During the high school presentation, Courtney brought in a large drawing she had recently finished. The students were glued to it as she presented. Her intricate details and creepy undertones prompted questions. The piece Courtney brought in illustrates the tragic story of the Donner Party. Many of Courtney’s drawings include stories of children and their bravery. In this drawing, you will find a girl the age of 11 with a doll and bible sewn into her dress. “This girl here was a real whippersnapper. Her name was Patty Reed. She was one of the survivors of the journey and to keep some her most prized possessions, she sewed them into her dress. Patty not only survived, but lived to be 89. She provided many first-hand accounts in the recorded history of that disaster.” There are other details in the drawing that hint to larger ideas about western expansion and manifest destiny. Below the children’s feet in her illustration there is a toy elephant. “I put this elephant in here as small toy, but it’s part of a larger story referring to Seeing the Elephant. Seeing the Elephant is a phrase that comes from early pioneers believing they might see an elephant in the west. People actually thought there were elephants and wooly mammoths roaming the west,” Courtney told the students. Courtney then described her process. She typically spends about 30 hours researching her topic. After she researches the story, she creates a small thumbnail sketch. From the sketch she fluidly starts illustrating the story in abstract and literal ways. The large drawing she brought in took her about 80 hours. Alberton high school students were amazed and responded well to the Courtney’s talk.
Coincidentally, one of Jo’s art classes had been working on drawings based on Courtney’s work. In the assignment, students were to illustrate a story either from one they found or created. Jo asked Courtney if she could visit her class in the art room to participate in an in-progress critique of their drawings. It was a small class of about 6 students. Students took turns putting their art on the white board for us to examine. Courtney gave out advice and compliments to each student. One student commented on how she can’t quite figure out the nose of her wolf. Courtney offered advice, “Do you think you can ignore it for just a little longer? For me, sometimes I need to add more information to the entire drawing before I can resolve some of the small details.” As a group, we tried to interpret the stories of each drawing. One student was making up her story as she went along. “New animals and weird things keep popping up. I’m actually kind of stressed out right now and some of the stories I’m making up as I go are about that.” Courtney was glad to see the student artwork and Ms. Jo was ecstatic to have the artist present with her students. Courtney will be showing at the Missoula Art Museum this October and Jo has already confirmed she’s bringing her students in to see it!