Watercolor polaroids by Elisabeth Henson’s students at Portola Jr./Sr. High School are among some of the artwork that will be displayed at Plumas Arts in May.

May is Student Art Month at Plumas Arts

Plumas Arts will be featuring the work of students from Portola Jr.-Sr. High School and Quincy Jr.-Sr. High School throughout May. The art teachers for the two schools are Elisabeth Henson and Danielle Frid, respectively.

Portola Junior/Senior High School Art students began the second semester with a goal of exploring paint media. “Their first medium was watercolor,” Henson said. “Students explored a wide range of watercolor techniques and then were challenged to create their own original works.”

The first prompt was to create two Polaroid-size paintings of  “a place you have been and a place you wish to go.’” Students honed their individual creative thinking skills and process by researching, brainstorming, sketching, planning, refining and then creating their original work. “They ended their watercolor exploration with a full choice project, with encouragement to create art that was meaningful to them,” Henson said.

A couple of Henson’s students commented on their assignments. Sophomore Nadia Ekkelboom said in regards to her watercolor piece, “I love the ocean and jellyfish. The watercolor techniques I learned inspired me to paint the jellyfish in the ocean”.

Angelyssia Ibarra, grade 11, said of her “For La Raza” watercolor piece, “As a young woman of Black and Mexican descent, I chose to replicate a piece with a lot of history behind it; the United Farm Workers movement. Led by Cesar Chavez in the 60s, the Huelga Bird became a symbol of courage for the hundreds of latinos at the time”.

QHS teacher Frid reflects on her experience teaching art this past year: “How do you successfully teach art to teenagers during a pandemic, through a screen? Middle- and high-schoolers generally care less about what you’re trying to teach them if they don’t feel connected with you.”

Frid said she typically tries to make connections and learn about her students by observing who they’re hanging out with in the halls, seeing what style they’re into, what music they’re listening to, what extracurricular activities they’ve signed up for, seeing what they create in my class, and most importantly by sitting next to them and having conversations. “I read their facial expressions and body language, which is hard under a mask, and much harder on a blacked out Zoom screen (students with their cameras off),” she said. “Making connections this year has been a challenge. Quincy Junior and Senior high students have definitely persevered during this year and I am proud of them for what they have been able to accomplish.”

During distance learning Frid encouraged her students to explore digital drawing and photo manipulation on their laptops with Microsoft Paint 3D. They learned how to draw portraits and linear perspective. They also learned how to create a sense of three-dimensional form, using value and gradation in their drawings. They went on virtual gallery tours around the world (through Google Arts & Culture) while completing a scavenger hunt and looking for images within famous works of art. They have been able to describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate a new famous work of art and artist each week, and sketch their observations in their sketchbooks.

“Keeping students and the stressors they’ve had to endure in mind, I wanted to keep distance learning ‘simple’ (for them, and myself), focusing mainly on basic drawing. Now that we have moved back into the classroom we are finishing this school year with fun, messy and more hands-on projects!,” she said “When we returned to in-person learning March 1st we started printmaking. Students learned how to create linoleum block prints and carved their own designs! They also learned how to create mono-prints on Gelli pads. Currently we are finishing the school year with weaving, rock and canvas painting, and ceramics.”

Come by the gallery and see the students’ watercolor paintings, mono-prints, and more! The Plumas Arts Gallery is located at 525 Main St. in Quincy and is open Wednesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and  Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.


“Jellyfish”, watercolor painting by Nadia Ekkelboom (10th grade, Portola Jr./Sr. High)