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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb Ashley Mayabb The University of Florida October 13, 2013

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

And Then There Was Ashley Reflecting back on my experiences as both a creative thinker and educator, I've come to realize that my life has been full of trials and tribulations, good bad memories, times of extreme growth and of sheer decline. These moments have made me into the confident woman I am today and have given me the skills and patience I need to guide my students through similar experiences. From youth to present day, my life has produced encounters that yielded a sense of self, place, mortality, talent, morality, and how each of these is interrelated on a grand scale. I find myself relishing in the new day for all of the glory and sorrow it brings. My life is like a block of marble. Every moment I am worked and shaped into what will eventually be a magnanimous sculpture. There will be mistakes or broken tools along the way, but the end result will be spectacular. I will continually be chiseled away until nothing remains but a memory; a wonderful, glorious memory. In The Beginning I grew up in a small town just outside of Atlanta where I enjoyed a happy childhood with my parents, my younger sister, and our plethora of horses and animals. When I wasn't riding around the pastures of my Fayetteville home, my parents were engaging my appetite for colorful playthings as well as plenty of outdoor time with my friends. I remember being consumed by my vivid imagination; making my toys come to life with their own narratives and dialogues amongst one another. I spent hours building forts on the couch where no monster would dare to capture me. The coloring books that adorned my bookcases where always full and my friends and I always had finger paint splattered on something or were constantly drawing on the sidewalks innumerable fantasy lands.

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, or so I felt at the tender age of nine. During my fifth grade year, my family relocated to northern Georgia to live on a farm and have room for our growing family of horses. I found myself broken, bitter, and alone. Our new house was much smaller, with little room to run, play hide and seek, and paint and play like the days of yore. While I enjoyed the immense amount of space outside, the change was hard, unbearable even. My new school was very different; the children were unusual and not nearly as welcoming as those from my previous school. I struggled to fit in and found myself grappling with my sense of identity and place. For this, I hid it away deep within my inner being and would not let it out until I made the plunge into middle school. The Middle Ground About a year into our new location, I finally began to develop a sense of place. New friends were coming into my life and I found it easier to cope with the stress of being displaced from my dream world in Fayetteville. My new friends enjoyed the same hobbies that I did and we would often have sleepovers where we would draw, watch movies, and play with each other's hair. My friend Jacky introduced me to what would become my new obsession: anime. The Japanese cartoon style was so inviting, so beautifully romantic yet dangerous and exciting; the plots were ridiculous but so fanciful that I was trapped by their mysterious creatures and unearthly places. I had notebooks full of Sailor Moon pictures and PokĂŠmon cards. My school books where covered in fan art and my attempts at anime-style characters. I had finally found something I was good at!

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

During this time I was introduced to Mrs. Scarborough, my middle school art teacher. She was an amazing woman who loved what she did. She taught us all sorts of entertaining mediums and even brought in a professional artist to help us paint. I remember making clay heads and participating in county art shows. She was always so proud of me and reinvigorated my need for creative play. With this new courage and my love for anime, I found myself drawing on a regular basis. I studied and sketched the random bugs in our horse stables, the trees in the woods of our pasture, and even the flowers in my grandmother's garden. I was lost in the beauty that surrounded me. This is what inspired my drawing to the left entitled "Like a Rose." During the latter portion of my middle years, I discovered that I had an unusual knack for layering colored pencils and for casting shadows and highlights on my subject matter to Like a Rose, Ashley Sterling, 1996 Watercolor and Colored Pencil

create three-dimensional contours.

I credit a lot of my talent not only to Mrs. Scarborough, but to my mother who at this point, was a crafts-person and was always sewing, painting, or beading something in our living room. I loved to watch her create. She was so meticulous with her creations. She made beautiful beaded ornaments, and decorative garments of all sorts of fabrics. She could paint intricate roses, fashion floral arrangements, and cross-stitch intricate pictures onto huge canvases that left me in awe. My mom was my muse. She meant the world to me and always encouraged my creative will.

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

The Fork in the Road High school was a very difficult time for me. I was struggling with a sense of self and personal identity. I became lost in trying to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, and who my friends wanted me to be. I went through more clothing, hair, and make-up styles than artists go through sketchbooks. Fitting in was a constant struggle; I was picked on and bullied, harassed and embarrassed. My artwork reflected a lot of my experiences and change. Some pieces were very dark and mellow, exposing my sorrow and humiliation while others were bright and cheerful to show what little confidence I had in my maturing artistic talent. The example to the right indicates such a battle, revealing one of my many identity struggles to want to be a skinny; a beautiful young woman like the other girls around me and how wonderful being skinny must feel.

I Wish, Ashley Sterling, 1999, Watercolor

My high-school art teacher Mrs. Carnes was a remarkable person. She was the kind of support that I desired at school and if she had not encouraged my creative freedom through innumerable art experimentations, I would not be the artist and educator I am today. Her lessons were what our contemporary educators would call "cookie cutter," "stereotypical, "or "straight out of the book." But they worked for me. These lessons, like the woven yarn bowl and the gridded self-portrait were what taught me techniques in application and craftsmanship that I needed to hone in my art skills. Mrs. Carnes' art class is what got me through the lowest point in my life.

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

On December 31, 1999 my mother committed suicide. This was the woman that raised me, taught me everything I knew, and guided me in my greatest time of need. And all of a sudden, she was no longer there; nothing but a memory, a ghost in my rear view mirror. When she passed, my world came to an abrupt halt and only my art would know the true grief that I felt in my heart. At that point, Mrs. Carnes was there to help me harness the true potential of my talent and my loss simultaneously. I truly began to understand the potential of what I was capable of. I focused on experimenting, looking deep within my very soul to pull out the feelings that had amassed from not only the death of my mother, but the darkness that was left behind. I created works like "What Lurks Beneath," a sinister yet refined piece that made me feel proud of what I understood around me and what I What Lurks Beneath, Ashley Sterling, 2001, Colored Pencil

could put on paper.

How it Came Together As my high school years progressed, it became easier to deal with the passing of my mother. My father remarried and I gained a step-sister and a step-brother. Living in a blended family was extremely difficult but I passed the time by polishing my artistic abilities and focusing on my school work. I entered several art competitions and placed in the top three which really mounted my confidence for the college road ahead. I had several other art teachers in the latter years of high school but none had the passion and drive that Mrs. Carnes did towards my accomplishments. I continued to create with my friends and my father and new step-mother encouraged me as much as possible. I was eventually accepted into University of North Georgia

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

and decided to pursue a career in art education. I wasn't entirely sure where the path would take me but I knew that I wanted to share my love for the arts and all that it had done for me with others. My college experience was not the best. The structure was loose and the art department's views were different from the education's methods. I was taught to teach like a core instructor and was trained in the various techniques and media of a professional artist. My repertoire continued to grow while I discovered the numerous advantages that art history, theory, and aesthetics had to offer. However, the journey left me confused as to how to assemble all of my knowledge into one coherent body. But as my first teaching experiences came around I realized that being an art educator was what I was meant to do. I was my calling and I enjoyed every minute that I spent in the classroom. The final year in college brought with it my senior show. This was the culmination of all that I had learned and experienced in my life time. I created a story line of my mother's suicide through anime and digital media. It was breath-taking and gave me a sense of peace and closure to all that I had accomplished in the short years after my mother's death.

Guardian Angel, Ashley Sterling, 2007, Photoshop CS

What Happens Now After graduating college, I was hired at a local high school as a part-time art teacher under the guidance of two of the most incredible teachers I have ever met: Mrs. DuHamel and Mrs. Patty. Under their tutelage, I learned to develop and administer lessons that followed the

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb

structure of the Discipline-Based Art Education movement. They instructed me on how to create not only a dynamic classroom, but one where the children both respect and adore the teacher. Mrs. Duhamel and Mrs. Patty also encouraged me to continue pursuing my identity as an artist; honing and perfecting my craft so that I may teach to the best of my abilities. This guidance spurred artwork such as "Ah, To Be Old" below. Both of these women played an integral role in not only my ability to teach comfortably in a classroom of over 35 students, but in delivering engaging Ah, To Be Old, Ashley Mayabb, 2012, Colored Pencil

lessons that were meaningful to student's learning.

I taught at South Forsyth High School for two years and was then transferred to Otwell Middle School where I currently teach. My classroom is a place of great diversity, with students from all walks of life and from places of the world I can only hope to visit. They are on a variety of developmental levels and from an age range that some consider to be the most difficult and dynamic in a child's life. The methods I used with my high school students have had to be tweaked and redirected to include ideas that are more universal including contemporary family life, culture, and visual imagery. My students are complex and constantly challenge me to push them to the next level of artistic ability. Today, the lessons I teach revolve around critical and creative dialogue, amassing both concepts from DBEA, multiculturalism, and visual culture theory. My students are the designers in the classroom; they are the initiators of their own creative potential. In a way, they are my own children, my new muse, my life force and drive to be not only a better person, but a better educator.

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The Stuff I am Made Of: The Artistic Journey of Ashley Mayabb