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By John A. Barry And Bill Carmel

Speed Painting

Uploaded: May 21, 2015

How do you get 40 second, fourth, and fifth graders to create a 7 x 11 foot painting in less than two hours, using Razor scooters as their "brushes"? That was the challenge facing my associate Bill Carmel, me, and four assistants at Discovery Charter School in San Jose on May 20.

The answer is: It takes a village?and more than a little spillage. First, there were the kids themselves. They were "jazzed" about the project, to quote one of their teachers. Once they got the hang of transforming these ubiquitous modes of transit into trAction Painting instruments, they laid down red, pink, and dark- and light-blue tracks on a yellow-gessoed canvas, with sand added to the primer to minimize slippage (the combination of tiny plastic scooter wheels and acrylic paint can be slipperier than a politician.)

Their teachers, Mike Wright and JeanAnn Tulloch, had prepped them for the event by discussing aspects of art, particularly as it relates to motion. When it comes to painting, not much can be more kinetic that zooming and skidding across a large canvas. Some kids went beyond simply making tracks and performed jumps, which occasionally caused paint to jump from its container on the scooter onto the canvas, resulting in rosy/cerulean Rorschachs that complemented wheel-wrought lines. JeanAnn had some of the kids who weren't Razoring paint with toy cars on small canvases while they waited their turn to take turns on the capacious canvas.

Joining the teachers in the pedagogical aspects of the event was Bill, who engaged some of the assembled kids with thought-provoking questions about the nature and basics of art. Barbara Johnson helped me load paint as the kids worked in tag-team fashion. Vicki Oliver, a former teacher, kept the action moving by whistling "start" and "stop" for each participant. Because we were so short on time, each kid had about 20 seconds to paint?then on to the next. At the midpoint of the project, we stopped and got electric fans spinning, to dry the work in progress as much as possible in preparation for the next round. The first round had been red paint, followed by introduction of white and the eventual transition to pink. Chris Diggins spotted for the kids and helped with paint pouring. Eva Langfeldt shot stills and video.

After a few minutes of proverbial watching paint dry, the kids attacked the canvas with several hues of blue. The nearly final result of their efforts can be seen in the accompanying photo.

Also there to lend a hand were several parents volunteers. One in particular was especially helpful, bringing extension cords to the site, enabling us to run the much needed fans on a coolish, partly cloudy day.

Working together, we pulled it off. Congratulations and appreciation to all involved, and thanks to Discovery School for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate once again our goal of incorporating trAction Painting into school curricula.