Guest Artist #1: Nate Hodge

Last week, our team welcomed guest artist Nate Hodge to the lodge, where just like last year, he led the crew for an action-packed week of abstract painting. In just two work days, they created two vibrant, colorful 8’x4′ panels that will hang in the Ave D R-Center. Nate’s loose and expressive style of working was a refreshing change of pace for our artists, who have been focused on the details and nuances of portraiture for the last month or so. During our trip to the MAG last week we had the chance to walk through his hallway he painted there, so the team had a bit of exposure to his work, but for most of the team, getting to paint so freely was a completely new experience.


Kishawn Medley is our newest team member, having come on board just last month. Prior to working with Roc Paint Division, he was a youth worker for the city at the Ave D Center, which made him particularly excited to contribute some creative work to brighten its walls– he was so focused  that he worked right through the break both days.  Read on for Kishawn’s account of working with Nate last week.


Working with Nate as a youth artist was an amazing experience. We started out with blank panels with sketches that Nate did on them and we began painting on the assigned panels we got based on the group we were placed in. We made progress and the panels ended up looking great. We had to make sure we were on the right color schemes and try to get as much done as possible with instructions from Nate who was a great instructor, helped us to make sure we were doing the right thing and gave us tips and advice along the way.



Compared to what we have done so far I really liked working in this abstract style of art, maybe because I like painting buildings and structures, and the fact that we were rotating between the panels so we didn’t really have to focus on all the small details.The parts that I liked the most about these panels were the reflection-like image of the buildings on the bottom of the panels.



I didn’t really have any problems relating to painting the panels because it was a fun experience. If I had to say something that was challenging about the panels I would say I had a problem getting the paint smooth on the panel but with the help from Britney and adding water, I came up with a solution.

I hope that the children at the R-Centers will appreciate these pieces and look up to these pieces to provide a reminder of the great city they live in.

I joined Roc Paint Division midway through the program but I kind of felt like I was already a part of the program because of the members who were kind and welcoming. I definitely think that this will impact me as an artist and as a person because I had to just start and get use to the program while everyone was already settled and use to each other so I felt like I had to give my best to keep up with everyone. Before I started this program I was a person who really liked to draw and was new to painting because I was recently introduce to it in my art class which really helped me but I never thought I would be able to get a job from it so I’m very thankful for that.






Our finished results!:


Having been completed in only two days, these are our first officially finished pieces! (Hooray!) We love how these came out, and it was a real plus that the entire crew was genuinely happy with both the process and the results.  During our first meeting with the center director at Ave D, he mentioned liking the idea of including the Rochester city skyline somewhere in the art at the center, so Nate worked in some of its signature elements to the top piece. We  can’t wait to see these installed over there and look forward to seeing the responses of the youth. Check out Alex Freeman’s great mini-documentary about Nate’s process here! 

Up  next: our newest project and first on-site mural….! Stay tuned.


Quick Midweek Update

We are in the middle of a busy week at Roc Paint Division : finishing up projects at our home base and meeting with guest artists, while also preparing to start our first on-site mural! Yesterday we met with some of the kids at the Thomas P. Ryan R-Center to get their feedback for the mural we’ll be starting there tomorrow, which will be led by guest artist Ryan Smith (@avisualbliss) These little guys gave us some great ideas and we are very excited to see our team’s talents in action at the R-Centers.


Meanwhile back at the lodge…….rocpaint_wk9-2rocpaint_wk9-3



Yesterday was also a “Roc Puppy Division” kind of day at work: Cooper, our usual resident #coopervisor, was joined by Justin’s tiny Lola, who immediately stole the hearts of our youth artists. They may not be able to help much with the painting (no thumbs), but these furry team members provide our crew with crucial moral support.


Check back later this week for a full recap on our awesome project with guest artist Nate Hodge last week!!

Radiant Children

This week, we’re finally sharing an update on what it is we have been painting at the lodge over the last few wintry weeks. Before moving to bigger projects within other R-Centers, we wanted to give our youth artists the chance to practice larger-scale painting techniques within the comfort of our own “studio” at Marketview Lodge. We have been working on three panels, collectively titled “Radiant Children;” two of them are headed towards the Humboldt R-Center upon completion. The portraits in each have been worked on by one or two of our artists, who have displayed remarkable focus, dedication, and diligence- learning to paint portraits is definitely not easy.  Read on for an excellent reflection by one of our wonderful youth artists, Nzinga. 


Radiant Children: reflections, by Nzinga 

The “Radiant Children” panels we are working on continue the program’s theme of “Growth”, and they have effectively achieved the broadness of that theme with flowers, insects, and people to represent that. The people represented are of different ages, from a young child, to mid teen age, to older teens. This shows the different stages of growth as young adolescents. They are black teens and preteens, because of the importance of representation to young black children in R-Centers.


I feel that the imagery and portraits in the panels work for an R-Center setting due to the imagination the panels present. The imagery serves as an invitation for the children at these centers to expand their imagination and be inspired by these art pieces, especially the abstract panels. I want the children to see themselves in the panels of children of various ages, and to view themselves as a literal piece of art: something beautiful and visually remarkable.



Working on the panels has been challenging for me overall, but the most challenging part would have to be the blending. Trying to find the right shades, and mixing them to create shadows and highlights. But at the same time, when it turns out nicely, that becomes the part that I like the most.


Last year on the mural we did for the Flint St. Center, I worked on a smaller piece of the panel we did, featuring a pair of hands. What we are doing this year is much different and more challenging, but there are similarities for example in the blending and stepping back from your piece. It is a larger scale, so the proportions have changed. A lot of “stepping back” has to take place in order to see the full picture for what it is while painting.


I’ve learned a lot about blending techniques from Brittany. She was telling me about mid-tone, light tones, and darker tones for faces. It helped me accomplish my personal pieces, and “push” them further for a better-finished product. She is a patient teacher, and even when I am frustrated with a certain part I’m working on, she reminds me that it’s just paint we could always go over and fix.


This is my second year with Roc Paint Division and I feel as though this time around I have a little more experience in painting, whereas last year I had little to no clue. As an artist, I feel that I could possibly add painting to a list of skills I have next to drawing/sketching. In my personal piece from last year versus this year, there is a big difference in the techniques executed.

From last year what stuck with me was the techniques of priming, the miracles of gesso, and the overall experience of the program. I now know what to expect.

I feel that I have grown as a person inside the program. Last year I was more quiet and reserved, but as time goes by, I feel more and more comfortable offering my ideas and thoughts whether in helping to decide the color/race of the subjects in the panels, or some aspects of my life in our check in sessions. Growth for me has always been personal, and more of a mental and spiritual change. I try and represent that in my individual pieces, to offer a different perspective of how growth works.






Meleko Mogkosi: Roc Paint visits the MAG

Last week, our team took a field trip to the Memorial Art Gallery to check out the Pax Kaffarria exhibit by Meleko Mogkosi.  We’d been planning to take a inspiration-garnering trip to the MAG since our initial planning stages well before Roc Paint Division started this year, and we were thrilled when we discovered that this particular show coincided with our program. The sheer scale of Mogkosi’s works is stunning, and particularly relatable given that over the last few weeks, our youth artists have begun painting on a larger scale- for most of them, for the first time ever. Additionally, the way he renders socio-political themes in his work serves as a great tie-in to our group’s ongoing discussions around the theme of growth and community.

One of our youth artists, Ephraim Gebre, was so taken by this show that by the time we took our field trip there, he had already seen it three times. Ephraim, a senior at World of Inquiry School #58, brings to our group a good deal of experience with painting on a large scale, having worked with the Fruit Belt Project  prior to joining us at Roc Paint Division. He’s also one to take context and meaning of public art seriously; he readily contributes thoughtful and insightful perspectives to our discussions and brainstorming sessions.  Read on for Ephraim’s reflections on and review of the exhibit.


My initial viewing of Meleko’s work was on opening night and then I viewed the gigantic show again twice within the week that followed, each time gaining more understanding of the technique used and the message Meleko was trying to convey . The Pax Kaffarria exhibition showcases two of Meleko’s “chapters, “ which altogether include about 20 mural sized canvases that are only separated by either corners or the large openings for people to walk in and out. Other then that all of the canvases were connected, whether it be by a complicated figurative aspect which was split in half by the start and end of a canvas, or as simple as dragging a wash of burnt sienna across the two. Meleko’s work and story inspired me immensely, especially learning that he was so young and his work is already being shown across the world in museums and universities. It gave me a real example of the success that is ensured if you stay committed to your goals and are constantly practicing to complete them. While talking, he told me that some of the “chapters “ that he paints takes upwards of 4 years to complete- which requires huge amounts of patience that I sometimes lack.

What I found most inspiring about his work was that he put thought into every aspect of his work –from using an unbleached students canvas to the way he chose the intensity of rendering of figurative elements he had in his work based on what he was trying to draw your attention to. This interested me because I am trying to make more figurative pieces and it showed me everything doesn’t have to be perfect and totally lifelike.


I would say the only thing that challenged me was the multitude of people which were in the show space making it hard for me to focus and took out much of the intimacy between me the viewer and the piece-which I felt in the next two visits that I made to the gallery, where there was little to no one in the show space.

I have definitely walked away from Pax Kaffarria with more understanding each time I viewed it. After the second viewing, I started noticing the deliberate positioning of figures and some subliminal messages the work was sending– some of which are difficult to understand unless you are from Botswana. This reminded me of the game “which one of these things don’t belong “…. Botswana edition. My third time viewing the show I picked up on some of Meleko’s techniques and methods, such as his choice to only gesso certain things and otherwise leaving the canvas bare. This requires an immense amount of skill, being that he cannot correct any lines. He told us that he often had to toss a whole piece because he did not apply the paint correctly and he literally had only one shot.

The size of the works are definitely relative to our work at Roc Paint Division, and the figurative aspects are some areas that we will be heavily exploring in the upcoming murals that we create as well as the panels we are working on now.

rocpaint3.2-3In addition to viewing the show several times, I attended the artist talk held in late February. Through the talk I gained insight on many of the hidden messages that were being conveyed through Meleko’s work that I did not understand because I didn’t grow up in his country or family. One such piece was called “full belly “ which actually has two variations in the show. This piece depicted an older man relaxing in a chair in front of a house who has obviously just eaten and thus has a “full belly” with two women in the background one with a child sitting and the other in the doorway of the house . this seemed like a normal painting until he told us that this was actually a wealthy persons house and the people where supposed to cleaning it and you would never see anything like this.

-Review by Ephraim Gebre



Once we returned to the lodge, the excitement continued: it also happened to be Nzinga’s birthday, and while we visited the MAG, her family snuck in and set up a birthday celebration for her to come back to, complete with pizza and cupcakes. Turns out our team is really good at keeping secrets (everyone else was in on it as well)– she was completely surprised!! We love getting to celebrate birthdays with our youth artists! 


Next week: a look at what all we’ve been working on so far!

Week 5: Stencil Demo!

Last week’s Roc Paint Division landmark: after just two weeks, the majority of our group finished cutting their stencils!  As we probably mentioned, the stencil cutting process is one of the more arduous parts of the program– but the payoff is a tool that looks great, and that can be used over and over again. Our timing couldn’t have been better- it happened to be 60 degrees and sunny (…in February) on the day we finished, so we took our spray paint and our stencils and headed outside. The lilies on the side of building, painted by our fearless leader Justin during our closing celebration last year, provided a great starting point for bringing our little headquarters to life. Justin led the crew in a demo on stencil usage + spray paint best practices, and then each of our artists got to choose a spot on the wall to break in their stencil. After working inside for a month, the whole experience was a real treat:rocpaint_stencilpost-19rocpaint_stencilpost-14rocpaint_stencilpost-12rocpaint_stencilpost-20rocpaint_stencilpost-16rocpaint_stencilpost-13rocpaint_stencilpost-17rocpaint_stencilpost-15rocpaint_stencilpost-18

you can also see a short video by Lisa on the process here. 

Here’s a recap on the process from youth artist Marina, who had the satisfaction of completing what was undoubtedly the most complex & detailed stencil in our program’s history:

So for my stencil I chose a dragonfly. I wanted to choose something different compared to how others were choosing butterflies and flowers, and I just overall think dragonflies have a cool body shape and color variation, leaving a lot of wiggle room for color choice. Now, cutting out the stencil was a whole other story. It was an enjoyable struggle. While the work itself was tedious it was satisfying to cut out the odd shapes. In the end it was completely worth it, the only way I could describe it was studying really hard for a test and getting an A. Worth it. Cutting out stencils is something I’m not familiar with. Honestly I’m more used to the ‘come up with an idea and do it art’ kind of thing. Not the ‘come up with something, split it up and put it back together again.” Getting to actually use the stencils outside on our building was amazing. It felt like all your work paid off and was a real example of what we have done so far. I’m excited to start working on the panels, as I’ve only done small pieces. Really looking forward to challenging myself and see others around me grow. My goal in Roc Paint Division isn’t something revolutionary. I want to see myself grow. Not just with art, but with other people too.



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Meanwhile: we’ve been moving along on on our individual paintings, as well as getting started on on our first big project: panels that will be installed at the Humboldt R-Center! Next week we’ll be sharing an update on their progress. And, later this week we are taking a field trip to the Memorial Art Gallery to see the Meleko Mokgosi exhibit – we are looking forward to reporting back on that. Until then….!