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John
Benitez

Delbarton school|Morristown, NJ
TEACHER: Dom Rodi
2-D Art and Design
Mixed media, Chine Colle, dried plant material
Untitled|14 x 11 in.
Material(s): Mixed media, Chine Colle, dried plant material, oil-based inks, and silver foil.
Process(es): Mixed media combined to utilize textures to create an impression of movement, depth, and color.

Student
statement

Student headshot
John Benitez
I have always been fascinated by the amazing variety of plants, colors, and forms that I have seen in my many walks in the Jockey Hollow State National Park. With this in mind, I began my Sustained Investigation by exploring how to depict all the different impressions I experienced, everything from the graphic forms of plants to the myriad of colors I saw.
Beginning formally with dry-point etching, I experimented with various print processes which allowed me the creativity to capture the effects I initially saw. In this image, a previous etching print was revived and worked upon using various mediums. In doing so, foliage reveals texture and form, multi colors punctuate the landscape and the overall impression reveals a brief personal insight into what I saw and felt.
Teacher
statement
Dom Rodi
John explored imagery related to his many observations regarding the landscape of a wildlife refuge he frequently enjoys. Throughout his body of works he explored color harmony, linear structure, design through repetition, and visual impressionism.
How does this work relate to your students' inquiry and investigation through art and design?
How did you support your student in developing skills with the ideas, materials, and processes used to make this work?
John has spent several years with me throughout high school. During this period, he developed and honed his skills across a variety of mediums allowing him the flexibility and confidence to seek new ways to layer materials, mix media, and develop his own distinctive artistic voice. In providing him with many different mediums to choose from, John was able to confidently explore his creative ideas to the fullest.
What kinds of practice, experimentation, and revision were involved in making this work?
John was very conscientious of making the best choices with regard to what he was trying to achieve. From initial, restrained, drypoint etchings, he utilized the print process to create many different versions of his images, exploring colors, values, and a variety of marks. Following several iterations of a work, he would rework a particular image, using a variety of mixed media until he felt that his goal was achieved.
What kind of learning experience, art/design challenge, and/or classroom environment did you provide to encourage your students' work?
The students in my class were very independent and very self-motivated. As they began the planning and production of their Sustained Investigations, I had them focus on writing down their artistic intentions, encouraging them to question their decisions, to look at other artists’ work, and really think and talk about the choices they were making.
What kinds of teaching and learning strategies did you use to support your students' thinking and making?
Prior to the beginning of the academic year, I worked with my students to create a list of topics that personally interested them for their sustained investigation. Once that list was completed, we sat down together, looked at their ideas, and developed a direction to pursue. I guided but did not mandate their choices. Personal insight from many previous years of teaching allowed me to give them feedback to get started with their ideas. Once my students settled on an idea that had a strong personal appeal for them, they then began the vital process of collecting or taking their reference material. Following that, a great deal of time was spent working on preliminary designs, establishing their approach to their processes, and talking to their peers about their ideas regarding further development.
What is your advice to other teachers and students?
If you are familiar with your students, encourage them to work with the skills that are their strengths. Encourage those skill sets that you know will allow them to develop their creative voices and allow them to confidently explore beyond their initial thoughts. Do not limit them due to preconceived notions or try to have them follow a set plan of action to make work that looks a certain way. Allow the students to explore, experiment, and make mistakes. Encourage students to learn from their mistakes by reworking art that is not very strong. Be supportive but be honest. Encourage students to talk to each other and have conversations with their peers so that you do not have to carry all the feedback. Encourage the differences in your students’ talents. They will likely create very different work from one another but will learn and watch each other work. Look at contemporary art or works from art history and encourage students to find artists working with similar ideas or themes. Have the students write often and have them really reflect on their progress.
What did you learn from working with this student?
John is a determined and creative student. Jack taught me to trust the process I have established, to provide opportunities for exploration, to work through ideas, and to plan. Above all, that my passion and enthusiasm towards teaching studio art is something that can be very motivating and rewarding for students like John, who, initially, never dreamt that they had the ability to become an artist. The discovery of his creative talents is my reward.

Principal
statement

Fr. Michael Tidd
John Benitez's work in AP Studio Art is a superb example of the excellence in student artistic expression that Delbarton School's art program consistently enables. John's creativity in his AP Studio Art submission is exceptional, even when compared to the work of his classmates in one of out most talented AP Studio Art classes in the last ten years. Delbarton School's art program encourages students from a wide range of backgrounds and with diverse interests to explore their ideas and express them in multiple media. Our art program offers both for-credit and extracurricular opportunities for studio time, which enables students with many commitments to find the time and space needed for meaningful artistic work.
digital signature
John Benitez