a painted onion and a real onion

Soft fascination -- A term coined by environmental psychologists to describe the act of using nature as a way of relieving stress. The concept that exploring nature allows the mind to wander, reflect, slow down, and make connections. 

Allan Arp, chair of the Visual Arts Department, taught his Painting 1 class the concept of soft fascination through a very unique virtual painting exercise. 

One afternoon, Mr. Arp’s sister, Joanna, who is currently living in Spain amid the COVID-19 pandemic, went to the market and bought an onion. After a few days, the onion that sat on her kitchen counter sprouted. She decided that instead of cooking the onion, she would name him Pico, nurture the onion, and watch it grow -- adding a touch of nature to her small flat in Spain. 

Mr. Arp had the impromptu idea of creating a work module around Pico where his students would use the app Autodesk Sketchbook to recreate Pico. 

“This was really an exercise of looking and seeing - which are hard skills to develop as an artist,” Mr. Arp said. “The goal was for students to see how an object exists in a space and then be able to show the object on a two-dimensional surface in paint. While we are stuck at home, we should exercise how we look and see. The quarantine allows us the opportunity to pay attention and find value in our immediate surroundings that we usually take for granted.”

Anya Ruszala ’23 mentioned that at first, she was nervous about how her Painting 1 class would change with going virtual, but through the virtual painting app Audio Sketchbook and Mr. Arp’s remarkable work modules, she has explored her painting skills in a completely different way. 

“This assignment really tested my artistic ability to create something within a short period of time as well as experimenting with the tools Autodesk Sketchbook has to offer,” Anya said. “But more importantly, this exercise taught me something much deeper than painting. The story of Pico gave me a whole new perspective on the current hard times. It is always important to notice the little things around us and try to bring a sense of peacefulness to our new norm.” 

Mr. Arp admits that before the switch to virtual learning, there were a few challenges he had to face while creating work modules knowing students wouldn’t have access to the same materials they would in the art studio on campus. 

“Making visual art is a hands-on experience; looking at visual art is a hands on experience,” he explained. “Being in the same room with the student and the work of art to have an organic conversation is difficult to replicate virtually. When it came to making work modules, it was a challenge to create assignments, but with every day, there comes new opportunities for students to observe their surroundings and create art.” 

Before the start of Hun Virtual School, Mr. Arp had never experienced painting on a computer screen, but he explained that it has been a fun experience learning right alongside the students and watching everyone grow as artists in a way they might never have had the chance to before. 

“Exploration and discovery in any creative process is important,” Mr. Arp said. “So, I have made it very clear to the students that we are all in this new world together and I have designed work modules that give everyone the freedom to find their own way through the software and engage in their own creative process.” 

Anya Ruszala ’23 said that not only has Mr. Arp made all of the classes so fun and interactive, but she also appreciates the fact that she is able to work on her art throughout the week, giving her a little break from traditional homework to exercise her creativity. 

As for the future of Mr. Arp’s Painting 1 class, they can expect many more unpredictable, engaging, and interesting work modules, just like this exercise of virtually painting an onion that was living in Spain. 

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