All photos by Tess Ramsey
This summer, art educator Tess Ramsey taught Drawing Foundation, Intro to Fantasy Illustration, and Design and Color Theory classes for Moore’s Young Artists Workshop (YAW) program. Founded in 1921 and celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021, YAW maintains a rich legacy of offering exceptional art and design educational experiences for youth and high school students in grades 3–12. Each course creates a dynamic environment where students build self-confidence along with a foundation of creative and technical skills, and Moore's team guides them as they grow into their creative strengths and interests.
We recently spoke to Tess about this summer’s courses, their experiences as an art educator, and their personal artistic projects.
What do you enjoy most about being an art educator?
Art educators have the potential to cultivate an environment that gives students the creative freedom to discover not only how to make art, but gain a clearer understanding of who they are. Through the process of making artistic decisions and analyzing why they made those choices, I’ve seen my students gain self-awareness and self-confidence. In my work, I seek to inspire young artists to believe in themselves and be proud of who they are––the artwork itself is just a lovely by-product of this process.
What made you choose to want to teach at Moore and specifically in the Young Artists Workshop program?
Having lived in Philadelphia for a while, I was aware of Moore’s reputation as a great art college, so I jumped at the opportunity to work there. It was clear from the start that the Continuing Education team is full of great educators and administrators who all want to see the students succeed.
Over the summer, you worked specifically with students in grades 6–12. What do you like best about teaching younger students who are newer to art and design?
Working with young students reminds me of the things I take for granted in my life. Seeing a sixth grader’s face light up when they mix blue and yellow to make that perfect green for the first time always puts a smile on my face.
What were the core assignments of the Drawing Foundation, Intro to Fantasy Illustration, and Design and Color Theory classes that you taught?
Oh boy! I believe I taught over 15 different assignments this summer. So I’ll just list some of my favorites:
Drawing Foundation: Get your frustration out! Crumble up a piece of construction paper and unfold it. Now spend three hours studying the form and drawing what you see. This is a simple project that often creates very complex compositions.
Intro to Fantasy Illustration: Design a fantasy character. What do they look like? What’s their style? Are they holding any props? After completing your design, dress up and cosplay your character!
Interior Design: Make a 3D shoebox diorama of your dream room using any materials you can get your hands on. Include color schemes, blueprints and early sketches in your presentation.
Does one assignment come to mind that produced exemplary work from the students?
My favorite assignment was with my Drawing Foundation students. I split them into pairs and told them to draw portraits of each other. I could tell they were extremely nervous to model for 20 minutes at a time in front of their peers. So I said, “Okay, wait a minute! I can’t put the spotlight on all of you, if the spotlight has never been on me. I will pose for 30 minutes and you will each draw a portrait of me.” When they were done, we looked at the portraits together. I’ll be honest, some of these portraits made me cry with laughter–; I was NOT looking my best. But being vulnerable with my students and having a good laugh allowed them to draw each other without the anxiety or fear they originally felt.
Outside of being an art educator, you're dedicated to promoting gender equality through your artistic practice and you find purpose in creating unique gender-neutral clothing and accessories. What's the most recent fashion project you worked on and what did it mean to you personally?
I recently sketched some ideas for a new clothing line. They are digital manipulations of antique 1930s coin purses from Poland, inspired by a purse belonging to my great great grandmother. I’m very much still in the brainstorming phase, but this project has served as an exploration of the gender stereotypes in the '30s versus present day.
What artistic values and techniques do you hope that your YAW students gained from their summer experience?
Of course I taught them principles of design, color theory and drawing proportions. But I really only care about them remembering one thing: Art is truly personal and does not have one specific look that is “more correct” than any other.
What would you say to parents who are considering enrolling their child in one or more upcoming YAW courses at Moore?
I sometimes get students who tell me that their parents enrolled them in the course without their input. So my advice is to have your child involved in the decision-making process; ask them what they like to make, ask them what classes interest them the most, and make sure they understand just how much fun we have! This anticipation to create really builds momentum and sets the tone for our time together.