Joseph Rial

Joseph Rial

Introduction and Philosophy

I have been teaching in the arts most of my adult life to elementary through college level students. I love the creative collaboration of education.I began my career teaching in Hawaii where I taught in such programs as Artists in the Schools, the Kaimuki Performing Arts Center, Kauai Performing Arts Center, and the Mid Pacific Institute for the Arts, to name a few. I later found myself teaching design at the college level.  It took nearly 7 years at SUNY Oswego for me to discover that my true passion still lies in teaching the younger students. This journey however has made me a stronger teacher and provided me with new tools to bring to the K-12 classroom. I have taught courses in sculptural mask making and decorative arts such as bas-relief projects as well as the fundamentals of art and design. Non-traditional “MacGyver-like” methods of construction are introduced that tap into new areas for the student, and unleashes sculptural abilities in the novice builder. I have pioneered new ways of using masking tape as a craft medium that defies conventional notions of 3-dimensional construction. These methods have been enthusiastically received at the many national and regional workshops I have given. I teach a variety of approaches to art and creative expression that requires the student to examine their environment with new eyes. I also believe that blending interdisciplinary subjects can reveal new concepts to explore, and provides artists with other points of view, and fresh ideas to build connections between their art and the world around them. Pairing history with an art project provides the student with much more to work with while offering a richer look at the history being examined. I have traveled extensively, and lived among other cultures, giving me a unique perspective to bring to the subject of art and creative thinking. I have also experienced art from a variety of angles, from fine art and theatre, to commercial design.  I try to instill the knowledge that art communicates and provide the tools to see how. To me, art is an active experience.  It is a process, not a product. I think a person can paint all of their lives and still not have an artistic experience. I feel that the arts offer some of the strongest skills our students can possess for their futures: the ability to make unusual connections and to think and communicate creatively.Overall, I am an enthusiastic artist, who enjoys using traditional as well as new approaches, to work and teach with. I enjoy using standard materials such as watercolor and acrylics and am skilled in airbrush, faux painting and screen-printing. I also have experience in puppetry and masks and the use of shadows in storytelling. Technology such as Photoshop and Vectorworks allows me to mix digital photography, sculpted objects and actual-spaces into my rendering. I work in natural media involving rustic arts such as weaving, papermaking and macramé to transform found and environmental materials.  I consider myself a "Modern Day Hunter Gatherer".  I recently had a solo exhibition of my work that was created entirely of Styrafoam food trays.

Everything I encounter has the potential to be an artistic subject or medium. This philosophy is the core of my work as an artist and teacher.

Work History

Work History

Accessing Multiple Intelligences

Creative Drama

Another aspect of my freelance work was in Creative Drama. For a while I worked with Education Majors at Illinois State University, in Bloomington-Normal.  I held summer classes for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students on a variety of subjects.  Ed majors sat around the outside of the classroom as observers. One example was the use of  an acting impulse circle to demonstrate the circulatory system.  Students passed around a red rag to explain how the heart works.  The system expanded to include the lungs, and the ventricles of the heart, and how the blood is oxygenated.  This was all done using red and blue rags and groups of students to represent the lungs and heart and blood vessels.  Later similar approaches illustrated nerve functions and hearing.  Vocabulary and biological systems were reinforced in this way.  One day one of my young students asked about the adults in the class.  I explained that they were trying to learn how to be good teachers.  I then asked the room to switch places and put the adults in the middle and let the little ones sit on the outside.  They then got to dialog about the situation and their discoveries.  A little girl had recently lost a dog, and this gave the inner group of adults a chance to share their experiences of loss and grief. One of the adult students later remarked that he did not realize how intelligent younger kids really were.

At Kaimuki High School, I was hired by the English Language Arts department to teach workshops  in preparation for the school’s first Shakespeare festival.  I was able to work in 6 different classes creating individual workshops to coincide with each class’s curricula.  One teacher used themes to teach his course.  I joined the class while they were investigating “Mortality”.  I had the students create fantasy guilds in which they would create and perform a funeral service. The wide range of guilds were creative; vampires, canoe paddlers, clowns and others were created along with the rules of each guild. Metaphors and paradigms of each guild were visualized and then a funeral service was enacted in the class.

In another course, the class was engaged in free-writing exercises. After reading the countless dreary observations of whatever was happening outside the window, I created an exercise where a variety of shapes were drawn on the board. We discussed negative space and how rotation changed the objects considerably. The students made and then shared lists of the things these silhouettes resembled.  They then had to use this list to free write their stories.  The students were excited by the unusual stories that followed.  This changed their view of writing exercises and enabled them to begin working to adapt scenes for the festival.  This 3-day festival has been such a success that it has become an annual event. Exercises like these created a comfortable segue for classes to participate in the Festival.

I continue to use such approaches in all of my classes (regardless of the subject) as a way to engage and energize the group. It is a useful way to change the pace and to create cooperative learning.

Garbage Weaving and Creative Thinking

Teaching Creative Construction

A great deal of my early work as a teacher was freelance.  I was often hired under the Artists in the Schools program. One of the things I did most often as a freelance teacher was teach "Garbage Weaving". This workshop was tailored to each school's needs.  Sometimes, it was to teach the cast how to make their own masks for a theatrical production; other times, it was to give a school new skills for their students and teachers. 

Lanakila Elementary (http://lanakilaelem.k12.hi.us/)

hired me for nearly 4 months to teach their 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes. 

I also did separate workshops for the teachers. 

Kauai Academy of Creative Arts (http://www.kauaicreativearts.org/)

is a summer program in which I had 4 classes of 20, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade kids each.  The classroom was  prepped with wall to wall cardboard flooring.  The kids brought in household trash to build their projects from. If a cool piece of trash came in, I put it behind my desk and the student needed to petition for the material, justifying its use in their project. I provided, masking tape, hot glue, Xacto knives, and spray paint. I told the class the first day of instruction, that "there will be cuts, and there will be burns. That is part of being a craftsman.  The idea is to be smart about it". At the end of the summer, the room was filled with an amazing array of projects.  I had several parents later tell me that their kids asked for hot glue guns for Christmas.

These workshops all begin with some creative thinking exercises.  One example is to pass around a mundane object like a yard stick, and ask the kids to mime out different things it could be, i.e. an oar, a broom, a baseball bat, etc. .  Next, I would alter it somehow, i.e. break it in half and tape it into an "X" or a "T", and repeat the process.  The first few times around is easy, but after a few rounds it becomes harder.

Another exercise is to deconstruct objects down into basic geometric shapes.  This is done by considering an object and then either verbally or in sketch form, illustrating the various shapes that the object consists of.  I follow this up with a handout that shows a variety of patterns for 3d shapes opened up and laid flat.  The class is to guess what each of these flattened patterns will make when folded back to its original shape.  They are then to construct these shapes out of cardstock. This begins the ability to think 3 dimensionally and prepares the student to consider a variety of ways to approach construction of a project.

Masking Tape is a major element of my teaching.  I have pioneered ways of using it as a sculptural medium that allows the artist to incorporate any medium (wood, metal, glass) into a project.  I show them how to use it to sculpt, fasten and reinforce any objects, and for basic hardware applications.  This technique has empowered novice builders to create some amazing projects. They realize they can make anything they can think of, so the challenge becomes "what to make next".

In the end, the projects become a vehicle for creative thinking and problem solving.  A shift occurs, that takes the student from object based thinking to process thinking.  It is gratifying to see and one of the major reasons why I love teaching.

2005 - Present

Scene Painting Instructor

Cobalt Studios

The Teacher's Training for Scenic Painting is a 5 day session designed to aid teachers in creating a basic scenic painting class as well as give them techniques to increase the depth of their department's painting ability. It is aimed at the teacher who has little support or training in the scenic arts and seeks greater knowledge of procedure and technique. Discussions include how to assess skill with a new paint crew as well as how to deal with the non-major in the theatre world. The workshop is broken into training components that demonstrate the technique to be learned as well as how to teach the lesson.

Topics covered are: • Basics of the paint shop from the tip of the brush to the bottom of the bucket. • Faux paint basics include wood, brick, marble, and stone, as well as basic trompe l'oeil. • Additional tips on texture creation as well as stencil technique will be covered.

Cobalt Studios is modeled after the Guilds from the Renaissance, combining the classroom experience with the workshop experience. The goal is to reflect those guilds where a cohesive group of artists nurtured a respect for their craft as an active part of their community life, bound together through mutual respect; craftsmen who taught the traditions, skills and art of their craft and passed this down through their "knowing" hands. The program is also modeled after the program at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's school for architecture. Cobalt offers a variety of training opportunities for all levels of scenic arts skills.

2008 - Present

Teaching K-12 learners

The decision to leave college level teaching for the lower grade levels was difficult, but the right choice for me.  I found that working with younger age groups is much more fulfilling. To that end, I have recieved my K-12 Visual Arts teaching certificate.  In order to prepare myself for working in the lower grades, I have been a substitute teacher in four of our local teaching districts: Altmar Parish Williamstown (APW), Pulaski, Mexico, and Oswego as well as work with daycare centers. 

I have also resumed some of my "gypsy teaching" by working with the Art Teacher at Mexico High School, teaching some drawing and 3D lessons, as well as working as a guest artist at Kingsford Elementary. In this project with the fourth grade classes, I was teaching design elements using our local historical architecture as a subject. This was particularly fulfilling as it culminated in a gallery exhibition of the students' work at SUNY Oswego, as well as an architecture walk through town.

I helped launch  Oswego's Project Springboard.  This is an annual mural painting project aimed at reducing graffiti in town. So far we have completed 11 murals and look forward to more each year.

Finally, I have been working with preschoolers in order to round out my ability to work with the full spectrum of K-12 learners.  Prior to that, I have worked primarily with the 3rd grade and up. The time I've spent working with the Pre-K students has been rich and rewarding.  I feel the skills these kids taught me will influence all of my future teaching regardless of age level.

2001 - 2008

Assistant Professor

As Scenic and Lighting Designer for departmental productions and mentor to design students, I was responsible for the scenic elements of main-stage and lab shows.  In addition to the design elements, I was in charge of the props and painting of these productions.  Most often I was the scenic charge artist, and prop master, unless I had a student who was ready for the responsibility. During my time at the university, I mentored 5 students as Scenic Designers, and 5 Lighting Designers for our departmental productions.  Most of these students presented their work at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), a national theatre association for college students (http://www.kcactf.org/).  I had one student go on to the national competition in Washington D.C. and receive an honorable mention for his scenic design.

The majority of my students were not there for design.  They generally came with no artistic experience.  I taught basic composition, color theory, as well as drawing and painting skills.  I also taught drafting, and scale model building as well as perspective rendering.  Students learned how to analyze a script or creative passage and to create work that reflected or responded to the text.  I also introduced Semiotics early in their training so that they were able to begin understanding and using the language of sign in their work.

I received a KCACTF National Fellowship award for Scenic Design.  This fellowship consisted of a two week summer intensive at the Kennedy Center to study with Ming Cho Lee and Constance Hoffman.  I also received a KCACTF Lighting Design Award for my lighting design of "Our Town".

I was instrumental in the creation of two original productions that utilized professional artists in residence. 

"No Such Thing as Solo", in association with Peggy Shaw and Vivian Stoll, of the Split Britches Theatre Company (http://www.splitbritches.com/).  This production dealt with Domestic Violence and worked in partnership with the Services to Aid Families (SAF). It was a non-traditional production, which utilized the Francis Marion Brown Theatre and Art Gallery.  It deconstructed the theatre space and had overlapping vignets that performed in unusual portions of the entire building.  The audience moved through the entire space and were able to interact with the performance.  It was a powerful performance that examined difficult issues in abstract ways allowing the audience to approach them more comfortably.

"Lost in a Viral Paradise" was the other original production created in concert with the Music, Art and Theatre Departments of our university. We worked with guest artists Steve O'hearn and Jackie Dempsey, founders and artistic directors of Squonk Opera (http://www.squonkopera.com/home.php).  The production was an 18 month endeavor that culminated in a multimedia musical extravaganza that involved interactive video, original music and video created by the 3 departments in the style of Squonk Opera.

I also received grants to bring in several 3-day visits by Master Craftsman Zoe Morsette (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/zo%C3%AB-morsette/5/80b/1b1). Zoe lead a workshop on 3D patterning and construction.  She helped create the Ass Head for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the second Audry II puppet for "Little Shop of Horrors". She also gave lectures on Portfolios and Resumes as well as taxes and professional theatre craft and shop opportunities in New York City.

In addition to my departmental duties, I served on a number of committees including Faculty Assembly Executive Board, Chair of the Faculty Assembly Library Council, and the Provost's Library Visioning Committee.  I was also instrumental in the interdepartmental development of cognates and new concentrations in the Art Department at SUNY Oswego (B.A. Track 3 in Scene Design). This is an artist's approach to preparing for a graduate program in scene design. It is generally in conjunction with a minor in theatre. I also introduced my students to the options in the art department which would strengthen their skills as young designers.

Education

Education
1999 - 2001

MFA

Illinois State University

Here, I received my MFA in scene design.  I worked in the scene shop, teaching undergraduates while building scenery.  I received an Honorable Mention for my design of "Death and the King's Horseman" at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).  I also received recognition awards from the University for  Scene Design and Academic Achievement.  Apollo lighting published a gobo I designed  for the university's production of "Hedda Gabler".

I studied primarily under John Stark, and Bill Rhuyle.  In the scene shop, my supervisor was Denny Mays and Dan Browder.  I also worked as a lab assistant in the graphic arts department, helping with computer drawing programs like photoshop, painter, illustrator, and director.

1998 - 1999

University of Illinois at Champaign-Ubana

I was a scene design student with a secondary focus in scene painting. I studied with Michael Franklin White and Lee Boyer primarily. It is here that I formed an association with Zoe Morsette, a master craftsman in NYC.

The Krannert Center has 4 main theatres together in a single complex.  I was the scenic artist for the building while I was there. Painting was traditional, using Casein Paint on both soft and hard flats. 

My last show assignment was to be "The King Stag", because of my ability to design and create puppets as well as scenery. When I had to leave the school early, the show was canceled because there was no one else with this dual ability. I regret missing this opportunity. It is fortunate the department schedules so far in advance.

I attended this school until we adopted our son, (my nephew).  The event was unexpected, but necessary.

I moved to Normal to consolidate our home and to finish my studies at ISU (where my wife was teaching).

1992 - 1995

Bachelor of Arts

http://www.hawaii.edu/theatre/

My time here was rich with world theatre and art.  While going to school, I freelanced in Honolulu and worked on Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Filipino productions. I helped to create the scenery for a Beijing Opera "Shajiabang", and had a medium sized role in the performance (Adjutant Liou). I was part of a number of original productions including a puppet performance. I also had the honor of working with some of the leading experts in Asian theatre such and James Brandon (Japanese), and Elizabeth Wichman-Walzak (Chinese).  My scene design work was under Joe Dodd.

1984 - 1992

http://kauai.hawaii.edu/

While living on Kauai, I knew I wanted to eventually get my degree in art.  I took general education courses and art classes as I was able. 

One important course was under Waihang Lai, an AWS watercolor artist (http://www.waihanglai.com/).

His teaching was a formative part of my painting ability.

I was also freelancing in education and theatre, while working as a t-shirt artist for Tropical Shirts. 

I incorporated my airbrush skills into my scenic painting, and occasionally into my watercolor work.

1981 - 1982

http://www.dvc.edu/

I attended DVC fresh out of high school to take courses towards a future degree.  I knew I would not be able to afford more than a year, but wanted to start the ball rolling.  It was here that I was introduced to the contemporary arts and the Bay Area museums.  I saw the works of George Segal, David Gilhooly, Ed Keinholtz, and Judy Chicago, to name a few.  These greatly influenced the way I understood art. They also planted seeds of a future scenic designer.

I took an anatomy/physiology class that included cadaver work.  This was a daunting thing for me, but greatly improved my figure drawing and understanding of the human body. Later, I was able to understand how fortunate, rich and unusual this experience was. I continued to study the body with the understanding of how it would influence my ability to draw the human form and life drawing.

Spirit Portals- a solo exhibit