I had the pleasure of meeting teacher/poet/presenter Ken Slesarik in 2011 when he attended my first poetry workshop for the fine folks at Highlights Foundation. Uh, by the way, Ken has a sense of humor. Here’s a picture he provided after the workshop.
Ken and I have remained in contact and recently he began sharing with me occasional information about his talented artist daughter, Catherine Slesarik. Today is the day I want you to meet her too.
At my suggestion, Ken interviewed Catherine and together they selected a small sample of her work. One of the pictures is of a dragon so papa K pitched in a poem to accompany it. Without further ado, here is Catherine Slesarik with a special assist from her father.
Catherine Slesarik is an award winning artist and collage student from Arizona. She enjoys sharing her talents with people of all ages. An avid reader and science buff, Catherine plans to incorporate science in her work as a children’s illustrator to inspire girls and women everywhere.
Seven Questions for Catherine Slesarik
1. How did you first become interested in art?
I have always been an artist for as long as I can remember but my focus has turned towards realism and people since I was about 14 years old. I’m currently 18 years of age.
2. What is your favorite medium and subject?
My favorite medium is a tie between charcoal and soft pastels. I prefer easily blended mediums like those or paint. My favorite subjects are faces and people as I enjoy capturing expression and emotion.
3. Do you have any routines to be more creative or do you just jump right in?
I have absolutely no creative routines. I just decide what seems aesthetically pleasing and draw. Sometimes I don’t know what or who I’m drawing until I’m well into the piece.
4. What are your future plans and how would you most like to use your talents?
I am working towards selling portraits and cultivating my creativity while completing art school. I hope to collaborate with my dad on a larger scale and ultimately I want to illustrate books for children. I would like to use my talents to challenge the set beliefs that people have about what art is supposed to do. I hope to create beauty and bring it into the world to inspire people, especially girls and women.
5. Do you have any influences?
Some influences I have are my dad, my mom, my high school art teacher from my senior year in high school and a small group of friends that have encouraged me to grow artistically, one of whom has helped me throughout most of my journey in the art world.
6. What are your other hobbies and interests besides art?
Some non-art related hobbies I have are science and puzzle solving.
7. Have you won any awards for your art?
I have won several awards for my art, among them a youth logo competition and three first place ribbons at the county fair, including the adult/ open category. I also received a superior rating at a national art festival last August.
Now here are the papa/daughter team Slesarik.
The Dragon of Didright
There lives a good dragon of Didright
who dutifully does what he’s told.
This dutiful dragon of Didright,
he guards the king’s diamonds and gold.
One day the dragon of Didright
did something especially brazen.
This “dutiful” dragon of Didright,
he traded the gold for a raisin.
The diamonds the dragon of Didright,
he traded for minty herb tea.
This “dutiful” dragon of Didright—
was wrong, I’m sure you’ll agree?
That night the dragon of Didright
was banished and sang a sad song.
He moved from the suburbs of Didright.
He moved from Didright to Didwrong.
(C) 2016 by Ken Slesarik
All Rights Reserved
Ken, thank you for introducing us to Catherine.
Catherine, I enjoyed featuring you today and wish you all the best in your chosen career.
With thanks to teacher/poet Ken Slesarik, who teaches at Esperanza Music Academy in Phoenix, we have four poems posted by Esperanza students this month. Click on “Young Poets W.O.M. Poems” and check out the efforts of two fifth graders, Daniela and Emma, and two fourth graders, Landen and Trace. Way to go kids!
I met Ken in 2011 when he was one of eight poets in my first Highlights Foundation workshop near Honesdale, Pennsylvania. We were all taken by Ken’s adroit juxtaposition of words, unexpected rhymes, and wry humor. He’s not only a master teacher and accomplished children’s poet, he also does school visits when his time permits. Meanwhile he’s inspiring Esperanzo students to reach higher and learn the satisfaction of expressing themselves through poetry. It’s a lucky student who has Mr. Slesarik for a teacher.
At a time when so many good teachers everywhere are struggling to find the moments to post their student’s work, Ken remains one of the few who somehow make it happen, and for that I’m grateful. Please read the poems by these young poets and give them the encouragement they deserve.
When Whiz-Kid Kathy Temean designed my website and blog in 2009, we worked until both sites met our expectations. We’ve made some adjustments along the way but it has been a while now since we stood back to take a look to see how well they fit today’s reality based on six years of experience. Nothing major, just a snip here and a tuck there ought to do it I think.
For example, I NEVER think to keep my schedule current so I think I might drop that little box and maybe replace it with the background information I just finished compiling. Anyone interested in reading some of that would find it a handy reference.
I’m sure I need to drop or rewrite my letter to principals about the Word of the Month Poetry Challenge section for students. I’m sad that teachers everywhere seem overwhelmed these days and few can carve out the time to work with their kids on writing poetry. We used to get dozens of student poems and now we get none most months and a handful in others from stalwarts like Ken Slesarik. I’m not sure what to tell principals but most of them are former teachers themselves so they understand the problem and are sympathetic to it. I keep hoping that the educational pendulum has reached its amplitude and as its velocity slows there will be more time to add in some of the important elements it lost during its initial rush toward change. Kids need time to read, time to write, time to become familiar with and passionate about the power of our language.
Okay, where was I? Oh. So I’ve asked Kathy to look over the current format and content of my blog. Many of you know my blog about as well as I do so I would be remiss if I didn’t ask for your input.
I’m going to leave this up for a couple of day. I think it’s important.
I’ve been wanting to show you some of Ken Slesarik’s poetry kids and give you an update on Ken himself.
For one thing, Ken has no sense of humor. All of us at the original poetry workshop in 2011 worked with him and did our best, but the following report filed by Ken testifies that we utterly failed in help bring him along. For example, here’s a picture of us that he clearly photo shopped. The one of me is real but that is simply not Ken’s shirt.
But let Ken tell it.
As one of the first group of poets to attend David’s Poetry Workshop back in 2011 I was delighted to be asked to give a general update since that wonderful time In Honesdale, Pennsylvania. I remember well the cast of characters and the lush, beautiful setting. It reminded me so much of uncle Bill’s farm and the warm feeling I got when sitting down with mom and dad for a shot of gin before heading off to first grade.
WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO
1. I started a poetry club called “Poetry Rocks” at Esperanza Music Academy in Phoenix, Arizona. We published an eBook and have some exciting things in store for this school year.
2. My work has appeared in THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY SERIES, DEAR TOMATO: AN INTERNATIONAL CROP OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE POEMS (Coming Soon) an animal collection called CREATURES, CRITTERS, BEASTS AND VARMINTS as well as a few miscellaneous periodicals.
3. I visit as many schools as I can with my “Heroes and Poets” assembly program while still keeping my day job as a special education teacher. The basic message I hope to convey is that we can be strong, brave and kind as we face the world and each other. Walt Disney would have his animators step into a squared “magic box” marked with masking tape. I do a very powerful, modified version of that and children start to realize just how strong, brave and kind they really are. I’ll act silly, bring out a harmonica, and really bring it. Often I will call on shy and reserved kids to assist me in reciting poems and through a series of questions and by teaching them my “hero move” I turn those shy and reserved kids into rock stars.
My program builds to a crescendo and before I’m through every person in the room, from the most gifted to the most challenged is feeling strong, brave and kind. I proceed to expand on the idea beyond poetry to empower and challenge them to be their best before their next classroom test, sports game or when interacting with each other. http://kenslesarik.com/
4. Speaking to civic groups. Like many people public speaking was my biggest fear but I’m living proof if you work hard enough and read the right books good things can happen as I’ve been privileged to speak to groups about children’s poetry and the special education connection.
5. I joined a wonderful critique group (The Poet’s Garage) filled with crazy talented poets much more well rounded than I where I hope I’m contributing as a unique voice.
It truly has been the “Highlight” (pun intended) of my writing career to meet David and the gang. I consider David a friend and mentor and he is just as warm and genuine in person as he is on his blog. I have a confession from that time in Honesdale in the summer of 2011. With little sense of direction and in a mad rush to clean up and rejoin the main group I think I may have inadvertently entered the wrong cabin and used Carol Ann’s toothbrush. Yea, I’m sure of it. http://kenslesarik.com/