Explore, Discover, Create!
with Learning To See inspiration artist Tom Jenkins

Horses, motorcycles, hot rods, gymnastics and spinning tops have all been part of the life of FOTM master artist Tom Jenkins. He has made sculptures with sound and movement and ‘musical’ instruments.  His studio is as much a machine and wood shop as it is a painter’s studio. He uses his own handmade drawing tools as well as traditional supplies.  Learn more about Tom HERE.

Above:  Watch Tom Jenkins spin his amazing tops!  Right:  Portrait of Tom Jenkins by Donna Granata, Focus on the Masters Portrait Series, 2012

Find your ‘Happy Place’ with spinning tops!

When Learning To See students learned about Tom Jenkins and got to spin their own tops in school, they said they found their ‘Happy Place’!  You can, too!

Watch this video for directions!

Your top can be a square or a circle!  Experiment with coloring different patterns on it and see what happens when it spins!

 

Cardboard & a penny make a great spinning top!

You will need:
cardboard
scissors
sharp pencil
old towel or other thick cloth
round plastic container or lid
markers or crayons

When Tom puts a pencil tip into his handmade spinning top, it becomes a drawing tool. Those fanciful spirals are made by his tops, and with other drawing tools to make large arcs, he has the start of his paintings. 

Below left is a detail of one of Tom’s paintings.  Below right is a Learning To See student’s work.  The more that was added, the richer it looked.  Similar to a Jackson Pollack painting!

Make art with your tops like Tom Jenkins!

This top takes some problem solving skills and patience, but it is worth it!

Use the same supplies as above, but you won’t need the penny.

You will use 2 pieces of cardboard to make your whorl heavier.
1.  Start the center holes in each whorl with a sharp pencil as shown in video.  Wiggle the pencil tip to make the hole a little bigger, but not bigger than your markers!
2.  Glue them together.
3.  Wiggle the tip of a marker through the hole.  Sometimes it will feel like it snaps into place.
4.  Check that the whorl is at a right angle to the axis.  It must be balanced with symmetry!
5.  Spin your top on paper.  You will see the spirals of your spinning top!
6. Use markers with pointy tips.  Thicker markers are easier to spin, pointy ones will be harder.

 

Watch our Learning To See students making art while spinning their tops!

Search ‘optical illusions spinning tops’ for great ideas on decorating your top! 

Spinning Top Vocabulary

Whorl – a pattern of spirals or concentric circles, and also the large part of a spinning top.
Axis – a real or imaginary line that something else rotates around. The earth rotates on an axis. Two wheels of a car have 2 wheels attached at both ends of an axis so they can roll at the same time.
Symmetry – when one side looks the same as the other side, but turned over. Draw a line down the middle of your face, you will see that it has symmetry!
Force – energy or action that makes something move faster
Gravity – A force that tries to pull 2 things together. Our earth’s atmosphere has gravity that keeps us on the ground.
Torque – when a force makes something twist or turn. When you try to get the lid off a jar, you are using torque!
Friction – the force or resistance that keeps one thing from sliding across another. Sliding around in your socks on a wood floor has less friction than sliding around on carpet.
Inertia – a tendency to not change.
Precession – change in the angle and turning of an axis.

A triskelion is a symbol that has been used for thousands of years in different cultures around the world.  Triskelion means ‘three-legged’ in Greek.  Each spiral represents a bent leg.  The three legs move out from the center, suggesting circular motion.  There are many meanings to this symbol, and they all are about things in ‘threes’ – land, sea, sky; life, death, rebirth; past, present, future; father, mother, child.

Tom Jenkins likes to PLAY with a lot of things. Watch this video of him drawing a triskelion and then try it yourself!  He even used this symbol to design a clock!

Here is an example of an ancient triskelion design showing the 3 bent legs.  Learn more HERE!

Funding

Learning To See has been adapted for comprehensive online learning!  We utilize Zoom (& other video platforms) and have webpages to support each lesson.  Art supply packets are provided for each student.

Our standard 8-week in-the-classroom residency is $550 (including instructor and supplies).
You can “Adopt A Classroom” for $550.00. Click HERE to Donate

Four week and single lessons are also available. Our lessons are cross-curricular and support the California content standards. Many of them can be tailored and grouped to work with a particular unit of study, i.e. zoology, social studies, history, language arts, sciences, etc. They are adaptable to a wide range of grade levels from elementary through secondary grades and beyond, including community groups and programs. Programs are supported in a variety of ways, including school and PTA funds, grants, or personal donations from an individual or group of parents/grandparents.

Our program is taught by professional artists who have extensive educational experience. We feel that this criterion helps to guide the student with a deeper understanding of the art making process.

For more information, or to arrange a residency in your neighborhood, call 805.653.2501 or email Education@FocusontheMasters.com.

SUPPORT

Your donations support the programs that are at the heart of the FOTM’s mission…

to document and archive extraordinary artists and their work through photographic portraits, audio and video interviews and biographical research that encompass each artist’s experiences, artistic reflections and development; and 2) to present this work to a broad public through extensive education outreach to all ages – including at-risk youth through our Learning to See Youth Outreach program, Art & The Creative Spirit Enrichment Program for Seniors, a public monthly Artist Spotlight Series, exhibitions, publications, website and an extensive resource library.

CONTACT

Focus on the Masters Archive & Library
505 Poli Street, Suite 310, Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 805.653.2501
Email Us

CONTACT

Focus on the Masters Archive & Library
505 Poli Street, Suite 310, Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 805.653.2501
Email Us

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Donna Granata

Donna Granata

Founder and Executive Director

Donna Granata is the Founder and Executive Director of Focus on the Masters (FOTM), a highly respected non-profit educational program documenting contemporary artists. Founded in 1994, the goal of FOTM is to demonstrate the importance of the arts to society by bringing highly accomplished artists to the forefront of the community. The program presents its research to a broad public through photographic exhibitions, the Artist Spotlight Series, a video-taped interview series, Learning To See educational outreach to schools and youth centers. Focus on the Masters has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of its outstanding contributions to arts education including the 2005 inaugural Ventura Mayor’s Art Award – Arts Educator and the 2007 Ventura County Arts Council Art Star Award. Focus on the Masters is recognized as one of the leading arts organizations in the state of California.

In addition to her ongoing lecture series for Focus on the Masters, Donna teaches classes for the Road Scholar Elderhostel International including an Introduction to the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Roman Villa. Special lectures trace the careers of photographer LIFE Horace Bristol and painter John Nava, creator of the tapestries commissioned for the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA. In addition, she has lectured for the journalism department at UCLA on the ethics of photography. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2005 by Elderhostel International.  Among her most recent awards is the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the City of Ojai, CA.

An accomplished artist in her own right, Donna Granata is an internationally published and award winning painter turned photographer.  Her photographs have been displayed across the United States.  Selected works from her FOTM portrait series are housed in the Smithsonian's Archive of American Artists; in the photographic Collection of the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York and other public institutions that house the personal archives of the artists documented.

Donna received a Bachelor’s of Art Degree and Honorary Masters of Science Degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography where she was an adjunct professor in the Portrait Department. She received a Master’s Degree in Arts Journalism from USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, graduating with honor. Granata is listed in Marquis Who’s Who of American Women.

Aimee French

Aimee French

LTS Education Director

Aimee French is a lifelong artist whose earliest memories are of being fascinated by shapes, edges and textures. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Having explored and worked in a wide range of mediums, a painterly quality marks much of her work, even when using the hardest materials. It is process oriented, and symbolism is often used. After many years of painting on silk and with oil, her current mediums are assemblage, felted wool and encaustic.
Aimee joined Focus on the Masters as the Learning to See Outreach Education Director in January 2011. Her extensive arts education experience includes class instruction, program development and management serving populations from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning levels.
Her experience in museum education, certification as a Social/Emotional Arts Facilitator and 7 years working in humane education has given her a broad insight into the importance of how and what we learn manifests in a student’s life. Her goal is to nurture inspiration and trust in one’s unique creative voice. See Aimee’s latest works at www.facebook.com/TheBouStudio/.

Christine Beirne

Christine Beirne

Office Manager

Chris has been volunteering for FOTM off and on for the last 27 years. She was the marketing director for a horticultural firm and then, once she earned her B.A. in Studio Art, she became the marketing director for Buenaventura Art Association. After a few years, she was offered the position of Executive Director and utilized her management, artistic and computer skills to grow fundraising and membership. She is currently an Ojai Studio Artist and is on the board as well. When Chris isn't working on the computer, she's painting. You can view her work at www.ChristineBeirne.com.

Jessica Diaz

Jessica Diaz

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Jessica Diaz is an artist currently attending California State University of Channel Islands majoring in art with an emphasis in animation. Narratives and story are her favorite aids to the arts, which are reflected in the of personality and character story of her work. She also works with the Santa Paula Art Museum as the current Assistant Art Educator. Growing up in Santa Paula, she acquired influence from the life of agriculture and a California setting. Her introduction into arts education came alongside her interest in museum culture, wanting to know the process of the artist's work and their exhibitions in museums. She has taught in classrooms through Artist In Residency programs with elementary students, led school tours ranging from k-12 grades, and taught children’s art classes through the Cole Creativity Center.

Gabriel Islas

Gabriel Islas

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Gabriel Islas grew up in the coastal city of Oxnard, California. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting from Academy of Art University, San Francisco. After graduating, he moved back to his roots in Ventura County where he teaches oil painting courses for adults, teen art programs and workshops for kids through VITA Art Center, The Santa Paula Art Museum and the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Gabriel is a member of the California Art Club and has exhibited at the Santa Paula Art Museum’s ‘12th Annual Art About Agriculture’, the CAC virtual exhibit ‘Welcome toCalifornia’, and a dual-solo show at the Conejo Valley Art Museum. His current work expresses the drama of the Southern Californian atmosphere across the local landscape. Gabriel joined the Learning To See team in 2021. Visit his webpage at gabrielislasart.com.

Jamie (Jem) Morris

Jamie (Jem) Morris

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Born and raised in Artesia, California, Jem Morris moved to San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art University. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in oil painting.  Throughout her collegiate career, Jem developed a fixation on the art of expression, particularly through traditional illustration, imaginative realism, and abstraction. She won 1st place at the Academy of Art University’s Spring show in the Undergraduate Abstraction category. In November 2019, Jem moved back to Southern California to pursue a full time career in art, eventually moving to Ventura to teach at various locations including Vita Art Center, Cole Creativity Center, and the Oxnard Performing Art Center.  Visit Jem at instagram.com/jemfinearts.

Elizabeth Souza

Elizabeth Souza

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Elizabeth Souza life’s path has given her the opportunity to work in many artistic genres. She is a painter, fiber artist, craft teacher, published writer, and dancer. Her work is influenced by her diverse cultural background as an immigrant from the Netherlands of mixed ancestory. She holds a BA in Art with an emphasis in painting from California State University Channel Islands, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree from California State University Northridge.  Visit her webpage at www.elizartist.com.

Jo Ellen Lee, PhD

Jo Ellen Lee, PhD

Volunteer Office Staff: Executive Assistant

Data Entry, Statistical Analysis
Master Beader, Expert in Medical Genetics, Ret.
Email: JoEllen@FocusOnTheMasters.com

Gale Willhite

Gale Willhite

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Paralegal, Ret.

Fran Stewart

Fran Stewart

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Accountant, Ret.

Laurie Peterson

Graphic Designer

Peterson Graphics
Community Affiliations: Museum of Ventura County; Ventura County Agriculture Museum

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation