at a hospital. As I was about to learn, there was no anesthesia for dental work or small surgeries in Kiev back then. There were two women in the room, the dentist and her assistant. I sat down in the chair and the dentist got out a pair of rusty pliers. Then she yelled at me for crying while she was trying to pull out my tooth. The nice assistant tried to calm me down and whispered to me with a warning to stop crying because the dentist doesn’t like children. The dentist kept pulling my tooth and I was screaming. The pain was unbearable and I can still remember the cracking sound of my tooth that echoed in my skull. She got my tooth out but I don’t remember much after that, until next morning.

My left cheek swelled up to about 3 times its usual size because the area, from which my tooth was extracted, got infected. My mom almost fainted when she looked at me. My parents rushed me back to the hospital… to that same dentist. That’s when the dentist got a razor blade and cut the infection out of my gums, again without anesthesia. Ouch. Surprisingly, the infection went away, and my face either went back to normal that day or caught up with the size of that cheek as I’d grown up over the years. But a permanent tooth, that was supposed to grow in place of the milk tooth, never did.

The berries are because I love raspberries. They are illustrated as hearts on a vine. They are for the love of life, people, and work. And the vine is for personal growth. Of course, I created the meanings of those parts only after I completed the inside part of the logo. I just like things to have good meanings.

The traumatic events of Bruce Wayne for his creation of Batman and my own events for the creation of my logo are just a coincidence. I learned the story about Batman’s and Bruce Wayne’s character after I created Razorberries (this website) for my artwork back in 2003. But this coincidence is one of the things that makes Batman my favorite super hero.

So about my social anxiety: When I’m being myself and when I do what I love – art & illustration, I forget about my anxiety. Fears cease to exist. Thank you to super teacher Brian and his super students for saving my life once more when they had me at their art class.

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