An abridged autobiography of my life through my art:
I am blessed to have been raised by two parents in our family of eight children. Our house was always busy with someone always saying or doing something. Early on I loved art and would spend my free time drawing or painting at the dining room table. Although the dining room was in the middle of the house, I could always retreat to a quiet space in my head through my art.
This is a drawing of my family on a card I made for my parents when I was nine. I don’t have a lot of my childhood art…my mother didn’t save much of it (there were 8 of us after all)…
Here is another little drawing from my childhood. My parents had this hanging in their bedroom until we sold the family home…
When I was 11, I came in second place in a sidewalk chalk drawing contest at the town hall. This pretty much cemented my decision to become an artist 🙂
I was so lucky to go to high school in the 1970’s. Arts and crafts were huge then and Framingham North High School school offered printmaking, ceramics, weaving on large looms, jewelry making (with fire!), graphic design, as well as the more traditional visual arts curriculum. This is a wood block print from high school:
This is the block it was printed from. I still have it and it hangs in my studio:
I was proud to be awarded a Gold Key in the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards when I was in high school. The award was for the etching below. I had made the drawing at work one night at Leon’s Restaurant. I was a waitress there through high school and the first couple of years of college. I loved working at this diner and I remember it fondly:
Which brings me to college…Massachusetts College of Art. I started out with a major in Graphic Design and after one year, realized that although I admired the work produced in the field, it was too “uptight” and not a good fit for me. For the assignment below, we had to mix acrylic paint to create a complete color wheel of swatches. We were to then cut them in pieces to create a collage self portrait. I remember this taking days to do:
I took a semester off and worked full time at a store in Shopper’s World that sold assembly line paintings from China, yet marketed them as being “originals”. It was an easy job because the store was rarely busy, so I used the back room as a painting studio. I made this painting of Ireland for my parents while I worked there…you can tell I was influenced by the paintings at the store:
After a semester off, I re-enrolled and changed my major to painting. I lived at home and commuted into Boston in my 1969 Buick Riviera and later my 1966 Plymouth Valiant. The MassArt campus was stretched along a one mile strip of Longwood Avenue (now they are down on Huntington, which was Boston State College back then) and the studio building was on Overland Street, across from Fenway Park. I paid $20 a month for a parking space next to the Red Cross building ($20!). To avoid traffic, I would arrive by 7:00am and would stay in the studio into the evening. During the Red Sox season, my car would be parked in tightly and I would have to stay until the game was over to get out. But there was a lot to do in the city and if I wasn’t painting in the studio, I would take the subway to Cambridge and hang out in Harvard Square (buying used records at the Coop!).
During my first year back at MassArt, a painting teacher assigned 30 self portraits. Here are two from that class:
Once I started back to school, I needed a job. I got a great job at the Middlesex News (now the Metro West Daily News) doing paste-up. This was at the very beginning of computers…reporters still used typewriters and we pasted strips of copy on boards with wax. We did have a linotype machine for our headline copy. What I loved about this job was that our department was staffed almost completely with college kids or recent graduates. The music blared, conversation flowed and we would cook for each other. I worked (3) 10hour days (Friday, Saturday, Monday) pasting up TV listings for the regional TV News publications that were inserted into the Sunday newspaper. I was able to schedule all my classes on Tuesdays through Thursdays and often painted through the night to get the schoolwork done. I remember doing this drawing late at night:
This drawing was done in the basement of my first apartment while in college. It is dark and dramatic and the last of the self portraits during art school.
While I was accustomed to working with oil paints, at some point I started experimenting with acrylics, watering them down and layering them. I enjoyed using them this way and I loved the vibrant colors. Here are two paintings that use the layered acrylic technique:
A little bit later on at MassArt, I got very involved in landscape painting. I worked on large canvases that filled my studio at the Overland building, somewhere around 5′ x 5′. I think I was trying to simplify form within a large space. A local restaurant commissioned me to do 4 or 5 of them. The restaurant later closed its doors and I don’t know where the paintings ended up. Here are two small studies that I still have somehow:
Upon graduating from college I stayed in the printing industry but switched from paste-up and layout to negative stripping. I learned to do 4 color separations to prepare color photos for printing. I bought a Canon AE1 and got into photography in a big way at this time. I was able to use the darkroom at work after hours. My fiance and I spent our free time camping and fishing, so those trips became photography trips, too. Although I have misplaced it, I also kept a wildflower sketchbook for years. Here are some photos from that time:
During this time I also learned how to run a printing press and did some extra part time work printing wedding invitations, including my own. Aside from sketching and some occasional painting, working two jobs was not conducive to making a lot of art, but I continued to do a lot of photography. It was during this time that we experienced a flood in the basement of the log cabin we were renting, which doubled as a studio. Most of my college artwork was ruined in the flood, except for some of the small pieces. Shortly thereafter we bought a house and started a free-lance pre-press business in the basement there. As often happens, we started a family soon after settling in.
Being a mother and working full time kept me very busy. I always have the need and desire to create, finding the time is the challenge. I did a lot of crafts during the early years of motherhood. I quilted (nothing too serious), did cross-stitch, and sewed. I loved sharing creativity with my son, coloring along with him as he learned. I have memories of working on the free-lance projects in the basement with my two year old finger painting on an easel beside me.
When my son was two, his father was diagnosed with cancer and after a full year of treatment, was gone. Here are sketches that my son and I made of his father after his passing:
After two years as a single mother I decided to go back to college to become a teacher. Although my degree was in art, I chose to pursue the path of elementary education because the odds of getting a job in regular education were much greater than those in art education. Elementary education provides many opportunities for art inclusion.
I was thrilled to go to England to teach for a month in a graduate seminar in education the summer I finished my elementary education program. I brought my son along and enrolled him in the school where I would be teaching. He was seven then. Of course I brought my sketchbook and have fond memories of sketching in various locations around England, including sitting beside Stonehenge and drawing for an hour or so.
That summer I hosted 6 kids for a art-based daycare for 6 weeks, We would take field trips all over the place to draw and paint. Here are a couple of photos:
Young artists drawing at Crane’s Reservation…
When we returned from England there was a job offer on my answering machine (this is before smart phones and wireless and I had been nervous about employment while away). I was invited to teach third grade in the town where I lived! After 20 years in the printing industry, I was going to be a teacher! I taught third grade for 6 years and fourth grade for one year. During this time I returned to college to get my Master of Education in Art. I was crazy busy with teaching and single parenting and graduate school. But, I was painting and making art again!
Once I had earned my Masters degree, it took just two years for there to be an opening for an art teacher in my district. I have been teaching middle school art ever since! I continue to take Professional Development classes to learn new skills and create art. I have studied portrait drawing and still life drawing with Robert Collins in classes at the Danforth Museum:
I have studied with Dean Nimmer at Bennington College through MassArt’s Art New England program. The focus with Dean was on Drawing from Intuition. This was an important week for me as it helped to free my approach to art making. Although this was a few years back, I use the methods that Dean shared in art journaling and painting today. These are painted with acrylics:
The first two years that I taught art, I was the only art teacher and had 750 students. After two years, we were able to hire another art teacher. It was wonderful to work with a colleague! We complemented each other well as her medium was clay and 3D work and mine had primarily been 2D. I had taken clay classes in high school and college, but I can thank her for showing me the amazing possibilities of the ceramic process. Another kind soul who was closing her ceramics business donated a kiln to our school. I took a couple more clay classes when this happened. Below is a photo of one of the thirty bowls I threw on the wheel for the Art Club to sell at the art show to raise money for a field trip:
I also made these hearts and gave them out as thank you tokens for a fundraiser to install our kiln:
I work with clay as much as I can, whether wheel throwing or handbuilding. My clay studio is in an unheated barn, so I am limited to working in three seasons. I have begun to think of myself as a summer potter/winter painter.
In 2011 and 2012, I happily spent a week at the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s Summer Institute for Art Educators. This is a wonderful week of studio time with the NHIA faculty. I have studied jewelry making and digital painting during these weeks:
After teaching art for seven years, I was honored to be named the 2012 Massachusetts Art Education Association Middle School Art Educator of the Year. I am humbled to be in the company of the many amazing art educators who have made a creative difference with the children of Massachusetts. Honored and humbled, and inspired to keep working!
When I am not teaching, working with clay, painting, or making art with Photoshop, I enjoy making jewelry and hair accessories with vintage buttons:
Painting with watercolors:
Or manipulating photos with the many apps for the iPad:
And whipping out the airbrush for facelifts on various items:
Married now to a gentleman farmer, I have many opportunities to take photos or find inspiration in my surroundings. We have colorful gardens:
And some pretty amazing animals:
Click on this peacock to see a little video of our peacocks and chickens:
In January 2013, I participated in The Sketchbook Project, which was founded by the Brooklyn Art Library, who maintains a library of nearly 15,000 sketchbooks. That number grows every year. My book was created during the late fall and early winter and is a collection of photos I had taken throughout the year which are pasted collage-style into the sketchbook. The pages are then augmented with marker, paint, pencil, and Mod-Podge. Especially Modge Podge sparkle. I love that stuff. Here is a link to a video of the sketchbook.
On June 15, 2013, The Sketchbook Project mobile Library made a stop in Providence, RI. My friend, Anita, who is a Media Specialist, took a ride to see the mobile library in action and to “check out” my book, if only for a little while.
And we found it!
Little did I know that all because of a New Year’s resolution to draw something every day on my iPad, 2013 would become My Year Of Creating Digitally. Lucky to be part of a 1:1 iPad initiative school, I challenged myself to learn to draw and paint on the iPad in order to know it well enough to teach my students. I am very proud to say that I created and posted a drawing every single day of 2013! Read more about it here, see all of the drawings here, and see the list of challenges here.
Once 2013 had passed, and 365 iPad drawings were complete, it was time to focus on learning how to design for 3D printing. I had been granted a MakerBot Replicator II 3D printer through www.DonorsChoose.org and MakerBot and knew absolutely nothing about it. I dedicated 2014 to learning how to design 3D models and print them and to teaching my students how to do so, too.
When you are teaching yourself to do something completely new, especially when it is a creative something, there is no limit to the time spent and the time still needed. I was hyper focused on this, learning to use the 123D Design app to create models. Consequently, my time working in traditional art mediums was minimal, and all the more treasured:
In November, 2014, I had the tremendous honor of being named 2015 Massachusetts Art Educator of the Year. The award was presented at Mass Art, my alma mater. Here I am with my family after receiving the award:
Meanwhile, my work with designing for 3D printing was beginning to show in the models – these are some holiday ornaments I printed and painted:
I enrolled in a graduate certificate program in Instructional Technology in 2015 and suddenly the year got very busy. The coursework was not creative, but necessary to learn about integrating technology in the schools. Despite the workload, I made pottery when I could and took photographs as often as possible.
Making art on the iPad always taps my creative side and makes me feel good – this was done with ArtRage on the iPad:
I was spending so much time in workshops and conferences that I took up sketchnoting (taking notes and sketching all together) using the Adobe Sketch app. My sketch note gallery is located here
I finished up my Instructional Technology course work in December 2016 and pottery, photography, and watercolor painting continue to feed my creativity.
In 2019 I was honored to be acknowledged with the National Art Education Association National Middle Level Art educator award. This is the video that played during the ceremony:
As mentioned on the home page of this blog, my church in central Massachusetts maintains a twinning relationship with a parish near Les Cayes in Haiti. I have been graced with visiting Haiti with a small delegation of parishioners three times. Following my third trip to Haiti in 2018, I began making paintings from photographs I had taken there. With four paintings complete, I continue to work on this project.
Combining new technologies with those of the past, I have been designing and 3D printing stamps/cutters for imprinting on clay and to trace around. During the summer of 2020, I threw over a hundred pots and imprinted them all with a peacock stamp I had designed and 3D printed in different sizes.
Now that I am semi-retired (2/2021), I am at a crossroads, feeling the freedom to choose which creative path to take. My husband and I have promised ourselves little adventures in the form of day trips at least once weekly. We have been visiting properties held by the Trustees of Reservations, doing some hiking and photography. As I write this, spring is well underway and summer isn’t too far behind. I’m excited to see where my art making moments take me. I’ll keep you posted…
Anyway, after all these years, I have to say – Life is good and art is all around me! Or should I say…life is good BECAUSE art is all around me? 🙂
Art = My Life
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Alice!! this is amazing!!! I really love your abstract paintings. You really are a jack of all trades!
…a life long learner Sam…as you will be! I miss you!
AMAZING and moving! And I am proud to say I was by your side (basking in the aura of your torch) when you created a couple of the pieces pictured here!
Thank you, Carolann! Basking in the aura of YOUR torch, my friend!
This.is. simply. awesome! As are you! 😉
Thank you, Anita!
Alice, I truly enjoyed reading and viewing “Mona Lisa Lives Here”.
Thank you, Liz! So good to hear from you!
How moving was read and “see” your life. You area a great person! Thanks to the life for give me the opportunity to meet you.
Thank you, Marcela! I look forward to our collaboration!
Great to read your auto-bio. Pure PASSION and self-driven. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you so much!
Hi Alice, I found this website by googling your name – saw that you are president elect of the Mass Art Education Association and started from there.
Loved reading your bio. You have done so much I almost feel that I needn’t contact you, I’m so far behind… where do you get the energy!
The reason I had been visiting the Mass Art Education Association Website is that I am toying with the idea of becoming an art teacher.
I have been employed in the printing and advertising professions for quite some time, and have grown very weary of the time schedules (I need it yesterday!)
and feel burnt out.
Part of me needs a change and part of me feels that I am too old to start something new. Do you have any suggestions? Honestly I’m looking for an “e-mail mentor” of sorts! It sounds as though you have a very full plate so perhaps you could point me in a meaningful direction?
Never too old to start something new! Let’s be in touch!
Hello Mrs. Gentili!
I am a first year Middle School art teacher in North Carolina and I have recently gained access to 3D printers from the company 3D Sense! I would love to learn more about how you have been incorporating them into the classroom. I am starting with 6th graders- they are scanning themselves and will be making their own modern day Roman bust (as they learned about Rome in SS this year). My current concern is after the design process is complete, making sure they are all printed by June! With 130+ students I am feeling very anxious, and feeling guilty that I may not have time to expose other grade levels. Any tips that you have would be GREATLY appreciated! I haven’t found many other classrooms working with this technology yet for inspiration- boy am I glad to have found your blog 🙂
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Rockingham Middle School
Ashley – Wow! You have ambitious plans! What are you using for scanning the portraits? I am not familiar with the 3D sense line, but I know I can print several busts at the same time on my MakerBot Replicator 2. Let’s connect via email: email@example.com. Best wishes, Alice
Hi Alice! Love this blog,the early years were a fine trip down memory lane. I still have a coffee mug from Leon’s. It’s where I fell in love with Buffalo china. And I remember the Riv, too! Such a fun boat. I work for a public library system in Florida now where I am in administration but they got a “twofer” because I get to utilize my graphic design skills by creating all of our program flyers and web art. We’re finally catching up to the rest of the Library world with some pretty cool stuff like 3-d printer and Maker Spaces. It is inspiring to see these things at the Library and have kids (and staff) be so excited to use them. Seeing all your beautiful work and reading this blog has inspired me even more to get back to creating for myself! Wonderful. Thank you.
Nancy (Pilsworth) Woodfin
St. Lucie County, FL
Thanks for stopping by, Nancy! It has been a long time and I’m glad to hear you’re doing well…in fact thriving! I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!